Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ginkgo and Jared's bird

Summer has arrived according to the calendar but the weather continues to feel a lot like Spring. 

The growing continues...

Pea blossoms

Pea pods

Bean Blossoms

Potato leaves

Ripe strawberry, there are a lot of them

Almost there

Curly garlic scapes

Romaine lettuce, or as I call it, tonight's dinner.

Carrots are coming along... are the beets.

A little succession planting

One garden bed still waiting for soil and plants

Last Thursday morning, our second lamb was born. A ram lamb named Yorick, weighing in at 7 lbs. 

Yorick, resting in the grass while mom eats her breakfast

So cute! 

Last Friday, another ram lamb, Yarrow, weighing in at 8.25 lbs, arrived.

Yarrow, snuggling in Jared's arms

Thinking about making a run for it

Ylfa is 3 weeks old today! She's quick on her feet and very head strong. 

Jared and Ylfa

She's a big girl, eating breakfast with the rest of the ewes. 

Post-breakfast nap

I think we'll have a little break before more lambs arrive, so we trimmed hooves and de-wormed on Sunday then moved the girls and their lambs to a new pasture area yesterday in order to mow and give the other pasture a rest. 

Iris gets a hoof trim courtesy of Jared and the Premier1 Hoof Trimming Chair

 It's time to start thinking about how to manage the pastures through the upcoming Winter and who will go into what breeding group once November rolls around. 

Butterscotch, will she be our next mom? 

Isolde, making the most of sheep breakfast

Iris and Butterscotch, always together

Thistle, scratching an itch

One of our young flocks of chickens has been relocated to the sheep pasture to become a part of our multi-species grazing plan. 

Go chickens!

Meanwhile the rams continue to live the bachelor life in John's pasture...

Tyr, living free and easy

Ithaqua, saying "howdy".

Here's to a wonderful Summer! 


Monday, June 13, 2011

Feelin' Broody

The sign says it all

Pencil, our 11 month old Blue Orpington hen, is broody for the second time this season. She raised our first batch of incubator chicks, who are now huge and independent. Now she is sitting on 10 Orpington eggs of various varieties, which should hatch out around June 27th. She is brooding on our back porch in a pet carrier- sans the door- to allow for quiet, privacy, and a bit of human monitoring.

Pencil, making babies

So what does it mean when a hen goes "broody"? 
Broodiness is a hormonal response in female poultry and ducks that drives them to sit on a clutch of eggs until they hatch. Their pituitary gland releases a hormone called prolactin, which causes the bird to stop laying eggs, at which point broodiness begins. 

Other symptoms of broodiness include:
~Loss of breast feathers, usually found in the nesting box shortly before broodiness begins- this allows her to bring her body warmth as close to the eggs as possible and keep the eggs from drying out too quickly by sharing her own body moisture.

~Stockpiling eggs just before exhibiting broody behavior.

~Remaining in the nesting box nearly constantly, leaving for only a few minutes each day to eat and drink. The first few days of brooding, the hen may not leave the nest at all.

~Puffing up feathers; growling/pecking/screeching at intruders.

Broodiness is unpredictable, once a hen is broody she may not sit for the entire 21 day incubation period. Many production chicken varieties have had the brooding bred out of them by culling hens that exhibit even the slightest signs of broody behavior. A broody hen is a hen that isn't laying eggs, so producers cull viciously for that reason. Some breeders are looking for their hens to brood, so they will cull those girls that don't seem interested in being mothers.

Several examples of breeds known for their broody behavior are Silkies, Cochins, and Orpingtons. 

I love having broody hens raise chicks for us. While the incubator is convenient, there's nothing like watching a momma hen teach her babies how to scratch in the dirt, take a dust bath, listening to her softly cluck to them all the while. 

From this...

... to this, in 21 days. All you need is a broody hen! 

Stay tuned for updates on Pencil and her impending hatch...


Monday, June 6, 2011


Purple Columbine

I cannot believe it's been over two months since I last updated. That must mean that things on the farm are pretty busy. 

Jared attended WSU Shearing School April 4-9, 2011, in Moses Lake, WA. He learned a lot and had an amazing week. He even received a Shearing School Scholarship for an essay he wrote on why he wanted to attend shearing school. He arrived back home in Seattle, bought some shearing equipment and proceeded to shear our entire flock. It took awhile to catch the last few girls but he got 'em all sheared. Fleeces are headed off for processing soon. 

Tyr being sheared
Almost done...
Tyr (back) post shearing, Ithaqua (front)

Thistle gets her turn

Clover says one last "goodbye" to her fleece, post shearing
Jared holding Tyr's fleece

At the end of April, we lost our Cheviot/Suffolk/Hampshire ewe, Scarlett. We found her in the pasture with a large vaginal prolapse and got her to the vet ASAP. The vet did what she could to help get the prolapse back in place but it wouldn't stay. On top of that, Scarlett had a large bump on her face, that when lanced by the vet was full of infection and wouldn't stop bleeding. She died overnight at the vet. In all honesty, Scarlett came from questionable breeding. Both her mother and grandmother had a history of prolapse and some issues with abscesses. Jared and I thought that with some great nutrition, exercise, and love, she could overcome it but sometimes there's no overcoming Mother Nature.  We've learned a lot from this experience about the importance of excellent breeding, with a focus on culling those animals that have health/genetic issues. 

Scarlett Sheep April 2010-April 2011

Our garden is doing well! After keeping most of the plant starts in the house for significantly longer than they should've been, they're finally outside. We still have a garden bed that needs soil and maybe another one to build before all the crops are in the ground. Beans, squash, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins are also growing! 

Oak Leaf Lettuce


Romaine Lettuce


Oregon Sugar Pod Peas
Hardneck Garlic scapes
Pink Lemonade Blueberry Bushes

We've been working with a farmer in Kent who is looking to transfer his 8 acre berry farm to younger farmers. Since the farm has been in berries for a long time, we've decided, with intensive mentoring from Farmer Bob, to continue that tradition. Two weeks ago, we planted 6,000 strawberry starts on an acre of land. The weather hasn't been too favorable for getting the starts into the ground, which means a lot of extra hands on work and care to keep the starts healthy. Our plans for this farm, with this farmer, are far from finalized, we're just getting started! 

T & M Berry Farm, Kent, WA

T & M Berry Farm, Kent, WA

Sophie, Thea, and Justine working hard
Strawberry Planting

After months of waiting and wishing, our first lamb was born on June 1st. Jared and I arrived at the pasture to find Isolde's lamb had just been born, still sticky, active, and BEAUTIFUL! It's most exciting that our first lamb is a ewe, weighing in at 6 lbs., named Ylfa- meaning "she wolf" in Icelandic. She is quite wooly looking and growing like crazy. It feels like she's almost doubled her weight in 5 days! 

Motherly love
Isolde and Ylfa
Clover, taking a moment after all the excitement!
Just born...

4 days old!
Tyr, Ylfa's father, seemed unaffected at the announcement of his daughter's arrival. 

We still have some pregnant ewes, so there are at least four more lambs to come! 

How much longer will it be for Isa? 

All of the chicks that hatched in late March/early April are pretty grown up. We will be tractoring them in the ewe's pasture once we get a couple of tractors/portable hen houses built. In the meantime, we'll be moving the smallest juvenile chickens over to the pasture to begin their role in our pasture management plan, in a temporary portable coop/tractor. Once we know for sure who is a pullet and who is a cockerel, we'll separate any little boys we're not going to keep for breeding and raise them for butchering in the Fall. 

A Wheaton, Copper Maran, Blue Wheaton, and Buff Orpington  
Splash Orpington cockerel, Mr. Silver
A supposed Blue Laced Red Wyandotte, Betty
Orpington/Maran cross, Ms. Smokey
Ameraucana babies
I'm heading to Monroe today to pick up more hatching eggs- Lavender and Black Orpington and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte- for our two broody hens. Because of our large chicken population at the moment, they'll be brooding on the back porch in pet carriers to keep things as organized as possible.

I've put in an application for our farm to participate in the 2011 Seattle Tilth Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour on Saturday, July 9th. Once we get the thumbs up, I'll be inviting all our friends down for a day on the farm. 

Enjoy Spring, now that's finally here!