Rebellion Controlled!

Animals love to rebel. It seems to be a common trait between all species!

We fixed the duck solution by trimming one wing, just as we did with the turkeys, and housing them in the garden. They were startled at first but are taking to their new living situation ok.

Tess the cat has finally started to leave us alone and make the barn her home. Hooray for that!

I brought Lee into the field today to corral up the sheep and he did a surprisingly good job in both being serious and responding to my commands. There is hope for him yet! He’ll never win any shepherding awards I can tell you that for sure, but he’ll be a valuable asset. I think eventually once I have enough sheep to warrant it (so probably 2012) I’ll make an arrangement to adopt one of his offspring that shows good signs of wanting to herd sheep.

As with everything, one day’s perspective is enough to refocus your mind on what is important. We are focusing on securing the fields with a second offset layer of fence so that not even the goats can escape. This way we can bring home two more Maremma pups who will get used to guarding the flock and allow me to expand to multiple fields next year. We hope to have them home ASAP, Heidi is certainly up to her neck in cute but studious guard animals! If you know of a farmer who’s looking for a livestock guardian pup do let me know.

A Cold October

The Flock in October

It’s the middle of October and boy is it cold. Today was officially the first hard frost, I doubt it if much grass will live through it but I’ve been surprised before so I won’t discount it completely. I had to go out and break up the ice on the waterers, a task I will no doubt get very tired of very fast.

Turkeys

My turkeys are grown up. It’s hard to believe that they were once as small as could be, fitting easily in the palm of my hands! Now they are massive huge beasts who require constant feeding and monthly feather-trimming to prevent them from escaping their enclosure. Already the big white tom I bought from my friend Bill escaped, and if it wasn’t for Lee’s natural ability to capture prey like this I would have spent probably a half hour chasing him back into his house.

One of the 2010 duck girls

The ducklings too are grown up. Here’s one of the girls after a feeding (that’s some feed dust on her back). The girls fly around all day long while the boys waddle to catch up. In fact I think one was sleeping in a tree this morning!

Charlie is doing very well. Each day he runs a bit faster and has a bit more energy. Today in fact he surprised me by flying over to the feeding location, something I’ve rarely if ever seen him done. So he’s definitely energetic about living, which I love to see. We will continue to monitor his health, especially with the onset of cold weather, to see if he pulls through.

Wet Spirit

My next goal is to reinforce the fenceline so that I can bring home two Maremma puppies from my friend Heidi’s farm. I have lots of plans to expand, and with the coyotes here guardian animals are a must. Nothing beats a guardian animal who grows up on the farm they work on, so getting them here soon is quite desirable. The key now is to find 1500 feet of suitable fencing and install it, which is much easier said than done.

Animal Update

I’ve been posting a lot about my growing veggies, but what about my growing animals?

The sheep are all enjoying the great weather and great pasture. Our new additions (Keelin, Macaroon, and Rolo) have all fit in perfectly. Macaroon is surprisingly bold – she is the ewe who is staring down Lee and stomping her feet at him, before going in for a sniff. Rolo is bold as well, but she’s more like Macaroon’s wing-girl. Keelin remains best friends with Price. I have yet to pet either of the two. I will be remedying this in the coming days!

The turkeys are loving it in the garden. They patrol around all day, eating bugs and greens. They are not eating my growing beans and peas and for that I am very glad! Plus all their walking helps keep the paths tame. I have finally cleaned out the basement and let me tell you, I have learned that I will never be doing that again- it’s brooder boxes and a brooder shack outdoors from this point on. But hey, we all do silly things from time to time.  Considering I’ll never be raising such a small number of birds from this point out, it wouldn’t be feasible doing it any other time but this year.

The chickens completely failed at raising any babies so far. The ducks are completely succeeding. Ducks win. Hands down.

Speaking of the ducks, you should see them now! They are all brown-chested with little bum feathers. They wiggle them around when they’re happy. Cutest thing in the world next to the “I’m wet” T-rex arm shaking. I expect they will be adorable when they start learning how to fly! Oh, Tom and I caught a really neat duck behaviour – a duckling fight. We think it was some dominance issue. They were charging into each other with their chests and wrapping around with their necks to nibble on each other’s arms. Eventually mom came over and broke things up, but not until after the ducklings had fought in the pool for a bit – maybe mom knows that cooler heads prevail?

Ruby might be finding a new home in September. There is a farm outside of Kanata who is interested in a mentor goat. That is one thing I’ve learned Ruby is great at, goat mentoring – she’s a good foster mom. But you have to keep an eye on her, else she’ll teach the younguns how to escape and cross the road. With proper fencing though she will be a great leader for raising other goats. I have come to respect her good temperament on a leash – it is nice having an animal come where you want it to go!

Nothing new is with Spirit. She is enjoying her haircut, and was puzzled by Lee’s presence, but now she’s back to her ho-hum style of life. She warned off more coyotes last night. She’s easily made her value known on this farm and has long since recouped her cost. I don’t know how many lambs I would have buried this year had it not been for her presence.

Everything is new with Lee! He is doing mighty fine considering he was a country dog. We went into Rockland today for supplies and he got to go into a local pet store, where we found his #1 favorite toy – the Kong Extreme rubber bouncy chew toy. You can put snacks into it! Lee loves to chase it around because it bounces around unpredictably. He’s a bit bored with his rope and ball, it’s too predictable, but the Kong he could play with all day. And surprise surprise, Lee already has a gist of the “drop” command, plus I’ve been working on his consistency in returning the toys to me (basically fetching without the command yet). Each day I’m learning how to read him a bit more, I can tell what sort of mood he’s in and that lets me provide for him better; in return he remains comfortable and content with his position as Gamma Dog and focuses on being a productive pack member who obeys what Alpha and Beta say. He is one heck of a smart cookie though – when I look into his eyes I kinda get the feeling like he’s a person stuck in a dog’s body. Then he does a dog thing like licking his butthole and I’m brought right back to reality! And then he does an awesome dog thing like rounding up the goat kiddies and making them go right back through the fence they waltzed through a second ago, saving me much time and running around. Way to go boy!

The New Arrivals

Pictures are better than words, so here they are!

More Ladies shots

Here are the ladies looking sassy!

Franklin looking pensive

A great shot of Franklin peering out after we fixed the gate, now it doesn’t rattle as much. Frankie is disappointed.

Don Juan Crowing

This is Don Juan the rooster, crowing as usual. He’s your textbook rooster. He makes a great addition to the barn atmosphere – it’s at least 500% more farmier with him here!

Ruby in her safehouse

Here’s Ruby the miniature goat. She’s in her safe zone, the sheep don’t really care to go in there, which is good cause the ladies tend to be real bossy around Ruby. What snobs.

Spirit resting

And finally, the protector of them all, Spirit the Maremma sheepdog. When we met her on Heidi’s farm she was really protective of her flock and wouldn’t let us come close let alone pet her or say hello. In my barn though she is completely opposite, she is so relaxed and well tempered. The only time she’s barked has been when Frankie tried (and failed) to push her around a bit.

Right now everyone is living together in the barn. This is letting everyone get familiar with each other and more comfortable in their new environment. Already the ewes are less cautious with us, which is quite nice as they are far better tempered than Frankie. This isn’t saying that Frankie is a bad ram at all, he’s just a bit friendly with humans, which is nice when we are behind the wooden railings but not as nice for me when I’m in the pen with him. I haven’t been rammed yet, but it’s really just a matter of time, he’ll catch me the one day when my guard is let down. Here’s hoping that day doesn’t come soon.

Excitement and a new guardian dog

I’d just like to take a minute out to say how excited I am to get on my farmland! I mean, this is plainly obvious to anyone who talks to me, or those who come with me on my various farm field trips to scout out animals etc. But as we get closer and closer to moving in, and as all of the pieces are being put into place, I’m feeling so happy and excited and passionate about this adventure!

Cute Ewes

I mean, look at these faces. Aren’t they just so precious and adorable? These are the sheep who were living on the land previously. They look so happy and without a care in the world. In addition to being able to provide my animals with such a wonderful life, I’m very excited to be able to document and share their lives with you via pictures and blog posts and visits and whatnot.

Man, they have it made. I can’t imagine a happier existence, having everything given to me, all my needs taken care of, my only job being to live and be healthy, and having a fan club to boot.


Picture of Spirit is from Heidi’s blog post about her.

Yesterday we went out to meet this potential livestock guardian dog for the flock. Her name is Spirit, she’s a 5 year old Maremma, an an excellent guardian for sheep. She’s currently guarding a flock of Shetland sheep at Ruis Dair farm. They had taken her in when another sheep owner had to let her go, and unfortunately she doesn’t get along with one of the other Maremmas on the farm. It was sheer luck that I found the blog post talking about her, the result of a google search gone right!

Her demeanor is exactly what one wants in a livestock guardian dog. She was very skeptical of us when we came into the yard, we stood around for a great deal of time chatting and letting her feel comfortable around us. Eventually she sniffed us and calmed down even enough to have a nap in the middle of the sheep. But she was always on guard, a few times she started barking when she thought we were up to something, and she wouldn’t let anyone but the owners touch her. She’s an Alpha dog and it comes though loud and clear.

Spirit with her flock

Here’s a shot of her with her flock. She’s over on the right. See how well she blends in? When she was taking a nap she was almost invisible in the midst of the flock. A coyote would be making a fatal mistake messing with her and her crew. Hopefully it won’t ever come to that though, the coyotes should be deterred by her scent markings as well as the sheer proximity of the flock to the barn and house.

As you can see, Spirit impressed me greatly, and it looks like she’ll be joining the farm to guard my quartet of Shetlands. I was really concerned when I heard about the large number of coyotes in our area, but knowing that Spirit is in my corner really makes me feel better. And of course I’m glad to be able to help out with Heidi’s situation and provide her with a great home where she can spend her days doing what she loves.