Friday, April 29, 2011

Chicks vs Chickens

When do baby chickens stop being chicks and start being chickens? Hmm...

Our little ladies spent the entire day outside in the sunshine today. They really seemed to enjoy being able to run around like crazy, flying three feet in the air and having little squabbles here and there.

It was especially fun to watch the chickens interact with Fleur, our most adventurous and friendly duck. She would walk up and try to check them out and the chickens would absolutely flip out, torn between terror and territorial rage. It was pretty hilarious. 

As a quick aside, while my father (who is visiting from NH) was doing laundry yesterday he discovered Fleur had come into the house (we have to run the washer hose into the yard through the back door). Apparently while I was out tending sheep he was chasing Fleur all over the house! Hahaha. I wish I'd been in here to see it. It wasn't until later we discovered she left us a present behind one of the chairs in the living room. LOL. Never a dull moment!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tanglewood Farm's First Lamb! Congratulations Ingrid!

My lambwatch has been very lazy this week. I had been checking around 8pm and again when I get up around 8am. I had a sneaking suspicion Ingrid would lamb this week since Laura from Queso Cabeza warned me she likes to lamb in inclement weather.

This morning I woke at 5am after a restless night of storms and wind, and I had this weird gut feeling that I needed to go to the barn. When I got there, the sheep were lying down and Ingrid was breathing a little more heavily than usual. She often breathes hard when I am around because she cautiously sniffs the air.

She didn't really appear to be in labor, so I told her "I really want a little ewe, Ingrid... just so you know..." and I went back into the house and to bed. At 8:15am I woke to Gertrude's little baa coming from the barn. She often bleats once or twice if someone goes past the barn so I lie very still and listened. 

Within seconds, she was bleating almost continuously. I rolled over and poked Jeremy and told him something was up and stumbled from the house in his boots and my comfy sweats. 

When I got to the barn, I found Ingrid in full labor with itty bitty white toes sticking out and Gertrude in an outright tizzy! Gertrude was seriously concerned for her friend and would run back and forth to sniff me and then to sniff Ingrid. 

While I watched, Ingrid had another contraction and I was able to see a little black nose as well! I shot a quick phonecall to Laura and asked a few frantic questions and she reassured me that things sounded like they were going well. I opted to head back into the house to give Ingrid some space, and when I returned ten minutes later it was to the soft "Mehhhh" of a little lamb!

 She was very strong right from the start, and as soon as Ingrid had licked the afterbirth off of her she was standing!

She is a gorgeous little badgerface ewe. What more could I ask for? How about hilariously adorable little black ears! :)

Her little face is heather grey, flecked with white hairs from her badgerface markings. She's primarily white and has her dad's big personality already! She had a hard time figuring out where to nurse, and she would walk right up to her mom's face and bleat at her like "I'm HUUUUUUNGRY!" At one point she tried to climb right into the low hay feeder to get her mom's attention. 

She finally figured out how to nurse, which is when I was able to finally sterilize her umbilical cord and sex her. I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered she was female. Holy cow!

We're assuming at this point that Ingrid doesn't have any other lambs this year, since she hasn't shown any additional signs of labor. I'm definitely happy with a single lamb, as my hopes were pretty low after Gertrude's mishap earlier this month. I have a name in mind, but I'm going to keep it to myself until I get to know this little lady a little better (and until I feel more confidently that she is going to make it).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The first violets

I picked my first handful of violets today!

In the Works

I've got another boring garden update for you this morning. :) 

Above is a photo of our south gardens (as opposed to the new north gardens). It's in total disarray but things are starting to come together slowly. In the top right corner you can see my south veggie garden, roughly 12x24. I re-tilled it last night to a nice crumbly depth of 4" and it's ready to plant! It had been starting to grow grass earlier this year, and I've been plucking and pulling and whacking at the grass trying to get rid of it. Last year I let the grass kind of do it's thing and it really helped the seedlings establish. Unfortunately I found that the grass harbored a lot more pests than usual so I'm going to try to keep it under control this year. Does anyone else think grass is the worst weed? I'm morally adverse to it. ;)

In the foreground are the white buckets that I planted in last year. They're standing in as place-markers for where I plant to till, enrich and slightly mound the ground to plant winter squash. Last year I planted the winter squash in the very narrow three sister's garden that I planted. While I plan to incorporate the 3 sisters in another bed, I don't want to till huge swathes of land to accommodate the squash. This year I'm going to plant them in little plops around the field, allowing the vines to clobber the grass in the field.

In the back left you can see the raspberry bed (kind of) where the fence has totally flopped over. Alas, I'll probably be replacing this altogether since the fencing I used seems to have deteriorated considerably after just half a season. Ah well.

Other than what you see above, I've finally got my peas planted in the cinder block beds (at left), and I hope to get some onion seedlings planted out today to make room for the tomato seeds I need to start. There's always something to be done!

How is your spring prep coming along? Are you planning anything new this year?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Potato Trenches: Check!

We finally finished digging potato trenches! We got 11 pounds planted on Sunday after a few days of sporadic digging. It sure feels good to check that off my list!

Do you plant potatoes? What method do you use?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Books: Meat A Kitchen Education

I just picked up a new book at Borders last night and wanted to share it with you. It's simply called "Meat", with the subtitle "A Kitchen Education" and it's by James Peterson.

Jeremy and I have recently become more interested in meats. He's always been a meat and potatoes (well really just meat) kind of guy and I admit I enjoy a good hunk of flesh. The idea driving this book is that we as Americans indulge in far too much mediocrity when it comes to our meats (and pretty much everything else). Somewhere along the line we have gotten it into our head that more is better, and bigger is best, and not only is this detrimental to our health but it's also detrimental to the meat industry. We have created a huge demand for mediocrity, and thus the meat industry has met that demand with supply. Mediocre meat.

On a moral level as well as a consumer level that just seems so wrong to me. Not only do we lack the respect to truly enjoy and value the flesh of the creatures we're eating, we are paying for meats that have been injected with terrible chemicals, from animals living in terrible conditions (and did you read the latest bit about staph bacteria being in 50% of our nations meat?!) My God. It's disgusting.

Anyway, back to the book. We were looking for a basic introduction to how to cook various cuts of meat. We always marvel at the amazing selection of cuts at our local butcher, but out of timidity we often resort to purchasing only the cuts we're familiar with.

A week ago however, we decided to break out of our funk and we bought a rabbit to roast. Of course now it's in the freezer, and I'm a little intimidated by this new creature, but with my dad coming into town this week I think we're presented with the perfect opportunity to venture into rabbitdom.

Beyond this book we hope to get ourselves into Charcuterie this summer, by making our own sausages, brine cures, and maybe even a pâté or gelatine when we get the ducks processed. We hope to incorporate a bit of our own combined love for detail into our meats but without the proper introduction to meat (cuts of, properties of, flavors of, etc) we felt sort of lost in a vast sea of options.

Other books that are currently on my list of meat books to purchase are:

Do you often cook with meats? Have you dabbled in charcuterie at all? I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with charcuterie... I'm pretty intimidated!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We survived Earth Day 2011!

Yesterday we spent the entire day using as little electricity as possible. This is difficult when you live in an old historical stone house with few windows, and especially difficult if you an artist like my husband. Poor Jeremy spent the day following the best spots of light around the house with his latest page of comic book art, sketching here and there and being a general good sport of it. The morning brought about an amazing reintroduction for me... Gardening books! Sure, I borrow the occasional library book, but it had been so long since I'd sat down with a stack of gardening books to research something in particular. Yesterday's topic? Potatoes. I read about how the Shakers grow theirs, how the English Victorians grew theirs, how they're conventionally grown and how best to grow them organically. What an adventure!

After breakfast, I sat on the front porch sorting, cutting and prepping seed potatoes for planting. This is our first year planting potatoes, so hopefully this goes well. We'll be doing ours in straw and trenches.

I spent the rest of my day outside in the rain. I laid out where our pumpkin mounds are going this year (marked by white plastic buckets in the photo below). I planted twenty-five 3 year old asparagus crowns and I dug four of the eight trenches for our potatoes (and those we're donating to Project Grow). I also mapped (and then re-mapped) out where we're going to plant our fruit trees. Unfortunately the best area is currently dominated by several huge multiflora rosa monsters. You know the type - the intimidatingly large flopping mounds of 1/2" thick vines covered in big nasty thorns. They look like skulking beasts just waiting for you to turn your back... *shudder*

I may have a gathering some time soon where I invite our friends out with their loppers and trimmers and hedge cutters and chainsaws. We'll provide beer and potluck while they help us clean up all of the multiflora rosa thickets. You would not believe how overrun our poor antique orchard is by invasive plants. I was looking, the other day, at one of the geriatric apple trees and realized it has rose vines growing all the way up through its crown. That's at least 25 feet! I'm a fan of roses, and of rosehips of course (both for myself and the critters that eat them) but the trees are suffering greatly because of these beasts. I'll leave a few thickets around for the rabbits and voles to hide in, and I'll leave them along the fence because it deters the dogs' exploring, but other than that they have to go.

Anyway, by the evening we were totally bored. We realized too-late that our oil lamp wicks were both too short and we didn't have enough oil anyway, so we lit candles and ate sandwiches for dinner. After that we played scrabble, and I finished the game with six points less than Jeremy which is a serious improvement on my typical scrabble score...

I admit we did cheat a bit. Shortly after we'd been electricity free for 24 hours, Jeremy turned on his studio lamp and did some more work on his latest comic book page. Obviously I can't begrudge a man his job.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day!

Well folks, it's Earth Day, today.


Head over to Not Dabbling in Normal, today, to see why I'm not sure if what you're reading is true!

How are you celebrating the Earth today?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Local Spotlight: Project Grow Potato Pledge!

This year I have decided to take part in the Project Grow second annual Potato Pledge! The Potato Pledge is an event held by Project Grow in Ann Arbor where they give you two pounds of potatoes to grow, with the intention and pledge to give a certain percent of your harvested crop to them for donation to local food banks.

It was just by chance that I stumbled across this program. I was standing with my family, in line to talk to the volunteers at Slow Food Huron Valley (more on them, tomorrow!) and I heard a great ruckus down the aisle a bit. "The Potato People are coming! The Potato People are coming!" they were yelling. It was pretty spectacular.

I decided to pledge 80% of my harvest to them, which knowing my luck could very well be a miniscule donation. 80% of zero is still zero. :) I'll be growing Red Pontiac potatoes, and I'm still not sure of when I'll be planting them. Definitely some time this week, though, if the weather holds!

Do you have any gardening outreach programs in your area?

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Mother

Gosh, I've been so bad about posting daily, but I've had a good excuse this week!

My mother has been in town all week and we have had a great time together. We hauled compost, met dairy goats, ran errands, filled raised beds, made granola, smushed a tree and an entire car-load of irrigation hoses into her small car, ate good food, laughed a lot... It was so much fun, and I was really sad to see her leave early this morning. She is spending the entirety of today driving herself and her dog, Abbie, back to New Hampshire where she lives with my Father.

My mom has become one of my best friends over the years, and it was really relaxing to spend a whole week with her. She may not believe it (nor will she like that I'm posting it here but too bad!) but she is a beautiful, strong woman that I have looked up to, on so many levels, my whole life. The ultimate rolemodel.

I know she'll be pissed that I posted these photos of her here, but I blog to share my life with others, and to tell you all about the things I love. She can just deal with it. 

She left early this morning, before the sun came up, amidst this ridiculous Michigan snow we're having. After she left I tried to stay up for a while but after getting a better look at what was going on outside I flopped back into bed. Gardening in Michigan can be frustrating and, seeing as the whole yard is blanketed by rapidly falling inches, yes inches of snow, I went back to sleep this morning. I kept thinking the snow was all a bad dream, but now. It's still there, falling, and worse than before... inches. I'm just glad the only thing I've planted so far this year has been potatoes. Everything else will just have to wait. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tragedy at Tanglewood

I admit I haven't blogged much lately here mostly because my mother is in town and she and I have been busy from sun up to sun down, and when the sun goes down I crash like a plane without wings - nose first into the couch. In addition to my busy schedule, I've been avoiding blogging because I inevitably have to blog about the happenings of Tuesday night.

Gertrude, our beloved one winter ewe (meaning she was born last spring) gave birth to a stillborn lamb after going into early labor. She went into labor on Tuesday afternoon, though now that I think about it, something was definitely up when I went to put them in their stall Monday night because I always "Baa" at the ladies in greeting and Gerty always "Baas" back, but not Monday. She was very stoic.

Tuesday I noticed she was particularly quiet, and when I realized I'd been out tilling for a while and she hadn't pestered me for treats by calling across the fields in a loud demanding voice, I thought I'd check up on her. I found her lying beside the door to the barn, breathing a bit heavy, and very quiet. When I got her to stand up I noticed she had wet all around her bottom which I originally mistook for loose stools (or scours) but upon further investigation I discovered it was mucous and that she had begun labor.

I went through stages of panic, and then joy when I learned a ram had escaped and visited a number of ewes at the breeding farm exactly 147 days before, and then panic again as I realized something just didn't feel right. She continued in early labor all evening, with a few pushes now and then, but more than anything she just seemed confused and uncomfortable. At two AM all was well, though I noticed she had more mucous than before, so I thought I'd do another quick check at three just so I could get a few hours of sleep and get up at a reasonable six AM.

Three o'clock came around and as I approached the barn I heard a grunt. I don't know why I was so skeptical. There weren't really any outward signs that there was trouble, but I was definitely not assuming I was coming to the barn to find a healthy lamb. When I reached the barn, I found her with her water broken and something protruding that didn't quite look right. I called my mom (who was sleeping in the house) and she came out. As we watched, Gertrude delivered a too-small, dark colored lamb, nose first and then proceeded to walk to her hay feeder and munch. I went into the stall and checked things out. The lamb was probably only a week or two premature. It appeared to have all of the necessaries, including a little fuzzy coat, but it was obviously dead and very much so. I tore it out of it's sac and investigated a bit, but I knew as soon as I saw it's delivery that there was no hope.

We don't know why poor Gertrude went into early labor. It could have been as complicated as nutrition or even an abortive disease, or it could've been as simple as Ingrid accidentally bumping her the wrong way in the stall the night before. There is really no way to tell, apart from sending the stillborn lamb to MSU for a necropsy, and as this is my first lamb ever I just felt like I'm not really ready to drop a ton of money on something like that. I can tell outwardly from the placental buttons that it wasn't toxoplasmosis, and many of the other diseases are accompanied by pain or other outward signs, so it's entirely possible it was something that isn't a danger to other sheep.
Just to be totally sure, however, I kept Gertrude apart for a few days and I completely disinfected the whole stall. This entailed mucking the bedding, scraping the dirt, pouring strong disinfectant over the whole stall floor, sponging disinfectant up the walls and along the planks of the lambing jug, disinfecting food bowls, water buckets, hay feeders, mineral pans... The whole shebang. My sincerest hope is that we get at least one healthy lamb from Ingrid, but with the possibility of this being an abortive disease I have to think realistically, and realistically there is a possibility that she too will give birth to stillborns. Still, Gertrude had almost no udder, and Ingrid is bagging up heavily. Gertrude was also a young ewe to give birth, and Ingrid is an old pro. I have to think positively, and keep my expectations low. Even if it is disease, there is a great possibility that next year's lambing season will go without a hitch.

That's just how farming works. You can't linger on the negatives because in farming there certainly are negatives. You're always looking forward, moving up and getting over things. Such is life, and all things move on with or without you.

As a quick aside, Gertrude is completely healthy and seems to have forgotten the whole thing. She never even sniffed the stillborn lamb so it's likely she just didn't understand what was going on in the first place. She never mourned, and that has made the whole thing easier for me. She just seems happy to be more comfortable, and more than anything I'm just happy to have her alive and Baaing at me from across the farm again. Also, I'd like to point out what impeccable fashion sense my husband has in the photo just above this paragraph. Yeesh...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Improv Recipe: Queso Dip with baked Tortilla Chips

It always surprises me when I get the urge to cook. Until the month of March and the Real Food challenge over at Not Dabbling, I only cooked sporadically. I referred to myself as a "preparer of foods" rather than "one who cooks".

Two nights ago, in a fit of craving, I decided to make some spicy Queso dip. We had cheese and buttermilk in the fridge and I knew it could be done, so I set to work in the kitchen like a mad scientist.

Spicy Queso Dip
1-2 cups cheese (we used raw milk white cheddar) shredded or cut in to small blocks
1/2 cup buttermilk (you could probably use cream or even sour cream too)
2-3 spears of asparagus, sliced into small pieces
Jalepeños to taste
Salsa to taste (optional)
Spices to taste (salt, garlic powder, chipotle pepper, red pepper flakes, black pepper)

This is one of those recipes that you can alter to make something truly for yourself. If you like garlic, add more garlic. If you don't have asparagus, use green pepper, or tomato, or anything else you have around the house. I used a lot of chipotle pepper in ours since I like things to be particularly spicy. If I'd really been thinking, I would've added chorizo sausage to it as well, though chorizo can add a certain amount of thick red grease to anything, despite it's amazingly wonderful taste.

Toss all ingredients into a medium sauce pan over low-to-medium heat. As the mixture begins to melt you can raise the heat to medium, just don't bring it up to temp too quickly or you'll end up with a real mess. I added my spices after the mixture melted, so that I could sample things as I went along. It took me about 20 minutes to mostly melt the mixture through, but I'm betting if I had let it sit and cook another 15-20 minutes it would have been even better. I was being impatient.

It wasn't until after I started making the queso that I realized that our tortilla chips had gone stale! No problemo, hermanos y hermanas, we had fresh tortillas in the refrigerator. I lightly brushed each side of the tortillas with olive oil, stacked them and cut them into 1/4s (they were little tortillas.. tortillitas?). I sprinkled them with sea salt and popped them into the preheated oven (350º) for 15 minutes while the queso cooked. I think I flipped them once or twice too to make sure they weren't burning. Tada! Amazing tortilla chips in just minutes, and healthier than the fried ones!

I encourage you all to try to mix it up in the kitchen now and then. It's incredibly satisfying to eat something of your own design, especially when it turns out to be delicious!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Local Spotlight: Queso Cabeza Farm

If you've been following our sheepy endeavors, you've heard me talk about Queso Cabeza Farm, in Olivet, MI. When I first started researching sheep, I was really struck by the Icelandic breed. They're an ancient breed - hardy with independent and strong personalities. When I learned there were both horned and polled Icelandics, I was drawn to the polled. I'm honestly not sure why - maybe because I secretly also really like the traditional polled English sheep breeds. Anyway, it wasn't long before I was directed to the web site (and patient correspondence) of Laura Volkmann and Rick Boesan at Queso Cabeza. They were so amazingly helpful in assisting me with all of my tedious questions and newbie confusion.

They eventually sold me two beautiful ewes, Ingrid and Gertrude, and leased me a Ram, Herb. We ended up keeping Herb way past the point when the lady-sheep were bred simply because he got along with everybody so well. There was only a week or two of Herb butting into the ewes, probably working out his frustration with the fact that they were no longer cycling. After that he was a perfect gentleman, and actually became quite fond of Jeremy (and vice versa, as well).

This past Thursday, Jeremy and I returned Herb to his home at Queso Cabeza. It was a sad goodbye, but he will definitely enjoy his life over there with more sheep. We actually managed to load the crate, and then Herb, into our Subaru station wagon! I'm ceaselessly impressed by that vehicle. If it could pull a horse trailer, we'd never need a truck!

 When we arrived at Queso Cabeza, we loaded Herb into a trailer for safe keeping while Laura and Rick were at work. He was so polite about loading and unloading that we found ourselves waiting for something to go wrong. He didn't struggle at all when Jeremy lifted him in, and he marched right out of the station wagon and into the trailer like a pro. It was a big relief.

Of course after dealing with Herb we had to watch the QC lambs and their mothers in the barnyard. I cannot believe how adorable the lamb were! The best part was when we rounded the corner and realized we were watching the first steps of a just-born lamb, the mother nearby watching carefully over both the newborn, and it's slightly older sibling. I sent Laura a picture while she was at work and she later informed me the ewe's name is Kelly, and her lambs are a ram and ewe.

The whole experience of seeing the lambs has made me out-of-my-mind-crazy-excited for Ingrid's lambs to arrive. I am thinking they may come later rather than sooner based on the size of her udder, but I'll keep my eye out just in case! She is starting to get the relaxed-ligaments with the kind of sunken late pregnancy look.

I don't think the lamb on the right has the hang of where to suckle yet...
The barnyard was so peaceful and quiet; no lamb races today!

This little lamb was by far the most curious and outgoing in the yard. It even came right up and poked my hand with it's little nose, but only after mom said it was okay.

This is the sibling lamb of the one in the picture above. I got to watch this one jump off a 3' door stoop, try to fly, and do a near face plant on top of mom. Good luck with these lambs, Laura. They're sure to be escape artists!

Me and my shadow!

Mom has an itch. :)

There was one lamb and one ewe that I wish I had photos of. The lamb was playing hide-and-seek with the mother (both mouflan) and the mother was in a right panic. I felt so bad for her. The lamb would run and hide behind something, and the ewe would stress out and call and run around searching for her baby. When she got close to the lamb's hiding place, the lamb would jump out like "Gotcha!" and then tear across the barnyard to another hiding place. It was hilarious to watch, but you know the mother was freaking out. 

Anyway, if any of you are considering Icelandic sheep, I urge you to contact Queso Cabeza. They are a fantastically friendly couple of shepherds with some truly beautiful stock.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prepping the Raspberry Bed

My new raspberry bareroot stock ships out in a couple of weeks, so it was nice to finish their bed ahead of time this year.

A Misty Morn

I snapped a few photographs of the horses out in the fog when I went out to peel off their blankets this morning. The weather has been so dreary lately that they've been spending most of their time in blankets, much to their dismay. I'm sure they'll be rolling in the mud once it warms up today!

 Lyra and Aoife

Lyra, Aoife and Ffiona, with Esme in the back. 

Our driveway on the way back was so golden and misty, I couldn't resist a photo.

Friday, April 8, 2011

March's Mother Daughter Craft Swap - The Orange Cookies

Just at the end of March mysterious packages simultaneously arrived on both my doorstep and that of my brother, Benjamin. Ah, March's craft swap. Inside was simply a container of little biscuity-shaped cookies wrapped in bubblewrap. Of course, cookies are a staple here at Tanglewood Farm, and these were particularly amazing: Orange Sour Cream Cookies.... My God.

From what I learned in a short conversation with  my mom about the cookies, these are made from as many local and organic ingredients as she could find. We are neither very big bakers, and so an intricate cookie with such amazing subtle taste as these is a true treasure in my family. The danger with these cookies is that they are orange and light, so they are refreshing to eat. Of course, that means you can't eat just one... or two... maybe three, but not likely.

I'll have to post the recipe as soon as I get it from her. For now, you'll have to make due with a photograph and a reassurance: These are perhaps the best cookies I have ever eaten.

Mother Daughter Craft Swap Catch Up

I've been kind of bad about posting the regular craft swap posts, but my February craft was a total disaster. It wasn't plagued by big messes and loud fits of destruction, but by quiet, almost silent frustrations and the curse of having to redo steps over and over and over. I will be giving my mother her February craft when she comes to visit next week... half way through April. Ah well. It's still relevant and it's finally finished in a way I am happy with.

In the mean time, in March I made my mother several batches of granola for our craft swap. She'll be coming to visit next week and when she does, I'm hoping we'll be able to make more granola and experiment with new recipes. I keep hearing about pumpkin granola... it sounds so good!
It was a great experience for me, and for my first time making granola it was pretty danged good. I have to wonder though if it's possible to make granola less sweet with the same clumping characteristics that I like. My recipes took a lot of maple syrup and/or honey to keep the bits stuck together and so they were pretty sweet.

 If you would like more information on the recipe I used and modified, visit my post over a Not Dabbling in Normal from March's Real Food Challenge.

NDiN: The Strawberry Dance

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not my lambs, but...

...still the cutest thing I've seen in years! Our lambs aren't due until around the 15th so hopefully I'll have updates on them soon!

These little fuzzies (one ram, one ewe) belong to Kelly, a yearling ewe from Queso Cabeza farm in Olivet, MI. The second lamb was just standing up as we arrived yesterday, and the first was snuggled up to another ewe nearby while it's mumma licked the second clean and nibbled the umbilical cord. When she finished, she gathered up her babies and shoved them in the general direction of her udders where they stumbled around for a while before figuring everything out. I was nearly crying, it was so cute!

Queso Cabeza is the same farm that our ewes came from, and yesterday we took our visiting ram, Herb, back to his original home. We're very sad to see him go, but we are so lucky to be expecting his lambs from our ewes any day now! I'll be posting more on our visit to Queso Cabeza, and Herb's ride home (in the back of our station wagon!) tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What happens when the lights go out?

Our chicks were a whomping six days old yesterday. What do you get for your sixth day in the world? A power outage! Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was a scheduled outage. I know they usually send out  a letter if the power will be off for any maintenance, but apparently this time we didn't get one (or we did and tossed it by mistake.)

Normally I would embrace a power outage. It's a time to move activities out of doors, and a time to listen to the quiet world around you. The problem with an outage this time of year is that it's chick season and so our little ladies, who are supposed to be kept at 90º, became very cold, very quickly. Here's a run down of how yesterday's activities went. It was kind of rotten that it happened on the one super sunny day we've had in a while, and I got literally nothing accomplished yesterday because of it, but such is life when you keep livestok.

The power went out and with it went the heat lamp that had essentially been keeping the chicks alive. After a pause of shock, I ran to cover the chicks' brooder with a woolen blanket to hold in as much heat as I could. I then grabbed the chainsaw and dashed from the house out into the orchard to seek a dead-fall branch we could use for firewood. Of course yesterday would be the day we decide not to worry about being out of firewood. After cutting some wood, hauling it up the house and splitting it while Jeremy worked on warming the wood stove with what kindling he could, I realized it was going to take at least an hour to get the wood stove warm enough to produce the kind of heat we needed for the chicks!

I was struck with a harebrained idea and quickly gathered a nest of blankets. I then wrapped the chickies up in a piece of fleece that I wouldn't mind getting chickie poo on, sat down on the couch with them in my lap, and covered us all with the blankets. It was a quick decision and I probably could've spared an extra minute to plan what I should have within reach while acting as surrogate brooder, but I couldn't help myself. The little ladies were shivering and two had begun sneezing (a reaction to stress).

For nearly the next three hours I sat... and I sat... and I couldn't read because it was too dark, and I could only use the computer for the first little while because it had low battery, and I became antsy, and stir crazy, and nearly lost my mind. Jeremy ran out to get lunch (a power outage is a great excuse to get food from our favorite greek place!) and when he returned the wood stove was just warm enough that I could set up a brooder box by the fire for them.

Of course within fifteen minutes of getting the brooder box set up and tucking them into it, the power was back, the chicks were reintroduced to their old brooder, and I was running out the door to the horse farm to work.

Raising livestock is never a dull moment. I know before I'm old and grey I will have had all sorts of critters snuggled against me for warmth. It's an amazing experience to realize that it's truly you keeping a critter alive, and not some machine or apparatus designed for such.

Anyway, the chickies are all safe and sound, and after they returned home from their wonderful stay on my lap they made such a ruckus! I couldn't help but think it sounded like they were recounting their adventure, their amazing brush with death (I like to think they exaggerate), to one another.