Triton's Farm

  (Ellensburg, Washington)
Taste the History
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Dogs and sheep herding

Who knew dogs need a vacation too. Ever since we came back from our vacation with Hector he has been much more active and eager to help on the farm. The other day we were moving the sheep and Hector held the line. I put him on a down stay in a direction I didn't want the sheep to go and he did what he does best he laid there. It worked perfectly the sheep took one look at him and decided to go a different direction. This may not sound that difficult for a dog to do, but when you have one llama and 8 sheep running straight at you it's hard not to flinch. Hector just turned his head so he wasn't watching them, I think had I been closer I could have seen his eyes squint.

Tripper and Axle were with me. I think Tripper is hopeless since his idea of sheep herding involves falling on his back and putting all four feet in the air. Axle just didn't seem to get it yet. He didn't even realize the sheep were coming at him because he had his back turned and was watching me thinking he might get a treat if he sat really nice. He's still young and I think it's a good sign that he wasn't upside down like Tripper. He may still have potential.

Smart Banty Rooster

My little banty rooster is quite a smart little guy. Tonight as I was putting all the animals to bed he came up to me chattering away. This was not chicken cussing, as they sometimes do when we walk by, but actual chicken words. I thought maybe his door to his house wasn't open, but usually the whole flock is with him when that happens. This time it was just him and two of the mature hens. The door was open so I looked inside. I don't usually do this because they get rather upset if you see them getting ready for bed. It turns out their roost fell down, and needed to be put right. So I fixed it all up, nobody said anything bad to me this time when I stepped in their house and I think I even heard a few thank you's from the hens.

Dirty Rotten Tomato Eating Chickens

This week on the farm: we have some very very bad chickens. I had this tomato, you know the one, the first of the season. You watch it grow from a little green ball into a beautiful red lumpy sun kissed orb. I was watching this tomato, making sure the plant got plenty of water. It was going to be ready to harvest Sunday or Monday. I wanted to pick it when it was just perfect. So it would have the full of flavor from the sun. I was checking it daily to make sure it was just right, just beginning to soften.

Then Saturday I went out to water my tomato plans and a massacre had happened. My beautiful 2 lb juicy ripe tomato lay on the ground all ripped to shreds. I couldn't look at it. It looked too grotesque. I walked around to the other side and noticed a number of tomatoes had been tasted. Apparently the chickens came to the same conclusion I did on which one was the best. I just walked away it was too heart breaking. When I came back later it's like it never existed. Not even a stem was left.

The next morning I got up at 5 am before the chickens wake and put chicken wire around my tomatoes. I spent a lot of time counting to 10 and didn't even want to look at the chickens. I hope the eggs taste good this week. They should have that nice sun kissed flavor.

Llama watching over the watch dogs.

The experiment that started out with one llama a peahen and three dogs is working out well, who knew. It's pretty incredible. I think the next big thing will be yard llamas. Everyone with an acre or two will want their own llama to watch over their dogs. It's like the dogs have adult supervision. The boys don't bark as much at night. They get a good nights sleep and don't argue as much about ridiculous things like who gets to drink out of the water first.

It was kind of nice the other day to see the dogs sprawled out on the lawn next to the llama. The boys don't bark nearly as much and they seem more relaxed. Daisy llama seems to really enjoy being so close to the house. She stops to look in the windows every now and then. It's a little scary to look up and see a llama looking in, but other than giving us a start every now and then it's very relaxing. I suspect if the dogs cause too much of a ruckus Daisy just does her stare straight in the eyeballs. The dogs not being able to admit they were just barking because they were scared just look a the ground and walk back to bed.

I know Daisy likes her new home with the boys because every now and then we forget she's there and leave the gate open for the dogs. In the past she would have made a break for it, but now she just continues to sit there watching everything going on around the house. Princess pea hen is still sitting on her eggs.


A llama a peacock and 3 dogs

This week on the farm: A llama, a peacock and 3 dogs, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. I might be, but in this case they are all sharing a pen. The llama is in the dog pen to eat the grass that the dogs are growing, the dogs are locked up to protect them from coyotes and the peacock thinks the roses and dogs are the best and safest place to hatch her eggs. Daisy llama is not so sure about the dogs yet, but hasn't made fun of the boys yet. Llamas when they are scared or threatened make a high pitched laughing noise. So far Daisy has just been trying to sniff the dogs and figure out what they are doing. Hector was trying to eat his dinner with Daisy looming over trying to see what he was hunching over his bowl trying to eat. I think she thought if he was eating some grain she would like to help. Hector being the nice dog he is didn't growl just tried to pretend she wasn't there. A little difficult, but Hector lives in his own world, he makes his own reality. It's an interesting experiment in cross species co-habitation. I trust all the dogs, but Axle. Axle is still the wild card. He still does plenty of goofy things. He's a big chicken and sometimes makes up for his fear by acting tougher than he is. I have all my windows open so I can listen for any laughing or barking. Hopefully we will all get a good nights sleep tonight.

Uppity Ducks

Today we had some very bad ducks and from the quacking they were doing I think they had some very bad things to say about us. It was 9:00 pm and they still didn't want to go to bed. They were just swimming swimming swimming all around the pond. They can easily out maneuver a canoe. It wasn't even difficult. They didn't have to go into hydroplane mode just lazily changed directions as we struggled to turn the boat around. I told them once we have the dog pen built around the pond they can stay out swimming all night, but not till then. They really don't listen very good. Uppity ducks, think they own the pond. Eventually we got them all in, I think around 9:30. Of course they just jumped on the bank like they always meant to do that, not like they were chased off the pond.

Moving around the ducks and the geese

This week on the farm: I sold my small flock of Silver Appleyard ducks. I found them a good home where they will be kept as a breeding flock. I really liked them, but in my desire to get this farm more efficient we decided to only keep one breed of ducks so we don't have to try keeping the two flocks separate during breeding season. We are also working on fencing in a large dog run and waterfowl area. The plan is to let the dogs, ducks and geese share the same area so we don't have to lock the ducks and geese up every night. My goal is to let the ducks and geese hatch out their own ducklings and goslings. Currently we have to lock them up every night to keep them safe they can't sit on a nest and brood the eggs. So the plan is to let the dogs patrol the duck and goose area to keep them safe at night. The only small problem I will have to overcome is the dogs are allowed to eat any eggs not laid on a designated nest because I have no idea how old the eggs are and wouldn't sell them. So I will have to put little duck and goose houses around the pond that have dog proof entrances. Luckily my dogs are big so that won't be a problem. The dogs, Hector especially, are very good at finding eggs.

Last year the dogs followed Henrietta Turkey around until she laid her egg. She go wise to the dogs and started going further and further out in the field. This year she found the perfect place. I have a little John Deere Lawn Tractor that I need to replace a belt, but don't know how to do it and I will have put up on blocks to even get underneath, so I've been finding all sorts of other projects to finish first. Henrietta has made this her new brooding area.  Since she is our only adult turkey her eggs are not fertile. We want Henrietta to be successful because she tries so hard so my mom swapped out he eggs with chicken eggs. Hopefully this will be Henrietta's year to hatch babies. She would be such a great mom.

Another week of the farm. Nothing special just every day farm stuff.

This week on the farm: It was a very productive week. We got the new pump running, moved all the cattle around and convinced the sheep to move to a new pen. We are getting all the animals out to pasture, a little late this year because of all the irrigation problems. All the tomatoes are planted. I think I lost about half my onions in the great irrigation disaster. I held off on planting a bunch of other things with all the water issues. The gooseberries and currants seem to be producing well this year. My hazelnut bushes are finally starting to grow and one of my bantam hens hatched 4 of the cutest little babies. Each chick is only about the size of your thumb but they do have pluck. They scurry quickly away from the feet of the big hens as they come over to steal their food. My mom noticed the bantam mom doing something very interesting before she brought the food over for the hen and babies. The hen was collecting grass and bringing it to her babies since her babies were too little to move far from the nest and were still too slow to avoid the big hens. I thought this was really interesting. I like the little bantams because they are so resourceful.

Irrigation and fencing

This week on the farm: This entire weekend was spend working on the new pump. We need to add one more part on Wednesday then everything should be good. Hopefully things will run well for a long time. I am also working on fencing the front of the property. We need to create a larger dog run and we are planning on fencing the entire front including the pond so the dogs will be able to patrol the pond at night. The ducks and geese have not been able to brood any of their eggs because we require all poultry to go in their house at night so we can keep them safe from predators. I'm hoping by letting the dogs patrol the area where the ducks and geese live we can leave them out at night so they can brood their eggs and raise their own babies. The moms are way more efficient at this than we are. We have two new baby ducks with more on the way, but I keep thinking how nice it would be if they had moms to snuggle up with at night instead of sitting under a heat lamp. I think integration into the flock would go smoother too if they were raised by a mom who could make all the formal introductions and back it up with a good nip if anyone mistreats the babies. Hopefully next years ducklings with be able to be raised naturally.

Irrigation Pumps

This week on the farm: I thought I had the water all figured out and then the pump went out. I would like to say when it rains it pours, but I would like a drenching of rain right now. I think the average rainfall in May is .65 inches. I guess there's not much chance of a good rainfall. This next weekend we will be installing a new 20 hp pump. I'm getting good at installing and uninstalling irrigation pumps. Not that I find it fun. These pumps are about 200 pounds and not easy to move. I have also learned a whole lot more about irrigation pumps than I ever thought I needed to know. In addition to learning how to do minor repairs to tractors, change spark plugs, build chicken coops, and build fences, I can now add irrigation pumps to my growing list of farm knowledge. Farming is about so much more than growing.


This week on the farm: We finally have our irrigation water. The latest challenge on the farm, ticks. Those nasty little blood suckers. The only place on the property we have problem is in the willow trees near the irrigation ditch. They are nasty little buggers. The don't scare me so much anymore. I have gotten really good at de-ticking the dogs. This year I gave them the tick medication, but it doesn't seem to help. I've heard rubbing them with oranges helps. I have to get Axle to hold still long enough to rub oranges all over him. I don't think he will like it much. In the past our guinea fowls helped keep the population down, but last year in our effort to down size we got ride of the last of the guinea fowl. All we had left was males because the females would nest in the tall grass and were easy prey for coyotes, so until we can find a better solution to keep them safe we won't get more guinea fowl. Till then we have to deal with ticks. Luckily no humans have had a tick take hold. I've had them only my clothes and freak out over every possible creepy crawly I imagine I feel. They are hard to kill. I found pliers are the best weapon and keep a pair in my back pocket at all times. Hector an Tripper are used to the evening de-ticking, but Axle still thinks he has to bite everything and will not hold still. I know ticks sound terrible and I know Lime disease is a danger, but what do you do? I'll try a different medication on the dogs to keep them safe, but the medication has it's own side effects. It's just another thing you deal with and move on.

St. Croix Lambs have arrived.

This week on the farm: LAMBS!!! they have finally started arriving. We have four already and I expect another two to arrive in the next week or so. The moms did great. I didn't have to help or do anything. The babies all look very healthy, and were on their feet in seconds. It's pretty incredible how quickly they can move around. So far we have 3 more girls to add to our herd and one boy. Joy our guard llama has already checked out all the new babies and immediately accepted them to the herd. Everyone looks great. So far it's been a very easy lambing. Only one more to go.

Romeo Duck

This week on the farm: it's the goofy ducks. I really like the ducks. Of all the animals on the farm they are one of the nicest. They don't tend to do many bad things and as long as they have water and we leave them alone they are fine. They have even learned to come in from the pond at night to get safely tucked in bed.

Just so you know not all the ducks we have had have been this well behaved. We seem to have a nice group. I really like the two breeds, Anconas and Silver Appleyards. Both have nice personalities and stay close to the barn. They don't try to stay out late so we can keep the safe from Willey Coyote. Hector playing the part of Ralph the sheep dog has an easy time with the ducks. He likes to lay by the pond watching the ducks. At least that's what he tells us he's doing. He might just be sleeping.

For the last couple of weeks I have been watching one particular duck, an Ancona Drake. A pretty black and white duck. We separated the Anconas from the Silver Apple Yards so we can save eggs and hatch out some more ducks. We didn't realize this would cause one particular drake so much anxiety. Ducks don't pair up quite like geese. They are a little more promiscuous and forgetful about their mates. They tend to like a little more of a harem than sticking to one hen. They do have favorites however. This little drake apparently had a favorite Silver Appleyard hen. I didn't realize and thought he would be over it by now, but he just seems to be more determined. We have the ducks separated so that one group can go to the pond while the other stays in the pen with a pool. The Silver Appleyards are lazier and seem quite happy with a pool while the Anconas like the pond. Every day this little black and white drake walks around the pen of Silver Appleyards calling to his hen. I think if I could figure out which hen he was pinning for I would let her out, but I'm not sure if the hens feel the same way about him. I haven't noticed any particular hen following him around or making head bobs at him. I think it may be one sided. So my little Romeo will just have to continue pinning for his hen till they have been separated long enough that I can be sure the eggs are pure for each breed. Then we will save some eggs for hatching and let the two breeds back together.
Little Romeo just has to hold out for another couple of weeks before he can find his Juliette.


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