Other stuff about the farm and your's truly!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Changes to the livestock status quo!

I got to doing some serious thinking (yep, it's that scary) and came to some conclusions.  I love our Suffolk sheep flock, but the reality is that with Lyndsey off to college and out of 4-H, the money that she made with her sheep at fair won't be there (this year she made $3500 between auction, premiums and side sales).  I spend about $300 a month for feed for the flock.  The write off on taxes is probably only about $1000, so it definitely doesn't add up.  I decided to keep Two and Sydney, our two long-timers. They are bred and due in January, I'll advertise the lambs at weaning.  Mojo the ram will be going to live with our shearer. I will go pick him up in August and bring him home to breed the two ewes and local 4-H member ewes.  She isn't buying him, it's a gift from me to her, and she'll shear our girls for free.  I sold one of the young ewes (who is pregnant) and have the other up for sale.  That'll bring it down to only 2 sheep to feed, making my budget breath a little easier.

I also finally talked to Steve about the turkeys.  He was seeing heritage turkeys posted for $75 for a breeding pair and thought we could make some money.  About 1 1/2 years ago we bought 8 heritage turkey chicks, lost one and ended up with 2 toms and 5 hens.  They started laying (and setting) this spring.  I learned after letting one of them stay on her eggs and hatch them that turkey mom's aren't the best.  We lost 5 chicks in 1 day.  So, we incubated hatched and sold babies, from 2 days old to 12 weeks old.  We practically gave the 12 week ones away for $10.  The amount of feed they ate daily was adding up.  And turkeys aren't like chickens.  They don't lay at all during fall or winter or early spring.  So, the older turkeys were just going to hang around, eat a ton and pick on my laying hens.  We are in the process of selling them (down to 3, which are sold but won't be gone for a week).  I sold a tom and 2 hens for $80.  Ouch! Oh well, lesson learned and soon, less feed bought.

We are going to save the money to put into brand new beehives and bees. I'm going to do a lot of research first though. We'll see how that experiment goes!

Change used to scare me, but now I realize that lightening the load is actually a relief.

And, just for a smile, don't you all agree that I have the cutest little "grand-bear" ever!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just some pictures!

 Did I already show you this picture of Lyndsey, our auctioneer and the young man she awarded her best breeding ewe to at the Auction.  The young guy was speechless and Lyndsey was just so happy to see his reaction.

Lyndsey and one of her friends at her very first college football games.  Lyndsey doesn't really care for football, but she got good seats in the second row at the 20 yard line and had a ball. Go Beavs!

Austin is now almost 8 months old (how'd that happen?). He really liked the opportunity to chew onapples when we were picking this summer.

Bella has decided that this space is now hers.  She pushed the step-stool I had stored there for kids to sit on out of the shelf and climbed in.

I was able to participate in one farmers market this year.  Here's a picture of a few of the pumpkins, apples and squash we harvested.

And since Halloween is getting close, here's my cat Shadow, in another alcove.  You should have heard me scream when I reached in the basket to get a blanket and encountered a warm, breathing thing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life with an empty nest?

I am alive, just hiding, I guess.  Actually, I got overwhelmed from the new job in early July that kept me running like crazy until mid-September, then Lyndsey (#3 and last daughter) moved off to Oregon State University in Corvallis (Go Beavs') in late September.  I had training for the new job and a much-dreaded 3 day trip with my mother and younger sister to visit my older sister all in 1 week (2 days after Lyndsey moved).  My daughter Kaitlyn (#1) and her husband are still living on the property with Austin, the now 7 month old grandson.  A month ago, son-in-law ended up with a lump, swollen glands and a cancer scare and they removed one of his, um, delicate portions.  We now know it's not testicular cancer, but they don't know what is is, so we are all up in the air over that.

The farm did well even though I wasn't around much to tend it.  I lost a lot of tomatoes because I couldn't pick regularly enough. Grrrr... Sold lots of apples, green beans and pie pumpkins.  Started next years "what to plant" list.  Filled my deer tag last weekend wearing my flip flops, yoga pants and a t-shirt, all on my own.  Well, kinda... I'm debating writing a story about the whole thing, it was that comedic.

Tonight the Fish and Wildlife guy came out and set up a live trap to catch the bear that's been breaking my apple branches and flattening fences.  I don't mind them wandering through, but this one has been hanging out a week or so now and I don't need surprises on the farm.  I've decided to sell 3 of our 5 Suffolks (the ram and two pregnant ewes) as it's to expensive to feed all 5 of them $400 a month worth of grain and alfalfa and only get a $2000 write-off.  The numbers don't add up.  I'm keeping our two oldest and will breed them until they're too old to lamb any more.  I'm going to expand the egg business instead.  Easier to handle deaths!

Life is changing, it's not bad with Lyndsey not here, just different. It's bugging Steve, but he's busy with hunting season right now, so isn't too bad yet. I'm waiting, though, because Lyndsey was his baby girl and it's gonna be a long winter without her here to entertain him.  I'm hoping to expand the farm business and do some sewing and other "sellable" crafts this winter.  It's supposed to be mild and dry, which is scary because we almost ran out of water this year.

Anyhow, glad to be back, will be kicking up a new site soon, and the blog will go with it, so I'll keep you posted.

Wishing you hope, joy and faith!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Being brave!

July 22! I am taking a big step right now, putting myself out there and waiting to see what happens. I am not disclosing it yet, but I have to believe it will happen if it's meant to!  Got the hubby's support and encouragement. Life is to be lived and you'll never know if you don't try, right?

I started this a few weeks ago, and obviously dropped the ball, plus someone hacked my e-mail and I lost access to everything for awhile. Grrrr...

But on June 21, I applied for a new job at the OSU Extension Office in our county, as the new Education Program Assistant for 4-H.  I've been volunteering for years.  I almost didn't apply because I didn't want them to A: hire me because they felt they had too, or B: Not hire me (that'd really hurt).

Guess what?  My first official day was July 7, 2014.  Two days later I was headed up with the rest of the staff and counselors for 4-H Camp.  I got paid (with overtime) for something I have always volunteered for.  Five days later, back home, one day off to recover, then helping get ready for fair.  Worked all of fair (overtime again), and it was bittersweet. So wonderful to be paid for something I've always volunteered for, but sad because it was Lyndsey's last year as a 4-H member. 

My co-workers and I (note who is old and who isn't?)

Needless to day, as her momma, I gotta brag! She kicked butt! She entered her 4-H project entries on her own, because I was busy working.  She got the Super 4-Her award 4th year running, champion and grand champion on many things, livestock, food preservation, crocheting, etc.  And most awesome, Grand Champion Market Lamb out of 15 lambs (on the replacement she bought after both her market wethers got killed by the cougar.) The lamb who took Grand Champion was out of the first ram lamb ever born on our property, so he was still part of her flock.  Her ewe lamb took Grand Champion overall ewe. That was out of only 8 ewes, but that's not bad.  She got $14 a pound on her market lamb at auction, making $2300.  That is the most we've ever gotten here on a lamb! Wow!  Part of that success was due to her sob story about the cougars and the fact that right before her lamb auctioned, she donated a prize-winning ewe to a fellow club member who'd lost his ewe to a bear.  Her first breeding ewe was donated to her 5 years ago and she wants the tradition to continue.
Her hog got $5.25 a lb, which is a good price here.  The auction was a success. The only mom that wasn't happy with the prices was the one who didn't understand you need more than one bidder on a steer to buy together, and we've explained that too her so many times.

Lyndsey, Krennan, Bieste (the ewe) and the auctioneer (spotter in the back)
during the presentation of the ewe.

Anyhow, after so much time away from the farm, this weekend will be spent picking, canning and dehydrating to be ready for winter.  We already have leaves falling on the maple and blackberries ready to pick which is early here. Makes me nervous. Time to batten the hatches, I guess.  I will be also keeping an eye on one of the ewes who I have spent the last two days tubing for Bloat.  Another thing to add to my "learned farm skills list".  I really thought we were gonna lose her.  Plus we will be turning the ram in with the ewes tonight. Wow, it's busy!

Lyndsey will be moving to Corvallis in late September.  That's going to be hard, not having her here.  She just started an new job at the circuit court, scanning documents for $1900 a month for two months, which she can't complain about.  Oh, another benefit of the job, besides it being something I love, is that she'll get a 70% tuition discount at OSU because I am now an employee.  We have to pay taxes on that amount, but I can manage that.

Anyway, that's it for now (on my break, but wanted to let you know I'm in the land of the living).  More pictures soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I'm alive! Computer and life once again interferes!

First off, the last baby bird will be jumping out of the nest in September!  Here she is with her proud parents!

And here she is taken from the back of the gym giving her salutatorian speech. Where was I?  I am right in the front row, on the left hand side!

I really have no other excuse other than the computer is starting to fade and it's too hard to blog on my Iphone.  So, once again, a promise to do better and at least post a picture to let you know I'm still here.  Now it's time to get ready for fair! Yikes!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No spur of the moment decisions, but another loss!

The cougar did come back yesterday morning and was trapped and dispatched. We were allowed to keep the body, so Steve skinned and prepared the pelt and froze it and what meat was on the carcass is hanging to try some cougar jerky.  We found out what caused her to attack our flock. She was missing a large part of her back leg from a previous injury. While not a new injury, it was still not fully healed. The trapper said that it could have been from a trap and she broke free or something as simple as getting her foot caught in a fence as she jumped over it. She was emaciated.  I stroked her gently as she lie there, no longer suffering.  I apologized that we had to take her life in such an unfair manner.  I felt relief that our flock would be safe. I felt pain for taking such a strong spirit!

This morning, Steve went out to feed the calf and sheep (who had all been relocated after the attack to a small field on the other side of the orchard). Soon after he had left, he yelled for me to get grain and move them back to the field with the lean-to.  I though it was because of the rain and wind, but was surprised when the whole flock pretty much bolted past me through the open gate.  Normally, when I have grain, I become the focus of attention.  When Steve told me we needed to call the trapper again, that another lamb was dead, I was pissed off and sick to my stomach at the same time.  Yes, Lyndsey's second choice market wether was dead. The neck was broken, but nothing had been eaten yet.  The body was still warm. I texted my daughter, mom, sister and neighbor to tell them. We both had to go to work, so we left before the trapper arrived.  I called him soon after I got to work to ask him for details.  As he answered the phone, I could tell he was winded.  His hounds had already treed the cat and he was hiking our rather steep hillside to reach him. I didn't stay on the line. Shortly after that my mom called to let me know she'd heard a shot.  It was another young cat, probably the male sibling to the female.  He was also extremely thin.  I wish I knew their stories.  Did their mother die, leaving them not knowing how to hunt, forced to take easy prey (we've had a very mild winter and lots of deer are around)?  Were they forced out of their home territory as they neared adulthood, unable to find food in unfamiliar areas?  How did the female lose so much of her back leg? Did her brother try to help her?  It saddens me!

I am also angry because humans have pushed Mother Nature to the point of breaking, civilizing areas so that her children (the animals) can no longer find the food they need to survive, tipping the already shaky balance that is the wilderness. I treasure the wild animals, they are a needed part of our world, and I live in the woods, where the animals live.  My family has lived on this property for decades, going back to my great-grandparents.  They respected the animals and so do we.  Yes, I am an advocate for all the animals, even the predators.  Am I happy we killed (yes, killed) two beautiful, amazing hunters.  NO!! However, my livestock are under my protection.  They depend on me to keep them fed, sheltered and safe.  Because of changes and laws that have forced predator's to look for easy meals, we had to make a choice.  It was not an easy choice.  However, if one of you went and found one of your pets with it's belly cut open and it's head removed, knowing that the next night another pet could be taken the same way, with no way of escaping or defending itself, what would you do?  You might say "Well, a sheep isn't a pet"! Nope, it's not, however, we love our flock (and our pigs and our steers and our chickens).  The older sheep know their names, come to be petted and scratched and fed treats and love us.  The lambs are raised with love and care and good nutrition, to become either breeding animals or a market animal to feed you and your family healthy, nutritious protein.  Losing two lambs in 3 days has affected us emotionally.  I hear the momma sheep baa'ing for their babies (the weaning process causes baa'ing, but for different reasons). The flock saw these babies killed, smelled the scent of a predator and could not run, because the fences we built for their protection kept them trapped and unprotected.  I see the fear in their eyes, as the dogs they have known for years walk past the fence, unsure what might happen.  I feel the pain in my heart, soul and mind, knowing that I failed them.

This affects our farm financially.  The goal of raising low-cost, but healthy market lambs will not be met this year. In 2 months we've lost 4 of our animals, (the old ewe, the goat, and two lambs).  The farm took a hit this year. The lambs were each worth at least $300 each and Lyndsey would have gotten $800 on one of them as an auction animal.  We still have two lambs left, not as good of quality, but she will auction one anyway.  The 2 lambs would have paid for a large portion of our years hay, and Lyndsey's market hog.  

I'm tired, sad and well, to be frank, worried.  Do I find more ways to tighten the belt and keep the flock going? Do I just give it up?  There isn't much more to cut, we aren't like the government who keeps "finding" money. Out of 15 plus years of livestock, these are the first losses to a predator, but I don't know if I have the heart to wait for the next attack.  Being a farmer isn't easy, and I knew that coming into it, but the last few weeks have really pulled me apart!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Predators: them or us!

We have raised market lambs now for 9 years, and bred and our own ewes for market lambs for 5 or 6 years. We've lost a lamb at 2 months old, had one stillborn (out of triplets) and lost a ewe this year a few days after delivery. We live in the country (the woods, really) and have seen bears regularly, coyotes a couple times, and there have been cougar seen every year or so that take cats or dogs.

Steve went out this morning and found Lyndsey's first choice market lamb dead, with it's stomach ripped out.  The 3 ewes and remaining lambs were huddled in the furthest corner of the field possible.  We called ODFW and the trapper and wildlife officer came out.  They determined it was a cougar and set the dogs out, with no success.  So they set two traps by the body. I moved the flock to the pen way across the orchard and moved the ram to the hillside pen beside them.

I respect the predators, and appreciate them for their services. They are a needed aspect of our world. However, we have plenty of deer around right now and it was one of the mildest winters we've had in years.  My flock is not to be considered "available" for dinner at any time.  I am keeping my fingers crossed and saying a prayer that we catch it.  I feel bad for the other sheep who are obviously panicked, and the ewe who lost her baby is crying for him.  Somehow, weaning doesn't seem as bad as having your baby killed in front of your eyes.

I will keep you posted!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Do you have a dream?

I have come to realize how I have had dreams I've never named, never allowed myself to consider. I am 50 years old, my youngest child graduates high school this year and I'm a grandmother! Am I too old to start dreaming?

I heard about this book that tells a story of how a couple started living their dream. They bought 5 acres and started, with hard work and desire, to live their dream. Maybe by reading their story, I can find my dream and follow it.

5 Acres and A Dream