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Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

It has been hard to schedule time with my daughters:  Taylor 13 and Abbey (recently) 10.  Since I left their mother, this was my fourth move in four years!  Hopefully this will be the last for a long while. My work schedule makes it difficult to keep a routine, and as they get older, they are busier and less interested in their father and more interested in their friends.

So, when I picked them up this day, I had no idea what to do.  The weather was not cooperating — it was dripping a bit.  I certainly didn’t want to take them shopping or to the arcade.  I had just taken Abbey on a birthday shopping trip a few days prior and did not want to spend any money.

“What do you want to do?” I asked my lovely little ladies as they rode along in the F150.

“I don’t know,” said Taylor.

“Nothing,” said Abbey, staring out the window.

“Ok then,” I said, fully expecting this to develop into a disaster. “Let’s just go to the farm.”

Upon arriving, I told them we would first put the chickens away.  The girls had only been to the farm a couple of times and had not seen the chickens outside — or the sheep. I grabbed the two shepherds crooks and we set about to coax the chickens into the coop.  The little leghorns had been out most of the day and were a bit scattered in the yard.  The girls enjoyed finding them in the brush and undergrowth and herding them to the doorway. Abbey counted them twice and declared that all 25 were safely in the coop.  Our chore was done.

Fully expecting the kids would want to head inside to watch TV or play video games until their mother arrived, I began heading for the house.

“Wait,” said Taylor, “can I feed the goats?”

“Sure,” I said, somewhat surprised. “Do you know where the treats are?”

Taylor nodded affirmatively and headed to the corral in front of the barn where the goats were hanging out.

“Daddy, show me the sheep!” said Abbey, pulling me along.

The two of us headed up the hill to look at the flock in the upper pasture.  Abbey was even brave enough to head into the grass for a closer look.  (It should be noted the ram is not as aggressive as some breeds — he actually runs from humans.)

What transpired was a good hour of talking about the animals, observing them and spending time out in the fresh air.

“We need to name all of the animals!” declared Abbey as we went inside.

The three of us filled the rest of the time coming up with names for the 6 barn cats, 5 sheep and 25 chickens.

Not once did I hear the words ‘I’m bored’…

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This past week, things were going very well. While I was in Canton, MA on business, our wood stove was delivered.  Tammi actually started a fire in it the first night and found it to be rather comforting.

On Friday, the 4th, we let our little hens outside the coop for about an hour before dusk. The plan was to do this each day — increasing the amount of time incrementally.  We had no idea if all of the birds would just run away and scatter – or if they would stick together.  Fortunately, it was the latter.  It was very entertaining to see our little leghorns scratching in the dirt and eating bugs.  After a little while, we gently chased them back into the coop and sealed them up.  Only one of them decided to go in a different direction and had to be redirected.  I wondered if this wasn’t the same one who screwed up last week during the transfer…

Meanwhile, the grass in the pasture was nearly knee-high.  The two goats certainly weren’t capable of keeping it down.  So, I told Tammi I wanted sheep for my birthday — the sheep I had paid for nearly two months prior that had yet to arrive!  Tammi was working with Molly to have the sheep delivered, but Molly could not find a trailer anywhere.  Fortunately, Gary was able to come to the rescue.  He and I visited Tractor Supply on Friday and I purchased a tarp and a bunch of bungee cords for him. I was expecting Gary to improve his trailer with them and meet us at Molly’s around 2 PM.

On my birthday, Saturday, Tammi, Brandon & I drove to Tractor Supply in the F150 and picked up two shepherds crooks – more for show than anything.  We then headed to Mollys.  Gary and Kim showed up a few minutes later with Gary’s old dump truck rigged with a Jed Clampett-like enclosure in the back.  Gary backed his truck up close to the barn. Molly was very nervous about all of the openings, so Gary set about to seal them all up, including nailing an additional board across the back.

Then came time to transfer the sheep.  The two ladies managed a piece of plywood that would act as a door on the back of the dump truck.  Brandon stood watch with his junior shepherds crook while Gary managed the gate to the holding pen in the barn – ready to jump in and help, if necessary.  Molly and I went into the pen to catch the sheep.  The plan was for Molly to grab them first, since she knew which 5 of the 20 were to be ours.  As soon as she had a hold, I would grab the sheep too, Gary would open the pen, and we would carry it out and onto to the truck — the ladies sliding the plywood and allowing the beast into the makeshift “trailer.”

We started with the two ewes – and all went rather easily.  Next, we grabbed the two lambs — also rather easy.  Lastly, we grabbed the ram.  Molly had one of his horns and was being led around the pen by him, unable to gain control.  I quickly grabbed the other horn and managed to steer him towards the door of the pen.  The young ram writhed and struggled to break free, but Molly and I held our grip.  As we passed through the pen door and went outside, Gary closed the door and followed us.  As we reached the truck, we had difficulty raising the big boy up.  Gary then took his hind legs and gave him a boost.  Quickly, the plywood was slid open and shut — all 5 were inside.  Gary then closed the gate in the back of truck, and we were ready to go.

The rest of the trip was very peaceful as we led Gary and Kim to our farm, following 174 from 233 all the way through Boiling Springs.  At the farm, Gary backed into the pasture.  We opened the back and nothing happened!  Everyone encouraged the sheep to leave, but they would not!  Then, all of a sudden, the ram decided to jump and make a run for it.  Within seconds, his little flock followed.  Within a few minutes, they were already eating the high grass.  What a sight!

Happy Birthday!

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Where to buy our sheep?  We knew we needed a small flock to keep the grass down.  The previous owner had raised sheep over the years, and the property is well-suited for it — it is somewhat hilly, lots of grass and there are several rock outcroppings from the limestone escarpment on which the farm is built.

Our good friend Gary was kind enough to take us to the Carlisle Livestock Auction held on Tuesdays.  Tammi and I met Gary after work and the three of us dropped in on this peculiar institution.  I suppose I stood out like a sore thumb, dressed in my “business casual” amid livestock farmers in their typical soiled denim & flannel attire!  We toured the stalls in the back, taking in the delicious odors of stewing straw, manure and ammonia-laden urine while sizing up the goods.  There was everything from guinea pigs to chickens to sheep and goats — lots of pigs — and most especially — beef!

Of course, we were not prepared to purchase this evening, and did not obtain a number.  But, we did observe the commerce carrying out before our eyes and were impressed with the efficient operation.  We also learned what animals typically sell for at the market — laying hens fetched $10 — duly noted!  Our sheep seemed to be worth between $150 and $200.  We realized we would need to arrange for a livestock trailer should we make a purchase — or we would need to buy one, along with a truck to pull it.

While the guinea pigs were up for sale, Tammi whispered to Gary, asking why they sold them here. Gary did not have an answer, as dozens of the little things changed hands.  I happened to casually hear a couple gentlemen to my left discussing the same query.  “Make good jerky…” responded one of them.  So there you have it!  When I told Tammi later, she said “Don’t tell Brandon!” (Her 9-year-old son has a guinea pig named George who is destined for the farm — but not for the breast pocket as a strip of seasoned leathery chew!)

Later in the evening, Tammi happened upon Molly’s Ritner Boarding and Training Kennel on Craig’s List. Molly had livestock in addition to raising dogs.  She happened to have a flock of twenty or so mixed breed sheep — 5 of which were for sale.  Tammi made a trip to the place the next day and cut the deal — 5 healthy grass-grazing machines for $850 cash.  We would take delivery when we are moved in!

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Today, we learned our mortgage for the farm at 1602 West Lisburn Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA was approved. Settlement is scheduled for March 30 — one month away!

Now, those of you who know us are well aware we don’t know a thing about farming! Fortunately, we don’t intend to do this for a living — but rather as a hobby and for a little personal security during troubled times. We also view this as a tremendous learning experience and intend to share our mistakes, discoveries and eureka! moments as we go.

First, a run down of the property and some thoughts about our plans:

The 4+ acre parcel contains an old brick farmhouse that started out as a log cabin in 1790. It was since enlarged several times. The place has “good bones” — log, brick, plaster, wide plank floors, a huge hearth — lots of crooked floors, crooked walls and cracked and crooked ceilings!  According to some research at the Cumberland County Historical Society, the property was owned by Daniel Baker, a member of the Church of the Brethren, who came to the area from Lancaster County in the early 1800’s. His son, Christian, lived at the farm (or at least owned it) for most of his life, into the late 1800’s. Most of the improvements to the house are likely due to his efforts. For this reason, we have decided to refer to the property as the Christian Baker Farm. It was so noted on the 1858 map of Cumberland County — the very map used by Confederate soldiers foraging in the Carlisle – Mechanicsburg area prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course, at that time, the farm included quite a bit more land – most of which is still farmland, but owned by someone else.

About a mile west, along West Lisburn Road, Baker’s Cemetery can be found. Daniel and Christian and their families are all buried there.  This further confirmed our decision to name the farm after them, given their involvement in its improvement and their eternal proximity to it.  Any old Dutchman knows you want to be on the good side of the spirits!

More about the place — three acres are fenced in pasture, containing an ancient bank barn, still intact. Two Nubian goats – a mother and daughter – Twinx and Nellie – already occupy the pasture and barn and will remain when we take ownership. We plan to have several sheep on the land to keep the grass down. Apparently, the barn is also home to a couple of barn cats – desirable for their penchant for keeping the rodent population down.

Between the house and the barn is an old wooden pig sty – circa 1900. We believe this building will function well as a chicken coop. Yes — we plan to raise some chickens – not to eat, but for their eggs.  It is an important part of the bargain — Tammi gets her farm and I get fresh scrambled eggs every morning.  We can also sell some to the neighbors!

Of course, you cannot have a farm without a dog!  We have discussed breeds and are looking for a good herding dog — a collie or one of the sheep dogs.  Apparently German Shepherds can’t be trusted around the chickens — at least that’s what we found on the Internet!

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