Friday, January 1, 2021

I Got The Farming Blues

Maybe my brother-in-law, Tim, can write me a blues song about how I'm feeling today. It's been a challenging past week and a half. Raising livestock for the past 11 years has generally been pretty easy, or at least, not frustrating enough to make me quit, though I do have a pretty short memory. More weeks like this past one might make me consider it though. I guess I'll begin with Rory. My last blog posting was about having her artificially inseminated. The vet came out and ultrasounded her and she's not pregnant. This was just a small disappointment, since I knew that AI is only 30 to 50% effective. Also, we have so much else going on here I'm not sure I really need a cow in milk anytime soon. At least that's what I tell myself. That same day we had to deal with something much tougher. Our beautiful, gentle goat, Butter, has been having terrible joint pain for the past year and it was getting too hard to watch her struggle, so when the vet was done checking Rory, he very gently helped us say goodbye to her. It took me two days to get out of that funk and realize that it was a relief not to have to see her in pain anymore. Butter was 6 1/2. About 4 days ago James and I returned from a walk to find feathers - lots of them - along the side of the driveway. We followed them until we found a dead hen under a bush. We've had a very large hawk hanging around and I'm sure that's what killed her. Adam had just left with Maia about 45 minutes earlier, so the hawk waited for Maia to be gone to strike. I don't know if hawks are afraid of dogs or not, but I assume they're pretty smart. I hope today was the last of our bad luck. I've been waiting for our pig, Gretchen, to have her first litter. I had her due date written down as the 28th. Her udder was just beginning to show then so I figured she had another 3 weeks to wait, though her backside was giving me different information than her udder. I have less experience with pigs farrowing than goats kidding, so I never totally trust my instincts. This morning I went out to feed, and Gretchen met me at the fence with all the other pigs. Her udder looked pretty much the same. I entered the gate to feed the dogs and saw a dead piglet nearby. It was cold and rainy here today so this piglet didn't stand a chance without its mom nearby. I went in search of others. Mayday led me to another one far across the field. I don't know if Gretchen just dropped it there and went on, or if the dogs carried it there. A little while later Mayday showed me another one that had been in the straw in the run-in shelter. There were no live piglets. I checked Gretchen and she did have milk, but not a lot. She acted perfectly normal and showed no signs that she'd been in labor recently. I thought I still felt babies in her, but couldn't be sure. I gave her a shot to help her pass any dead babies, if there were still more in there. When I last checked on her late this afternoon she was still rooting up the ground and behaving like all the other pigs. Not a great way to start the new year. Tomorrow is a new day, it's supposed to be warm. I'm going to reset my frame of mind, look forward to the new year and hope for brighter days.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hoping Rory Is Bred (Artificial Insemination)

This has been a pretty exciting week and a half. I decided to breed Rory, our 2+ year old heifer - Raisa's daughter. We're giving Raisa some time off. I think we're going to let her retire and let Rory take over the milk-making responsibilities. Raisa was always bred by bulls, but I didn't want to borrow someone's bull or buy one, so we decided to give artificial insemination (AI) a try. I was told it's only 30 to 50% effective, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. If it doesn't take, we'll probably buy a baby bull and raise him for breeding in another year and a half. AI is a process if you don't know when your heifer is going to come into heat. A week and a half ago we had the vet out to give the dogs their shots, check on one of the goat's ailments and deliver the materials I needed to get Rory pregnant. A week ago, Tuesday, I gave her her first shot and inserted an apparatus with progesterone on it to prevent her from coming into heat. Inserting the CIDR (controlled internal drug release) was simple, but she wasn't happy about the shot. She was a real trouper about letting me insert the CIDR. She moved very little. This is what it looks like.
A week later I had to give her a shot of Lutalyse, which brings a cow into heat, and remove the CIDR. Today the vet came out to do the insemination. I had been stressing out about it. I'd watched some Youtube videos to see how AI was done and was worried Rory wouldn't stand for it. I was so wrong. She behaved beautifully. Actually, all the animals did. When I rounded up Rory all the other animals followed me to the barn. Adam bribed them with food and that left just Raisa and Rory at the barn gate. Rory walked in without any coaxing and Raisa stayed out of the way. I tied her up and put a board behind her so she wouldn't back out of the stall. I probably didn't even need to do this because she never tried to get out. The whole process went so quickly. The vet was only here 25 minutes, and that included the time he spent in his truck getting the supplies he needed and thawing the semen. This is a Youtube video about how AI works. I found it fascinating. Click on the above link and it will help you understand what's going on in this video below of Rory being inseminated. My video just shows how well she behaved while the vet did his thing. I barely got into the stall and the vet had already begun the process. Rory continiued to eat and seemed to ignore the hand in her rectum. In another month to month and a half I can have the vet out to ultra-sound or palpate Rory to see if the AI took and she's pregnant. It will be so disappointing if she's not. We used Jersery semen instead of Dexter because our vet keeps it on hand and because a jersey baby will be a similar size to my dexters. My dexters are on the large size. The semen came from a bull named Valentino. I looked him up online to see what he looked like.
Stay tuned. Hopefully in 9 months I'll be posting a photo of an adorable calf.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Rex wants to show you his home.

Rex joined me for a short bit of my walk around the field this morning, so I'm going to let him give you a tour. 

You can't see me in this next picture because I'm probably hidden in all the goldenrod that has taken over
the field this month. It smells nice and my mom said it makes a nice tea, but I haven't tasted it. 

This is Butter. She came to live with us almost 2 years ago. She's a good girl and never bothers anyone. 
I'm pretty much the boss here, after my mom, but occasionally Raisa shoves me when I'm in her way. Most of the time I like her and Rory. We haven't had a baby cow since Rory was born here 2 years ago. Maybe next year. 
These guys can be headaches. They try to steal my food and they lie too close to me when it's hot.  A lot of people think the pigs are cute and give them a lot of attention and that makes me jealous. I don't think they're all that cute, though I have to admit, I did really like the babies when they were little. 
Behind me is my partner, Mayday. She and I are the very best of friends and play all the time. She lets the pigs steal her food. She's a much faster runner than I, but I bet I'm stronger.
I've never visited this campsite, but I can see it from my fence. I love having the campsite because it means people come visit me all the time. They feed me people food and bring kids. Mayday and I love kids and when they come in the fence we stay close by their sides.

More company this weekend. Hooray! I better take a nap now so I'm ready for them. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My 2020 Chickens

My chickens are 17 weeks old and I'm anxiously awaiting my first eggs. I've really been enjoying this flock. Maybe I forget what it was like having chickens in the past, but I don't remember being so fascinated by them. I should probably go back and read some of my old blog posts. 

I have 4 roosters and 14 hens. I had ordered only 3 roosters but the hatchery threw in a surprise chick with my others and it turned out to be a rooster, as all surprise chicks seem to be. I'll get back to this surprise rooster in a minute. Today I decided my roosters needed names. The hens all look pretty similar so I probably won't give any of them names, unless one of them does something to help me identify her. 

My favorite rooster, at this moment anyway, is Barack. He's a Buff Brahma rooster. Barack Buffbrahma. He's an independent guy and I see him wandering our property alone quite often. Sometimes he follows me, talking quietly. The chickens have divided themselves, and now sleep in two coops. Ten sleep in one, and 8 in the other, with Barack being the only boy with the 7 hens. 

I have 2 roosters that look similar. One is a Partridge Cochin, hence the name David Cassidy.

Sticking with the 70's TV theme, my surprise rooster, a Silver Spangled Hamburg, is named Davey Jones, because he's small and cute. 

The last rooster is a Blue Cochin and I'm calling him George, for no reason whatsoever, but the name George popped into my head. He's a pretty boy.

None of them have crowed yet and they all get along well. I hope that continues. We'll see what happens once they all mature. 

The 8 chickens that sleep in my older coop can let themselves out in the morning because there's a gap between the walls and the ceiling, so they wait for me at the back door before I've finished my first cup of coffee. I wish I had a picture of that because it's pretty funny. I do have a picture of them hanging out by our basement door. I don't know what they were doing down there. Maybe they thought I was in the basement.

Unlike my other animals, I'm not sure they like me more than anyone else they meet. They'll follow anyone anywhere. They greet every visitor or follow them down the driveway. I'm ok with that. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Piglets - not what I had hoped for

I was so looking forward to having piglets. It's one of the reasons I got pigs again. I missed having the babies. Of the 6 Junebug birthed, only 4 survive. Two mornings ago when I went out to milk, Mayday showed me the dead baby in the back of the barn. I'm guessing Junebug laid on him. She's not the most graceful or careful mother. I saw her plow one over this morning as she walked. In fairness, it could have been one of the cows that crushed him too. I really don't know.

Last night I went to the barn to check on them to be sure no more were crushed. There I saw Junebug nursing 4 piglets. I kept trying to get her to stand up so I could see under her. I finally had to bribe her with food to make her move. There was no dead piglet. I looked everywhere but couldn't find the missing boy. Neither Rex nor Mayday told me where he was either, so I'm assuming a hawk or something carried him off. They only weigh between a pound or 2. They're super tiny. When they were first born I was saying how I wished they'd stay tiny. Now I'm wishing they'd grow fast so I didn't have to worry about them so much.  Rex and Mayday also seem on edge since they were born. They bark and tear around constantly like they're always on guard.

The goats, cows and dogs are all fascinated with the piglets. Even more so than with goat kids. Maybe it's because they're so tiny and they make cute little grunting noises.

So this post doesn't end on a depressing note, here's a funny picture of Rory trying to nurse off Junebug. Junebug didn't mind Rory's rough tongue, but I worried about her stepping on the babies. Most of the day the cows are far from the babies. It's only at feeding time all the animals crowd into the barn.

 Our 19 chicks have moved into their new coop. I could only keep them in their Rubbermaid tub in the basement for a week before they outgrew it. The cute single chick in the 2 photos is Izzy. She's my favorite and the only one I've named so far. She flies/runs to me to be held and makes sweet little noises. The rest of them are mostly afraid of me. I should mention, I haven't named the piglets yet. I'm afraid I'll get too attached and they'll disappear. I'll wait another week.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Life With Pets - Growing a painting

This painting has been on and off (mostly off) my easel since February 11th. My inspiration first came from a video a friend posted on Facebook. She and her dog have been training in agility and they're amazing to watch. Of course, it's also inspired by my life raising all kinds of demanding critters. Those of you with pets get this, I'm sure.

Making up a painting can be fun and frustrating. It's fun because there's no photo or person, dog, etc, to compare it to. When a painting isn't realistic there's not as much pressure to make things accurate. It's frustrating because I have no idea about proportion, shadows, perspective, etc.  When I paint silly paintings like this it doesn't matter so much if my Australian Shepard is bigger than the woman, or a cat couldn't hold a box of popcorn, or a dog dressed like the master of ceremonies has arms more like a human, or a standard poodle would never sit still this long, or.........

Beginning the painting was hard for me. I had an idea, but didn't know how to express it, so I started gathering pictures. I needed to know what a human body would look like in this position so I asked Adam to pose for me. As you can see, he wasn't wearing a bikini like the woman in the painting, and he's a bit bigger. See what I put my family through?
Here are a few other photos I used for reference.

At first I thought there would be a crowd of other animals sitting in the stands behind them, but that seemed intimidating and didn't go well.
It probably came off my easel for a long time at this point. It stared at me from the floor and I'd pick it up again, not able to let it go.  A few days ago I decided I needed to either finish it, or paint over it so I didn't have to look at it anymore. I'm calling it done and ready to move on to something less silly - or not. I feel like maybe I should be painting fun things while the world is dealing with a health crisis.

What are you doing sitting here reading this? Don't you hear your dog scratching to the to be let out? 

Monday, February 24, 2020

End of February happenings

I know, most of you thought I'd given up on my blog (if anyone is reading this anyway).

This afternoon I spent an hour or so hanging around with everyone. I think 3 out of the 5 goats are pregnant, thanks to borrowing a little fainting goat buck from a friend of mine. I never saw him mount any of the girls, so I have no idea what their due dates are. I just have to watch and wait. I'm looking forward to having babies on the farm again. It appears my 2 oldest girls, Luti and Pessa, are not bred, which I'm glad about. At 10 to 12 years old, it's time for them to retire and enjoy their senior years. Two of the girls who are bred are first timers. The other is a seasoned mom and milker.
Notice there's still green grass for them to graze on. They really haven't needed too much hay this winter because of the mild temperatures.
There's way more green grass on the pigs' side of the pasture. They're staying nice and round and happy and need no hay. Are they super cute or what? I'm hoping my bigger girl in the background, Junebug, is bred, but I really can't tell.

Rex and Mayday are always busy keeping anything threatening away, even cars that drive down the road. They take time to play though. I do love these dogs.
I moved Willo, Rory and Raisa over to the pigs' side today because there's so much green grass on that side, and Raisa and Rory were waiting by the gate, asking to go over.

I'm thinking I might like to breed Rory soon. She's now old enough and we'll let Raisa retire. I'll artificially inseminate her though. I can touch Rory anywhere so it should be easy to train her to be a milker.

So that's about all that's going on with the critters. Baby pictures to come.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Painting on mylar

I went to a studio tour in Lynchburg this weekend. My favorite of all the artists there painted on mylar. I'd heard of this before, but have never seen it in person. His paintings were incredible. It really wasn't the mylar that made his work so beautiful. It was his talent. Anyway, I wanted to try painting on mylar too and since there was an art store below these studios, I bought 2 large sheets.
I had no idea what I was going to do with them and came home and Googled painting on mylar, and
how to mount a mylar painting. 

I decided to mount the mylar on hardboard before I painted on it. Someone suggested using Loctite.
I'd never used it but found a can of Loctite Spray Adhesive at Lowes and decided to give it a try. It comes out in a stringy spray, like very thin Silly String. I carefully placed the mylar on top and used a
brayer to smooth and flatten it on the board. I should mention, I sanded the board first and didn't put any primer on it. The mylar was kind of frosted, not totally clear.

This is what it looked like after I mounted it to the board. I really liked this look.

I wondered if I'd like painting on something so slick. It was nothing like I expected. I put the paint on fairly thinly and it dried pretty quickly for oil paint. Here's the result of my first attempt. I let much of the background show through.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

How did I forget about this?

I used to spend hours out in the field with the goats, cows, dogs and pigs. I don't know how I let that go by the wayside.  Tonight I went out at sunset to spend some time with them and I was reminded how beautiful our farm is and the contented feeling I get when Raisa wraps her head over my shoulders as I scratch her chest, or the dogs press up against me as I crouch on the ground. Nighttime is really the best time to be with them. They aren't begging for food - just attention.  They truly love being together and with me. There are many acres they could be running on, but they choose to be gathered together in this small space.
Rory loves the pigs and they don't seem to mind her licking them.
It's easy to hole myself up in my studio and paint all day and forget how beautiful our place is. I need to go out more often and appreciate what I have and not take it for granted.
As I was walking back to the house a fog was settling over the pasture. I couldn't get a good photo to really capture the feeling. This is the best my iPhone could do.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kunekune pigs and thinking about babies again

It's been almost a year since I've blogged. I felt like the farm happenings haven't been interesting enough to share with anyone since we've scaled down. I was finding it hard to trailer animals to the butcher, so we sold off some animals and stopped breeding. Well, that couldn't last forever, could it?
I miss the babies. In a weak moment I called a friend and asked if I could borrow his blue eyed fainting goat buck to breed my girls to.  Rufus is a shy little guy. The girls like him and he likes them, but I don't know if they've had any action yet.   If nothing else, he's very photogenic and makes a good model for painting.
Goat babies aren't the only babies in our future. As of last night we've added 4 Kunekune pigs to our menagerie. Kunekunes are small, very docile, grazing pigs. After boarding some potbellied pigs for friends of ours it made me miss having pigs. When I did a Craigslist search for piglets, I came across the Kunekunes, which I've wanted for several years. They're comical little pigs, with short, upturned noses and squat, round bodies, maturing at about 200lbs. They're quick to roll over for tummy rubs - the perfect pig in my book. It was pouring rain this morning so I didn't get a lot of great pictures. Maybe I'll blog again and post more.

Again, perfect subjects for paintings. I haven't come up with names for them yet. I need to get to know them better.

More to come....maybe.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Alien Christmas Lady

This year's dress form Christmas tree took a different direction than the last few years.  Usually I use greens to dress her up, but this year I decided to just make her a dress with a Christmas/winter theme, using table cloths, scrap fabric, batting, ribbon and lights.  I'll probably go back to greens next year but it will be nice not having to clean up pine needles when I take her all apart.  She's rather messy looking, but when the room is dark and the colored lights are lit she looks more like a Christmas tree than previous years with the big white bulbs.  Here are the past 2 years.

 This was her autumn costume the first year I got her.
I need to dress her up more often because it's fun.  I don't know if James likes having her in the piano room or not.  When I get up in the morning I say, "good morning Christmas lady".  It takes some getting used to, having her be right there when we walk out of our bedroom in the morning.  I think her hood makes her look like an alien.  I didn't do that on purpose.  I can't decide if she's done or not. I guess I have another month to make changes if I get inspired.