The Busy Season

Oberhasli dairy goat kids playing on tires

Spring means babies and we have a beautiful crop of Oberhasli kids this year.  All but one doe has kidded and the count is four does and three bucks for the Obers and my one Alpine gave me a doe and a buck.  There’s one more Ober doe due to kid in June with cross bred babies.

Oberhasli goat kid

Elliot puts a gorgeous head on his babies.

Tunis sheep and Oberhasli dairy goats grazing on spring pasture

We continue working on fencing, but it’s a long, slow process with only Jon and our son-in-law working on it, with occasional hired help, and only having weekends to work on it.  And when it rains, like this weekend, it’s a huge setback.  Sixty-five acres is a lot of perimeter fence.  We did get a section done for the milkers and sheep to go out on.  Hopefully soon they’ll have another section done so the horses can go out.

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We’re expanding our sheep flock and will be adding a ram and four ewes in late May.  I love these sheep, so easy and low maintenance.  We’re also bringing in some new Oberhasli bloodlines with the purchase of two doe kids, one from the Buttin’ Heads line and another from Haycreek Oberhasli.

 

The garden is very small this year but we’ve been eating some lettuce, radishes, kale, arugula and spinach so far.  We’ve planted raspberries, asparagus, fruit trees, blueberries and strawberries.

 

It’s a herculean task starting a farm from scratch basically, but we’re making progress.

A Warm Week

Cats soaking up sun in a barn aisle

Yesterday we had a bit of sunshine with our 70 degree temperatures.  The cats soaked it up while waiting for their breakfast.

Tunis sheep and Oberhasli goats lying in a field in the sunshine.

So did the sheep and goat kids.  It has been unusually warm this week and record highs have been set.  It makes me wonder if we’ll get a really cold blast in February or March when goat babies are being born and the garden is going in, when we don’t need winter to finally make an appearance.

Horse with head hanging over stall door.

Today we are still warm but rain, rain and more rain the rest of the week.

Oberhasli goat looking over a gate.

Without a doubt, the goats will not be setting foot outside during the rain.  They don’t do rain, ever.  Divas.

New Year, New Farm

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Well, not exactly.  We actually bought our new farm late last summer but haven’t done much more than get all the animals and ourselves here and get our old house ready to put on the market.  But we have many exciting things planned for 2017 and will be slowly starting to implement them.  I say slowly because until we sell our old house we will be limited in what we can do.

Our new farm is about 15 miles from where we used to live.  We upsized our acreage from 8 to 65 and downsized our house from 2300 square feet to 1800.  And we now have the most beautiful barn I could ever imagine.

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It’s made of oak with concrete floors throughout.  One side has five horse stalls, the other side has a large tool room, tack room and storage.  Upstairs there is a 1900 square foot loft.

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The house was built in 1900 with an additional wing added in 2004.  The kitchen, living room and master bedroom have the original hardwood floors.

We have so many plans for our new farm, but the priority is on building the infrastructure.  First and foremost is a perimeter fence.  There is some fencing in place, but it’s old rusty barbed wire not suitable for our animals  We’re replacing it with sheep and goat fence and then will add cross fencing to allow for rotational grazing.  The second priority is reworking one of the driveways.  It was an absolute nightmare getting our 4-horse trailer here.  The main drive is steep with hairpin turns and the other drive is narrow and all but impossible to turn onto with a trailer.  We also need water and electricity in the barn.

As we work on the infrastructure, we will be working on our livestock goals as well.

Goats

Oberhasli dairy goat

We currently have three Oberhasli and one Alpine senior does, two Oberhasli and one Alpine junior does, and an Oberhasli buck.  We will be adding some new bloodlines in 2017 from Haycreek Oberhasli and hopefully a doeling from the Buttin’ Heads line.  Our long-range goals here include building our herd to at least 10 milkers and offering a goat milk herd share.  Our short-term goals are to continue making our line of goat milk soaps and selling breeding stock.

Sheep

Tunis sheep in the snow

Our Tunis flock consists of three ewes.  We will be adding a ram and two or three more ewes this year and have lambs next spring.  Our long-term goals are to raise breeding stock, freezer lamb and wool from our sheep, plus have a little sheep milk to play with in cheesemaking.

Pigs and Chickens

Flock of heritage breed laying hens

Chickens and pigs will likely be making a reappearance on our farm this year if time allows for building additional structures for them.  We plan to raise a few heritage breed hogs for on-farm sales of freezer pork and possibly breeding stock at some point.  Some layers would be welcome but not a huge priority as we can get eggs from the nearby Amish community for the time being.

Garden

Tomato seed packets

Starting a new garden is always challenging for me.  I’m somewhat of a reluctant gardener; I find livestock much more interesting and easier to care for!  I don’t like to spend all my time weeding and I don’t enjoy being in the garden if it looks like a mess.  So, we have decided to add a few raised beds at a time and use cinder blocks for the frames.  Treated lumber leaches chemicals into the soil, cedar wood is naturally rot and insect resistant but expensive, and a raised bed without a border is out of the question for me.  Been there, done that and battled with grass and weeds relentlessly.  Cinder blocks were the best alternative for us.  We have already planted peach, pear, apple and cherry trees.  On order for planting next month are raspberries, asparagus, blueberries, strawberries, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  And then we will move on to greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc., but keep it relatively small this year.

Tunis Sheep

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In May of this year we added sheep to our farm.  From the start we knew we wanted a heritage breed sheep and in doing our research narrowed it down to Tunis, Gulf Coast Native and Romeldale.  Ultimately we chose the Tunis for its triple purpose qualities–meat, wool and milk.  Tunis do well in the heat and humidity of the South and are easy keepers, thriving in a grass-based production system.  That’s exactly what we were looking for, breeds that require very little input.  Mothers are heavy milkers, making lambs economical to raise.  And they are super laid back.  Our three girls are not very skittish but rather are quite curious.  They find the cats fascinating.

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In addition to all that, they have a really interesting history and are one of the oldest breeds of livestock developed in the US.  In the 1700s, George Washington was given a breeding pair by the Bey of Tunis as a gift.  They were crossed with other sheep and eventually the American Tunis breed was developed.  They spread throughout the South and Mid Atlantic and became the primary sheep breed of that area due to their heat tolerance and exceptionally flavored meat.  However, during the Civil War they were almost eradicated in the South by troops needing to be fed.  A dedicated breeder from South Carolina was able to hide his flock, saving the breed from extinction.

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We are starting with three lovely ewe lambs that we will plan to breed in the fall of 2017. Our goal is to raise lamb for local customers, wool for handspinners and breeding stock.