Monday, June 1, 2009

Horses and Turkeys and Sheep -- OH MY!

On a fateful morning last week, I set out to retrieve Buttercup from the pasture for the morning milking. As I passed by her new $150 mineral feeder with the swiveling rain guard, something looked askew. The entire feeder (which she's never actually used like she's supposed to) was flattened. Hoping that it was still usable, I did my best to bend it back into shape and continued on to go find our cow.

Buttercup was clearly hot and bothered, and expressed a strong interest in meeting me up close and personal, like the cow in this video. I made sure not to let her fall behind me, but as we passed the mineral feeder, she broke away. She then proceeded to show me how she had flattened it before. Apparently the curved rain guard looks like the back of another (very sexy) cow.

Later that day the AI lady paid Buttercup another visit. So, hopefully, in 9 1/2 months, she'll have a calf. If the mineral feeder is flattened again in 22 days, that means we need to bring the AI lady out again.

In addition to our cow excitement, we've cut our first hay. The weather is always a nemesis when you have hay out drying in the field, so I decided to hop to it and get the hay cut when the forecast showed 7 days of no rain.

After a few days of drying, it was time to rake the hay into windrows. Despite the forecast, some rain started to sprinkle halfway through this job, but it didn't amount to much. Not enough to damage the hay anyway. A day after that, we had a mystery rain storm come to attack us at 1:30am. I checked the forecast while it was pouring rain outside, and there was zero mention of rain. A check of the radar showed a single storm forming out on lake Michigan, and heading straight towards us like a missle, and dissipating shortly thereafter. This rain was enough to damage the hay, but not too bad.

Rain was finally in the forecast for the evening of Memorial day, but the hay wasn't 100% dry yet. If we baled it, it would become moldy and useless. If we left it in the field, the additional rain would make it worthless. That left us with one option not normally considered by sane people, which was to put it up loose, as was done before the invention of balers. Loose hay, so long as it's not stacked too high, can still dry out without molding. We didn't have enough room in the barn to put it all in without stacking, but we did get a few pickup loads put away, and it's now dry and looking good.

I thought that forking all of the hay by hand would be a terrible chore, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. At least it was fun until about the 6th truck load. Tossing 5lbs of hay on the end of your pitchfork is much more pleasant than hefting 50lb bales around anyway.

In order to get as much hay as possible in each truckload, we had to squish it down. Our certified professional hay squisher was invaluable for this.

We soon ran out of space to spread the hay out in the barn, so decided that it might be a good time to learn how to make a haystack. It might get moldy, but at least it wouldn't burn our barn down if it started to heat up. At best, it might allow us to keep more of the hay from this cutting.

Although the hay did heat up a little, it hasn't molded yet, and may very well survive as good hay. In the good old days, such stacks were just left outside with no tarp; the hay on top acted as a thatched roof while the hay inside remained dry. The stack did shrink quite a bit though -- it's now about half of the height shown in the photo.

Our new horses seem to like the haystack, which is in their paddock. I hadn't really planned on getting a draft team this early, but was keeping my eyes open to make sure I had an idea of prices and availability so I could jump when a good opportunity arose.

As it turns out, that opportunity came up, so we've made the largest single addition (by weight) to the farm's animals. Doc and Bruce are a team of 8 year old Belgian geldings.

They spent their first hour galloping around the barnyard and exploring their new farm. Doc soon discovered that the many small trees in the barnyard make great scratching sticks for those intimate spots if you back over them and rock back and forth.

But wait, that's not all...

The weekend before we got Doc and Bruce, we made another addition of pasture-eating livestock.

Being financial wizards, we've decided to enter the highly lucrative wool business (shearing typically costs more than wool can be sold for). We've picked up three Romney sheep, a breed known for high quality wool. By next year at this time, we'll all be wearing our home-made wool underwear.

I would post a photo of the sheep, but they're not the most photogenic, as they're typically running away from us. We'll get one... eventually.

Finally, we now have 11 week-old Narranganset turkey chicks from a woman who hatches them in Kalamazoo. They'll be around until Thanksgiving when Rachel has volunteered to gut and pluck each one of them all by herself.

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