Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Spring has sprung!

Spring has definitely sprung here on Little Red Hen Farm.

The chickens have found all the holes hidden by the snow at the bottom of the fence and they have scattered in all directions - pecking, scratching, sun bathing - what happy chickens do best.

The kids helped me move the chicken tractor - the portable shelter that the laying hens use to be on fresh grass from May - October each year - to it's 2017 pasture the other night. It's a pretty heavy thing. An A-frame on wheels that can be moved easily so long as there are no big bumps or holes to push through.

There is still snow in the woods, but the fields are bare after a few really mild days this week. I am trying to be patient waiting for the frost to leave so I can pound all the fence posts that pop up a few inches with the frost each winter (hence the holes the chickens duck under in the Spring) and for the grass to grow so I can let the restless sheep and mini-donkey out to eat and play at their leisure.

The meat birds have been ordered and will be coming in about a month's time.

Between now and then, there is much to do.

Shearing the sheep and skirting fleeces heading to the fibre mill to be made into luscious yarn; mucking out the barn to the compost pile; back-breaking work to prep the garden followed by planting; laying hens moved out of the coop so I can clean it for the meat chicks to take over for the next few months; a few roosters to re-home or prep for the oven (anyone want a rooster?); etc.

The list is long and there are always new things to add to it each day.

I've been farming for four years now and my confidence in my abilities is growing. There are always opportunities that challenge me; always opportunities to learn. I've gotten better at self-care too. It's always been a challenge for me. I've learned to rest so I don't quit. It's probably been the hardest lesson of all.

I used to be quite athletic when I was younger, but learning and experience lead to other interests and time and responsibility took it's toll on my body. Like anything - if you don't use it, you lose it.

I'm not getting any younger and I am noticing age beginning to set in. If I want to keep farming, I recognize that I need to keep my body strong or it will force me to stop.

I've started running and swimming again and I love it. I have signed up for my first 5k run next month and a 10k trail run at Fundy National Park at the end of September.

I feel stronger and my mind feels clearer. My goals are keeping me focused and better able to keep on top of my priorities. It feels really good.

I'm also really getting a lot out of working alongside some really amazing women in my "Fundy Fibre Artisans" fibre collective. We've been meeting regularly now since before Christmas and have some fun plans to share our love of all things wooly.  We will be attending some fairs as vendors and doing some demonstrations of hand spinning, knitting and other techniques this summer.

I've spent a lot of time playing with my new dye kit and am loving the results.

There are so many things I want to do. I'm so grateful to have found something that fills my heart up to overflowing!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Learning to fight

Spring is on it's way....

I feel it.... the animals definitely feel it.

With each lingering storm or drop in temperatures, we all find ourselves a bit restless and unpredictable.

The sweet little black girl in the photo above is Maiseg - my oldest sheep. I almost lost her last night.

At 11 years of age, she is doing ok, but I suspect she has hardly any teeth left for proper mastication and have noticed she has lost weight over the winter. It's pretty hard to gum hay - especially when you've been eating it for almost 6 months straight.

 In an attempt to help her maintain the weight she has until she gets back out on the sweet and tender grass in May,  I've begun supplementing her and the rest of flock with grain. Something I do every year to make sure they are at a good weight for easier Spring shearing. They know the sound of the feed bucket when I am prepping their rations and Maiseg is the first to sound the alarm.

In the excitement, there is a lot of pushing and shoving to get as much as they can and the much younger and robust sheep are tough competition for an old girl like Maiseg. As a result, she sometimes takes too big a mouthful and it gets stuck somewhere along the line - cutting off her breathing.  I think we all have had this happen one time or another ourselves and can imagine how distressing it would be for her and me. How do you perform the heimlech on a sheep? You can't.....

Last night, she choked.... and it was really bad this time.

A lot of foaming at the mouth, eyes rolling and starting to close, losing her balance trying to find her breath and me unable to do anything but encourage her to keep trying and stay near to let her know she is not alone.

After a very long few minutes, she was able to clear her throat and headed back to the grain feeder to see if there was any left.


I really thought I was going to lose her. It wouldn't have been a surprise....

What did surprise me though, was how calm I was able to be throughout the ordeal. The first time this happened a few years ago, I freaked! What was happening? How do I fix this?

Since starting my farming journey, I have come a long way in terms of finding my courage and resilience in scary situations like this. Naturally, I would usually freeze or run away from the scary stuff that happens in my life. Although sometimes this is what you need to do depending on the situation, farming has helped be learn there are times where you need to fight. Fight for those I love and fight for myself. Who else is going to do it for me? No one - so buck up and get 'er done!

Where there is livestock, there will eventually be "dead" stock at some point and we have certainly had our share of it over the past 4 years.

But very few of our critters have gone without a good fight to try to get them better and I have learned it's not always easy to recognize if the fight can be won or not. When you win - you learn from it and celebrate. When you lose, you summon the courage to do the merciful thing and try to let go of the loss as best you can.

This time, Maiseg had to fight this one herself, but I am really glad I was there to jump in and help her if she needed me.

This morning, Maiseg seems to have no lingering complications from her ordeal last night and welcomed me to the barn by coming over to me for her daily belly rub. She's a sweet, but tough old girl. She is lovely and inspiring.

She's going to get her grain hand-fed to her today....