Sunday, April 27, 2008

More in the garden

Recently I have decided that I will expand the "permanent" section of my vegetable garden. When I told my husband of this his first thought was how much he loves plums and could we get a few plum trees for that area.
So..I had to rephrase it to say that I would like to add a larger "soft perm" section to the garden. By that I mean somewhat permanent ---I can move it if I change my mind without destroying it as I would a section of trees. My reason? Well, how nice to have most of my garden producing food without me having to replant each and every year. By not replanting, and with a few years care---you get a weed free area that is pretty much self sufficient AND gives you good food.
Obviously I will plant fruit there too---but raspberries will do instead of trees that are unmovable.

So I began the search for more perennial food products---specifically veggies-- that will grow in my area.
During this search I came across a few interesting things.

The first is the oft repeated trivia question of: Can you name the only 2 perennial vegetables?
The answer to the question is suppose to be asparagus and rhubarb. This is incorrect though since there are more than two---and I did already know that----though unfortunately most people don't.
Of course it may depend on where you live, think Northern Canada versus Florida, since climatically those two areas differ greatly. But there are many for most "in between" gardeners and I will list a few of them that will grow in most people's garden (I think Florida would come out ahead in the number game on this issue) , overwinter, and come back strong and healthy without work the next year. This will be in addition to the "old standbys" of asparagus and rhubarb -- this is by no means the sum total but it's a start beyond just two!

1. Raddichio---if you don't mind it being green
2. Helianthus tuberosa---also known as Jerusalem artichoke but unrelated to artichokes at all (the name is a corruption of the original foreign pronunciation) We have grown and are again growing these.
3. Crosnes ( pronounced crones) a root tuber of the mint family--I haven't found these yet.
4. Oca (or oka) a root vegetable of the oxalis family grown and regularly eaten in south America. I purchased some of these for this year---we will see what they are like and how they do.
5. Fiddlehead ferns aka Ostrich fern---something I would love to have but have not gotten yet. I need a little bit more shade for these and figure the spot will eventually work itself out.
Of course "how many" also depends on WHAT you will eat since bamboo, horseradish and daylillies are perennials too---and the list can still go on!

Next is a book I found recommended for people like me looking for perennial and unusual veggies that think I might purchase called oddly enough, Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier.
The next time I am placing an Amazon order and need "just 12 more dollars will get you free shipping" I might throw this book in. Maybe..just maybe...I can borrow it from my library. I think it highly doubtful though.

So, consider like I am, adding some or more perennial veggies. They require a bit more preparation the first year but after that well, they just get easier and easier AND offer more and more with less work.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In the Know

Maybe as a monthly post I will do an "In the Know" section based on items I read from a few of the subscriptions I take. Since a number of my blog readers don't raise animals they may not read some of these subscriptions. Even many of the people I know who do raise livestock don't read these. Why? Well, it's not because their weird or have strange views---it's mostly because they are not widely carried in "normal" bookstores. You have to know of them---and go on line to subscribe. Two I frequently quote from are: Stockman Grassfarmer --an excellent 61 year publication that is directed specifically at those that don't want to grain their livestock and want to raise them organically. And Acres USA. Acres is also for the organic farmer, not only livestock person, and has been around for 35 years.

So here are a few small bits from Acres this month (some shortened slightly since I am retyping them)

Pro-rBST group.
A group has been formed to halt the increasing flow of milk coming from cows that aren't treated with rBST or rBGH. Called American Farmers for the Advancement of Conservation of Technology (AFACT) they purportedly are a "grass-roots" farmers group: although it was organized by Monsanto, a Colorado consulting group that has Monsanto as a client, and the marketing firm of Osborn & Barr (whose founder includes a former Monsanto executive. This is a serious attempt to muddy the waters---watch out for it.

While I personally don't find this next one a problem from an ethical view point, less confined animal operations are a good thing and buying local from a farmer is better, I do find it a problem from an economic standpoint:

Chicken Plant Closing.
Pilgrim's Pride is closing a chicken plant in Siler City, North Carolina, along with 6 distribution centers. Reason? As quoted from CEO J. Clint Rivers:
"Due largely to the U.S. government's ill-advised policy of providing generous federal subsidies to corn based ethanol blenders, our company's total costs for corn and soybean meal to feed our flocks in the fiscal 2008 would be more than $1.3 billion more than they were two years ago." Other closures are possible.

(What I want to know is if the corn is worth that much---why are they still getting government subsidies?????!!!????)


The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap Company (love their peppermint soap) have filed Cease and Desist letters with various companies who are labeling their products as organic despite the fact that a number of their products have tested positive for the cancer causing synthetic ingredient 1,4-Dioxane, including these well known brands:

Jason's, Nature's Gate and, Kiss My Face among others.

The OCA is demanding that these companies reformulate their products to remove petrochemicals and 1,4-dioxane or else remove the "organic" label claims from their packaging. Offending companies who do not contractually comply by April will be sued by the OCA.

To see a safe list of body and home care products, and keep abreast of this issue, go to the OCA web site at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where o where are my lost pictures

I notice some of my posts have "lost" their pictures. Obviously a blogger issue.
I don't complain to much since is free after all. So what can I expect.

Here are a few picture for the heck of it. If they "get lost"....oh well. Have a great day everyone.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

She lost her sweater!

Oh no! Well not really. She looks a bit less like a rag a muffin without her sweater don't you think?
Still small---she may not be a breeder this fall---but she is growing like a weed. Her mom is doing a great job producing enough milk for twins. Since their dam is a yearling we were somewhat concerned about plentiful milk. (Also when she was delivering I worried there might be three---oh no I kept thinking to myself).
Yearling ewes sometimes barely have enough milk to raise one lamb let alone two. Their just not fully developed the first year which is why some people choose not to breed yearlings. We do unless their just super small----because after all that is what nature intended.
Obviously Too does have a capacious milk supply---but these guys started out pretty small so they have a bit more catching up to do to be the same size as the others. They are almost keeping pace with the single lambs being raised by yearling moms. Considering they have to share everything---thats not to bad. For all of you that had to share with siblings I guess maybe you can understand that :-D

Monday, April 21, 2008

Out in the Garden

This year seems to be a much better gardening year (knock on wood) than last was.

The peach trees are finished blooming and the apples are half way done. Peonies are getting ready to bloom but unfortunately the heavenly smelling lilacs are just about finished.

This weekend we went to a plant sale and then worked in the garden the rest of the weekend.
We picked up a Louisiana purple Fig at the plant sale ---just one---and divided and planted our own Brown Turkey. That gives us 4 figs total. I had mulched the brown turkey this winter very high and got one branch that sent down roots. The other brown turkey is a cutting and we will see if it does "it's thing".

We have a couple of tomatoes planted along with a wall o water around each----just to give them that extra extra heat they like at this time of year since I find they grow just so much faster with one of these around them when their young. I purchased these two at the plant sale---a cherry variety that I wanted to try. I like cherry tomatoes---always plenty to eat AND share.
For the tomatoes this year we are using what is left of the leaf pile in our yard from fall of 2006. Totally weed free---but absolutely beautiful soil ---we decided that would be a great place for them. And maybe maintenance free for us except for some watering occasionally. So stakes and trellis are in the process of being put up with the expectation that more tomatoes are to come.

Potatoes are in the ground-- I didn't buy any of those this year. I planted small potatoes left over from last year and some that actually made it through the winter in the garden. I moved them to a new spot but have many of the purple potatoes ---all blue I think----that made it fine even though they were partially exposed during the winter. Wondering why I didn't take them in and eat them? Well, I couldn't see that I missed them in the fall---maybe they worked their way up during the cold and frost??? However it is: they survived drought then living in the garden through the winter. So of course we should absolutely plant those!

Anyway---I did notice that we don't eat as many potatoes as we used to but much more sweet potatoes than we used to so this year I will grow more sweet potatoes than regular. As a matter of fact I should be getting some slips of Okinawa purple---cross my fingers ---which is a purple sweet potato. Tannish skin (white is the official color---but their fooling their selves by calling it white) and purple flesh. Cool huh? I also ordered a number of heirloom sweet potato varieties from Sandhill Preservation---hopefully they won't sell out before they get my order. I ordered 5 or 6 varieties: Red Wine velvet, Old Henry, Brinkley white and I don't remember what else---so they'll be a surprise. About 40 slips I think. With those I started myself this year and the others I purchased from elsewhere I should have about 70 plants. I have never grown this many before so I will see how well I can store them throughout the year.

Moving on we also planted out some summer squash. A yellow variety I will try and remember to post the name on later. It is an heirloom and last year I got some freebies during my volunteer stint at crabtree farms. This year I purchased a few of them since they didn't have any freebies for the volunteers. (Shucks)
This variety did really well last year and kept on producing well even after they got squash vine borers. They also didn't seem to pick up the borers right away so I wanted to try these again. The zucchinis never seem to make it before they get borers and succumb so we have just quit planting them---even with pre blooming protection of remay. Zukes are my favorite but hey...yellow squash is better than no squash. And this one does have a good flavor.
Each squash has it's Juicy Juice brand plastic container with the bottom cut off over the top to protect it from cutworms and add a bit of heat. I don't bother with wall o waters on the squash---though I could ---since they grow so fast anyway. Before I know it we will be throwing them in the compost pile as it is :-)

Lastly we have ancho and jalapeño peppers. Just two of each. We eat a lot of peppers but find that only a few plants will produce way more than we can consume. The anchos I will dry and use throughout the year and the jalapeños I will hopefully make into salsa/pico de gallo with homegrown tomatoes. Last year that didn't work out for us---but maybe this year. Some years we get to can---others we don't.

I still have tomato seedlings in the house---they won't be ready for a few more weeks. I have that late start from being sick with the flu.
I also have flowers and some herbs to get started now that it should stay warm.

Maybe this year---my garden will grow full of beautiful things to eat and look at. Hopefully we will all have a better gardening year this year -----unlike last. Cross my fingers and pray for rain. But not too much :-D Always that fine line aye?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The last and the littlest

Well, I promised pictures of my small set of twins. Having been born to a not super large yearling they are small---but healthy and already growing. We will keep them in the barn for a few more days just to make sure---especially since we are still cool and damp at night.

The little ram I had to wake up so all my pictures, except one, were of him nursing---or trying to get back to mom to nurse.
The little ewe (with her sweater that we kept on just because she looks cute in it) had already been up and was full.

Since I have been in there so much with them they are very friendly little things.

One way to save a lamb

So, I would venture to say that the little ewe twin of my yearling will make it. As a matter of fact she can push her slightly larger brother off a teat now---which is good news. Well, not for him maybe :-)

So quickly ,without super great detail, I would like to offer up some advice on how to save a lamb that I have learned through trial and error. These are things I have learned myself or through others.
First: No matter how the lamb is born, face forward or breech (but especially breech), if it seems as if it were the slightest bit stressed go ahead and hold the lamb VERY securely upside down and give a few slight swings to help it clear the lungs. As quoted from Jager Icelandic web site:

will need to give it a good swing to clear the lungs and passages of any inhaled birth fluids. Hold on tight to the wet and slippery lamb while you swing, and be sure to be clear of any obstacles!

Keep a close eye on a breech lamb for the next few hours to watch for labored breathing.

Sometimes a lamb appears to be breathing normally after a breech birth, but will then succumb to fluid in the lungs later in the day.

This will be kind of from one side of your body to the other. A few will do----unless you really hear a lot of fluid then a few more will be o.k. Sometimes even gently born lambs have a small wheeze---so I always give them a quick swing and hope for the best. I have yet to lose one to inhaled fluid though.

The first time my husband saw me do this he freaked out "your going to kill it---or snap it's neck" It may seem like that but it doesn't happen---however remember this is swinging with control---not over your head cowboy style.

Next---if it is born outside and it is windy/cool or especially below freezing or rainy drying the lamb is very important (or even if your pyrenees decide to love on one until it is sopping wet while it is cool and windy outside). Usually lambs are fine,get up and mom can do it on her own. However if you notice the lamb is not getting up or sluggish they may be getting cold. Especially if mom has two or more---a lamb that lays gets overlooked while others begin to move and nurse.
Sometimes if mom is new she has trouble getting them dry fast enough. Difficult births can have mom or baby slow to start. Twins or more leave one slightly unattended sometimes. Usually---things are fine. However if you need to warm a slightly damp or chilled lamb hairdryers are your friend. They deliver gentle warm dry heat that will leave the scent on the lamb. You can use them easily in a barn with electricity.
If the lamb has dropped to lower temps (take a rectal temperature of your lamb)you need to heat them with: heat lamps, pads, very warm but not hot water (with lamb in a trash bag before immersion up to the head)or a heat box whichever you prefer. I suggest that you always have a good book like Laura Lawson's Managing your ewe and her newborn lambs (or another) on hand. Hypothermia can kill lambs quickly. You must know what to do

If your lamb is still sluggish, but warming, they MUST have food. Again---you need to have a book because extreme hypothermia requires glucose ALWAYS during warming and before tubing---delivered abdominally so it will get there quick. If you warm them too much after they have been very cold they will die before they get warm without enough glucose for their body to use during warm up. You must at least have a book or something written so you can follow it and know what temperatures require what actions.
If your lamb just got slightly chilled--maybe it's temp never dropped below 101 or so--- you can also use 50% dextrose (yes, 50%) at 10cc, delivered into two places under the skin---preferable in the crotch of the back legs to kind of boost them. Use a small gauge needle---they have very thin skin. 20 or even a 22 gauge is best. Rub the bubble to disperse the glucose.
Another trick---is to put some into the fluid if you are feeding a colostrum substitute. I used about 6 cc in place of my water for a few times---however I was also able to milk my ewe and use her colostrum in addition.
Learn and understand how to tube your lamb because if it won't suck----it WILL die. If it won't suck and you are scared to try and tube because you are afraid you will accidentally drown your lamb---your lamb will still die. Remember: If you don't try because you are afraid to accidentally kill it----it will die anyway.
Keep tubing your lamb until it shows signs of 1) trying to nurse on its own ---then make sure it does or 2) until it shows signs of walking around and being frisky---then make sure it nurses. Books will give you a great idea of how much fluid down to the cc per pound but here is a general: 60cc (or 2 ounces) per 3 pounds of lamb EVERY every every 2 to 3 hours. If you go every 5 or 6 as some people do---the lamb will live but never get better. That happens frequently as people do not realize they must feed so often and the lamb slowly starves to death. The lamb will be always on the verge of starvation (also known as starvation induced hypothermia since their body temp can never go up completely without enough food). You MUST give them enough. It seems like a lot for their bellies but it is not. Promise.

Our one problem---we tubed our lamb so well she got full and wouldn't nurse. Once we realized she was so frisky and doing well we let her go without a feeding---we never could get her to suck a nipple for us. Finally---she got hungry and tried to nurse. We still had to help her the first few times (remember she hadn't gotten to nurse on mom before this) to find the nipple and kind of keep her brother from pushing her away. However she quickly caught on and is now a pro.

So...hopefully this helps someone in the future. Remember if you don't try---it will die anyway.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Doing well so far.

My small set of twin Icelandic lambs that I posted about yesterday seem to be doing o.k today. I will post pictures of them tomorrow after I go and check on them for the morning. Last night we spent every two hours (yuk!!) going out to tube the little ewe lamb since she was a bit lethargic and still not doing a good job of getting nursing. As I said it was chilly here yesterday and dropped into the low 30's last night with a wind that blew into the barn and over the hay bales I had set up. Yukky. Weather like that is hard on small small lambs that are struggling from the start because of getting cold.
However this morning she was looking much perkier and as the day went on and it warmed to the high 60's she really started to look good. Our only problem? How to get her to nurse from her mom. After consulting two friends (Jager Icelandics and Frelsi Farm) we decided that maybe we were feeding her so well that she wasn't ever hungry enough to try and nurse. So this afternoon I skipped one of her feedings since she was moving around and active----not lethargic or sleepy seeming at all. That seemed to do the trick and she decided (finally!!) to nurse on her own---a bit anyway. I had to help and encourage---but she took to it well enough and did some on her own.
Now we'll just keep an eye on her for a couple more days to make sure she is getting enough. She's not as aggressive of a nurser as her brother----but technically she is a day behind him after getting cold. She's doing well enough now though that she struggles and fights when I try and tube her---even squealing a bit so..... tomorrow if she looks good and acts well---I will optimistically post a picture of the two of them. Maybe I'll even let her model her sweater in the picture :-)

And to the weather.
It's been chilly here this spring 2008 but not with horrible late frost like last year. This weekend I will pick up some plants (because of my flu I am late on starting seedling or skipped some of the altogether) from our local organic place during their spring plant sale: Crabtree Farms.
I usually get a couple of jalapeño plants from them---we only need a few so it's not worth messing with a package of seed. This year I will probably buy a few tomato plants too. I have some tomatoes started but barely---they'll be later this year.
We are close to beans and many other things going into the ground. So it will soon get busy in the garden. Hopefully the rain we seem to be getting will keep coming as it has been. They say it will dry up this summer on us again---well we'll see. At least this spring has (knock on wood) been better so far than last.

Also, if your interested in more lamb pictures, my friend Nancy Chase of Ingleside Icelandics has what she termed a "lamb-a-palooza" event recently. She should have pictures up by tomorrow on her blog Keepingthefarm---she had so many lambs in a short time that she had to take off time from posting and hasn't gotten their pictures up yet.

Lastly---we're looking for a guinea hog boar this spring/summer of 2008 to buy, borrow or trade (sheep?) for.
Contact me if you know of someone that would like to allow us to do one of those things. Trade for sheep or a guinea hog piglet? Borrow? We are creative and will consider most any idea. Travel is not out of the question.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When you speak to soon....

Sometimes you can become overwhelmed. As happened to me today. After my initial post I went off to do some volunteer work at an organic garden/teaching center. However---since this is the week before their semi-annual organic plant sale---they were inundated with volunteers. After spending just a portion of time their that I was suppose to I told them politely that "I have some ewes due to lamb and since there are so many people I will just go ahead and leave a bit sooner". No problem was their reply.

So off to home I went, thinking maybe,just maybe one ewe might (might is the operative word) have her lamb today.
As I drive up I count sheep and 2 are missing. I get out and go to the barn and their they are both looking at me from the back. "girls, what trouble are you getting into down there" I ask them as one runs past me. Oh nothing----except having a lamb. My white ewe El was down there with a cute little white ram lamb. So into a pen I put her. Get water. Give him a quick scrub with a towel just to make sure he's dry (cool wind today here) and go in to eat a sandwich.

Well, after my sandwich I walk out to get the mail and Secret looks rather suspicious down in the pasture----she was the ewe in the barn with El earlier.
Sure enough---she's lambing too. Out in the pasture of course with the cool wind blowing around. I watch for a while and then eventually notice some yellow fluid leaking out. Yellow means the lamb may be in distress---so in with my midwife skills I step and help to pull the largest lamb ever born on my farm out of this poor ewe. We haven't weighed it yet----but I will tell you tomorrow if I am wrong and it is NOT at least 12 pounds. This lamb is as big as my first born set of twins. Seriously. It's a she---and she's a beauty though. I think she's a white lamb with odd pheomelanin splotches. However---she could be a moorit spotted but I really don't think so since her skin doesn't look tannish (or brown) that I can tell. Her pheomelanin is an odd taupe color though instead of the more common golden or reddish yellow color.
Since her dam has great big teats (like a cow not like a sheep) we are calling her Secret's calf because of her size. Heaven's sake---big lamb.

So...I get them in the barn and settled in. I take all my towels and my very dirty clothes and throw them in the wash and change into a clean set. My last ewe to lamb looked ...mmmm...odd as Secret was lambing so I feel the need to check on her now.
No sooner than I walk up to her and up she gets from the ground with back lamb legs hanging out. Bummer. My first thought is dead lamb. However I need to help her get it out, and fast, since maybe it might still live. Too (the sheeps name is Too) getting a bit uptight about this lambing thing, decides to be a brat. I have to kind of wait until she lays to push and sneak up to her. As I get there I take hold of the legs and pull with her contraction as gently---but quickly---as I can. Out comes a small horned moorit gray ram lamb (Not another ram lamb I am thinking!! At least he's cute) I hold him upside down and help the fluid drain and he starts breathing. Good.
Then Too lays back down and woosh---out pops a small black gray mouflon ewe lamb for good measure. (By the way---this is the yearling I blogged about that I said I thought she might have twins)
The ewe lamb, having been stuck in there a bit longer than she was suppose to was a bit weaker. Though she isn't on deaths door, we are helping her out a bit and hopefully she will make it. As small as she is (about 3 pounds) plus the being stuck behind a lamb that might have held things up by coming backwards has made her a bit tired. So we have and will tube her a bit, give her a few glucose shots and hopefully she will respond well and thrive. She is not giving up---she walks and tries to nurse---however she is a bit weaker and slower which when your 3 pounds can be a not very good thing. In two days we will know if she will make it or not.

So to say the least: I didn't get dinner made tonight.

Here are pictures of the first two lambs. First picture is El's ram lamb. Other two are Secret's oddly colored ewe lamb. I don't have pics yet of the small twins. Tomorrow maybe. Wish me luck :-)


So I have had no more lambs yet but we have been enjoying those we do have. Three of them are a bit "odder" than lambs normally are.

My ewe Aleda has the badger ewe and ram lamb and my ewe Tippi has the black/gray ram lamb.
Tippi's ram has been a pill since the day he was born. Never still, always exploring, he has taken it upon himself to gather all the lambs together in play. Irregardless if a ewe doesn't want him to...he keeps at it until he leads the other lambs "astray".
Anyway--probably because of age proximity he and the badger twins have hooked up. We saw this happening over time---and to a certain extent it is not unusual. Lambs of similar ages play together. However, and here is the weird part: These lambs have become more and more attached to the point that they are almost triplets. During the day they play, run, explore and sleep together. Temporarily the separate to nurse or if their mother's insist but it's not very frequently and has gotten less and less the older they become. Yesterday though we noticed an even closer bond start to develop. The black lamb (for once) was sleeping when the badger ram decided to come get him. Streeeetcchhhhh....he got up to play, and then decided he needed a sip real quick before playing. Mom----not 5 feet away---was close to accommodate him. However, badger must have decided at that time, seeing his "brother" nursing,that he TOO needed a sip (siblings always nurse together---they see the other start and dive in to get their share). He looked around, called for mom who didn't answer, and decided he would just slip right in under "the other mother" Tippi. She didn't notice right away but as she turned to look, calmly chewing cud, she sniffed and realized "Not MY kid" , looked decidedly shocked and then butted him away. So badger looked around again, called mom again---still no answer---and tried to slip in under Tippi a second time. This time she was more prepared and shoo'd him off. By this point Blackie was done ----and off they ran to play, peas in a pod to get the third miscreant---and badger was no longer interested in a sip.
Later, after dark, we went to check the "un" lambed ewes as usual before going to bed. Off to the side was Aleda ( a bit stricter mother) with her ram lamb, her ewe lamb and ,shockingly, blackie all spooned up next to her for warmth doing a sheep sleep over---something we have never seen before. At night (since dark is dangerous) lambs usually stay side by side with their dam. Tippi was a little bit away---but watchful of her lamb---going to give him a sniff to make sure he was fine when my husband went near them. She left him there though with his "siblings". Ewes just don't usually allow other lambs to be that close during nursing or sleeping, nor do ewes normally allow their lambs to wander off to that extent, especially during the dark. For some reason these ewes have worked out something because these lambs seem to think they are long lost triplets. I don't know how it happened. I don't know why---but I have to admit it is odd and we have ever seen lambs or ewes do this.
When they are all lined up, side by side, neck in neck, sniffing or trying to sample some new grass they just act like siblings---not age mates.
Of course I couldn't get them together for this post---but I am sure I will later.
The picture of two lambs are the two rams. The single is the ewe. Quite cute aren't they?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Foot and mouth disease

Again I have to ask the question: What the heck is the government thinking??
I suggest, even if you don't raise animals, that you read these two articles about the governments proposal for a new lab to research (among other things) Foot and Mouth disease. The difference here is the the "old" lab is located in a non (or at least reduced) livestock area. The new areas for consideration are located right in the heart of commercial livestock areas. Hence---if an accidental escape of the disease occurred as it did in England a few years back---we could see a mass depopulation of livestock. Both commercially and privately owned. The article mentions scenarios played out by officials to see how bad it would be if this occurred. What happened in their scenario? Why food shortages and large riots.
How about them apples?

Dangerous animal virus on U.S mainland?


Texas may be home to new foot and mouth lab

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dung beetles

One of the issues that face people raising livestock is internal parasites. Any type of livestock is susceptible: horses, sheep,goats, cows, alpacas, pigs---you name it, they have parasites. These parasites can sometimes cause health issues or worse: kill the animal.
One thing we learned when we started to raise cows, then sheep, is that organic control of these problem pests takes more.....effort.
I don't mean effort in the sense of more work---but it does require more brain power.
The easiest way, and least brain powered way, to control parasites of livestock is to feed chemical wormers to the livestock. Of course if you are certified organic you aren't suppose to. Naturally, sustainable or pasture raised doesn't really come with restrictions on these chemicals however knowing the farmer you purchase your food from will tell you a lot about whether or not they use them regularly, occasionally or never. The government tells us that these chemicals are fine for us from anywhere to immediately after the animal ingest them, or for some, after the withholding of milk or slaughter for certain periods of time after ingestion. However---if you read my blog regularly you will know---I am skeptical of any chemical the government says is fine for me. to naturally, sustainable, organically control these little boogers?
Many many ways exist but one of the really good ways (that also helps with pasture fertility along with flies and other pests that spread through manures) is the DUNG BEETLE. Yes, I highlighted it so that is would stand out---I am not yelling :-) Here are some pictures of dung beetles so you can recognize one if you see it: Here is a female Onthophagus Taurus also known as (I believe) bull headed beetle---hence the taurus in the name. And also a few of Onthophagus Gazalla---which I do not know why it's called that. Notice the males of both species have horns.

Now these types of beetles are not indigenous to the U.S. They came from elsewhere but are not considered problematic since they do not interfere or cause problems with other native species. As a matter of fact---more places would like to have them. They are slightly different than some of the other types of beetles that help deal with manure. These beetles actually dig holes and bury the poop. Both of these things help with: pests of all types, aeration of pasture soils by improving moisture retention and compaction, and fertility by "feeding the soil" (a bit of a basic way to put it but..)

Now you can learn lots more about these guys than I could ever tell you----and how ALL chemical wormers will kill them in animal poop---by looking on line or reading Charles Walters book Dung Beetles & a cowman's profits.

The main thing I wanted to tell people here----since most will not find this on line and probably won't buy the books----is how to propagate them.

According to research done by students at Texas A&M this easy way will increase your dung beetles easily:

They would start late in the fall (I am sure you could do it in the summer too) with a 5 gallon bucket of soil, topped by a cow patty. More than likely sheep, goat or horse poo would work as well---if their burying it in your pasture I am sure they will bury it in the bucket. However quantities and moisture may need to be adjusted? Anyway---add 5 or 6 pair of beetles (or as many as you can collect--search on line for how to collect, but usually pit traps with a bit of manure pat inside are used ( Nobody said it was going to be a clean job).
After a week or so the pat will be eaten. Collect your dung beetles with a small amount of dung in a cup, and move them to a new bucket and repeat. Each pair produces between one and two brood balls per day. Here is a link about hatching and pupation: Here.

Most people will not do this BUT (big but here) you never know who might. So to all of you out there who might try this to help your pastures and parasite problems: Good Luck. The power of poo to you :-)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Big Berkey

Recently, in addition to our new Country Living grain mill, I decided I also was ready to purchase some sort of water filtration system. We have always been interested in water filtration for two reasons: 1) we would just LOVE to do rain water collection and even with that "purer" source of water filtering is still necessary. 2) One of our previous homes in the country was well water and we had to filter out what is known as iron bacteria.
During our years of previous filtration we used the paper type filters that you can pick up at just about any local store. The problem is, though they are cheap, is that they constantly need replacement and are just another thing to throw away into the waste stream we humans have done so well at creating.
Of course of the many things we throw away that might be one we can all more easily agree on being somewhat of a necessity in some areas.
So recently....again....we decided that we really needed to filter our water. We have sediment (just regular sand/rock type), heavy chlorine (are we drinking my fathers pool water today?) and of course the other gunk we might not know exactly everything about--- but knew it was there. We considered whole house filtration---but that would just have us on the paper filter ferris wheel again. Though we would like to filter all the water for chlorine we decided to, at least for now, narrow it down to drinking and cooking water. That's were we come to the acquisition of our Big Berkey fitted, in it's most basic form, with cleanable ceramic filters. You can upgrade with different filter---even some for PCPs---but as with all things like this (ie: not quickly disposable) they are a bit on the expensive side initially. Over all---the price works out but you have to basically pay it up front.
Anyway---call it my frugal nature or just plain laziness but, in my search for filters, the idea of a cleanable and reusable filter appealed to me a lot. I hate to have to stock, store and re buy supplies continually. Especially items like water filters, ac filters, and stuff like that requiring you to go slightly out of your way to get it and worse: remember to get it!
So we ordered one on line (actually on Ebay but I found it for the same price in a few other places) and it came not to long ago. The fist batch of water is completely tossed out---then you have to wait a day for it to dry( I believe this is to condition the filters??)---then fill it again. Then you can drink. Ahhhh----no taste. Well minimal. It's not like distilled water that is completely devoid of flavor and kind of weird because of it. BUT, and a big but here, we couldn't taste or smell the chlorine at all. Supposedly it's also removing some other "stuff" for us too. That's really why we wanted it since we could have removed chlorine by just sitting our glass/container of water in the sun.
Also, since no power is involved (another plus for the Berkey) we can have clean water as long as we have access to water---irregardless if a storm knocks out our power or the city shuts off our water because of problems. We can---but hopefully will never need to----use water from our barrels of rain water or even out of our pond! Cool isn't it?
And last but not least---since it's a counter top model---we can take it with us where ever we go.
Now---and here's the clincher. I read that some people save money by making their own. Having never seen a Berkey---I just didn't get it. NOW I do. We would absolutely make our own from now on if we wanted another. However---we would still need to purchase the filters from Berkey/Doulton. But the initial price is reduced by coming up with your own container. A savings of at least $100. The containers (in this case)are thin stainless "pots" that nest together to allow the water to drip from the top one to the bottom one. When the Berkey first comes it is unassembled and so there for all the top "pot" is, is just a basic pot with 4 (or more for the bigger versions) equally spaced holes. A thick rubber gasket on the inside keeps water in, and a nice plastic wing nut on the outside (of the top pot) tightens down the the gasket and the filter so they don't leak. I don't know if replaceable filters come with new gaskets and wing nuts---but they may.
The bottom "pot" has a hole in the side where a spigot, installed with a thick rubber washer on the outside AND inside, is located. Voila---easier than pie.
Just make sure---if you make it yourself---that you use non rusting metal or food safe plastic. Oh yes---and a lid for the top to keep out dust and such.

Last thing here about water filters: sand filters are really the way to go if you want to be "self sufficient" and without relying on electricity. This is the concept---easily done---that is used in many places without potable water.

Now---my next "self sufficient" acquisition: A Reading apple peeler. (click on "more views" to see the parts)
I have had those cheap "other style" apple peelers and broke them. Annoying little things that are flimsy when doing lots of apples and without replacement parts when you break them.
Because this type of peeler is considered one of the best (we have actually seen one used in an old Amish tourist place that was original) and you can still get complete replacement parts from Lehmans----I am saving up or going to buy one on Ebay. This next apple season won't see me without home made sauce again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Guys on the Block---plus a gal

So after I posted early this morning we went outside to round up the ewes for the state vets visit for our annual scrapie check. As we were setting up we noticed that one of the yearling ewes looked as if she might be lambing. Well, as it turned out we were correct. Poor Paris---our shyest ewe overall---had to be rounded up and then put into the barn while the poor thing is starting to lamb. Of course I never would have gotten her in the barn without my husbands help so we had to do it.
The other reason for doing it is if she had had trouble lambing we could then help her without doing the commando routine out in the pasture trying to sneak up on her. Believe it or not---laboring ewes can run to a certain extent if they feel it necessary. Paris lambed like a pro considering all that went on--completely unaided. Way to go.
Anyway, we only have a small barn---16 x 32. Very small actually because Icelandics just really don't need serious barn space in our climate. Our barn is barely more than a "just had my lamb" space and a small amount of square bale storage and a place to "trap" them for shots/tagging or vet checks or whatever. Really we wouldn't have even had one except it rained so much the first year we had them I wanted a place to feed them were I didn't have to be in the rain the whole time---so the barn is more for me to stay dry in the winter :-) there today we had one pen with Princess and her two new lambs. One pen for Tippi and Aleda and their slightly older lambs. One pen for poor Paris---trying to have her lamb and another for the 4 girls not YET lambed. Jeepers! I didn't even have enough panels---I had to sacrifice a 16 footer to the cause and cut it down.
All worked out in the end though and the vet got everyone looked at and now we are good for another year. Finally---I have been able to get around to posting pictures of today "lamb haul". Oh yes---Paris had a precious little white ewe lamb that looks like a little angel lamb. Of course so far---to me---all the little white ewe lambs look like angels. Their faces are just a bit different looking than when color shades them :-)
One more thing---the little brown ram decided that it's never too soon to start caring for horns.

Was it the drought?

Last night I had another set of twins born to one of my ewes: two more RAM lambs! What's up with that?!?
At first I just thought it was dear old Tex getting heavy on the ram lambs and my luck would change. However this ewe was bred to an entirely different ram---one that has generally thrown mostly ewes for me and never have I gotten ram twins from him so....Was it the drought?
Nutrition supposedly can and will affect conception rate of sheep. In the fall most shepherds "flush" their ewes and rams. Flushing is when you raise the quality and quantity of food right before, during and slightly after breeding to encourage more eggs to drop. Though I did that---and have received all twins for my trouble so far---I do wonder if something about the drought changed something about the matings and so that is why I am so heavy on ram lambs. On the other hand---it could just be "luck of the draw" this year and it was just what I was meant to have.
Regarding droughts affecting the number of lambs though: quite a few people have commented this year that they are getting many more singles from ewes that have always had twins or even triplets. So it just goes to show, yet again, how important good nutrition is for something even so simple as fertility. Obviously drought is a lot harder to control than minerals are, but something to consider when raising animals and getting them ready for breeding. Nutrition is key to everything.

I will post some pictures of the cuties later this morning. It is still to dark to take pictures in the barn since I never got electricity down there. Also the state vet is coming early this afternoon for our annual scrapie check which we missed in October. So it is going to be a busy morning. At least the weather is suppose to be nice :-) Maybe some rain tomorrow which will be good for my patch of oats I planted but look like nothing more than a "patchy" stand of garden I forgot to pull grass from right now.
Have a good one.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

And another lamb

Another new little ram lamb born yesterday to our ewe Tippi. He actually was a twin---but his brother died. So sad. However he made it and is cute as a button---and on the move!
Black as sin and though it doesn't look like it he has fairly large horn buds. That was his and his brothers problem--horn buds (plus his brother came backwards). The horn buds slowed them down and required a bit of help. So far all of Tex's rams have had large horn buds. I will have to watch the few yearlings I bred to him to make sure their lambs (if ram lambs) make it out o.k.

And here are a couple pics of Aleda's twins. Doing well and bouncing all over the pasture. Sproing! Sproing! Very cute. They are all on the move so getting these few non blurred pictures was a feat in and of itself. So healthy though :-)

Soon...about the 9th I should have another ewe due. Maybe---even though I saw her breeding they trick me continually so....
Check back---the pictures will keep coming.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Some have come

First---apologies to some of you for not answering your comments. I have been "away". That's how we'll leave it :-D But I do apologize for seeming to ignore.

Anyway---I have lambs and other things to blog about so maybe I will have more presence here in the coming weeks and months.

My first lambs have arrived. My ewe Aleda has had two beautiful lambs for me early this morning and accomplishing it without a hitch just like the pro she is. Aleda has always given all the "classic" signs of immenent lambing the 24 hours preceding her lambing so we have never failed to know when she would lamb. Her milk bag will gain a large amount of size the preceding day, she will take herself off to be alone and away from the others and her flanks will sink in to tell us that the lambs are getting their selves ready and in position. Thankfully Aleda is kind to us like that unlike some of the others that try and trick us for weeks previous to their lambing. They continually leave us hanging and watching and wondering. Oh well, we are speaking of sheep here.
Here are some pictures of the first of this years lambs--standing lamb is a ram and laying lamb is a ewe--- and one of Mikey (their guardian) saying a quick Hello. Oh yes---and a quick picture of the bluebird box. Hopefully they will all show up---you know how blogger is with pictures :-(