Blowout

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Just when egg production started picking back up, I lost another hen to blowout.  A blowout, or prolapsed vent, is when the cloaca (vent) turns inside out and falls outside the body.  The first time I had heard of this was last fall when it happened to another of my hens.  I noticed blood drops on the coop floor and traced them to a hen sitting in a corner.  I picked her up and was shocked to see a large bloody mass coming from her bottom.  It was obvious the others had already been pecking at her, so we isolated her and did a quick Google search to figure out the problem, which led us to “blowout.”  Evidently it can be treated by warm soaks, slathering the prolapse with honey and pushing it back in, which may need to be done repeatedly for several days.  The chicken also needs to be isolated until she heals and will be out of production for weeks to months.  Quite frankly, I don’t have time for this.  I know some will disagree, but that’s okay, everyone needs to do what’s best for their situation.  My chickens are not pets.  I like them very much and take excellent care of them, but they have a job to do and if they can’t do it anymore they need to be culled, and that is what we did with both of these hens.  The likelihood of recurrence of a prolapse is very high, which just reiterates the need for culling.  I am curious about why this has happened twice now, as my hens don’t have any of the risk factors for prolapse, which include starting to lay at too young an age, unusually large eggs, overweight, lack of calcium and lack of exercise.  And they are Delawares, a heritage breed which should be quite hardy.  Anybody else have problems with this?

Pregnant?

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By the looks of their rapidly expanding bellies, I’m pretty confident the girls are pregnant.  I never know for sure because we pen breed with a leased buck and I have yet to see the actual act, and I don’t ultrasound them either.  Based on the signs I observed while the buck was here, I am thinking they’ll be due March 5, 6 and 7.  My fourth doe was bred later and will be due in mid May.  I’m anxious to have goat milk again!  Getting these pictures was quite challenging as my yearling doe, Basil, was all over me, chewing the camera strap, jumping on my back when I kneeled down, and just generally being a pest.  Perhaps when she has her kids in May she’ll grow up.

Kelp for Goats

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One of my favorite goat resource books is Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby, and this is where I learned of the incredible benefits to be had by feeding kelp to my goats.  Kelp contains over 60 minerals and elements including iodine, selenium, 21 amino acids and 12 vitamins, and feeding kelp helps make up for what is lacking in pastures and commercial mineral mixes.  The iodine in kelp improves feed utilization by regulating metabolism, leading to improved milk production and weight gain, along with higher butterfat levels.  Dairy goats fed kelp have reduced breeding problems, reduced white muscle disease, reduced incidence of mastitis and milk fever.  Kelp also noticeably improves their hair coat.  It should be fed free choice, as goats seem to know what they need and when they need it.  I’ve noticed mine eat more kelp in the winter than they do in the summer.  My local co-op doesn’t carry it but they order it for me when I need it.  A 50 pound bag costs about $50 and lasts my 4 goats anywhere from several weeks to several months.

Mud Bath

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Do you like her new look?  Oh, the joys of having a gray horse.  We’ve been having days and days of rain and everywhere is a sea of mud.  I’m keeping them off the pasture as we’re trying to let the rye grass grow, so the horses get turned out in a small sacrifice lot for a few hours a day which they have churned into a 4 inch deep mud lot.  We’ve had record highs, in the 70s, and I’m sure they’re very uncomfortable with their full winter coats, and so they roll.  Tomorrow we will be brushing, brushing, brushing.  Four horses, four coats of mud, just so they can go out and do it again.

Spring Fever

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This time of year I start getting anxious to get out in the garden.  The seed catalogs arrive in the mail with their tempting array of vegetables and herbs, making choices of what to grow very difficult.  My initial list of what I want to grow always has to be pared down several times until I get to a realistic amount of what I actually have space to grow.  I won’t list all varieties, but here’s what I’m growing this year.  They’re mostly heirloom varieties.

Snow Peas

Beans–Rattlesnake, Christmas Lima, Jacob’s Cattle, Provider

Cantelope–Charentais, Golden Jenny

Eggplant

Kale

Cucumbers

Corn–Golden Bantam

Popcorn

Peppers–Ashe County Pimento, Cayenne, Anaheim, Marconi, California Wonder, Jalapeno, Aji Dulce

Tomatillo

Tomato–Brandywine, Green Zebra, Sungold, Cherokee Purple, Roma, Amish Paste

Zucchini

Winter and Summer Squash

Watermelon

Lettuce–Bronze Arrow, Paris Island Cos, Rouge D’Hiver, Devils Tongue

Onion

Leeks

Spinach

Beets

Radish

Chard

Cabbage-Savoy

Carrots–Danvers

In order to fit all this in and hopefully be able to sell some at a farmer’s market, we had to expand our garden.  This project got underway last weekend.  We’re trying a double dig system we read about in the book How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons.  First we scraped off the top layer of grass and soil with the tractor and landscape box and added some compost, courtesy of our horses.

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Next, we started our double-dug trenches by shoveling out a foot of dirt, then loosening another foot down with the garden fork and mixing in some compost.

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When you start on the next trench, you put that dirt in the previously dug trench.  The book and Youtube videos made it seem very easy, but they were not digging in wet Tennessee clay.  It was backbreaking work and we only got about halfway done with one bed.

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We can only work on it on weekends as my husband works full time, so this could be a pretty long, drawn-out project.  But, it will get done eventually.

Silver Moon Farm in 2013

The new year will see our farm continue to expand and become more efficient, starting with a major fencing project already underway.  We have 8 acres which is partially fenced, the majority of it for the horses.  The goats have a small fenced area but for all practical purposes are raised in a dry lot situation.  Not very efficient.  Our horse fence is 4 strands of electric rope which has been in place for 8 years now and is beginning to deteriorate.

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We’ve taken the rope down…

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and are replacing it with sheep and goat fence along with 2 strands of hot wire.  The idea is to be able to rotate the goats and horses, as the goats will eat what the horses don’t, thus providing natural weed control, and giving the goat area a rest while they’re on the horse pasture will decrease the parasite load in their area (fortunately we’ve not had a big parasite problem yet, but keeping goats in a small area, especially in the South, is just asking for trouble).  We will also fence in our woods for the goats to clean out the poison ivy and other weeds.  The more they can browse, the more I save on my feed bill and the happier they are.  WIN/WIN!!

Other goals:

  • Raise our own pork, preferably a heritage breed.  I like Hereford hogs especially, but finding them could be an issue.
  • Expand the garden with an eye toward market gardening.  Ideally we will use the pigs to help dig the new garden areas.
  • Expand the layer flock with intent to sell eggs along with goat milk soap and vegetables at our local Farmer’s Market.

And….I WANT SHEEP!!  I have dreams of raising my own sheep for meat and wool, learning to spin and knit.  But, that isn’t high enough on our priority list to fit into this year.  With 2 kids in college and one getting married this year, I still have to work my part-time job and can only take on so many more farm projects.  Someday though, SOMEDAY!