Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eggs and a Second Ride

12:40 AM
Since my ducks and geese have been busy laying eggs, I gathered up the eggs and stuck them in the incubator.  I figure, rightly or wrongly, that since I have plenty of drakes and a one to one ratio for geese, the eggs are probably fertile and okay for hatching.  (The birds have been plenty noisy, suggesting that they're busy trying to make little geese and ducks).  I also added some Barnevelder eggs and some turkey eggs to the mix.  So I have:

  1. Brinsea incubator: 4 Barnevelder eggs and 3 Easter Egger Eggs.  Of those, I believe 1 Barnevelder and 1 EE are duds.
  2. Hovabator incubator: 4 Barnevelder eggs, 7 Sweetgrass turkey eggs, 9 duck eggs and 3 goose eggs.  I'm having trouble with keeping the temperature high enough on the Hovabator, but I think it will be okay.
The day before yesterday, we loaded a ton of hay and stacked it in the barn.

Today we took a ride on the horses and went a bit longer.  I discovered that Rocket, my mount, is a big weenie.  She was terrified over a rock on the side of the road.  The dogs that were barking nearby almost set her into a panic.  Still, I insisted that we leave the area at a walk and stopped her to investigate the rock and also to show her that the area wasn't really all that scary.  (Jury is out on that).

I've learned that it takes a while for a horse to really trust you.  When we rode our mares in October, they were sullen, barn-sour critters.  Now, they still play games, but I've learned to work through the problems.  One was balking and backing up.  I have learned to double the horse or continue the backing up until the horse is tired of doing it and is ready to go forward.

It's pretty amazing the difference in behavior we've had this week.  Both our horses are looking to us for rides now, which makes it pretty cool.  They come to us and look on us with respectful eyes.  There's even some trust bring the girls down the road with the steep hill and the neighbors' dogs barking.

Tonight I am sore.  It's either because of the hay or because of the riding.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cranes, First Rides and a Surprise

11:40 PM
Several days ago, my husband came back in from his walk and told me to go outside.  Puzzled, I did and heard an odd noise, sort of like a bad version of coyote howls and yips combined with an odd "whoop, whoop." 

"What is that?"  I asked.

"Cranes--hundreds of them," he told me. 

It appears that the cranes are heading back to a region north of us known as "the Flathead."  Most of it is reservation and tribal lands, but there are also wetland preserves and Flathead lake there.  I suspect the cranes stopped by here before heading up to Nine Pipes or Flathead lake.  It looks like spring really is around the corner.

Rocket and Scarlet
Friday, we took the horses on our first ride of the season.  Nothing too long--just a chance to get us working with them again.  Now, at the risk of jinxing our good luck, let me say the horses were delighted to get going.  Most of the problems we experienced in October seemed more or less gone.  It's not that they didn't try anything, we just knew how to counter them quickly.  For example, Rocket will balk and start going backwards.  I double her around and have her continue to go backwards, but backward the way I want to go.  She took my cue and turned back around and I had no more problems.

Today, I had a pleasant surprise.  I hadn't checked the duck/goose houses for a few days and found 3 clutches of eggs-- 8 duck and 2 goose eggs in all.  I packed them all up and am getting ready to put them in an incubator.  In a month, I'll have ducklings and goslings for sale.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chickens, Goats, and General Insanity

12:51 AM
Winter has been annoying.  Part of the reason has to do with the piles of snow and ice that have turned to mud.  The horses have been kind enough to churn that up, making the corral an unholy mess.  To make matters worse, the snow has dammed up in the back, causing mud where Sid and the ducks are.  So I have a messy llama and messy ducks.  No matter how much hay or straw I put down, it ends up mud.  Lovely.

The chickens haven't quite gone on strike, but the egg output is still marginal.  I get about 2 dozen a week instead of 5-7 dozen I should get with this many hens.  You figure I have about 20 hens and they should be putting out an average of 4 to 5 eggs a week.  That's 80 to 100 eggs, which sadly, they aren't doing the math right now.  So, I'm worming the main group right now so that when they go into production, I'll have that over with and won't have to throw out the eggs when they ramp up.

Belle and Heidi
My latest acquisitions are dairy goats.  These are two doelings of about 7 months old.   They're sisters.  We got them from a friend who had goats.  These silly little girls are called LaMancha goats.  They're a type of Spanish Alpine goat that came to the US by way of Mexico.  We named the black one Belle and the Wheaten one Heidi.  When they're old enough we'll breed them for milk and kids to either sell or butcher.

It's amazing how personable these little girls are.  They're friendly and sweet -- Belle gives me kisses all the time. 

Scarlet watching the goats
When we got them, the horses freaked out.  Now, Scarlet the mare has fallen in love with them.  She loves watching them and they seem to have a calming influence on her.

I'm glad because I'd love to have the goats in the horses' pen so that they can get exercise and socialize with them.  The barn is for the night and not a 24/7 place for the goats.

I've been reading how versatile goats are.  You can housetrain them like a dog, you can teach them to carry a pack on trails, and you can bring them to hospitals for therapy.   They provide milk, meat and kids, and are very green when compared to a cow.  One goat will produce 1 to 2 gallons of milk a day.  That's amazing!

The tough part about goats is that they're clever and escape artists.  I've put them in my barn in a pen so that they can get used to living here.  Eventually, they'll be on weed patrol, which will take care of the knapweed and other weeds without chemicals.