With the changing seasons come different tasks on our little farm. We’ve been owning livestock for over a year now and have experienced farming in every season including my least favorite one, the mud-season (which frankly covers much of fall, winter and spring).
Mud makes everything just awful and well, muddy. Pigs naturally churn the ground with their little hoofs, or trotters, and when you add a lot of rain you get several inches deep or what feels more like feet deep of just mud. Even the high traffic areas of the sheep tend to get wet and muddy. All this mud is bad for their feet, so lots of work is done hauling wheel barrels down our hill filled with stone and wood chips. Farming down hill is SUCH a labor intensive choice, ugh. Conquering mud is an ongoing war we intend to win!
The only “good” mud I know of is the mud we help them make!!
After having gone through the seasons and their different tasks once already, we have been able to approach events with a lot less panic! We recently got our 4 Cotswold ewes inseminated (AI) for the second time. The time leading up to the big day includes flushing the ewes (which simply means that you feed them more nutrients so that their bodies gets the “message” that there is enough food around to carry more than one baby- fingers crossed), inserting CIDR’s and giving hormone shots. Last year I had sleepless nights wondering how it all would work out but this year it all seemed like a walk in the park. On the way home from the fertility vet we stopped again at our lunch place from last year (fabulous sandwiches, great fries and fantastic ice cream creations. Who knew sweet potato would compliment ice cream? Yum!!). The girls had to stick to eating hay while we enjoyed our food – outside this year. New for this year’s breeding protocol is a ram on loan from my friend Kikki at Tamarack Farm Gotlands. Seb is a white Gotland ram, a Swedish breed of sheep, and Kikki who has been doing a breed up program for Gotlands has achieved the goal of getting purebred Gotland sheep. Seb’s job is to help the girls get “in the mood” for babies.. by frankly smelling like a ram, and courting them. He will be on duty should the AI procedure be unsuccessful for any of them. With the help of science and Seb we are hoping for many bouncing baby lambs come next spring!
Hopefully our new mini barn will be ready in time for lambing. So far only the foundation has been started. In order not to feel too stressed about where my girls will lamb I’ve told Scott that I’ll just move all the ladies into his garage for lambing if their barn isn’t ready. It seemed to motivate him to make sure to finish the barn. 🙂
Breeding pigs and knowing when to expect piglets has also gotten easier since we now know more of what to look for! Two days prior to Thanksgiving we had our second group of piglets, this time from our new pig Olivia. Olivia has the sweetest personality of all the Mangalitsas on the farm, and we’re in awe over her mothering skills. She constantly works on making her house comfortable by rearranging the bedding. She throws straw over her babies to keep them warm and lets them sleep between her legs, as if she’s hugging them.
She is calm and protective and she constantly talks to her piglets and doesn’t mind the way they crawl all over her.
The piglets are adorably sweet, and now at 2 weeks old they are getting quite rambunctious and entertaining to watch with all their antics. Olivia and our new boar Oliver were both additions to the farm after we sent our first boar Otto (remember Otto– the one I picked up in Scott’s Subaru?) to greener pastures because he was too aggressive.
The summer madness of getting 17 new baby chicks (chicken math) and housing them all over the sunroom and garage has now made way for a much more comfortable routine. All grown up chickens means less pecking at each other and more getting along. They know which coop they belong to (we have two coops) and they are happy to go back inside once we ask them to at dusk. They all have started laying eggs in mostly various shades of brown, from light to dark chocolate brown, but also blue, cream and olive green. Currently 4 of the “old timers” (older by 6-10 months) have started molting. The coop and run are covered in feathers and the hens look truly bedraggled and sad. It’s cold for them without their feathers, so on windy days they tend to want to stay inside and watch TV….just kidding- that’s the family joke as their heaters look like black screen TV’s.
The only one to disturb my chicken bliss is Oreo, the rooster who was supposed to be a hen. He is a big boy and proudly crows and struts around, keeping a watchful eye over all 18 girls. A nice rooster is worth his weight in gold.. well almost. His job is to protect the hens and put himself between them and any dangers. And he’s supposed to know that his humans are the bosses, not the other way around. Oreo never got that memo. Roosters are experts at surprise attacks… One moment you walk peacefully through your yard and the next you are being attacked by a crazy ball of flapping feathers. There is true fear once you have experienced an angry rooster. Just check it out YouTube.. it may look funny, but it’s not when you are the one running! After the first two times it happened to me refused to leave the house without a stick or some kind of a weapon to defend myself with. Annika laughingly told me that “he only does it to you mom”, to which I responded: “give it time, He will come after you too…. ” and sure enough. Now it’s Annika who is afraid to leave the house when she spots Oreo in close vicinity to our front door. I on the other hand have gotten braver, especially after reading that you simply can’t back down. Although easier said than done… I now stand my ground and if he still goes after me I turn the tables and run after him until he runs from me. It’s quite the undignified display; me, an adult middle age woman running after a rooster yelling either that “I’m the boss” or “I’m going to kill you” – depending on the situation. Like I said, intact males!
All in all, we have gotten into a very comfortable rhythm on our little farm. Due to the pandemic Scott no longer has to commute an hour to work. He also does not go to the gym as farm work provides a fantastic work out! He averages 11,000 steps a day (of course he keeps track!) — most if it with tools or something heavy in his arms — and that keeps him in shape! Since he wakes up long before dawn he has taken over all the morning chores on the farm, something I’m VERY thankful for since I now get a huge break in the am before going to work. We are busy, happy and content. We constantly feel we have so much to be grateful for here at Gratitude Acres.
Interacting with our sheep and other animals makes us remember many of the lessons taught by Jesus Christ. Now in December the farm also gets decorated with lights which adds to the feelings of joy leading up to this wonderful Christmas Season! We wish you all peace in these times of troubles, and weather you are a farmer or not, there is peace to find in Christ. I learned that through missionaries that I met in my 20’s back in Sweden. Please reach out to these wonderful young women and men if you want to learn more about Jesus Christ or if you feel troubled. They are found in almost every country sharing the happy message of peace and love. I’m adding a link here to “Meet the Missionaries” where you can find out who they are and how you can get in touch with them (via voice or video call now during Covid times). We wish you a wonderful peaceful December!