Sunday, January 31, 2016

Farm & School Plans

There are 7 full months left until September arrives.  Not only do I plan to restart the Inman Hybrid Program at that time, I plan to do it with a new teaching barn right here on site.  For a while, I wasn't sure I could recreate the absolute magical experience that my boys had for so many years.  They learned so very much, had a amazing group of friends, were led by truly gifted teachers, and absolutely thrived since they began in 2011.  Not only was I intimidated by not matching what I managed to do before, but I was overwhelmed by the work of it all.  Then, I started to go back and look at pictures, remember the importance of it all, and realize that my girls just have to be given the same opportunity.  And so, the push is on to find the right students to join us on our next adventure!

As I interview teachers, talk to potential parents, choose curricula, and schedule info sessions, I now know that this is not as difficult as it was before.  Sure, it is daunting and busy, but I have learned so very much over the years, and I am now blessed with many years of experience to draw on.  Next year is going to be one great school year!

On the farm front, Jeff and I are finally starting to narrow down our heritage pig selection.  We're drawing up our new rotational pasture plan, and hope to have pastured heritage breed pork by the end of the year.  In addition to our new livestock guardian dogs, we are anxiously awaiting the birth of our new jersey calf.  She'll eventually be our dairy supply, but since I teach children here on the farm, I need to bottle raise her, raise her to be as sweet as can be, and be sure that I know her personality inside and out.  Kidding season is right around the corner, the incubators are full and humming, and spring is right around the corner.

After my 18+ month birds molted in late fall, they completely stopped laying.  Peer pressure took hold, and I was getting virtually no eggs at all!  Of course, we had our lights still on their timer, and nothing else had gone on to cause the hens' strike.  It was the perfect storm: post-molt, lots of clouds and rain, and just short days.  After a few weeks, I decided to try something new.  I knew that fake eggs sometimes helped kick start hens to lay, and I knew that hens are very big on trying to keep up with the hen next-door when it comes to laying.  They have poultry-peer-pressure when it comes to eggs.

Hens also make a certain call when the lay.  It's like their announcement to the world that they have graced the Earth with another potential offspring.  It is a specific call, and I knew it well.  I found old recordings of that very "egg call" and I recorded them over and over into a 20 minute mp3.  I then took the mp3 outside and played it on repeat during prime egg-laying time.  Within 24 hours, my hens went from 1 per day (which they were giving me for WEEKS), to 8 per day.  Seriously, it was like MAGIC.  The coop was hoppin' as the hens darted in to see where the egg calls were coming from, saw the fake eggs in the boxes, and made a decision to get in those boxes the next day and be sure to leave their own genetic deposit, as well.  It didn't get me up to full spring/summer production, mind you, but it did help get us through the complete drought, and in record time!   I can't help it.  I farm and I'm nerdy.

It's about to be an insanely busy year.  The end of last year threw us a complete curve-ball, and that has catapulted my program, my job, into high gear.  Things are growing and interest is picking up.  Yes, it's a little scary, but not for any other reason than I know it is a great program, a great plan, and I am nervous that things will try to grow faster than I can manage while homeschooling and raising my crew.  Like I tell my kids all the time, "Hang on!  There's only one of me!"

Now, let's see just how much this one momma can do in 7 months..


Monday, January 25, 2016

Enjoying Some Mild January Weather!

The New Farm Helpers

We now have two very beautiful new Livestock Guardian Dogs in training!  Welcome Han and Chewie, our new Karakachan puppies!  Karakachan is a breed that originated in Bulgaria as a mountain livestock guardian dog. There aren't many in the United States, and I am so blessed that we ended up with these two! 

They were 8 weeks old when we brought them home, and only two weeks later can come and sit on command.  We are not dog people.  To top it off, two of my kids are phobic!  But, these sweet two already have us so very impressed.  They are super smart, and I can tell that guarding livestock is in their blood.  Their kennel area is surrounded by our free range chickens, turkeys, and guineas.  Since they moved in, they have had poultry, goats, a horse, and a grumpy pig right on the other side of their fence.  When we walk them through the pasture for training, they don't seem to even care that the chickens are there!  I think if we had had the poultry locked up in coops, the puppies would find their movements, behavior, and sounds odd and want to play with them.  But, these two guys don't seem to pay them any mind at all.  Actually, they just lie down and watch them scratch about!  The goats seem to be easy to accept the puppies, but Ms. Kitty (our mini horse) is less receptive.  I will not be letting her near the dogs without me until they are much bigger and everyone is used to each other.

I was really worried about biting off this big commitment, but thanks to guidance from farm friends and the fact that I have never heard any farmer wish they did NOT have a guardian dog around, I got just the push I needed to bring these two home.  When I go out late at night to close up a coop and those two little guys bark into the dark at the intruder, I know I made the right decision!