Saturday, November 9, 2013

A First for Us

It was 15 years ago this month that we moved to Upstate South Carolina.  At the time, our oldest child was about to turn 13 & he wanted sheep.  We had told the children that when we moved to the farm they could have any animal that they wanted to be responsible for if they would read 3 books about the breed & pay half the cost.  

Glen wanted sheep & we knew exactly where to get his first sheep.  You see, a few years before we moved to South Carolina, we were travelling from Florida to my parents’ home in Ohio.  We made our usual stop at Tamarack on the West Virginia Turnpike.  As we walked through the parking lot we saw a truck with a few beautiful sheep.  The owner was just walking back to the truck so we struck up a conversation.  It turned out that the gentleman was from Anderson, South Carolina.  We were familiar with the area simply because my father-in-law was a Clemson graduate (class of ’49!) & we came on the annual family trip to homecoming.  After a nice chat with the sheep farmer, we started to walk away but I turned back & asked if he had a business card on the chance we might one day visit on the annual Clemson trip.  I tucked his card in my purse.  That came in handy a few years later as Glen wanted to acquire a small flock of sheep.  It was Glen’s interest in sheep & the need for me to figure out what to do with their gorgeous wool that has helped us to evolve to where we are now as a farm. 

Five years ago, Glen married a delightful young lady whose family own a berry farm in Anderson. Kelli & Glen decided that they wanted their own flock of sheep at the berry farm.  Although Glen started with Tunis sheep here many years ago, he decided that they wanted to raise Romneys at the berry farm.  We all did a little research & he found a handful of ewes in North Carolina.  After we’d all visited the flock & Glen & Kelli had chosen their favorites, Glen & my sweet husband returned the following week with a trailer & brought them back.

Glen was not done, though.  He located a young ram in Georgia so one day he & I took a meandering drive over to check out the ram.  The plan was that we would go look at the ram & that Glen & his father would return later with the trailer to retrieve him. 

As we drove along, it became obvious that we were travelling quite off the beaten path & that it was a bit longer of a trip than we imagined.  I told Glen that I did have a tarp in the back of my car so perhaps we should just throw the ram in & drive home with him rather than make another trip.  We’ve done more foolish things in the past.  The ram was quite handsome & only about three quarters grown.  Glen bought him, we spread the big blue tarp & a few spare towels, wrestled him in & hauled him home.  I drive an SUV so Glen rode home in the backseat just in case the fellow should prove to be a jumper.  After a few moments of uncertainty, he plopped down & behaved for the two hour ride.

Glen & Kelli have taken very good care of their little flock.  They acquired Jack, a handsome Anatolian Shepherd pup, who has grown to be a wonderful livestock guardian.  And they’ve had several lambs through the years.  Their flock gets lots of admiring visitors at the Hardy Berry Farm.

Every spring my sweet husband shears their flock.  The Romney wool is long, wavy & has such a pretty sheen to it.  They have sold some of their fleeces but I also have some of them here.  When they announced that they were expecting their first baby at the end of October, I decided to get busy on a very special project.  I carefully picked through the fleece, washed the best  & spun a nice yarn.  Once they discovered that they would be having a little girl, I pulled more wool & dyed it one of Kelli’s favorite colors.  

Although I do knit, I wanted something “perfect” for our first grandbaby so I talked with a sweet friend who is quite the expert.  I met my friend, Jan, many years ago when Saturday Market was just starting.  She was a knitter who was sucked in by my weekly yarn display.  She would often come minutes before market technically opened to see what was new.  I had custom spun yarns for her in the past & was quite confident that she would not only do wonderful work but would enjoy being part of our heirloom project.

After some discussion & much browsing, we chose a pattern for a little asymmetrical baby jacket.  She sampled the yarn I’d already spun, told me how much more I would need to produce & went to work.  She even found the most perfect little sheep button!  She delivered the finished treasure to me this past week & the first thing my husband said was, “Well, now you have your final farm story for this season’s market.”  So here is baby girl’s wool jacket.  It is from Mama & Daddy’s sheep which were shorn by Grandpa, spun by Grandma & lovingly knitted by a very special friend.  And it seems like the perfect way to end our eleventh season at Saturday Market where I have been blessed to sell yards & yards of yarn through all these years!
Our very first grandchild, sweet little Jane Autumn Potter, was born on October 31st.  She was merely hours old when we presented her with her sweater.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Little Itch

Bitsy loves the edge of the old tub that we use as a water trough.  I've seen her do this before but have never had the chance to catch a video.  The look on her face is priceless.  Thought I'd share!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Silly Sheep

"3" is one of our Tunis cross ewes who loves to spend time in the front yard. She & her rapidly growing lamb are quick to race to the gate so that they can come up front with me. Now that her lamb is about eight months old they don't spend much time side by side but do like to be within sight of each other. I let the two of them up front to help trim the lawn.

Yesterday afternoon I went out to gather some eggs & discovered this as I came around the corner. "3" had obviously been around the far side of the house in the grape vines. This leaf was snugly tangled in her fiber. It took me a while to catch her & finally yank it off but I didn't even try until I took a few pictures.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quiet Sunday

It has been a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid 70's with a bit of a breeze. Except for the tree leaves occasionally rustling, it was perfectly quiet. Everyone is just having a lazy Sunday afternoon. The sheep are mostly laying around ruminating. The chickens are meandering around looking for a few extra treats but have eaten well all morning. Al had put out a new round bale of hay earlier in the day so the scuffle for that is long past. Even the immature Guinea Hens that usually run around screaming what sounds to me like, "Come back, come back, come back" were just strolling through the pasture. I just quietly wandered taking pictures.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Walk

I just wanted to take a little jaunt around the farm this morning while it was still misty.  I took the camera with me but didn't think I would get many decent pictures.  Of course, the cows insisted on helping. Not only did they hog the picture but they love to come up behind me & jostle my arms as I try to focus.
And, speaking of cows, I attribute this to them.  I discovered a spider web quite high up that was holding a tuft of grass, roots & all.  I can only assume that a cow was eating, flung its head back to shake off a few flies & managed to pitch this morsel high enough to land in the spider web.  At least that is my guess.  The pine needles make a lot more sense as they fall from above.
I always explain to our egg customers that our birds are free range. And by free range, I mean that they go wherever they want on the farm.  The fencing is there to keep the other livestock safe.  The chickens ignore it & roam.  This hen has managed to raise her three chicks to be more & more independent every day.
 This little gal decided to pop on through the fence & visit a few sheep on the other side.

 After a few minutes mama called her back & they went on about their exploring as a little family.

As I finished my walk, I noticed that a few of the goats at the top of the hill were just appreciating the warmth from the morning sun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another day on the farm

I love a quiet morning walk.  Of course, with all of our livestock it isn't always quiet by many standards but I don't count animal noise as something that bothers me.  Gwen, one of our Anatolian Shepherds, loves to trot along beside me when I walk her pasture.  She is not much for posing for pictures but I managed to get a pretty one before she realized what I was doing.  The next one I shot shows her turning her shoulder to me & walking off.
I always look for problems as I walk.  I did notice this & fixed it right up.  It wasn't bothering the ram but I still felt obliged to take care of it.
Of course, since all of our chickens are free range, they are most everywhere I wander.  We not only have the 300+ mature chickens out & about but we have been moving the young pullets out to join them.  I thought I'd show the new gals what I expect them to aspire to over the next few months.
See that turken in the center of the picture?  I love those silly looking birds!  I especially love to pick them up & just marvel at the cute little naked necks.  My husband is not as keen on them as they look like some sort of genetic mishap but I love variety so admire them & love seeing among all the other chickens we have.
I just love some quiet contemplative time out back with all of our creatures.  And so does this Shetland ram watching over all the pretty ewes in his pasture.  I do believe he is quite handsome.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Indie Craft Parade

I am in the thick of Indie Craft Parade here in Greenville but thought I would share the promotional video. Part of it was filmed here at the farm but we were in the thick of record-breaking rains so we did everything at the front of the house.  We moved a small flock of sheep up front which worked out just fine as it had been way too wet to mow.  The sheep were thrilled & the Indie folk got a few nice pictures of some of the fiber babies.

The video is well done but I have to admit that my favorite part of my own interview is the little outtake at the very end.
Indie Craft Parade: What's it all about? from Indie Craft Parade on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just a little different...

As I walked into one of the small buildings that holds a set of nesting boxes, I spied this.

The hen is tucked into an overturned part of a galvanized feeder. There has been such an abundance of grass & other interesting growth this season that we've had to use very little supplemental feed. This feeder was simply up against the wall in the shed waiting for winter when it will be needed again.  Obviously, the galvanized "home" reminded this hen of the nice silver walls of the nesting boxes so she was just compelled to lay an egg.
She was content so I imagine that is all that counts.  And I could collect her egg without having to risk a peck on the hand as I reached for it.
We have more than enough nesting boxes but we're also just fine with a gal expressing her individuality now & again!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Not-so-little Surprise

A few weeks ago I gathered an unusual egg on my regular rounds.  It was in a nesting box with two other eggs.
It was quite a handful.
I weighed it.
It would not fit into an egg carton but since Saturday Market was the next day I thought it would be fun to take it along to put on my table. I carefully packed it up.  It was quite a conversation piece.  There was much speculation as to what might be inside.  I told my customers that I would check when I got home.  Many thought that it would at least be a double yolked egg.  Little did we know.
The shell was fairly substantial but I was careful when I broke it.  The large egg contained a normal yolk & white along with another intact egg.  I removed the whole egg, dried it off & weighed it.
The intact egg from the inside of the gigantic egg weighed 2.2 oz. so it would have been sorted out as an extra large egg.  And I did check this egg as well, finding that it contained a perfectly normal yolk & white.  It sure would have been funny if it had contained a small egg inside.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Look what came in the mail....

Each year we order more newly hatched chicks so that we always have young hens to lay eggs for market. Our replacement hens are to keep up egg production, not to really "replace" the older gals. We let the older ones just retire on the farm.  As hens age they lay fewer & fewer eggs.  The eggs from the older hens are also more likely to have flawed shells or otherwise end up as culls.  In order to keep all of our customers happy, we need to continually add new layers & this was the day the latest newly hatched pullets arrived.

The post office calls early in the morning to let me know that I can come on to town to retrieve them.  I always get there before the post office actually opens for business but if I knock on the door someone peeks out & hands me my birds.  I can usually hear them even before the postman opens the door.  This time there were supposed to be 150 little ones cheep-cheep-cheeping away in the two large boxes.  I loaded them up & they serenaded me all the way home.
There are dividers inside the big boxes so that there are four sections inside.  The chicks are packed in tightly enough that they stay warm & also don't get banged around during handling.  They left Iowa on a plane yesterday but when newly hatched are good for about 48 hours without any food or water.  I love to peek through the quarter-sized air holes.
Once I got home I had to move them all the way out to the stable & spend a good bit of time getting everyone safely set up.  This time Moo-fasa, our Dexter bull calf, was very interested in seeing what I had in the wagon.
I managed to dodge a few more cows, a sheep & two of the Livestock Guardian Dogs as I made my way to the stall in the stable where we will raise out the little hens.  I left the boxes in the stall while I finished my preparations.  I had to fill waterers & feeders.  We use empty water troughs to brood them in so each had to be lined with paper towels.  I will add different bedding later but I want to start them on the paper towels so that they can find their food easily & so that I can just pull up the towels each day & clean up.  I not only filled the waterers but I also filled a small pan with water so that I could dip the beak of each bird in it for her first drink.

I finally pulled my milking stool up between the shipping crate & one of the empty watering troughs so that I could begin to unpack the little gals.  This time I had ordered a random assortment of brown egg layers so I was interested in seeing what I might find.  From the looks of it, I have a nice mix of birds.
I was particularly tickled to find a fair number of Turkens in the mix. They are funny looking chickens who are also referred to as Naked Necks.  They are good layers & I like to see them among the other hens but my sweet husband thinks they just look weird.  I know he will laugh at how many we ended up with.  Here is a birds-eye view of one.
I spent a good bit of time dipping beaks, gently placing the birds in their new home & then watching to be sure that they found their water & feed.  I counted as I unloaded.  Although I ordered 150 birds, the company that I work with is good about throwing in a few extras just in case.  I ended up with 156 busy birds.
Once everyone was loaded in I went back into the house for some lunch.  The whole process had taken a good two hours.  When I checked back an hour later everyone was looking pretty good.  I did adjust the height of one of the heat lamps as it was too low.  The birds showed me that they were too warm by avoiding standing directly under the lamp.  You can see that on the left hand side of the above picture - the birds have separated into two groups, leaving the center of the trough right under the lamp empty.  Once I adjusted the lamp they began to stroll around the entire trough.

I did have to laugh when I was setting things up.  I had walked outside the stable to wash out the waterers.  The wagon that I used to haul the bird boxes back to the stable was about fifteen feet from the far door. As I walked in I caught Ralphie, one of our ornerier goats, with his feet up in the wagon.  He was pushing it along & did not stop until he got to the far door.  I managed to get a quick picture.  I think the lambs saw the camera & wanted me to know that they had nothing to do with this stunt.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sweet Regina

On Tuesday I went out in the late afternoon to gather one final bucket of eggs & to feed the six Livestock Guardian Dogs scattered in their various pastures.  We have a routine where the dogs go into the stable, the old barn & a separate pasture area so that they can eat without having to fend off the nosy sheep, goats or cattle.  Everyone took their places except for Regina, our oldest Anatolian Shepherd.  At suppertime she is usually sitting at the gate to her pasture waiting to be let out into the barnyard.  She circles the stable once, sniffing at a few lambs as she passes by & then meets me at the big door so that I can let her in & feed her.  By the time I’ve finished gathering eggs she is done & ready to prance out as I open the door.  She is quite energetic, especially considering that she will be ten years old in the fall. 

Regina was not at her gate.  I called her, thinking perhaps that she hadn’t returned to her pasture last night & was napping somewhere around the barnyard.  I didn’t see her.  After a fair bit of searching, I called Mr. Potter at work & asked if he’d seen her.  He said she had wanted to go into the back pasture in the morning so he’d let her through that gate & into the woods.  It is not unusual for her to go prowl in the woods for the morning but she usually ends up at the back door of the old barn by the time she wants her afternoon nap.  I checked but did not see her there so decided to walk down through the woods as I assumed she was napping down by the creek where it stays a little cooler. 

I walked down the long hill towards the woods, calling her name as I went & expecting her to pop out of the trees at any moment & trot back up the hill with me for dinner.  She was nowhere to be found.  I started to actively search for her.  After much walking & calling I found her curled up in a huge hollow tree next to the creek.  She lifted her head, happy to see me, but would not step out when I called her.  She has plenty of room inside that tree so she was certainly not stuck; she has napped there many times in the past.  I couldn’t coax her out so reached in to grab her collar.  She flinched & would not budge.  I tried again & this time she shifted her weight so that I saw that her right front paw was just a bloodied mess.  I called my sweet husband & asked how soon he would be home from work as I didn’t want to pull her out & then discover I had to carry her all the way up the hill myself.  And, as sweet as she is, I also didn’t want to try to pull an injured dog out & find that she wanted to turn snarly on me out of pain or fear.  He said that he was on his way.

When he got home we managed to get her out & discover that her only injury was to her foot but it was quite an injury.  One of her center toes was stripped to the bone.  There was not a shred of skin or muscle left, just a raw pink bone. There was not another mark on her & we did not have a clue what could have happened.  

We knew that she had to go to the emergency vet so we loaded her in the car & took off to the wonderful emergency clinic in Anderson.  We had had to use them once before so knew the way.  Regina rode quietly in the back of my car, unloaded without even flinching & trotted into the clinic.  They took her in just as soon as we signed the “we understand we owe you at least $88” paperwork.  The vet on call was delightful.  He suggested that since we have our own vet that he would clean her foot, start her on pain meds, an anti-inflammatory & antibiotics.  She would have to have the toe amputated but once it was bandaged it could wait until our vet was available.  He even gave us a prescription for the antibiotic so that we could take it to Publix where the antibiotics are dispensed for free. Regina calmly followed the vet tech into the back room to have her foot cleaned.  When the vet opened the door to update us we laughed to see our 96 pound pup laying on the floor with two young ladies sprawled across her while a third worked on her foot.  Regina was calm, seeming to enjoy the attention. The whole evening at the emergency vet cost us $225.  Regina came home with a sack of pills & a nice giraffe-patterned bandage on her foot. 

I contacted our vet as soon as they were open again & was informed that they already were expecting Regina as the emergency clinic had communicated with them.  I drove Regina up to our vet & left her for the day.  I retrieved her at the end of the day.  I got a report on her surgery as well as a description of how she did not even need to be kenneled while awaiting her lunch time surgery – she simply laid on the floor in the back room, quietly watching the day’s work.  This time she came home with a nice purple bandage, an awkward Elizabethan collar to keep her from chewing on her foot & a few simple instructions for her follow up care.  Her entire surgery was only $400 – not an expense we had planned on but certainly very reasonable for what was involved.  

As the vet tech helped me load her in the car I mentioned that we just didn’t know what could have happened.  Regina has tangled with many predators in her pasture in the past but there wasn’t a single other bite on her or any marks on her face that would indicate that she had been in a fight.  Katy, the tech, said that when she looked at the wound it almost looked as if a snapping turtle had bitten her & stripped the bone.  Although we have a shallow creek it might not be out of the question that she had found one, pawed at it & gotten bit. It is the best guess that we have as of now. 

What I have to say about Regina is that she is a remarkable dog.  She is a big baby but we’ve also found the shreds of raccoon left over after she discovered it sneaking in to threaten her chickens. She will viciously fight one of our other Anatolians should it accidentally enter her pasture.  But she also carefully watches a ewe in labor, keeping an appropriate distance as she lambs. She doesn’t leave the farm.  Last year when the vet was out to see the cattle I asked that Regina get her annual shots right in the pasture. She does not take car rides.  She never has to walk on a leash as she just trots herself in & out of her pasture.  She does on occasion come all the way to the front of the house if we are moving in hay & have the gates open but she soon returns to her own territory.  We don’t have many visitors to the back of the farm so she does not routinely see strangers.  But through this whole process she trusted us fully.  She never balked at getting in the car, walking on the leash, entering strange places & patiently letting people work on the raw & bloodied foot.  She is now napping in the dining room.  She will have a bit of a challenging recovery period as she has lost a weight-bearing toe but we are tickled that she will be better.  We will wait to see if she will return to her duties or be a house dog but either way we are glad that her adventure ended up no worse than it did.