How to Have A Goose Day

20180626_0827526am- Up with the Sun!  Time to come out from under the chicken coop to greet the day.

7am- Processional time.  Hint, a lot of a goose day will consist of traveling in procession with great importance, to nowhere in particular.

8am- The farmer is out!  Approach her when her back is turned to remind her that geese like a bit of sweet feed from the bucket she carries to the bottle lambs, but if she turns, RUN FOR NO REASON!  Can’t be too careful when you are a goose!

9am- The farmer filled our bucket with fresh water and moved it to a fresh spot so we don’t have to stand on the manure-ring around yesterday’s bucket location.  Time to fill this bucket with dirt, down and crud as fast as we can!

10am- Processional!  Down to the lower pasture to find some tender grass shoots.  Let’s not forget to defecate all along the road instead of fertilizing the grass for the farmer.

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11-1pm – Lunch of fine grasses in a shady locale.

2pm – We’re running across the lawn, wings outstretched, imagining that we are capable of flight.  If only our bums were a bit smaller…

3pm – One of us saw a lamb out and decided it needed pinching.  Farmer told us not to.  We resent her, but our water is cleaned and refilled again, so …

4pm – Standing in the driveway as a car pulls in.  Don’t get confused about who rules this roost, car!

5pm -7pm More grazing.  Be sure to mock the meat chickens in their chicken tractor.  Suckers.

8pm – Let’s think about bedding down – Chicken coop again?  Why not?

11pm – We are inexplicably out gabbling when the farmer does the night feeding of those cows she brought.  Midnight snack.

Pasture Progress

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Before and After!  A comparison of one day’s work on invasive Greater Celandine

I have to confess that I am a grass nerd.  Today, I was exuberant to see how perfectly my sheep ate and enjoyed the grass at their disposal.   Every blade appeared to be nipped only to the growth point, no further, allowing for optimal regrowth.  A field of vetch and clover had only unwanted mint left behind.

We bought this farm on June 30th, 2017.  In one year, we reclaimed rank overgrowth, cut back invading saplings, seeded new pasture onto denuded areas, and hauled out huge pieces of trash left by prior residents.  The fertility of the land has grown – sheep exposure plus added purchased manures have increased the carbon sequestration in the soil.  Our soil is darker, richer, and less inclined towards runoff than before.   With all of this effort towards improving the pasture, I admit we haven’t had a moment for the house interior.  Sure, our boxes are mostly unpacked, but we don’t have any plans for the unpainted pantry or removal of some of the tackier, ill-applied wallpapers we inherited.

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Sheep Trails – they walk in lines to hide their numbers, I guess.
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Left side is grazed, right side is about to be grazed.  The sheep leave the long seed stems but love the leafy undergrowth.

But we are happy, and the sheep are happy.  We are rotating pasture daily – each paddock is about a half acre.   As this is our second rotation around the farm, I am following the sheep’s grazing with the brush hog to knock down the larger weeds and suppress the parasites a bit (parasites like it moist- mowed grass gets dry in the sun.)

After reaching their nadirs nursing their lambs, our ewes are starting to pack a few pounds back on.  This afternoon, they lounged contently in the sun after a morning of serious munching on the fresh grass.  I’ve been busy worrying about the sad condition of one of the lambs that came from Ohio, wondering if I was doing anything right at all.  The main flock of girls reassured me that I was doing just fine indeed.

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And yet, no one ate the mint.  Do sheep have a natural aversion to mint?

Sheep in Search of a Shepherd

Single large flock of sheep ISO capable shepherd and verdant fields.  Appearance not important, commitment a must.  

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I don’t think that sheep ever write singles ads.  Overall, they aren’t picky about partners when the call of Fall comes.  But I am writing a personals ad for a flock of sheep that I really believe in.

Sue Johnson first got her Registered Border Leicesters after trying out several breeds in the 80’s.  From a first few ewes, her flock grew to 55 strong.  While trends in breedscome and go, Sue has stayed dedicated to fundamentals: sheep that thrive on grass, lamb with twins unassisted, raise them with care, and provide wool that meets the breed standard for curl and luster.  While her sheep have been shown with success, production fundamentals have guided her decisionmaking through these years.

I have to say here that Sue’s sheep saved my farm.  While the Bluefaced Leicesters are wonderful, fun sheep to raise, the Border Leicesters have done the heavy economic lifting for me.  Even with the stress of transport and relocation, my Border flock from Sue provided a 185% lamb crop, unassisted, in bad weather and good.    If I’m successful, my BFLs will be half as good in 10 years as Sue’s Border Leicesters have been right off the truck.  I really can’t say enough good things about their hardiness, their self-reliance, and their uniform appearance and lovely wool.  Unless you’ve had a flock of random sheep, it’s hard to overemphasize the value of ewes who are the same size, respond the same way to the same feed, and behave in predictable ways.  It saves a lot of personalized care, which a flock of 40 and 50 ewes doesn’t allow for the way having 5 or 10 once did.

Sue needs to cut back the number of sheep she is managing significantly for this year.  She and I aren’t just looking for buyers – we want to find a dedicated steward of a legacy and a rich genetic resource.  I have an interest in where Sue’s flock goes because I will need rams, support and partnership in future years.  Buying some or all of this flock entitles you to my support and Sue’s years of expertise and sound advice.  She picked my ram for this year, and from a gawky teenager he has grown into exactly the ram I was hoping to own.  An eye like that has real value.

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This flock is a turn-key group of sheep that is perfect for any enterprise-oriented shepherd.   I’m going to offend a few people, but I’m going to say that if you want to raise sheep as an enterprise rather than a hobby, forget about rare sheep, tiny sheep or trendy sheep.  Get a large, reliable ewe who will never fail you, who is part of a sustainable genetic pool and whose beautiful wool has myriad uses.   That ewe will pay your bills while the Breed of the Moment cycles through the usual breeder pyramid scheme.   Sue’s sheep are both white and natural – the US Border Leicester registry accepts both.  Ewe lambs, rams, and production-aged ewes all available in small groups or large.

So please contact me below if you think these sheep might be of interest.   We are happy to answer questions

So Much Going On

I’m afraid this will have to be one of those bullet-point affairs:

  • We got a couple of additional BFLs from Ohio last weekend in order to grab the last available breeding-age ewes from a breeder who sold out her flock three years ago.  They are MAGNIFICENT but don’t seem to particularly want to be photographed.20180611_184458
  • We drove 14 hours out and 16 back (due to having to take smooth roads with a full trailer).  We dropped off a Bluefaced Leicester ram in Western NY while outbound and then enjoyed a slow day seeing Ohio and chatting with the shepherd who was parting with his BFL flock.  The next day, we left the hotel at 5am for a 5:30 loadup and a long, straight drive home.
  • We got back to Vermont at 9:45, totally exhausted.  As we approach the house, we see strange figures near the ram enclosure.  Turns out our neighbors’ beef herd was loose.  They availed themselves of our hay and grass, leaving copious amounts of fertilizer in payment
  • We tried to herd them into our barn, but only two were willing to come in.  Our neighbor Terry helped us find the owner, and soon we were shooing the cattle slowly home.

    We released our new sheep, free from the risk of roaming cattle taking our fencing down and slept fitfully.

  • Meanwhile, our chickens are headed outdoors by the end of the week.  We are pleased to see our Slow White Broilers growing rapidly while still behaving naturally.  They as active and chirpy as chickens their age aught to be.  The jury is still out on how they’ll finish out, but so far, so good.  Interested in chicken?   We will have pastured chicken available after July 18th.  We also have
  • Our geese now roam the yard freely.  Contrary to the information we read, our geese are neither friendly towards us nor are they aggressive.  They seem cautious and inclined to move in a flock.  I am anxious about slaughtering a goose because plucking is apparently a significant challenge.  But I am willing to try at least one and then start tweaking.  Friend of the Farm Suzanne Podhaiser has been very generous with her experience, so I am grateful to her for her sage advice.
  • We are getting Jersey calves!  Two Jersey steers are forthcoming from Richardson Family Farm.  We need to think up some good names for them.  While most bulls born on dairy farms board a truck shortly after birth to meet a destiny inside a hotdog casing, ours will enjoy a winter and two summers of grass, shelter and sunshine.  We hope to keep them friendly but not pushy.  Brace yourselves for some big brown eyes.
  • Back to the sheep we bought.  I am enamored with their amazing blue color and fantastic structure.  They are real beauties.
  • We are trying to decide whether to raise more chickens or whether to have a few turkeys.  Our main goal with the birds on the farm is to pump up the nitrogen in the soil where it is seriously depleted.  Thoughts and opinions?

A few more pictures:

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