Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morning barn madness

Farmers are early risers for a good reason.

There's lots to do, especially when you've got animals.

Thankfully, many hands make light work and the kids have taken to helping me with the barn chores (they actually look forward to the visit -- most mornings.)

So here's a peek at our post-breakfast routine:

1.) Feed equines. Gallagher first, donkeys next.

Yes, Gall is our biggest animal but feeding him first has more to do with managing herd dynamics than his size: If we don't give him his grain first, he gets all snooty and pushes the donkeys out of the run-in (he's the alpha so he has to eat first in the name of "protecting" the donkeys). Hay in the summer? What about grazing, you may ask. We also have a paddock roped off in the larger hayfield but it's so buggy out there right now, the equines stay pretty close to the barn during the day. While we're still trying to get some weight on Gall, the donkeys certainly don't need any help there. But it's either we feed them hay or they eat the barn. No kidding.

Gentle boy

We think Cinder was looking for the self-serve buffet.

Lee too. He's got to work on his stealth skills though (note that donkeys are not allowed in this part of the barn.)

Putting those muscles to work.

Breakfast, finally.

2.) Release ducks.

The ducks are free range during the day but we house them in a converted goat stall at night. Once the donkeys are munching on their hay, there's a clear passage from the barn to the duck/goat yard where they've got their water and paddling pool.

Once (if?) we get our hay cut, they'll be able to access the ponds where they can paddle at will (the Rouens at least. The Muscovies aren't too sold on this whole swimming thing. They prefer flapping, perching and sleeping. And squeaking once in a while (they can't quack, though they do try so hard.))

Peeking duck

Getting ready for the big release

Paddle pool or bust!

Testing out the wings (the Rouens prefer the feet)

Upside-down duck limbo

Like a duck to water

3.) Release chickens.

We've got 30 "babies" (they're three months old now -- I'll get around to posting about their arrival soon) in addition to our nine laying hens (we lost one Red in the spring.) We keep them inside the barn during the night but let them out first thing in the morning. We've got a poultry "yard" made with chicken wire and snow fencing (so classy) but the chickens use that perimeter as a loose guideline. They're usually roaming around the barnyard, scratching in equine poop (of which there is a lot of ), picking at weeds (of which there are also a lot of) or catching bugs (ditto for lots of those).

Chicken run

On their way...

Strike a pose

Henry really needs some sheep or something. The chickens just didn't want to be herded.

We have proper nesting boxes but the chickens have taken to laying in a secret nest among the straw bales.

4.) Feed and water goats.

We've been keeping the goats inside lately because Lucy, who we suspect is pregnant (yes, us greenhorn farmers didn't realize that a buck could be so 'fruitful' at such a young age. We've fixed the problem (okay, we fixed Sammy) but we're left with the prospect of a goat kid (or kids, it's hard to tell) sometime in August) likes staying close to home during the day (who knew goats could get barn sour?). Sammy likes staying close to Lucy (though he also loves tearing around the barnyard terrorizing the sumac.)

Lucy (behind) and Sammy on goat mountain.

Getting in to her work

More muscle power (That look means, "Come ON mum, this water bucket is heavy!")

The nighttime routine is pretty much the same (but in reverse) except we also feed the chickens and ducks and collect eggs. The ducks usually return to their pen on their own around 6:00 pm and the chickens come in for the night at dusk. Of course there's also cleaning, sweeping, fixing, grooming, picking feet, refilling feed bins, stacking hay, etc. (And we're only hobby farmers at this point -- just wait until we get our 'working' animals!)

It's a lot of work but it's worth it, especially when I've got my farm hands to help.


Erin said...

Fiona - love all that you are doing! I don't know how you do it all with kids in tow! Henry is beautiful, I think my dogs are jealous of the chickens! My Aussies herd children and water! My older one will turn on the hose by chewing the nozzle open, then herd the water spraying out. We are on our 3rd nozzle :) Good thing I love neurotic dogs! said...

Thanks, Erin. What's so funny is I look at your blog and your garden and wonder how do YOU do it all with kids in tow?! That's so funny about your Aussies! Ours is just a tad neurotic too, but thankfully, we are too so Henry fits right in :)

Mama Pea said...

What a great blog post! Pictures are wonderful, aren't they? They can create such a "connection" for all of us.

I especially liked the top picture of you . . . "Woman on a Mission!"

Chicken Mama said...

So . . . tired.

Can't . . . wait . . . 'til . . . winter . . . when I can catch up on my blog reading!

I'm LOVIN' zipping thru the pictures, though! This looks like a particularly good post - thanks for taking the time!


P.S. I think the picture of you walking to the barn should be your new FB pic! ;)

Maggie said...

The animals keep arriving two by two! Ducks, baby chickens, goat kids, neat! Great pictures, funny commentary (I agree - Henry really does look disconcerted trying to herd ducks), kudos again to everything you're doing on the farm - very inspiring to many, even if some of our own "farms" include subway tracks and office buildings :)

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