Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last post for 2013

As I lay in bed tonight,  with only minutes left until 2014 rolls around...  So many thoughts roll around in the quiet.

We spent our new years eve purchasing and collecting another 229 laying hens.  Yes...  Caught one by one from a farm in California that us retiring.  In the last 2 days out flocks have expanded by over 300 birds!  Now everyone is sleeping as the year quietly drifts in.

You might ask...  Why would our family spend New Years Eve chasing chickens?  Well..  First off...  We had a blast!  What better family fun is there?  More importantly,  we need chickens because you need eggs.  Our waiting list for eggs is so long that it breaks my heart to browse it.  Plus some if these hens will become broths,  stocks,  stews,  soups,  etc. 

You see...  Thus farm thing isn't just a job...  Its a mission.  We truly want to provide everyone who needs good food,  who needs to heal,  recover,  gain back their life.  When you find your mission,  it's no longer a job...  Its a life.

So here I sit,  brenda sound asleep,  ready to wake up in a few hours to milk the goats,  everyone else sleeping soundly,  and I'm blogging this.  THAT is how we bring in a new year!  And we,  our family,  deeply loves what we do.   It's not necessary for us to party late,  our satisfaction comes in the form of thank yous from customers,  from testimonials of true health,  from knowing we have a job well done.

So yes...  Maybe we are weird by today's standards,  but we love our life,  our animals,  our customers,  and our God.   Good by 2013.... Time to move on... After a good night's sleep.

Good night.

The new laying flock is started!

Today we put the eggs into the incubators for the next winter flock.  We decided to hatch 2 flocks a year,  one in early winter and one early summer.  That should be best chance for a sturdy winter laying flock and a consistent summer laying flock.

So far there are about 140 eggs in.  Another 140 to come.  Our target is 300 eggs hatched at once to end up with about 100 laying hens in a flock.

Chickens chickens everywhere

With eggs is such high demand these days,  and our recent struggles with production (largely weather caused),  we have a long list of people waiting for good pastured soy free organic eggs.  So we decided to speed up the process of expanding.  In addition to hatching a new winter flock,  we purchased about a hundred full grown chickens to lay.

It was a looking day,  but finally they are resting in their new home.  A couple weeks if extended lighting and we should have plenty of fresh eggs to meet demand.

We might add another hundred this week if all goes well.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Annual Little Sprouts Sheep Rodeo is On!

Here it is.. a bit late this year, but time for the annual Little Sprouts Sheep Rodeo! Every year at end of fall we gather up some help and head out to the pasture to catch, count, sort, and get ready to harvest sheep.  We ran a little late this year due to a scheduling conflict on our usual timing, and ended up holding the rodeo the day after Christmas.

The business behind:  our flock is now up to almost 50 head. We are still in expanding mode, where we choose the best rams each year to stay as breeders, keep all female sheep to expand the herd, and harvest the remaining males. This year we chose to keep 4 rams, two with  impressive 4 horns and two with the usual double curled horns. It is beneficial to keep the genetics more varied to extend the time we can go without trading out the male line completely.  The average gestation of sheep is 145 days, so many of these ewes may already be bred by the larger set of males, which further broadens our genetics.

Today we set out to find a better less stressful way of handling the sheep, and I am quite pleased with what we created.  It is nearly impossible to round up all the sheep just out in the open and catch them, so every year we try different methods.  This year we used the runs that were started on last summer, about 25 feet wide and a couple hundred feet long, with field fencing down both sides (semi permanent).  All we did was install 6 t-posts half way down the run in 2 separate lines. There is a center post, and a post about 8 feet on each side of center. Then we wedged in two 16 foot hard panels on each line, creating a 3 areas in the run. The back area , a center area  and an open ended front area.  The hard panels are "wedged"  with a one way door at each end, using the springy nature of the metal to provide an easy "close behind you" effect.  bailing twin and a couple clips complete the design. At the end of it all we have a center "lock"  with one way doors at each end, one leading to the back holding area and one leading out to freedom in the pasture. It is small enough to deal easily with the sheep but not too small for safety.

The Process:  Firstly, don't feed the sheep the day before! their hunger makes them much more willing to go along with anything for food rewards.  A grain bucket then provides all the incentive needed to get the entire herd to follow into the back holding area. Once safely locked in , the rodeo begins! a man at the first gate, a few people inside the run to drive the herd into the center pen, and soon we have the entire herd crowded into the center holding pen.

Then the process starts of catching the sheep one at a time, inspect them, and decide if they are "keepers" for next season or due to be harvested.  The keepers are let out through the one way door back into the pasture, while the harvest ready bunch goes the other way to the back holding stall again.

This year the kids wanted to help out, and wow did they! What fun it was to watch! After showing them how its done... they jumped right in for a seriously fun sheep rodeo! Below are the pics for your enjoyment.

At the end of the day we have 6 lambs waiting for harvesting, and the rest of the flock safely back in their pasture with 4 breeding rams. The only hitch was that at the end of it all Rainey (the guard llama) slipped through the fence to join the rams due for harvesting! that could be a challenge,.. but that  is for another day.

Everett and Levi waiting for the festivities. You can see holding pen setup behind them with the one way doors.

Samson gets some grain as a treat to keep him out of the way as we pull the sheep from the pasture

Here is the crew ready to pull the sheep through!

Now to get them across the second pasture to the holding pen setup, follow the grain buckets!

And they are in! Time to start a rodeo!

I grab the first one to show them how its done
Back to the holding pen

Hunter grabs a hold of his first sheep as she tried to leap away
But he holds on tight!
Hunter and Kaelyn team up on one

Dont let her get away!

Kaelyn's first capture!

Big Brother rushes in to help!

A swing and a miss! Hunter hits the ground!

This one is quite elusive!

A couple more caught in the background, as Hunter takes a little break

Kaelyn is NOT letting this one go!

Tiffany has great form as she learns the ins and outs of sheep rodeo.

Need a hand there?

Hunter gets this one down, a great tackle as Everett looks on. 

Josh finally decides to get into the mix with his first sheep capture ever!

Who's next?

Hunter and Kaelyn help Tiffany get her capture moved as I man the gate for a bit. 

And Josh has a big one!

Or does he?

Looking better!

Success! Another great capture!

Tiffany keeps grabbing them like an old pro!

Kaelyn's turn!

Who is faster.. boy or sheep?

And hunter is down.. again!

Tiffany saves the day as Hunter recovers his pride

Kaelyn checks to see.. umm... which way this one should go.

Two boys.. one sheep. Who shall win?

Josh has another one!

Everyone rushes in to help. 

A one handed catch?

Josh and his catch

There he goes!

Hunter rushes back to help Tiffany with a wild one!

Hunter has one by the back quarters, or does he?

Nope.. Hunter is down again!

Kaelyn is NOT letting this one get away!

Still chasing!

Finally Josh grabs her .. Where's Hunter?

There is Hunter,  time to put this one away!

Two on one!

Nice tackle Hunter!

Who is next?


But wait.. where is Hunter?

There he is! and its a tackle!

Umm.. Hunter?

Catch that sheep!

Bradley manning the exit door as the kids finish up the remaining flock

Now THATS team work!

Almost done!

Wait.. who has who here?

One more done

Josh is barely holding on

But with help.. a capture!


YES! he held on through the tackle!

WHOA! That's a big sheep you have there little lady!

Josh is quite the pro now!

Ladies.. the man needs help!

Bradley looking good at the door, not a one escaped!

Two at a time!

But she almost gets away


One more for Josh

Hunter grabs another to hand off to daddy
Ollie just hanging around watching the show with mommy, some day he will be right out there with them!