Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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What is a scruff hen? At our farm it's a hen that came to us that we weren't really looking for. As in, I buy a particular chicken at an auction and it comes with another, less desireable chicken. One such gal came to be know as "Super Scruff Hen" as she looked to be molting when we got her, and was in no hurry to get her feathers back. She's a small gold and black barred bird that lays white eggs quite consistantly. I think she's probably a Campine. We were going to take her back to the auction, but she just kept laying eggs. Then we moved her to a pen that, unlike the first, was not completely enclosed, and she became a barnyard bird as she could figure out a way out of the pen daily, no matter how short her wings were clipped or what you did to the fence. But, being the extremely cagey bird she is, she would see me at chore time and follow me back into the coop, where she would safely spend the night. Several weeks ago I stopped seeing her, and I was sad, but we had lost quite a few hens to the predators, and all seemed to be my favorites! We found out what happed to Super Scruff Hen this week...she had relocated herself to a secret location in the haymow and made a nest to sit on. I found a rather soggy chick last night and put it under the heat lamp to dry, but we couldn't find its mom. Super Scruff Hen reappeared today, with two more tiny chicks in tow! Now if I can just lure her back to the henhouse...
I sit typing this as my first "full time farmer" activity. Tomorrow is my first day of being laid off, so I am keeping my head up and making the most of it...it's a great time of year to be home on the farm! Tomorrow Dan and I plan to put the finishing touches on shed cleanup and we'll be set for the grand reopening on Saturday from 10-2. I've canned some dilly beans, blueberry basil vinegar, and a Thai sweet and hot dipping sauce to sell and I intend to get some mustard made in the next day or so. I hope to see some of you there, but I must go now...time to mow while the sun shines to make the place look presentable!
Posted by Emily
@ 03:10 PM EDT
On Tuesday, our neighbobr stopped by to ask if he could used our recently cut hayfield to work his new team of Haflingers, a small draft horse breed. We had no problem with that, and shortly thereafter we saw them in the field. The ponies seemed to be working well pulling a small two wheeled cart, and after watching for a minute or two, Dan and I went back to our evening chores. I was harvesting salad greens in the garden about an hour later when I heard our neighbor commanding his horses to "whoa" loudly and repeatedly. He was standing beside the wagon, and soon the horses got so upset that they took off running at full speed, luckily leaving him behind in the field. They started running toward the road, and the wagon began to bounce high in the air behind them, and I could hear the sound of equipment breaking from a long way off. The field ends and there is a 4 ft drop to the road, so the ponies swerved and started heading toward our barn. When they came to the large wooden pasture gate they tore through our cornfield and back up into the field where they started. At this point I ran to get Dan and we took the truck up to that part of the field to see how we could help. Our neighbor is older and our first concern was that he wasn't hurt. At first we though the ponies had run back to their barn, but as we rounded the bend in the road, we saw them at the far side of the field, against the fence where they had gotten stuck. We parked the truck and began walking to avoid scaring the ponies, and let our neighbor walk up to them. Then Dan helped to unhook them and drove them back to the barn while our neighbor caught his breath. One of the ponies has a cut on his back leg but they were otherwise unhurt. After returning the ponies, we took the truck around the fields and collected the pieces of the wagon and surveyed the damage to the corn field. Luckily, they made only one pass through and stayed to the perimeter, as the corn in thoer path was destroyed. We were also thankful that they didn't run through any of the fences. We returned the wagon pieces and tried to piece together what happened. The ponies were 3 and 4 years old andhad only been hitched to a wagon twice before. They could have gotten spooked by something no one else noticed, maybe they were just fed up after an hour of work, or possibly something on the cart broke before they ran away. All I know is that it really makes you aware of how dangerous a large animal can be and that even with a trusted team like our Belgians, one must always be aware of what is going on at all tiles to avoid being seriously hurt.
Hope, our Boer/Saanen cross female, had twins last night, bringing our total to 11kid goats born this month! We have had some torrential rain this week, and although Dan found them safe and sound in the barn last nigh as he was shutting in chickens, I haven't seen the babies yet. The rain looks to be letting up so I am headed out there now. The other babies are doing wonderfully, I truly think there is nothing cuter in the world than to see them playing and running about in the barnyard!
Posted by Emily
@ 09:34 AM EDT
The official opening of the farm stand is set for Saturday, August 1st from 10 AM-2PM! We will then be open every Saturday through the fall during those hours. We are excited to see some of Pleasant Valley's returning customers and meet some new ones! We will still be carrying fresh, organic produce and a limited amount of chicken and pork. I'll be introducing my fresh organic herbs and some sauces, including the blueberry-basil vinegar I prepared over the weekend. I also want to thank my mom, who came to visit over the weekend. She gladly helped us clean out the stand. Since it has not been used by the public in 3 years, it was full of stuff and dust! Mom's organizational skills really did wonders putting it in order and we'll have it ready to go in no time now!
The goats' "maternity ward" is getting even busier. On Saturday, Caramel, Mocha's twin sister, delivered her own set of twins, bringing the total number of kids born up to 9. Another first time mom, Caramel is doing well so far taking care of her babies. She is still in a pen in the barn, but we hope to let her out soon. The smaller twin, a female, was pretty weak at birth, but seems to be hungry and growing, but we want to give her the best start so we'll wait until she is a bit more steady on her feet before turning them out with the other babies. As for the rest of the kids, they're growing like weeds! Even the little triplet, who we were so afraid wouldn't make it, is happily bouncing about the pasture. All the babies have discovered that it is fun to climb up on a pile of firewood stacked between two trees in the pasture...it is really amazing to watch them do this, knowing they are less than a week old when they are able to use it as a jungle gym! Mocha has craeted her own schedule when it comes to her kids. Unless we keep her locked up inside, she jumps the gate and trots out to join the rest of the goats in the larger pasture. I thought she missed her twin, Caramel, but even with Caramel in the small barn, Mocha still escapes out to the fields. However, in a few hours she hops back in and calls for her babies. The twins spend the time she's gone either playing or napping and don't really seem to mind. As long as everyone is happy and healthy, I'm willing to let her keep this up.
Posted by Emily
@ 08:09 AM EDT
Monday was a real emotional rollercoster. I found out the agency I work for (away from the farm) is laying everyone off for the month of August due to the fact that as the Pennsylvania state government can't pass the budget, so our agency won't receive the grant money they use to pay us. While I feel for the families who depend on our services and the employees who rely soley on that paycheck, I am kind of excited to have a whole summer month to be on the farm. Dan and I had just been discussing plans for reopening the farm stand, so for me, the timing couldn't be better. But knowing I still had to spread the bad news to the employee I supervise the next day, I started evening chores with a lot on my mind. The animals always seem to have a way of taking your thoughts back to the present though, and this day was no exception. I heard the sound of newborn goats as I was tending to the chickens and found both Lolly, a Boer, and Callie, a Boer/Pygmy cross, had kidded. In the same spot. The babies were all mixed up. But Dan and I got everyone down to the nursery barn, both mothers and all 4 babies. We determined that Callie again had a single baby and that Lolly had triplets! However, Callie was feeling so maternal she wanted to take care of all 4 babies, even the little triplet who wasn't looking so good. Sometimes when there are 3, one is weak and won't make it. This appeared to be the case- the poor little guy wouldn't stand and appeared he might die before we even left the barn. So we put him in with Callie and her little girl, figuring if she had an interest in him, he might have a little better chance of making it. But as he was on death's door, we didn't think it mattered very much anyway, so that was pretty sad. But chores needed to be finished, and the suprises were not over. I found a litter of 5 healthy baby rabbits! And as we were finishing up the chicken chores, Dan asked me "Why do I hear peeping?"...a little bantam had been sitting on a nest and hatched a little bantam chick, who was making all that noise!
After dinner, Dan checked on the goats again, and I expected to hear that the little guy had died. But when Dan checked on them, he was standing on his own, nursing. I'm happy to report that as of last night he seemed to be healthy and doing well, although I always hold my breath and usually don't name them for the first week or so. They always seem so frail! But the 3 born on Thursday are doing splendidly. Mama's little girl is the picture of heath and quite possibly the cutest thing ever born. Mocha has settled into motherhood as well, and her twins are also healthy and active. We're even getting a fair amount of milk from Mama, so it looks like one less thing I'll have to worry about buying while I'm laid off, which is always good.
We are looking to open the farm stand, located roadside at the farm, on Saturdays for the remainder of the summer. We are hoping to open July 25, but are in the process of rearranging some other commitments. I will be posting dates and times on our website, www.pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com, as soon as the details are finalized.
Posted by Emily
@ 08:41 AM EDT
Normally, spring is the time for babies. But we're entering our second baby season now! Early spring was full of chicks, goslings and lambs, but we were dissappointed in the goats, as only 2 gave birth, and the babies just weren't as healthy as we would have liked. The problem was our male goat. He was 6 months old when we bought him early last summer, and although a bit small he seemed to be from very good stock. Unfortunately, he just never grew, we suspected he may have had internal problems, possibly from worms before we got him. We replaced him with a beautiful, registered Boer buck named LLP Warlord's Dream. That was the very end of January, and as goats carry for 5 months, he was very busy as soon as we let him out with the ladies, because we had 2 births last night and some more getting very close!
Mama is an Alpine goat, we bought her last spring with a little Boer looking baby by her side. Most Boers are white with a red head, but Baby Lightning has a black face and white body. His new sister was born yesterday afternoon at chore time and looks just like him. We had noticed Mama and Mocha had spent the day in the goat house instead of going out to pasture, which was very unusual, as Mama is the leader of the herd. As her name implies, Mama is a great mother and had her little girl up and nursing in short time. I noticed Mocha, one of our twin Toggenburg does, was definately showing signs of labor too. This is her first time giving birth, and she just acted like she couldn't figure out what was going on. When we next checked on her, she had a little one on the ground, but wasn't licking it, although she was answering its cries. Then she dropped a second kid! She still just wasn't sure what to do. We let her go for a short while, but then had to put her in a pen with the babies. She wasn't letting them nurse, but after we held her still and put the babies under her, she calmed down a bit. Everyone made it safely throught the night so we're hopeful she'll take care of the twins, a boy and a girl, so we don't have to bottle feed them.
Posted by Emily
@ 08:32 AM EDT
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It finally stopped raining here in Tionesta just in time for the 4th of July weekend. I was finally able to get around to weeding my herbs. I was thrilled that Dan and I were able to find some lime basil under all the weeds! Now that the little seedlings will be getting some sun, I hope to be harvesting some leaves before too long, they smell delicious! I was a little disappointed that we didn't find any Thai basil sprouting, but herbs from seed can be fickle and we've had some real extremes in both precipitation and temperature this spring and summer so far. I was able to harvest the spent chive flowers and have a nice collection of seeds for starting them indoors when winter approaches. I've got extra if anyone is interested in starting their own. Many of my other herbs are bolting quickly this summer, so I spent a good bit of time trimming the cilantro, thyme, basil, sage,and oregano to keep the production in leaves a bit longer. I especially want the sage to keep producing leaves. Not only is it one of my favorite cooking herbs, but I dry the leaves and use them in the sage sausage we make from the hogs we raise. It worked so well last time that hope to dry enough to use in all our sausage orders this time!
The sky is blue, with big puffy clouds right now, so of course we're preparing to make another field of hay. The nice weather is supposed to stick around for a few days. This will pretty much wrap up all of our first cutting hay. We'll then wait a bit to cut second cutting, which simply means making a second crop in the same field.
The old farmer's adage is that corn should be "knee high by the 4th of July"...in this case we are in great shape, as much of it comes nearly to my waist!
Posted by Emily
@ 01:03 PM EDT