Oh, look. It’s that glorious time of year again, when the flies harass cows and people, and we spend our evenings stalking intruders with a fly swatter. 🙂 We’re running a bit behind schedule this year. By a bit, I mean a lot! We’ve usually got our garden plants started by February and we’re ready to set them out by mid-April, but I haven’t even gotten seeds yet. Dave has got the garden beds all cleaned up from last year, though, and we just need to add some of our beautiful composted cow manure. Then, I guess, we’re growing cucumbers and green beans.
We try to manage our egg supply by hatching new chicks each spring. It has been our experience that they start laying at about six months of age, and then continue steadily all through their first year. When they quit in September to molt and take their winter’s rest, we (ideally) harvest them as soup chickens, and wait for the next batch of chicks to start laying. Well, our current crop of hens is laying exceptionally well, and Meg, our chicken caretaker, was so excited to have something to do with all that bounty, that she filled up way more hatching trays than I wanted. And our hatching rate was particularly good this year! So I ended up with 250 chicks, approximately 70 more than I wanted to deal with. Happily, we were able to sell all our extra birds through craigslist, and my chicken crew will be getting a bonus in their paychecks this month.
We hope to have out last “keeper” cow bred next week. I was thinking of just getting out of the business end of milking. It’s hard to get new shareholders to commit, though we have no trouble keeping them once they’ve started. We have a good thing going here, but it’s frustrating sometimes to deal with the marketing end and have the time consistently wasted. I do enjoy milking, and I enjoy the relationships with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, but the effort is draining me. Anyway, I’m moving on with our herd improvement program. Annabelle will be bred next week, and Maybelle and Sunshine are already expecting, Sunshine for the first time. Daisy will probably be bred and sold, or sold as an open cow, by September at the latest. That means my milking herd roster for next year is Annabelle, Maybelle and Sunshine. The following year, if there are shareholders to support them, we’ll add Lizzie and Cocoa. If not, they’ll be sold next spring as bred heifers. We can use all the milk from three cows ourselves, but five is pushing it. 🙂
Two pigs are going to the processor next week, one steer will hopefully be ready before the summer is out, and we have 150 chickens to raise for meat. I wish we had sheep-proof fencing so I could add a couple of lambs to the rotation, but our ducks are setting, and I plan to catch a few ducklings and raise them in confinement, where they can enjoy a diet of something other than cow manure. I really enjoy a good roasted duckling.
Oh! If you’ve been to our farm lately, you may have met Roxie! She is a really good dog. We’ve been working with her for a few weeks now and we think she’s ready to be off-leash during the day, at least. She will still need to be supervised a bit, but we have high hopes for this puppy. She’s extremely affectionate, too, and her fur is so silky smooth. We like her very much, and we think she’ll be able to follow in Abby’s paw prints admirably.