Escape Artists

The goats have arrived!!  Even though we were excited to get them, all we can do right now is shake our heads in frustration and misery.  What were we thinking?!?!

Ok, ok, it’s not that bad…let me tell you the story.

They arrived May 21st in the back of a mini-van and I was beyond excited.  Torran had just arrived home from Germany a few hours prior, so his physical enthusiasm was a little less, but I could see the excitement in his eyes.  We promptly carried the girls to their pen in the barn and the boys to their pen outside.  While Torran was barricading the outside door from the girl pen to their pasture, I was taking care of payment and getting more feeding instructions.  The ladies we bought the goats from were going to another goat farm in the next city so I asked to go with.  Torran said he’d be fine with the goats, but to hurry back.

 

Kitty, the shy, reserved one.
Kitty, the shy, reserved one.
The baby. We need a name for her still. Any suggestions?
The baby. We need a name for her still. Any suggestions?

Fast forward to getting home and I find Torran outside the boy pen and he tells me the little black and white buck was able to squeeze out of the pen but then just stood there crying to be let back in.  However, when Torran went near him he would run.  (He also mentioned the neighbor was in his field in his truck at that point and Torran was sure he was laughing at the shenanigans going on at our house!  Hey, I never said we really know what we’re doing on this journey.)  I don’t remember how he got the little guy back in the pen, but he did.  So at this point we know we’ll have to put them in the extra chicken coop in the barn while we fix the fence.  Have you ever watched someone try to catch a chicken?  Now imagine that, but with an eight week old baby goat.  Fast little suckers.  We ended up using a big piece of plywood to back them into a corner and then grabbing them.  It sounds easy, but there was a lot of swearing going on.  A LOT.

The boys. Both are about three months old. They need names still too!
The boys. Both are about three months old. They need names still too!

So the boys are now in the barn, secure in their temporary pen and we were looking at the fence trying to decide how to fix it.  I then went back to the barn for something and who do I see peering out the crack in the door?  Sophie, the two-year old female.  Apparently she’s a jumper.  Sure enough, we put her back in her pen (she’s leash trained and very friendly thank goodness) and went outside to peek in the window.  No more than thirty seconds later she’s out again.  Ugh.

Sophie, the escape artist.
Sophie, the escape artist.

Our focus then switched to the girl’s pen.  We added some 2×4’s to the fence to make it taller and that seemed to solve the problem.  It wasn’t very pretty, but at least we could go to bed knowing they were safe.

Torran ended up redoing the girls pen the next week (thank goodness he was on vacation) and it turned out great.  We only needed to do one adjustment because Sophie was still able to jump the new gate.

The girl's improved pen.
The girl’s improved pen.

Then our focus returned to the boys fence.  After inspecting it more, we realized it was all rotted and needed to be completely redone.  So that’s where we are four weeks later.  The outdoor pen is nearing completion and we are cursing less and less at the “damn goats.”

 

Original goat pen.
Original goat pen.
Bye-bye old fence!
Bye-bye old fence!
Digging one of 29 holes.
Digging one of 29 holes.
Progress!
Progress!
Almost done...
Almost done…
All the wood is done, now to attach the actual fencing.
All the wood is done, now to attach the actual fencing.

This whole experience was enough to tell each other NO MORE ANIMALS, we have enough to do as it is.  Well, apparently, we weren’t done adding to the farm family…

 

 

Piggies!!

The pigs are here!  Our little farm is slowly filling up with animals and it couldn’t be more exciting!

The garden is tilled and half planted, the youngest chickens are starting to lay eggs (although they are still small eggs – they’ll get bigger with time), and the pig pen is almost ready for the pig’s summer home (they are staying in the goat pen right now as it has hog panels).  Next to arrive are the goats – finally something that’s more of a pet than a food source!  They arrive on May 21st and we have a lot to do beforehand to get ready.  We need to get food, straw and hay, buckets, and animal crackers.  (Remember?  They love animal crackers apparently.)

In between planting the vegetable garden and taking care of the animals, we have been diligently working on destroying the weeds.  I did find a duck’s nest with 11 eggs in some of the weeds at the back of the property – no more weeding there until they hatch!

I’ve purchased a few new perennials.  Two clematis, a bleeding heart, jacob’s ladder, a butterfly bush, and a forget-me-not (which I always forget the name to).  Seventeen more to go!

That’s all for now…enjoy some pictures a video of the pigs!

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Oh January…How I hate Thee.

January, in my opinion, is the worst month out of the year.  It is cold, dreary, grey, rainy, snowy, frozen, boring, and miserable.  Just.  Plain.  Miserable.  This January was a little more exciting than others (but not in a good way to most people); running out of LP gas, the water pipes freezing in the barn, the driveway turning into a dangerous downhill skating rink, Torran totaling his Jeep, and dealing with the lowest of  lifeforms known to man – the car salesman.

One would think, “get out while you can!  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring!”  Oh no no no, not us!  We are stubbornly determined to conquer the setbacks that happen and to turn this little hobby farm into a money-making enterprise (at least making enough to feed the animals and us – we aren’t greedy).  Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned since we’ve moved here – don’t kill each other when the going gets tough!  This month has certainly taught us that.  We have learned to laugh in the face of disappointment, to smile at a challenge, and to snicker at provocation!  (At least after screaming into and punching a pillow.)  What keeps us going?  The thought of what can and will be.

One thing that will happen this spring is pigs!  Take a look at this little face…we can’t wait to see what conundrums we’ll face when they get here.  Not to mention the abundance of pork we’ll have in the fall (which we’ll be selling).

We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!
We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!

Another adventure that better happen soon concerns our hens laying eggs.  They are 27 weeks old and we were told they start anywhere from 24-28 weeks.  I go out to feed them in the morning and looks for eggs, but have been disappointed every  morning so far. Ugh.  I’m having a hard time being patient; I keep telling myself it will be worth it one of these days.  Patient is something I’m not, but the farm is helping me to learn good things are worth waiting for.

The rooster, on the other hand, has grown by leaps and bounds and is now crowing (which scared me when he first did it because I was not expecting it) and is trying to get his jollies off with the ladies.  Did you know roosters crow anytime during the day, not just in the morning?  Wonderful.

 

Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Animals need water and so I have been going to the other barn each day and filling up the chicken water buckets and lugging them back to their coops.  Until we lifted the handle one morning and it was frozen.  It was below zero out at night for a while and something like twenty below with the windchill so we shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were.  For the last couple weeks I have been lugging my trusty red bucket named Ralph (ha, get it?) from the house to the barn with lukewarm water for the cats and the chickens to drink.  I am happy to report I checked the well this morning and we have running water again!  Ralph is being retired for the time being.

Ralph, get it?
Ralph, get it?

So while I was lugging Ralph out to the barn I had to traverse our driveway…only our driveway was a SOLID SHEET OF ICE.

This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple days over 33 degrees.  It may look like snow - nope, ALL ICE.  Fun times.
This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple of days over 33 degrees. It may look like snow – nope, ALL ICE. Fun times.

While this could be good if we owned ice skates (I grew up ice skating but I don’t know that I have ever seen my husband ice skate…hmmm…future project slash dare).  Anyway, I am proud to report I have not fallen at all but I have wobbled a couple of times; I’m sure I just cursed myself, great.  I am hoping we can continue on with the warmer weather so the rink will turn into a mud pit…but that is an adventure for another time.

P.S.  Stay tuned for our adventure/nightmare with car salesmen – it will not disappoint!

Not again…

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The mischievous fluffy kitten.

After a busy afternoon of baking cinnamon rolls and butterscotch drop cookies, I had an hour to wait while the cinnamon rolls were rising. So I decided to check on the chickens and raise the heat lamp on the babies. First, I got some scratch and cajoled the big chicken outside. Why they want to spend all their time in the coop is beyond me – especially when their run is totally safe now (we added poultry netting to the top – that is another post for another day). While I was out there I heard one of the kittens crying. A pathetic little cry that immediately sent me running inside. All I could think of was, “oh no, not another one stuck in the wall! I thought we blocked that hole…maybe there is another hole we don’t know about. Oh. My. God. What am I going to do?!?!?”

As I pushed open the side door I saw a streak of white run past and under the pallets we have some drywall sitting on. Then I heard the cry from under the pallets. THANK GOD IT WASN’T IN THE WALL!! Turns out it was my favorite fluffy white and yellow long-haired kitten. He had figured out how to get down the haymow stairs and was lost and scared. I closed all the barn doors and wondered how I was going to get him back upstairs.

Meanwhile, I figured I would raise the heat lamps on the baby chickens and wait for the thermometer to tell me if I have it at the right temperature (I do – you decrease five degrees every week until you are at the outside temperature). As I was crouched down watching the digital thermometer I heard him (I am assuming it is a him) cry again. I peeked my head over the railing and saw him cautiously wander a few feet from the pallet. That is when I heard it. ANOTHER CRY!! Ugh, will this ever end?! Then I heard the cry again while I was watching the little fellow. I happened to look up the barn stairs and there was another kitten sitting on the first step from the top! It was telling the other one, “what the heck are you doing down there you silly goose? Get your butt back up here with the rest of us!” Sure enough the fluffy one looked up the stairs and tentatively took a step up and then he was gone.

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The rescuer kitten.

I was so proud, but sad at the same time. Proud because they figured it out (I know, I know, I had nothing to do with it but still I can be a proud “parent”) and sad because they now know how to get down from the haymow and will start venturing out into the dangerous world. I wish I could keep them little and safe up in the haymow, but I must let them grow up. Such is the journey of life.

Chickens!!

We took the plunge and got our first farm animals – chickens!

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I didn’t grow up with chickens (well, we had one chicken given to us as a joke because my mother grew up with chickens and hates them) but the Hanauska farm across the street had chickens and I remember going into the coop when they had baby chicks – they were so cute!  That was the extent of my chicken experience until earlier this year when we went to the Racine County Fair and I was able to pet one and see all the different kinds.  I started warming up to the idea, but I was still concerned with the amount of work they might be – especially in the winter.  Who wants to go out to the barn in the middle of January when it’s five below out?!?

Torran was adamant and did all the research and so I finally caved and found a “chicken lady” right up the road from us.  Her name is Raegan and she raises hundreds, sometimes over a thousand, chickens each year to sell.  Check out her blog at www.comefarmwithme.com  and their farm’s website www.corner40farms.com.  She has an egg wagon she puts out everyday and the eggs are wonderful – much better than store-bought eggs!

We went to pick up the chickens and first we had to catch them.  Remember, I had never caught a chicken, much less held one.  I was scared (I know, I’m a little chicken myself, ha!).  She was so kind and told me it doesn’t hurt if they peck at you, how to grab them, and how to hold them.  After holding the first one I was hooked.  I didn’t catch any of them – Torran did all that work with a fish net (I think that’s what it was) while I loaded them into a dog carrier Raegan lent us.  I still feel bad that I didn’t wash out the carrier when I returned it – sorry Raegan!!

Torran catching chickens. Photo courtesy of Raegan Dexter.
Torran catching chickens. Picture courtesy of Raegan Dexter.
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Me holding my first chicken! Photo courtesy of Raegan Dexter.

They are Red Star chickens.  Red Stars can come from different red chicken breeds for the hen but are crossed with a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster (read more about them at http://comefarmwithme.com/1200-chicks/ ). They are winter hardy and so they should be just fine in the barn during the winter.  

The big bad rooster…who is not so big and not so bad…he lets me pet him.

We had the coop, the roost, and an outside run so all we had to do was pick up a feeder, water bucket and feed.  We did all this the day before we got them so we were ready.  We released them into the coop and they just kind of sat there.  I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe for them to frolic around and be excited for their new home.  Nope, just blank, scared stares and they all huddled in the corner.  Bummer!  So we left them alone.

Their new home is ready!
Their new home is ready!

Over the next week or so they got used to us and were enjoying being outside in their run.  I went out one afternoon and could only find five of the seven.  Turns out something ate one and one was hiding in some big weeds; the others were inside.  Time to get a roof over the run!

We cobbled together some chicken wire and now they are safe from predators.  I felt bad their run was now smaller so I went to work to spiffy up their roost.  I added a cabbage on a string (I read this would be a good “toy” for them).  I also had seen chicken swings on the internet so I fashioned one out of a piece of wood and some twine.  They haven’t used it yet, but I am hopeful one day I will go out to visit and one will be swinging away!

Homemade chicken swing.
Homemade chicken swing.

Next spring I want to paint the coop, add some chicken decor, and give them a mirror to look into (I’ve read they like to look at themselves – vain little creatures).  We also need to extend the roof over the run so next spring will be busy!  In the meantime, I will be looking for more “toys” for the chickens…and no, I will not be crocheting them any little sweaters for the winter…unless I get extremely bored…

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Kitten Rescue

 

 

The day we moved in was busy, stressful, and rainy.  I was scared of moving into such a big old house; would the microwave work without having to turn off any lights?  Would we be able to afford to heat the place?  How would I survive with no close neighbors and no garage?  How would I clean darn place?  How much work were we getting ourselves into?  To help relieve some stress, and to get me out of the house during the chaos, my sister and I went into the barn to look around.  As she was looking into the chicken coop she spotted a kitten!

Our snaggletoothed, mice killing, bird catcher Momma cat.
Our snaggletoothed, mice killing, bird catcher Momma cat.

We knew we had barn cats; the friendly one was named Momma and the other two were a tiger striped one and a black and white one with no tail.  No problem we thought, just feed them and they will take care of any unlucky mice.  We didn’t plan on SEVEN kittens.  They were so tiny and cute and fluffy we couldn’t  just leave them.  So my sister and I put food and a cardboard box in the coop hoping they would be comfortable.

Momma cat, the tiger cat and some kittens outside the chicken coop.
Momma cat, the tiger cat and some kittens outside the chicken coop.

Fast forward a couple weeks…I was in the barn feeding Momma and the tiger striped one (the black and white one had since disappeared) and I heard something crying.  Figuring it was a kitten I went to find it.  I looked in the haymow, I looked in the chicken coop, I looked at ceilings and trim.  I figured it was coming from the wall in the chicken coop.  I went to get my husband and we tried to find it.  I was almost frantic – the poor thing was crying and was probably terrified and hungry.  We thought maybe it was stuck up between the floor of the haymow and the ceiling of the barn so we tore out some of the ceiling.  No  kitten.  Next we tore out some outside wood up under the eave thinking it was perhaps in there.  Nope.  We checked the haymow again and couldn’t find it.  Finally, to our horror, we realized it was IN THE WALL!  Crap.  Crap.  Double crap.  While we were standing there trying to figure out how to get it out we heard what we thought were it’s last, sad, scared little meows.  How heartbreaking!  I started crying as Torran ushered me out of the barn.  I know life can be cruel at times and barn cats sometimes meet untimely deaths, but to be faced with the first one so soon after moving in was horrible.  I felt like a failure; I felt I should have done something to prevent this; I felt like a murderer.

Torran went to work and I went on about my day.  It was sad, but this is the life we chose and I had to be a big girl and deal with the consequences.  I did what I think any girl would do – I went and got a mani/pedi to take my mind off it.  It didn’t help.  I felt guilty but what could I do?  Torran came home from work and he said something had told him to bring a chisel home.  So he had.

We went into the barn and we heard the poor kitten crying!  It hadn’t died!  It was still alive!  We were determined to save it!  Torran started chiseling holes in the wall.  He was stumped after about the sixth hole because he could hear it but couldn’t get to it.  Finally, he realized the cinderblocks had three chambers in them instead of the normal two.  After knocking out the NINTH hole, he could finally feel the little kitten!

Nine holes in the cinder block wall in the chicken coop.
Nine holes in the cinder block wall in the chicken coop.
Torran trying to pull the kitten out.
Torran trying to pull the kitten out.

He was in the hole vertically with his head at the top (thanks goodness he wasn’t upside down).  After a little pulling and nudging and lots of “be carefuls” from me, he was free!  I quickly cuddled him to my chest and we took him outside to look him over.

 

He looked fine, but we were concerned about his hearing from all the banging on the wall.  He apparently didn’t care because he bit me!  After a few pictures and a moment of “shIMG_2177ould we really save his life and make him an inside cat?” (NO) we took him back to the barn and set him by Momma.IMG_2187

Off he ran.  That was the last time we ever saw him.  Hopefully he found another barn to live in and is enjoying his life.  Meanwhile, we were left with nine holes in the wall we had to fill before we could get chickens…but that is another journey for another day!

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