Here we are in the middle of March. Spring is less than a week away! It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day – time to plant the peas and other early crops! The daffodils are making their appearance! And boy, have we got our work cut out for us!
In the next month or so we expect to increase the livestock population by nearly 100 animals! THAT is both a frightening and exciting prospect!
Most of the animals set to increase our numbers here will be chickens. Within the next week, twenty 17 week old layers will be arriving. We’re adding another 20 red stars to our flock of 27 to increase egg numbers. Our eggs are becoming quite popular, and we have the boast that there is at least one customer that we know of who has chosen to provide ALL of the animal protein in his diet from our eggs!
As the farm comes back to life – both in flora and fauna – he will get even healthier eggs as the hens are able to return to more foraging in the pastures. I can tell that the grass is growing, as the sheep seem to be starting to get back to grazing on something after their day’s supply of hay is consumed!
Even now, though, these eggs of ours are so much fresher and healthier than anything available at the supermarket! We have been feeding a blend of layer pellets fortified with good Omega fatty acids with the hope that this will increase the healthy fats in the eggs!
So that accounts for 20 of the nearly 100 animals set to grace our farm. Add to that 50 red broiler chicks. At the end of this month we will be heading up to Locust Leaf Farm in Foster, RI to pick up our chicks that we will once again raise for meat. They will come home to a nice warm brooder for a few weeks before heading out to the chicken tractor that will have previously housed our new pullets prior to their being introduced to our foundation hen flock.
Hopefully by then we’ll have the lumber milled and in place to finish the expansion on the hen house that we started over the winter!
We only have about 6 broilers left in our freezer from last year- these were the tastiest chickens – full flavored and of an excellent texture ranging from 5 to over 6 lbs each. We can’t say enough about how good these chickens are, and they are so much prettier and more “normal” than the more commonly raised meat chickens, the Cornish cross. They will be ready for the freezer sometime toward the end of June, just after our biggest planting time here at the farm.
The most exciting new additions will be to our Icelandic flock! A couple of weekends ago we rounded up the ewes and rams for worming and hoof trimming and we examined some of the ewes for signs of pregnancy. We actually felt at least one lamb in our dear Millie, and from the looks of the others, we are pretty confident that we have a total of 7 bred ewes due to lamb beginning the week of April 15th, give or take a couple of days! That could well double our present flock size! We’re pretty excited!
This weekend we’ll be vaccinating the flock for Clostridial diseases. Vaccinating the ewes at this stage of pregnancy will provide not only lasting immunity for them for the upcoming year, but it will provide immunity in their colostrum for their lambs until their lambs develop their own immune system and can be vaccinated themselves in a few weeks. We’ll also separate the ewe lambs from the ewes – we’ve kept them together for the past few weeks so that they could hunker down in the barn together and weather the storms we’ve seem to be regularly having these days. And then the countdown for lambs will truly be on! I still have to put together the obstetrics kit and set up my boudoir out in the green shed, complete with lights and a new cot. Gee, I can’t wait for my first night sleeping in the barn – is that the shepherd’s equivalent to being “in the doghouse?”
After we finish working with the sheep on Saturday we’ll have to deal with more “new life” that just arrived this week. We’ll be getting the garden ready and planting onions, strawberries, peas and other early crops. That might sound relatively easy, but “getting the garden ready” has more to it than meets the eye! We’ll be taking down fences and expanding, spreading lovely compost that we’ve been making for the past year, sweetened with a few bags of lime, and planting seeds, plants and bulbs, praying that we don’t have a flood at the end of March like we did a few years back!
In the meantime these quiet nights afford me time to deal with Shirley’s fall fleece which I decided to turn into yarn a couple of weeks ago.
Half of it is washed, and half of that has been spun into over 200 yards of bulky Lopi yarn! I’m so pleased with how the color has turned out. Last fleece I spun from roving we had made at a mill, but this time the fleece was so nicely sheared from Shirley that it left the locks intact and I’ve been spinning directly from picked locks!
I just pull off small locks of wool from the fleece and start spinning it from the cut end. This puts the black tips of the tog nicely in contrast with the lighter, fluffier thel creating a gorgeous color pattern! I can’t wait to see what this yarn ends up becoming when it’s knitted!
So, the seasons continue to turn the big spinning wheel of life at Morning Star Meadows Farm. And as life begets life, there is inevitably death, and for that I always fret and try to prepare myself! We will do our best to protect these very delicate creatures entrusted to us! Stay tuned for more adventures!
In the meantime, we’ll all just be hanging out here at the farm!