Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sheep Quiz

See if you can answer these questions in our sheep quiz...

Q. Other than the farmer's name in the movie Babe, what is a hogget?

A. A hogget is a sheep between one and two years old.  The first shearing of hogget wool is the best wool a sheep will ever produce.

Q. What mineral is toxic to sheep?

A. Copper. Sheep require trace amounts of copper. However, copper is toxic to sheep in larger amounts. Mineral supplements have to be specifically labeled for sheep.

Q.  What does 'flushing' a ewe mean?

A. Flushing a ewe is done 10 days before breeding. She's put into the lushest pasture where she'll graze on legumes (clover and alfalfa). The high quality pasture causes her to release more eggs and increases the chance that she'll have twin or triplet lambs.   

Q.  What is the gestation time for a ewe?

A.  5 months (143-151 days) December breeding brings May lambs. Our ewes are bread in mid-November.

Q. Do Sheep have upper incisors ?

A. No. Sheep have 4 pair of lower incisors, but none in the upper jaw.

Q. What are two distinct differences between domestic and wild sheep?

A. Wild sheep have hair, domestic sheep have wool. Wild sheep, even ewes, have horns. Domestic sheep breeds are virtually hornless.

Q. Who produces the best 100% grass fed lamb, rich in CLA, Lutein, Omega 3, and grazed on certified organic pasture?

A. Forest Hill Farm! Grazed lamb is a healthy choice. Here's a delicious recipe, enjoy!

 

DSCN1838There was a warm up here last week. The thawing snow streamed down the lane exactly as it was designed to do, but made it into an icy raceway. It's covered in three-inches of thick ice which makes it hard to stay on your feet. Keith has ice cleats for his boots which leave tiny, little holes in the deck. They also leave tiny, little holes in the floor if you forget to take them off, but he doesn't forget. I don't have cleats because I always forget. So, I have two choices;

1) fall on my butt or 2) walk cautiously and scream “Get away from me!” when one of the dogs runs at me.

The dogs are curious when I'm walking soooo slowly. Today, in my frantic attempt not to fall I started flailing at the dogs and I knocked myself down. That's when, always practical Keith, came over to where I was lying and asked, “Why don't you go out the other door and walk through the snow so you don't have to cross the icy driveway?”
Looking up at him I realized he's much smarter than you could ever hope to be. The other door, huh, great idea.

Last fall I was worried about 049 and 005 slipping on ice because they're both fourteen now. They're both doing fine. They're following the sun. In the morning they stand facing east then move throughout the day soaking up the rays. The sheep aren't bothered by the cold. They haven't been shorn yet so their wool is thick and long. Because they'll begin lambing in mid-April they'll keep their fleeces until mid March. Hopefully it will be warmer by then.

 

Our friend Corky is a bird watcher, as is her sister, Storm. Storm lives in Texas and watches her bird feeder all winter long waiting for the Robins to return. When they do she calls Corky and gives her the news along with a report on the number of robins she's seen. Corky marks her calendar and waits. It's usually three weeks until the birds make it this far north. Sure enough, as soon as the robins get here so does a blast of severe weather. Folklore says that the robins will have snow on their tail three times before warm weather is here to stay. Here's where you can track the robins migration.

 There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year. -Kathleen Norris

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Yesterday was the first day in over a month with temperatures above freezing. It was the perfect day for a walk in the woods. The dogs enjoyed the sunshine, too. Especially Eva who's recovered from her accident last spring. I searched the timber for berries, fruit or any sign of first food for the robins. Some of the gooseberry bushes have a few shriveled fruit clinging to the branches, but for the most part the bluejays have picked the timber clean.

Soaking up the sunshine
Soaking up the sunshine

The cattle lined up in the sunshine, soaking the beams into their souls. Their contentment was as visible as the sun itself. The chickens ventured a little farther than the barn yard for the first time in weeks. They cackled and called out with joy. It's amazing how restorative a small temperature inclination, accompanied with bright sunshine, is. Everything seemed to sing yesterday.

 

 

 

 

signs of spring!
signs of spring!

 

On our walk back up the lane in an area where the snow was pushed back so the bare ground was exposed, a small patch of grass was greening in the afternoon sun. Only 28 days until spring.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. -Henry David Thoreau

 

Life on a farm isn't all sunshine and roses. Sometimes it's tough, but not often, only occasionally. This week we had a heifer who laid on her calf and smothered it. Because she's a heifer with years of healthy calving ahead of her and concern that she'd get mastitis, limiting her milk production or udder health in the future, we decided grafting a calf  was a good option. A neighbor who dairies had a newborn bull calf the same age as the one we'd lost.  Keith cut the hide from the lost calf and tied it onto the new calf.  A cow initially identifies their calf by smell, maintaining the scent of the lost calf greatly aides in the grafting process. The heifer was haltered and tied until the bull calf nursed. This was repeated several times each day for several days. In about one week the heifer accepted the calf as her own and the hide was removed. 

Here are the steps to grafting a calf:

  • Find a calf close in age to the lost calf
  • Let the cow or heifer get a good scent of her calf before removing it from her
  • Skin the lost calf
  • Tie the hide to calf being grafted
  • Drizzle molasses onto the new calf to encourage the cow to lick it. The more you can encourage her to smell and touch the new calf the faster the grafting process.
  • Halter the cow/heifer or if necessary hobble her so she can't kick at the new calf
  • Encourage the calf to nurse safely
  • When the cow/heifer begins to accept the calf, allow at least 3 days, remove the hide
  • The new calf will be accepted, it's just a matter of time. Heifers are easier than a cow, but eventually even a cow will give in.
Grafting a calf
Grafting a calf

 

Are you looking to make a change in your diet?  Grass fed, organic beef might be the answer.

It's important to know where your beef is coming from. Did you know, 4 of the top 5 sellers of grass fed beef purchase cattle who have been fed distiller grains and soybean hulls? What else might these cattle have been fed? Many sellers of grass fed beef are buying, rather than raising cattle in order to keep up with demand. Is your beef coming from a farmer, or someone who procures their beef? It's time to go organic.   EatWild.com has a list of farmers who are committed to raising animals on a grass based diet. Be careful though, some farmers have a few steers on grass, but they buy the majority of what they sell. It's labeled with their farm's name and shipped to them for distribution; however, the steers never set foot on their farm.

Another reason to buy organic beef - Inputs. This story is just starting to unfold. Merck, the maker of Zilmax is trying to downplay the relation of their product with downer cattle. Conventional farms use additives including; hormones, antibiotics, larvicides (the list goes on), to promote weight gain and profits, not health. If you wouldn't sprinkle any of these products on your breakfast cereal why would you accept your farmer using them on their livestock's feed?

Just more food for thought.

Dinner
Dinner

 

 

 

 

DSCN1256Take the Bee Quiz and test your knowledge. The bees need our help.

Q. True or false...A queen bee lives for 3 – 5 years, mates only once, but remains fertile for life, and lays up to 2000 eggs per day?

A. True

Q. How many flowers does a single bee visit each day?

A. 150,000

Q. True of false... Honey bees are inactive during the winter?

A. False. Honey bees continue to feed off of stored honey, take care of the queen, and in February the queen begins laying eggs to re-build the hive.

Q. A frame full of honey, inside the hive, has an insulating R value, what is that value?

A. R-19

Q. Will a honey bee die once she stings?

A. The honey bee will die if she's stinging a warm blooded animal. If she's stinging a cold blooded creature she will not loose her venom sac, therefore she'll live to sting again.

This winter I'm taking bee keeping classes. There's so much to learn, honey bees are fascinating. I can't wait for spring to come - It's only 36 days away! Please be kind to the bees when selecting garden seeds. Make sure they're bee friendly.

 

 

 

DSCN1695 (3)Keith brought a sprig of alfalfa into the kitchen. “The cows were pretty happy with their breakfast this morning.”

 “That looks nice. The leaves are still soft and it's not too stemmy.” Keith's very proud of the hay he makes.

 A few heifers are in the barnyard as they get near calving time. Three have calved already. Despite the cold weather the calves still come. The thought process last spring was to put the bull in with the heifers early, never figuring that they would cycle right away, or that the bull would catch them immediately. We were wrong. So, we have a few new calves and the cows are enjoying the best hay from last summer.