Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Place for Everything?

How does that old saying go, A place for everything...and everything in its place? Whatever it is it sure doesn't apply to around here.

This morning I went to the goat barn to get the milking done and all heck broke loose. I had just gotten started milking Becca Boo on the stand in the birthing stall when into the barn marched the three mama sheep with their four now teenaged lambs. The goat barn isn't the largest of places as it also holds a dog igloo and two tables for the goats to jump around on. The goats seem to think they are above all the other animals around this place and the sheep intruding into THEIR space was an insult that they considered beyond the pale. Addison immediately jump up on the igloo while Chip and Gidget climbed up atop one of the benches. Poor Becca Boo was uncomfortable on the milk stand with all these strangers watching me work her teats.

I could not for the life of me figure out what in the world the sheep wanted and why they would ever wander into the goat barn. Sara was happy as a clam as all her four legged friends were all cooped up in one small space. At some point Chip decided he had had enough so down he jumped to challenge the mama sheep, figuring that if he reared up they would get frightened and leave. The place was so crowded at this point the sheep couldn't have backed out if they wanted to, and with Sara standing (and I would swear she was smiling) at the door the sheep were not going to go anywhere. At this point Addison decided that no way were the sheep going to cut in front of her to get grain for being on the milk stand so she jumped off the igloo and crowded her way through the goat/sheep throng to the birthing stall door. Chaos, pure chaos.

Sara was crowding everyone in, Chip was rearing, Addy was headbutting, Becca was crying, the sheep were eying the grain, something had to give and it wouldn't be long until someone got hurt. At this point I reached over and opened the latch to the side door and the sheep quickly filed out into the goat pasture area. A light rain was falling so I wasn't worried about the goats going outside, but I'm sure they were upset that the sheep dared to intrude upon their territory. I guess the sheep had been coveting their neighbor's pasture as the goats are so picky that they let everything in their fenced off area get a little overgrown, and apparently the sheep decided they wanted a piece of the action!  As things calmed down I finished milking Becca and Addy, and Gidgit and Chip got their grain.  I opened the side door to the goat area so the sheep could get out into the yard when they finished grazing - everything was getting back to normal....

....Until I went into the garage to feed the keets and lo and behold as I opened the door I spied a guinea keet loose on the floor staring me right in the eye. How the heck did that keet get out? Their crate was covered with netting and it was still on tight, there was no way the keet could have flown out and yet there on the garage floor it sat - mocking me! I chased that little bugger around the garage for several minutes to no avail, it was going to take more than just lil'ole me to catch this bird. I fed the keets in the crate, put down some food and water for the wild one, and figured I would come back later with some help to catch it. What a crazy start to my day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Sara has had a hard time trying to learn to be a sheep dog. First off for a Border Collie Sara is very submissive, we have to take her outside whenever people she doesn't know arrive at our house because she "piddles" on the floor when she meets strangers.

The second problem Sara encountered on her road to being a sheep dog was goats. I got goats before the sheep arrived so Sara got her first herding practice with them. She may have been better off staying in the house and trying to herd the cats for all the good working with the goats did. The goats refuse to travel in a group and often reared up to challenge poor Sara. She may be submissive but Sara has a lot of heart and she never gave up. After months of trial and error Sara learned to herd the goats, she just has to get them one by one. It is really funny to watch as she runs up behind them and tries to head them in the right direction. If the goats refuse to move or rear up she learned to stick her nose behind the goats hind legs and lift, moving them in a wheelbarrow race like mode. So long as the goats don't seek refuge on the deck I can stand by the goats pen and Sara will bring them to me one by one.

The next problem Sara encountered was when the sheep arrived they wanted to follow her around. Seems the farm on which they were born had a dog that would lead them from one pasture to another. To a submissive Sara who was now used to stubborn standoffish goats this wouldn't do. It often led to hilarious sessions of the sheep first walking and then running behind a nervous and fleeing Sara! The sheep soon lost interest in Sara, but every day she would take up her goat watching post outside and keep an eye on them - learning their ways.

The last bad break Sara suffered on her road to sheep herding was at the horns of the rams. When we would give the rams shots the Commander would have Sara come sit by them as they were held for the rams would become completely docile while Sara was there. I don't know why this was, maybe they were afraid of her. Anyway one day Sara ran into the ram area before we were ready and one of the rams rammed her into the fence a few times before we could get her out. After that experience Sara wouldn't go anywhere near the rams and initially, nothing I did could coax her into changing her mind.

The seasons changed and everyday Sara took her post outside, keeping an eye on her goats and those strange sheep. At some point instinct must have begun to click in her mind because she somehow noticed that unlike the goats the sheep liked to flock! When I moved the sheep Sara began to take up a trail position, not moving them but kind of keeping a pacing position. This led to Sara seeking out stragglers and using her "goat" herding techniques on them, sending them back to the flock. As Sara's confidence grew she got closer to the sheep and began to circle closer and closer behind them, taking notice that unlike the goats the sheep never stood their ground. The final triumph came on a day when two of the sheep refused to leave the woods when the others were on their way to the pen, Sara looked at them and ran into the woods to chase them out, it was a miracle! At some point Sara realized that the sheep are now afraid of her. When we moved the rams to their new home Sara took post behind them and nipped at their heels all the way till they were successfully moved, she showed no fear. I can now stand by the gate to the sheep area and call the sheep, if they don't come immediately all I have to do is call Sara's name and both sheep and dog spring into action - the sheep running for the gate and Sara moving to chase behind them.

Sara only knows how to complete simple tasks as she hasn't had any formal training, but the help she provides makes things so much easier. I would say she is successful about 85% of the time with the sheep and 60-70% of the time with the goats, but she keeps trying and is still getting better. Sara has good instinct but ever better, she has heart!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Keets

The five new Guinea keets are growing fast, I have just started putting them outside in a grass enclosure so they can stretch their legs a bit.

They still live in the garage, but once they get a bit larger I will introduce them to the rest of the birds in the chicken coop.

Right now being outside has them all a bid frightened, this is one of the reasons I like to get them outside to see the big wide world before sending them in with the adults.

Guinea girl was attacked by something again yesterday, this time while she was out foraging. I found a bunch of her feathers by the deck but she again managed to escape. I'm surprised she was attacked so close to the house as Sara normally is there to keep an eye on things. I think this attack came from the air. She was back on her nest last night and safe this morning, I hope those eggs hatch soon - if they ever do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jurassic Goat

The goats are always standing on their hind legs to eat choice leaves from trees, whenever they do this it always reminds me of the segment from Jurassic Park when the brontosaurus stands on two legs to eat from the top of the tree.

Addison would hate the comparison.

Gidget got a haircut yesterday, she looks so soft and sleek in the sunlight now. Gidget will be bred this year, I hope she is ready.

Since I began milking her Becca Boo has been much more interested in being touched and hence more demanding of attention. Her new neediness now means I now have three drama queens and Chip - the King of trouble finders.

When the goats are let out the first thing they do is run to see if they can get in the coop area to get at the chicken scratch. If that door is closed they head to the entrance of the sheep area to see if they can get at their hay. As a last resort they nibble in the woods then head for the deck to cause trouble and try to get into the house. They like the deck because Sara won't try to "herd" them off it and back to their pen, it is a dog "Safe" zone.

The picture above shows Becca Boo taunting Sara from the safety of the deck, meaning I have to get her myself if she is going to get put back into her pen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Home is the Range

When we got the sheep last year I had no idea how much grazing land that they would need. The areas that we had ready for them were completely eaten down by the time Winter arrived and since they weren't partitioned the sheep didn't give the green growth much of a chance to blossom this spring so the areas they were living in were kinds of spots of desert in a sea of green.

With the fences going up over the summer we were able to open up more and more area until the electric netting can now be run from the corners of the house giving the sheep and goats the run of the entire (partially fenced) property. That includes the back yard.

Here is Jeepers minus her wool, notice the lack of greenery in the vicinity of the girls barn area.

This picture is taken from the deck, the lambs are in a hard to mow area right by the house and are taking care of the grass for us.

I can't believe how much they have grown.

The only real complete grassy area is the back yard, everything else is in transition from forest. Azalea is a real cutie.

Any trees that are cut down are left in place for a few days to provide a banquet for the four legged diners.

Alma is now almost as tall as her mother Jeepers.

The goats love to munch on leaves.

Becca Boo and the rest of the goat clan simply love to climb on the fallen trunks and crash through the branches.

Here is a view from the back deck, it is just so relaxing to watch the animals graze. I never would have imagined that I would one day have sheep, goats, guineas, and chickens all cavorting happily in my back yard.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Night Terror

Our Guinea couple is still keeping a nest...just barely. During the day the Guinea boy keeps a close eye on his mate when she is sitting the nest, and when she is out foraging he sticks right by her side. Unfortunately at night he reluctantly returns to the coop leaving the Guinea girl all alone to face the night predators.

Guinea girls nest is located at the base of a birch tree surrounded by heavy underbrush so she can barely be seen unless you know exactly where to look.

The survival rate of Guinea girls nesting doesn't seem to be very good as both the OhioFarmGirl and Lynn at Razzberry Corner have reported that they have had their nesting Guineas taken by fox or other critters of the night this year.

A few nights ago I heard a loud crash outside and heard Guinea girl crying in terror. Everyone immediately ran outside and a fox was discovered in the vicinity of her nest and subsequently run off. I searched with a flashlight for Guinea girl that night to no avail - she was missing.

Fortunately the next morning the Commander found her outside the coop waiting for her mate to be let out with the others. After a bit of bug eating she was back on the nest and he returned to guard duty. I guess that the combination of a full moon and the security light provided just enough light for the Guinea girl to fly away from the fox attack. She crashed into the house, but at least she got away.

The boys and dogs have been "marking their territory" around the nest area and I have dropped hair clippings as well, hopefully this smell of human will dissuade the fox from returning.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Hard Work Being a Baby

It's hard work being a baby.

If I ever meet those little pigs that are always supposed to be on their way to the market they are doomed I tell you. And what do they have to do with my toes anyhow?

When visiting my Grandma everyone fawns over how cute my "little fingers" embarrassing.

....and how do I get out of this thing? What twisted member of the Spanish Inquisition created this torture device?

Why does everyone want their picture taken with me?

And now strange animals are trying to get into the house to get me! What is that thing?

Whew, good thing Patch the house guard dog stepped in or I might just have shown the crazy bird creature a thing or two...

What kind of pony is this and how am I expected to ride it?

It's hard work being a baby but it must be even harder being a Grandma, I'll just set her down for a nap before I get back on the job!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Trouble With Chip

Chip is a very mischievous fellow, always getting into trouble or into things or places he doesn't belong. 

Yesterday Chip took over one of the folding chairs and soon found that he was trapped, no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get out.  I rescued him and even though he was a little embarrassed I soon found him in my lap as I was trying to relax in the chair.

Chip's newest trick is to wait for the other goats to go outside the goat barn and then he grabs the clasp on the door with his teeth and pulls the door closed, locking the others outside.  Once they gather around the door and are crying to get in he bashes the door open with his head, scattering the others away in surprise.

Today I couldn't get him to put his head in the locking area of the goats stand since the last time I used it to secure him to put blood stop on his scur.  He is trouble, but in a loveable roguish kind of way.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ram Pasture

We finally moved the rams to their new home and pasture. They sure were happy to get a chance to eat all the greenery that was in their new home, hay just wasn't cutting it anymore.

The new area is a mixture of small trees, grass, and forest. I figure once they eat it down this year I will be able to plant pasture grass for next year.

I can't get this picture to position correctly but you can still get a good look at Ironwood. He didn't get a chance to breed last year so this Fall he will get his chance. He has nice horns an they are beginning to turn and curl.

Alders horns are much wider and he was able to successfully breed Kia last year giving us Avalon. It was a nice pairing so Alder will be the main man this year, woo-hoo!

The boys haven't tried to wiggle under the new fence yet, I wonder if it will hold them?

I put a rubber mat on the wooden ramp into the ram house, it should stop them from slipping when it is wet or cold out. I am so happy to have them moved into their new area, now all we have to do is paint their house and clear out the rest of the cut trees.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Help, Need Advice!

Guinea girl and the broody hen are still alive and I have a question for all you more experienced farmers out there. One the eggs hatch will the other chickens accept the chicks and keats into the flock or do I have to separate them?

Can I collect up the newborn keats and give them to the hen?

Can I add my keats that I am raising in the garage to the chicken flock or would they be in danger of being killed?

Sorry for no pictures but I have ZERO time with 10 house guests this week! The rams may move to their new home tomorrow as the deforestation continues out back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

No Time, No Time.....

Lots of company here visiting and a lot of work getting done. I have my first broody hen that I am sticking eggs under, she never leaves the nest.....will she starve or dehydrate?

The dark guinea girl is sitting a nest in the brush, I'm worried about her to as I heard a fox screaming last night. What a horrible sound! I had the boys go out and "mark their territory" around her nesting area, hopefully that will keep the fox away.

I have to study for Stat's today and work on a project, this is totally ridiculous, isn't this supposed to be the 4th of July weekend?

The perimeter fence is going up as the boys hack their way through the jungle, the progress is amazing. Hopefully the rams can move out to their new home by next weekend!