Gwennie’s bunnies are doing so nicely!!!  They will be 5 weeks old on Saturday!   Bunnies stay with their moms for 8 weeks, so we just have another 3 weeks until they can start to go to their new homes.   One bunny Jessy is keeping, a little doe with grey and white markings.   One buck is going to our neighbors, Miss Julia is so excited for Orville to come to his new home!   And we have a hold on the other little solid grey doe.  That leaves only 2 bucks to find good homes and we haven’t even advertised them yet!

As soon as these bunnies have their new homes, we will do a breeding with our other doe, Grizelda.  We’re excited to see how her babies turn out because her father was a red buck and we are hoping for a little color in our herd… not just black and white and grey.  We would like to have most of our litters in the warm months, since that is so much easier on everyone, and safer for the babies.  (Not really the HOT months)  but spring and fall.  So we have one more litter planned for spring, Miss Grizzy’s.

We are top of the list for a litter pick from a lady just north of us that breeds lovely pedigreed Angoras…  she has one litter that is about a week old, and has an opal kit in it…  not sure if it’s a doe or buck yet.  Opal is a light pretty cream/brown color.   And she has another litter due i two days and so we’re hoping for maybe a red or chocolate doe!   Once our new baby is born, she will come to us in about two months it seems.  She will be ready in the fall perhaps for a litter, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.  We want to be able to raise pedigreed bunnies…  our batch right now is half pedigreed.  (Well, meaning, that their father has an impressive lovely full pedigree and their moms?  Well, not so much. )  They will make lovely fiber pets and great family pets.

We are one of the few Angora people in our whole area!  It’s crazy.  We’ve had to go far afield to get our bunnies and we see a lot of people asking for angoras in Craigslist and other Facebook lists, etc.  People are really getting into spinning and fiber arts and a nice Angora bunny or two will give you some lovely fiber without having to have a flock of sheep!  I think it’s really pretty cool.  We plan on using our angora wool with our Shetland sheep wool and making a nice beautiful yarn from it!

But don’t worry, we are going to be nice, selective breeders of our bunnies.  Even though rabbits can have several litters a year, we would like to keep it to one, possibly two for a young healthy doe, if we have the waiting list.  We’re working on getting our logos and website and cards together for promoting the farm and it’s offerings… but that is still in the works.  The sheep have haircut appointments for this coming Monday!!!  How exciting…  can’t wait to see them all clean shaved and nekked!  And just can’t wait for those lovely lovely fleeces!!!

Meanwhile, we are just adoring these sweeeeeeet little babies!   They are so tame and nice, we’ve been handling them daily now and they don’t bite or squirm, they just see it as part of their day.   Jessy says they are going to go outside this weekend in the grass cage in the courtyard for a little play time and grazing.  I know Gwennie will love that.  It will be fun to see how the babies react to the outside and the yummy grass!  They are eating solid foods and using the water bottle really nicely.  And they are already getting used to being groomed, just little easy sessions, learning to lay on their backs for belly pets and just getting used to the nice soft little nubby brush.  We want to set them up for a lifetime of comfortable grooming so that they can be wonderful little fiber pets!!!

They are just SO adorable!!!!


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Sir Loin Returns…

Well, even though it may seem like it’s all about the pony around here, it’s not… In fact, there have been a lot of cool things going on, just have been so busy, hard to get to it all!

One of the best things to come along has got to be the return of Sir Loin, our hog that we sent to finishing school! He has returned in all his glory and let me tell you, my goodness, is he welcome here.

He weighed in at 240 pounds. He dressed out to 160 pounds of wonderful, humanely raised fresh and smoked meat.

His processing fee was $137 and his feed and initial purchase was $95. $232 spent over 5 months. $1.45 a pound. Unbelievable. Bacon, chops, hams, sausage, roasts, loins… all there.

I gave away the heart and liver, we’re just not those kind of folks to know how or appreciate those delicate parts.

We’ve had a couple pounds of bacon so far, a package of chops, and a ham steak. And oh my gosh… insanely good and to me and the girls, so, so different than store bought meat. It’s hard to really describe. It’s not THAT much different, but it’s lean, it’s moist, it cooks beautifully. And just when you get down to it, it just tastes good.

I’m sure some of it is the whole thought process and commitment to eating better and eating humanely. I’m so thankful for Jr. and Junior to raise this hog for us and to treat him good. He had such a nice piggy life with his brothers and sister, and wasn’t shot full of antibiotics and caged in a space he can’t even turn around in. He had sunlight and fresh air and good food and clean straw and heat lamp when it was cold and mud to wallow in, everything that a pig savors… he had. Including baked goods and kitchen yummies. And space to be a pig. Every time I saw him he had a big happy piggy smile. And was active and running about and playing with his siblings. And that means something to me. Just like having our meat chickens learn to be chickens and lay out in the sunshine and dust bathe and all. Eat bugs and grass and scratch in the compost.

Of course, we want to do this now too. Raise a pair of pigs every six months. We have so many friends that want a share of the operation. I don’t blame them. I sure don’t want to ever have factory meat again. Soon as we can, I’ll be buying a quarter beef for the freezer from a local grower. I know enough that we are not set up for cattle. No, that will have to be done off farm. But we can do pork, chicken and turkeys….

But, I want to be prepared. We know where we will be building our pig pen. On the east side of our big barn. And we know how… with sturdy heavy posts, cement and hog panels. Just not sure when! haha… We have our design formalized…. our pen will be nice and big… 30 foot by 16 foot. And we will only do 2 or 3 at the most, at one time. The one thing we did learn while watching and experiencing our friends is that 6 hogs is a lot of hog. It’s not so bad when they are little dudes or even teenagers, but once they hit that 200-250 pound stage, six of them was a real handful. They said two are a breeze. I can see that now.

I’m telling you… if you are considering this lifestyle and it’s a blessing most days, do all the learning, research and fact finding you can before jumping in. And then, if at all possible, find a mentor in these things. Watching and learning from our friends really gave me WAY more information and wisdom than any book. Books and such, they are really good at making it sound easy in a page or two. They make it appear that by simply following these few basic steps you will have nothing but EASY sailing. Yeah, right. Pigs are big farm animals and as we have learned, farm animals have a mind of their own. And an agenda. And it usually involves food and creature comfort. Oh yeah, and sex. They’re pretty into that too. And funny, they just don’t talk about those things in great detail in those nice and pretty homesteading books. They neglect to tell you that a pen of hogs will kill and eat a rooster with hardly a feather left. Or that they will root under heavy fences and wander your yard at the most inopportune moment. Or that they bite REAL hard when your thumb gets in the way of their feed. Or that 6 hogs worth of manure is a LOT of manure!

Well, we have some deep post holes to dig… and a hog panel trench to set up first. That doesn’t cost anything but some labor at the Windhaven Gym. And we’re getting a huge dying pine cut down sometime this week, and I think it might yield some decent HEAVY corner posts for us for free. Over the next month or so, we will work on our little pig palace. In the meanwhile, we are so thankful for our hoggie in the freezer. He will feed us for many months! Of course, if we don’t give him all away, we’ve shared him with friends and family so far, just samplers, because we just think he is awesome! And so do they!!!

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Hoof Trimming… and other things…

Believe it or not… the visit with my buddy Bill to do the ponies hooves went very well. Bill was surprised, he thought from the way I described Domingo that he was pure evil. And of course, he behaved so nicely for the whole pedicure, I was a little flabbergasted.
Now, Bill is a horseman for his whole life and horses respect him. He just knows how to handle them and how to get them to behave. And he brought along a stallion chain and we used it on both of my little men. It’s a chain like a dog choke chain, but with a hook on each ends. You snap it onto one side of their halter, and then under their chin, and through the other halter hole in the side. Like a dog chain, you can pull that up tighter under his chin where it is sensitive and all the sudden they do pay attention to whom is holding the chain and lead. It’s nicer than a twitch… which is a loop that holds a part of their upper lip and is fairly unpleasant. That is really a sort of last chance sort of thing if you ask me. And Bill. The stallion chain is just to keep his attention and to keep the farrier safe. I was surprised, we did Domingo first and he was not perfect, but he really was pretty resigned to the fact and had his feet all done within about 20 minutes or so.

There were a few moments when the pony thought, I’m not digging this, but with patience and a lot of verbal encouragement, we got through it and he had nice neat trimmed little toes in no time. The one spot where he had a little crack was not that bad and most of it trimmed out nicely. Bill said it would grow out pretty quickly and he didn’t see any inner wall damage or anything. I was relieved.

When he was all done, Domingo got his good boy cookie and he was quite pleased with that.
Cody waited patiently. Though he was not really excited about the whole situation. I have been working with him and playing with his feet, picking, cleaning and just making him more comfortable than the last time. His first trim was a bit of a challenge and ended up with his nose getting twitched by hand, by me! That is some hard stuff let me tell you. So Bill was SUPER pleased that Cody actually got through it all pretty well.
It’s hard to trim little ponies feet. They are low to the ground. I measured Cody today for a harness and I was sort of surprised to find that he is only 38 inches tall! He’s just a little more than a yard tall! haha… So working on their feet requires some tough knees to bend down and trim! And my buddy Bill is over 70 years old! But he’s a tough guy for sure. And boy, do equines listen to him.

I was so glad for Bill to come out and see them. First thing he said that Cody was just looking fantastic. That was so cool. He said his weight looked great for his form, he was sassy, shiny and just a different looking pony than he remembered. And he said his manners were just really good, and he was a good boy… awwww….

Now Domingo? Well, we talked a long time about him. And he watched him and we did some various little tests and just observed him. Bill said, that pony just hasn’t had any real training and all. He’s spirited and just a bit bossy for sure. We watched Domingo and Cody play with each other and they play rough. And we watched Domingo light out after the sheep and just be full of piss and vinegar for the most part. He gave me some advice on how to start teaching him manners, and better behaviors. And he said, it was going to take some time to undo a lot of his undesirable bad behaviors, but that he’d seen many ponies ten times worse. So, that combined with the hoof trim and all, I was feeling a little better about the whole situation.

And then, of course, he had to go and shatter that later that evening. He and Cody were out in the back pasture, grazing away at the far corner, pretty content it seemed to me. We had some friends over, and we were right up near the barn, looking at chickens and talking. When out of the blue comes Domingo and he charged at their little girl, nearly knocked her over and got a hold of her hoodie until I was right in his face and he backed away. I was SO MAD at him… oh my gosh. I was so thankful that she was frightened but not hurt. It just blew my mind that he would do such a thing. Oh my gosh, I was just so angry at him.

And I was mad at myself. I should have never been in there with guests and not having my complete attention on what was going on with the livestock. I felt so dreadful. Thank goodness, they were gracious and their little girl got her composure back and we went on to visit the little coop and all, but as soon as I could, Maggie brought me a lead rope and we put both ponies away in the barn. Of course, Domingo was acting like nothing was wrong.

I called Bill back and we had a very long talk. I was ready to give up right there and then, I will admit. And Bill said he wouldn’t blame me at all, but then he said to me, you know, that pony was probably just trying to get her to run, like he does the sheep and the cats and chickens. To a horse, we’re not really anything different than another animal species. It’s how he plays with Cody, and with the sheep, etc., he goes after the little ones and likes to scatter them. He also said, that he might have learned from my immediate screaming and anger that he had done something very wrong. He said I can not trust him with anyone right now, and maybe not for a while. He really just has no idea of proper behavior and it’s going to be a hard row to hoe. And I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to hoe it. I will admit that. It’s got me a little upset, yet understanding. Bill’s right, Domingo didn’t have his ears back, and he wasn’t frightened or upset, I guess you would say, he was being ornery. It’s our immediate thought to think he was being aggressive and that was my first inclination, but then Bill said, he’s been taught that it’s okay for him to harass little things. Whether it is sheep or cats or children. He told me what I’ve read… people tolerate behaviors in ponies that they would NEVER allow in a horse because they think it’s cute. I have to say, at first I thought it was sort of funny that he would charge after the sheep to scatter them or do it to a group of chickens. They would always get away. And yet, I didn’t think it was charming in ANY way that he would do it to a child, or even me… man…. hard hard lesson today.

I know there are probably some that will say, get rid of him immediately. And yes, I considered that for a long time. And yet part of me says, how? It’s not that easy to just drop a pony off at the humane society. And horse rescues are filled to the max with equines with issues. Sell him? Just pass up and pass on, someone else can deal with him? That’s pretty rude. Auction? Again, another bad bad bad karma decision if you ask me. Put him down? I guess… but that has a hard edge to it as well, because his issues are all people related. He’s had no real training and had to deal with very few rules and regulations.

Well, I’ve got some very heavy thinking to do. Bill’s offered to help and has given me a whole laundry list of things to start working on. And new rules. And since the pony fairy won’t pick him up tonight, we’ll have to start working on these rules to insure safety and tranquility. Cody would be heartbroken if I just up and took him away. And it would just be another notch in Domingo’s unfortunate past. New rules it is.

No more free range when anyone is over. He will be stabled and that is that.

He has to start working on basic training. Lead ropes, backing up, stopping, space issues. No more treats just because. He must earn them. Bill told me how to work him on the long line. A little bit every day, lots of things to keep him occupied and learning what is to be expected. I need to get a little saddle, anything, and start getting him used to doing something. Standing to be groomed. Cross tying. We have to go back to Lesson 1 in the training book. No more dual species pasture time. No more sheep chasing or anything for that matter. More stable time. And time apart from Cody, so that he can learn that he has to behave when Cody gets let out for something, like training or whatever. Even short periods, just so he doesn’t get all freaky when they are apart.

I’m willing to work with Bill, I do feel a little better after our very long conversation. He said he knew I had it in me… and I’m super grateful for his confidence, but I’m not sure I deserve it. He saw how I handled the two today at the trimming, and he could see the advancement in Cody. I’m just going to have to really up my game with him and really crack down on some of these issues now. In the meanwhile, he’s going to be on a very very tight lead and his liberties are going to be greatly limited. He’s on probation in my book and I’m going to need to see some good solid and steady behavior growth or there will be some very hard things to deal with.

I do know that I am serious on this. This is not a little dog that you just can’t trust to not tinkle in the house or bark at the mailman. It’s not a crabby old cat that you can tolerate being ornery. It’s 400 pound farm animal with poor people skills. I hope that folks will see that I am VERY VERY serious that we need to make some serious and fairly good changes fast. It would break my heart to just give up on him so quickly, but yet, I’m not going to tolerate him hurting someone. It’s going to be a tough spring around here! Anyone with any suggestions, books, videos, training methods, ANYTHING, please feel free to share with me. Know I will be digging out my books and searching the web as well. I suppose that I could have just not shared this, but that doesn’t seem right either. Life is not a flat road journey. I love what a reader said…. it’s peaks and valleys. That is so right. It’s rough gravel sometimes and nice warm soft sand at others. This is a pretty rocky patch at the moment for me. A huge learning lesson. And one that I’m sure, I’m not the only one to make and probably not the last one either.

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