hello 2012!

first egg 1/2/12

Yesterday I noticed some commotion near the duck feeder. One of the ladies was behind it, snarfling in the hay. She moved away when she saw me looking, and low and behold………she had laid an egg!!!!!!!!!

Our first egg of the new year is exhilarating. Now I am bundled up, coffeed and ready to do chores, and of course see if there are any eggs today. Just finished laying out the new Expense/Income sheets for 2012, but my stupid Excel won’t print the lines in the spreadsheet.

Andrew started an off-farm job today, one really close by that pays pretty well for this area. A big sigh of relief. I’ll wait for him to come home to fix the Spreadsheet!

fake winter & grain debate

I know global warming exists, because it is January, and yesterday it was nearly 50 degrees out. What is going on??? The nice snow load we had for insulation has melted away. I am worried about the big, hard freeze that will most definitely be on it’s way. Right? It will be an actual winter at some point?

Day length is increasing, and joyously we have light into the late afternoon now. The dark at 4pm thing is not agreeable with me! Each day we are getting one duck egg, although yesterday there was none. One day we’ll go out for chores and find a whole bunch of eggs….I can’t wait for that day! The younger ducklings are filling out slowly, almost full-sized now at 3 months. We are purposely limiting their feed amounts to prevent fat from building up around their internal organs, which could impair their egg laying in the future. Metzer Farms has got some amazing information and tips on their website about duck raising. Check it out!

We are now working with a very local feed mill to have fresh duck feed made for our ladies. Working within your community for supplies is very important as a farm. Since we make our income locally, it makes sense that we spend that money locally, as much as possible. If we preach “Buy Local,” we better be practicing what we preach, by gawd.

Speaking of money, we’re not spending much these days. When you don’t go anywhere, you generally don’t spend money. We have the basics for our own needs, but the farm still demands spending….There is a huge seed order about to be placed, and feed to purchase, but that’s about it right now. Soon we’ll be purchasing building supplies for our new duck barn, buying ducklings, electric net fencing for paddocks, and buying even more feed.

Buying grain/feed is one thing we’d love to change. There are two options- grow our own (can’t without alot of specialized machinery), or reduce the grain-eaters around here; poultry and pigs. Our ducks, by far, eat the most grain on the farm- due to the number of them we have. Each duck eats approximately 1/3rd of a pound of grain a day, as well as foraging. Turkeys and broiler chickens both eat alot of grain, as well as forage, but I can’t lie- they need a lot of grain to grow muscles. All three of these poultry types are essential on our farm, so they won’t be going anywhere.

What we are going to eliminate this year is pigs. Even though our pigs ate organic grain that was screened as not human-food grade, pigs eat ALOT of grain. Right now, in the last two days before the pigs are harvested, they will go through nearly 150 lbs of grain. In 2 days. I won’t go into how wasteful with their feed these particular pigs have been, because it gets me rather riled up. Previously we did the math and pigs gained most efficiently for the amount of grain they eat to the finishing weight of meat received when they are harvested. But it is still an astronomical 800 lbs of grain per pig, on average, to get them to about 200 lbs live weight. When you don’t have an easy way to get that amount of feed around; no skid-steer to unload pallets, that gets to be a major back breaker.

2012 will be the year of investigating grass-based livestock alternatives, and aiding our poultry to be even better foragers. Grain feeding is not evil, like I said, meat birds in particular need that protein and energy in grain to grow their muscles. But grain feeding is expensive and alot of work to distribute around the farm. Rabbits are a great potential grass based livestock, and so far we are really enjoying raising them. The two other ideas for the future of exploring grass-based livestock will be cattle and sheep. There are several deterrents to that idea right now- no fencing, no experience and we have save all our energy towards working with our ducks this season.  Not an 800 lb steer to worry about getting loose, or a flock of wild sheep being coyote candy. Not this year…

5am

This morning at 5am, the air feels soft. It’s cold, don’t get me wrong, but the edge is gone. Such a refreshing feeling, and all the animals this morning are grateful. Rabbits are always thirsty. I tip the big momma’s bowl upside down, kick out the ice chunk in there. The herd of bunny babies scrabbles all over my hand as I lower the basin to them, full of warm water. Watching rabbits lap up water is precious. All the rabbits are cared for by flashlight, filling up their hay, alfalfa pellets and more warm water. The gentleness and serenity is perfect morning energy for me.

Inside the side shed where the rabbits live, is a door to the goat part of the “barn.” Even though goats are typically late risers, I peek in there to check on our new doe, Honey. She’s monstrously pregnant, and she’s up eating. When goats are super preggo, late term, they have very little space left in their bellies for food. They eat much more frequently, and this is a healthy sign that she’s up and eating. I do a quick under-tail check for any signs of imminent labor….oh boy. Her vulva is wet. As the flashlight beams in on this very funny for 5am sight, I try to discern whether this is “birth-goo” or just wetness from peeing. My answer comes quickly, as right in my face a giant mass of goat pellets comes out. Good morning! Goats always poop after they pee. I check her udder, which is still smallish looking and decide there’s nothing to worry about for now.

A 5 gallon bucket of warm water is lugged out to the hoophouse for the ducks, and the egg collecting basket comes along too. Little Blue’s on duck-patrol-duty, and he’s barking. Good boy! Early dawn is the most likely time the predator would be sneaking around, thinking about a duck breakfast. Yesterday there were a total of 30 eggs, but we lost a couple to freezing. Lost to sales that is, as we wash and eat the cracked ones ourselves. It’s been incredible to see the number of ducks laying increasing each day. As the hours of light increase, one by one the ducks respond.

Soon, soon the grass will grow, warm spring breezes will arrive and we’ll all be frolicking outdoors more. For now I love the coziness going on at the farm.

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