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A December Pasture Check

As we dive straight into December and busy ourselves getting ready for the coming holiday, it serves me well to take notice of my friends in the pasture. These days are short on sunshine, but when it is out, the animals are too; napping, exploring, nibbling or just hanging out. All seem content, and not the least bit stressed. I for one am looking at the time left and trying to figure how I am going to get all the knitting, embroidery and crafting done to complete the gifts I am planning to make. But these fuzzy critters are not frazzled.

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Hickory is enjoying his stay in the “honeymoon suite”. He is assigned to be dad of the spring lambs because of his soft moorit brown fleece and all around good looks and sweet personality. I would really like more brown lambs to have more brown yarn and roving on hand. He is enjoying the company of four ewes, Pansy, Dahlia, Gwyneth, and Motto.

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Estelle, Ettienne and Rupert heading out for a day of free ranging.

The duck trio are our newest residents. They were rescue ducks from Wildlife Rehabilitation. They usually rescue and doctor injured wild animals. But these three were domestic ducks that were neglected and one was attacked by a dog. All were in sad shape. But they were recovered and needed a forever home. We were chosen because of our ponds. But they actually prefer bathing and swimming in their tub. They take turns jumping in and splash around as only one can fit at one time. I have nicknamed them the bucket ducks. They have settled into their routine. They head back to the barn at night to be go to bed protected in one of the stalls. So they are there by dusk without me having to herd them back. And I am excited to report that Estelle is now laying eggs for the first time.

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Chickens are almost full grown!

The bantam chickens are just about full grown now. And I have to say, they are so delightful in how they all get along and play together. I wish I were so care free. I am eagerly waiting eggs, but in the meantime, I am enjoying their antics.

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Bluebelle and Lily eager for breakfast

The growing lambs are getting used to their new haircuts. We sheared a couple of weeks ago and I understand that lambs should go through a growth spurt after shearing. They look so sweet as they go about looking for food, take naps in the sun and even spar with each other. I am amused as I see baby ewes butt heads like rams. And they take their sparring seriously. Yet are friends after the battle.

So I am refreshed after visiting and feeding everyone this morning. Now back to speed knitting.

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Chicks arrive by Priority Mail!

I feel no farm is complete without some chickens. They are so valuable in so many ways. They help keep small bugs at bay, aerate the yard, oxygenate the compost pile and the garden. And most important, they provide lots of entertainment and breakfast too! I am a fan of the bantams…little sized chickens. They don’t dig to China and don’t need as much space.

Well, I was down to six Dutch bantams, five hens and one rooster that did not seem to be able to produce chicks. And these have decided to roost in the high rafters of the barn and not in either of our two coops. It works for them, they have not been taken by predators and I just feed them at the barn. But I wanted some chickens that use the coops, focus on the compost pile and are not flighty. I settled for cochins and a few silkies for decoration. Cochins are round fluffy birds with feathered feet, gentle personalities and aren’t flyers. Silkies are the poodles of the chicken world. Equally gentle but they keep fluffy downy feathers and have top knots. I could not find a source locally, so looked online for a mail order site. I found two companies, one out of Missouri and one out of Wisconsin. I ordered 15 mixed colored batch of cochins from one and 10 cochins and five silkies from another. I must confess that I was a bit nervous having live day old chicks going through the mail, but took the plunge.

I readied my brooder. I had not used it in at least a couple of years. I dug it out of the barn and put it under the pole barn and went to cleaning it out. The less said about the mummified mouse stuck half way through the mesh screen the better. I also cleaned out and around the two coops and will be adding a chicken fence to create a yard shortly. I nice source for a green chicken fence is Premier1. I am so excited to get the chickens going again.

So today they arrived! I received a call from the post office and both orders came at once! Yea! I went out to fill the feeder and both waterers. In one I put a solution of electrolytes. And got in the van to go get our new chicks, nervous, hoping all made it safely. When I got to the post office, a very small rural one, which I love because they know me and treat everyone warmly. Debbie asked if I was here for the chicks. I could hear them from the back, which was a relief, sort of like hearing your baby cry in the delivery room. She said they sound like they really want to get out of their boxes. She scanned their labels and handed me two chirping brown boxes with lots of holes. I looked through the holes…they seemed ok.

So home and took the boxes to the barn, and gently opened box one. All okay! I lift 15 tiny chicks into the brooder. And tiny they are, as bantams are miniature. Then box two. Yes! All alive! I lift them into the brooder too. With coffee in hand I settle back to watch everyone get used to their new digs. Several find the water quickly. Some sample the feed. Some huddle together looking a bit shell shocked. Then some start racing in circles, little laps around the feeder. Then I hear this loud chirp, over the chirps of the rest, from a different area. One of the boxes! One chick was pressed into the corner of the second box. Poor baby. I retrieved it and reunited him/her with his buddies.

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And this brings up another point. I am not sure of how many hens or roosters I have. It is expensive to have the farm sex the chicks, and it is never 100% a sure thing. I do want a few roosters, but mostly hens. We will have to wait and see.

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After enjoying my coffee, taking a few pics and a video, I come inside to blog and then get back to fiber work.

I’ll update more soon. I will enjoy the the bliss of having chicks on the farm again. All is right with the world. God hit home run when He came up with the chick.

Blessings Come, but on its own time.

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Nature often offers clues about how we should live our lives, if you are tuned into her. Farmers spend many hours outside, no matter the time of day (or night), all seasons, in all weather. There are quiet moments in this work when we stop, look around and notice many things. Things like subtle changes as the seasons evolve, little views of beauty both large and small.

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Many people complain as they look at the calendar and wonder why Mother Nature is not following it. Well, the calendar is man made without the wisdom the earth processes. There are blessings to be found if you give the reigns over to that wisdom. I am not a believer in luck. Luck is a discovered blessing that was there all along. It is just many of us are not paying attention.

So what is the reason for snow on a Spring morning? I want to know, so I head out. I am met with the contrast of spring flowers under cold crystals of snow flakes. I even find my rosemary in bloom and hyacinth. I love blue in the snow. Cool color on a cool morning. As I look at my garden, I notice how behind I am on chores to get ready to plant. But nature is telling me it is ok, because she is behind too. And I can’t start planting until she decides anyway. I should not be in a hurry.

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My chickens are out on their morning stroll too. They stop and examine everything. Nothing is too small not to get a close inspection. All of our blessings, the big ones and the little ones are very important and not to be taken for granted.

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I breath in the crisp air. This air will not be hear for long. The heat of Summer will be here soon enough. Even though it might seem this Winter is without end. It will of course…not on our time but on the schedule of the Earth. Trust in her. She has done a good job providing for us so far. Good fortune and wisdom are all around, if you just look for it.

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Home Alone? Sort of.

After dropping a couple of teenagers at school, and hubby has long left for a real job…I come back to visit with my critters…or as they like to be called…my co-workers. Often I prefer their company, especially as the craziness of the world swirls around us. It is breakfast time. They get theirs before I get my first cup of coffee.

So this morning is a little chilly, but the sun’s warmth is welcome on my shoulder. The chickens who did not make it back in their coop last night, run from the barn to greet me and provide companionship as I go about my chores. I let the rest of the gang out of their coops to help in the search for grubs and other tasty treats.

I head to the barn to prepare breakfast. On the menu is hay. The tiniest shoots of grass are beginning to appear in the pasture, but do not provide the needed nutrients for pregnant ewes and rams and goats. I slide open the door and take in the smell of sweet hay. I grab bailing twine around a fat square bail and pull it down. I reach for my favorite Tony Stewart knife and pop the twine and peel off a few slices and head over to the near by fence and drop over slices into 3 even piles as the ewes come over for their meal.

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Ewes focused on breakfast

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Ewes eating breakfast, see Nisa on the ridge napping in the background?

I check out the pasture as the sheep crunch away. The geese are on the banks of our lake digging around the shore for their breakfast. I scan the ridge and find Nisa in her usual morning spot-flat out on her back to napping while taking in the morning sun. I envy the life of a dog.

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Morning at the lake, see the geese on long the shore?

A deep baritone baaaa! brings me back to the task at hand. Old Rosie is in the paddock by the barn with two yearling ewes who were not bred this year. She is 12 years old and officially retired and acts as nanny to the youngsters. She is hungry and always tells me so. Off to the barn for her share as the chickens follow me in hopes of some seeds dropped from the hay.

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Barn paddock, chickens and sheep.

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Rosie looks on as chickens peck.

After Rosie and her charges are fed, it is off to the rear field with a big stack of hay for the cashmere goats and the yearling rams. They don’t share so well, so for the next few minutes, I run around the electric net fence and drop off 6 or 7 separate piles of hay so everyone has a bit without fighting.

Finally, I check in with the rabbits. I fill water bottles and give each of them a share of hay too. Crunching noise follows as all approve of the menu. I look in on Saphire, who will kindle in about a week. She is already building her nest of hay and fiber from her tummy in the nesting box in anticipation of her babies. Good. Right on schedule. I sigh as I look forward to new Angora bunnies.

I look around and am happy and blessed  to begin my morning in this place and with such lovely company. Now I am off for that cup of coffee and to work.

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