Bring it on Fall

Raindrops fell into the dewy grass and created a quiet hush in the early daylight. Or at least it was hushed until I brought my tired baby and rambunctious kiddo kicking and screaming out of the house to wrangle some birds before 7 am.

Our pastured poultry are raised in pens that we rotate over fresh grass at least once per day. These pens provide plenty of space to forage grasses and grubs, focus the nutrient-rich manure, and most importantly provide safety. Our birds live out their days happily without a care in the world. That’s usually what happens. After having cattle with these pens all summer, our docile mama cows decided they wanted to rip apart our pens, push around the frames and become chicken bullies. 

A few days prior to the general destruction we noticed the girls slightly rubbing and nudging the pens. We attributed it to curiosity and decided to keep an eye on it. Costly mistake.  After wrangling nearly 100 birds, two times before noon I decided the remedy was happening that afternoon once the hubby dearest came home with the pick up. We moved pens, chickens, ducks and kids back and forth across the road countless times.

Bed-time seems to be something normal families do for their children, but as a full-time mama dragging children around as I go about my lady-farmer business there seems to be a trend of working until dark and throwing multi-grain cheerios or Graham crackers at them for a snack. Hubby Dearest helps where he can, but often times that means we are working to dark as a family unit. 

Thus we were moving chickens, ducks, and pens at 8.30pm with kids starting to fuss (Cue more Graham crackers) and the sun starting to sink beneath the treeline. 

As I start to feel the season change from summer into fall I am anxious to see what the peak of our season will bring. I know we will have over 300 broilers, 8 pigs, our first sow, 13 cattle, an incredibly handsome horse and handful of laying lady ducks/hens in September into October. It may not seem like much, but it’s our biggest year yet and it has me giving pep-talks to myself and self high fives on the daily. So many unknown trials, adventures, tantrums, animal escapes, and special moments to come.

Getting pumped for the peak of our 2017 season. Bring it on fall. 

(Smiling instead of getting frustrated)

Advertisements

Fluffy Bodied Frazzled Lady

Drizzle was steady, fog seemed to hang on to the hills as the filtered sunlight lit up the morning. We ignored alarms, hangry animals, and the ticking clock, wishing for a few peaceful moments of shut eye after a night of yipping coyotes at our window which resulted in frightened children and zero sleep. But alas I had to wake up because the predators have found Melville Farms chickens and the daily battle must commence.

We were incredibly lucky for many, many years. Chickens roamed freely unchecked without a squawk out of place, but for whatever reason our luck has run out and it’s been farmer vs miscellaneous predators ever since.  We have a number of safeguards in place and plans for more, but hawks have proven to be insatiable.

Thus, a few days ago, while the laying ladies were minding their own business and a hawk hit my dining room window trying to get a chicken I had had enough. I ran outside with fury blazing in my eyes, wielding weapons and striking fear into the soul of that hawk. I felt like wonder woman, fearsome lady farmer, defender of the land! Upon reflection however I now realise that I probably looked like I normally do in real life: a fluffy-bodied-frazzled lady wearing shorts and bog boots while it’s 40 degrees outside, wielding my broom, chasing a hawk that was long gone, yelling obscenities.

We have lost at least 3 hens and a rooster to hawks now. And my broom wielding has not gone unnoticed by my critique of a toddler, neighbors and the passerby. After I was witness to a hawk boldly swoop into the coop in broad daylight and procede with predatory instincts I decided it was time for a full lock down. All but one of the laying ladies are now cooped up, much to all of our dismay, and the tree roosting Bonita refuses to accept my assistance. 


Bonita laying an egg on the front porch. 

Dream, Scheme and Marinate 

Sun peeked over the tree line, through the fog and made the chickens seem to glow against the glistening grass. It was cold enough to give me a little pep in my step as I ran out in my pajamas to let out the chickens and check on the broilers. The cows bellowed from the next pasture over, apparently recognizing my half skipping gait, and as I turned the door knob to follow my toddler inside, I ran into a locked door with my face.

Bless her heart toddler Q had deadbolt ed the door and locked me out. One of her many skills that she’s acquired at the ripe age of 2.5 going on 13, her door maneuvering has made it tricky to contain her or for me to get back into the house if I forgot to pocket the keys. 

This morning as I sat down to nurse little man J, she ran out to ‘rescue a chicken’ that had flown the fence. The chicken was fine, but she was out of the door lickity-split with bright purple shoes and no pants to rescue the chicken formally known as the New Gramma (because old gramma had an accident with a predator this fall.) True to form Q picked up that chicken and waited for me to open the gate which proved to be difficult since I was chasing her with shoes half on and a baby half asleep on my hip.

It’s easy to be energized on sunny spring days. To dream, and scheme and marinate on what the sunny months will bring. Today was a day for magical moments, toddler gallavants, childhood memory making and laughter as we did chores for 2 hours when they should only taken 20 minutes. The daffodils are peeking through green buds while the song birds chirp with the afternoon sun and I let the energy of these days motivate me for the hectic season to come.

Welcome Winter

There is still frost in the shadows and the ranging chickens could be used like a clock the way they follow the sun. It’s mid-afternoon, but really only an hour from sundown. My toddler is trying to tell me she feels better and can go outside naked as snot is coating her face. I just found something crusted on my shirt that could be cheese, baby poop, or snot with no way to tell which and truth be told I won’t change my shirt regardless. Welcome winter.

Today was a day of embracing the insanity of motherhood and pushing onward, upward, forward. Already on day 2 of snot, my newborn has started leaking mucus as my toddler continuously bounces between being so miserable it’s hard to exist and her happy-go-lucky self. I tried to squeeze in a dual nap as we drove around Melville doing farm chores before an appointment with limited success.

While visiting pigs I found another area they had rooted over their hot wire so while the baby slept and my toddler yelled at me from her carseat, I dug out the hot wire dragged off small logs and got their fence back in working order. True to form I got pig poop on my pants so we stopped by the house for a quick change. 

I stripped down to un-pig myself, got caught up trying to calm savage beasts -I mean my adorable children- and wouldn’t you know it, the mailman stopped by with a small package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox.  Mortified I scurried out of view to find pants and just ignored the entire situation. I am so excited for the next time I see the mail man and we both pretend that he didn’t see me in my laundry day undies. 

Luckily we made our appointment in a flurry of screaming kids and untied shoes, we had macaroni and cheese for dinner, my husband and I high-fived as we each tackled a kid for bed time routine. As we snuggled our sick babes to sleep we texted each other from opposite ends of the house about farm chores, breeding schedules and new pastures. Both dreaming of having a conversation face to face and wishing for a few solid hours of sleep.

Now late evening, my newborn sleeps on my chest, the fire burns low, the dog snores, and the weather report calls for snow and freezing rain. I sigh, kiss baby J on the head and welcome winter.

(Putting my mom car to work!)

(Princess Q inspecting the frozen hose)

Saved Our Bacon

​This summer has been the season of revolting farm animals. It is like they have sensed my need for them to stay in their designated pastures, pens, and paddocks and done the exact opposite -somehow knowing how hard it would be for a 9 month pregnant lady and toddler to wrangle them. Between rebellious pigs, mischievous sheep, and curious calves I am happy to leave the summer season behind us.

The decision to do a pig project this year was fairly easy. Pork is delicious, we were able to lease new woodland/pasture perfect for foraging pigs, and my hubby agreed to help with the heavy lifting as my pregnant belly grew to new extremes. As our tried and true method to contain pigs we were confident when we released the hogs into a hotwire paddock. What we did not foresee was the pigs lack of respect for hotwire which became apparent when they were GONE during a morning pig check. Pigs are clever creatures and I had assumed that they would come back home when they were hungry later that day, barring any predator involvement. I was wrong. Very wrong. 

To my embarrassment I had to claim my pigs from the Sheriff’s Department. Our neighbors are extremely helpful and without knowing for sure who the rascal pigs belonged to, put them up in style while a day passed until I knew how to find/claim them. I considered myself lucky, grateful to my neighbors, and mortified that my ‘free to forage’ piggies had caused such a stir. After making some slight adjustments to the hotwire we again left the pigs in their paddock to eat, forage, explore and live the good life. Big mistake.

Just a day or two later I get another call from a neighbor letting us know the pigs were out again. Luckily Hubby Dearest was home and was able to swiftly meet the neighbor and walk the pigs back into the paddock with ease. Before I could pack up the kiddo and meet up with them (as it all happened within minutes), I got yet another call from the Sheriff’s Department. Thus, to my utmost horror and embarrassment I was admonished by a very understanding Deputy about containing the pigs. I was grateful that the Deputy came out, talked to us, and saw our set up. I take pride in treating our animals with respect and it was important to me for them to see that it wasn’t a lack of water, food, shelter, treats, or area to roam that our pigs were escaping. A simple case of rebellious swine. But, after having my bacon saved by neighbors not once but twice and now knowing the Deputy Sheriff personally we decided it was time to seriously revamp our hotwire plan. Needless to say, the electric shock that the fencing now contains is far superior and is keeping the hogs in swimmingly.

If our pigs were rebellious our sheep (however cute and fuzzy) were openly mischievous. Though they didn’t escape the pasture, they harassed the laying hens, were too friendly with my two year old, and smashed one of my pastured meat chicken tractors  to smithereens. I would manage to patch up the tractor to only have them break it to pieces again. So, I waddled around attempting to wrangle my meat birds in the 98 degree coastal heatwave, sweating-panting-struggling to bend over, while trying to keep the sheep from accidentally trampling my chickens. 

Our farm adventure continued into this afternoon, while I was lulled into a false sense of “winding down” for the season on a sunny Saturday. I relaxed with my toddler in the recliner as she snuggled close to my 38.5 week pregnant belly asking if the baby was coming as she fell asleep – and our calf Norman walked by the window.

I stared in disbelief, fearing the herd was grazing in our yard as I tried to call dear Hubby Dearest for back up. Thank my stars the Hubby was tinkering in the garage and came running around back with me. Luckily for us it was only the calf Norman frolicking and luckily Norman loves people. He loves treats and pets and was completely unconcerned until….a chicken walked in his general direction. Slightly spooked after the chicken’s close proximity we calmed him down with more treats, ushered him back into the main pasture with the rest of the herd and said goodbye to our relaxing by the river plans as we committed ourselves to finding and fixing whatever weakness our fence has. Hubby patched the fence to only have Norman show incredible agility and jump the fence. Norman, time to put on some lbs and stop horsing around.

As fun as our busy summer has been, I am ready for it to be over. I am ready for foggy days, slower paced chores, welcoming our sweet baby boy into the world, and enjoying a tasty homegrown roast on a rainy day. We thank our neighbors for their support, help and understanding as they saved our bacon and watched our young family struggle through the adventures of farming.

(After a long afternoon we visited Toby the neighbor horse – Q’s one true love) 

Beautiful Chaos

​As I laid awake before dawn it was silent. My toddler had finally decided to sleep, the house was quiet, and I even considered trying to fall back asleep for a few more blissful moments. Then the first rays of light struck our little farm.

At first it was just one or two birds tweeting their good morning tune in the distance, then a few more trickled into the medley, and soon it was a cacophony of bird calls next to my window. Then the cows chimed in. I could hear them chewing, slurping, and mooing mere feet from my window. Laying hens began crowing at the sun and I basked in the awesome music my farm was making as it woke up for the day, while cursing the daybreak and begging it to be quiet so my kid would sleep just a little longer.

I just tried to keep up with the day from that moment on. Attempted to be a functioning member of society between farm chore rounds. Chores- play date- chores- lunch- chores- nap time- chores- farm visit- chores, chores, chores… and even still, throughout all those rounds of farm related activities, the moment folks come out to visit the farm the animals seem to revolt.

We had customers for a maximum of 20 minutes and in that time the sheep managed to poop in their water, likely the same troublesome sheep re-broke the meat bird tractor, the poults in the brooders made an escape and were wandering off our front porch to their impending doom, and the kiddo took off her boots (which have yet to be found) and was running around like a wild child covered in mystery manure. It was chaos.

Of course the friendly folks did not seem to mind the hullabaloo, but I was frazzled as I waddled around after chicks trying to put them back into the brooders, as I wrangled my poop covered kid and hosed her down for the 10th time, and as I tried to make a short term remedy for the chicken tractor that had been crushed by wooly ruminants! Poultry transport cages were in the front yard, a half done chicken tractor awaited completion in the back yard, and toddler toys littered everywhere in between, it was indeed chaos at the Melville Farms homestead. 

But it’s my chaos. Beautiful chaos. As much as I strive to have things perfect for farm visitors, I’m glad my kid runs wild and free not worried if she has dirt under her nails or if she’s using her dress to collect rocks and dirt clods. I love raising my meat birds in the pasture where they can forage fresh ground every day. Sheep, though they drive me nuts, are all part of the fun. The tiny poults have over stayed their welcome in the brooder, but will be moved into deluxe accomodations on the morrow.  When we finally got around to dinner we ate beef that we raised, fresh peas and cabbage our family grew. After dinner we didn’t watch TV we worked until the sun went down, Hubby Dearest completing the chicken tractor in all its glory, our toddler helping in a helmet so she “was safe.”

Now as quiet falls on the farm and I say goodnight to Melville I’m exhausted, thankful for my Hubby who works so hard on and off the farm, and naively hopeful that my kid will sleep better tonight before our beautiful chaos begins again with the rising sun.

(Play date on the farm with a few good friends!)

 (Bubbles, the ring leader of sheep related debauchery) 

When it rains, it pours

When it rains, it pours. Yes here on the Oregon coast we often experience a deluge of precipitation, but as our small family farm operation  Melville Farms stretched to grow meat and egg production for 2016, it now seems like I bring home a new farm animal daily.
As if offering direct to consumer sales of pork, lamb, chicken, beef and eggs wasn’t enough, I decided that this was the time to expand into restaurant and pre-packaged meat sales. New licensing has enabled us to work with local restaurant Street 14 Café which is thrilling. Needless to say that when I saw our tiny little farm mentioned in the restaurant’s newsletter I was over the moon, when I saw our chicken featured on their social media I fell over, and when they ordered MORE chicken I was knee-slapping happy!
Then it began to pour. I brought home the largest round of piglets we’ve ever raised, we secured 2 new pastures to lease, and are expecting 4 more heritage Irish Dexter cattle delivered tonight! We get our next round of 50 meat chicks in a week and will have over 100 chickens on the farm at once. Hubby Dearest may think I’m out of control and he might be right. Poor Hubby been building me new fence line and new pens for weeks to accomodate our expanding endeavors.
All together it is an exciting, busy, and joy – filled beginning to summer. However as I glance at my dwindling funds and growing pregnant belly I am sincerely hoping that Hubby Dearest is excited as I am about our little farm’s growth and that I’m not in labor on butcher day this fall!!

image

(Sharing a little bit of PNW farm magic with our mid-western family)

image

(A few blue eyed piglets that are part of our pork peoject this year)

image

(One of the many, many chicks for the next round of meat birds)