Upon returning home, I went first for the animals inside the house, naturally. They were all doing just fine, though very happy to see their Mama (as I was them, of course). After all the hugs and kisses and updates were shared, I convinced a few of them to join me on a little walk to check on all the animals outside of the house. Touching base in all the corners - inside and out - feels like the best way to firmly ground at home. And even when it hasn't been my turn for chores, I've been finding myself making that same walk around far more often than usual since I've been home. I can almost always convince more than one little one to join me, and thought - it's been a while since I took you on a tour around. And so I bring you the early autumn farm tour...
Being new and especially exciting (and so ridiculously cute), the first stop is of course with the goats. Buttercup and Bluebell are settling in nicely - doing beautiful work eating the weeds I'd like to see go from the pastures, climbing on all the structures Adelaide builds for them, and generally being loved up by any and all people who come their way. I think I have found a buck for them, who will join us shortly and hopefully result in some kids by spring! To be followed by milking adventures from Adelaide. She's excited (so am I).
On the way to the next pasture, we'll pass the two colonies of bees. I haven't written much about the bees this summer, though I did share one wild bee adventure over on the Taproot Ramblings blog (oh, the lessons we learn, with much embarrassment along the way). Thankfully, the bees and I have made good peace, and all is well. I've decided not to harvest any honey from them this year, wanting to give them the best winter chances possible - this, their first year here, and not particularly strong hives at that. I'll medicate in a bit, and wrap them up tight for the winter with good wishes and hope for the season ahead.
Next, we come to the home of most of the laying birds. There are twenty or so in this group - dominques, silver laced wyandottes, and black australorps. All arrived as chicks this spring, and all are laying now. We've been rotating them - and their hoop house - with portable fencing, through the apple trees all summer long. I do love the rich color of these birds all together, and am so glad for the great basket of eggs that Adelaide or Harper bring in each day. It's just enough eggs for us to have all that we need, and to share/barter plenty too. It seems a lot of eggs, but a family of seven can certainly roll through a dozen or more with just one meal of frittata or scrambled eggs. (And there is that love of pickled eggs that I'm cultivating in everyone too. My recent favorite is curried.)
Moving on, we come to the pigs. Oh these pigs! By far, the largest pigs we've had (with still a few months to go!). And goodness, what they've done to the pasture - it's remarkable. Clearing all kinds of brambles and thicket and a mess of vines that previously filled this area. Now, it's all turned up and over and ready to be more pasture. Such a blessing for us. I have to give Steve mad props for timing their rotation through this spot just so, so that once these old apple trees began dropping apples, the pigs were right below them. A fabulous plan, indeed. I think we've decided to take the winter off from pigs, and to move to a heritage breed in the spring.
Just on the other side of the pigs, we come to the largest pasture, where there's currently a mish-mash of turkeys, chickens and a duck. We had the Freedom Ranger birds here as well all summer, until harvesting time just a few weeks ago. The laying birds over here - rhode island reds, buff orphingtons (my favorites), and americaunas - are older, and on the later end of their laying years, but still going.
And the turkeys! There are just five now, as we lost so many of them in the first few days after their arrival, sadly. There was a bit of a mix up with our order at the hatchery, so these are a standard Broad Breasted White turkey. Next year, I think we'll go back to the heritage Blue Slate turkeys we enjoyed so much last year. For this year, this gang of turkeys (or "rafter" of turkeys, if you want to get technical), is sticking together, being pretty mellow, and making us all giggle as turkeys have a way of doing.
Stellaluna, the duck who thinks she's a chicken, is a favorite of all of ours. She's been here since just before we moved in, and can you believe she still lays an egg everyday? She takes the winter's off, but goodness, that's impressive to me, particularly for a breed that isn't known for being fantastic layers (she's a Pekin). Sweet Stellaluna.
Lastly, we come to the back pasture, where the sheep roam. Charlotte, Anne, Emily, and Cinnamon are all doing well. I've decided not to breed them this year for a few reasons. We need to make some adjustments in housing so that we could safely house lambs, and I'm still figuring exactly how many sheep really are necessary, given that four fleeces still sit unspun (but I have winter to take care of that). Next year, perhaps we will breed them. I also plan to start coating them with this next round of shearing, as goodness, they do like to explore that pasture fully, and so much of it ends up in their fleece. I don't even try to be diplomatic about it - the sheep are, most definitely, my favorite. Gentle and sweet, a little bit shy - they're the best meditation I know. Sitting just a few minutes with them, I am convinced, slows the heart rate and makes everything okay. And a snuggle from Cinnamon (the friendliest of them all) is really something special.
Phew! I think that's everyone! There's a lot going on out there, and a lot in here as we make adjustments and plans for the fall work that needs to be done. We're drafting plans and picking up materials for a new goat/sheep shelter, getting ready to winterize the chicken coops a bit, and contemplating what kind of livestock guard animal best suits us to keep everyone safe and happy out there. There's lots to be done before the snow flies.
Thanks, friends, for going on this little tour with me, and giving me a reason to stop and linger with each of these critters I'm so glad to share our land with.