Spring is just around the corner, even though it doesn’t feel like it with more snow and single digit forecasts! The farm is perking up and we’re looking forward to all kinds of spring babies……kids (goats, not mine!), chicks, turkeys and calves! Yes, calves! Introducing four new jersey and jersey cross calves!
Everyone in the house is excited! The calves are getting cozy in the front parlor of the old milking barn. Dan and Nathan took the trailer to pick them up last Saturday, and we all got to help bottle feed them in the evening. All of them only days old. I confess, it’s been a looooong time since I bottle fed an animal of any kind, so my forearms and hands were shaking from exhaustion after fighting with a little calf to eat for over 30 minutes, as they tried to learn this “bottle” thing. Dan was doing two at a time! Since that first day, Dan picked up some holders and they’ve been drinking bottles like it’s second nature! Dan uses a pitchfork to scoop out the manure and it cracks me up that Nathan begs and whines when he doesn’t get to “scoop the poop!” I can’t wait to share that story when he’s older. Well, Dan and I used to playfully argue over who would change Nathan’s diaper when he was a baby, but, well, things change!
Nathan, Natalie and I picked out three names so far and the fourth is under discussion. The black calf with the white spot on his nose is Smudge, inspired by a story book we read written by a Vet in England. The story is of a little boy who was given twin lambs and named one with a white spot on it’s black nose Smudge and the sister was named Smartie.
The brown calf with the white spot is named Star, inspired by a children’s series developed to share the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The book we read was about Almonzo, when he was a boy caring for the livestock, and one of the horses was named Star. The all brown calf is named Brownie, for obvious reasons. And Nathan wants to name the baby calf Brownie 2. Dan’s experience growing up on a diary farm advised us to wait to name the calves to see if they “make it first” and he was right. The baby didn’t survive after a cold spell and refused to eat. We lost him a few days ago. So sad. The others are healthy and tucked into their straw beds with heat lamps.
Dan and I decided we are going to try our hand at turkeys once again. Several years ago we enjoyed raising Royal Palm turkeys for meat, a striking black and white bird, but had trouble with the local wildlife stealing them for their Thanksgiving dinner. But now, we have donkeys! Yes, the donkeys presence has significantly decreased any fowl foraging from foxes, mink and other predators, so we’re going to try again. Fingers crossed.
Other farm business includes ordering more bees for our hives, since the Queen went AWOL last summer and our hive naturally dispersed, leaving us with little honey and no viable hive. A rooster has been arranged to make a visit to the farm, so we can have chicks once again this spring. And our rented Billy goat just left after spending a month with our Nannies. Last year we didn’t have a single kid! We were so disappointed. That Billy goat didn’t prove to be useful at all, even though we bought him with rave reviews. So, we are hopeful that this Spring will not be a repeat of last year.
Last summer I only canned cherries, and I am badly in need of produce, so we’re gearing up for gardening. December and January the seed catalogs pile up from the mail and I spend lots of time browsing through all the pictures, circling and making a “wish list.” At some point in January or February Dan and I plan what we’ll plant and we “edit” the catalogs because, well, I just can’t grow everything and I struggle with realistic expectations. This year I am really excited to try and grow mushrooms! We ordered an innoculated log for shitake mushrooms which we’ll probably put in the grove. I hope it’s everything I’m dreaming it will be! We’re also adding a few blackberry bushes to our orchard of mulberry trees, raspberry bushes, apple trees, cherry trees and pear trees. This will be the fifth year for the orchard, so we should get a handful of fruit from our dwarf trees.
In N&N news, Natalie is suddenly getting her “Dracula” teeth (four at once!)and has been miserable for the last week, waking up screaming several times in the night. It was rough on everybody. Poor thing. After two weeks of total health for the whole family, Anna is once again sick with a cold and ear infection. So last week Natalie would wake up 2-3 times the first part of the night, and Anna would wake up 1-2 times in the wee hours of the morning. I was exhausted! I think I’m still recovering!
Natalie can count to 13 without any prompting and loves to say, “ready, set, go!” Other phrases she often says are “Wummy! (Yummy!) when she helps me cook supper and Wow! It’s pretty cute. She loves to imitate me, and when I’m trying to catch a few extra winks on the couch while they play, she’ll put me to bed by rubbing my cheek, kissing me and saying “feel bubber, Mommy,” (feel better). It’s pretty cute. She gets dressed by herself and most of the time can zip her coat by herself, put on her shoes and mittens.
Nathan can’t quite get the zipper thing yet. It’s tricky. He clears his throat a lot now, and when I asked what he was doing, he told me he had “throat boogers!” I had a good laugh! He loves to be in charge and play “Follow the Leader” lately imitating penguins by waddling. Natalie just tags along. Anna can nearly sit on her own, rolls all over the place, eats her feet, laughs and giggles at the kids’ antics and has a beautiful smile. She loooves to eat and take baths! A girl after my own heart!
And that’s the news from this dracula-teeth-and-dreams-of-spring week on the farm!