Birds are here

Life is happening every day around us. We keep seeing more and more birds and are now pretty sure that this pair of ducks have been coming back for several years. I spotted them up the creek last week when I was discing and Annmarie saw them down by the house the other day. If I can get the shallow ponds dug this summer I may line a 8×12 foot section of bottom in the lowest spot with a pond liner. This should act as a very durable weed barrier and allow a small open spot of water to be visible in the spring in both ponds which will hopefully entice the ducks into nesting.

We looked at the spring head again yesterday and the watercress is starting to fill up the waterway again. I have to pull it out several times a year. I think that two domestic geese are our answer. I don’t want ducks as they are not tough enough. I think the geese will survive the predator attacks better. Unfortunately, I don’t want super mean geese that bum rush us whenever they see us. So far I have only found one pair that someone is willing to part with and they are super aggressive. I don’t want them chasing the sheep or cows. So maybe next year I raise my own.

We had not seen the quail in a few months and were afraid that they might have all gotten eaten. But yesterday Annmarie spotted them on the back hillside. Hopefully this year we get the quail back in droves. We only usually have one to two coveys on the place. This is why my mother-in-law doesn’t want the hunters to shoot quail. The pheasants are like weeds, no matter what we do they come back and are plentiful. Eventually, when I run out of tasks and hobbies I would like to contact the ODFW and try and get a remote setup to raise quail with minimal human interaction so they are wild and turn them loose on the property. I am going to start putting cow panels around the rose bushes in an attempt to create more habitat.

Annmarie spotted five barn owls on her 2 mile drive home yesterday. We have lots of hawks of different varieties but the owls are usually an occasional sighting phenomenon. We only see our great horned owl every few months now that it has moved down to the schoolhouse. There used to be a mated pair but we have not seen them together in years and I am not a birder, they all look alike to me.

We are also now seriously talking about a large subterranean greenhouse heated by passive solar energy. All these food scares and bacteria outbreaks really make you conscious of the food chain. The shorter the chain the better.

Now that the weather is changing the working dogs have started to get overheated. An hour out working the animals and they start wandering over to the creek to lay in it, drinking is secondary to immersing their bodies. Last year we shaved them and they did great all summer. They were much more comfortable and worked better for us. Sarah shaved them for us last week and they are getting used to it. Mouse thinks the process is humiliating and hides for a day or two afterwards. They both look kinda funny for about six weeks until they get a little hair back. It also makes it much easier for us to find ticks on them. This wet weather has caused the ticks to come out of hiding and we have found three already. Gizmo is taking his cues from the big dogs. I make them wait and sit before they can have food and he so wants to come eat but he keeps looking sideways at the other two and they are holding still so he waits.

We sent out a deposit on a new ram for out flock today! We figured that May was our six month mark and we should be safe to get a new ram. Yesterday during our walk around we spotted as brand new baby lamb born hours earlier, they just keep coming!! We are going to get a full blooded Katahdin ram this time. He has good genetics and the breeders are doing genetic culling and comparing them in a national database for growth and disease traits. Way more work than we want to do but so handy for us to look at when choosing a new ram. If this guy works out good for us we may keep him for several years and use that farm in the future. Here at Muttville Central we want happy healthy animals that are super self reliant. This is a harder task than you might imagine as the industry has bred self reliability out of a large portion of the breeds in an attempt to concentrate on size, growth rate or fat marbling. We are looking at disease resistance, ease of birthing, twins, growth rate, size and ease of handling for us these characteristics determine how many animals we can raise and how well they do.

This is why we have a mix of three main crosses, Katahdin, Barbados Blackbelly and Dorper. There are certain characteristics of each breed we like and we keep mixing in different rams and keeping the sheep that meet our above requirements. Its working well for us. We don’t vaccinate, we worm every 1-2 years as a precaution. We have never had any type of infection go through the herd that killed any animals. We had ORP, basically a oral herpetic type disease, go through a couple of times it came in on some sheep we purchased. That is it, no other problems in 8 years. We totally attribute this to our low bioload. The animals have so much pasture to roam on that they just don’t sit in one place and live. This also accounts for why our animals are such good grazers. We also allow the animals access to shelter year around and in the winter we lock them up in the barn every night. The barn gets dug out every year and fresh straw laid down throughout the winter. Now that we have upped our barn cat population I have not seen a single rodent in the barn!

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