We are getting off of the farm a little more these days but before I go into that in the next post I will give an update on Crow Farm life. 🙂
Our sweet Butternut (our adult female piggy) passed away in May. That gentle girl was in such poor health when we got her it shortened her life dramatically. Butternut had worms pretty badly when we got her. This probably contributed to her lack of sight, her being overweight and probably more internal things we didn’t even know about. Once we realized all our pigs had worms we started deworming treatments. The piglets didn’t seem fazed by it. Butternut struggled with the first treatment but after 24 hours had returned to her baseline.
The second treatment we gave all of them was the last of what her body could handle. She stopped eating and nothing was coming out her back end. Four days later she passed away. We did everything we could to make her comfortable during these 4 days including feeding her liquids via dropper, giving her an enema to try to get things moving, singing to her and wiping her down with cool cloths. After the fact we spoke with a vet and he said that when an animal is so badly infested with worms and the worms are killed by the deworming treatment the worms clump up in a massive ball and block the animal’s system. He said in hindsight the only thing we could have done to save her was to bring her in for surgery. He said it was the right thing to do to deworm all the pigs since the worms kill the pigs as well and can make them suffer with various side effects.
We buried the sweet thing up on our hill near an apple tree. The girls and I painted rocks as memorial stones and we all had a little ceremony. The grave was very challenging to dig but was surprisingly beautiful inside with all the layers of clay. It reminded us of the canyon hikes we went on in the deserts of the south and that comforted me that she could be laid to rest in a beautiful little spot.
As for the ducks…we are down to two! After vent checking them I found that we only had one female (a Khaki Campbell). We decided to keep one one drake (boy) to keep her company (a Cayuga duck). I found great homes for 2 of our 5 drakes we had to get rid of and gave the other 3 to the local livestock auction. All but one were such good boys but if we kept them they would have inadvertently killed our hen all trying to mate with her, so they had to go! I have ordered another round of ducks that will arrive in the beginning of fall and they are all supposed to be female. I’ll believe it when I see it! 😛
Both bunnies are still doing well and getting lots of love from the girls. We have moved them out of the sunroom and into the barn with the piggies to be a better temperature in the summer. Of course we had to add locks to their cage just in case a local scavenger got hungry for a furry treat. During the week of 100*+ days we brought them into the house where it stays a little cooler than outside. We gave them giant ice cube bottles and had a fan blowing on them. We also cut their fur a bit shorter in hopes that it would help cool them down. I was so glad we did that since our neighbor lost 4 of her bunnies during that heat wave. So sad.
People have been asking me, “will you get more animals??” That is a good question and the short answer is, yes! We have been toying with the idea of getting 2-3 sheep and/or breeding our sweet little Curly (piggy) and selling all but one in her litter. We have some proven Kunekune boars in the area so that’s convenient. I will visit each to be sure they are handsome and sweet of course before choosing one. If we did breed her it would be in December sometime. A Kunekune’s gestational period is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. So neat! It would be so cute to raise some little piglets in the spring! Justin says as long as I’m in charge of it all he gives his approval. Deal!
Our fields started to get to the point where the grass was taller than the girls and was ready to be hayed. The only problem, aside from not knowing a thing about haying, was that we didn’t own any of the equipment. Did we need big equipment? I wondered. Laura Ingalls’ Pa used to do it and so did hundreds of other farmers. Turns out they used a scythe (a blade attached to a long pole) and by using sweeping motions with a slight arch they cut the hay at the base. The way small farmers do it today is by using a disk mower (an attachment for your tractor) which has rotating disks parallel to the ground, also cutting the hay at the base. Apparently you want the hay in long strands to bail it and store it properly. The smaller the pieces are the more likely it is to mold and fall apart as a bail.
Then on small farms they use something called a Tedder which is used to fluff up the cut hay into windrows, or rows. This is sometimes done a couple times, leaving days in between for the hay to dry. The idea is to dry the hay completely and get it in a row so the bailer can gather it. Bailing is in my opinion one of the most fun parts to watch. The small machines look something like a Cat-in-the-Hat contraption in which the machine rolls over the windrow and then little comb like rotators sweep the hay into the machine and, voila, out pops a tied hay bail out the back! The girls said, “Wow! It’s a machine that poops out hay bails!”
Well, we didn’t have any of the hand tools or machinery to properly hay but we were worried our fields would soon become a fire danger! We decided to have Justin brush hog (basically mow) a strip along the perimeter of the pig field with the tractor to start with to give them more space to roam (once the hay was tall the pigs didn’t go in it!) and it could be a practice run for us. We didn’t intend on using any of that downed hay for anything but pig bedding because some of their poo would inevitably be in there. After Justin cut it and we left it to dry we didn’t feel like it was even worth using for bedding it was chopped into such small bits.
Thankfully just a couple days later some men stopped at the end of our driveway and approached Justin. They let him know they had hayed our fields in the past when the previous owners lived here and wondered if we would like to do that again. Yes!! Perfect timing! So, they came to Crow Farm and over the next week or so (sadly during the heat wave) they hayed both of our fields for a trade. They hayed our field for free and in turn they get to keep all the hay. Seemed fair to us! We don’t need more than 4 bails to last us the year right now anyway. All we use it for is pig bedding and honestly we prefer straw as it give the piggies more insulation in the winter.
The haying took a little longer than expected because when the heat wave was underway with 100*+ days there were restrictions on when you could and could not using moving mechanical parts in dry fields for obvious reasons. Early, early mornings were permitted or at dusk, which as you can imagine was challenging. The girls loved watching the process and exchanged the activity with their regular before-bed reading time. Anyone who knows my girls knows that reading time is the highlight of the day so it was a hard decision for them. 🙂 The sweet gentleman who hayed the fields also ended up leaving the girls’ hay fort they made for themselves and the bunnies. They hang out there almost every day with the bunnies. It is right by their tree swing under the big white poplar tree that outlives our 1902 year old farm home. It was so very kind of them to leave it and the girls appreciate it so much!
Our oldest enjoyed her first birthday at Crow Farm. She turned 8 years old this year which is hard to believe. As always, the birthday girl/boy gets to pick all meals on their special day as well as an activity or two for us to participate in. Our oldest started her morning with an apple omelette, played Elsa with her younger sister with her new costume and accessories, played with the bunnies, swung on the tree swing and, of course, to continue the tradition that our birthday girl started years ago, we all ate ice cream sandwiches in the bathtub together as a family. Haha! It gets more challenging each year but this year we actually got a bath upgrade so it wasn’t as squished as we had expected. We even got to video call with family! I love being this girl’s Mama.
Our garden is going so beautifully well this year! I finally feel like I have enough space to feed our family without having to go to the market for fresh veggies AND still have some left over to store for the winter. My garden makes me so very happy!
I tried a couple new things this year to see how they would do in this climate. I also tried various placements for different plants to see where in my garden the light suited each particular plant. So far it has given me a really good map of what I’ll do next year. We have had some flops and successes so I consider it a win!
Flops: The winged bean did absolutely nothing starting indoors or in the garden. Our edamame was so finicky and has barely produced anything. I wouldn’t bother with it next year. The jicama was the strangest flop. I had never grown it before so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I started it indoors well before it was time to go into the garden and it took what seemed like forever for it to start growing. All my other plants were well underway and I had given up hope for the little boogers. When they finally did pop up I was so excited. I planted them in the garden in Spring with all my other starts however, as they grew they looked more and more like a tomato plant! “Odd”, I thought. And sure enough, farther into the spring large tomatoes started growing on the “jicama.” I think the seed company I ordered from must have sent me the wrong seeds!! Haha! I knew they looked a lot like tomato seeds when I planted them but I also knew little about jicama so I didn’t question it. Well, no jicama but I do have some amazing big tomatoes growing in my garden!
Successes: Our sunflowers are doing well and although not as large as I would have hoped, they are producing great seeds for us to munch on throughout the winter and I found that planting my spinach and lettuce with them helped my crop of greens last longer as they were protected from some of the summer heat and sun by the sunflower shade cover.
We have zucchini, purple beans, snap peas, cucumbers, 3 types of kale (so we could pick our favorite for next year), small tomatoes and large tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots (though they are always a bit finicky), peppers, ground cherries, tomatillos, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, black berries, eggplant and lots of edibles in my tea and herb garden. My herbs have been keeping me very busy drying and storing them for the winter. I have planted some huckleberries, elderberries and grapes but they aren’t producing yet. Our apples, plums and pears are just about ready to be picked, eaten fresh, stored for the winter and prepared into lots of tasty treats! I’m hoping for no carpal tunnel flair ups this year. I have some new cutting tools to help me out. Thanks friends and family!
In other news…
In the early spring the girls and I collected some frog eggs from our hayfield, popped them in a big cookie jar and thought it would be fun to watch them grow. Some died along the way but in the end we were left with 3 little western tree frogs! It was so fun to see all their various stages in life and then set them free where they could hopefully grow up to make us music in the fall.
At Crow Farm we have lots of frogs but also a barn cat that inadvertently came with the house. Usually she is extremely skittish around us but once in a while she lets one of us pet her for a brief moment. However, on this one particular evening, Clover the cat not only let me pet her but she let me pet her for over an hour. She would have gone on for longer but I had a list of things I needed to do before bed. Clover even followed me around Crow Farm as I turned off various drippers and came when I called her. She hasn’t let me go anywhere near her since but I’m glad I saw how sweet she could be.
Although our sewing/craft room hasn’t been in use very much over the summer we have been making good use of art supplies. Our sweet friends gave the girls nesting dolls to paint for their birthdays. We went to our favorite painting spot under one of our hazelnut trees and painted all afternoon long!
The girls are a hoot and put on lots of concerts for us here at home. Most, if not all, of the songs are from Hamilton. Saying these girls are obsessed would be an understatement. Of course I censor it for them but it has been a fun summer school topic. We read the lyrics from each song, tie it to the historical references they are making and then get to watch the clip of the song from the play. It has been a lot of fun!
Our eight year old is growing up in so many ways. She just got a letter back from President Joe Biden after writing to him when he first started his presidency. It was such a nice empowering letter and it melted my heart to see her so hopeful after reading it aloud. She was flabbergasted that our president believes in her and other people her age to make a difference in this world. Good leadership is so very important!
Our oldest is also now allowed to ride her bike a half mile down the road to her friends’ on her own!! I have her bring a cell phone and call me when she gets there and I DO watch as she’s peddling down the road but…still! These are big steps!
Last but not least is finding ways to cool off in this crazy hot weather that is the norm now. The sprinkler, the “cool pool” (aka animal stock tank) and lots of popsicles and icy kombucha do the trick.