Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chickens, The Gateway Drug - Preparing For Sheep

One of the hazards of keeping poultry is that they're the gateway drug to keeping lots of other livestock.  Well for the past couple of years I've been dreaming of keeping sheep and this spring we jumped in with both feet (like we do with most things) and decided to make it happen.  What do we have to lose, it's just sheep how difficult can it be??
I began by reading everything I could get my hands on, books, magazines, internet...Some magazines put so much unneeded information out there that it scares a person half to death before they ever get the sheep.  They tell you everything that can go wrong, without every saying that in all likely hood you will never encounter this problem.  So at this moment, I'm scared to death and excited all at the same time.  Kind of like with bee keeping, it's invigorating!

We have 16 acres of land but have not used the pastures in a very long time.  We had horses several years ago.  So to say the least the pastures are not in very good shape.  This spring we began mowing them early, we haven't kept them mowed well in the past and it seems there mostly weeds and not a lot of grasses.  Good news though, from what I read sheep love weeds!  The more we mowed the better the pasture has become.  Once the weeds are beat down the gasses and white clover started to fill in and it's beginning to look pretty good now.

We have no room in the barns for sheep so Larry constructed this three sided shed, just to give them some wind break during the winter.  Not bad for a days work, he's pretty handy, I think I'll keep him around.
We know that we'll need better accommodations for lambing but that will happen at a later date.

The next task is fencing.  Larry borrowed the neighbors equipment and the digging began.  Thank God for good neighbors!
Did you know that when using an auger you need to dig a little and then lift the auger so that it will throw the dirt out of the hole, then repeat, or an auger will dig to China???  Yes ask me how I know.  Well it just so happens at one point when using the auger it took hold down in the dirt and would not lift, every time Larry started it back up it dug deeper.  In his panic he began digging the thing out by hand with a shovel.  When his dear wife (that's me) seen what was happening (and she never yelled, what have you done) she began searching the internet for the solution.  Yes, the farmers wife saved the day, I need to share that in another blog for those other poor souls who have their auger stuck in the depths of the earth at this very moment and are frantically searching for a solution.  It's a rather sick feeling when you bury a borrowed auger in the earth!

On the fencing, we are concentrating on the paddock area first.  Just a place to keep them for the first couple of weeks while they get use to their new surroundings.  This will also be the area that they'll stay in during the winter months so they aren't destroying the pasture.
Larry is building this area as strong as fort Knox.  Hot wire on the bottom and hot wire on the top.  We don't have a guard dog, so hoping the hot wire will keep out the predators .
We think we will be installing five strands of high tensile wire around the pasture area.  If you have any experience using this I would love to hear from you.

We have 70 bails of hay stacked and ready to go.  We know that we need to ease them on to pasture since they have been off of pasture for about two weeks before they arrive.  I don't know how much sheep eat but this should be enough to last us through the winter months.  We're learning as we go, just like with everything else we do.
We'll be picking the sheep up this week and we're excited to meet our new flock.
I'll share with you soon what breed we chose, how many and where they're coming from in the next blog.
Do you have sheep??  Share with us, give us some of your wisdom or just wish us luck.  We look forward to hearing from you!
Have A Blessed Day!!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hive Maintenance - Keeping Up With Honey Flow

We have six hives now and I think this is our fourth year in bee keeping, not really sure if that is correct I've lost track of time.  Three of the hives are very strong and well established and the other three are swarms that we caught just last spring and aren't as established just yet.
It's important to do hive maintenance at least every couple of weeks and maybe even weekly on really strong hives.  If the honey flow is good they can fill a box pretty quick and if you aren't there to take it off and give them empty frames to fill they will slow down on production.  We pulled off nine frames last week and fourteen this week, so honey flow is at a high right now in our area.

During your hive check up it's a good idea to install beetle traps.  I have found them to be very effective at catching those pesky hive beetles! You just fill the trap with oil and the bees chase the beetles around and run them into the traps where they drown in oil.

Just hang the trap between the frames over to one side of the hive, not right in the center.

We purchased a honey extractor back in February it needed only a small amount of assembling.  It's only holds two frames but that's okay for beginners.
We spun out nine frames pretty quickly.  The great thing about an extractor is that you don't remove all of the comb from the frame. Without an extractor you scrap all of the comb and honey from the frame and then the bees are back at square one rebuilding the comb.  This will make it much easier for the bees.

Spring honey is amazing stuff, it is the Creme De La Creme of honey!!  If you've never tried spring honey and would like to, I have it available in my Etsy Shop.  Or you can contact me through email at

It's pretty wonderful on a warm homemade biscuit.

I look forward to hearing form you.
Have A Blessed Day!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Searching For The Perfect Poultry - Pullets Available Now

Back in February we began hatching out chicks fast and furious so that we would have pullets ready to go early spring.  We're still working through a few orders, those folks with Ameraucans, Olive Eggers or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes on your orders, we haven't forgotten you :)  Seems we can never hatch those breeds fast enough.
So if your looking for a started young hen, one that is ready to go into the coop, we have a few of those ready now.  Take a minute to scan down through the photos below as I introduce each one them to you.
Light Sussex, pictured above in the photo.  They make the greatest addition to any flock, I can't say it enough, I love this breed.  They're curious, friendly and good on the egg production. Not to mention they're great eye candy for the yard.  I was told by a poultry judge up north that our line of Light Sussex is the closest to perfection that he has seen, he purchased four of my hens to improve on his own flock, I think that speaks volumes for my line of Sussex.

Black Orpingtons ready to go that are almost 3 months old, they're big girls!  If you like fat bottoms on your birds, you'll love these gals!   Orpingtons are a bit like lap dogs, they're in your face friendly, super sweet girls.  Don't pass this breed up simply because it's a boring color, there really is nothing boring about them, they're all personality!!

I have little Maline pullets ready to go, this is a new breed to the farm, we've had them one year now and what a nice addition they've made.  They're a large bird but the hens really aren't much bigger than the Black Orpington hens, It's the Maline roosters that are huge but very gentle.
Maline hens are super inquisitive when I come into their pen to gather the eggs.  They go right along with me, looking through the boxes, as if to say "whatcha looking for?"
They lay very nice large to Jumbo sized eggs, actually they lay the largest egg on the farm.  I must say I love these girls!!

Coronation Sussex, yes I actually have some pullets that I can share with you finally!  I love this sweet, fat, bumbly bird.  I find it humorous watching them run with wings spread out and head down as if they could ever get their rumps a foot off the ground.  These big girls need a low roost... You'll never find another bird quite like the Coronation Sussex, they're decked out in the purest of pearl white feathers but under those pearly feathers is down like a goose.  They're built for the cold and do some of their best egg production during the cooler months.
This bird was long ago produced for the King's table, one look at them now and you'll know why.

Splash Marans pullets, they will lay a nice dark Mahogany colored egg.  They have a much sweeter disposition than the Black Copper Marans.  They color out nicely with spots of blue as they mature.  Give your flock and your egg basket a Splash of color.

Ayam Cemani, I find their beauty difficult to describe...but beauties they are!   They are shy in a very sweet kind of way but with just a small amount of attention they will begin to trust you and steal your heart those coal black eyes.  The hens are petite and lay a nice large egg for their size that is almost white in color, closest thing to a white egg that we have on the farm.

Chocolate Opringtons, who can resist a bird shaped like a volley ball with a feather duster tail?  If you need a bird that doesn't take up a lot of room in the coop this is a breed to consider.  If you need a bird that's good with children, quiet bird for the neighborhood and all around easy bird to work with, the Chocolate Oprington should be at the top of your wish list.

Welsummers, pretty golden hens that lay beautiful dark brown spotted eggs.  Our Welsummer are pretty amazing in that they will lay an egg that is as dark as our French Black Copper Marans eggs.  I bet there aren't too many breeders out there that can claim that.  This is no hatchery bird.  We've had our line of Welsummers for over 10 years now and have never introduced a new breeding line into the flock.  They are perfect so why change it...

Last but not least...French Black Copper Marans. We've also had our Marans line for over 10 years now.  We get an awesome mahogany colored egg from them.  They range form a 4 to a 7 on the Marans egg color chart and occasionally an 8.  If your looking  for a dark egg layer, look no further.
A man came to our farm this week to pickup his order of pullets, he told me that he order a couple of hatchery Marans last year and ordered one marans from our farm and raised them up together.  He said that our Marans line grew 1/3 larger than the hatchery bird.    Those kind of stories make my heart swell with pride.  All the hard work that we put into them is worth it when the customer notices a difference.
All these breeds that I just listed are available now in started young pullets.  We're also still hatching and shipping out day old chicks if your interested in those.  Your welcome to call and place an order over the phone 618-643-5602 or head over to the Website and drop me an email.  We look forward to hearing from you.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together!