Monday, June 29, 2009

Recent livestock photos

I went out recently with the camera to snap some photos of the cows because they were looking particularly beautiful now that they had shed their winter coats. The pasture and sky were also lovely that day.
The sheep are spending the summer on the next door neighbor's pasture. This year they are sharing the pasture with two beautiful horses.

Here are the new goats, Itsy and Bitsy. No, I did not name them, and their names would have been changed in an instant were it not for the fact that I happened to mention them to the kids, who thought they were great and completely vetoed any renaming. In this shot they are both very pregnant.

The piglets are growing fast and learning all of their mothers' bad habits. They are small enough to get through the cattle panels and graze the irrigation ditches.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


As promised, here are some photos of our new livestock guardian dog, Bear. Bear is around 14 months old and he came to us from a farm in very rural Kansas where he was the faithful guardian of a flock of chickens. We chose to purchase Bear as opposed to a new puppy because he was already trained to work with birds and he was also good with kids. He does not disappoint! He has settled in beautifully here at the farm and he guards his poultry with great attention to detail. He even protected them from a ferocious toad the other evening. I caught the toad and reassured Bear that toads are welcome visitors on the farm, but it was pretty funny to see him snarling and growling at the poor toad.

Bear is a Great Pyrenees dog, a large breed that is historically used for guarding livestock. I became interested in this breed for several reasons, not the least of which was meeting Thistle, a Pyr owned by our farm friends at Sunflower River. Bear is a big boy--he is about 105 pounds right now and will grow a bit more. A nice thing about Pyrs is that they don't eat very much relative to other breeds so even though he's big, we are able to feed him well with bones, organs, and other meat products from the farm (chicken heads, etc). We have not lost one chicken to raccoons since he came home. He lives with the chickens but gets lots of love and attention during the day from people. We are just thrilled with him and will probably never again be without a livestock guardian dog, at least for as long as we have livestock.

Here he is hamming it up for the camera:

Here he is meeting Sylvia for the first time. This gives you an idea of his size and his love of people.

Oh, and he works sometimes too! Here he is patrolling the chicken yard for invaders.

Latest kid doings

We had Chris and Scotty's usual birthday steam-up again this year. Scotty is 9 already! We kept it a bit smaller this time but some new friends came from our homeschool group in addition to other friends and family and we had a great time. Of course we had the steam tractor running with steam hoist rides.

We also tried a water balloon launcher this year.

We finished it off with the ever popular potato cannon.

Earlier last month, Eliza had two friends over to celebrate her new bedroom. The girls had a great time making stop motion animation videos, playing music, dying eggs with natural dyes, and visiting the animals.

Eliza was thrilled to be able to show the girls her new loft bed.

Meanwhile, Scotty has become quite a skilled tractor operator and he has really started to help out around the farm. Here he is hauling a load of compost up the driveway.

Later he drove along while I shoveled the compost into one of our garden beds.

He also pulled the trailer and hay loader for us the last time we picked up hay. It's really a thrill to see--he can even make the turns and line up the loader properly for the next run. In short, the kids are doing very well!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Our first litters of piglets were born a few weeks ago. These are special births because they are American Guinea Hogs, a rare heritage breed that is near extinction. Through the efforts of several enthusiastic breeders around the country their numbers are climbing, which is a good thing because this small, gentle breed is a real treasure. The piglets are the size of a soda can at birth and are unbelievably cute.

Here is one of the moms a few days before farrowing. This one had 8 piglets!

More cute little babies for the kids to hold.

Less than one day old!

Monday, June 08, 2009

A quick getaway

After the long and difficult start to 2009 we decided to try a little mini vacation, which we felt was much deserved. Of course, our version of a vacation does not involve much rest! It all started when the place in my heart for a dog that had been vacated by Hank three years ago was finally filled when we decided to get a livestock guardian dog to watch over the chickens. Too many losses to raccoons (and events that resulted from those losses) convinced even Chris that a LGD would be a useful addition to the farm. The dog will warrant a post of his own, but for now just know that the dog I found for us was located near Pratt, KS, a 9 hour drive from home. Never missing an opportunity to turn an errand into an adventure, I felt compelled to see what else was going on in or around SW Kansas and lo and behold I found the annual steam tractor show in Pawnee, OK just a couple of weeks away!

So at the end of April we set out for a "quick" trip to OK and KS, squeezing in two half days of steam engines between three long days of driving. We picked up the dog on the third day and by day four we were home.

The weather was horrible at the steam show but the sight of up to 10 steam tractors all under steam at once, driving around the grounds, was well worth it.

On day 1 we were totally unprepared for the thick mud, rain, and brutal wind. We only lasted about an hour. By day two we were ready for anything! This was Chris' first major outing since his injury and he did amazingly well given the conditions.

This little quarter-scale tractor (I think) was Scotty's favorite. He talks about it all the time to this day.
This Minneapolis engine was Chris' favorite. They had it running at full steam which was quite impressive I must admit.
It was a nice break between a tough winter and a busy farm season. Chris and Scotty are talking about going back next year!