Housecleaning

There’s going to be some big time housecleaning going on starting this weekend and it doesn’t involve a vacuum cleaner or a mop.  The sheep and Shine (young Border Collie) are going to go to a very good friend of mine.  He’ll raise them right and if all goes well, we’ll sell some of the lamb at the market when it’s ready.  He’ll finish Shine’s training and in a year or so, we’ll cross her with Gel and I’ll get a puppy back.  He really needs a good stock dog and I think with time and patience, Shine will be a really good stock dog.  He has a great deal of patience and I think it will be a really good fit.

The two male Jerseys that we have are going to go to the processor on Monday.  Originally, only one was going to go, the steer, but the bull has been getting out of the pasture.  I think Gwen may be coming into heat, but we have decided not to re-breed her.  We don’t want the bull teaching the other cows how to get out so he’ll go to the processor as well.  We wanted him to get a little bigger, but even if we did put a line or two of electric fence down below, if he wants to get out, I don’t think that will keep him in if he really wants to get out.

The young livestock guardian puppy that I bought a while back is going to go and live with the Amish family that I get chickens from.  They are suffering severe hawk losses.  I have been unable to find an adult dog for them so they are going to try this puppy.  He’s starting to learn his job and they understand it will be a while before he’ll be useful, but they are willing to try it.  If he doesn’t work out for them, he’ll come back here.  If though he won’t know what he’s doing for a while, just putting him in the poultry pasture will be a deterrent to hawks.

Because it is so dry, we are going through a lot of hay right now so we need to trim down to the bare minimum.  The goats go through a whole bale of hay and if we feed baled hay to the cows, they easily go through a whole bale.  That is not even factoring in what the two milk cows eat which is substantial.

This will be the first full year that we’ve farmed and it’s been a big learning experience.  If we had been getting regular rain, there would still be grass growing in the pastures, but that didn’t happen this year.  So we feed hay.  We are lucky to be able to get really good local hay for reasonable price, but we can only store so much in our hay house.  Luckily, it is not too far to drive to get our hay.

The chickens are going through around 100 pounds of grain a week, yet we are only getting six to ten eggs a day.  This time of year, what eggs they do produce does not pay for what the chickens eat.  That means we need to manage this better next year or just stop selling eggs which is a possibility.

I keep a record of all of our expenses, but it has not been kept very well.  The goal is to next year do a better job at keeping track of income (I call it income, but it really is not income because it rolls back into the farm) and expenses so we can plan better.  My understanding is that a farm usually does not start making money for a few years.  Even though we have no real income, we have good lives thanks to the farm.

Now, if I can get through a day without any animals getting out … that may be too much to hope for.  Yesterday, not only did the bull get out, which would not have been too big a deal because he just hung with the milk cows, but separating him off from the milk cows was a little dicey.  Keep in mind, he is a Jersey bull and caution needs to be taken around him.  But, rabbits got out (their tractor was over a dip in the ground) as did the goats and when the goats got out, they got into the rabbit barn.  Note to self: shut the gates going into the poultry pasture so the goats cannot get in there if the do get out.

The cows are going to stay closed up in the paddock eating hay until Monday morning.  The goats and the calves (if I can separate them, which I may not be able to do) are going up to the Christmas Tree Farm this afternoon and will stay there through Sunday night.  The rabbits, well, hopefully they’ll stay in their tractors.

We’ve got a handyman coming here this morning to finish putting the lofts on the last three tractors so I can get at least two more does with litters out into tractors.  They are more than six weeks old, but I didn’t want to put them out until we got the lofts put in the tractors so they could get up off the wet cold ground.

Not that I like that it’s so dry, but because it’s been so dry, we haven’t had to work on the roof of the rabbit barn or buy tarps to put over the open areas of the rabbit tractors.  I’d rather it rained, but Mother Nature is not cooperating.

So, we just keep on moving on the track that we are going and hope that we continue to get better at what we do.  The past couple of nights, I went to bed really early and slept most of the night.  It’s been nice catching up on sleep.  Hopefully we can make it to bed early tonight and get a good night’s sleep before the Farmer’s Market tomorrow.

Until later …

2 Replies to “Housecleaning”

  1. I agree, Jeff, that Michelle’s blog is a priceless glimpse into the life of a small farmer and of someone who struggles on a daily basis. But whereas you relate as another farmer, I relate as a city girl with limited experience of farm life but one who strongly believes that our future lies here, with the small farmer. “Commercial farming” contains the seeds of its own destruction.

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