Pictures of our mystery chicks at 8 weeks. Any new guesses? If so, see the original contest page!
Pictures of our mystery chicks at 8 weeks. Any new guesses? If so, see the original contest page!
They weren’t the first snowflakes we’ve seen this year, but the first real snow arrived today. It’s been falling gently since this morning and we’re at about 3/4″ so far. I know it won’t last through the week, but it’s peaceful and beautiful right now. Here are a few pics from around the farm.
It’s been a long time since we posted, simply because this Fall has been pretty overwhelmingly busy! To give you an idea of some of the things going on these past couple months at the Flying T…
Fall was spectacular this year, and though we got a light dusting, we didn’t have a repeat of the Halloween snowstorm of 2011. Here’s a pic of the Flying T in late fall from the air.
The beginning of Fall also brought some new additions to the Flying T. One is “Rocky,” our new black labrador puppy.
He’s growing fast, and has made friends with just about everybody except the house cat.
Fall is a wonderful time of year in New Hampshire – the temperatures are perfect for us, and get us out and moving even more than in summer. Here’s our son showing off some moves on his bike and a makeshift ramp he put together.
Our younger daughter had a “coming of age” milestone – reaching the age we have determined is the minimum to be allowed to operate the tractor solo. She’s been very proud of her newfound freedom and ability to pitch in to some of the heavier-duty chores.
The ducks hatched their last clutches of the season. They were much smaller than earlier in the year. We believe this is due of the loss of our prime drake to a predator a bit before they started setting.
With the new arrivals, we also had a few departures. Another duck to a predator, and a hen to a mishap. And then another departure due to sheer meanness. One of the roosters, “Big Daddy Rooster,” attacked the kids one too many times, so he is now at freezer camp.
Of course, the big news for the region was Hurricane Sandy. We escaped most of its wrath, though we did lose power for long enough for us to get the PTO-driven generator running. Our biggest need for power is to run the well – the horses alone go through about 30-40 gallons a day.
We found by running it only a few hours a day, we could replenish water supplies, get the family through the showers, and run a load of laundry. Thanks to all the linesmen and emergency workers who got power back up and running so quickly!
The power company also did us a huge favor this summer by cutting down some of the trees that had been threatening the lines (and thus our road and driveway also), so we had little cleanup to do post-Hurricane. However, since I was told to stay home from work, the chainsaw still got some work as we got back to clearing more of the back pasture.
I also ended up flying a few Hurricane response missions for FEMA with Civil Air Patrol. You can take a look at some of the 175,000 damage assessment photos we took at this link:
http://fema.apps.esri.com/checkyourhome/ (Zoom in about 3 clicks until you start seeing green dots around the NYC area. Each of those is a photo).
And so, as the fall winds up and the winter starts to move our way, we’re finishing up our preparations… just like this snapping turtle who two of our ducks escorted off the premises on her way to hibernation.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can post again! Blessings to all of you as we approach this season of Thanksgiving (though every day ought to be a time to be thankful)!
When we bought the Flying T, we knew that one of our two pastures was “rough.”
OK, it’s really rough. Half-forested, largely with poisonous [to livestock] pin cherry trees. Not much growing in it but rocks and goldenrod. Fence falling down. Steep slopes on a good portion of it. Rutted with holes to the point that it was unsafe to let the horses loose. Rough.
The book answer for a pasture that had been let go for that long would be to call in the bulldozer, then truckloads of loam, but that went against two principles we’re trying to follow on the Flying T: 1) go as natural as possible and 2) don’t go broke.
One of the principles I’ve learned from flying is that there are three competing characteristics in designing airplanes (or other machines, for that matter): light, cheap, and strong. You can build something that has two of those characteristics, but it’s pretty much impossible to get all three. So, you can make a wing that’s light and cheap, but it won’t be strong. Light and strong? It won’t be cheap. Cheap and strong? It won’t be light.
We’re finding similar principles at work in farming, one of which is the “natural, cheap, and fast” law. So, when it comes to our pasture, while we’ve been doing OK with staying natural and cheap (relatively), it sure hasn’t been fast. I’d been hoping to have the pasture cleared of trees by winter’s end – we got halfway there.
We’ve moved a good passel of rocks from that half to the growing rock wall, but there’s still quite a bit to go. The holes we filled with a mixture of dirt and composted manure. Our attempt at strangling the weeds with a cover crop of Winter Rye has been partly successful (and partly not).
It’s all taken a lot longer than we’d hoped, and we still haven’t gotten around to the fence.
So now, we’re well-into the summer, and the weeds are starting to come back, competing against the Rye and other forage species we’ve planted here and there. It’s time to release the goats on the pasture to get it eaten down, but goats without fence go feral almost as quickly as hogs. The pasture is still too uneven to accept our portable electric net fence.
Then my wife says, “Well, when we lived in Greece, Dimitri [our local shepherd] just walked through the fields with them and didn’t have a problem.” Well, that’s right. He did. And what’s more, we even have an official Greek shepherd’s cane in the house that we bought as a souvenir.
So, this evening after dinner, we played shepherd. It was a bit of work getting them out to the pasture – goats don’t like new things – but once they were there, they seemed pretty happy!
Since they’ve been on a pretty well-grazed area for a while, we couldn’t leave them out too long the first day. That’s an easy way to get into a bad case of bloat. But, in the short time we did have them out, they got a pretty good start.
We even brought the horses out to graze with them for a while. Zip and Jasper are pickier than goats and weren’t nearly as impressed with the available eats, but they found the largest stand of Rye acceptable.
What surprised us was how easy it was to get them back. My oldest daughter just started back to the barn while I carried up the rear with the shepherd’s crook, and they followed her home. I wish I’d gotten a clearer pic, but this is the best I could do as I jogged along.
Is this going to be a quick process? Nope. But it looks like it might be relatively natural and cheap!
Summer is arriving at the Flying T. Here are some recent pics that tell a story about what that means on the farm.
It’s been really rainy lately, but today we have a good bit of sun… just in time for our son’s baseball game!
The ducklings are now a month old. Just before the three week point, one of the other ducks (Mocha) adopted them as her own. Unfortunately, this meant that she stepped off her own nest a week early, so we lost a clutch of 20.
However, she has been a great mother, and guards over them dutifully so that they can eat, drink, and swim… and take naps in the sunlight outside the barn.
For the past week, Mocha has been bringing the brood on a field trip each morning down to the beaver pond. They spend most of the day there, swimming and eating bugs and weeds, then waddle back to the barn in the afternoon.
Try to find her if you can… this pic was taken with my phone, so the resolution isn’t the best. Once you think you’ve found her, look below. You should be able to imagine Mocha’s blurry brown and white form with a mass of ducklings swimming in front. There also is a brood of wild Mallards sharing the pond, and we’re hoping that another of our Muscovy hens, Sunset, is sitting on a clutch hidden nearby.
Katy was the next to start her nest in the barn. She’s been on for about a week, so about 27 days left in her vigil before the peeps start happening.
Summer means that the grass is growing quickly, especially with all of our rain. This gets the horses frisky.
The grass has been too wet to mow around the house, but with a bit of help from the temporary electric fence we use when trailering, we found a greener solution to the lawnmower.
Still, there’s plenty of work to be found. I’m a bit behind in putting away wood. The good thing is that we have a good bit left over from last year. Here’s the current pile I need to split, and I’ve got another cord lying in the woods right now waiting for me to cut into logs and drag out.
After an hour or so of work, I’ve got a good pile of cut wood waiting for the kids to start stacking (and still a whole lot more to split)!
More to come!
The ducklings hatched one week ago, and their rate of growth is impressive. Here are photos from yesterday, when Midnight took them for their first field trip to the dandelion patch just outside the barn.
Does this spark any early memories of your own field trips or vacations? If so, please leave a comment – we’d love to hear about your adventures.
Thanks for visiting, and please stop by again soon. We’ll keep you updated as God continues to bless us!
P.S. The kids discovered this morning that Midnight is already starting her next clutch!
It’s been pretty crazy-busy here at the Flying T (and at our other activities, including the professions that support them), and looking back I can see it’s been nearly three weeks since our last post. It’s not that we didn’t have anything about which to write – we actually have a ton of material, especially after the superb New Hampshire Grazing Conference last weekend! We simply haven’t had time to write.
Today, God gave us some time, in the form of a snowstorm that so far has dumped about 9″ on us and is still going strong!
The snow kept me from going to work, and meant that even though the snow provided some additional chores (plowing and shoveling), it also provided lots of time to do other things: Chores we’ve been putting off, completing our 2011 taxes, and of course… writing! So, I thought about which of the multitude of topics I might write about, and then I saw this out my window:
I said to myself, “Self, this is not a day to spend writing about serious things.” So, my wife and I put our winter chore clothes back on and headed out to play with the kids. We even got some sledding runs in.
So, no “important” writing in the post today. Instead, I’ll finish with some pics of the snowmen the girls put together for the goats and horses to snack on.
Wherever you are, I hope you also have some time to play with your kids!
With the unseasonably warm days we had in the beginning of November, we put some of our other work (including some of the kids’ studies) aside and got to work improving our rear pasture.
The rear pasture is about 1.25 acres and “rough” to say the least. Based on the size of the poisonous pin cherries throughout the pasture, we figure the pasture has been let go for a good 5-10 years. We’d previously cleared about a quarter to third of it, and then broadcast spread winter rye seed on that area. Despite the very suboptimal conditions, the seed has taken relatively well, though not nearly as vigorously as other areas on the property with better soil and preparation.
Over the past week, we got working on the next bit. The easiest part was cutting down about 20 cherry trees and white pines of various sizes, cutting the larger stuff for the firewood pile while my wife and kids drug the slash to the burn piles. I also cut up a large white birch the beavers had dropped a bit further down the hill. More on them in a future post.
Meanwhile, as I was at work, my wife and kids got to pulling stumps, filling holes, and moving rocks. We’ve got a lot of rocks – it’s not called the Granite State without reason. Even with the help of the tractor, it’s a lot of work.
I’ve helped a bit, but most of the work on the wall we’re starting to build at the edge of the pasture is due to their efforts. It gives us a new appreciation for the sturdy farmers who built the thousands of miles of rock walls 200+ years ago without farm machinery.
Our hope is to have enough pasture clear by next spring to have three 1/2 acre paddocks to rotate (two in the front pasture, one in the rear). That will still require some supplemental hay to avoid overgrazing, but will be a lot better than our current situation and make for healthier and more productive pastures in the future. The seeding plan for the back pasture is to follow the Winter Rye with a good layer of manure and reseeding with Japanese Millet in the summer, then rotate back and forth between the two for at least one more year to break up the weed growth cycle before we move on to more traditional forages. In a few years, I would like to have a solid Orchardgrass and White Clover pasture established there.
Just a bit south, the trees aren’t nearly as far along. Some pics from this weekend:
In somewhat of a last minute whim, we decided to go for a trail ride down the road a bit at Bear Brook State Park, the largest State Park in New Hampshire. The trailering went very smoothly, with Jasper loading up without any fuss whatsoever. If you’ve read some of our posts on trailering (here, here, and here), you know that’s an amazing feat.
Bear Brook was active with an Orienteering competition going on, but aside from a few folks hustling down the trails with maps and compasses, and a large and very polite group of mountain bikers (that we met three separate times in different places), it was relatively quiet on the trails.
After driving into the park and unloading, the girls got Zip and Jasper saddled up for the ride.
As you can see, Jasper doesn’t miss many meals. Most Haflingers don’t.
Soon we were off, down the trails. This is the view those of us who weren’t riding got for most of the day.
The kids did decide to wait for us once we got to the picnic site. After all, I had the lunches in my backpack.
Jasper watched us ruefully as we ate our PB&J and apples. When we didn’t give in, he took to the blueberry bushes.
Zip, on the other hand, waited patiently. He did, however, make it known that his rump needed some scratching. Whereas some horses turn their rear ends towards you as a sign of aggression, Zip does so because he loves butt-scratches more than Homer Simpson.
Meanwhile, our son took some time to throw rocks into the pond
We took the long way back. This one section of the trail was magnificent with huge White Pines. I thought it looked like a huge palace hallway (much like the Temples in Luxor, though obviously a lot greener).
On the way home, the horses entertained the kids by slurping through their tongues as they quenched their thirsts.
All things come to an end, and even this trail ride did eventually. Walking and riding are tiring…
To top it all off, Jasper jumped right into the trailer again afterwards. It was a great day all around.