Somehow the summer has gotten away from me without a lot of detail of what has been going on here at Rolling Bay Farm. There have been a fair amount of successes and some failures so I’ll go through our farm and fill you in.
Market Garden and Other Produce
The garden has done well with our warmer than normal summer. Mark put in a drip system that has worked really well and the garden has flourished. In particular, the Walla
Walla onions are huge and sweet and the early potatoes delicious. Lots of nice cucumbers as well. We continue to try and fine tune what we plant and can sell quickly through the farm stand and what we want to eat ourselves.
The Shiro plum tree has already been picked and jam put up. I think all will stay in our house versus the farm stand. The Plum Ginger preserves turned out well, but I only made a handful of that. I did make a very large batch of what was supposed to be Plum Jam. It never set up so it is really Plum syrup. Which is awfully tasty on top of yogurt, pancakes, oatmeal, etc. We’ll be eating A LOT of that this winter.
Mark did a hard pruning on the pear trees last fall and their production will be low. Our mighty little apple tree is going gangbusters so we will have a lot of Apple Butter to make in a few months.
And as many of you know, we are still in blackberry season and are picking and jamming away!
The last batch of market hogs have all been butchered (either custom butcher or USDA). And about 2 weeks ago Mark weaned the last batch of 21 piglets from our two sows, Black Betty and Rosie Red. As soon as you start the weaning process the clock starts to tick for the next breeding cycle. The sows will go into heat approximately 5 days from when you start weaning.
You know that you need to time the weaning with when you will order and receive the hog semen for artificial insemination. That drove Mark to the Match.Com of the hog world. In our case, that would be Swine Genetics International. We peruse the pictures of Berkshire boars with descriptions like “a big skull, wide chest floor, bold shoulder and a huge well-sprung rib cage”, “has a big expressive top, extra wide square rump and the thickness and expression of center ham and stifle” and “a powerful forearm, big blade and very good mass yet flat bone front and rear”. Well, we find it fascinating anyways.
The piglets we have now are from our first AI done last winter. They seem to be growing exceptionally well and look better than the piglets we got from bringing in the Berkshire “boarfriend”. Mark is not sure if this AI will “take”. The sows were in raging heat the day BEFORE the semen arrived. Hopefully, he caught the tail end of their cycle. We’ll have to wait the 21 days to find out.
A big coup for us was selling two of our Berkshire market hogs to a high end restaurant here on the island called Hitchcock. And the celebrated chef, Brendan McGill, has asked for more at our next butchering in the winter. It’s nice to have your pork coveted by one of the most popular chefs in America!
My Red Sex link chicks that I ordered back in February are laying like crazy. It is so nice to have a strong laying flock after my last one petered out prematurely. I had hoped to have 75 layers but I am at closer to the lows 60’s. I had lost 7 earlier to the weasel and then another 7 when the big chickens got the little ones and then another 3 that I took to the Extension vet for a necropsy.
There was something going through the flock that made them very weak in the legs and unsteady. They maintained a healthy appetite, just really couldn’t move around. It affected about half the flock and I had to pull the weak ones out of the main coop. The necropsy showed nothing and the affected birds got better on their own after a few weeks of R & R.
Tough year for turkeys! Egads! Mark started out with 35 Bronze and it down to about 15.
He lost about 7 to exposure (presumably) and then the same weak legged issue that my 10 weeks old chicks got his poults got at about 4 weeks. Unfortunately, the effected turkeys died instead of pulling through like the chicks did.
We have the huge benefit of having a friend who is a vet and she finds our farm issues intriguing. Since our weak legged problem has gone cross species it should be nutritional in nature. We are leaning towards a vitamin D deficiency given the symptoms and the fact that they are in a brooder without a huge amount of natural light. We haven’t had this problem before and will have to review what is different from the last time we raised chicks.
They are doing well despite that fact that I have no idea what I am doing! The three lower boxes are full of brood and honey. The fourth box that is on top is supposed to be full of honey. But, since these are new colonies it would be extremely unusual to get surplus honey the first year. Both colonies have put up about 2 frames of honey in the fourth box. Not enough for me to take so I’ll most likely just end up leaving it for the bees to eat this winter.
I had been checking on my hives without using my brand new smoker. I just didn’t see the need for it. I will say that now that the bees have a bit of honey they get MUCH more upset when I open up the hive and poke around. So today I decided to master the smoker and keep the bees more calm. Yeah, it worked well and I think I’ll use it more often to keep my baby bees less stressed.
Lastly, The Sheep
My farm favorite and my babies. The lambs have all been weaned and the ewe lambs are
back with the adult ewes (and Zorro) and the ram lambs are in their separate bachelor pasture. Everyone is happy, healthy and growing a great fleece.
Except for Toffee.
Toffee died about two weeks ago. You may remember she was the brown lamb that I picked up and she was very underweight. The whole time I was at the breeders debating if I should get her the following internal dialogue was going on, “Never get a sick animal. Never get the runt. This is farming 101” But then I would say “I can probably fix this and she is the only brown ewe available”. I should have gone with my first reaction.
Toffee weighed 23 pounds at over 8 weeks of age. Very small and skinny. She died 2 months later after only gaining 4 pounds. I again had the benefit of my vet friend looking over my shoulder as I gave Toffee more stuff than any other animal on our farm has ever gotten. I wormed orally and with a shot using two different wormers. She also got a 5 day course of antibiotics. I finally had to pull her from the flock since she obviously could not keep up. She died a few days later weak and anemic with live worm eggs in a fecal sample even though she had been wormed 24 hours previously. She had something resistant and she was not a strong lamb to begin with.
Of course I then got frantic that she had brought a resistant worm to my farm and that my prized flock would get it! I quickly sent off two fecal samples to the Extension vet for review. I carefully chose one sample from a lamb and one from a ewe. How? You ask curiously would I know who’s poop was who’s in an entire pasture of poop? I went out to the pasture and followed my sheep around for a half an hour waiting for them to poop and then I would swoop in and gather it up! Aren’t you jealous of my glamorous life? The long and the short of it is that my sheep are doing very well and their worm counts are almost non-existent.
I have finally mastered knitting!!! Here’s why that is such a big deal. It took me 15 years to do it! Yes, I can be a bit thick. About 15 years ago I took a knitting class. And then
another one. Nothing. Then I bought the book “Knitting for Dummies”. I guess I am sub-dummy because I still couldn’t knit. About 2 months ago I took a knitting class and picked it up like a long lost favorite friend. Behold, the hat I am knitting in the round. And of course I am using yarn from my sheep and loving every minute of it.