Friday, August 30, 2013

Free Range Days Are Here On SweetWater!

Welp, I may have fallen behind on the blog, but we have made a lot of great steps forward on the farm. So Today I thought I would take a moment to try to catch you up a bit about life on SweetWater.

A month or so ago we were wishing for rain & now we are grateful for clear skies.  In fact just a few weeks ago, we could have just stepped out the door and gone for a little swim in the lower hay field (although it would have been a pretty mucky swim).  The constant heavy rain had caused the creek to burst over its banks and flood the fields.  According to our neighbor, who came to check and make sure we didn't float away, it was the highest he had seen it in 60 years.  Nate and I woke up early and at my nervous critter momma request, we went to check on the goats to make sure that the creek hadn't flooded their pen.  As we were walking over, the rain slowed down and sadly we watched at least 4 beautiful trees uproot and get carried downstream.  As their roots lifted from the earth, the sound they made was almost like they were crying in pain. We now have a few new gaps along the creek.  Nate and I hope to remedy that in the near future by planting some vines, bushes, and trees. If all goes well we will help firm up the river bank, protect the trees, and maintain the integrity of the creek. 

We have been busy the past few weeks fixing and planning for the coming weeks.  As you have probably inferred from the title of this blog, our little crew has earned some more freedom.  As much as I wanted to keep them protected from the big bad world of hawks, owls, wild dogs, and bad beasties...it was time to let them leave the coop (pun intended). So our oldest group, the chickens, were the first to earn a little extra freedom during the day.  It took about an hour or so before they were out of the coop and exploring their new fine dining choices.  Obviously they loved it!  I was a bit concerned about the dogs, but Nate had done a good job of teaching the dogs the chickens are off limits.  Plus Agatha, our dominant rooster, has developed a bit of an attitude since the baby birds moved next door to the chicken coop.  So I don't think the dogs want to get pecked on the head.  Trust me the dogs have more to worry about now since the goats are all free ranging too and Captain finds it appropriate to give them a head butt from time to time.


Of course there are many benefits to free ranging the animals besides all the amusing antics of the critters.  The animals are happier and healthier with the freedom.  It helps cut down on feed and maintenance of the coop/pen.  It helps with fertilizing the land (and cars/ doorway/ garage).  One of the biggest benefit so far is the decrease of grasshoppers and ticks around the house.  That being said it also has some draw backs too.  I am constantly having to "baby sit" and make sure everyone is getting along.  The big chickens like to pick on the baby birds.  The goats like to sneak in the garage and get into the grain.  Everybody likes to get in the garden. Looks like our green house project just got bumped up on the list.  More on that in my next post. 

One of my friends posted an article about her 2 1/2 year old daughter going through stages of disequilibrium and equilibrium.  I think those stages apply to free ranging on the farm too (plus lots of other real life scenarios as well).  The first day everything seemed copacetic, but by day two we were definitely in the early stages of disequilibrium.  Chickens were pecking Guinea hens on the heads, goats were climbing on tractor parts, dogs were barking at goats and everyone was in the garden (I repeated this because it seems to be a reoccurring trend).  I am pretty sure Nate and I both had a moment envisioning goat and chicken dinners to help ease the chaos.  Thank goodness we could put all the critters away with a little bribery of feed. 

Over the last few weeks, we have lost a Guinea and a pheasant to an owl, our dominant rooster, Agatha, has pecked me pretty hard in legs twice because he was in a panic about being fed first, I've had a turkey jump in my arms, a chicken jump on my back, and you guessed it goats in the garden.  I have to tell you, that is just part of the process.  This past week Nate and I are starting to feel the equilibrium set in again.  The goats are venturing into the fields more, the chickens are leaving the baby birds alone, the baby birds have learned to roost in the trees by the house (away from the owls), and the dogs enjoy herding (chasing) the various critter friends.  The garden still gets an unwelcome visitor every so often, but Nate and I found a way to make it more difficult for the critters to eat too much while we get the green house finished. (Again, more on that in my next post). 

Now we can just sit back and laugh at their antics again.  I must say it is pretty amusing to see the goats playing king of the hill on the trailer, a chicken walk by the front door, or a billy goat sneak in the house every so often.  I expect we will encounter some more growing pains, but that just part of farming. Sometimes you just have to figure it out as you go.

Speaking of keeping equilibrium, I will have to cut this post short because I have to feed and put the critters to bed soon.  Trust me a regular schedule makes all the difference in the world.  They may not have clocks and watches, but those critters definitely have a concept of time.  If I am late on my feeding schedule, they will let me know.

Before I end this post, I wanted to mention how excited Nate and I have been to have some visitors lately.  I have to give a big thanks to my brother for all his help when he came out to visit.  While Nate's shoulder was out of commission, Todd helped put up the fence and set up the second coop for the baby birds.  The baby birds were happy to be able to spread their wings and move about more.  Plus it gave our nosey big chickens a reason to hem and haw about their new neighbors.  It was a great visit and we look forward to him visiting again. 


Also a big thanks goes out to Uncle David for delivering Grandma Sue's love seat.  It came just in time for my brother's visit; which meant we were able to offer him a comfortable place to sit and rest after a hard days work.  The couch is the perfect size for the bunk house and we are grateful to Grandma Sue and family for thinking of us.  We wished Uncle David could of have stayed longer, but we were glad he could share in some of the progress we have made since his last visit. 

Nate and I are excited because we have had a lot of friends and family express interest in coming and visiting us on SweetWater.  We hope that they will be able to find some free time in their schedules and drop on by the farm.  We love that others have been able to sense how much fun we have been having here on the farm and want to share that with us. The gate is always open for family and friends.  If you are in the area or want to take a trip to visit us as the farm grows, please feel free to drop us a line.  We could always use an extra hand, if you are willing, or just come on over and enjoy the scenery for a few days.

I hear a rooster crowing outside, a turkey chirping, and a goat crying...so I better get going.  Check back soon because I still have so much to share.  Nate is days away from our first hay cutting, the tractor is almost better than new, I have been playing mad scientist (natural scientist) in the kitchen, we are in the process of building our first green house, & Nate and I have gone Topsy Turvy crazy!!!


Thanks for visiting us on the farm! Have a great Labor Day weekend! 
Nathan, Lily & Our Critter Crew


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