Cows (2019 edition)

Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018), we hosted 3 yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer.

The 3 heifers in the field shortly after arrival.

This year they were on the smaller side as they were part of the end of summer births last year so were only ~10 months old whereas the cows we hosted in prior years were closer to 12 months old by the time they arrived here.

The cows near their grain tub.

Because they were on the smaller side, in addition to all of the grass they could eat, they also received supplemental grain every few days so they would put on extra weight. Feeding the extra grain really made a big difference in how friendly the cows were. With the grain feedings, they would often run across the pastures when they saw anyone coming close to their gate.

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Saying Goodbye to Tiny

When we first adopted Tiny, we were not expecting her to live for much longer as she seemed quite sick at the time. That was way back in November 2017.

Tiny out enjoying the sunshine.

We had to have her put to sleep last week. She had progressing kidney failure and was struggling a little to keep on enough weight. Though she was declining physically slowly over time, her mind went first. Her dementia had progressed to such a stage that she wasn’t really Tiny most of the time any more.

Tiny with one of her all time favorite activities – eating pizza!

We’ll miss her standing right next to us in the kitchen waiting not so patiently for her share of any eggs we were cooking.

Tiny and Teddy hanging out together.
Tiny out in the yard.

Night Predators

Although other than the weasel incident last fall, our chickens have generally been safe while inside the pasture fences. Even so, since the weasel, we have made an extra effort to make sure all of the chickens are locked inside the coop every night.

In addition to the weasel, we had occasionally seen foxes and coyotes in the area. We set out our new game camera (which we used to track down the weasel) to see what other predators might be around the farm at night.

Raccoons are a common chicken predator that can kill an entire flock if they get into the coop at night. We captured a family of raccoons just outside the pastures one night. They don’t appear on camera on multiple nights over a couple month period so hopefully they were just passing through and don’t live in the immediate vicinity.

A family of raccoons. The bright light in the middle of the picture is a reflector that marks the snowmobile trail that runs through our property in the winter.

In addition to the raccoons, we also captured a coyote traveling along the trail one night. It doesn’t appear in multiple shots either so likely isn’t living in the immediate vicinity.

A coyote.
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Replenishing the Flock

After the weasel attacks last fall, our chicken flock was somewhat depleted. Earlier this spring, we purchased some new chickens to add to our flock – this time we purchased day old chicks.

Day old chicks first arrive home in spring 2019.

Although they are sorted by sex shortly after hatching, there is generally an error rate of around 10% so there is always a risk with day old chicks that some might actually turn out to be roosters.

We bought 6 chicks in total – 3 Buttercup hens and 3 Ameraucana hens. The Buttercups are the chicks with the speckled heads in the pictures. We already have other Ameraucana chicks – they are also called Easter Eggers because they can produce a range of egg colors from brown to green to blue to pink (each hen only lays one color its whole life).

The chicks at around 2 weeks old – already much bigger and more active.
The chicks move out to our new weasel-proof (hopefully) pen in the barn at around one month old.

While none of the 6 appears to have been a rooster, unfortunately one of the chicks did have a health issue appear after a few weeks.

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Rebuilding the Dam

A couple years ago, we tried to build a small earthen dam to stop debris from the woods from being washed out into the pastures during spring rains / snow melt. That attempt didn’t hold.

Here is the completed earthen dam a couple of years ago before it was tested.

Instead of rebuilding the earthen dam to completely block the water by holding it back, I decided to fortify the remaining piece of earthen dam with a water-permeable dam instead. By creating a water-permeable dam, the water would still flow through the dam out into the pastures, but the leaves, rocks and tree limbs would remain in the woods leaving the fences and pastures undamaged after the water subsides and avoiding the need for any time spent on clean up. The dam should slow the flowing water, causing the debris to stop while the water would continue seeping slowly through the dam out into the fields.

The same view of the dam today (including the water-permeable portion where it was previously washed out). It has been so successful that plants have been able to establish themselves over the dam as they are not washed away during heavy rains.

But what could we use to make the water-permeable dam? It would need to allow water through yet be sturdy enough to generally hold its shape under pressure from the flowing water without itself washing away.

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A New Kid on the Farm

Last spring, we added 2 new goat kids to the farm.

This year, we added another new kid, this time a *human* kid.

Sticking with the same naming convention as last year (T for the first names for goat twins Tori and Tessi), say hello to Teddy! Teddy was born in mid-February during a snowstorm.

Teddy supporting the local team by wearing his Syracuse University hat.
Teddy getting ready to leave the hospital and head home to the farm.

Teddy is growing quickly and doing very well. I’m sure he will be out in the fields helping take care of the animals very soon.

Teddy takes a quick nap with his first Teddy Bear after a long day of eating, crying and sleeping.
Teddy “celebrates” Tax Day 2019.
Teddy in his sun hat meeting the goats (in this case, Butterbean).

In Memoriam: Harriet

Our old goat, Harriet, passed away peacefully in early February.

She struggled with arthritis for the last couple of years and despite taking anti-inflammatory and pain medication, the cold during the polar vortex was too much for her to handle and we made the difficult decision to have her euthanized once it was clear she was suffering.

Harriet and Butterbean – one of the earliest and still one of my favorite pictures from around the farm.

The average life expectancy for an angora goat is believed to be only 8 to 11 years. Harriet was at least 16 years old (ancient in angora goat years). She lost her front teeth, had her horn cut down when it was threatening to grow into her skull, and still kept ticking.

Harriet after her horn removal with candlewax covering.

We will miss her gentle nature in the flock and her unique color out in the pastures.

Harriet out in the field.
Harriet looking into the camera in her last few days.

We had her cremated and plan to spread her remains around the pasture once spring arrives.

Predators Strike (Part 2)

As noted last time, 3 of our 4 new hens were missing, presumed dead.

The hen after she survived the initial attack.

We moved another hen from our flock to the chicken tractor so that the silver-spangled hamburg wouldn’t be alone. We also lined the outside of the chicken tractor with paving stones so nothing could dig right next to side and get underneath. This seemed to work as we saw no indications of any predators for several weeks.

After the quarantine period, we moved the silver-spangled hamburg and the other hen into the main barn so they could safely integrate back into the flock. They were inside a portable dog pen that was lined on the outside with chicken wire with a piece wood over the top. The barn has a concrete floor so the assumption was that nothing could dig underneath the pen.

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Predators Strike (Part 1)

Last fall, consistent with past practice (see here, here and here), we picked up 4 new hens from the NY State Fair.

There were 3 bantam-sized partridge cochins and 1 silver-spangled hamburg. They were all close to fully grown. The silver-spangled hamburg is a small breed, so although she wasn’t a true bantam, she was similar size to the bantam cochins.

The hens in their carrier being carried to the parking lot at the NY State Fair. The cochins preferred to try to stack on top of each other while in transit.

As the hens were new to our flock, we quarantined them in the moveable chicken tractor for several weeks. When quarantining the new hens, we placed the chicken tractor outside of the main fences.

The 3 Bantam Partridge Cochins enjoying the chicken tractor.

The chicken tractor is covered with wire mesh to both keep the chickens inside and keep predators out. As you can see in the above picture, the wire mesh is pretty small and anything that can fit through the mesh is unlikely to threaten an adult chicken.

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Heat from the Earth (Part 2)

As we are well into wintry weather for the year, here are some more details about our geothermal heating system.

See the earlier explanatory post about the installation process outside the house here.

Heat from the Earth

In addition to the bore holes and “moat” outside the house, there was also a bit of work inside the house for the changeover to a geothermal heating system. Following the lines from outside, the first step was creating a path for the heating loops into the house.

Here is a picture of the manifold where the lines enter and exit the house.

There are 5 entry lines and 5 exit lines. This covers 5 different heating loops. Each of the 5 heating loops has the cold water leave the house, travel to the bore holes and go down and back up two 75-foot bore holes per loop to absorb heat from the ground and then travel back into the house.

This is the pump unit that circulates the water from inside the house, through the heating loops outside and back into the house to the heat pump.

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