Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving Break

Shrew on her last day.
Shrew picking a fight.
We bought a turkey The Shrew to replace our female turkeys that had been eaten by the coyotes.  The Shrew was a nasty mean bird who killed a baby turkey and would pluck the feathers off of any bird she could get near.  We decided to butcher her for Thanksgiving.  In the weeks leading up to butchering time I watched a lot of Youtube videos on how to butcher a turkey.  Finally the day arrived and Teen Son, his friend, and I got to work.  We hung the shrew upside down slit her throat and let her bleed out.  Plucked her and then cleaned out her insides.  It was not as bad as I worried it would be.  2 days later we cooked her for Thanksgiving – she was tough but delicious. 
The Shrew was a nasty bird and she was only 6 lbs it's a lot of work but not horrible.
Part of the Thanksgiving gathering.

 We went to a friends for Thanksgiving.  We had a wonderful time and stayed after dark and the sheep were still out.  When we got home we all went in different directions to find the sheep, feed the cattle, take care of the dogs, put the cats away, take care of the fodder.  We found the sheep near the top of the property and they were feeling full of piss and vinager jumping, skipping, and running.  The sheep ran down to the sheep pen then turned and charged the fence to the cow pasture.  The cows didn’t like the sheep running towards them so they charged the fence.  Our young heifer, April, didn’t stop in time.  
April eating happily after she recovered.
The spot where April got stuck.  The new silver is an old gate we "fixed" the hole in the fence with.
We have a telephone pole laying against the fence and she slipped over the pole and against the fence and ended up trapped on her side between the pole and the fence.  It was 9: and very dark, the wire cutters were not where we thought they were the other cattle were mooing and stomping around us.  I turned the flashlight on my phone and held it in my mouth and got the hay and fodder to the rest of the fodder while Darling Husband took the good flashlight to find some wire cutters, and Teen Son tried to keep April calm.  Finally we got the fence cut and April free.  She refused to eat and walked with a limp but she didn’t seem hurt otherwise. 
Getting the sheep used to Tessa.

Every day of Thanksgiving Break we worked with the dogs and sheep.  Our sheep love to run and dogs even Livestock Guardian Dogs love to chase.  Luca is a really young dog to be trusted with the sheep.  Tessa a young Anatolian Sheppard is intense.  She likes to follow them at a distance of 30 to 50 feet and they like to run so she kept them running.  Every day we would put Blackwell, Hotrod, and sometimes another sheep on leads and the Guardian Dogs on leashes and walk first one dog then the other.  After a couple hours we walked the sheep without the dog on a lead.  That worked great until we added 2 dogs.  When Thanksgiving Break ended we were able to allow both dogs and all the sheep to free range.  It is so nice when things work.
A silly Pielbuey
The sheep have anywhere on the property to go so why are they stealing the cattle's food?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Introducing Tessa

I had been trying to talk Darling Husband into getting a second older Livestock Guardian Dog but he really didn’t want 3 dogs.  After our episode a few weeks ago when Teen Son swallowed the bullet Darling Husband saw one LGD isn’t going to be enough.  I found an Anatolian Sheppard that a ranch a little over an hour away from us was getting rid of.  We were told Tessa was very skittish and to come to the ranch with a lot of time to get to know her before we left. 
We were told that Tessa was food agressive but we have not noticed it.
We arrived at the ranch and were greeted by several dogs and goats.  One of the dogs ran up to Stick Boy and sat with him licking his hands and face.  We met the owner of the ranch and asked her where Tessa was.  She pointed to the dog loving Stick Boy and College Girl.  We wandered around for a while and got to know Tessa.  Darling Husband fell in love and we brought her home.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Monday morning we had a coyote in our tenants pasture watching me take care of the animals.  I called Teen Son, woke him up and asked him to get the gun.  He had some issues finding the gun he likes so ended up putting a few bullets in his pocket and one in his mouth.  We had communication issues so Teen Son ran around in the wrong pasture for a few minutes, the coyote got tired of watching me he jumped into our neighbors pasture.  Teen son finally saw it and was able to shoot at it and scare it but it wasn’t a gun he was used to so he missed. 

Monday afternoon Teen Son got really sick feeling no fever but weird feeling and an upset stomach.  He stayed home from school yesterday.  This morning he is feeling much better, back to his cheerful self.  Then he tells me he must have swallowed a bullet because it came out in his poop.  I will be calling the Dr as soon as they open.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Fillet last Christmas.

We picked up the meat from Fillet, the first Dexter Steer we have butchered.  This is the steer I was worried about not being properly neutered so we had him butchered before he would have hit maturity, he was smaller than I wanted him to be but I felt it was time.  I had sold 3 friends ¼ his meat each and have us keep.  A week before we were to pick up the beef one of our friends realized he didn’t have enough freezer space and backed out.  That shouldn’t have been a problem because we had turned friends down of Fillet’s beef.  Darling Husband forgot to check with the closest friend that we had turned down so as I was dividing up the beef Darling Husband was making phone calls.  I had planned on 75 pounds of beef going into our freezer not 150 so I didn’t want to keep extra.  One friend came and picked up her 75 pounds and I delivered another 75 to a friend and we loaded an ice chest with the rest hoping for the best.  Yay it sold! 
Here is the break down on Fillet: We sold 225 pounds of grass fed Dexter beef at $5 a pound we earned $1125.  Purchase price is $500 + $533 for butchering and processing = $1033.  We came out $90 ahead and have 75 pounds in our freezer, except we fed him twice a day ($50 about month + $25 a month for fodder) , wormed him every 6 months kept him in water, fixed the holes in the fence he caused, hired someone to feed him when we were gone.  So I paid a little over $1000 or $13 a pound for my 75 pounds.  

Once again I am not being a successful farmer dollar wise. 

Fillet last month - he is furthest from the truck.

BUT the rewards of knowing we are eating healthy beef who lived a pretty happy life are priceless. 
Teaching my children the lessons and values we are learning by raising our own beef – also priceless. 
Hopefully as we continue our adventure we will have fenced our last pasture, be able to grow more fodder, possibly increase our cost per pound, and have a better system.  We are planning to butcher Minion in the spring he should be much bigger than Fillet was.

We had a chuck steak that we were eager to eat and so I only marinated it for about 45 minutes and it was the best steak I have ever eaten!  

Stick boy was full of questions for the butcher.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Dogs

Luca has been with us 2 weeks now.  We are enjoying him so much.  I am amazed at how much calmer Luca is than any dog we have ever owned, even as a puppy Luca has a calm peaceful presence.  Dakota is always trying to get Luca to run and play.  Dakota really wants to play ball with Luca – Luca isn’t interested.  Very rarely Luca will want to play when Dakota is tired so Luca will grab a tennis ball and run past Dakota.  
Game On!  Dakota cannot resist the chase. 

Luca has taken over Dakota’s bed and will sometimes take both of Dakota’s bones, Dakota doesn’t mind.  The dogs are really enjoying each other.  We let them play for a while every day. 

Luca spends is sleeping in a crate by my bedroom, in the morning we go for a walk and take care of the rest of the animals.  Then Luca is on a cable by the sheep’s enclosure.  I let 2 sheep out each morning and the rest are in the enclosure close to Luca.  Some of the sheep stay close to Luca others wander off.  When I get home in the afternoon Luca and I walk around the property, I let the rest of the sheep out, Luca and I watch the sheep for a little while, then I let Luca run free until we put the animals away for the night.  I am not trusting Luca with the birds so the poultry are being kept in their coops.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013


College Girl and I went to the airport to pick up Luca.  He had not been leash trained so we took the truck so he could stay in the crate he was shipped in.  We were so eager to meet him we arrived at the airport 1 hour early.  Then we waited.  Finally Luca was loaded into the back of the truck and we set off for the ride home. 
When we got home it took a while for Luca to want to come out of the crate so we just sat and waited.  After about 20 minutes he slowly worked his way out of the crate.  At first he just fought being on leash at all, he went into a death roll a few times trying to get the leash away from him. 
When he calmed down we introduced him to Dakota.  The funny thing is while we introducing the dogs to each other Sandstorm decided he needed to be in charge of the dogs so Sandstorm started following the dogs around and if they got too rough Sandstorm ran in and hissed at the dogs.
  It worked both dogs would jump – wouldn’t you? 

We walked and walked Luca around the property.  Brought him in the house to see how he would handle it and then put him in a crate by our bedroom and the cats for the night.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coyote Trouble

We have been having trouble with coyotes.  They got our last Red Bourbon Turkey during the day.  At 8: in the morning one was under my bedroom window going after Palm. Sheep and birds have had to be kept inside their pens unless we are going to be home and outside. 

When our first sheep were killed over a year ago I was told we should get a Great Pyrenees.  Then for every loss from coyotes I have done a little more looking into Great Pyrenees and other Livestock Guardians.  Two things held me back: I was uncertain how we would do with a Livestock Guardian Dog, and most importantly our property is not fenced.  When Tomas our Red Bourbon Turkey was taken we knew we had to do something and I began researching Livestock Guardian Dogs.  LGD are big dogs usually – I have had big dogs in the past but not giant dogs.  Many LGD’s are aggressive we have a lot of company and scouting events so dog aggression worries me a lot.  Most Livestock Guardian Dogs bark a lot, (the barks are a way of saying “I am here, don’t mess with my animals”) Darling Husband and I are not fans of barking dogs.  LGD’s often are used to covering large areas and will often roam. 
My other issue is I have always gotten shelter or abandoned dogs I have never purchased a dog.  The last time I had a puppy I was 8 or 10.  Getting a young livestock guardian dog or puppy is usually best so  you can train the dog to accept your animals, family, and property.  Many people buy and breed these large dogs for aggression and fighting instead of encouraging the Livestock Guarding characteristics then try to pass the dog off as a Guardian.  I am open to the idea of rescuing a Livestock Guardian Dog but I really need a dog I can count on to keep my animals safe and accept our company. 

I started talking to breeders about different breeds, continued my internet searches and finally decided on a Maremma.  Luckily one other members of a Facebook Group that I go to had a 6 month old Maremma for sale.  He had already been guarding alpaca’s, used to cats and chickens, and seemed perfect for us.  We got to work finishing fencing the property and waited Luca’s arrival.   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Well

We have 2 wells on the property.  One has been broken for a couple years.  It is an expense fix, we haven’t wanted to deal with.  This summer our big well quit working.  We need this well.  Our rental house gets all it’s water from the well and we use it to fill the pond.  We called out a local well repair company to fix it.  We discovered that the electric problems we have been having at our tenants house.  We want to continue improving the property so Darling Husband decided we should buy a bigger pump.  They were very busy and the pump we needed was in another state so bought 500 feet of hoses, we attached a hose to city water and ran the hose up to the water tank at the top of the property.  For 2 ½ weeks we gave our tenant water this way. 
The day the pump was repaired was the hottest weekend of the year, our pond was dangerously low.   Even with the aeration putting air in the water we were worried about having the fish die off.  
We started pumping water into the pond and ran the pump for 30 hours straight – we pumped the well dry.  We had never had problems with the well going dry before!  We contacted the well company and they informed us because of the long drought we have been in the water table is very low and a lot of people are burning up their well pumps by pumping their wells dry. 
Our poor tenants had been having water and electric problems for 2 months and now after spending all this money we did not have a secure water supply for the tenants.  So we decided to hook up our tenants to city water.  Our water bill has gone up we are using the well to fill up the pond about 20 hours a week a few times we have pumped the well dry but it is filled up again
a few days later.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Problems with Birds

We love having the birds roam the property during the day.  When I picture free ranging birds I picture the chickens and turkeys playing in the trees, going through the bushes, grabbing bugs out of the leaves that have fallen under the trees, I never imagined they would choose to spend time in my husband’s shop.  One problem with this we never know where they will lay their eggs, again I thought the birds would make beautiful nests.  We are getting about 2 eggs a day from our 4 chickens in the coop. 
Sometimes, we find a new nesting spot
The turkeys making sure the car gets cleaned properly.

We do not like the new turkeys we bought.  Shrew who I thought would calm down attacks all the other birds.  One afternoon we found Lolita hiding under a tree with all the feathers on her back pulled out.  She had huge holes under her wings, we thought she may have gotten attacked by a coyote.  When we put the turkeys in the pen Shrew went after Lolita.  So we put Lolita in a separate cage thinking she would spend time in the laundry room but as soon as she was away from the other birds she cried like we were torturing her.  Soon she healed enough to let her out.  One morning a few days after I was letting all the turkeys free range again I walked outside to a huge fight going on between Lolita and Shrew.  We put Lolita back into small cage and Shrew started attacking all the other birds.  Right now Shrew is being kept in a cage separate from the other birds hopefully soon she will be ready for Camp Freezer.  Lolita has healed but she will often lay next to Shrew’s cage and let Shrew pull her feathers out.
Palm likes to supervise the guys working

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The County Fair

We went to the fair with Teen Son’s FFA.  We all met in a parking lot at 8:30 and moved our trailer to our sight at the horses stables at the fair grounds at 9:30.  By 10: we were set up and ready for Darling Husband and Teen Son to go home.  The youngest 2 and I spent the night at the fairgrounds.  The next morning Teen Son was up at 5:am to help load animals onto the stock trailer to bring them to the fair and was back at the fair grounds at 7:am with all the FFA animals. 
Notice Teen Son, in the blue jacket standing calmly while all the other kids are stressing with their animals.

The day of Market Judging (judging to see if we had an animal that was market worthy and eligible for auction) arrived. We thought we had Penelope perfectly trained.  I sat in the stands to and watched Teen Son and his sheep enjoying each other and posing in the proper positions for judging.  I was so proud so many of the sheep were jumping and stressed out, Penelope just stood there calmly as Teen Son scratched her. 

 Then the judge said Penelope had too much "that needed to be trimmed off" – meaning she is fat.  FAT!!!  As soon as they left the ring a FFA parent and grandparent came up to me and asked me if Teen Son had been given lessons on how to show his sheep.   I said no just how to position her.  It turns out you want an animal that is tense when the judge touches it so the judge can feel her muscles.  It isn’t about just standing and posing your animal.  We also decided that Penelope needed to be sheared again Poor Girl!  The next time the judge saw Teen Son and Penelope in the show ring the Judge told Teen Son he had made great improvements and Penelope should have done much better in the Market Judging. 

The kids with animals at the fair are up at 6:am to clean the pen, clean the animal, feed the animal, and make sure every thing is ok.  Then they get to come back to our camping area and have breakfast.  While the fair is open groups of kids are in charge of keeping the animal’s area clean.  The kids who are showing cattle wash and blow dry their steer or heifer’s coat making it nice and fluffy every day.  All the animals need some exercise every day.  Since Teen Son had heard that Penelope was fat he ran her every night, and practiced with her every day.  The animals are fed again in the early evening, we would have a meeting at 9:pm, then they would check on the animals one last time before bed. 

We sold Penelope at auction and bought ½ a pig, Black Ops, at the fair.  We picked him up at the butcher 2 weeks after the fair and he is delicious. 

We had an amazing time getting to know a lot of the other FFA families.  It was very nice having a trailer at the fair.  We could go and walk around then when we were tired we would go to the trailer for a snack and nap, but 10 Days is a long time to be at the fair.  Next year Teen Son is hoping to do a lamb and a turkey.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Not for the Squeamish!

We had a bull calf born Easter Morning.  The problem with bull calf’s is if you do not want a bull you need to castrate it.  There are lots of reasons not to want a bull; their meat is supposed to be tougher, bulls are more aggressive than steers or cows, and if you do not want to pass on your bull calf’s genes he better get fixed.  The time frame to castrate calves is up to 6 months old, or beyond.  Information we find varies.  We have been procrastinating doing his.  Everytime I mention Egg’s needing to be castrated Darling Husband changes the subject.  My son had a friend who had offered to help but again procrastination has been how we have spent our summer. 

I decided I would try to catch Egg and take care of him me and the kids.  Egg doesn’t let us get close to him so I figured it would take a few days to catch him.  I started feeding the cattle and had the rope with me.  I threw out 2 flakes of hay and one bucket of fodder and Egg decided to eat next to me.  I dangled the rope and somehow the loop went over Eggs head and I had caught Egg!
There I am in the middle of the pasture with Egg on one end of the rope and me holding the other.  This is the closest I have been to Egg in months so I am not letting go.  The rest of the cattle are angy that I have stopped feeding them so they are circling me mooing.  None of the kids were up yet. 

 So there I stood…..


Every once in a while Egg would get mad and start running and I would try to keep up with him.  A Dexter 4 month old calf is much smaller than a full size calf so it’s probably only about 150lbs but it isn’t easy.  Try holding a large dog.  Not Easy!


The rest of the cattle were making sure I knew I had not finished feeding them. 

Finally Pre Teen Daughter arrived, she has a broken collar bone so I do not want her helping with the cattle BUT she was able to wake up her brothers.  The boys finished feeding the cattle for me then they came out to help me Teen Son herded Egg to a big branch and we tied him there.  Then I sat with Egg while Teen Son ate breakfast and made sure Egg didn’t strangle himself.  Then I went and bought the elasterator (remember I thought it would take days to catch him) and bands.
 When I came home we tried to put Egg on his side so we could castrate him using two more ropes.  As I tried to put the rope around Eggs legs he jumped over the log and he and I got tangled in the rope around his neck I ended up falling on the log with my side and Egg fell on top of me.  We called College Daughter to help us and while we were waiting for her Teen Son and I got Egg into position. 

Finally we are in position and I put the band on the elaserator and try to put it over his balls.  They are too big!  I couldn’t get the bands over them.  We let Egg go.

I am beat up, I have no skin on 5 inches of my arms.  My fingers, hip, ribs, and back are bruised, and I have nothing to show for it!  Next time it will take days for me to catch Egg.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shearing The Sheep

Our first attempt  with Deer
First attempt with Blackwell

The wool sheep needed to be sheared and Teen Son’s FFA sheep needed to be sheared. Teen Son’s FFA teacher loaned us her shearers.  We decided to start with one of the sheep that will not be shown at the county fair.  We started with Deer and the shearers did nothing to her fur, we actually pulled more off with our hands than we cut off.  So we it tried on Blackwell and it started going through but it was a long slow process.  It took 30 minutes to get one hip done. 
Teen Son contacted his teacher and she told him to wash Penelope before we tried shearing her again.  Penelope did not enjoy being washed but we got her done and then the shearers worked a little better but still very slow.  Poor Penelope got immensely board, we got tired and frustrated. We stopped torturing her when she was about 1/3 done.
 We called the feed store we normally use and they do not carry shearing supplies so we went to the other store and bought Large Animal Clippers.  A man at the store said he had just used them to shear 20 sheep so awesome! We bought them.  We were able to shear Penelope but still painfully long and not beautiful so we cleaned them and returned them.  By now poor Penelope was about ½ sheared. 
I ordered Oster ShearMaster Shearers.  $300 and a few days later as soon as UPS dropped off the shearers we sheared Penelope quickly and easily after school one evening.
Penelope finally sheared.
The other sheep checking out Penelope.

Let me take a break to talk about the process of sheep shearing.  If you look up how to shear a sheep on You Tube you will see lots of videos of people (mostly large men) flipping a sheep up on their butts and holding the sheep against the mans body with one hand and shearing the sheep with their other hand. When the sheep are flopped on their backs or buts they seem to pass out or relax.  Blackwell would lick me while we were trying to do it.  This works great if you are over 6 feet tall and strong. – I am neither!  We watched hours of the videos looking for a way that didn’t break my back.  When it came down to it, it was much easier for me to hold our sheep either on my lap or them standing and me sitting in a chair.  Maybe if we had wild sheep the flipping them around might be better. 


Saturday morning we start shearing, I held the sheep while Teen Son used the shearers.  We started with Maxwell because I caught her first and she is the most skittish so we thought we would get her done first.  Maxwell was sheared quickly and easily with our new shearers.  She had one slight cut.  We were super confident.  We grabbed Dot and she was so relaxed while we were shearing her she kept reaching for grass to eat she took a step while we were not holding her skin tight enough and took a slice out of her leg.  We called College Girl and asked her to bring home some antibiotic spray for Dot's cut. 
Blackwell before

Then we started on Blackwell and decided to have fun with her hair cut and we left the wool long around her neck like a lion’s mane.  We were able to trim Blackwell with just a few nicks.
When we finished shearing the sheep and they all were together again Penelope realized she was not the smallest sheep she was the biggest!  She spent a few hours pushing the others around and butting heads to make sure everyone knew she was a big girl. 
Blackwell after, being told by Penelope "I'm Bigger than YOU!"
Teen Son took Penelope to be weighed and his teacher felt she needed to be resheared, again, so her wool would be shorter.  Teen Son contacted the breeder we bought Penelope from and asked her to help us.  She came with a shearing stand!  It is pretty similar to a goat’s milk stand and we put Penelope on it and she gave us a lesson on shearing.  Unfortunately her shearers were not working right.  She showed us how our shearers are shaped badly and make it easy to cut the sheep.  She and Teen Son got the wool on Penelope much shorter.  We felt very successful.