Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Buns

Two weeks ago, the sweetest little additions joined our farm. Our wonderful momma rabbit, Queenie,  gave birth to her third litter of kits. She had fourteen babies this time. Of course, they can never sustain that many and so several have met their demise. I am happy to report that, at present, nine are still alive.

There is always at least one who is a runt. So much tinier than the others...barely able to fight his or her way to the front of the line when it's time to eat. Rabbits only feed their young a few times a day and are only in the nest box for a few seconds at a time. Babies have to be strong and fast! The black rabbit, as you can see, is about half the size of the grey rabbit. I hold Queenie in a funny, upright "sitting" position and let the baby nurse at least once a day, so it grows. She allows me to do this, because as I said, she is the most wonderful and loving mother. The baby then has a chance to thrive and grow as well as the others, though it will always be smaller.

My son is currently designing and building new hutches for our rabbits. This was the first hutch he ever made. On the left, where the soda bottle water bottle hangs, is Queenie's pen. You can see her nest box inside. We place the nest box inside a few days before she is due to give birth. She rips out all of the fur on her tummy, exposing her teats and  lines the box with her fur the day before or the day that she gives birth.

Off on the other side is her mate, Sergeant.

This is our pretty boy, Prince Thistledown. Have you ever seen thistle down? It is fluffy and white. He is one of Queenie's babies, from her second litter. He is the most beautiful rabbit I have ever seen. His fur is thick and so soft! He has pretty pink ears and red eyes. He is also very gentle-natured. We found a female mate just for him. She looks exactly like Queenie. When we got her, she wasn't in the best of health, so we have isolated her and are taking care of her...helping her put on weight and get strong before we let them breed. We have named her Princess Tumbleweed.

In Bloom



 Collard blooms


Wild Cherry

 Red Oak

 Wood Sorrel

 Easter Lily (Daffodil)

 Heart's Ease

 Hen Bit (Dead Nettle)

Beauty Everywhere!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hens and Eggs

What can I say? The picture speaks for itself! The hens are so happy that spring has arrived! It sure took it's time and it's not sure if it wants to stay...but for now, the girls happily buzz all over the yard, finding little bugs and digging and scratching the day away.

Everything is green! Blooms arrive on fruit trees, new grass grows frantically, leaf buds uncurl into tiny leaves, tiny flowers are everywhere. The hills are alive! Frogs croak down at the pond. Tadpoles swim in streams and baby salamander eggs float in the scum near the shore.
 proudly strutting

Eggs! The girls are so happy to have fresh food that they are laying more and more eggs. The days get longer...the eggs start popping out! We collect for several days, then we wash them all and store them away, to be used as yummy egg salad, for breakfast meals, or in cakes and pies, or however else you please. These are the best eggs I have ever eaten in my life. It's so hard to buy store-bought after seeing the gorgeous yolks in farm fresh eggs.

freshly washed

Can you guess which are farm fresh? I bet you can! Their rich, dark yolks give them away. These are winter eggs, too! In the spring and summer months, the yolks are even darker! Just another reason to raise your own hens and have fresh eggs....they are so much healthier for you!

Spring has finally arrived...

and with it, come the babies!

The sounds of cheep-cheep fill the air! Another batch of freshly hatched baby chicks now reside on Happiness Hill. They don't know it yet, but they will have such a happy and good life here. The animals of our farm are dearly loved, petted and doted on daily. They get good pasture for grazing and plenty of room to run around. There are ten fluffy balls of cuteness in all, five of which are Buff Orpingtons and five of which are White Leghorns. These are my favorite breeds of hen.

...and there are goats! Four baby goats!

In the afternoon hours one cold day, Nellie gave birth to twin boys. Since it was her very first time as a mom, her sweet sister, Bonnie, was there to lend a helping hoof. She took care of everything....from cleaning up after the mess, to helping lick the babies clean. Me and my son rushed down the hill and sat and watched for the longest time. We finally decided it was too cold and we put a small heater in the goat house. We grabbed towels and ruffled the babies fur, to finish drying them off completely. Then we left them alone, to do whatever it is that goats do. Within hours, both babies were warm and standing and nursing well.

 one of the sweet baby boys (we castrated both males)

 Cinnamon (the boy), being licked by Bonnie and 
Blue Beauty (the girl)

After several days of anxious expectation (when *is* she going to have those babies!?), Bonnie gave birth to a boy and a girl. It happened in the wee hours of the morning, long before we were awake. She had accidentally knocked over the heater and it had turned off. She didn't have any help from Nellie and she had obviously had a hard time giving birth to the HUGE, long-legged boy. He was a little bigger than Nellie's 3 day old boys! 

I had rushed down to the goat house that morning, after dreaming that she had had her babies and they were dead, having frozen to death. The ground was covered in frost and I had to be careful not to slip. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and off to one side, all alone, was a baby, curled up in a ball. And off to the other side, huddled alone, was another baby; eyes wide open, head hanging to one side, looking decidedly dead also!

I saw blood all over Bonnie's backside and two placentas laying on the ground. 

I picked each baby up and they were ice cold. I began rubbing them and motioning frantically out the door for someone to come and help. Finally, I saw my son walking down the hill and I yelled to him that the heater wouldn't come on and he needed to grab some towels.

To make a long story short......they finally came around, though it took much coaxing and rubbing. We weren't sure if sweet baby Cinnamon was going to make it. It took him over a day to find his feet. Meaning, each time he stood, he sprawled out on the ground like some cartoon goat, a foot going in each direction of the compass. We plan to sell Cinnamon in a few months, when he is weaned.

All of the baby goats have blue eyes.We named the sweet, tiny baby girl Blue Beauty....after her mother, Bonnie Blue. We are keeping her.  She is half Saanen, one quarter Nubian and one quarter Boer.

We also got a batch of fourteen baby buns a few days after the goats were born. It was Queenie's third litter of babies. Unfortunately, five have died. This is the way it goes with rabbits.  Despite losing a few, life goes on for the rest. The cycle continues and a new year begins on the farm. New grass, new growth, new babies and new adventures are waiting to be had on Happiness Hill.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter 2013

Winter in the country. Snow and ice and biting wind that takes your breath. Thoughts of summer seem far away, deep in the recesses of your mind. Snuggling under blankets, knitting the day away. Listening to my daughter play piano. Reading stories to the children.

 ~a brown thrasher~

Outside, after a big snow, the animals are almost afraid to step foot out of their cozy homes. I see our goats, large with babies (possibly twins), peeking out of the door, almost as if to say, "No way am I coming out there!" Goats do not like rain. They do not like the drip-dripping of melting snow. They do not like to stand in mud. They are fairly particular. They munch on hay and lay down carefully. Their bellies are big and they are slowing down, waiting patiently. 

The chickens don't mind rain. Or mud. They scratch away at the mud, still searching, ever hopeful. 

Our doe rabbit, Queenie, had two litters of babies last year. Her second litter produced 14 babies! Of which only 6 survived. Out of that batch, she had two snow white bunnies. We kept one and named him Prince Thistledown. 

Plans to improve the farm are under way. Last fall, we built a mobile chicken house. We move the hens every few weeks to a new spot. This keeps the chickens healthier, lessens chances for disease and worms, and also improves our soil. Preparations for spring, believe it or not, are already under way. Fences are being mended, gardens are fixing to be tilled (tilling snow under helps aerate the soil), gardens will be completely planted by the end of March and new chickens will be ordered. Our baby goats will have been born and we will have a new hog.

Though plans are being made for the months ahead, we have also enjoyed the holiday season from the end of October with our Annual Fall Party, through Thanksgiving (one of the best yet!), a peaceful and happy Christmas and quiet New Years (yes, quiet) We are enjoying the flavors of this season, with wonderful meals and desserts. Happy traditions and fun and laughter. But still, I long for spring. 

I anticipate the birth of babies on the farm. I look forward to beautiful blooms on the trees, leaves so tender and new. I look forward to the smell of honeysuckle and the bright green grass. I relish watching my animals enjoying the wonderful new assortment of foods to eat. I can sit for hours outside watching them. Maybe this year we'll get a cow. Maybe a horse. We want both. We shall see. Until then, we'll keep dreaming....and planning....and living the country life.