Friday, February 23, 2007

The last arrive

And so the last of the chicks for this year arrive. Barring the loss of many---we won't be ordering again this year. Well, unless we order those Muscovy we have been talking about (for about 4 years).
The Marans seem healthy and well after their quick one day trip. I posted some pics of them still in the box and freshly in our dog carrier that will be their home for the first week. You can still see them huddled under the light but even now --30 minutes later---they are spread out and eating and drinking just fine.
This batch is a feather legged Cuckoo Marans--and I can already see the down on their legs. I am hoping that by purchasing from two different places I will have enough genetics to never have to buy Cuckoos again. Unless of course I get bad coloring of eggs or feathers and need to add some new genetics for that reason. We will see. I do not show birds but I am sure we will sell some around here and we do not believe in selling an animal that does not exhibit the traits they are known for.
My other birds are doing fine in the garage even now with the draft shield removed from in front of their house. We have three lights going for them at night and turn one off during the day. I did not realize how big they had gotten until I removed these from their box this morning. They grow so fast. These seem itty bitty in comparison to the others. Of course that is the same with any baby animal. They grow very fast and within weeks are not the tiny little thing you first acquired. Some of the hens in the other group have almost full wings now and they run around their pen trying them out. I put some sticks in yesterday for them to attempt roosting on and of course you would have thought I threw in a snake. Within a few minutes though they were jumping on and over them. Very cute---and by last night a few were even balancing pretty well on them.
Have a great day all!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A break in his contract

As you can see Ike has decide to go back on the contract he made with us to supply us with a full one piece fleece this spring. When I went to scratch him the other day my hand got tangled and as I pulled back----out came a hunk of fleece. Look how white it is underneath! By the way--that's my son holding Ike still and my hand pulling the fleece. After that picture that chunk was no longer attached to Ike :-)

This "break" is actually a natural occurrence for some "primitive" breeds of sheep. Unlike Merino sheep (and many other sheep breeds) who have to be sheared to divest them of their fleeces---Icelandics will naturally "break" their fleece in preparation for spring/summer. So for those of you that have always wanted a sheep---but didn't want to mess with shearing---one of the primitive breeds could be the sheep for you!
We actually watch for this period (Ike has started a bit early) and try and correspond shearing with it. If you didn't roo you could still hand shear at this time instead of using electric shears (we know how to use both) and it still comes off like butter. The natural break helps make the cutting easier. Each sheep is a bit different in the way they "break" each year too. Some we never notice it on---we shear them along with the others but never see the "breaks". Other's like Ike---make a point of being obvious about it. So far---only Ike this year. Last year we had two but that was in early March.

As a solution to this problem, I could decide to "roo" him and just finish off the process without ever shearing him --which is how people of antiquities would collect fibers to make into their clothing eons ago. It is also how some fibers are still collected in this day and age since some species are too wild to shear---musk ox and buffalo come to mind. Well, in actuality the buffalo are turned into meat and then sheared---a bit drastic to get some yarn don't you think :-) :


To pluck the wool from the fleece of a sheep.

The word is closely associated with the crofting communities of Orkney and Shetland, though the technique is now rarely practised because it takes so long. As you might guess from its heartland, it’s a Scandinavian term, brought to the islands by Norse settlers more than a thousand years ago, and which has modern equivalents in such languages as Norwegian and Icelandic. In such harsh northern climates, to shear sheep would be to put them at risk of dying from the cold and wet, even in summer. However, the local breeds naturally shed their old wool in the Spring as the new fleece grows out. With a lot of painstaking work that required nimble fingers, local women would pluck or roo the old wool close to the sheep’s skin as it grew out on various parts of the body. The new fleece was left in place, providing protection for the skin against the elements. One of the advantages of this method was that the fibres, being uncut, had no sharp ends and so the spun wool was softer than that obtained by shearing.

What we have decided to do with Ike though, is to let him keep dropping his fleece all over and I will just collect it each day to use for potential felting projects for the future. When my freshly sharpened blades and combs come back from the "sharpening place" and we get a bit more into March---we will shear whatever is left on him off. He will look really really bad for a while as pieces fall off and drag the ground around him. Since his fall fleece isn't his best it's not that big of a deal.
Ram fleeces sometimes are kind of "hanky" after they go through the fall, winter and rut and some of the older rams can stink a bit--not anything like a goat---but it does not always wash completely out so they get tossed to the compost piles. Ike's fleece doesn't smell rammy at all---but it is a bit short and has a couple of yukked up spots. His summer fleece will be much much nicer. Summer fleeces have the advantage of not being in rut (they don't eat as well then and use up more energy pacing around) or pregnant in the case of ewes, and having the longer days that cause them to grow much nicer summer fleeces. Add to that the fact that they aren't eating hay then, with all its corresponding chaff to get caught in the fleeces and you have the perfect situation to grow beautiful fleeces without the bother of covering them.

Soon we will have to set aside a couple of days to shear every one. In with their thick long fleeces and wide wide selves and out they will go with their skinny silly looking selves. The rams with horns always look top heavy as do the ewes. Even though they might be big "meaty" animals----freshly shaved they all look like skinny twigs with horns hanging off their heads. Yes, we will be shearing a bit earlier than people in the North---but we have corresponded our shearings to work with our weather patterns--not theirs. We don't get any less of a fleece than they do---we just get them at different times.

And what a fracus that goes on after shearing! Sheep studies show that sheep actually remember others not only by smell but also by looks. So, when a sheep is first sheared and thrown back into an un-sheared bunch they are "unrecognizable"----they get chased, butted a bit, harassed, and overall annoyed until everyone figures out "oh it's just ______. I recognize her/him now without the fleece!" The rams even go crazy with each other and do love bites and "sweet talking" to each other! Oh ho!---there's a new lady in the pasture!-- Wait that's not a ewe!

Stay tuned---within the month shearing will commence! Come back to see before and after pictures.
Raw Icelandic fleeces will be for sale at that time for anyone interested.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Great Link

Here's a great link ladies and gents. A new No Nais blogger that I would like everyone to check out and keep up with. Maybe this summer we might even meet them.

Freedom's Travels

Check it out if for no other reason than to see that beautiful Longhorn. Spotted no less---my favorite "color" :-D

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How we manage our.....

Recently we have had a number of questions both on the blog and through our web site about how we take care of our pastures and animals. Many others like us are struggling to turn not well cared for small acreage into productive "mini-farms". Basically self sustaining, organic farms---at least to a degree.

Since our original purchase of the acreage we have divided it into 5 sections that are based on the soil type and plant growth. 4 of these sections are permanently fenced and the 5th is on two sides.
Each section has its own pros and cons and so each requires differing amounts of amendments and styles of application. Over time we have acquired, and hope to acquire, tools that will enable us to more effectively handle some of the property without owning a larger tractor. Some of the tools we have or hope to purchase are: a 30 gallon pull along liquid fertilizer sprayer, a pull along and hand push lime/granular product spreader, a new scythe for cutting along the sides of our dam and some barrels and a small pump for making compost teas. There are a number of other coveted tools---but those would help greatly.

Most questions we get are either about our soil restoration, how we graze our animals or how we care for our animals. We also get many good ideas from others on how they are handling their situations but this is about our property---so I will stick with our solutions :-)
Since we read many books, magazines and articles we continually come across new and well used ideas. We have picked through them and narrowed them down to those that, have or seem as if they will, work best for us with the tools and money that we have. We read and utilize ideas from The Stockman Grassfarmer, Joel Salatin, Neil Kinsey, permaculture, Albrecht method, and many many others. So let me comment on some of the things we have been asked and have learned. This is not to say any one person is right or wrong---just that it has or has not worked for us. All properties are different and so there for not all things will work all the time for everyone.

Do you rotationally graze your animals and/or do you graze the sheep and cows together?
Yes, Sometimes they are all together, sometimes they follow each other and sometimes they are split in segments. Currently the rams are with the cows, so pregnant ewes aren't continually harassed, and the ewes are in their own group. For grazing we have a permanent outer fence and then cross fence with electric wire to make smaller sections when needed. We are still working on improving our use of electric wire to rotate with though. Electric wire can be bulky, hard to reel and heavy when there is a lot of it. Also the poles have not been long lasting for us---and the better type work for cows but not sheep. A couple more problems we have with it are: 1) we have very rocky hard soil in a number of areas which requires a hammer to install the "temporary" fence--not the easy "step it into the ground" situation it's suppose to be and 2) Since we use wire and not electric netting (expensive but much much better and a possible future purchase for us) the rams and lambs can just slide through to the next pasture, or neighbors yard, when they are in their heavier wool phase. (And yes, we do definitely have a strong enough electric box which is very adequately grounded)

Do you use clover (legumes) to improve your pastures?
Yes and no. We do plant legumes in our pasture for our animals, and some smaller areas have some clover and vetch in them, but clover (including most legumes) does not like "un improved" soil very well. Clover hates acidic soil. Also, alfalfa can require irrigation here which we are not set up to do. So if you have rocky, acidic, crappy, steeply sloped and dry in spots soil--- as we do---your legumes will flat out not sprout or it will grow all stunted looking and not become a full, thick stand like it is suppose to. I know since I have seen it--pathetic looking stunted clover. This whole thing is kind of a catch twenty two as someone once said: "you need good soil to grow clover for clover to make good soil". So how are we addressing the improvement and eventual establishment of legumes in our pasture? By rotating the animals through each segment regularly so they can poop on the property (a major Joel Salatin recommendation) and by liming and adding other amendments to improve our calcium and nutrients needed to grow good plants (Neil Kinsey is a good writer on this subject). We are also choosing trees, such as thorn less honey locust, and shrubs for their nitrogen adding abilities to help with this issue. see here
This year we will also start regularly spraying our pastures with various types of liquid "teas" to help with soil tilth and fertility.

Do you grow grass and legumes only or add other things?
We actually add other plants, also known as forbs, to our pasture on purpose. Much research on our part made us realize that plants like chicory, pig weed, dandelions and other plants add much needed vitamins and minerals to livestock diets---which helps with overall health and parasite control. Healthier animals show more resistance to parasites--which is always a plus. Our cows don't seem as open to the forbs, though they do like chicory. And though I would like to see them eat more forbs it's o.k since we have the sheep who will eat them. A recent writer in Stockman Grassfarmer has been doing studies on how to teach cattle to eat unfamiliar weeds that are good for them including canadian thistle. Now I would consider Canadian thistle a serious weed, but the above mentioned chicory a benign "forb". Thistle is much more aggressive in taking over pastures but with training the cattle could be eating them and reaping the rewards of their nutrition--which are supposedly many. If all cows ate thistle, well then, maybe we might consider it a forb too. I don't think I'll add those to my pasture though :-)

Forbs are also good for your soil since they, like alfalfa, "mine" for nutrients. Dandelions (free seeds everywhere) have large roots that open the soil structure like alfalfa allowing in rain and oxygen---and when they die back in the winter they add all the nutrients mined from down below as a small bit of compost. Believe it or not I don't have dandelions growing in my pasture and constantly harvest seeds along road sides to drop in there. Either my animals eat them "all gone" OR they aren't getting established----go figure since most people with grass would love to have my problem. If I planted the culitvated kind in my garden---I am sure I would have thousands!
Look around on line and you will stumble into protein ratio of various weeds/forbs which can be very high at times---good stuff.
Another food source we are trying is to add multi purpose trees, as in honey locust, for fruits/nuts/seed pods for the animals. And, in the future, we will experiment with sowing in oats in the fall instead of just winter rye and maybe some buckwheat in the summer. (P.S---I had heard livestock couldn't eat buckwheat but recently saw a University bulletin on using it for hay---if anyone has knowledge of this I would appreciate a comment since I would like to try it)

Have you tried worm compost on your pasture?
No, but I would LOVE to. Worm compost/castings have been show to be one of the absolute best items you can spread on your pasture or garden. Castings (even at the low rate of 200 pounds per acre) improve ph (rendering it neutral over time), add humus,make minerals available to plants, improves soil structure and on and on. The more worms you have in your pasture ---the better. They won't just come 'cause you want them though. You have to have a closer to neutral ph in your soil for them to be comfortable. Ph is my main problem: but when worms do finally show up---wow!
We could get worm compost in large enough quantities for our pasture IF we want to pay $285 to have it brought to us in a truck from 2 hours south of here. That's not including the cost of the castings either--hence our reason for not using it yet. One of these days though......maybe I will have a huge huge huge worm farm in the alloted 10 foot by 4 foot spot I have set aside and produce great volumes of castings for my pastures every year. hahaha I wish!

Are you completely organic with your animals?
We try to be. In regards to feed we aren't really "organic". We try and grass feed our animals as much as possible off of our own pastures which we handle in a completely organic matter. When we purchase hay though, we are not getting a certified organic product and depending on the farmer---it can be more or less organic than others. Certified organic hay has not taken off around here yet but we look forward to when it does.
In regards to grain: again, sometimes we get organic and sometimes we don't. Availability and price both play a part. We don't really feed that much grain so this is not as much of an issue for us as it would be for some. It could be though when we are milking our cows and drinking the milk.
This year we are trying to grow enough grain, by converting our front yard into beds, to feed our chickens through next winter. This way we will be assured our chickens and eggs have been completely organic and gmo free. We will work towards growing enough for the chickens then try to grow enough for the cows while they are milked.
Another issue when considering organic handling of animals is whether they are "doctored" in sustainable ways. All livestock have parasites and diseases that can afflict them. Internal parasites are one of the biggest stumbling blocks to organic/sustainable animal production. We are currently experimenting with different ways to keep our animals free of internal parasites without relying on chemical wormers. We STRONGLY advocate the use of FAMACHA before ever worming a sheep or goat. We have also found that vitamins and minerals seem to play a much much larger part in keeping our animals from carrying dangerous levels of parasites or getting sick than we previously understood. Many diseases that afflict livestock from Johnes disease, hoof problems, CAE in goats to scrapie in sheep, and many other things, are now thought to stem from nutrient problems. It's hard to believe, but in reality we still don't know much about how soil and nutrients work together to effect our health and that of our livestock. It's a part of research that is overlooked frequently.
Yes, we have vets scoff at us for our belief in famacha and using vitamins and minerals for health of our animals. We are going on two years now with the things we have experimented with and we haven't lost an animal and we only seem to have made them healthier. Better coats, faster growth, healthy babies and on and on.
We did lose animals previously ---before we used our noggin and figured it out on our own after many many vets called for advice in many many states. It is hard to find a vet that will stray from the text book---even if your animals are DYING. I look back at goats we had and that the vets "wrote" off. I now know that in a couple of cases simply feeding kelp or other mineral supplements BEYOND regular livestock mineral salt blocks would have helped them immensely and solved two issues we had at the time--one of them infertility. It was simply a matter of nutrients. That was 12 years ago though---and even less was known then. Argh! Twenty twenty hind site :-)

Well, I hope this answers some of the questions. I know there are many more but with time I will eventually address all of them. If anyone wants to talk organic pastures or animals contact me at my email address alandtc at(@)

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Monday, February 19, 2007

Still ticking

Our birds are doing fine still and have recently moved out to the garage. Currently though their space is a 4x8 foot movable pen and a roofed house we had to fix it to accommodate young birds in a very cold garage. The movable house had a couple of small holes drilled and ceramic light fixtures with heat bulbs were installed. Also a piece of plastic was taped across the front to keep in the heat until they are bigger. We also decided as night fell and it got even colder to put some cardboard in front of the house to enclose the area a bit more. So they have about another 5 feet they aren't even using yet. Which seems to be fine with them since--- though I wonder why they aren't now nuggets on feet---they seem to like the warmth of the house just fine. When you watch for a while, or especially if you say something----they will bolt out from under and take a look at whats going on "up" there, ramble a round for a bit---then pop back under. Especially those Delawares! They are the most curious little chicks! It's like they just can't stand to NOT know what is going on. If you look at the pictures closely you can see they are getting their wing feathers---so we know now for sure with the Delawares which are hens and which are roosters. We can tell a few of the roosters in the Marans---they have quite a bit of grayish and white fluff now---but the Wyandottes have me baffled. I still can't tell for sure on them.
We can no longer tell which bird was Blackie the "squooshed" bird. It's legs healed up fine without any intervention by us and are straight now. We did loose one Maran (hen I think) about day 3 or 4. She was sitting off by herself and didn't move when I put in my hand. We gave her a warm box to herself with some water and electrolytes but to no avail. Within a couple hours, she was really bad and my son finally gave her a pull so she wouldn't suffer any more. We worried for a bit, but couldn't imagine what it was and all the others looked good. Of course we took everyone out---scrubbed everything down well and put them all back in with fresh litter. Things like that happen, but its to bad it was a hen instead of a rooster!
It's a good thing we finally have the birds moved out since my other chicks will come soon. I like having them here in the house the first few days since they are easier to watch that way but it is nice to finally put them and their dust outside.
Originally I had scheduled the shipment of the birds to come at the same time so they would be close in age but Ideal obviously couldn't do that early of a ship date. I have never had chicks that close in age and hopefully they will do well when I put them together in the garage. I think they will be too close in size and age for it to matter much. I have put them together at different ages before, always months apart, and as everyone knows----the older birds will pick on the younger birds and it seems to take forever for them to "bond". We shall see. I might have to threaten them with the stew pot if they fight though.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens


While I was sick, I tried to use my "feel good" times effectively and worked on getting some more of my seeds started. (I had a horrible cough "thing" going on. Yuk!) I now have all our tomato seeds started for this year and all have been quick to sprout. I am running out of grow light space, which is more of an issue of no where to hang them, and I need to solve this quickly or I could end up having problems because of it. I have had plenty of radiator space though and it's been cold. Anything requiring heat to sprout is set on the radiators, or near them, and usually sprouts very very quickly--as in just a matter of days. 7 to 9 days to sprout---no way! their up in 4.
I am trying something new by planting the tomatoes in dixie cups this year. Not that the dixie cups are new--I have used those before for seed starting--but how I planted the seeds in the cups. I only filled the cups about 1/4 of the way up with soil and then planted the seeds. As the plants have grown up in the cup, we first thinned, then added more soil. Most haven't made it to the top yet but they seem to do fine---a bit leggy since they were so far down in the cup but it works with the idea of "potting and re potting". Only this way---I don't have to move them to a bigger cup/pot yet but I get the benefit of encouraging roots along the stem. I will see if I think they end up same, better, different than the way I normally would start them. Maybe just more convenient rather than better. Or maybe no difference at all. Hopefully they will have many roots more quickly. We will see.
I also have a picture up at the top of this post of my artichokes in the paper pots. Here is a picture of them two weeks ago, so you can see how much they have grown. I have been using a 50/50 mix of bagged seed starter mix and worm castings. I love this mix. I will stick with it since it seems to hold moisture very nicely. I find that even the regular bagged seed starting mixes have just a bit to much peat for me. I think they dry out a little too quickly and get hard. Everyone who has started seeds knows how hard it is to re wet dried peat mixes. The worm castings seem to keep the mix a tiny bit moister and easier to re wet. Even if I make my own (which I have done for soil blocking) I will incorporate the worm castings from now on---I just really really like it.
Out of the 30 seeds for the artichokes that I started I only had 12 finally sprout. The un sprouted are still down on a heat mat ---but I think I am just about ready to throw them in the compost pile. I am not sure if it was me, the seeds or the technique or maybe all three. I had 8 sprout fairly quickly but then the rest were stragglers. The last one sprouted about 1 week ago----which is the reason why I haven't just chucked the whole batch yet. Now that I actually have some up for this year that will more than likely set buds/fruit, I will start the rest this spring (remembering to soak them this time) when I can just set them outside and let nature do it's thing with them. We will see how they sprout then.
I did want to have about 20 of them so 8 more would be nice---but no big deal if I don't get them. I can always take side shoots off the current plants next year and get my other 8 that I wanted.

Well, I know everyone has ordered seeds already BUT if anyone wants a free package of "Rose" tomato seeds--described here---please email me with your address and I will send it to you. I debated whether or not to keep them but really I have plenty and they were a freebie with my order. I thought about starting a few just to try them---but again, I really don't need more.
Currently this year we have planted these varieties of tomatoes:

Purple Russian
Japanese Black Trifele
Pink Accordion
Granny Cantrell German
German Lunch Box
Weeping Charley
Dad's Barber Paste
Homestead 24
Purple Calabash
Carol Chyko's Big Paste
Great White

All of these seeds are from either Baker Creek or TomatoFest. All have sprouted well and I of course have many left over. I would like to eventually start all the seeds in my packages to grow and sell in the early spring but we just don't have the room this year to do that. Next year I believe we will be a bit more organized and have less remodel supplies and hay stored in areas where they aren't suppose to be. That in turn will re-free up room for my seed "stuff".

Everyone have a great day--we're about a month from the "official" start of spring.

SmallMeadow Farm
Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wolf in sheeps clothing?

Have we had the wool pulled over our eyes? In a recent upheaval amongst Anti-Nais groups, Mary Zanoni has spoken out by stating we are getting our fleeces shorn and didn't even know it.
Here is her recent article stating that the groups supposedly working for us---aren't. In other words we might be getting "suckered". If you go to the main Liberty Ark web site you can read their rebuttal. Personal--I am not sure who I believe. Since I have always written my own letter to my representatives and others concerning my "anti- nais" stand I don't feel completely fooled yet-- maybe disappointed if it is true. This is all the more reason though, to individually write our own letters instead of always signing petitions and letting others do our work for us.

Good day all---I have been sick and won't be posting for a bit unless something great comes up.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


First---let me apologize for my word errors in my post yesterday. I meant "hydra" not "hydro" and of course I will just ask you to ignore all the our/are and deer/dear type of mistakes that frequently inhabit my posts. I try---but I think my fingers can't keep up with my brain and afterwards, when checking, I know what I meant to say---so that is what I see. So on to the regular format now......

Cheryl asked me yesterday why we had chosen the breed of chickens that we did.
Well, I can't say that I have some formula that narrowed the field down to these three breeds. I wish I did since it would have made the selections a bit easier possibly. So as best I can I will tell you why I chose these breeds and if any of the rest of you----having ordered your chickens or who have chickens (Jamie , Phelan, Maggie or anyone else interested) would like to chime in on your own post --I think there are plenty of others who would be interested in this subject.

My first choice was the Cuckoo Marans. Marans are a "traditional" breed even though they are not considered rare per se and they lay the dark dark brown eggs that so many people love. We had a Welsummer previously (raccoon got her) and everyone always ooo'd and ahhh'd over the egg color. Since we live almost on the downtown square of this small town we felt that the extra dark eggs would help draw people up here to buy them. Free range, organic, freshly laid eggs for sale. By selling eggs, the chickens would help pay for their selves and possibly allow me to purchase an incubator. With an incubator---I could hatch chicks to sell. Then the birds would really be paying for their selves at that point. I liked the "cuckoo" part since I wanted something a bit flashier than just the black, white or gold. I would have taken a "splash " but couldn't find any.
As I previously said we had Barnvelders before, who also lay dark eggs, but some say the Maran is a bit "tamer" than the Barnvelders are--Supposedly. I don't know if that is true, but those Barnvelders could hold their own that is for sure and were a great bird--though they could have been a bit better layer (maybe that was just a problem of the genetics of the stock I purchased from a lady in Texas--I don't know).

The Delawares were chosen because they are a newer heritage breed (we strongly believe in genetic diversity and these are also slow food listed), and they are not just "plain" white for a white chicken. They are listed as good egg layers (a bit better than the Marans), good growers for butcher, good layers in winter and fairly docile. We thought about raising "pasture poultry" with the grower/broiler cross breed birds that the hatcheries sell when we first started looking at chicks for this year. I heard though, that even when you grow them out in a better environment than confinement birds, they still can have leg, heart and other health problems because of their quick growth. The Delaware is actually one of the original breeds developed for the broiler industry that then became a recognized breed---but with a bit more history and a lot less problems. They are also suppose to be friendly, and let me say our chicks are. They don't "freak" when we take the lid off the brooder or pick them up, and they are quick to come over to our hands in the box to see what's happening. One even came and roosted on my son's hand yesterday evening. So, so far, we like them. We are also pretty sure we are able to tell which are the roosters already. We'll see if we are correct.

The Silver laced Wyandottes were chosen because I wanted a third bird to fill the order with. They are considered a "heritage" breed and listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (and slow foods) but that is only one reason for their purchase. They are supposedly as good of layers as the Marans AND more striking in their color I think. I have to admit---some other breeds were considered but I like to get as close to : dual purpose, good layer, heritage and attractive as I can. We'll see how they turn out and if we like them or not. The roosters are fabulous looking which will at least make them a pleasure to look at. The baby chicks are a bit flighty---but if that means they are less likely to be caught by hawks and even warn the others: all the better. We don't need pet chickens anyways :-)

One breed I really really wanted to get was the Salmon Favorelle. I really liked them when we had them last time, but as I mentioned on anther post: they are too docile for us in this environment. The hawks get them--and everything else too. They are attractive, great foragers, wonderful egg layers even in the fall/winter, very gentle and their roosters are gorgeous. Their only negative for us was the carcass size was smaller and slow growing. That was o.k though since we eat more of the eggs than the chickens.

We've also had some other breeds that I don't remember what they were--some were cross and some were not. Obviously all had their pluses and minuses. I don't know if any one breed is the perfect one. I think the same thing about sheep, cows,horses etc. We just have to look until we find the "perfect" one for our individual situation. I will keep everyone posted about the different things I learn about my chicks. Sometimes all you can find on line is the "standard" gobble y gook about each breed. Not what an individual person raising them really thinks about their pros and cons.

By the way we are pretty sure we now know what our Mystery Bird "brownie" is......A black breasted red Old English Game chicken. We are pretty sure based on the wing feathers we can currently see that it is a hen. Well, I can't say that I would have wanted one of them. I absolutely would not have wanted a rooster of that breed. We shall see if we like it or not.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Looking Better

Today "blackie" the chicken is still alive and looking much better. He/she still has a gimpy walk though. We haven't decided if the leg is "gimpy" from being squooshed into a funny position for so long or if it was born gimpy and wouldn't have survived naturally without intervention.
We had a baby duck once that was trapped behind a retaining wall section for 3 days. We thought it had been eaten so we hadn't looked for it. We heard it one afternoon peeping it's little heart out and found it stuck in a rotted crevice part of the old railroad ties used to make the wall with. We had to break apart the wood (didn't want it anyways) to get it out. It's leg was stuck out at an odd angle because of it's confinement.
We helped it by giving it "hydro therapy" :-D by holding it partly in water and making feel as if it had to paddle. Within a number of days---all better.
Since blackie can't do hydro therapy---I held it partly up and made it walk a bit while helping it to bear some of the body weight. We also have a towel down in the box the bird is in so that it can grip better, which seems to be working. Today it can stand almost normal and almost run. It's little leg shoots out some times when it walks or stands but maybe by tomorrow it will be fine. It is now definitely eating and drinking on its own so hopefully in a couple of weeks----we won't even know which bird it was. I know some would have just stretched it's little neck---but I haven't really spent that much effort on it and if I save it for future use all the better. Of course if it stays bad---it will eventually get culled.
Carolyn asked if I used electrolytes or added a bit of sugar to my water to give them a help. No, I don't do that. I don't know why I don't---it's just something we never have done. ( By the way Carolyn: yes, it is exciting to try and figure out what your "mystery" chick is. Eventually I will post pics of "brownie" and we can all guess if it's not obvious what he/she is.)

We also don't vaccinate our birds. I know a number of people do vaccinate but we don't seem to have widespread problems with Mareck's or any of the others. Do some of you always vaccinate your birds? We vaccinate our sheep since some of them leave the farm, we do also vaccinate our cows because we have large herds around us. Not confinement cattle but they are bought from auction, fed out and go back to auction. Since only a small gravel road separates us---we do feel somewhat concerned about that.
I don't know anyone who vaccinates their poultry around here though nor did I know anyone in Texas who did. Not saying there isn't---just none that we know of. We have always felt that sanitary, healthy conditions control most problems. We don't iodine our lamb navels at birth anymore either. Since we don't have the conditions that allow for the navel disease---we don't feel it's worth the hassle. One lamb last year did get hers dipped though. She had to be helped from her mother since her shoulders were so wide. I couldn't get the lamb lasso around her mouth/head so I used it on her forelock so she wouldn't slide back in and breath fluid into her lungs (I could see her two front feet, tip of her nose and her big pink tongue sticking out at me) I ended up pulling her forelock so hard with the lamb lasso that I injured it. So, since she couldn't stand well (yet another example of leg problems here) she flopped around for a while getting her naval and her tongue all full of hay, chaff and dirt. I finally figured out to use popsicle sticks and hot pink vet wrap for a temporary "cast" to help her because by not standing---she couldn't nurse. Within two days she was fine. We had a really cute picture of her with that little cast on but I couldn't find it to put it in this post. Oh well---guess I need to be more organized about my pics :-)
Hope everyone has a great day---we'll be getting rain with a 60 degree high.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens

Monday, February 12, 2007

And a picture

I recently found a picture on feather site for the Delaware chicken. I couldn't find one when I originally posted about the chickens I had purchased. This is what the yellow birds in the pictures below will look like when grown.
Have a good day all!

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens.

Their here!

No matter how many times you get chicks in the mail---it is always exciting :-D
So they are finally here---and temporarily residing in the house in two rubber maid style bins. We didn't quite finish getting their housing together before hand so they will have to wait a day or so for larger digs. No big deal since they are so small anyways.
This is my batch from Murray McMurray. It is a mix of Cuckoo Marans, Delawares and Silver laced Wyandottes. I don't know what "brownie" in the box is---probably one of my extras. Hopefully it will be a hen and not a rooster so we can keep the color if we like it. I actually received 33 for the order of 30-- though I am not sure if one of the little black ones will make it. It looks as if it was at the bottom of the pile for quite some time when I opened them (they shipped on Saturday). I put it on one of the radiators that I turned up quite high so it would put off enough heat for the baby, force fed it water for about 1/2 hour----and it finally opened it's eyes. Lucky little booger since I was trying to decide whether or not to pull it's neck by then.
Then, since I forgot to buy feed (????!!!) I had to run down and get some at the store. I wondered if blackie would be dead when I got back, but it isn't and it even chirped a couple of times when I made it drink some more. I haven't seen it eat, and it still sits incorrectly, but all the others are busily consuming itty bitty pieces of chick starter and look just fine. They were a bit cold at first and piled together under the light for about 10 minutes. I kept "stirring" them so they wouldn't squoosh each other---and they got warm just fine. So, maybe the little black one will make it or maybe not---but the others look good and 1 out of 33 isn't bad considering. I count them and myself lucky.
My next order comes from Ideal Poultry in Texas and ships on the 21st. It is a batch of French Cuckoo Marans (they have feathered legs instead of clean). Hopefully, I will be as lucky with them as these.

SmallMeadow Farm

Friday, February 9, 2007

Kelp Kelp and more Kelp

As I have commented on before we use a lot of kelp around here. One of the biggest reasons I mention it so frequently is that I strongly espouse it as a supplement for livestock. Since I saw the improvements in my animals after beginning to use kelp, I can't help but talk about it over and over.
So this year for the first time we will add it to our garden AND to our pasture. We purchase kelp normally in 50ish pound bags for about $34 dollars each. Feeding 16 sheep and 3 smaller cows uses about a bag per month---maybe leaning towards a bag and a half depending on the weather and their time of life (young, old, pregnant etc). Yes, it cost more than regular minerals---but it works way way way better.
Yesterday I went to visit my "supplier" -- Beatty Fertilizer in Cleveland Tennessee to make my pasture and garden purchases. It is pretty far away and I have to drive 45 minutes one way to get there. That works out better than what I used to do: pay an extra $150 dollars to have a 500 pound minimum of products shipped to me from a supplier in VA (which I then had to find places to store the large quantities). Besides, Mr Beatty is very nice and helps me with information about his OMRI certified and non certified organic products. He also tells me of the different ways of using the products --which can be interesting sometimes. (did you know they feed blood meal to cows? YUK!) Another point in his favor is that he has always remembered me---very flattering (blush :-)
So, while I was there, I purchased a couple of bags of kelp for my animals, some for my garden, some liquid kelp to spray on my pasture and a couple bags of green sand for the garden. Elliot Coleman, Gene Logsdon and other organic gurus recommend green sand-- which I have never tried. Though after all I have learned I would like to use it in my pasture too (another day, another dollar).
Recently I budgeted for a 30 gallon pull behind sprayer to use in my pasture. My little john deere tractor/mower will pull the sprayer and it's pto will drive a small pump that sucks up the goodies in the tank and applies them to the yard/garden/pasture for me. It was a bit pricey but since the only other sprayer I own holds one gallon (think of that in terms of spraying 6.5 acres) I think it will be worth it. Besides now with this new tool, not only can I spray kelp on my pasture this early spring but also humic acid if I want or manure/compost tea this summer, molasses to feed quick "sugar" to the grasses and raise their brix level, more kelp---why the possibilities are endless.
We have tackled many ideas about how to improve our soil in our pasture and after much reading have decided that spraying the kelp or teas will potentially do as much good as some other spreadable things--- worm castings, aged compost, green sand and other organic bagged amendments---but for a bit less cost. That is the only thing about being "organic" or "sustainable"----it can be costly. And not only that, but a lot of it is difficult to locate in pasture size amounts (think worm castings here). Supposedly studies show that in just a year, spraying compost tea only will produce noticeable tilth improvements in soil---which is exactly what we need. I don't remember how many times but it was more than once but less than say....5. And then, if you do it every year you should see very very noticeable improvements after three years. So here's to year one and my new sprayer.
Here's a little information on kelp if your interested.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Many Condolences

Condolences to the family of Stephania Dignum of Yeoman Farm in Ontario Canada.
Stephania Dignum was the woman who put in much effort to begin the importation of Icelandic Sheep onto the North American Continent. She sadly passed away Feb 4th due to complications of cancer. I did not know her well but corresponded with her a number of times and always found her to be friendly and helpful. I know there are those who will miss her greatly and many many who appreciate the hard work and sacrifice she put into bringing the Icelandic sheep to this continent. If you would like to read a bit about her story of her many years work to import these beautiful animals please see this link and others on her web site.

Just some of the girls

Well as you can see by the one picture Greta is not afraid to come in close---real close. What the picture doesn't show is all the pawing of my leg that occurred during this picture taking session. Greta is a real pill. She has also taught the leg pawing "trick" to a couple of the other more gregarious sheep---who now all paw my leg for attention. Better that than getting butted I suppose. Pet pet pet---that's all they want some times. Then other times---touch me not. Bad goats!

Just some more of the girls

Here are a few more of my girlies. I had a bit of trouble taking pics because 1. My daughter's camera is also having problems (karma thing for our family I guess) and 2. as you can see by the rumps in the picture---they wouldn't back off :-) It's not easy taking a picture when the animal keeps getting closer and closer to you.

I have been thinking....

I have been thinking about organic food purchases.
Since we did the refrigerator "thingy" I have been thinking about what was in my fridge. Now, I am not having fridge food envy or anything like that. Nor do I believe my contents at that moment were completely representative of how we eat but I started wondering about food choices--and ultimately what is in our fridge.
Most of you, I know, have read Micheal Pollan's book "The omnivores dilemma" and for those of you who haven't here is a quick low down on what I would like to comment about:
Micheal Pollan --in the "chapter" where he is spending time with Joel Salatin---comments that eating local/ organic, will and does, cost more than cheap industrialized food. Industrialized food that is heavily subsidized as Pollan and Salatin both point out by : pollution, antibiotic resistance and residues, food borne illnesses, crop subsidies, subsidized oil and subsidized water. All of these are hidden costs paid by all of us every time we shop---whether we like it or not.
Pollan then goes on to point out that until this "food system" changes organic or sustainable food will cost more: More than some can afford but not most.
He goes on to state how in the 1950's food was one fifth of our disposable income versus the one tenth it is now and also points out how many people now pay for cell phones, cable/satelite t.v and even water (versus a well). His point is that more of us than we think can afford to purchase sustainable.
My question is this: Exactly where do you decide to spend your organic dollar? As a general rule we try and buy organic cream (probably 95% of the time we succeed) and yogurts, cheeses that are organic or artisanal, grass fed meat if we plan correctly, and organic fruits/ veggies when available. We try and eat somewhat in season---though I am still working on how to do that since, other than avoiding some things like tomatoes, I don't completely know what to prepare that includes only "in season" products for every meal. (practice makes perfect). Anyways here is my dilemma: What about things like milk that have a tendency to be more expensive AND heavily used by most people AND full of crap. We as a family, on average, go through about 9 gallons of milk a week (rarely less and depending on which of the kids friends are here it can be much more). If you consider that regular milk runs me about 3 dollars per gallon that is 27 per week or approximately 108 dollars a month. So, if that is "5%" of my budget then of course I should really try to move towards buying sustainable/organic at double (or 10%) of my discretionary income. Which would be approximately 216 per month or almost the cost of a lower price car payment. Not too bad for good health though right? On the other hand, organic milk cost about $8 to 9 dollars a gallon around here---and using my example----would cost me about $288 or even a bit more. That, with only milk factored in, is the cost of a car (just to keep perspectives). Now I will admit I have NEVER had a problem with paying more for something so that say.....a farmer can have a "living" wage. EVER. But, using my milk example, I wouldn't be able to (and even really can't) afford to purchase all sustainable/local/organic products for my family. I don't have enough money. And just to set the record straight: No, I don't have a cell phone and my husband's work pays for his. My husband's work also pays for our internet connection. Yes, we pay for water (though that runs about 15 a month) and satellite (but we only get the most basic package---no frills or HBO for us).
How do you get to the point that you can feel comfortable about what you feed your family? Sometimes when I watch my son drink that big glass of milk----I feel guilty for not purchasing organic for him. I know that if we had a larger community of sustainable agriculture near us that the cost could be lower and still give a farm a decent wage. But of course---we don't live in that type of community. No California is this area. There is some---just not much---and quite a bit is at least a couple hours drive. Drives are fine for grass fed meat that will last for months but how do you store 18 gallons of milk so you don't have to drive every week 2 to 3 hours one way to purchase? Or 36 gallons if you only wanted to go once a month :-O I'd have to have a commercial walk in freezer at least!
We have always been interested in growing our own food---and have many many times in our life been good at it. I believe now though is the time to try and be very very successful at growing and "harvesting" as much of our food as we can---especially in this newer climate of ge/gmo foods, added hormones and lack of care by the FDA/USDA for our health. Even if I never get one of our cows to freshen---if I can take pressure off of the rest of my food bill then maybe I can afford organic milk---and that walk in freezer.

NOW---do we want to talk about the "cons" of industrial organic milk??

Monday, February 5, 2007

More refrigerators

Now you can travel to Germany and see Steffi's "fridge". Bet you can't read some of the labels on her containers though :-D

Chelee has a much more healthy looking fridge than mine right now---with some yogurt on the bottom shelf I would eat if it was in my own :-)

Peep Peep--here come the chicks

As you can see that is not my picture. I borrowed it from Even though I am currently without camera (borrowing my daughters) I wouldn't have pictures anyways because the main reason I am putting up pictures of chicken eggs is that:

My chickens come next Monday (or Tuesday) YEAH!

They called me to confirm my credit card # (small glitch easily handled) and we discussed that they would soon be shipping. My second order from another poultry company should come the same day(s) but I haven't heard from them yet. So, in about a week or two at the most----I will have 55 chirping, pecking, eating, drinking, stinky baby birds in my garage. No electricity out near their new house----and no roof on it anyways yet. So, in the garage they get to stay. They'll smell great in about 3 weeks or so as they get bigger and bigger. No matter how many times you clean up newspaper in their pens --- they smell. Bad!
So, this time, we are going to use sawdust from a local wood mill to put down. The first couple of weeks we will use newspaper so they don't ingest any sawdust. When they become food pros and can tell the difference between their food and their litter and they start to smell a lot----we will switch. We get the sawdust a couple miles from us for $5 a truck load (we have to load it ourselves though) and use it in our barn also. Supposedly sawdust ties up the most nitrogen of any commonly used mulching material with a carbon ratio of 400 to 1. Chicken poop---the hottest of all manures---is very very high in nitrogen which is why it can smell so strongly. Since sawdust from mills doesn't compact easily and chickens scratch so much---the chickens should easily incorporate their "by products" into the sawdust which I will then scoop up periodically and put into my garden or compost pile.
I don't know how well it will work out with chickens in the garage for so long
--the only downside to trying to get eggs earlier in the season---but I think it will be worth it. Especially when we can start eating our own eggs again. You never realize how much you miss them until you don't have them any longer!

P.S---Yesterday's post all had pics---if you can't see them blame blogger! They were there last night ---I promise!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

And since I was posting....

Here are a few pictures from the other day when it snowed. Everyone was out but a bit wet at times since our snow was very "mushy" this time around. There is still a bit on the sides of some roads today which is funny since it has been up to 40---but we have had a very very cold wind so....

At the top we have "Ike"---a moorit spotted horned ram. He bred most of our ewes this year. He is actually one of my favorite sheep (out of the rams and ewes) for no other reason than the fact that he is moorit and spotted. One of the biggest reasons why I raise this breed---I love the browns that they come in and I love the spots. Ike has lots of other good points (we wouldn't breed him if color was his only good point) but I have to admit I am a sucker for a moorit spotted sheep.
Next in line is "Dare"--our Irish Dexter Bull. He's still the young guy in the pasture---but he's working hard to show he's up to the task for which we purchased him ;-)
The last picture is of two of our other rams. The moorit ram in the front is GG. He got to breed a few of our polled (meaning without horns) ewes. He actually is not suppose to have horns BUT something tried to tell him he should. We were going to cull him (yes, eat him) because of it but as we waited for him to grow large enough to cull---we found that we didn't have to worm him at all through the summer (very uncommon trait and since parasites are deadly to sheep unless you treat with chemicals....well you get the picture). So he got to stay and try out a couple of "wives" of his own. We'll hope none of his babies have horns but do have his "no worming needed" ability. The other sheep behind gg is "Al" a black spotted ram. He is a really nice ram that we will be selling this year. We have too many rams so Al is one who will not be staying with us. It's too bad since he has a very soft fleece for a ram and a very mild (around humans) personality but there are only so many rams that you need when you have as small of a farm as we do. Sometimes it's really hard to choose which to sell off since each one has different pros and cons.
Starting in about 6 weeks we will begin lambing season. The first ewe due is starting to look a bit "large". It will get more exciting as the time gets closer. Just wait---you will love seeing my lamb pictures! They are the best and cutest and funnest and sweetest and...........Nothing as cute as a baby lamb!

Paper pots in use

Here are some of the paper pots I posted about previously. I did end up using exactly two staples per pot since I made them so thick with newspaper that they wanted to "sproing" open before I could get the soil in place. So two well placed staples helped them out a bit. If they weren't so thick they wouldn't have needed the staples. Without the staples though---I would have needed at least three hands to keep them closed and fill them with soil at the same time.
Those are my artichokes in the pots. Out of thirty seeds planted on Jan 12th I have 9 that have sprouted. I have never grown artichokes before---ever. So considering I didn't know to soak them (I seem to miss that on most seeds!) and that artichokes supposedly have a low/slow germination I guess I would say I am doing O.K. Just O.K. I did have one sprout on Friday---so they are still working at it. Hopefully I will get at least 15. More would be better.
I find artichokes to be fascinating. I love them in eggs, salads and other dishes. I have never eaten one fresh before, always canned, so I look forward to having my own to experiment with. I am sure as with all things: fresh is better than canned. I think though that I might have trouble picking them to eat because the flowers are gorgeous looking. I might be compelled to let them go on to bloom just to look at their very fascinating flowers. Maybe after I start using them I won't care if they don't get to finish blooming or miss seeing the large purple flowers. I have to admit they are much more interesting looking than say---lettuce or broccoli flowers ---so therefore more enticing to allow to go on to bloom.
I hope with a good mulch they will stay alive through this next winter. I planted "violette" and "green globe" and with the slow seed sprouting I would prefer to not have to do it again. Supposedly green globe will last here with only a small amount of protection. I don't know about violette --we shall see. Other people I read about seem to have good luck with them. Maybe I will be one of them too.

Now, I am going to have to start collecting all the recipes with artichokes I have never tried because of the expense of buying them in the stores. This summer I should have my own "crop" of arty chokes!


Here is the inside of my fridge. Thank you Cheryl
It's always fun in a sicko kind of way doing these things hahahaha---by the way Cheryl I didn't clean it as asked BUT it is more empty than usual since family came recently. It bulges quite a bit more at times!

Anyways--let me give you a quick tour. You will notice many "Tupperware" in there with either leftover food, or bits waiting to use---always a mystery.
There is some homemade applesauce on the bottom shelf---best kind, and some cookies waiting for their turn in the oven (chocolate sandwich with peppermint filling---yummy)
Hamburger is in the middle and should have been tacos tonight, but didn't make it that far---now you know what I am having for dinner tomorrow. On the top shelf you will see---medicine for the animals (you always have to be prepared just in case) With the mandatory milk (I envy those that can get REAL milk--we haven't found anyone within a semi reasonable distance and our cows aren't milking yet) AND you will see the bottle of champagne lying there by the milk. Beer is on the bottom shelf---beer "downtown" and champagne "uptown" hahaha. That champagne is a gift to us for helping a friend----and it is VERY good. I can't wait to open it---but we have decided to save it for my husbands birthday.....Maybe. :-)
As Cheryl asked : Anyone else want to join in? Give me a heads up if you do and I will post that you did it --let everyone get some of laughs out of it. :-D

Thursday, February 1, 2007

So quietly they come

Without much fan fare it looks as if Georgia is trying to sneak in their NAIS information with the following articles derived from the Georgia Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin (nice market bulletin that allows state residents to advertise free—also viewed on line at Anyways here are the articles if you haven't seen them yet. Don't forget to write state reps!!,2086,38902732_0_74762488,00.html

and the follow up article to try and “soothe” us.,2086,38902732_0_74770926,00.html

Public Comment

The USDA is taking public comment about a new genetically engineered corn they would like to approve. Here's the link:

Remember in this case to state more than just "I don't want you to"
Don't forget to remind them that other genetically engineered products now have 1. gone wild (those resistant to roundup) 2. killed native bugs/bees important for pollination and most importantly 3. They are PROVEN detrimental for long term human consumption. See one site Here

You can find many more references to the Germany studied sited above on line. If you want to add more there are lots more references.

Here are the directions for mailing or emailing your comments:

APHIS is seeking comments on the petition and invites comments on the EA. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0157, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238. If you wish to submit a comment using the

Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at, select “Animal and plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu; then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0157 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

Comments are posted on the Web site and may also be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

Can you believe it!

Of course schools are closed, it's still sleeting out, it won't last and the animals are all hiding in their shelters. BUT doesn't it look neat! :-D It will be gone by this afternoon more than likely. Of course you "yanks" see the grass peaking through don't you---pathetic that we get so excited about such a small amount--- but in the early morning lite it is really beautiful. (hate to see it marred by the footprints soon to come)
Have a good day all! And here's looking forward to Spring!