They have arrived!! We had our first gilt become a sow this morning, with her first litter! Graham even had his first experience watching momma in action, since she’d had four when he went to feed her this morning, and now seems to be done with a grand total of ten piglets born (for the majority of you who have no idea about such things, ten is excellent for a first time momma). Two of the wee ones were born in bad shape, and didn’t make it, but we’ve got 8 right now, and Mom is doing an amazing job caring for them… responding to squeals, easing herself slowly down as she readjusts to feed them.
Enough chatter… here are pictures. Hands down the most exciting day on the farm yet! (Lambs were exciting too, but man, these little guys are adorable). Meet our five new boys and three new girl piglets.
June’s started off splendidly, with the perfect combination of rain, sunshine, and heat, for our new lambs to frolick in bright green pastures, our garden to pump out vegetables for market, and our chickens to eat up all the insects and flies (and ticks!) they could wish for! Amid the Spring thunderstorms and increasing heat as we ease into summertime, we’ve been busily building infrastructure, welcoming new members of our animal families, and hocking our products to chefs and customers at market!
Our last post to the website left us in the midst of lambing season. Now, we have 26 new lambs, split exactly in half with little rams and ewes. Our first lambing brought with it our first two bottle babies and our first black sheep to the farm! Both of our bottle babies were one of a set of twins. The white one in the picture below was born to a sick ewe who ended up, despite treatment for pregnancy toxemia and a retained placenta, being our first loss to illness on the farm. Our ewe didn’t form a bag and so “Micro,” as Graham’s taken to calling her, simply couldn’t feed off her momma. Her twin didn’t make it through birth, and we figured that our little 2 pound lamb probably wouldn’t make it long. Despite her shaky start, she’s now thriving, and I have to admit that I’m happy she has another rejected lamb to hang out with! Our dark brown bottle baby’s mom simply decided she had enough with one lamb and refused to entertain the idea of two babies nursing at the same time, so he joined Micro in a stall of our barn for three-times-a-day formula feedings.
Laying down, Micro was about the size of the 16 oz. bottle with which we fed her (no, she wasn’t drinking Fanta; they just make lamb nipples fit conveniently on standard bottles). The brown lamb, #205R, was in far better health and at least twice her size at birth, when she was already two weeks old. Since then, they’ve balanced out a bit, in part due to our first serious medical issue on the farm with #205, who came out of the stall at feeding time looking about as wide as he was long, round as a balloon and looking about ready to pop. Bloat is a serious concern with sheep, who can die of the issue (yes, cause of death: being gassy). He didn’t respond well to attempts to get him to burp (with the help of oil, water, and baking soda) or to intubation, so with our first case of bloat, we had to go to the last resort. Luckily, Graham had read about poking a needle with an empty syringe into the rumen instead of cutting it, which would leave a far bigger wound, so we went the needle route. I held him, Graham got the needle in the rumen, and he literally deflated like an inflatable toy with a hole poked in it. Air came out of him for a good two minutes and you could see him gradually deflate to normal size! He’s doing fine now, but his set back means that Micro isn’t quite as small in comparison as she used to be. Because everyone should have a chance to watch lambs bouncily run around, here’s a super quick video for your viewing pleasure.
I’ll keep the rest of this update short and sweet. Below is our first black sheep, unfortunately a ram, so will not remain on the farm as part of our breeding stock.
Graham built a new broiler hut and our sows’ farrowing stalls…
And our two pregnant girls moved in (we’re still waiting impatiently for the piglets that should arrive any day now!)
Two of our rabbits had great new litters, our buck’s first babies, to which he contributed the gray speckles.
We’ve got our second batch of chickens at market now, along with a whole lot of yellow squash, zucchini, Red Russian kale, rainbow chard, cucumbers, basil, and lettuce mix. We’re processing again next Monday, and we received our first restaurant order today, from Red Stag Grille at the Grand Bohemian Hotel. They’re trying a new recipe featuring our chicken for the week, starting on Wednesday, so go on and get gussied up and treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Red Stag!
We’ve also added a new well near our office apartment. We were able to live with having to get potable water for ourselves elsewhere, but when Graham was installing our shower, he had 6-year-old metal peks joints breaking off in his fingers, because the water from the hand-dug well we had was so hard.
And our biggest infrastructure project so far is underway as I write. A wedding present and farm investment from Wendy’s parents (Thanks Mom & Dad!), improving the road on our property. I’ll leave you with a video of an awesome excavator tree take down, and an after-shot of the exact same spot only a day later! Keep an eye out for a couple posts coming out… on Wednesday, I’ll be posting the first of our Meet your Meat series about our Freedom Ranger chickens, and as soon as it happens, I’ll post pictures of the piglets we’re anxiously awaiting! Also, keep an eye out for our “advertorial” in this week’s edition of the Mountain Xpress!
We’ve had a lot of moves on the farm this month. And since photos have been in demand, that’s the bulk of this post! I’ve saved the best for last, so if you’re short on time, scroll straight to the bottom to see the cutest pictures in the world.
In addition to Graham and Wendy now being settled in on the land…
Our broilers have gone from here…
To now being cozy in their moveable hut.
…and getting to scratch on a new patch of grass daily.
The layers replaced them in the brooder while eggmobile construction started…
… first by deconstructing a hay wagon deck.
Roofing and nest box construction…
A bit of wire stapling, plywood, and paint later, it was move in day!
Things got even more exciting, when in mid-March, we had our first baby farm animals arrive on the scene!
Our five young rabbits are now about a month old (I’ll take pictures earlier next time!)
And then, this weekend! Lambs! Giggling and cooing have abounded this weekend.
Our first lamb was born on Friday.
A little speckled female.
Our first ram lamb on Saturday. He’ll likely be our first lamb to market.
Ram lamb #2 was born this morning, while it was snowing (I kid you not. March was like summer, April’s been a bit wintery). He was still cold and wet when we tagged him but is now up and about and eating like a champ!
And just a few hours ago, a darling light brown ewe, with a white-tipped tail and white back feet.
It’s probably needless to say… it’s been a really fun few days! Having our first farm-born baby animals is a thrill, and we’re delighted that they’re all doing well so far.
All mothers are being protective and attentive, had no problems birthing, and the lambs are eating and walking well. Our second ram’s mother is particularly impressive and our brown female lamb is impressively strong and milks aggressively.
It might be obvious that I have my favorites. I’m hoping our female lambs will continue to impress us and stay on the farm as breeders, but I’m not going so far as naming them!
More photos and news to come. I’ll be posting much more frequently in the future, and I’ve learned to carry my camera with me at all times… we’re expecting another 21 to 42 lambs (depending on how many are carrying twins) in the next three weeks, so get ready for a deluge of cute!
While I’m home working on the website and our first marketing materials, Graham’s currently at the farm installing a shower and washing machine drain, with our buddy Jason… the final step before we can move in to our barn apartment! Well, my mother would say that the final step will be a serious cleaning, what with the broilers spending their first two weeks living in our future bedroom… but this is the last big step.
As sad as we are to be leaving our little blue house in Marshall, we’re thrilled that we’ll finally be on site! It’s nerve-wracking being 20 minutes away at night, with all that can happen in our absence: fences losing power, animals finding their way out of fencing, predators following those roaming animals around, water leaks, lightning, tornadoes. There’s a chance I worry a bit much, since none of these have actually happened; it’ll just be nice being on-site in case they ever do!
Things I’m looking forward to about the move:
– being able to walk out of my house and do chores before breakfast.
– working in my office, but being able to walk outside and take all the pictures I need, or just to go for a walk or say hi to our animals, whenever I please.
– not worrying about forgetting notebooks or cameras or files or lunch at home when I leave for the farm.
Those are the main ones. Working on office-y things this week, like accounting, website updates, brochures, this and thats, I’ve felt a bit disconnected from the farm and yearning to just be on the property. I did chores last night and loved closing up the chickens as dusk settled in and making sure everyone else was fed and watered and settling down for the night. It’s part of the lifestyle I’ve been looking forward to, and by moving to our land, that lifestyle will finally be my reality! (I’ll have to read this post again in several months when I’m bound to be tired of all the chores that need doing every day!)
Now, I’m off to go fill out an application for the electric company to install some power going up to our well, and then down to Asheville for a meeting with a potential wedding caterer! I wanted to add a little post before that.
As soon as we’re moved, you can expect a new post each week. Upcoming topics: Meet our animals – an introduction to Clementine, Celeste, Gertrude, unnamed sow and unnamed boar (guess who named the first ones), plus an intro to all the other beasts at Dry Ridge Farm; Logo Feedback – we’re getting close with our logo, and need will need your thoughts!; our Invasive Grass Prairie Burn; Eggmobile Construction and…
Many more pictures!! I hear you that we need more. I’ll be snapping away and posting plenty of pictures over the next few weeks. I hope all y’all are doing well!