Category Archives: sheep

Mother Earth News Fair, I Met the WranglerStars!

This past weekend HB1 and HB2 joined me on a quick weekend trip to WI for the Mother Earth News Fair.  I had never been to one before, but I love the magazine and website so I pre-ordered tickets months ago thinking that the whole family would go.  As we got to planning out the summer, we realized that it might not work for the whole family to go.  I initially thought we could incorporate the Fair with our annual summer trip to visit family in WI but that wasn’t going to work.  Family is available on the weekends, and the Fair was on the weekend.  So it was decided I would go, and if the older boys could behave themselves and take care of their chores leading up to the weekend they could come with me.

We left Friday afternoon and got into WI around 9:30 local time.  We were staying with my grandma so after visiting for a bit, we hit the hay preparing for the next day.  My grandma’s house is only 20 minutes away from the Fair location so we left around 8:15 wanting to get there a little early and get our bearings.

After waiting a few minutes for the gates to open we made our way to the main stage where Joel Salatin was going to be talking about Salad Bar Beef, about which he wrote a book.  I have read most of the book, but I really wanted to hear him talk.  One point that he made that stuck with me was moving the animals every day gives you an opportunity every day to observe the animals and see how they are doing.  He initially started talking about large numbers of cows, but then took it down to a Homesteader level of cows and acreage.  I may have to start moving the cows more on smaller sections of grass.  We will see, the thing we have going for us is I already see the animals every day, they are right outside my bedroom window.

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After Joel’s talk I was walking around some of the exhibitors’ booths, and who do I see walking down the path towards me, but the entire Wranglerstar family, of YouTube fame.  I normally try not to make a big deal around famous people so as I was walking by I just said, “hey, I love your YouTube channel” and planned on continuing walking.  The whole family stopped and said thanks and struck up a conversation.  I got a Wranglerstar pencil, and we talked for probably five or ten minutes.  I actually ended up talking with them for about a half and hour or more over the course of the weekend, and my boys ended up running around the Fair with Jack.  The word I would use for the whole Wranglerstar family is genuine.  What you see is what you get, they are an honest to goodness genuinely nice family who go out of their way to make everyone they are talking to feel as important as anyone else in the world.

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On to the fair in general.  I had a great time.  There were multiple talks at every time period that I wanted to attend.  So much so, that I am trying to figure out how I can go to another one.  There were exhibitors who brought different breeds of animals, the most interesting to me were the American Guinea Hogs, miniature Jersey cows, and Idaho Pasture Pigs.  There were also tractor manufacturers with test drives, natural products, geodesic domes (we ordered a kit so a blog/video will be coming shortly), food products, walk behind tractors, alternative energy, Chinese greenhouses, aquaponics, charcuterie and on and on.  It was a ton of fun.

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HB2 using a solar death ray to make a smore
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Ben, the purveyor of www.300mpg.org and owner of this solar death ray.

Not only was the Fair fun, but I got to spend some “guy” time with the older boys.  In the car, at the Fair, and at my grandma’s.  Time one on one, or one on two doesn’t happen all the time, and many times when it does it is busy time.  So this laid back time was great.

If you have ever considered going to a Mother Earth News Fair, do it.  If you haven’t considered it, do.  It was a ton of fun, there were talks for everyone, and a ton of community building was going on.

Talk to you later…

Good Day, Happy Livestock

This morning the kids and I headed outside early and got to work finishing strapping the fence to the T posts.  I think there were about 16 yet to be done.  After that was done, I ran the electric wire along the top of the fence and got all the insulators set.  By that time, it was near lunch so we went inside.

After getting HSB#3 down for a nap, I went out and got the electric wire connected to the system we already have.  I also cut the field fence that was over the spot I had installed the gate and zip tied the piece of fence onto the gate.  At this point, all that was keeping the livestock from greener pastures was getting my temporary fence up to keep them from the whole pasture.  I plan to partition it off into three sections and rotate them through that, and a portion of the pasture they have already been in.

Several months ago I had purchased fiberglass moveable electric fence posts and some polywire.  Once I got that set up, it was time to let the livestock in.

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I am using a jumper to electrify the poly wire on one end, and have wrapped the poly around the permanent aluminum wire on the other.  I started with only two strands, but it became quickly apparent a third was needed.

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Once the livestock got over the shock that they were allowed someplace new, they got straight to eating.  Before the sheep or Oreo could cautiously test the poly, Bullseye got excited and ran right through it.  I don’t even think the shock registered until he was on the other side, and he didn’t take long coming back to Oreo.  It was at that point I added the third strand.  Since then, we have seen several sheep and Oreo test the fence and jump back, so I am hoping it will work for it’s intended purpose.

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The animals enjoying fresh grass

This is what a happy cow looks like.

After that was done, I moved the pallet run in about 30 feet.  I needed to move it so that I can section off part of the pasture to let it rest.  I was going to use the tractor, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t have broken it, so I leg pressed it a side at a time, several feet at a time.  In the picture below, the bare spot on the right is where the run-in was, and the right side of the pasture is where I will use temporary electric fence to keep the livestock out of.

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After a late dinner, I got to planting the trees that arrived from Stark Bros.  For the price they were, I am very happy with how they look.  Some of the cheap trees were actually their “supreme” trees and had a decent caliper trunk.  I got two cherry trees and three apples planted.  I will get the last five apples planted tomorrow, if I can move.

Until then…

 

Continued Progress

Over the last few days I have continued to work away at the fence and other chores.  I have managed to get two sides of the new pasture fence stretched and hung, that leaves just one side left.  I did, however, have a mishap when stretching the fence.  See if you can notice it in the picture below.  It’s probably hard to see via a picture..

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That picture is of the second side stretched, but not hung onto the posts.  It might be hard to tell but the fence is on the outside of the T posts.  That is NOT where you want it, and I only noticed this when I went to wire tie the fence to the posts.  But by that point I had stretched the fence and stapled it to the corners.  So I decided to pull the T posts, and then re-pound them with the fence on the correct side.  Did I mention I don’t have a post puller?  I don’t.  So I pulled them all by hand and then re-set them.  Lot’s of fun.  Don’t believe me, try it.  But worse things could happen so the next morning I got up at 6, before anyone else was up, and went to hang the fence.  I also made sure to put the last side of the fence on the right side of the posts so I didn’t make that mistake again.

The only access I currently have planned for the new pasture is through a gate out of the old pasture.  Security, ease of build, and cost are a few of the considerations that went into that decision.  In the meantime, we are having to walk further and further around the fence in order to get inside the new pasture to work since I hadn’t hung the new gate yet.  So on Tuesday, I hung the gate.  I haven’t yet cut the old field fence to accommodate the new gate, I won’t do that until the new fence is near enough being done to not have to worry about animals escaping.  It’s not perfect, but it should work.

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I want to tell you something I am really excited about.  There are peaches on one of the trees I planted last fall!  I count five, and even if I don’t get to eat any of them, we are getting close to fruit on some of our trees and that is exciting.  I am sure there will come a day when I am begging people to come take fruit, but I can’t see that far ahead yet.

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Homestead Boy #1 is continuing to grow his egg sales business.  He takes it very seriously, reading books about chickens, collecting eggs often, and worrying and taking care of his birds.  In order to keep up with demand he bought another seven White Leghorn hens from a farmer friend of ours.  They are started birds, about 16 weeks old, so they should begin to lay in a month or two.  He wanted to have some white egg laying hens so he could offer a greater variety of colors.

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It often happens that God rewards a hard day with a beautiful sunset.  I always say I will cry if someone buys the field across the street from us and puts up a subdivision to ruin our sunsets.  I don’t often get up early enough to see the sunrise, I’m more of a night owl, but I did catch this the morning I hung the fence.  Fortunately no one will ever be able to take the sunrises from us.

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Until next time…

 

Homesteading Resources – By State!

The good people at TaylorMadeHomestead.com have compiled a list of homesteading blogs and websites and they have arranged them by state.  So if you are looking for a local resource for homesteading, take a look.  I happen to be on there as well.

Homesteading Blogs Sorted By State!

Picking Away

I have been trying to get out for an hour or two in the morning and then again in the evening to pick away at chores that need to get done.  It is nice his year with HSB#3 being almost two that he can play with his older siblings or hang out with me while I do work.

One of the things I was able to get done is to hang the solar fence charger I bought last fall.  I had been thinking about where I wanted to put it so that it was convenient to get to.  The solar panel on the fencer is in a fixed position, so the fencer needs to face south.  This meant that the location we have the current fencer wouldn’t work because the controls would be on the opposite side from us.  I settled on hanging it on the corner nearest the chicken coop.  I will have to move the grounding rods, pulling them out probably won’t be fun, but we are closer to getting my brother in law’s fencer back to him.

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I have also been working away at the new sheep/cow pasture fence.  HSB#1 has been a huge help.  He very seldom complains about hard physical labor.  He is right there with me using the post hole digger to clean out the holes, and then tamping the posts into location once they were set.  Now if I could just get him to work as hard on finishing his school work for the summer.

Just last night I got the last post set for which I had a hole.  I still need to drill two more holes to set the gate between the current pasture and the new pasture, and for the pig pen.

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I also have the hog panels set in place.  I am not exactly sure how I am going arrange them with regards to being on the inside or outside of the posts.  My preference is for them to be on the inside so that any pushing by the pigs would be pushing into the posts, not pulling on the panels.  Part of this will be determined by the sheep/cow pasture fence and a very slight misplacement of a post.

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Last night, after getting the last of the posts set, I was awarded with this sunset.  I love living on the Homestead.

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Long Weekend – Speed Round

I have so busy I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write a blog, so I am going to write a speed round blog post to get caught up.  These topics may or may not be in order.

The grafting experiment has been a mixed bag.  Only a few of the grafts have so far seem to have taken.  I think this is because I had to store my scion wood for so long until I was able to graft.  I am going to try and graft as many more as I can, but I will just plant the rest of the root stocks.  The root stocks seem to be find and growing once planted so I can plant them now and then use them in the fall or next spring.

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The root stock sprouting

 

We have some great friends who gifted us some mint and chive plants.  I up potted them and put them on the front porch so that the chickens wouldn’t eat them.  The kids love snapping off chives and mint to chew on while playing.

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The calf had us worried yesterday.  It was really hot, and he wasn’t staying in the shade and ended up panting quite a bit.  His eyes were always clear and his ears were attentive so we just kept an eye on him.  By today, he was running around and playing with the sheep.

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In front of our house I have been adding plants since we moved in.  To date I have planted lilacs, both large and mini Asian lilacs, a magnolia, and a couple apple trees.  In an effort to remove grass to cut, we started looking for ground cover.  I really don’t want to rely on wood chips, at least long term.  I’d rather have something that will spread and cover the area.  I got a few native plants, monkey grass and ajuga, but it is going to take a while for them to spread to cover the area.  I ended up getting 50 strawberry plants that were on sale from Stark Bros and am going to see how they work as a ground cover.  This all seemed like an awesome idea, and then the chickens rounded the corner of the barn.  Not sure if the plants will last, we will ever see any berries, or if this will work, but the plants were inexpensive and it only took a couple hours to plant them.  If it does work, we will have strawberries right out the front door.

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The turkeys continue to grow at an almost alarming rate.  I forgot how quickly they grow, but I also forgot how messy and smelly they are in the barn.  As the weather has warmed and they have added feathers, we move them outside during the day and only bring them in at night.  It is amusing watching three week old poults puff up their feathers and flare their tail like they are full sized Toms.

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I finally found time this weekend to pick up my brother in law’s post hole digger so HSB1 and I drilled the holes for the posts for the new pasture.  We were able to get the 7 holes done pretty quickly.  We then decided since we had some more time, we would drill the holes for the new chicken run and the pig pen.  We ran into a problem as we started the pig pen.  The auger just wouldn’t dig.  We couldn’t figure it out, and no amount of pushing, pulling, or hoping was making it work.  We even tried moving and trying another location.  As I was looking at the auger, I noticed a rock stuck in the cutting blade that was preventing it from drilling into the ground.  With that setback solved we quickly got the rest of the holes dug.  The pig pen will be 64’x32′ and I plan to use hog panels.

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With all the warm weather I wanted to get the sheep sheared.  The boys were anxious to shear them as well, so the other night I got all set up to try and get a few sheep sheared.  Not thirty seconds in, the shears broke.  Several teeth broke off the comb part of the shears.  I have since ordered replacement parts off Amazon, so hopefully this week will find the sheep cooler.

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Lastly, I have been trying to be diligent with regards to watering the newly planted trees, the replacement trees that replaced the ones that have died since last season, the landscape plants, and the garden plants that are still in pots.  The new orchard trees are doing great.

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That is all for now, I am sure there will be more soon.

 

Sunday Funday

One of the chores that needs to get finished sooner rather than later is to get more pasture fenced.  With all the new lambs born, and a calf expected soon, we need more grass.  My goal here is to be able to be as sustainable as possible with regards to animals and plants.  Up to this point my arrangement with the neighbor whom I split our hay field with has provided enough hay for the sheep and now cow, but that won’t continue to be the case as I need more pasture and thus will have less hay field.  Less hay field means that there isn’t as much to share, if the neighbor even wants to cut as it might not be worth their effort.  If that is the case then being able to hay myself might become a necessity.

In the meantime we need more pasture for this summer and fall.  So on Sunday, after HSB#1 helped hang the fence onto the posts that we stretched out last year.  For May 15th, it was ridiculously cold.  We were actually snowed on at several points, and the wind was just ripping across the field.  All of that made all the work that much more interesting.  After we got the fence hung, we then pulled out the T posts that I had used to support tomatoes, peppers, and beans last year and we got to work on putting up posts for the new pasture area.  Armed with my 100′ tape we started spacing posts.  HSB#1 was instrumental in helping get the chore done before church in the evening, the other kids helped, but he stuck with me all day.  It’s really fun to see the young man he is growing into.  We marked the corner post locations, which I will use wood posts for, and spaced out all the T posts using the tape.  After they were all in position, I went back and pounded all the posts so they are set and ready for fence.  We had enough posts on hand for the amount of pasture I want to fence in right now, but I’ll need to buy some more for odd jobs around the Homestead.

I still need to borrow my brother in law’s post hole digger so I can set the corner posts and supports, which I might also have enough of on hand.  I also need to buy one more roll of field fence.  Once the fence is up, we will need to run electric wire and then we can let the animals start eating on fresh pasture.  I hope to have this done within the next few weeks, but it has been crazy busy so we will see.

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Back from Vacation!

So… as you know I don’t talk about vacations before they happen.  Just something I do.  But, we’re back and I have lots to share about it.  But I’m in the weeds regarding chores around here so it will take me a bit to get to it.  In the mean time, here’e what will be coming up… Minnesota, Detroit Tigers, Basilica, Cathedral, Upper Peninsula, more lambs, no calf, loving the new van, and much much more.  Stay tuned.

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Garden and Lamb Updates

On Sunday I was able to carve out some time both before and after church to work on getting my asparagus and strawberry plants in the ground. I have never grown asparagus before so this should be interesting. I know that we will probably only get a few stalks this year, but it will still be fun.

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In that row are my asparagus starts

I am also adding another 25 strawberry plants to the berry patch. The berries I planted are day neutral so we should get nice big berries this summer and then can let a couple runners overwinter for next year. I believe I planted June bearing strawberries last year so if I don’t mess it up, we should have lots of strawberries this year, which would be an awesome problem to have.  I am going to have to mulch the whole patch to keep the grass and weeds down.

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My new row of strawberries.

This morning as my wife left for work, she texted me to let me know there was a new lamb in the field.  My brother in law’s older ewe had another single.  This is her third lambing season and she has had singles each time.  She had a big spotted boy.

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We ran into this problem last year, the lambs can sneak through the smallest cracks in the fence and one small ram lamb even could make it through the squares in the fence itself last year. The twin lambs have become quite adventurous and are a lot of fun to watch.  It’s almost like they go looking for trouble.  They had discovered that there was just enough room between the gate and post that separates the sheep pasture from the garden area.  It wasn’t like they were really getting into trouble, they just kept on going in and out.  My dad had placed a small planting pot there, which they promptly knocked out of the way.  I put a heavier one there and they haven’t been able to get out since.

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My high tech escape prevention device

This past weekend I went and got a round bale feeder from Tractor Supply.  I wanted a way to make it so I didn’t have to feed them daily, but would slow them down from wasting all the hay.  I am sure that feeding them by hand daily is the best way to make sure they don’t waste as much hay, but it is also more time intensive.  This should solve that problem until there is more grass fenced in.

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I will leave you with this picture of a peach blossom that I thought was extremely easy on the eyes.

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Exciting, Lamby, but Long Day

This morning as we were getting ready to leave for our Co-Op HSB1 went outside to let the chickens out and feed the sheep and cow.  He came running back inside exclaiming that there were lambs.  One of our second time mom ewes, Rose, had twins.  She had a white spotted ram lamb, and a black ewe lamb with a white triangle on her forehead.  As you might expect, they are very cute.

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The first two of this years lambs, born to Rose

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When we got home from Co-Op, there was another lamb waiting for us.  This was another ewe lamb born to one of our first time mothers, Tempest.

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Tempest and baby

While I was away in the evening getting some things from Tractor Supply, I got a frantic call from my wife saying that one of the sheep was head butting one of the lambs.  Turns out, Tempest, runs true to her name.  She has been very hot and cold with her lamb.  HSB2 and I went into the pasture and I caught Tempest while he caught the lamb.  We then rubbed the lamb all over Tempest trying to make sure her scent was covering her.  I also milked a little bit into her mouth to make sure she knew where to look.  I am hoping that by the morning everything has calmed itself.  If not, I will remove the lamb and we will have to bottle feed her, something I’d rather not do if possible.

Of course since the lambs have started dropping, so have the rain drops.  This evening it started pouring.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I’d be worried about the animals crowding into the run-in with the cow and one of the babies getting stepped on, I went out by the cover of darkness and whipped up a shelter.  I used some T posts, a couple cattle panels, a tarp, and some zip ties.  It won’t win any awards for beauty, but it should give them more dry place to lay down and spread out.  At least the sky provided a beautiful view by the time I went inside after midnight.  It had mostly cleared up, in preparation for another round of storms.

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It isn’t pretty, but it should help keep them dry

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I will post more pictures as they are available.  Until next time…