Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Spring! (soon)

The trees are just beginning to flush with the barest hint of spring color--a result of the sap that started running in February (Maple syrup!).

Wednesday, leap day, was warm (60s) and windy; yesterday was warm and quiet; and today is a wild day. Calm and quiet, then thunderstorms and hail, then sunshine, and now gusty winds and dropping temps. March is roaring in like a lion. I did get a lot of outside work done on Wednesday and Thursday, so perhaps I can spare a few hours for record keeping (not my favorite task) today.

On Sunday, we'll start the first round of vegetable seeds and as soon as the ground is dry enough to work, we'll put in the first crop of sugar snaps. Last year's barn cleaning made great compost, now ready for the garden, and the new batch from this fall and winter should be ready late spring. I love returning to the soil that which I've taken out!

We have five ewes to lamb, and they are due to start the 20th of this month. All of the sheep are in the barn today staying dry because we shear tomorrow. Volunteers from an AnSci class at the University of Illinois are helping, as well as my son Neil and a few friends and fellow shepherds.

The chickens came through the winter in fine shape, and my young hens started laying occasional teeny pullet eggs on Ken's birthday, February 7th. What a great birthday present! Pullet eggs, though small, are full of eggy goodness. The 24 young barred rocks are now laying 12-14 eggs/day, and some eggs are large enough to include in the cartons with the eggs from our 46 ISA Browns that began laying last August.

We've changed feed suppliers, and we're now completely switched over to non-GMO feed, which we use to supplement the grass in our pastures. In summer, the chickens eat some grain in addition to what they forage, but the sheep are on grass alone for the entire summer and most of the fall. We started feeding the sheep hay in December, and now that the ewes are in their last trimester, they are receiving grain as well. The sheep and chickens will be kept off the main pastures from now until the grass has a chance to get a good start, probably mid April or early May.

Finally, we have been looking for someone to put up hay on our 10-acre field. Up to now it's been in corn and soybeans. Tom Smith, a 5th generation farmer from Homer, raises hay in the area and has supplied our farm since we started. He and his lovely wife, Sue, agreed to put up the hay on shares. SO, we will be producing our own hay on the farm, and the hayfield can also do double duty as winter pasture.

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