Blog


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Another month has passed and where does the time go?  We have been doing markets and luncheons at the farm.  One week this month we had four events.  Yes, it can be exhausting but we need the money for the livestock.  And we are in the black for the moment. 

We now need to decide which ram/buck will mate with which ewe/doe.  Last year we had fewer girls bred but had the most little ones on the ground.  We shall see.

The cooler weather will begin the feeding of hay and that should change the shape of the poop we find in the barn.  We want to find those round little black pearls and less of the blobs that look as though they could swallow an American city.  Ever since working with the professor from PSU, I watch the animals urinate and defecate.  It is a good indicator of the health of the animal. 

All I know we are ready for the winter months.  The barn is clean and limed.  Hay is in the bays.  Feed in locked up in the metal locker. Water is flowing freely.  Their fleeces are growing and all is ready for the next season.  Halloween in a few days and I must dust off my Little Bo Peep costume.

October 26, 2017


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I remember when as a young boy learning to play whiffle ball with the neighborhood characters, everyone would yell, ”Don’t hit a fly, strike, or window!” These words would haunt everyone all during the game. Years later the words fly strike would return to haunt me at the farm.  If you have not experienced fly strike you need to know what to look for and what to do. ( Remember to always inform your vet and work with her/him).

In central Pennsylvania, our general region has experienced rain beyond one’s desire.  Others complain when it rains, I do not because I know that the pastures will continue to grow.  But it also crated a situation that I was not entirely familiar with on the farm.  Yes, I had heard about fly strike but I had never seen it.  It was mid-August when the weather, usually, is hot and dry but it continued to rain and stay cool.  I noticed a young lamb acting peculiar and noticed the large number of flies around her rump.  My inspection led me to discover maggots in the thousands around her anus and vaginal area.  Her wool came out in clumps and I panicked.  Quickly I called the vet and this is what we did:

  1. washed the area with soap and water
  2. sprayed with Kraton 4
  3. gave a shot of penicillin for three  days
  4. isolated her and kept a close eye on her
  5. gave a drench of a Cydectin

She has recovered beautifully but there were two more cases that month. One more sheep and a goat had the same.  The maggots come from a green fly and it can come without warning.  So one must be ever so observant and willing to quickly inspect every animal every day.


October 1,2017

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Autumn is knocking on the door.  I just washed this tired, old body in the outdoor shower last night and it was chilly.  I told my mother it was chilly enough that I had a hard time deciding if I was male or female.  It is chilly!

The chilly weather will get the livestock going. What I mean by going is they will all become horny.   The bucks and rams will know it is time to hone their sexual skills and get prepared for the 40 days they will spend with the opposite sex.  

I hope the electric fences keep them in check!

The garden is in its final glory.  The dahlias are bold, saturated colors.  Red, purple, yellow, white, and orange are the colors we have planted.  They enhance any bouquet that you cut this time of year.  My sister-in-law is begging me to help her plant these beauties in her garden.  I will do that for her.  A few knitters were here today and they remarked how the garden had changed.  It was more lush.  I must agree.

September 11, 2017

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It is August 13th and the weather has started to change.  Cooler mornings and school will begin soon. The ram lambs have been weaned and there is no concern in the faces.  Just give us something to eat!  There is plenty for them to eat as we have had plenty of rain.  Plentifulness would be a better term.  The fields look as though it is early spring.  Verdant beyond belief.

We have had some horrible mishaps with lambs.  One drowned in the relentless rainstorm and another lamb wrapped herself in the high tensile fence and died.  My yearly goal is to have no deaths but it seems that is likely not attainable. It will always be my goal.

We are still moving the girls through the six pastures every four to five days.  Today is the big move.  Just the sound of the metal chain being unlocked and striking  the hollow metal fence, will bring them thundering toward the opening to the fresh pasture beyond the gate.  There awaits a feast and they will not hesitate to eat all day.


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I know some people think I make up some of these stories but I have a movie of this event.  Everyday around the same time, I take the dog for a walk.  We walk through Jane’s Lane which is a black walnut tree lined path to the end of the farm.  It has a green leaf canopy that shades the path and it is lined with weeds.  It is lovely.  

Then you walk around the alfalfa field and travel up the hay field which is used for the sheep.  It is a short walk and then you are on top of the hill.  The path through the hay field runs parallel to Jane’s Lane.  Charley and I were waking this routine when we were greeted by a skunk.

The two animals barked and hissed at each other.  This continued for several minutes and fearing I would be sprayed, I left and ran down the hill.  The dog and skunk continued their stand off.  It could be heard from the house.  When I reached the side door, I realized I had had the camera in my pocket so I ran back up the hill with the camera in hand.  I thought I could make a great documentary. HA

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It is 6:30 in the morning and the sun is on the horizon.  The screens in the windows are covered with rain from the night before.  The drops sparkle and  look expensive.  But I am listening to the haunting sound of a large hawk.  He is almost daring the chickens to come out.  

Much earlier this morning around 1, I was outside with a flashlight trying to find a misguided hen and her peeps under a bush located near the upstair bedrooms. Several nights before we had be awaken by the pervasive smell of a skunk that had me breathing under two pillows. The hen had given some loud, peculiar guttural sounds and then the peeps chirping.  I had no idea where the fowl were and in the dark and a skunk.  The over grown vegetation made it a precarious situation.  I was not going to get sprayed like the guard dogs have been so I tiptoed and searched for survivors.  Finding nothing, I left the scene and went to bed.

This AM I did find a wet hen and one peep.  Tons of feathers in her destroyed nest.

One last comment.  A week ago a hen hatched a peep and had interest in taking care of it.  So i have it in the basement.  It is all by itself.  So I found a mirror and placed it next to the peep’s cage.  It was thrilled.  It is livelier and chips at itself all day.

July 15, 2017

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Here it is July 7th and obviously life is quiet.  Today as I sat watching a mother hen and her three peeps, I could not help notice that she always looked for the missing peep.  One peep is probably several days younger and not so fast on its two legs.  The mother hen always waits for her and so I think she must be able to count.  She looks around and counts one, two, and ?  A few good clucks and the little one appears.  So chickens can count!

We had the second small lamb die yesterday. Some of the lambs are huge and a few were tiny.  There were three tiny lambs and two have died.  A vet explained that they may have problems with their digestive systems.  The lamb that died  always isolated himself.  i would find himself hiding by a water trough or a high grass area.  Every time I would go to the pastures, I looked for him and made sure he was problem free.

There were no bottle babies this year.  Even though we had three sets of twins, the mothers fed the babies and all of them are doing well.  Here is to a great feeding program!

July 7, 2017

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The barn sits empty and the only life left in it is a persistent goose trying to hatch her eggs and barn swallows flying in and out of any aperture available.  As soon as the hay has been harvested, the barn will need to excavated to prepare for the winter months.  The manure on the floor will be loaded into the manure spreader and spread throughout the hay field.  It will fertilize the plants that will feed the animals next year.  This is a perfect union.

We have had what seems to be daily showers or thunderstorms.  Everything is verdant or a shade of it.  Every shade of green is visible in the garden.  Chartreuse, celadon, Kelly, harlequin, army, ….  The shades are easy on the eyes.  I read a narrative of two gardeners and one gardener wants only shades of green and other gardener other wants color explosions.  I agree with the former.  Because if you really think about it, it is the green leaves we see all spring and summer with flashes of color that come and go.

June 22, 2017

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Another sunny morning and a restless last night.  I could not wait for the morning sun to rise so I could listen to the roosters crow.  The night before I had fourteen duckings senselessly murdered in the chicken coop.  The culprit still remains at large but the evidence points to a weasel.  The duckings had left the basement so they could get aquatinted with the other fowl in the yard.  They had been hatched by hens not caring what eggs laid under their bosom.  A setting hen is a hen determined to hatch an egg.  And so they did.  Fourteen ducklings.  One or two at a time would hatch.

After several weeks I placed them in a  guarded area inside the chicken coop.  When I went to the coop the next day, all had been killed.  The murderer went into the duckling area, killed them, and dragged them up and over the temporary walls.  They put all of the dead ducks in a pile in a corner of the coop.  The killer would just bite or rip a hole in the duck.  If they had eaten them, I would not have been do angry or disappointed.

So it is a new day, and I  hope it is not as sad.

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Lambing and kidding have ended.  Thirty-nine babies have been delivered and what a crew.  When we open the barn doors, there is a zoom of little ones running and chasing in all directions.  Mothers just nod and exhaustingly walk to the pastures to eat.  They are covered with poop tracks all over their backs.  As some lambs run endlessly, others will lie down and observe the day.  Nothing to do but absorb the day.

Of the thirty-nine babies, eight are goats.  There are five black, one red, and three white.  They are the most curious creatures in the barnyard.  Everything is inspected, licked, or  jumped on.  They too run in a gang and run everywhere.  Life is a gas for them.

On June first, the barn is closed for the season.  I cannot wait.  No more poop picking up and spreading hay on the floor.  They will spend the rest of late spring and the summer in the pastures.  If we have one of those strong rainstorms, I will open the barn and let them take shelter.  But as I sit and exhale in relief, I will then need to go on parasite patrol.  Never a break!

© William Churchill 2014