A donkey, a lambing barn, and pork! (Oh My!)

It’s been a busy few weeks here at the farm, and for once, I’m writing two posts in one month. Goodness!

As you might be able to guess from the title of this post, the most exciting new developments here are that we got a donkey, have started renovating a barn for our January lambing, AND (drumroll please) we’ve got pork!!

Our donkey is the last animal we expect to buy for the farm.  She’ll have the all important task of protecting our flock of sheep from any predators.  While we haven’t had any predator issues yet (knock on wood), it’s only a matter of time and having a guard animal for defenseless sheep is simply a good idea.  We chose to get a donkey rather than a guard dog, because they’re just as effective and we’re not as comfortable having a dog that has to be more socialized with our sheep than it is with humans.  We like having farm animals for the farm and dogs as companions.  We may very well get a dog to work our sheep in the future, but that one would live with us, not with the sheep.   Our donkey is also one of the most creative wedding presents we’ve received!  We got her from friends who have a donkey they breed.  Our little Donkey Hotey is our friends’ donkey’s baby. And man, is she CUTE!! (despite having a little briar problem) See for yourself!

Look at them ears!

Best Friends

For now, we’re keeping her close so she can get used to her new home and to us.  She’s keeping our ram company, while he waits for his next foray with his flock of ladies, and they seem to be fast friends. They rarely leave one another’s side!
We separated our ram from the flock a few weeks ago, and our ewes are about 6 weeks from giving birth to our next round of lambs!  A winter lambing means that we need to have a good plan for the little ones, so Graham’s been working on rehabing the barn above our garden.  The field around the barn will be split in half, with one half for pregnant ewes and the other for the ones that have given birth and their lambs.

Right after giving birth, moms and babies will move into jugs to make sure momma knows what to do with the little one and is okay with having it around!

First part of construction. Knock down half a wall. Wendy tends to forget about those important “before” pictures, but the wall on the right used to be six feet high like the one in the back on the right.

This is that last wall after Graham’s cut it off.

And then he stabilized it. Notice how much help Wendy is… taking pictures while Graham works!

Completed “jugs”, where mommas and babies bond. Note: Wendy did help here, and got very comfortable with a grinder, cutting all the hog panel!

After a day or two in a jug, the ewe and lamb move out to socialize with other new mothers and their lambs in a mixing pen, and after a few days, they’ll go out to the ewe/lamb pair field, where the lambs will also have access to a creep feeder, made just for them so they grow big and strong despite the cold!  We still have a couple large sliding doors to make and the fencing to complete, but as you can see from the photos, we’re well on our way to a lambing barn!  I did learn one thing: Building things with hog panel is a LOT cheaper and faster than using wood panels. Graham and I did all of this, besides the creep feeder, in a day.

The mixing pen

Where the ewes will eat a bit of grain to keep them strong and fit through the stressful lambing time.

The lambs’ creep feeder (notice the lamb sized holes in the wall that their moms can’t fit through.

On a completely different note, we also have our first pork!!  And in related news, we’ll be selling it at ASAP’s new Asheville City Winter Market, in the lobby of the Haywood Park Hotel downtown, so you’ll get to try both our pork AND our lamb (and we’ll still have chicken, eggs, and rabbit available) starting in January! The event we’ve all been waiting for (or at least what I’ve been waiting for!).  Our first pork is, however, a mixed blessing.  While we’re excited to have product, it isn’t from one of our first piglets; it’s from one of our sows.  I think I wrote about the fact that our second round of piglets was dismal. One of our sows had a nice litter of 8, but the other dropped hers early, and none of the five she had survived.  We gave her another chance, only because we didn’t have any replacement gilts (young female pig) at breeding age, but she miscarried her second litter a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, when you’re raising animals for meat, a sow that doesn’t produce becomes only good for sausage. So, that’s what we’ve got!  We sold our first pork shoulder and some fatback to Red Stag Grille to make their own sausages and charcuterie, and the rest of the pork is all wrapped up in sausage.  Breakfast, Italian, and Brats galore. It’ll be waiting for you in January! A small note on our sausage links… they look a little funny, as you can see in the picture below. They’re straight, and aren’t tied up on the ends, which is a little frustrating in that the casing doesn’t hold up as well to the heat of a pan, BUT they taste delicious AND no other sausage will ever fit quite as perfectly inside a sausage or hot dog bun!

Bratwurst!

We plan to work with our processor and see if there’s a better casing alternative that they can provide, but for the time being, trust us on this: Our sausages might look a little funny, but they certainly taste delightful!

For fear of being too long winded, I’ll leave it at that.  Thanks to everyone for your support through our first year.  We’re lucky to have such wonderful customers, family, and friends! When you’re done reading this post, go to our products and markets pages to check out our pork and lamb pricing and our winter markets and customers!

I almost forgot! We have a termite question, unfortunately. If anyone out there knows the answer, please help! We need to treat termites, but I’ve read that the product that’s been suggested to us, Termidor, with Fipronil, is highly toxic to bees.  So, here’s the question: Is it toxic to bees if you treat the termites by trenching around the structure and injecting Fipronil in that trench?  Is there a less toxic way to treat termites? Is borate an effective treatment?  We have some serious damage to one of our small structures, so the sooner we get an answer from someone, the better!

Looks reasonably in shape…

Until you look more closely. Argh! Termites!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Graham and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  We look forward to nurturing those blessings in the years to come!

One thought on “A donkey, a lambing barn, and pork! (Oh My!)

  1. Happy Thanksgiving. Love reading all about the farm and animals. Would like to have a 4×6 copy of the wedding pic of you both taken by your photographer. that would complete my gallery of family until Peter makes the big step. Let me know. Barbara B

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