Friday, July 29, 2011

Farm Story for July 30, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

We have the most wonderful arrangement with our friends, Jeff and Kim, of Iszy’s Heirlooms. They are our next-tent-over neighbors at Saturday Market and also live barely 15 minutes away from our farm. Our arrangement is that I bring a few 5 gallon cull buckets on Saturday morning and Jeff fills them up as he goes through his produce at market. The not-quite-perfect goodies go home with me at the end of market to treat our animals.

When we first started doing this the oxen caught on right away. They live in the pasture at the front of the property so are the first recipients of Jeff’s goodies as I pull in the driveway. I realized long ago that they seem to know when it is market day and get excited when I come home in the early afternoon. They stand at the gate and begin to bawl as I open the back of the car. If I should put a cull bucket down on the driveway they stomp and become anxious, knowing that there is a very good chance a sheep will race around the corner and begin to sample “their” goodies. The sheep really are bad about going through a bucket of culls, taking a bite out of each one and chucking it to the side. They will go back and eat up the pieces later but a good bucket of tomatoes can quickly turn into a sloppy red mess with much of it ending up on lips, faces and even up to the tips of ears. So Zeb and Gates, the oxen, know I’d better lug that bucket to them right away or have another bucket for them in the car.

It took me a while to figure out why the oxen got excited on Saturday afternoon but did not pay much attention to me on my normal trips in and out. One day it dawned on me that I think I am tipping them off that it is market day when I am outside at 5:30 in the morning loading the coolers of eggs into the car. Market day is the only day I do that before sunrise and the oxen seem to have paired this with a nice treat later in the day.

Well, this past Saturday no one had to worry about how many lovely culls I had to share. When Jeff arrived at market I’d already put my two cull buckets under his tent as usual. After about half an hour he asked me if I had any more buckets. He said he’d intentionally brought along squash, tomatoes and cucumbers that were suffering from the heat so that I could take them home. I called my sweet husband, knowing he had to come into Greenville later that morning. Within the hour he’d dropped off a large clean garbage can. Jeff filled that and it went home with Al. At the end of market I filled my car with about another hundred pounds of culls packed in my buckets, my empty egg coolers and a few of Jeff’s baskets. All the creatures had a Saturday feast for which we were all very grateful. After it was all said and done I found only a handful of hot peppers sitting in a puddle of tomato juice and seeds. And I knew that by the end of the day a few chickens would carefully peck up every one of those seeds.

On Tuesday Kim called to say that Jeff had lots of overgrown squash if I’d like it for the animals. Because of the tremendous heat the animals had not been terribly interested in eating but I knew this would appeal to them so I agreed to pick it up the next morning. When I got there Jeff started filling my car with cull tomatoes. The squash was already picked off the plants and piled in the field for me but I knew there was too much to put in the car so decided to come back in the evening with Al and his truck.

When I got home the sheep greeted me. I did not want them to have all this food as they needed to share with the chickens in the back. I did toss a few tomatoes out to distract them but then went to the barnyard and brought Ravi, one of the Anatolian Shepherds, up to the front yard with me. He has no desire to eat tomatoes so it was safe to let him guard them for me. He plopped himself down next to the buckets and growled as the sheep approached. He only had to stand up once to make it clear that there would be no further snacking.

After a quick dinner we loaded the wheelbarrow in the back of the truck and ran over to Jeff’s. We walked the rows making a game of tossing very large squash into the wheelbarrow. There were even more large squash on the plants. They had ballooned during the hot day so we culled those also. Jeff is fine with us culling in his field as he knows we are tender with his plants, pull a few weeds as we work and even carry an odd rock or two out of his field when we come across them. In under an hour we’d gathered three wheelbarrow loads of squash and cucumbers. It was almost nine o’clock as we headed home. When we pulled in Al went about his evening chores while I began to unload the truck. We’d just tossed the goodies in the bed of the truck which was now filled a third of the way to the top. I lined a few garbage cans up on the ground at the side of the truck, climbed in and began tossing. I drew a crowd of a few sheep and the smallest donkey. The oxen realized that something was going on and began to bawl and the standard donkeys in the other pasture began to pace at the fence. I flung squash to all the complainers, carried two bucket loads to the oxen and still managed to fill two garbage cans and the wheelbarrow to feed out the next day. I especially wanted to save plenty for the small herd of Dexter cattle at the back of the property.

The trip to Jeff and Kim’s was beneficial even beyond all the vegetables that they shared. As we were driving over we noticed a fellow baling hay. We turned around and pulled into his field just as another truck was pulling in. We asked the fellow in the other truck if the hay was already sold. He said that the field belonged to his friend and it was spoken for but that he would be baling on Sunday and expected nearly a thousand bales. He and Al talked a bit more and Al agreed to take about five hundred bales straight out of the field. The fellow only wants $2.50 a bale if we pick them up and that is a wonderful price right now. We have been concerned about the dry weather and our potential to get hay for the fall and winter so need to take advantage of this even if it means a lot of good hard work. Our goal is to get three hundred bales out of his first cutting and the remainder when he bales a little later. We did check with both of our grown sons to see if they can give us a hand. We load a hundred bales at a time, drive back home, unload them into the barn and return. Once the second hundred bales are in the barn the task looks pretty intimidating so it will be good to have the help. And I may not be walking upright until about Tuesday but I’ll sleep well, not only from the physical exhaustion but knowing that we are doing the best we can to keep all of the creatures here healthy, safe and very well fed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farm Story for July 23, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

About a month ago I was scrolling through craigslist and came across a post for bottle fed lambs. Ordinarily I would not have paid much attention except that these were Lincoln lambs, a breed of sheep not really common in this area. The Lincoln is an English breed bred for their long curly locks and heavy fleeces. They are very large sheep with rams growing out to be about 300 pounds. I was excited to see that someone in the area had them so I called.

It seems the woman had two ram lambs that had both been abandoned by their mothers at birth. The lambs were healthy, the ewes just refused to nurse them. They had become bottle babies out of necessity but I know how expensive bottle babies are and I think the woman was ready to be rid of them. We visited them and fell in love with the enormous babies covered with dark curls. The older one was barely a month old and weighed a good twenty pounds. The younger one was a little over two weeks old with a more petite build but still weighed about fifteen pounds. They had bright eyes and were healthy fellows so we paid for them and hauled them home.

They were vigorous little eaters. I soon discovered that for each feeding I needed to mix up a quart of lamb milk replacer. We were feeding them about five times a day and also letting them have all the hay and grain they were interested in. The seemed to believe they were born to eat, enthusiastically following anyone who looked like they may be able to produce a bottle. They were so funny to watch as they were enormous but still acted like babies. We named the larger one Buddy after the main character in the movie Elf. We’ve gotten into the habit of calling the little guy Inky Dink because of his size compared to Buddy but I don’t know if we’ve really decided that that is his name.

So once it seemed our lambing season was pretty well over we took on a new pair of babies. And they have made themselves right at home. They started out living in the stable and although they are often out in the barnyard they make it a point to slip back in whenever they can. They know which stall holds the feed and often stand in front of that closed door, willing us to open it. We began feeding them grain by sprinkling it on the milk stand and encouraging them to try it. Now the minute we open the stable door they race to check for goodies left on the milk stand. The fellows stay on our heels when we work outside and bawl at the barn door should we walk in without them. The two are inseparable so also panic when they end up on opposite sides of a fence. They are rather high maintenance but they are so adorable that we don’t mind. They have very long legs and are built like concrete blocks. Buddy’s shoulders come well up to my knees and Inky Dink, though a little more slightly built, is also growing taller and taller. We’ll just see how sweet they are when they top two hundred pounds apiece. Their saving grace had better be the gorgeous fleeces!

We have been very busy with the heat. It seems much of my day is spent checking water troughs. I also study the pastures for anyone that looks at all peculiar. Any animal that doesn’t jump right up the minute I call gets a visit to be sure that it is simply napping and not suffering from the heat. In the winter the animals move from sunny spot to sunny spot throughout a chilly day. Now they follow the shade.

I have discovered that the chickens seem to know where every little breeze might potentially blow on the whole property. Whenever I see a few chickens standing around in an area I squat down near them and can often feel a very gentle movement in the air. They have found lots of shaded areas as well as little wind tunnels between buildings or in the rises and falls of the pastures. They are drinking lots of water but are not as interested in eating. The heat has caused egg production to drop by easily a quarter of the number of eggs we are used to getting. Some of the hens have also gone into an early molt as their bodies drop feathers and go into a seasonal resting period that would usually occur later in the summer. That means we just keep feeding and caring with fewer eggs to sell but that is just a part of farming. The unpredictable weather is something to take in stride.

We did get a hay delivery on Saturday. One of our hay men brought about two dozen huge round bales to the house. We have been concerned about the lack of rain so are buying hay as we can get it. It is such a blessing to have Saturday Market as it gives us a regular cash flow to buy hay as it becomes available. It really is nice to know as I work with our sheep’s wool that they are helping to buy their own dinner.

I did have a funny little surprise this week. The Pilgrim geese have three water buckets. One has become their favorite for bathing and they drink out of the other two. I always completely dump the drinking water buckets and rinse them before refilling them but sometimes just top off the bathing bucket with the hose. I noticed that the bathing bucket was full of newly hatched tadpoles! I didn’t have the heart to dump the little ones out on the hot dry ground to die so have just been very gently topping off the water , careful not to flush any out. The geese seem to ignore them when bathing but I have been tempted to move that whole bucket to a safe spot and replace it with a new one for the geese. I am sure that during the goose-bath ritual of dipping their heads and letting the water run over their faces and down their necks they are scooping out a few of the tadpoles. But perhaps that is simply nature taking its course. We already have a quite adequate toad and frog population on the farm.

The coming week is supposed to be hot and dry again. I am sure I will spend many hours keeping up with creatures. I might also plan on a bit more time in the house sitting in the air conditioning while spinning some more yarn or knitting scarves for the fall. I do one dyeing and spinning technique where I end up spinning wet wool that sends a constant sprinkling of mist into the air as I treadle my wheel. I think this might be a good time to make a few skeins of that sort of yarn so that I can benefit from the cooled environment that the process generates.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Farm Story for July 16, 2011

A Farm Story for July 16, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

A week ago Friday I was pleasantly ready for Saturday Market by dinner time. All of my fiber items were in the car and the eggs were all washed up and waiting in the refrigerator until time to load early the next morning. Our oldest son and his adorable wife were coming over to work with my sweet husband to plan their farm’s corn maze for the fall. My plan was to have a routine Friday night and go to bed by ten o’clock as I get up early on Saturday. Bed time did not come as expected.

Shortly before ten, the children got up to leave. I looked through the front window to see lights in our driveway and what appeared to be a horse standing outside the gate. Of course I blurted out that there was a horse in our drive and we all raced outside. We do not have horses and this was quite obviously not one of our three donkeys. There was a man and a boy standing at our gate with an enormous paint horse. He asked if it was ours and explained that he’d been coming down Highway 81, had caught the white spots in the horse in his headlights, thought for a second it was someone walking in the road and had swerved to miss it. As soon as he realized it was a horse he pulled over and managed to walk it the little way up our driveway to the gate. He explained that he had horse experience and had just returned from a rodeo out west.

We obviously could not leave the horse on the road so we opened the gate and it walked in. It had no halter on so our son, Eric, grabbed one of the halters for our oxen. It was much too large but the horse allowed it to be put on. One of the children held the horse while we moved the dogs out of the front yard. The horse was shod so it clip clopped up and down our concrete driveway, anxiously swinging its rear end around as it tried to orient itself in the dark. Since there is a farm with paint horses a mile down the road, Al decided to go down and ask if it was theirs. While he was gone we walked the horse around the front yard and tried to keep it from chasing Eve, our miniature donkey. Zeke and Esther, the standard donkeys in the front pasture, were prancing around anxiously watching this huge horse.

The children and I tried to keep the horse amused while we waited for Al to hunt down an owner. It was an enormous horse, probably a good 16 hands or more so that I could not see over its back. It looked quite healthy and was only a little jumpy but it was a still a bit nerve-wracking to have a strange horse in the dark as the dogs were barking, the front yard sheep were mulling around and the donkeys were snorting uncomfortably. After about half an hour our oldest and his wife had to leave. Eric and I hung out with the horse until we finally heard from Al. He said he had been to two different farms and none were missing horses.

It was past eleven o’clock by this time so we decided to just start again in the morning. We were not comfortable leaving the horse in the front of the house because of the cars parked there. A shod horse that gets upset and decides to kick a car can make an ugly mess. We decided to move it to a stall in the stable. I ran ahead to check on the locations of the livestock guardian dogs. I moved one out of the backyard and another out of the barnyard so that they would not startle the horse or explode into a barking fit when the horse came through. Years ago on the night the oxen were delivered one of the dogs barked as Al was walking an ox to the pasture. The one-ton fellow started, jumped and landed on Al’s foot. Lesson learned. I also locked up the Lincoln lambs who are still on the bottle and who spend the night in the stable. I pulled them into a stall and shut the door so that they didn’t run out at the horse as we opened the stable door. We attached a lead line to the floppy halter and walked the horse slowly to the stable, talking gently to it all the way. It was quite alert, holding its head high and perking up its ears. It cautiously allowed itself to be led right to the stable doors. I was sure it would balk at walking into an unfamiliar building but we had the lights on inside so that it could see where it was going. After a slight hesitation it followed right in, walking down the concrete hallway to a stall. It needed just a bit of coaxing to enter the stall. Once it was in, we gave it a moment to settle down as we ran to fill a water bucket and grab an armload of nice oat hay. The horse was calm so we removed the halter and left it for the night.

I had to get up early for Saturday Market but before going to bed I did put a quick notice on craigslist under the lost and found as well as the farm section. Al said he would begin the hunt for an owner again in the morning. It was past eleven thirty before we finally went to bed.

The next morning I had an e-mail from a woman wanting to have the horse if no one wanted it. I ignored it as the horse was not mine to give away. I went on to Market, hoping that I would return to find the horse had been reclaimed. It was a gorgeous creature but not one that we could afford to maintain properly.

Al started the morning driving around trying to find folks with livestock to talk to about the horse. One neighbor thought perhaps it was his horse, not realizing that a farmhand had put it in another pasture. He came down, looked and realized his mistake. After visiting a few more places, Al finally ran across two fellows pulled over at the side of a field chatting. He asked them and one fellow said he thought he knew whose horse it might be. He gave a woman a call but she didn’t know if her horse was missing. She was boarding it somewhere out here but did not live nearby. She took Al’s phone number and was heading out to find her horse. She called him later to say that when she arrived the pasture gate was wide open and her horse, Geronimo, was missing. She described the horse to Al and it seemed to be the one we had. She arrived shortly with a trailer as well as Geronimo’s halter. She was thrilled to see him. She explained that she had owned him for several years and then sold him. After about ten years she had tracked him down and bought him back so they were only recently reunited. She was boarding him about half a mile down the highway from us. He was one very lucky horse to end up in our driveway rather than dead in the road. Geronimo was gone by the time I returned from Market. I took a nap to recover from the very short Friday night and very hot Saturday morning at Market. And I am hoping the rest of my pre-Market Fridays are just routine for the rest of the season.

Geronimo & his owner:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Farm Story for July 9, 2011

A Farm Story for July 9, 2011
Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

We irrigate our pastures and provide water to the barns from our spring-fed creek that runs at the back of the property down in the woods. That has worked nicely over the last few years, especially to provide enough water during the droughty summers to keep us from losing our pasture grass all together. We rotate our animals to cut down on the stress on the pastures but a dry summer has the potential to completely kill a pasture.

Sunday started out with a pleasant morning in church and a little bit of knitting in the afternoon. I went out in the late afternoon to feed the pasture dogs and check the month-old chicks that we are raising out to add to the laying flock. When I turned the faucet to water the birds absolutely nothing happened. My sweet husband, Al, was out feeding hay to the sheep so I asked him about it. We had had some thunderstorms earlier so he checked the breakers on the chance we’d had a lightning strike. One of the breakers was tripped so he reset it and then decided to walk down in the woods to check the pump. I assumed the water would be running shortly. He returned rolling his eyes.

Micah, our Dexter bull, is about 12 years old. He frequently lives by himself in the largest pasture which takes in the woods and the creek. He goes through fits, bawling at the nearby cows, snorting and pawing at the ground. Not long ago I saw great clouds of what I believed to be smoke rolling out from behind the stable. I raced out fearing something was on fire but soon realized it was just Micah kicking up a dust storm on a very dry day as he pined for the nearby gals. He is a sturdy fellow who can create quite a show when he wants to. Well, Micah had apparently been acting a fool down near the creek on Sunday.

The electrical line to the pump is buried all the way to a tree next to the creek. There is conduit running four feet up the tree trunk to a shut off switch and then down the tree trunk to the pump. It seems Micah managed to hook the conduit with his horns and tear it from the tree trunk, breaking the electrical line in the process. Al repaired the electrical line Sunday evening. He found that his repair did not fix the problem. He switched the water source for the barns over to house water and decided to tackle the problem again on Monday. I watered the chickens and didn’t give it a lot more thought.

On Monday Al tightened up the wires that were connected to the pump and checked a few more things. He walked up the hill to the stable, turned the water back to the pump and walked down the hill again to flip the pump back on. He returned from this trip announcing that he had to make a trip to the hardware store. When he had turned the pump back on it worked but it was also shooting water up from a small part that had broken off the side of the pump. On closer examination, it appears that not only had Micah tried to rip the conduit off the side of the tree but he had also torn down a huge poison ivy vine that was wrapped around a dead branch farther up the tree. The dead branch fell, whacked the side of the pump and bounced up at the edge of the creek where Al had really not noticed it as he was focused originally on the electrical problem. Micah continued his little fit on Monday, pushing on the back gate so intensely that he broke the strap that holds the gate shut. He is now visiting with his latest girlfriend. The gate is repaired now and we’ll move him out in a few days when he decides he’d again prefer to be a bachelor in the woods. Oh, Micah.

The chicks that came in the mail a month ago are really growing. The little gals are enjoying plenty of feed and water and have quickly learned to pick through the waste hay that I rake up and pitch in for them to explore. They are quick to pick off the stray bug who rides in with the hay. The high temperatures we’ve been having meant that we were able to turn their heat lamps off during the daytime by the time they were a week old. They have gone from little fluff balls to fully feathered birds who are now flying to higher and higher perches in the big stall where they currently live. In another week we’ll divide them into two stalls rather than one so that they have more room to roam.

At the beginning of August we will move them outside with the other birds. Our birds truly are free range. People who buy our eggs at Saturday Market often ask what I mean when I say our eggs are produced by free range birds. I hate the games some folks play with definitions. Once we move the young ones out of the stable they have about 13 acres to roam around on. Most of the birds stay up near the old barn or the chicken yard working through the grass as well as the piles of hay and manure in the pastures. The chicken yard is a very large area with a few trees, a small pond and two buildings full of nesting boxes. The area is fenced to keep the goats, sheep and livestock guardian dogs out but there are chicken-sized holes in many places along the bottom of the fencing so that the birds can come and go as they please. We feed the birds in this area so that the sheep and goats don’t eat their feed. Although they love the grain we feed, the goats are especially attracted to all the fresh goodies we bring from the Hyatt’s prep kitchen. Our chickens get lots of nice goodies from the Hyatt like potato and carrot peels, lettuce leaves, fruit peels and wilted greens. I do share things like the big broccoli stems with the goats and cattle but the bulk of the fresh goodies go to help add variety to our chickens’ diet. We also prefer they lay their eggs in the many nesting boxes here as the dogs snack on any eggs they find outside of the fenced area. Most of our dogs eat the egg shell after they carefully nibble a hole in it and suck out the tasty middle but I sometimes find a half-eaten shell, evidence that one of the dogs found an egg under a tree or on a hay bale in the tractor shed before I did.

I grew up with free range chickens before the term was even coined. There are certainly down sides to this way of raising birds. We are fortunate that our livestock guardian dogs keep an eye out for the chickens but we do lose an occasional bird to a raccoon in the woods or to the pair of hawks that nest annually in a nearby tall pine and use our flock to train their young to hunt. I am also quite sure that we do not find every egg laid on the property. Whenever I find a “new to me” nesting spot I give those eggs to the dogs and begin checking that spot again the next day to be sure the eggs are fresh. I do love the fact that I can look out any window or walk most anywhere on the property and see a hen cheerfully going about her day scratching for food, bathing in the dust or even curled up napping with a sheep or goat.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Farm Story for July 2, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

It is hard to believe that it is already July! It has been a pleasantly busy week here with lots of little routine accomplishments. One of the biggest was that I gave each of the donkeys a very good brushing with the shedding brush. Brushing out a donkey doesn’t sound like much of a big deal unless you know our donkeys. Zeke and Esther have been with us since they were weaned from their mothers about 11 years ago. They are standard donkeys so are rather large. The two have always been together, having been born on the same farm just a few weeks apart. They are tightly bonded to each other but also act like jealous little children when one gets more attention than the other.

Each morning I stand on my side of the fence, talk to the two of them and gently flick the little crusty sleepiness out of the corner of their eyes. Although it takes only seconds, it usually ends in a bit of a shoving match as the two maneuver themselves to be closer to me. Someone usually gets mad and swings their head to smack the other one. They will also nip at one another’s faces. I just stay out of the way as the tantrum ends quickly. This pushy behavior became even more of a nuisance as I entered their pasture to brush them out. I worked quickly with lots of hair and dust flying around me. I often had to shoulder a donkey out of the way or just briefly step back as they kicked at each other. Just as I was finishing up Zeke, Esther laid her entire neck and head across his back so that she could shove her face into my face. A giant plume of dust erupted from Zeke’s back and seemed to all land in my face. So after all that hard work I couldn’t even reward myself with a quick nap as I was hindered by fits of sneezing. The donkeys do look much better and we have enough spare hair now to build at least half an extra donkey should we need one.

I did get the good news on Monday that I had been juried into the Indie Craft Parade. I participated last year and had a wonderful and profitable time so was tickled with the news. It also means that I have to make an effort to keep up with my regular dyeing, spinning and felting for Saturday Market while stockpiling product for this September event. Much of what I do would not be considered hard work but it is time consuming. I wound a fair bit of yarn into the big skeins that I use when starting the dyeing process. The fine sock yarn is especially tedious to wind. A four ounce skein ends up being about 400 yards of potential tangled mess should I get distracted while winding. Dot, our pretty yellow rescue cat, especially loves to help. The instant I look like I am not paying attention she tries to eat yarn. She is quite successful and very annoying. I’ve gotten to the point where any time I need to walk away from a project I must move it into the room where I keep my stash of fiber goodies. I used to try hiding work under a pillow on the couch but discovered that she finds that to be a very amusing game of hide and seek. After having to make several project repairs and even having to discard a few things I decided it was just easier to take a few extra steps and lock up my work.

We have two new bottle babies in the barnyard. We acquired a pair of Lincoln half-brothers after both were rejected by their mothers. The Lincoln is one of the largest breeds of sheep so these are BIG babies! The rams should grow out to be about 300 pounds each. We named the larger one Buddy as he reminds me of Buddy in the movie Elf – just big, dorky and very enthusiastic. I don’t have a name yet for the smaller and younger fellow but I just call him Inky Dink because he looks so much smaller than Buddy. Buddy was a month old and Inky Dink about two weeks old when we adopted them. Both fellows have beautiful fluffy gray curls and very fuzzy faces. They come almost up to my knees which means they take some effort to stumble around when I am carrying big vats of wetted wool to the stable to dye. They love to wind themselves around my legs. I am so careful not to step on them but they make it difficult. They also try to force themselves through the stable door. Although we are already bottling them about 5 times a day, it seems they are just bottomless pits who believe that any time they see Al or me we will magically produce yet another bottle. I am beginning to understand why their original owner was ready to sell them as the cost of milk replacer sure adds up. They will continue to get bottles for a few more months but are transitioning nicely to a little grain and lots of hay just as mama-reared lambs do.

Baloo, our big Great Pyrenees Kangal cross livestock guardian dog, has decided that he adores these two new lambs. I have found him several times now with the littler guy snuggled at this chest while Buddy jumps up and down on him. It is funny how tolerant the dogs are of the babies jumping on them or running underfoot. All of our livestock dogs are very food protective and snarl at anything that disturbs them while they are eating. That is a good instinct that we encourage especially since the dogs are submissive to us and back right down if one of us grabs their food. We have had a few slightly bloodied ears on the goats that haven’t jumped when one of the dogs growled. It is funny to see the dogs quietly and tenderly grown to warn the babies that approach their dishes. The dogs explode at the adult animals but are sweet to warn the babies. I have seen Baloo quietly growl at Buddy and stare him down as the lamb watches in confusion. It seems little Inky Dink has not needed to be growled at but has decided he doesn’t even want to approach a dog as it eats. I would not particularly classify sheep as our smartest animals but they are certainly as smart as they need to be to be successful sheep.

The heat over these last few weeks had really impacted our egg production. The birds are free range and have plenty of shade, a few fans around the different buildings they like to hang out in and a greenhouse mister that gently sprinkles an area near their favorite place to nest but they are still eating less because of the heat. The birds prefer to just sit quietly rather than scratch and range around looking for interesting things to chase and eventually snack on. The change in diet as well as the stress the heat causes means less eggs. I’ve been counting and it seems our production is down by about a third. Unfortunately, this stress often causes an early molt so that the hens’ bodies will go into a resting mode for about a month. They will not lay during that time. All we can do is to wait them out and watch their general health. Sadly, this is more like an August heat wave and was rather unexpected this early in the season. There are just so many variables in farming and we are very grateful when things do go smoothly.