Whew. That was kind of a wild couple of weeks. We tagged off with vacation vs. farm duty with my parents, who left to spend 2 weeks in Maui with some friends. Between Troy and I looking after both our farm and theirs, and working our other off-farm jobs, it was a bit of a whirlwind. But we weren’t expecting to be calving… yet
Unexpected winter calving
We purchased some beautiful bred South Devon cows this winter. They were supposed to be bred to calve in mid-April. So it was quite a shock when our first calf was born about 3 weeks ago, on March 8th. This would not be such a big deal were it not for the fact that we have very limited infrastructure here in our yard; no barns, no real treelines, just windbreak fence and straw packs. That’s the reason we choose to have them calve later in the spring. Having calves born in +5 C weather, as is normal in mid-April, is much different than having them born in -20C weather! Fortunately, our first calf came and we helped Mom & the heifer calf out by putting them in a cozy calving pen, and they are doing very well. Our second calf was not so lucky. Born premature, and despite being in the calving pen, and having a patient, loving Mom, she managed to freeze some of her face and legs. We did everything we could to help the little guy along, but it was not meant to be. Sadly, he didn’t make it. The whole ordeal was emotionally challenging… you become connected to the animals that you spend more time with, and it is always hard to lose them. I realized that we often rely on the guidance of my Dad (a cattle rancher for 30+ years), and how hard it can be without that little bit of help or reassurance that you are doing the right thing. Fortunately, we were able to use a combination of our own judgement and knowledge along with advice from numerous farmer friends around here, and we felt in the end that we had done all that we could. There are new lessons learned all the time out here, and that is part of the beauty (and the challenge) of what we do. As you hear a lot out here in the country: “learn to expect the unexpected”…
The weather has continued to be much colder than average, and after a few days’ stretch of above-zero temperatures, it feels doubly harsh. However, we just have to keep on keepin’ on – not much we can do about it. The warmth will sure feel great when it comes!
Enter the flock
One exciting piece of news is that we have decided that we’re going to be adding sheep to our farm this Spring – an opportunity arose to purchase 20 bred ewes from a local shepherd, and so we will be bringing them here in early May. We went and looked at them last weekend, and we are really excited to add these animals to our farm. It feels like a good ‘fit’ with what we are trying to achieve with intensive, multi-species grazing on our pastures. There are various reasons why sheep are complementary to cattle. They have differing forage preferences and are dead-end hosts for parasites. We will be shearing them at the end of April and they will lamb out on the pasture in June. I look forward to the little lambs that will frolic around! We will also be getting a livestock guard dog pup, a beautiful, fluffy female Pyrenese cross, who will be trained to guard the flock from predators. This is a crucial part of the ‘package’ of buying sheep. We are fortunate that there is a good community of sheep ranchers in our local area, who are very supportive and encouraging to us and happy to share their knowledge. And, Troy and I have recently discovered our love for lamb meat – it really is so tasty and good for you! We look forward to sharing some with you come winter.
I now have some beautiful-looking pepper seedlings with true leaves, and some tomatoes on teh way in addition to leeks, celery, bunching onions, and herbs. I’m very happy with the results so far with the rope light bottom heatingsystem, as our germination rates are much better than last year. In CSA news, we are hoping to secure more memberships soon, and have made the decision to try and market the baskets into the nearby community of Killarney. With all my talk about downsizing the garden, I do feel that if I am to grow it anyway, we might as well have enough quantity (and income) to make it worth our while. We are pretty sure that we’ll be hosting some WWOOFer volunteers here for May and June, and so having this extra help will be very valuable.
Troy actually took some photos this past week, and you’ll see below some pics of our cattle (including the new red South Devons) and the beehives that have been somewhat uncovered from the massive snowbank on top of them. He is now feeding them, and we’ll hope for the best that the weather will warm soon and they’ll be able to get out and fly around when the first blooms of Spring arrive. That’s when it will really feel like Spring.