Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ava's Excellent Adventure

Ava, Fagner, Duffy
This morning was like most. The sun was nearly up. The mist hung above the trees. A neighboring rooster was crowing and the local birds were beginning their morning choir practice. I was feeding Moonbeam and the pony (who stay in the dry lot at night...they are on a diet) when Becky appeared and said, "I'm pretty sure the horses (Fagner, Ava, and Duffy) are gone. One of the gates to the pasture is open." Well, it always seems that when something exciting has happened, I am without a camera. So it will have to suffice that I just tell you this story.
So, Becky and I grabbed halters and treats and jumped into the gator to go looking for wayward horses. We did not have far to go, though. It seems that the three of them never made it any farther than the riding arena...which sits in the middle of our field of oats. What a yummy treat that must have been! It only took a few moments to catch each of them and place a halter on Fagner and a bridle on Duffy (who Becky rode back to the barn). Dear sweet Ava just trotted along behind all of us as if this is what we do every day! Of course, now she is fast asleep on the floor of her stall as I write this. Quite an exciting night for Ava....her first taste of freedom....and probably not her last, here at RunAMuck Farm!!
I wonder how long it took for them to notice that the gate was open...and I wonder who was the ringleader? "WaHoooooooo, Heaven straight ahead!" I am sure they said as they sauntered (or maybe galloped) down the road towards an open field of oats!

More Signs of a Wet Summer

An increase in the toad population leads me to believe our total rainfall has been greater than average this summer. There are other signs around the farm, too. The rain barrels are always full...and we do use them for routine watering. Today, I found these growing around the barn:
No, they are not loaves of bread, or popovers! They are mushrooms. No wonder there are so many toads around here.....they have plenty of toadstools!!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Did All These Toads Come From?

Frogs and toads have always been a part of the farm. Evening walks to the pond are always accompanied by the pond peepers and their high pitched chorus. The addition of large mouth bass in our pond seemed to cut back on the numbers of frogs over the past two years. We have managed to keep a fairly large population of bullfrogs, though, at the pond. As you walk by the pond's edge you will hear them jumping into the safety of the shallow water.

What we have noticed this year is a large population of toads. There is one that lives in our feed room and several that I have noticed in the vegetable garden. These warty fellows are always welcome since they help to keep the insect population at bay.

This week, as I mowed,I noticed for the first time a huge amount of tiny toads. I am not sure if these are just young toads or a species of smaller toads. Almost everywhere you step you can see them hopping through the grass to avoid your step. I am wondering if we have so many as a result of the wet weather we have had most of this year.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sewing Oats

This year we took the plunge and planted one of our larger fields with an orchard grass mix with the hopes that next year we will be able to harvest enough hay to meet our demand for the entire year. We have turned what was once a corn field into an oat field for now. The oats will hold the soil until the grass germinates and takes over (next year). We had plans to sell the oat harvest. This weekend, however, I had the bright idea that maybe we should try to use some of our own oats for oat meal, etc. How cool would it be to eat oatmeal from the oats that we grew ourselves? Pretty cool, I thought....until I realized how labor intensive the process of picking and cleaning the oats is; not to mention drying and cutting them. Each stalk has several oat groats clinging to it. Picking is not difficult. But cleaning....well that is just a whole other story. Each kernel is covered by 3 seperate coats...almost impossible to pick off by hand. Ok, so we will continue to buy our oats at the store... but it was a good thought. I suppose all of that specialized harvesting and processing equipment really is a necessity!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mutual Grooming

Last night's cold front left us with a chilly, foggy morning. The sun rose above the pasture in a misty haze. Except for the usual avian choir practice, things are rather quiet and peaceful. The chore menu reads the same as most mornings...feed the chickens, goats, horses and then clean up around the barn. While mucking the dry lot (which right now is more like a mud lot from all of the rain we have been receiving)....well, while mucking I caught this picture of Donnie (pony) and Duffy (elder statesman and protector of the young) grooming each other. This happens a lot....a sort of "I'll scratch you if you scratch me" arrangement. What you cannot see in this picture however, is Moonbeam who has decided that I need grooming, too, and has just given my "derriere" quite a pinch!

Meanwhile, Ava (the young and fearless) takes a much needed after-breakfast nappy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Strange Day Indeed

One thing that being on the farm does to you is make you keenly aware of weather patterns. After all, weather affects most farm activities. This afternoon started out with brilliant blue sky and lots of cumulus clouds. The temperature reached a high of a comfortable 79 degrees. This is a welcomed relief from the past few days of 90+ degrees and super high humidity. Since the weather was so mild, I decided to get caught up on some outdoor chores....berry picking, weeding, mowing.

About halfway through picking blueberries the weather changed very suddenly. The sky turned black, and the wind picked up. Pretty soon the treetops were swaying and I felt a sudden chill in the air. Afraid of an imminent cloudburst, I gathered my basket of berries and the dogs and ran back to the house seeking shelter. The temperature had dropped to 68 degrees in a matter of minutes. It is amazing how fast a new weather front can arrive....and with such force! Well, I have waited a sufficient amount of time and still no rain. So.....back out to finish picking!

Aren't these blackberries just scrumptious looking. We are nearing the end of the blueberry harvest (perhaps one week left), but the blackberries have just started. Oh how I wish I had a harvest large enough to turn into jam. Note to self: next year plant more blackberry canes!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Unwanted Visitors

I did not take this picture, but, I could have... if I had only had my camera. This is what greeted us as we pulled up to the farmhouse the other evening. A fellow just like this was standing at one of our bird feeders. We had previously found evidence of bears visiting our feeders, but never have had the good fortune to actually see one there....until now. This is the second bear sighting on our land that we have had in 3 weeks. What struck us funny was the size of his ears...just like this picture! Needless to say, the dogs were curious and the bear hurried off into the woods.
(picture courtesy of

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Guinea Gnews!

Welcome!... to Bee Haven Acres newest additions....16 baby guinea fowl. We are replenishing our flock whose numbers are down to seven. Last year we started with 18 guineas. Unfortunately, this bunch had a nasty habit of throwing themselves in front of large, heavy moving objects such as trucks and farm equipment.

Aren't they just adorable? Hard to believe that they go from this:

...To this in just a few short months!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Our Babies Keep Growing!

Isn't that always the case? No matter how hard we try to freeze our children at certain ages and keep them small, they always grow up...well before we are ready for it! And so it is the same with farm babies. When they are small, they are warm and cuddly and so dependant upon you. Then they begin to grow and become more independant and even test their limits like children do. We have had such fun over the past months with our baby goats. They still enthusiastically greet us at their gate, but now their play is a bit rougher and entering their yard holds its risks, though minor. Little horn buds have become fairly large horns, and our little goats have learned that they can make a point with those horns. (We have come to find that those horns are great back-scratchers, also!) Here are Myrtle's twins (Sissy on the left and YoSkip on the right)

Forrest is the largest of our babies and still remains such a sweetheart...gentle and kind.

Smoochie is growing to be quite the handsome fellow and will make a beautiful breeding buck.

Two of our goat babies remain For Sale....Yo Skip (fainting goat) pictured above and our little tricolor Dwarf Nigerian buck named Darryl... Both goats are available as full bucks (and would make terrific breeders), or we will neuter them for you. They need to go to a home with other goats as these fellows are quite sociable and will need company. Unless, of course, you wish to adopt them both! If you are us!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hay There!!

Hello from the hayloft! We have been quite busy lately at the farm. With a threat of rain, the hay that had been drying in the field had to be quickly baled. This hay added to some that we had previously purchased has just about filled up our hay loft. Hopefully we will have one more cutting by fall. Next year we will have additional acreage to mow and bale...possibly making us self sufficient. Notice what a lovely green color our hay is! We have been quite lucky with adequate rainfall here in PA this summer.

This is today's yield from the henhouse. Finally our new gals are starting to lay. I will say, however, that their eggs are quite small in comparison with our old gals'. I am holding 8 eggs in my hand in this picture. They may be small, but their yolks are rich and quite tasty!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

To me, mornings on the farm are the best time of day. By 5:15 AM the air is filled with cheerful melodies as the wood thrushes call "eee-olaaaay" back and forth to each other. Most mornings are relatively the same...early rising followed by the same daily chores of feeding the goats, chickens, horses, duck and making sure all have plenty of fresh water for the day. During dry weather, the garden, grape vines and orchard trees need watering. And although the days are fairly ordinary, each is filled with extraordinary moments. It is these moments that makes life on the farm so fulfilling.

This morning's sunrise was breathtaking....a bright pinkish, orange orb rising above the misty fog that had settled over the valley through the night...the promise of another beautiful day. The day lilies turned their faces towards the warmth as if equally awestruck by the sunrise.

This year's blueberry crop has been exceptionally abundant. Friday I picked about 15 lbs of blueberries and turned them into 26 half pints of jam, with plenty left over for eating. Last evening while making animal rounds I passed the blueberry patch and noticed that two birds were caught in the bird netting that covers the bushes. They were a species of bird that I had not seen before. It took about 10 minutes to free this pair from the bonds of the bird net and they flew off unharmed. When I got back to the house, I checked our bird book to find that the birds that I rescued were a pair of orchard orioles that had stopped by for a blueberry dinner and gotten caught under the net. Note to self: check blueberry nets several times daily!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Goat Tales....

Here is Myrtle, the amazing one-eyed goat. She is fully recovered from her eye removal surgery and getting along just fine. I am not sure if goats have the same depth perception that humans do as their eyes are more lateral on their face, but Myrtle doesn't seem to be affected by the loss of her right eye. She is a very sweet goat who produces perfect kids. It is great to finally see her no longer suffering with such a sore eye.
Here are Jack and Spider, out for evening chores. Spider is one of our "special" goats. Of course, they are all special, but Spider had a rough start. He was one of Star's triplets and was born with contractures of his legs, making it impossible for him to stand. Stretching and bandaging eventually straightened his legs and relaxed the contractures; and now he is just as athletic as all of the other Nigerian goats. All that early handling made him an especially affectionate goat. It is always Spider who greets us at the gate and clambers to climb onto our laps.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's Blueberry Time!

Finally, today we had enough blueberries to pick. They are big and juicy and oh, so delicious...not to mention packed with antioxidants. Best of all, they are completely organic. No sprays or chemicals used on them - ever! This should be enough for a batch of blueberry lime jam. The red that you see in each bowl are a few red raspberries from our raspberry patch. Unfortunately, like most years, the Japanese Beetles have begun to enjoy the raspberries also.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

For Sale.... very athletic tri-color Dwarf Nigerian Goat (able to leap tall doghouses).

Water Conservation

It seems that every summer comes with an inevitable drought in August. In an attempt to conserve water we fashioned rain barrels from 50 gallon drums. They are atttached to the downspout from the barn and connected to each other by hoses. The downspout connection has a valve that shuts off the flow to the barrels when they are full and sends the overflow down the rest of the downspout. We started with 2 barrels which very quickly filled up with last week's rains. We had to saw off the top of each barrel so that we can dip a bucket down into the water. I used this water today to water our fruit trees and grape vines.One of today's chores was to add 2 more barrels.... just in time, I might add, as we experienced quite a downpour this evening.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Chicken (S)Coop

In answer to "I Knit Therefore......" who asked how we house our chickens, here is the (s)coop. We started with one 8 X 8 shed and a 12' X 40' x 6' high (approx) yard. This was housing for our original flock of about 18 chickens. Once our gals were acclimated to their home, we began to let them out to roam the farm during the daylight hours. We very quickly learned, however, that the poor dears had no protection against hawks and foxes and our numbers sadly diminished. At that point we started keeping the gals in their own yard, and letting them roam free only when we were around to keep an eye on them. Unfortunately, one day we were aghast to find a hawk inside their yard eating one of our poor dear layers. This prompted us to cover the top of the yard with bird netting to keep the hawks at bay.

At the end of this past winter, our flock was steadily holding at 6 chickens. We started 26 more chickens from just-hatched chicks and successfully raised all of them to maturity. Since our numbers have increased we have added another 8' X 10' shed at the opposite end of the yard.

Somehow our girls have worked out amongst themselves which shed they each prefer. Both are outfitted with several wall-hung nesting boxes.

This year when our fencing company came back to build our turkey yard, we had them install a permanent wire roof over the top of the chicken yard. This structure and yard will house heirloom turkeys that we will raise starting next year.

For those of you who have followed our farm blog for some time now, you might recall the story about our little red hen named "Scalpie". She was the poor hen who lost her scalp to a hawk attack. She entered the chicken protection program and lived in the barn for a while; terrorizing the kitties; until her head healed. Here is Scalpie one+ year later. She is a true survivor. No one messes with Scalpie!


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