Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Piglet pictures

Finally got a decent up close shot of the first piglets!  Very cute.  These are pure large blacks,  well right now they aren't too large, but they will be!

All are looking great, and mom...  Other than being a tad cranky and quite protective....  is doing perfect.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Shepherding the sheep who are shepherding the sheep

Sheep are mentioned throughout the bible as perhaps the most popular livestock of the day, and the art of shepherding is used many times in scriptures as examples of God's relationship to us, a father to his household, a pastor to a church, etc etc.  The art of shepherding is historically seen as the art of leading effectively.   And sheep are seen as analogous to humans, our nature being much the same. 

So today, sunday morning, we decided to head out into the bright beautiful sunshine and try our hand at shepherding both sheep and children.  We gathered some chairs, hot tea, trail mix, bibles, and off we went into an unfenced pasture next door (with permission of course).  After setting up a cozy family spot, we opened the gate and let the sheep in (or is it out?) 

At first it was a bit of a rodeo.. sheep everywhere, frantically running hither and tither in their new found freedom and open grass. But after a few moments of herding, chasing, etc...  they calmed down and the children got a handle on shepherding.  As you can see in the pictures below, they each got a turn with the shepherd staff, watching the flock. 

In the 3 hour experience we found a couple hours to read some scriptures, and talk about the children's recent venture into handing out bible / gospel tracts as a part of their personal experience. The morning was an unbelievably humbling  and touching experience, teaching, learning, sharing, doing. All in the beautiful sunday morning sunshine. 

We will definitely do this again, Sso if you drop by on a Sunday morning, feel free to grab a chair and join our new little family bible study... in the pasture under the sun. Just be prepared to practice shepherding as we share together!

Its small, but Kaelyn is in the middle with the staff keeping watch over the flock

Our little family gathering

Hunter takes his turn at being a shephard

First baby pigs on the ground!

Pig season has started!  We found the first litter with mom this morning!  Only 4 so far but we arent entirely sure she is done.

Babies and mom are doing great!  She is nursing and all are up and walking around.

Hopefully there are more coming soon!

The sounds of night on a farm

One of the most beautiful times on the farm is .. night.  When the sky is clear and littered with diamond points brilliantly glittering across the dark sky, calm cool wind, and darkness to dim the eyes but brighten the ears.  Each night when the weather is like this, the walk from the milking barn to the coolers is a trip through the majesty of nature. The sounds fill the night sky with the loud quiet of nature.

I shot this video, not for the eyes, but for the ears to enjoy that brief walk through our tiny piece of heaven.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dont cry... But

We all  know the old saying...  "dont cry over spilled milk"  ....

But you know...  When your up every day at 6am, and every evening at dinnertime milking the goats...  Well..  This brings a tear to an old farmer's eye.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sadness.... The end of the bacon.

Yes,  we are sad to report that we are now sold out of our beloved double smoked heritage pastured soy free nitrate free unflavored bacon.   The last package is claimed and we are out of pork bellies.

Our condolences to the bacon lovers.

More will be available when the new hogs are older.  A few months away.

busy end of week!

What an end of week!
True to form... On a couple hours notice,  we loaded the children,  a baby,  and a dog in the car,  attached the trailer,  and took off overnight to bend in order to buy a generator.  Why a generator?  Because we need a source of power at the new property,  and it was a great deal! 
In the background, the bug barn is coming along nicely.....  Well except our farm hand (Bradley)  is allergic to the bugs and broke out in hives from working in the bug barn.  Most of the insulation is up though. Bradley is recovering nicely.
There was a  battle of excaped pigs,  loose turkeys,  hungry goats,  and other  fun farm excitements,   filling in for two milkings and feeding. 
Grandma...  Who we neglected to tell we were leaving town last night,  almost had a heartattack as she arrived at 6am this morning to an empty house.  Unable to find us anywhere or call us (Phones werent working in the hotel)   she ran frantically around the farm trying to figure out what happened until she ran across our farm hand milking.  Yep...  8 am in trouble for not telling her :(
Today after getting home around noon...  With the generator,  we did some chores,  chased the pigs back in,  adjusted the pig fencing,  retrieved some meat from the storage locker for delivery tomorrow,  and now its time for one last milking,  then prepare for deliveries.
Funny thing is...  That was all the last 24 hours!   I would go further back with the story...  But i dont remember that long ago!
Why do we do this?    Simple...  We love it,  and people need good food.  All it takes on a crazy day like this is one phone call from a desperate mom looking for soy free organic raw egg yolk or organically fed high fat goat milk,  to give her sick child.  No more motivation is needed. 
Busy days!  Good days,  sunny days,  happy days.   Perhaps we should start a little sprouts reality show!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grain vacuum.... Not so much

Not everything works out according to plan on a farm...  Especially when inventing new things on budget.  This time (yes...  I say  "this time"  because there have been so many times) I am referring to the new grain vacuum we are trying to build.

So...  The story.  We need an easy way to use the grain resting on our new grain bins.  Buying a new piece of equipment is not possible right now... So we are improvising...  Or trying to.  We are trying to build grain vacuum.  In theory it will allow a single person to suck grain out of the bin into plastic trash cans for use. 

In theory

Test number one at the farm went very well...  With only a few adjustments  we had it filing buckets with oats quite well.  We decided to make a few changes and try it on the real grain at the grain bins. 

That was today....   Didnt go so well. 

The longer pipes necessary to reach into the bin created more air resistance,  and worse ...  The wheat is heavy!  Too much moisture.  In fact...  The bins are very humid when we opened them and grain is clumping together .  We tried modifications to get more airflow,  more suction,  but after a couple hours....  Gave in.

Plan B: buckets ...  When all else fails use buckets. 

So we managed to bring back a thousand  pounds of grain.  The pigs are very happy tonight!  But the vacuum...  Needs more thought....

Army training camp, or little sprouts chickens?

Great shot of the four pasture laying coops glowing on an early winter morning....  Oddly reminds me of a scene from M. A. S. H.   But no..  Those arent army tents.  They are just chickens hard at work feeding you fresh eggs everyday :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How great thou art!

Simple pleasure of farm life....

Watching the winter sunrise while listening to alan jackson version of "how great thou art"  for morning milking.

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to contemplate this life we live,  in all its beautiful glory.

Then....  Back to milking.....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Here is... No was... The new instant shelter

I really need to learn to post faster to the blog..  This particular story changed dramatically before I ever got it started here...

The story begins on a rainy day this week.  We realized that the sheep needed more shelter for the heavy Rainy weather blowing in..  So with the help of Brenda's brother Bradley,  we spent a few hours in the cold rain assembling portable shelters from Costco.  These are big enough to be a garage,  fully enclosures,  and amazingly sturdy. We built 3  together   to make about 15 by 60 feet.  We got them built and move to sheep in warm and dry.

But.. Didnt take a picture. 

So. .  Here's where it was... 

Tonight it blew away in he wind.  The stakes obviously to small. 
Tomorrow we start over 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine babies

A nice surprise....  Danielle had 2 beautiful furry babies today,  one girl and one boy. 

Valentine babies!

Correction: there are 4 goats born today! 2 mini nubians,  1 nigerian dwarf,   and 1 mini lamancha!  All babies and mom seem fine,  butit looks like we are spending valentienes evening throwing bedding for these new families. What better romance than caring for newborns!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

First duck eggs of the season!

We are FINALLY seeing duck eggs around the farm!  Its time to build an area with nesting boxes and start collecting eggs!  We will be offering duck eggs for sale soon!

Here is a look at the first batch,  already in a pan of our own lard,  frying softly:)  yum!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sheep update

It has been a tougher than normal first week of lambing season.  We have had a number of lambs that need a bit of assistance.  Nevertheless,  things are progressing.  Right now we have 8 total healthy lambs running around,  1 was stillborn,  1 didnt make it,  and 1 found a new home after being abandoned. 

To help the herd get stronger we have increased the "hotter"  feed. (oats,  alfalfa).  This will provide a bit more energy and help milk production.

The cutest one during lambing season is perhaps rainey the llama.  We call him uncle rainey as he often fills in for the moms when they go eat...  Attentively watching the little ones until mom is back.

Uncle rainey!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chick Days Are Here!

We are very happy to announce that with the arrival of February, CHICK DAYS are here! Little Sprouts is now hatching our unique chicks for you! Our chicks are unlike any others you can find, our own mix of heritage breeds and traits. Every chick will be different, like a unique fingerprint.  We have found these mixed breeds to be hardier, healthier, and still as productive as commercial breeds. Plus they are a joy to watch!

Why hatch through Little Sprouts?
Hatching with us means that you have the opportunity to be involved in the process beginning to finish., You will:
  • Pick the individual eggs and / or parent flocks of your chicks
  • Participate in egg candling at 1 week, and 2 weeks
  • Learn about the hatching process
  • Locally bred  birds for better Oregon weather tolerance
  • Mixed breed birds with  vigor not possible from purebred birds. 
  • Parents raised locally on organic non-gmo, soy free feeds

The Details

Chicken Breed:

These chickens are a two to five generational mix of several heritage breeds including Araucanas, Kraienkoppes, Golden Sex Link, Black Sex Link, Dorking, Barred Rock, Sussex, Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Astralorp, Wyandottes, Java, Brahma. All of these are intermixed, you can not choose a breed, the qualities of these breeds are mixed in different proportions in each chicken.  These are mostly egg laying breeds but will produce roosters and hens of 3 to 5 lbs each if raised for meat.


It takes 21 days to hatch a set of chicks, give or take a day. You can pick them up 1 to 3 days after hatching.  
The chicks need special feed and heat for 2 to 3 months.
They are ready to lay eggs at about 6 months
They are ready to use as meat at about 6 to 9 months
They lay for 3 to 5 years, each set of 4 hens laying 3 eggs per day. winter laying is possible with lighting. 

We offer only straight run, meaning no sexing done. Expect half your chicks to turn out to be roosters, half hens. You can raise the roosters for meat, sell them to others, or return them to our farm (we do not buy them back but will accept them as donations). Sometimes you can tell sex by 3 months, but often not for 6 months. 

The total price is $7 per chick hatched. 
Special discounts available for orders over 2 dozen. 

To reserve your spot in the incubators email or call today!

Here are some shots of the last flock of chicks hatched, taken at frenzied feeding time! These will give you a feel for the variety available in these cross breed chickens.

Little Sprouts newsletter launched

This month all of our members received the first ever official little sprouts newsletter!  We have been searching for a labor light way to keep better communication going with members,  especially as things change and expand rapidly this year.

We settled on a service called mail chimp,  which automatically converts blog posts into a neatly formatted email newsletter.  No extra labor!  Once all set up....  All we do is keep blog posting the new news and automatically it is distributed to all members!  Best part is... It's free at our usage level.

We started out thinking monthly,  but are considering  changing to weekly distribution to keep everyone more up to date.  Any feedback here is much appreciated!

Soon I will post a link in the blog site so that blog readers who are not members  can also subscribe to the service.

Stay tuned! Exciting year ahead!

Hunter's first seed sale!

Yesterday was momentous!  Hunter personally delivered his first ever  saved seed sale in deliveries!  He was so pleased when he saw the seeds show up on the load report Saturday morning!  Glowing with pride that he had done something all on his own,  and sold it!

Seed saving really was totally his idea last season.  He got interested in the idea through reading about it,  joined a seed saving organization,  bought a book or two,  grew the plants,  properly saved the mature seeds,  and even packaged them,  individually counting how many seeds went into each bag.  In essence he launched a new little sprouts profit center all in his own!

We could not be more proud of him for his accomplishment....  At 10 he had not only the motivation but the interest, work ethic,  perseverance,  and ability to make this all happen in his own! How could a parent be more proud?

He is definitely motivated now to expand this project to a variety of seeds this year!  The sky is the limit!  It will be great fun to see where he takes this!

Silly realizations.....

Ever have one of those moments where you suddenly realize that something you thought true and defended  was....  Obviously and humorously false?  Well...  I have,  and those moments always bring a smile  of self realization....  And a warning about being too dogmatic about unconfirmed truth. Here is my most recent example of silly realizations....

We now have four chicken coops in the pasture with automatic solar powered lights. Cloudy Winter days do not provide enough solar power to charge the batteries so that ultimately every 2 to 4 days of consecutive cloudiness requires manual charging of batteries.  This is critical since a sudden change of day length by a dead battery for more than 3 days can cause molting and loss of egg production for 2 months!

So..  In Winter I usually glance out our bedroom window every night between 2am and 5am to make sure all four coops are lighted.  If not...  Note to self to charge battery. 

This week I glanced it the  window,  peaking between the shutter slats at about 3am  as usual to see not one but all four coops were dark!  That's odd...  All 4 at once?  Hmmm... 

But then.. This week we have been off schedule suffering from a cold the whole family caught...  So i went out milking later than usual  and so couldn't verify the lights out on the way to milking after 7am. I also never made it out to fix the lights that day.

Next night,  I check again at around 4am and sure enough,  no lights on any coops.  The night seemed unusually dark actually....  Pitch dark outside the shuttered window.  I put on my glades and checked again...  marveling at the depth of darkness outside ...  Thinking it must be the no moon cycle.  But again back to bed.

That afternoon after returned from deliveries tired and still half sick..  I realized  that the lights were now an emergency.  Facing 3 days of darkness could obliterate our winter egg supply.  So I told brenda that,  tired as I was,  I had to go work on all 4 coops.

"But wait" she says..  "I saw two burning this morning at milking...."

How could that be?  My mind was whirling,  trying to find how they could be on at 6am if the batteries were dead at 3am? Could all 4 timers be off?  Could all 4 be suffering from some universal problem?  Doesn't seem possible.

We explored  back and forth but brenda insisted that 2 coops were lit at 6am.  I was baffled... "but that's impossible....  I looked out the window 2 nights in row and see no lights at all...  Anywhere."  I insisted.

A smile creeps across her face.  "the bedroom window?"

"yes..  As I always do "

Silence.... For a moment....

" remember a couple days ago how you mentioned it was too bright in the bedroom for the young boys' afternoon nap? " My beautiful bride starts

" yes "

" remember suggesting that we should block of the window with anything to see if it helps them sleep? "

Realization starts to dawn somewhere deep in my thoughts...  But no...  Could it be?

" well.... " she continues " I fixed it two days ago..  With cardboard in the window "

Ummmm..  Really?  I have been staring at a piece of cardboard in the window,  inches from my eyes,  marveling at the blackness of a starless night?  Sure enough...  I had.

The moral of this story?  I dunno...  Is there a moral?  Maybe some times we are just silly trying to see things clearly when it's just not possible.... Maybe we need to be more careful trusting or own 5 senses...  Maybe it's never as dark as  it may appear.... 

Or maybe there is no moral but to laugh at ourselves and our silly realizations.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Update on the grain bin project

What a day!  We started out rushing to finish the next 2 bins due to the rain headed our way.  The rain that was originally due here friday night was now expected thursday night,  cutting a day off.  The reason is...  This grain is still in the field!  We bought a crop of grain that was originally scheduled to be disced under.  The farmer agreed to cut it and give us the grain at a great price :)  but.....  The rain cometh....

So we rushed and finally decided to move the building to the new property and finish,  so we could be there when the grain trucks showed up.  Of course....  When we pull in....  It starts raining! 

So there we are....  Working feverishly in the rain...  Clock ticking....  And as usual in this business... The combine breaks.  What is that joel salatin quote about machines only breaking when you need them?  Well..  That cost another hour or so...  More time to build,  less time to harvest.

The assembly of the second bin went really fast and smooth!  I must give credit where credit is due...  My brother in law,  bradley,  was a real superman...  Sticking with it in the cold rain and mud,  even using electric power tools in the rain when necessary!  (yes...  There was a couple of shocking moments).  Without bradleys expert carpentry help and willingness to get a job done...  We would have never made it this far!  (He is the one in the pictures on the first post)

So...  To make a long wet cold muddy story short...  At the end of the day we had 1 bin ready,  another needing only a few bolts,  and a third about half.  But.....  The rain cometh.  Harvesting stopped and we only received a not full hopper of grain.  So we paused the rest of the building.  Threw together a quick improvised roof,  and headed home.

The grain is ok,  it will be cut another day when the field dries,  and we will finish the bins.  For now...  Its rest and reflection time. Well,  after chores and milking..... 

First GAPS soup for trial!

It's here! Our first  GAPS soup canned and ready for trial!  We started with a basic vegetable in chicken stock with heritage chicken meat.  Yum!  (we hope).

This marks the beginning of this year's new project to produce a line of ready to eat soups that are GAPS LEGAL,  and made with only the finest ingredients  (organically raised,  non gmo,  soy free,  heritage breed,  pasture raised,  humanely treated) with zero added chemicals. Our goal is to provide an easy way to experience the gaps intro diet for yourself.

For now we are doing internal testing for flavor,  texture,  aroma....  But we are happy to provide a sample to farm visitors interested in giving feedback.

What an exciting year this is!

Ever build a grain bin?

We made a valuable purchase of organically  non gmo grain for animal feed. Part of the list price is due to bulk delivery...  No totes for storage.  So...  We needed to build a storage spot...  A grain bin....  To hold about 40 tons of grain.

Hmmmm...  What a challenge!

We decided to build 3 bins they are 4 feet deep,  16 long and 8 wide.  The design is standard stud walls of 2x4 with 2x6 top and bottom plates,  with the interior walls covered in plywood. The walls are through bolted together on the corners.

Time was shirt to start with,  harvest being only a few days away.  And then the weather shortened that even more with rain coming.  So the we were last night   generator purring thy o run lights saws and drinks to assemble the first bin to be filled in the  morning.  The remaining 2 bins will be assembled as the first one is being filled.

Let's hope this design holds...  The clock is ticking and gain is coming...  It would be a shame to lose a bin to collapse!

Tomorrow I hope to post an update with good news. For now here are some pics of the first evening events.