Saturday, March 17, 2012

Warm, breezy. Scattered showers, 80 degrees.
Yes, that's right, 80. It's been unseasonably warm here for most of the week. Hot, actually. We've peeled the plastic off the windows and thrown them open. These temps are almost double the normal temps for this time of year. It's kinda nice in March, but would certainly be unwelcome even a month from now. Hope it's just a fluke. But it does look like a definite pattern of some sort, since this has hung with us for so long already, and the 7-day forecast shows no variation from it.
It's hard to know whether to plant now... it certainly feels like late April around here, which is when we normally plant lots of things in the garden. But even then we know we have to watch out for late frosts. The pasture is starting to grow. I'm really glad we got the cows off it when we did last week. We should still be experiencing freezing temps, but we haven't had that for many days. We are also down in total snowfall.

The puppies have turned three weeks old! Their eyes are open and they can hear now. We have just started them on solid food. Here they are getting their first taste of Puppy Mush.

They are quickly out growing their little pen! We are enjoying every minute with these little stinkers. They are just a pleasure to watch. And now they are learning to really vocalize, and it's hard to describe how cute a tiny baby bark or growl is, but it makes us smile and laugh every time!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Late Winter 2012

It's been busy for winter around here. I guess the biggest news is our beloved Welsh Springer Spaniel, Ch. Fox River Prairie Fire (aka Dottie) had puppies a week ago! This was a very planned litter. We believe in well-planned and well-bred dog litters only! So she wasbred to a dog imported from England after much research to find the just-right match for Dottie.
The birth of the puppies was an exciting event that Dottie handled with ease. I knew that she'd be a good mom, but even I was surprised at how really good she has been. Beyond her unbreachable instincts to care for the pups, she has been very sweet with us, not at all aggressive as some bitches can become. I think she is quite proud, actually!
The pupppies are growing by leaps and bounds. They are born with noses and toes all pink, but the pigment (eventually their noses will be all black) is starting to come they are in a very adorable dusky and spotty state right now. Even some of their paw pads and toes are starting to show some tiny spots of black. Here are two tiny feet sticking up out of the puppy pile... It's hard to find words to convey how precious they are right now!
On the farm, we finished the red pigs (Icy's 2nd litter), and I rented a skid steer to completely remove all the bedding from the hoop barn.
This went onto the big compost pile, to return to our soil. Once cleaned of old bedding and manure, we put lime down and let it rest and dry out for two weeks, to help dry and disinfect, since we use gravel and hay between batches of pigs. Then I placed 4 round bales of corn stalks back in, put the fencing and gates back up, and walked Icy and Ridgett back up to the barn and let them in to go to town on those bales, and go to town they did!
Now how hard was it to move those 700 lb. sows across and open yard during a snowstorm, you may ask? Well, not nearly as hard as rounding up your cows that have wandered onto the neighbors lawn and corn field I would reply. See, just the other day, I pulled a very dumb farmer move, and after putting minerals out for my cows, I FORGOT to latch the gate!!! I was only made aware of this hours later as Karen called me to say the cattle were out, and would I kindly scurry back home from my city job to help catch them. Or, she said something to that effect. By the time I got home,she had 8ball and Brownie back in, but Panda and Large Marge and Noel her calf were nowhere to be seen. Anyone who has been through this scenario would maybe ask "What were the weather conditions?" Just because this type of thing always follows Murphy. Our weather had been unseasonably warm, causing the frost to leave the ground. Read "Mud Season" And we had a front coming in, with drizzle and sleet coming down. And we are surrounded by crop land, which meant our cows made us chase them through acres of boot-sucking, hair soaking muddy plowed fields. Our boots weighed 15 lbs.each. It took us two hours. Yes, we called for help, and finally as help arrived, we were latching our gate behind them. If one could spank a cow, I tell ya....
Karen was not in a forgiving mood, and I think she wanted to kill me. So you understand, memories were still a little too fresh as I asked for her assistance to bring up the rear as I simply walked the sows from one barn to the other. A big front had blown in, and it was snowing hard. Karen asked if I'd put up any fences or barriers. I replied no, I didn't think they would be able to see the wire in the snow anyway. And I knew my girls, and I knew how much they would give for another taste of delicious puppy kibble. Karen was more difficult to convince than the sows. She hung an open threat over my head, and I think she was envisionsing boiling cauldrons of oil if my plan and sows went awry.
But my nature is big on confidence and risk-taking, and I just KNEW it would work. So we opened the gate, put that bucket in front of them, and started walking. Actually, I had to walk rather briskly for danger of being run over by 1400 lbs. of hooved, hungry sow. We clipped right along up to the hoop barn. They never even noticed the snow storm. They pranced right in and we pulled the gate shut.
I grinned smugly, but all I got from Karen was a "Well, that went better than expected" hmph!

Here they are, sleeping all burrowed down into the corn stalks after they'd searched through and found every kernal of corn.
This is where they'll stay for farrowing their babies until they are weaned,then they will go out onto pasture.

As mentioned,we finally have gotten a few snow storms, making us believe it really is winter. We have used minimal shelter for the cows, mostly because beef cattle really don't need much for shelter, and partly because we decided to use what we had on hand. Here you see Panda and Marge and Noel in front of stalk bales set as a wind break,
and 8-ball using the hoop shed.
Though rudimentary in some respects, these measures worked just fine to keep our cattle healthy and happy. We do have plans to build a three-sided shelter that the pigs and cattle can utilize for next year.

Happy mud season, everyone!