Planning next year's gardenBecause of our long absence, I feel a recap is in order. Let's get to it, shall we?
snowy cowsCOWS: When you last heard from us here, it was our 2 year anniversary of being cow owners. Dolly and June (our two calves) are growing up and are now even bigger than Patsy and Loretta when we first got them. A few weeks ago, we started the weaning process. We've read that weaning a calf can be the most stressful event in its life, so we tried our best to do it in the gentlest way possible. We first installed these Quiet Wean nose flaps, which is basically just a piece of plastic that clips to their septum. We have conditioned them to stick their heads through stanchions to eat a little bit of corn at night, and that's so we have a way of handling them for vaccinating, pregnancy check, etc. without owning a chute. It's actually helped us a lot this year. One night after their corn treats but still in the stanchions, Anthony slipped them on with no drama at all - and that was a nice surprise because we were expecting the worst. The girls continued to eat and drink without any issues.
The girls wearing their nose flapsWhat this nose flap does is make it difficult for them to get close enough to nurse, but they still get to be with their Mom's. The plastic of the nose flap also irritates the Momma when the calf tries to nurse, so Momma pushes them away. They kept these on for a week longer than we originally intended due to some frigid weather, but when we took them off, we separated them by a fence. The babies got to keep the barn and the Momma's got to keep the big feeder. They can still see each other and can sleep next to each other, separated only by a gate or fence. And again - it's been drama free and no crying at all. We keep saying to each other how grateful we are at how smoothly this weaning has gone, so far. Our future plans for the girls are to inseminate them this July, in order for them to calve about a year from now. June probably won't be ready by then, but we'll play it by ear and see what happens.
Dolly, future escape artistFLOWERS: The bulbs have started coming up and I am SO excited to see everything return. When people ask how we have adjusted to the weather here, I have to say that there is nothing like experiencing four seasons, and we love it. It really makes us appreciate every day we can spend outside, and I don't know if it will ever get old seeing the first Robin of the season. We are doubling the size of our flower farm this year, which means we are still small - only 1/10th of an acre, but I'm working hard this year at not taking on more than I can handle, and I think slow progress is best. At least that's what Anthony has brainwashed me into thinking. We are planning on being at a few Farmer's Markets again this year, along with some specialty, one-day markets. More on that to come.
SEEDS!!!!BEES: This is a tough one. On Monday, we went out to the hives to give them more pollen and sugar and discovered that we have lost all of our hives. Again. We knew going into winter that two of the hives looked a bit weak, but just two weeks ago the other two were going strong. They were flying out on sunny days, and Anthony had already given them some pollen patties and sugar. We now know that one of the hives was destroyed by a pygmy shrew. We saw droppings everywhere inside, and the bees were completely torn apart - there were heads and body parts everywhere. After some online research and talking with our beekeeper's club, we were able to confirm it. As far as the other hives - we just aren't sure. Two of them were pretty weak going into winter, so maybe they had some queen issues. OR, when we pulled the honey in August and condensed them back down into a few boxes, there were too many in such a small space and they swarmed and took off at the end of the season. Our third hive was beautiful - full of honey, happy and active two weeks ago, but as of Monday it is dead. Our mentor told us this is happening to everyone and no one knows why. It's frustrating and sad, and somewhat discouraging. But we've already got our new bees for the season, along with some new defensive hardware cloth up in hopes of keeping those terrible shrews out for the rest of spring. It is, as they say, a learning process. And somewhat of a crapshoot.
Bees two weeks ago, happy and sunning themselves on the outside of the hives
You can see droppings in the middle, at the top and bee parts everywhere.
Bee protection aka bee prisonEVERYTHING ELSE: We finally had new fencing installed around the entire property. A HUGE job, but it's done and hopefully we can avoid any escaping cow drama this year. (fingers crossed)
Fencing - not the cute white stuff, but the sturdy and electrical kindWe've been working on updating our website, including our new family portrait that you see at the top of this post. We are also finishing up the e-commerce side of our website right now, so we can *finally* offer everything for sale online, including some cute Lucky Break swag that we have been designing and testing out this winter. Anthony has been painting again and is working on some beautiful pieces that we will be offering as cards at both our farm markets and online. We've also had time to relax and have fun. If you haven't yet seen Anthony's Olympic sledding video, and are looking for a laugh, check it out below. He's made a few other short films on our YouTube page; you can see them here. So that's what's been happening here - and there is much more planned for the upcoming season. The chicken coop will finally be finished, we're toying with the idea of remodeling our old barn into some kind of event space and looking at options for what we can do with the little calf barn as well. Hope you are enjoying Spring as much as we are and we look forward to seeing you this Summer!