A Mother Hen

The Bible is full of gems from nature. Jesus describes God’s nurturing love as that of a hen gathering her chickens under her wings.

“How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings…” Matthew 23:37

The Bible is full of gems from nature. In this scripture Jesus describes God’s nurturing love as that of a hen gathering her chickens under her wings.

It’s amazing to observe a clucky hen. For three weeks she will sit on the eggs with such dedication, awaiting for these to hatch. During that time, she will only get up for feed and toilet time. In other words, she is placing the needs of her future babies above her need. She looks like an enchanted bird, vulnerable to any predator, until one tries to remove her from the nest. Best to have protective gloves as she will attack you.

As these baby chickens hatches, she will continue to nurture, protect, take care of them. This she will do for several weeks. She will gather them under her feathers, keeping them warm and protecting them. I tried to lift our broody hen’s feathers to see the babies and she put up a fight.

Watching our broody hen, and pondering on this passage of Scripture, I can only say: How awesome it is to know that God cares for us, nurtures us, protects us.

Patch and Rosie – Our Calves

Last May we welcomed two beautiful calves, Patch and Rosie. Straightway they won our hearts. Now, three months later, they are even more precious to us.

Feeding them daily until they were weaned was a great experience which allowed us to build a caring relationship with them.

They say “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, that goes for animals too. We weaned Rosie and Patch three weeks ago, and still, at the sight of a bucket they will come running to us. While they enjoy their feed, we get to handle them. At first, we could only touch them while they were eating, however, with time they are desiring more contact. The other day, Patch decided to lay down at my side, allowing me to continue rubbing her long after she finished her treat.

Our desire is to enjoy our animals, to treat them with respect and as organically as possible, just as they deserve. The first step we took towards that goal was adding kefir to their daily feed. Kefir is something that we have added to our diet about 7 years ago. Kefir grains look similar to miniature cauliflower head, they are a bacterial fermentation starter, producing probiotics in the milk and making it more digestible. Kefired milk looks similar to a yogurt and has healthy benefits for us. We researched to see if it would be a good idea to feed some to our calves, liking the information we found, we fed some to our calves. We were ready to stop if we didn’t like the results. However, as we suspected, both Patch and Rosie thrived, they had no scouring and looked healthy. Our neighbour commented on how good they looked. We supplemented them with kefir up to the time they were weaned.

This week we have added a mineral lick supplement. We are also looking at ways to improve organically our pastures.

Patch and Rosie are our first calves. God willing we should shortly buy another two. This time we are looking to get steers. Any information we can receive from our readers to help us in this endeavour to rear them up organically will be greatly appreciated. We have a lot to learn, and are willing to receive any information that will help us maintain a healthy herd.

Our Sheep

End of April we bought our first sheep: three pregnant ewes.

What do we know about pregnant ewes? How will we recognise that they are ready to give birth? Will it come as a total surprise? So many questions to which I had no answers.

Here we are on a journey filled with unknowns to us. For a seasoned farmer, rearing sheep has little or no mysteries.

I must educate myself. My first step is to ask our neighbour. That was a good step. Now I know that one of the visible signs is the formation of the udder.

Imagine the following scenario: I’m observing the ewes twice a day to see if I can see the udder forming! I think it is a bit comical! My action is not going to change the course of nature and bring the birth of these lambs.

Last week we noticed slight changes in the udder of two of our ewes. Now I am excited, so I took the time to read various blogs. Thanks to bloggers like Red Hope Farm I now know there are other signs to look for.

I am still awaiting impatiently the births of our lambs. My curiosity leads me to check them for more signs. I force myself to see signs that are barely there. At the beginning of the week, I was convinced one would give birth this week. It was wishful thinking.

My husband had another conversation with the neighbour. He believes we still have a few weeks before anything happens. My excitement has dwindled. It’s been two days since I last checked them. I will wait until the visible signs are showing clearly.

I guess the birth of our lambs will make a good subject for another blog.

Meet Peanut the Burmese Cat

Peanut became part of our farm family last Christmas Eve. My daughter thought it a good idea to bring him over for our family’s Christmas celebrations. What none of us was expecting is for Peanut to take the first opportunity given to him to escape and hide.

That’s right. The moment my daughter placed him on the ground, for a moment, to see his reaction, he ran under the house. Nothing we tried could bring him in arm’s reach. There and then, he determined his destiny. He would be a farm cat.

It took him three days to come close to any human contact. It was hunger that brought him to a place of surrender. Since then, each morning starts with the same ceremony.  The meowing starts before we are fully awake. It doesn’t stop until there’s food on his plate. Don’t consider feeding him a different menu, he will turn his head, walk away and be vocal about it. 

Peanut is not the average farm cat. He spent too much of his life in the city in an apartment. Although life on a farm means freedom,  he doesn’t want to embrace a farm cat’s life. Our bantam chickens killed a mouse that was in their coop, our Jack Russell pup caught a mouse, but Peanut, confronted by one, runs the opposite direction.

He also has an evening ritual. As soon as we sit down, he will climb on my husband’s lap for a while then on my lap. If we have visitors, they too will participate in Peanut’s evening habits. No one is left out.

Sheep at SoggyBottom Homestead

When we bought our homestead last year, it came with a Wiltshire Horn ram. The previous owner was unable to round him up with the rest of his herds when he sold them. As a result, we inherited it. I find it interesting that the next door neighbour chose to leave one of his ewe with our ram for companionship.

I took several photos of these two sheep. The prospect that they could become the first of our flock on SoggyBottom Homestead filled me with excitement. In no time at all my first wishful balloon popped. Apparently, it was an old ram which would have had little or no use to us. That’s right, I consider all my wishful thinking or dreams that doesn’t become realities as balloons. It pops and disappears and with it comes some form of disappointment. I liken it to a toddler holding his first balloon. Watch how his emotions change when the balloon either pops or flies away!

So my balloon popped. The ewe found a way of escape as our fencing needed repair. A few days later, the ram escaped too. Needless to say, they both received an appointment with the butcher.

Six months down the track, we have fixed our fencing. We have bought three supposedly pregnant ewes. They have been with a ram, but the farmer who sold them to us was unable to confirm if they are impregnated.

Our three ewes, Snowball, Caramel and Coffee have settled well. They follow us at a distance and come running if we give them some treats.

Snowball is always the first to arrive. She is not afraid to eat out of our hands. Coffee, who has the darkest face, is cautious of us and will not come too close. She is the dominant one and decides from which bucket to eat. The others don’t have a choice as she will push them away from her bucket. Caramel is somewhere in the middle. A slightly brown face. Although she isn’t afraid of us, she is too timid to eat out of our hands.

I would so like to touch them, pat them as I do the calves. Maybe one day. For now, we will wait patiently until the lambs are born.

Outdoor Children

Anecdotal evidence shows that children that spend the most time outdoors seem to have a stronger immune system. Considering that it’s only in our recent history that mankind is spending more time indoors than outdoors, I agree. We should encourage children to be outdoors. My vision of what this outdoor space represents may differ to what you might have in mind. I’m thinking of one that exposes them to the basics of nature, gardening and farming.

Let me go back to my childhood where we lived in Normandy, France.

Children spent hours outdoors, except on rainy days. In our backyard, both a climbing rope and swing could be seen hanging from a cherry tree. These were Dad’s creation for our enjoyment. In school and at home, our games involved movement: skipping rope, hopscotch, ball games, hide-and-seek, etc.

Our vegetables came from our garden. Dad spent hours tending to it each evening after work. The milk and butter came from the farm across the road from us. My parents would send my brother and me to buy the milk. The farmer showed us how to milk a cow. On another occasion, we saw how the cream was separated from the milk and how butter was churned from the cream.

At an early age, we participated in peeling potatoes, shelling peas, stringing beans, etc. I must confess, at times more peas would go in my mouth than in the bucket. I remember seeing the process of how a chook or a rabbit was transformed from its living form to meat on our plate.

Over time, we followed and adapted to the changes in our society. I, in turn, grew up and had children and brought them up in a different environment than what my life began with. Now, I’m a grandmother and together with my husband we have gone back to a simpler lifestyle of homesteading. It reminds me of my beginning in life.

A recent conversation we had with a young adult surprised us. The word “orchard” did not form part of her vocabulary. We ventured to ask other teenagers and young adults if they knew what an orchard was. Most of them had no idea. I realised how much our society had changed.

Have we gone too far? Can we wind back the clock? Do we want to go back to the good old times?

Maybe we cannot go back. We have many conveniences today that past generations did not have. It would seem that our fast-paced lifestyle is robbing us of nature’s privileges. Our society, as a whole, may not be able to go back, but as individuals, we can choose how far we are influenced by the status quo. My desire is that all children who visit our homestead, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends’ children, will see first-hand what life on a homestead looks like. How beautiful it is to live surrounded by nature. How peaceful it is to live with nature.

Welcoming Animals in our Homestead

Welcoming Animals in our Homestead There has been much preparation and work done around our property in the lead up to the time we would introduce animals on the homestead.

My husband built our main chicken coop as we awaited the arrival of my parents’ chooks. It seems the baton was passed on to us to continue their legacy of raising chooks as well as gardening.

Both my parents’ chooks and quails arrived Saturday week.

The quails didn’t have an adequate housing arrangement. Unsure what type of cage or environment would best suit them, we kept them temporarily in a rabbit cage with a big enough run. My husband mentally built a cage, and low and behold, before the end of the week he had found one that was similar to his plan but that needed some transformation. In no time at all, it had been transformed into the perfect quail home. At least that’s my take on it. Shortly after moving them, we noticed they were more active, scratching the ground, bathing in the dirt. Let’s hope they soon start laying again, as they stopped as soon as they arrived at the farm.

Friday evening saw the arrival of a long awaited Jack Russell pup.

She is gorgeous and already has stolen a part of our hearts. This cute little ball of fur following our every step, being vocal when she wants to come indoor, has chosen for herself the place she likes to go and rest: in the garage on a blanket against a pair of gum boots and near one of Noah’s (our grandchild) jacket.

As if there wasn’t enough emotions sparked up by welcoming a dog in our home, we also had the arrival of two calves on Saturday and three supposedly pregnant ewes on Sunday.

At this point in time, the ewes are not adding much work. They look after themselves. Our mission is to work on gaining their trust. After all, they should give us a few lambs by next spring.

Now when it comes to the two calves, well they have won my heart too. These gorgeous babies with such big eyelashes are both under two weeks. They need to be hand reared. From the advice we have received, this can be challenging. There can be complications. We were told that scouring can happen, which could even lead to the death of a calf. As you can imagine, that has place some fear in me. I sure don’t want to lose one due to negligence. We are intent on following the good advice given to us. Maybe in a couple of months we may write a blog on our first experience in hand rearing calves.

Our expert neighbour has mentioned to us on several occasions that on a farm one must be prepared to bury animals. We won’t mention the many scenarios that could happen. The only one that I will mention is the one we have just experienced. Our cat Peanut came in for his breakfast (we don’t place its food outside as the dog would eat it before he gets to it). He had just finished eating as we walked out the door to feed our calves. When we came back, somehow he had managed to make a toy out of our live canary. All doors to the cage were still closed as we have them secured for that very purpose, but the cage had been pulled down from its place and Spongebob the canary was found dead 2 metres away from its cage, all doors still firmly closed. There were a few tears shed as he daily filled the house with his heavenly songs. They were so beautiful and uplifting.

I guess I better get my emotions in check if I want to be a successful farmer. There’s lots of fun and adventure to be had on the farm. We cannot let the negatives overshadow the good.

Let see what our next adventure on this journey will bring us.

Our Chooks

I cannot imagine a homestead without chooks.

Yes, we did plan to have chooks, many of them, different breeds if possible, but our motto is, let’s go slowly, it’s a journey not a destination. So our plan was a trio to begin with.

In preparation for their arrival chook pen n°1 was built.

We came home with a trio and an extra rooster and 6 small chooks, as a result chook pen n°2 was rapidly built.

A couple of weeks later one chook went clucky, now we have 7 baby chooks, for which chook pen n°3 was built.

Another 8 eggs are in an incubator as the other chook from the trio went clucky but then changed her mind.

In a couple of weeks my parents chooks are coming to join our bunch…. chook pen n°4 is in construction.

At this point in time, we have chooks, but no eggs, so we are

enjoying their presence, watching them grow and savour their menu of grubs, seeds and grains as they roam freely. Hopefully, in the near future we will be rewarded with eggs in abundance.