Saturday, July 31, 2010

Current events: End of July

I can't believe it is almost August. And I will be 49 next week! I don't feel 49, that's for sure. At least not in my spirit.
This was an interesting week. Gabby, the donkey, went ballistic and attacked Zinnia, the sheep. I didn't see it, but Greg did. He came into the house all upset. He was out there working on his chicken pen when he saw Gabby biting Zinnia. He had her on the ground and had a mouthful of her wool in the rump area. He was also stomping her with his front feet. The other sheep were all cowering against the fence, except for Solomon who was hunched down in the tall grass. Greg tried calling Gabby, but he didn't listen. He finally got him off of her by yelling at him and chasing him away. He said it was pretty horrifying to see and, if he'd have had a gun with him, he would have shot Gabby. He was convinced we needed to get rid of him.
I got him calmed down and we decided to keep Gabby away from the sheep for awhile. I told him that normally docile animals don't act like that unless there is something wrong, and, unfortunately they can't tell us what is wrong. So, Gabby is now in solitary confinement, at least until we figure out what his issue is. He is braying a lot more than usual, but other than that, he seems fine.
The sheep were giving him a wide berth for the next day or so, not even getting close to the fence that he was on the other side of. I checked out Zinnia and she seemed fine. Now they are walking along the fence with no apparent fear, and everyone seems back to normal.
I learned today that it is "rutting season" for donkeys and even geldings are affected by it. My uncle said his two geldings also attacked his goats, so he had to isolate them as well. I am glad we won't have to get rid of Gabby.
I re-did the sheep's bedding area yesterday. I cleaned it up real good, down to the dirt. Next I put limestone down, then I filled in some ruts and low spots with sand. On top of that I spread wood chips. They really seem to like it. This morning my body feels every bit of 49 years old, though! Ha-ha!
Today Greg went out and found some wild blackberries growing on the property. We were wondering if we had any. I guess I will be making some more pies! I hope I'll have enough to freeze some, as well as make some jam.

Catching up: Solomon and his 4 wives!

The next addition to our farm were, FINALLY, the Icelandic sheep.
We had been to west Arkansas to visit them on their farm and to get a quick lesson on how to handle them. We were only planning to get three (a ram and 2 ewes) and they had been pre-selected via email. It was our plan to get the three, have them breed in the fall, and then add two more pregnant ewes in the spring. But Greg thought maybe we should get 3 ewes, so Marilyn had selected two nice ones for us to chose from.We spent a couple of hours studying her operation and asking questions (I had a notebook with a couple of pages of questions...and jotted notes almost continuoulsy throughout the visit). I payed for the three I had selected and told her I would get back to her about the rest.
On our way home we discussed getting both of the ones she had shown us, and then not getting two pregnant ones in the spring. We were going to pay her to deliver them, so this would save us a second delivery fee (still no stock trailer here yet), plus, pregnant ewes would cost more, so we would save the money by buying non-pregnant ewes and then letting Solomon take care of that for free!
It was decided, so I sent her a check for the other two and waited for them to be delivered.
They arrived on Monday, June 14th. Marilyn had a look around our place, determined we had a good set-up, and then we unloaded the sheep into the barn. She brought some hay from home, plus some of her own mineral mix.
Over the next couple of days, we weaned them off their minerals onto ours, off their hay onto ours, and then started introducing them to our pastures. They did great. They got aquainted with the donkey (he chased them just a bit at first, but then he settled down), and they did fine together.
When Greg had first seen the sheep, he didn't like them at all. He thought they were ugly, even evil-looking, and he didn't like their horns. But as soon as they arrived, he would just watch them...and the very first day they were here, he said he thought they were kind-of cool. Then, after a couple more days, he said they were really growing on him and he actually thought they were kind-of pretty. Now he talks about growing our flock, buying more ewes, having several different flocks...he's so funny! I knew he'd love them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Current events: More chickens and drenching sheep

This week we added 3 Americauna hens and 3 French hens, called Marans.The Marans lay a dark chocolate-brown egg and the Americaunas lay green eggs. The lady also threw in a free Bantam rooster and a dozen eggs! They are laying for us slowly and I think this heat has a lot to do with their lack of production. We have had a couple of brown eggs and three green ones, as well as a few banties in the last couple of days. Not too bad, but hopefully they will do better when the temps drop a bit.
We also had to drench the sheep. Wow! That was an experience! Last week we had tried to check their eyes and were only able to look at two. Both were very pale, so we figured they all needed to be treated. I wrote the previous owner and asked her advice on what to use and how much.
Then, off to the farm store to find the worm meds and buy big syringes to dose them up. We figured out our system (since the last time didn't go so well) of getting them into the chute where we could work with them. We did a couple of trial runs (sans sheep), and thought we had it all worked out.
The next morning we went out at 6 AM, got all ready, keeping the sheep waiting to be let out into the pasture to graze for the day while we did. Then we started trying to get them into the chute, one at a time. Greg held them by the horns while I got the meds into their mouths. They actually, once caught and held, took the meds very well. It seemed like, once they were focused on what was being put into their mouths, they forgot about fighting being held by the horns! And they swallowed the stuff right spitting it out. Away they would go, when let out of the chute, licking and smacking their lips! Unfortunately, we were only able to drench three of the five as two of them slipped through our fingers and got out the exit door before we could get it closed.
We decided to wait until their afternoon rest to try to get the other two. In the afternoon we went back out to try again with Cocoa and Zuma. Zuma was actually quite easy. But Cocoa slipped out the space between the boards at the bottom of the chute! Fortunately she was still inside the pen, so we blocked that gap, got her back in and got 'er done!
We figured out where our weak spots were and a few things not to do the next time!
It really did make me feel like now I am a REAL shepherdess! The next time is gonna be so much easier! At least next time we will have half an idea what we are doing! I think the sheep will be happier about it, too!

Catching up: Gabby

Right after we got Skipper, we started looking for a donkey to act as a guardian for the sheep we were soon to get. Greg found one on Craig's list that sounded perfect for us. I called about him and the lady and I chatted for quite some time. She seemed very excited to have her donkey come to a farm like ours. I told her I would talk to Greg and get back to her. Well, he thought she wanted too much for him, so I called and told her, and that was that. I told Greg he needed to find me another donkey!
A few days later, the phone rang and the lady with the donkey was on the other end of the line. She said she REALLY believed our farm was the right place for her donkey. She wondered what we would pay for him. I talked to Greg and we made her an offer, which she accepted. We made arrangements over the next few days and several conversations to pick Gabby up.
On June 9th, my friend, Kristin, and I took off for Kansas (just outside St. Joseph, MO) in her pick-up truck with the livestock rails in place. We arrived there around 9 in the morning and started the process of getting Gabby loaded onto the truck. Well, he wasn't having any of it! He had never loaded on a ramp before, and he had no intention of doing it that day either! We tried bribery, we tried pulling, we tried pushing, we tried pulling and pushing...nothing! We would get him half way up the ramp, then he would jump off the side. We even got him half-way into the truck and he backed out before he could be tied in.
I say "we", but I mostly stood off to the side and let the owner and my horse-expert friend, Kristin, do all the work. I would run for bits of hay, or try to stand to the side and keep him from jumping off, but they were the ones actually handling the donkey. Kristin had the best luck of any of us, getting him in there. I really think, left to her own devices, she could have got him in there quicker. But, as it was, it took aver two hous to get him loaded...we did FINALLY get him loaded. And boy was he mad!
But, once we got moving, he settled right down and was fine. We even stopped at McDonalds for a little lunch on the way home. We sure got a lot of interested looks!
When we got home, Greg helped Kristin un-load him. He came off the truck a whole lot easier than he went on!
Gabby is just the sweetest donkey ever. He is 5 years old, broke to ride, and we just love him. He had a bit of experience around goats when he was younger, but it had been a long time. At first he wanted to chase the sheep a bit, but now he is pretty good with them. They don't pay him much mind, but he doesn't like to be separated from them. And don't dare give them a treat without giving him one! He will let you know.
When new people come to see him, he gives them a big old smile, and shows them all his teeth! It is so funny to watch. It's the only time he does it. And, once he has met you, he never does it again.
His bray is not overly loud, but he will really carry on if Greg doesn't get outside in the morning quick enough!
Our little granddaughter, Abbygail, is the only one so far to get to sit on him. I can't wait for the older grandkids to get to ride him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Current events

Well, it took me awhile to get that last entry posted. I wanted to add a video to it and couldn't figure out where it was! I finally found it, now I can move on!
Last week our youngest son, Joshua, came for a visit with his wife, Monica, and their baby girl Abbygail. Thay also brought the news that they are expecting baby number two in January! With the one that is coming in November (Mitchell and Charlene), this will make grandchild number 13! I expect to hear, before too long, that James and Jessica are expecting as well! Our family just keeps on growing.
Last week we also aquired some new critters on the farm. First, we bought 6 Guinea keets at the local farm store. We had seen them the week before and spent some time considering whether or not to go ahead and get them. The next time we went into town we bought them. Guineas are not the prettiest birds when they are grown, but the keets sure are cute. We bought a little feeder but forgot to get something for water. In searching around the house for something appropriate, I came across some old plastic ice cube trays we weren't using. They were perfect!
The next day, Greg and Josh took a father/son trip up to the big, new Bass Pro Shop in Des Moines, and on the way home, stopped to pick up some year-old Bantam layers just outside of Indianola. He had seen them on Craig's list and called about them. They are the prettiest little birds and lay the cutest little eggs!
Years ago, I had made a little mini egg basket and it is just perfect for those little mini eggs!
It has taken almost a week, but we finally have our first dozen eggs! Omlets for supper!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Catching up: Skipper

The next animal to join our little farm was an 11-yr.-old, Buckskin, Quarterhorse mare named Skipper. She was the horse of my dreams. When I was a young girl, I rode my cousin's Buckskin Quarterhorse mare and she was the best horse I ever rode, and the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. I planned from that time on that someday I would have one just like her. I didn't set out to get my dream horse right away. I planned to take some time to get "back in the saddle", take a few lessons, and find a nice, calm, older, calm, gentle, calm, mare to ride until I was a little more experienced, once again. Did I mention that she needed to be calm? Then, later on down the road, I would look for my dream horse. You see, I grew up riding. I had my first pony (a pinto named Tina) before I could walk. We had horses around off-and-on for much of my growing up years. When we didn't have our own horses, I rode friends' and relatives' horses. But I left home at 17 and have only, briefly, been on a horse twice in the last 30 plus years. Not only that, but I never really handled or took care of the horses. As I mentioned earlier, my dad did all of that. I just got on them and rode them! I didn't even seek out this horse. The girl who was giving me lessons knew about this horse and thought she would be a good horse for me. Well, I had some doubt about whether or not I was ready, but decided to take a look. I loved her the moment I saw her. And, when I rode her, I knew she had to be mine! I went and rode her several times before the final decision was made and, on the 4th of June, Skipper was delivered to our farm. The gal who owned her brought her over (we don't have a trailer yet), and she brought along another horse so we could go out riding. We rode out over the near pasture on the west side of the house, across the creek and all the way arount the far pasture and back. It was GREAT! After that it rained and rained for days on end. Even when it wasn't raining the ground was so mucky I couldn't ride. Finally I decided to ride a bit in the paddock just outside the barn where we had her grazing. That went well. More rain. The next time it was clear and dry enough to ride, I got her saddled, took her out into the yard and got on her. This time she threw her head around and did not want to go where I wanted to go at all. After a few minutes of this, I got off and put her up. I called her previous owner, who said she be out to check the day after next. So, she came out and Skipper acted up for her too. She tried and tried to work with her, but couldn't figure out what the issue was. She left and came back a few days later with a horse expert friend. Turns out the bit and reins on the bridle the girl had sold me were causing the problem. We got that changed out, and then she seemed fine again. The expert gave me a few pointers and everything seemed fine. A few days later I rode again. At first, she didn't want to let me on, but I eventually got on her. I took her out on the near pasture and we rode a little while. She kept wanting to come back to the barn, but I didn't let her have her way. Even when we came back to the barn, I didn't let her go in right away, I rode her around in the yard a bit. Everything seemed fine. A few days later, the ex-owner, the expert, and her daughter and grandson came out with their horses so we could all go riding together. We decided, since the expert's horse and Skipper didn't have shoes, we should ride in the pastures (even though they are extremely over-grown right now) rather than on the gravel road. Skipper did not want to let me on, again, but the ex-owner held her while I mounted, and I took the lead into the pasture. Skipper immediately stopped to eat grass! I saw we were not on the path and there was a big, dead branch just ahead of us, so I tried to get her over onto the path. I don't know if the branch poked her, she stumbled, or what, but the next thing I knew, I was hitting the ground...HARD! Skipper had jumped, bucked and run sideways, all at the same time. I was dazed for a moment and my lower-back/rear-end was really hurting. I was trying to figure out if I could move or not when I heard the expert say, "She's not getting up." I figured I'd better let everyone know I was okay, so I started to struggle to my feet, only to realize my bladder had betrayed me when I hit the ground! How embarassing! I laugh when I am nervous or embarassed, so I made a joke about having to go change and said I'd be right back! I went in the house, changed my clothes, took three Ibuprofen, and headed out the door, much to Greg's discontent! By then, they had Skipper settled down and I got back on her. We rode over the pasture, across the creek, and into the far pasture. After we got over there, Skipper started bucking. This time, I stayed on! I jerked her reins sseveral times and she settled down again. Then we rode over the fields for a couple of hours. She was flighty the whole time, but she behaved. I haven't been on her since! She just has seemed so sad. I think she is homesick and has not adjusted well to our farm. She was born and raised on her farm and has been there for all of her 11 years of life with her pastures, her barns, and her herd. Plus, the ex-owner is much more strong-handed and commanding than I am. I can be firm, but I am a soft-touch. I think all these changes have been too much for Skipper. So, I decided to turn her out into the eastern pasture for awhile, where we have been boarding a couple of horses for the ex-farm-owner while she gets her fences up on her new place. Skipper was immediately a happier horse. I really think Skipper needs some time to adjust to our farm, and I need some time to figure out what to do. I love her, but I am not sure she is the right horse for me. The ex-owner thinks I should sell her to another friend of hers who wanted to buy her, but I am not sure I am ready to go to that extreme yet, either. She and the expert tell me I handle Skipper properly, so it is nothing I am doing wrong. But, I do not have the heart/fortitude, to constantly have to force her to mind me, and I do not have the constitution to always be worried about what she is going to do. In my defense, if she had behaved like this when I rode her at her farm, I never would have bought her. I would have realized I was not ready, mentally or physically, for such a challenging horse. But, I would hope that, over time, she will settle down and adjust a bit more, and I will get some more practice and confidence in my abilities, and, eventually, we will work things out so that she really will be my dream horse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recent farm happenings

I've come to realize that, if I only write about things that have happened in the past in my attempt to "catch up", I never will actually catch up! So, I've decided to start posting two blogs each time, one "catching up" story and one current event story. This way, eventually, I will finish with the catch up, and be able to focus just on the updates!
So, yesterday I mucked out the sheep stalls for the first time! Fortunately we only have two sheep stalls, so it wasn't that big of a deal. Besides, I generally clean up all the fresh droppings every day or two, so it keeps things pretty clean. Normally I would only clean it out completely once or twice a year, but after a month I discovered that there were a couple of trouble spots in the stalls that seemed to be holding moisture and not draining well. The straw in those spots was getting packed into the softened dirt. I got out as much of the straw from those places as I could and then layed down sand to try to build the areas up a bit and allow for better drainage.
Right now we are not bedding them down in the barn at night. Instead we are letting them stay outside the barn, under the over-hang where they like to hang out. Greg fixed up a real nice area for them there, and they seem to like being out there. That will allow the stalls to dry out really well, and we can get more straw for the winter, when we want to bed them down inside the barn again.
Greg thinks sheep poo is better than horse and donkey poo because it is a lot smaller...but it is a lot harder to clean up, I think! It's gonna make for some great garden fertilizer for next year, though! I found the best thing for cleaning it up is little hedge rake, a stand-up dust pan, and a bucket...if anybody is interested in how to clean up sheep poo!

Catching up: Milly

The next addition to our farm was Milly (Millicent Vanilla Cupcake di Cavalli), a 7-week old Old English Sheepdog pup. She was adorable and we fell head-over-heels-in-love with her right away. I knew that I wanted to raise, breed, and train sheep herding dogs. I always thought I wanted Border Collies or Australians, dabbled with the idea of Icelandic sheepdogs, but then with further research decided on OES's or "Bobs". We had had a couple of them years ago and knew that they were great dogs. I found from my research that they are soft-eyed" herding dogs...meaning they do not use intimidation-by-staring and they do not become agressive or bite when the sheep don't mind. Instead, they bump or push. They have an intimidating bark and are good watch-dogs, but will not attack. They are great with kids and make wonderful pets. Their down-fall is their hair. However, that hair makes them very hardy in rough winter conditions, and, IF you sheer them twice in summer, you do not have to deal with grooming for about half of the year! We set about looking for one to buy, but were amazed at how difficult it is to find them. Many of the people we contacted had sold all their pups already, often even before they were actually born! We were also amazed at how expensive they were! Yikes! The up-side was: if they are tht rare, and that easy to sell...high end investment, but high end profit as well. Eventually we found a lady in north east Iowa who still had three females available (only because she was just starting out and had not started selling them on-line yet). The puppies were only a few weeks old, so she sent us pictures, we chose one, sent in her our deposit, and waited. On May 11th 2010, we drove to Greg's old hometown (Burlington, Iowa), to meet the lady and pick up Milly.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Catching up: Mr. Brown

Once everything was pretty much set up, we looked around and said "What now?" Well, it's a farm, right? It seemed we needed some animals. I had started taking some riding lessons with a gal our farm's previous owner knew. She had a bunch of cats and said we could have a few. So, we went and picked up two males and two pregnant females. They were all pretty wild, and when we got them home (they were all in a pet taxi together), we took them to the horse barn, set some food out, then opened the door. They scattered to the four corners of the earth! For awhile we had a few cat-sightings, but, eventually, only one male remained...Mr. Brown (formerly known as "Fritz", which we were unaware of at the time). We eventually lured him into the open with some tuna fish, and he finally let us touch him, pet him, then hold him. He would hang out with Greg in his work-shop area and started to leave "gifts" of dead birds, mice, and a mole on the floor of the barn.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catching up

As I said, we moved to our farm on March 29th, 2010. The land was brown and wet from the melting snow and ice, and the sky was gray and over-cast. The house was filthy and the floors were incredibly muddy due to the lady we bought it from going in and out moving her stuff out. There were literally thousands of dead flies and lady bugs in all the window-wells, thresholds, and all over the floors upstairs. But there was one ray of light...we decided to walk out to the barn, just to have a look, and as we walked across the yard, the clouds parted and the sun cut through the gray and shone on us as if God was giving us His blessing! We stood and prayed together, thanking Him for our new home and asking him to guide us through this new venture. It was pretty cool!
Normally I would clean a house before I started unpacking, but that was not an option this time as we couldn't put the boxes on the ground anywhere due to the wet, muddy conditions. The house is not that big and we had almost 30 years worth of accumulation of stuff from all of our travels around the world, plus all the things I had saved from my mom's house after she passed away two years before. So, there were boxes stacked 3 or 4 high on almost every square inch of open floor-space we could find, other than the pathways we left in order to move from room to room. It was all pretty overwhelming, but I began the task of unpacking and washing and finding a place for everything and trying to clean a little spot here, and a small section there as I worked my way through emptying and clearing away the boxes. I kept telling myself, "This is the last time I will ever have to do this."
Well, eventually I had things unpacked and put away, for the most part. One day I will get upstairs and sort out all the things I have stuffed into the storage areas under the eaves! Or, as my sister likes to call it, "In the land of packed-away"!
As we began to clear things away, we started to see roaches. At first I thought they must have gotten into our boxes while they were sitting in a garage in Arkansas...but no, there were just too many. It seems we had a bit of an infestation! I have never had a roach problem, other than while we lived in Africa. But I never even saw this many roaches in my house in Africa. Bigger, yes, but not as many. I went on my search for borac acid...can't buy it off the shelf at Walmart anymore. I finally found some powder at Lowe's that had borac acid in it. I spread that around after consulting my bug expert brother. We started to see a lot of dead and dying roaches after that, and soon we saw them much less frequently.
Then came the ants! My goodness...they were everywhere! In the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the back porch...this place was starting to remind me a LOT of Africa! Back to the store for ant killer. Now we are dealing with flies. I have fly strips hanging everywhere. I must kill a couple dozen every day...and still they keep coming. Now I'm thinking Egypt and the plagues! What next?
To be continued...

The Adventure Begins.

I am the wife of Greg Larson; mother to Jessica, Adam, Mitchell, and Joshua, MIL to James, Jamie, Charlene, and Monica, and grandmother to Lydia, Noah, Sophia, Isaiah, Chloeigh, A.J., Kharleigh, Ella, Reier, Atari, and Abbygail.
I was a Russian Linguist in the Air Force, which I gave up to be a stay-at-home mom almost 28 years ago. I have studied Spanish, French, Russian, Italian, German, and Fante (a tribal language from the Central Region of the country Ghana in West Africa). I have lived in Germany (twice), Italy and Africa, and in the U.S. I have lived in: Delaware (twice), Georgia, California, Texas, Maryland, Kansas, North Dakota, Arkansas, Michigan and Missouri. I have been a short-term exchange student in Panama, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and parts of Africa.
When my husband retired from the Air Force, he pursued a degree in Bible and then we went into the mission field, first to Africa for over 4 years, then to Germany for two and a half. After almost 30 years of following him all over the globe (we have not lived anywhere for more than about 4 years since we have been married), he finally decided it was time to start chasing my dream with me!
My husband is a city boy, but I am a country girl. I grew up on a small farm in rural Delaware (also known as "lower-slower Delaware" by those who live in the big city in the northern county) and have always dreamed of getting back to the country and having a farm of my own some day.
But, I have been off the farm for so long that I have forgotten much of what I ever knew about it. We never had many animals, and what we had my dad mostly took care of. I mean, I rode the horses, helped in the chicken house (20,000 broilers), weeded the garden, helped with the canning and freezing, and helped take care of the dogs. But Dad did the bulk of it, plus took care of the pigs and cows, when we had them.
It has long been my dream to raise sheep, horses, dogs and a few chickens (for eggs and meat). We never had any sheep, but I vaguely remember having a goat when I was about three!
So, in December of 2009 we moved back to America from Germany, and began to look for a farm. We found 80 acres in north-central Missouri and moved in on March 29th of 2010. And that is where this journey begins.