Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Our Puppy was Born

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A few months back after hearing coyotes in the distance several nights in a row (when you hear a coyote you know it’s a coyote), and hearing that there was a black bear in the field beside our property the weekend before the goats moved in we decided that we needed to add a livestock guardian to our farm.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Our Puppy was Born

Our goats are more than pets. Since we are building a business that surrounds them, and they will hopefully be part of what supports us in the future, loosing one or more of our goats to a predator could be detrimental to our plans. There are only two breeds of dog that work well with goats; Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherds. You want a breed that has been breed to deal with goats. Any other breed may be too aggressive for goats, and potentially wont do their job properly. Because we have children we went for the Great Pyrenees. They are known to be gentle giants who know when it’s time to protect and when it is time to be calm.

Our breeder sent me an email Sunday Dec 29th stating that Vixen (our puppy’s momma) had started to whelp Saturday night at 6:30pm and finally finished Sunday morning at 1:30am. She had a total of 11 puppies! One of which, a female, will be ours!

Our breeder will be sending us updates over the next few weeks as she prepares the puppies to go to their new homes. This will benefit us greatly. As I have stated in past posts, Big B is terrified of large dogs and Great Pyrenees most definitely fall into that category. I will be able to show him the growth of the puppy over the next 8 weeks and maybe he will have an easier time accepting her into our farm.

In a few weeks we will be able to go and visit the breeder, meet the puppies, and the doggy parents. I hope to be able to pick out our puppy at this time, and hopefully this too will help Big B adjust. At around 8 weeks we can bring her home and put her to work.

Photo Credit: The image above was sent to me from our breeder. They can be found here



Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has taught us

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It’s been an amazing year on The Freckled Farm. My husband and I purchased this property almost 5 years ago. It was simply a house on a piece of land in the country, and we have turned it into a live, active farm. All of these changes have happened in the last year. We spent 4 years working on making the house what we wanted, living as minimally as possible so we could pay for all of the “farm needs” outright, and having babies. We wanted the timing to be perfect and we have gotten it as close to perfect as possible. We went from all of our plans being on paper to coming to realization at breakneck speed. Once things started happening they REALLY started happening (The Freckled Farm).

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught Us

What The Freckled Farm Has Taught Us In 2012

  1. Construction projects always take twice as long as you plan… which is very stressful when you have animals coming. Whether you are building a chicken coop yourself or hiring someone to do your bigger projects, like building your barn, the timeline will likely be doubled. The same goes for the cost of projects. While it might not be doubled it will always be more than you expect. Dad and Big B starting the chicken coop back in Feb 2012.Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught Us
  2. Chickens are beautiful and really personable creatures. I have to admit that I was not always a fan of birds. They are dirty and I have never understood having them as pets, but after a visit to my friend Gini’s farm in 2011 I started to warm up to the idea of having chickens. We added chickens to our farm in June of this year, and I will say that yes, they are dirty little creatures that poop everywhere, but they have really great personalities and we have grown to be very attached to them, especially Big B. When our chicks were only a few days old:Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught UsGrowing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught Us
  3. The six months or so that you are waiting for your pullets to start laying take forever. Somehow you can be saying “Wow Little B is almost 8 months old! Where has the time gone?” one minute than turn around and say “Seriously, the chickens are only 6 months old? When are these things going to start laying already? This is taking forever!!” the next… Doesn’t make a lot of sense. When you finally find that first egg it’s a pretty amazing feeling (We’ve got eggs!).
  4. Goats really keep you on your toes. They escape (The Great Escape) and you are constantly trying to make sure you don’t have any weaknesses in your fencing. Ours push past me when I open the pasture gate and make a beeline for the honeysuckle bushes. I have just gotten into the habit of letting them roam while I am doing farm chores. As you can see from the picture, I love my goats:Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught Us
  5. Not allowing Big B to do his farm chores is the worst punishment that I can give. This child loves his animals so much that keeping him from them and making him stay inside is a complete nightmare for him. This is a punishment for both of us though, because if he isn’t allowed to do his farm chores it means I have to do it! (Farm Chores)
  6. I learned how to administer vaccinations and managed to poke myself and hit a nerve on one of the goats on the first try, causing the goat to act stiff and uncomfortable the next few days… not my finest moment.
  7. You become very aware of all the noises coming from the woods when you have animals that you are trying to protect, which is why we are now adding a guard dog to our property… Not that our dogs aren’t doing a good job, but I doubt our 17 pound terrier mix and 37 pound basset hound can protect the goats and chickens from a bear or coyote.
  8. Seed catalogs can be a great teaching tool. Last year when I got my seed catalogs Big B was too young to get any real use out of them. I was also very pregnant and I decided to skip the garden. This year we are planning a huge garden and Big B and I are having a blast looking through the catalogs, talking about everything we can grow, how we can cook with them, and the nutritional values of the different fruits and vegetables. (Seed Catalogs)
  9. This year I discovered that my son really has a “way” with animals. They love him and there seems to be an understanding between them. It took him a little while to get used to each new species that we brought onto the farm (Adjusting to New Animals on the Farm) but in time he has developed a real relationship with every one of them. It’s an amazing thing to watch. Growing up on The Freckled Farm: What 2012 has Taught Us
  10. The farm has offered an education for my children that I never really anticipated and I have realized that it will teach them skills that they would not have learned otherwise. (The Benefits of Raising Children on a farm)

Our farm has grown at such an amazing rate in 2012. I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for us.



Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

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I have loved hearing from you guys about your farm dreams, farms, and the ways your children contribute. It’s so amazing to hear that so many children out there are having the same experiences, and have many of the same chores as Big B. Since I have gotten to hear about several of your children’s chore routines I thought it would be a great time to outline our daily farm chores.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

My husband generally does the morning chores before he leaves for work. He opens the hen house door so the chickens have access to their run, he opens the barn’s side door so the goats can go out to pasture, feeds the goats their morning grain, replaces the water if it is frozen, and feeds the dogs.

Any chores that happen after that are Big B and my responsibility. We check on the animals throughout the day, but the real chores don’t start until the end of the day. Around 4pm everyday Big B, Little B and I go out to do all of the evening chores. Little B sits in her stroller and watches, while Big B and I move our way through the farm caring for the animals.

Our first stop is the chickens. We start by letting them out of their coop so they can spend time pecking through the yard eating bugs, grass, and weeds. Their water gets nasty, so it has to be totally cleaned everyday, and because it is so nasty I don’t let Big B handle it. I take their water out of the coop, dump the old dirty water, spray down the waterer, and refill it. On the weekends I try to give it good cleaning inside and out with soap. Big B puts food in their feeder and will spread some sort of treat for them on the ground of their coop. I then check (if I hadn’t done it earlier in the day) to see if we have any eggs in the nesting boxes that need to be collected.

Next are the dogs. I generally care for the dogs alone while Big B marches around the yard with the chickens. Like all of the other animals they get fresh water and food.

Finally, there are the goats. Sometimes we let them out of the pasture so they can snack on honeysuckle and other treats that our yard has to offer that the pasture doesn’t. They generally follow us around while we finish our chores.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

I dump the goats’ water buckets and hand them over to Big B. He puts apple cider vinegar into both buckets, then fills them with water.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

This chicken (Blanche) loves Big B. She follows him around while he does his chores. They are best buds! As you can see he put some treats into the goats’ grain bowls for her. It might be why she likes him so much.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

While Big B is doing this I am adding fresh hay to the goat’s poly hay feeder.

The last goat chore is to get them their grain. Big B knows the mixture they require and recently he likes to do it himself. I help him get the grains that are too deep in the bin for him to reach. We are currently giving them grain, beet pulp and black oil sunflower seeds. When it gets colder we will add rolled oats and crumpled parsley.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Farm Chores

After about an hour to an hour and a half (or more if it is warmer) we close all of the animals back into their pins and head inside. We herd the chickens together, a job that Big B is quite good at, and lead them to their coop and make sure all of the locks on each pin are secure. In the evening, when my husband gets home, he locks the goats in the barn to keep them safe during the night and closes the hen house door so if a predator is able to dig into the coop they still can’t get to the chickens.

Weekends add special chores to our list. We have more time outside, and an additional person to help. The chicken run generally stays pretty clean. They scratch the poop back into the dirt, but we do rake it occasionally, especially when they are molting. Every few weeks we will scoop any poop that has accumulated in the hen house (generally, it only piles up under the perch) and lay new bedding. Since it is winter, and we are doing the deep bedding method, every weekend we lay new bedding on top of the old bedding in the goat barn. Once spring comes we will be mucking the barn several times a week. Once a week we also replace the goat minerals.

Farm chores change throughout the year, and these are only the chores that include the animals. Weekend yard work fills our schedule starting spring and continues into the fall. Spring also brings chores involving the garden, and as anyone who has had a farm knows there is always some project going on. There will be a time when we have goats to milk twice a day, and kid goats that need to be bottle fed every few hours. As our farm business grows… and turns into a real business… our chores will grow and grow. I, for one, welcome this growth.

This may seem like a lot but really everything is incredibly satisfying. I love to watch my son caring for the animals, and I get so much pleasure out of it myself. Farm work is some of the most gratifying work I have ever done.


Growing up on The Freckled Farm: The Great Escape

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I heard if from everyone who has ever owned a goat… I’ve even heard it from people who simply knew someone who has owned a goat: “Goats will always find a way to escape. No matter how good your fencing they will find a way.”

Goats Escape

Somehow we didn’t feel like this statement applied to us. It’s not like we didn’t believe them, but when it came to our goats and our fencing we just thought we had done everything we could to avoid escape. We used 5 foot high, woven wire, no climb, horse fence. Our fence posts are thick and strong and cemented 2 and half feet into the ground. There aren’t significant gaps anywhere at the bottom of the fence and it’s pulled so tightly that they can’t push and make one. The gate is latched and locked and the barn has a handle that you are required to turn to open (see figure #1). There was no way, NO WAY, these goats were going to find a way to escape…

Figure #1:

Goats Escaping

But a week into having the goat I saw a weakness. I recognized it before it actually became a problem. I just thought there was no way they could make it happen… It was the barn door. When I would do my door and gate checks I would push and pull against them. The gate was always tightly secured, but I noticed that if I pushed the barn door it could push back far enough that the latch got caught on the door next to it, essentially leaving the door unlatched. In order to open it all the way it needed to be knocked hard and fast from the inside so that the latch jumped over the hold/lock (see figure #2). I informed my husband of this problem, but I didn’t see it as a problem that needed immediate action because, after all, the door has to be pushed in with force from outside, causing the door’s latch to stick to the side of the door next to it. As long as we didn’t do that there was no way that the goats could. We had plans to put a lock that prevented the door from going backwards but until then we just planned to be careful with our door checks and make sure the barn door was latched and secure.

Figure #2:

Goats Escaping

One day this past week, (I can’t remember which, this week has been such a blur) I was getting the kids up from their naps. I turned off their white noise machines and noticed that Frankie, our terrier mix, was barking very aggressively. This dog barks all the time, but this bark was in a different tone. I looked outside and found our goats grazing on grass up at the porch. What was I going to do? I had a 3 year old, a 7 month old, two escaped goats and it was raining. I sat Little B in her exersaucer and asked Big B to stand at the door so that he would leave her alone and so he could also tell me if she was crying, and I went outside to try to wrangle the goats back into their pasture.

The goats ran right up to me. Goats will generally follow you wherever you go, so I tried to get them to simply follow me back the pasture, and for the most part they did. The problem came when I tried to get them back through the gate. Goats are pretty stubborn and very smart. They wanted to be with us, not locked in their pasture. I grabbed one of their feed buckets, threw some grain in it and with some work I lured them back into the pin. I latched and locked the gate and then began to search for their escape route. I didn’t have to look far, the barn door was sitting ajar. Some how they did it, they pulled the door in towards themselves hard enough to jimmy the latch. Maybe they learned to turn the handle? Who knows. They are smart animals. I went out two more times that day, before my husband came home with a lock, to find the door sitting open.

The lesson of this story? Goats will always, always, always, find a way to escape. No amount of planning or over building will exempt you from this rule. We learned that. There will always be SOMETHING. Our barn door now has a second lock and we have had no more escapes. Lets hope it stays that way.

So I guess we are ALL growing and learning on The Freckled Farm. It’s education for the children and adults alike.



Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Adjusting to New Animals on the Farm

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Our farm, like most farms, is in a constant state of change. New animals move in or are born, seasons change, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest, all of these things change your chores and routine and for young children this can be jarring.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Adjusting to New Animals

Bringing a new animal onto the farm is much like bringing home a new baby, especially if it is a whole new species of animal. New routines need to be established, and the animals needs to be introduced to any person or animal that they will come in contact with often. It’s an adjustment for the farm’s human and animal residents… new and old.

For small children some animals can be intimating. This is a problem that we are running to with Big B and the goats. Big B has an extreme fear of large dogs. There was a large dog that lived at one of the houses in front of us last year. He was only a puppy, but he was huge, and would jump on people. At first the owner didn’t pin him, and after we complained the owner had terrible trouble keeping him pinned no matter how hard he tried, so the dog kept coming onto our property. Big B was terrified of the dog and for a long time, until the puppy went to live at a new home, Big B flat out refused to go outside. Now, almost a year later, Big B still has trouble with big dogs, and because of the goats’ size, he is also scared of the them. He wants to spend time with them. He loves feeding them and he asks daily if we can go “walk” the goats, which consists of walking around their pasture while they follow us, but once actually in the pasture, after a short time of having them in his face, he starts to get nervous and panics. We are working on it daily by exposing him to them in short spurts and having him interact with them from outside of the fence, but I can see that it’s going to be some time before he is completely comfortable with them. I also know this is only one of the many adjustments that Big B and Little B will have to make over the next few years.

Advice on Introducing Children to New Animals:

  • Children, especially young children, should be introduced to the new animals slowly. Don’t put them around the animal for long periods of time in the beginning. The animal needs time to get used to the child as well. Remember this is a change for the animal and they may behave out of character.
  • Allow there to be space (fence) between the child and animal for the first few interactions with livestock – See above
  • The child needs to be taught that they are still animals and can, at times, have wild tenancies. Establish a set of rules that promote safety (ie: Keep your face out of the chicken’s face, don’t get on the ground around the goats, wash your hands after being around the animals, etc)
  • Have the child feed the animal treats. Teach the child the proper way of feeding treats (with a flat hand) to avoid fingers being nibbled.
  • Demonstrate the proper way to deal with/handle the animal.
  • If your child is afraid allow them to see you interacting with the animal a few times a day. This will help the child to learn how to properly treat the animal, and gives them an idea of what to expect from the animal behavior wise.
  • Understand it may take time and don’t force the child into situations where they are truly uncomfortable.
Change is not easy for anyone but with time and work everyone can learn to live together.

 


Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Welcome Home Goats

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This past weekend was a big one on The Freckled Farm! We welcomed our first goats to the property, two nubian doelings. I have wanted goats most of my life, so it was a personal dream come true for me.

nubian goat doelings yearlings

Yesterday morning we left the kids with their Nana and traveled an hour to the farm where our two doelings were waiting for us. We got the girls tattooed, talked more in depth about feed portioning, had them weighed, then packed them in the camper shell in the back of the truck and brought them home.

As we got closer to home I called Nana to let her know that we were fifteen minutes away so the kids could meet us outside. When we pulled up Big B was sitting on the porch waiting for us. I stepped out of the truck and was greeted by a energetic three year old screaming “You got goats?”

Nubian goat doelings doe

Nubian goats doelings doe

We came around the back of the truck and opened up the camper shell so Big B could see the goats. He must have remembered them being smaller because he was surprised by how big they were. He was very tentative at first.

I love both the kid’s faces in this picture (that’s Nana with Little B):

We helped the girls down from the truck and they followed us right to the pin. We spent the next several hours walking them around the pasture, trying to get them used to their new home. There is so much pasture for two little doelings. They are almost dwarfed by all of the space. This wont always be the case, as we are adding two nubian kids in the spring, and will have the kids from our goats as we start breeding next fall.

Nubian doeling doe

Slowly but surely Big B got used to goats. He started by watching them from the other side of the fence. Eventually we were able to convince him to join us inside, and after walking around the pasture with them a while he got comfortable enough to feed them out of his hand. We had a lot of leaves that had blown into the pasture from the trees that line the back fence. He would offer each goat a leaf and was thrilled when they would take it and devour it within seconds.

Child feeding nubian doeling doe goat

Today when we went out to spend time with the goats Big B was once again showing hesitation. Part of it may be the fact that they are completely enamored with him, and no matter how hard I try to prevent it, as soon as I opened the gate they were out chasing him around he yard. About five minutes into our first visit though he was back to feeding them leaves and instructing them to follow him around the pasture.

Little B was completely facinated with the goats from the start. She has spent the last day smiling and “talking” to them. They will come up close to her, close enough for her to touch their noses, and she pets them then shrieks with delight. I was hesitate for her to be close to them, and still watch the interactions very closely, but so far I am happy with how gentle they are with her.

I am so excited to see where our farm goes over the next few years. It’s amazing sharing this as a family and I hope this will make for an amazing childhood for my children.


Growing up on The Freckled Farm – Benefits of Raising Children on a Farm

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First… I am sorry for the lack of posts last week. We had a really terrible cold run through this house. It hit Little B and me the hardest. Of course Big B, with his immune system of steel, simply got the sniffles. When your sick, with sick kids, it pretty much takes all of your energy just to get through the day, but I did give a lot of thought to what today’s installment of “Growing up the Freckled Farm” would be, and it became very clear after the weekend that we have had… The benefits of raising children on a farm.

Benefits of raising children on a farm

My mother-in-law came into town this weekend to watch the kids while my husband and I finished the goat fencing and prepared for the goats to move in next weekend. Nothing makes you realize how different your life is in the country than to have someone from the city come and visit for a while. Things that you just take for granted as just a part of life is likely completely foreign to them.

Friday evening after dinner we were all sitting in the den settling down for the evening. I was on the couch looking through a goat supplies catalog, trying to figure out what we would need to purchase over the next year. The discussion of the farm costs came up and my mother-in-law voiced concerns about vet bills. I explained that over the next few years that we would learn to do most of the minor vet procedures ourselves, like drawing blood for tests, deworming and vaccinations. There were also a few topics that came up while looking through the catalog that obviously, and rightfully so, made my mother-in-law uncomfortable, like castration and artificial insemination. I know the necessity of these things on a farm, and they don’t really bother me, but for someone who hasn’t been exposed to it, it’s a lot to take in. Then the conversation of all the skills that “country children” learn during their childhood came up. They are exposed to such a different world and leave home with a completely different set of skills than children who grow up in the suburbs or city.

Before they are teenagers our children will know how to care for animals from infancy, through pregnancy, and into old age. They will administer minor vet procedures, and care for animals when they are sick. They will learn how diet and nutrition affects their production, and they will be responsible to help maintain a balanced diet for the animals on the farm. They will witness life coming into this world, as well as leaving. They will milk our goats, and learn to create products like cheese, butter, and soaps. They will grow their own food from seed, and have to figure out how to balance soil PH in order to ensure the best crop. They will need to figure out how to preserve crops, so we are able to benefit from them long after the season is over. They will understand problem solving, responsibility and patience in a very different way. All of these skills can be translated into life outside the farm in some way. There is so much to learn and experience and the greatest part of all of this is that my husband and I will be experiencing it right along with them.

Already our children, at 3 years old and 7 months old, have experienced something very special. Something most children have no exposure to… They have watch the building of this farm. Big B aided in the construction of the chicken coop, then watch the chickens grow from day old chicks, he watch as the barn and fencing was constructed, he visited many farms, and has already gotten to milk a goat. I see the pride and excitement in his face as he talks about our progress on the farm and it often hits me how this must look like through the eyes of a three year old, it’s huge for me, even as an adult.

I hope all of this gives my children a better appreciation for life, for the food they eat, and for hard work. I want them to leave this farm with skills. Maybe they wont choose to be farmers, or vets, but they will understand hard work and can translate many of the skills learned on the farm into life outside of the farm. The benefits of raising children on a farm are truly endless.



Growing up on the Freckled Farm

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In my tag ling I state that we are a “young rural family” but other than my post about the Educational Value of Backyard Chickens I haven’t really talked about our farm. So, I decided that it was time to start a weekly series on the things happening on The Freckled Farm and how they affect/involve our children (mostly Big B at this time) and their education.

Our Farm’s Background

I guess you are starting to wonder why everything I do is named “Freckled.” It’s not that I have an obsession with freckles themselves, although I do love them, it has more to do with our children’s names. Both Big B and Little B’s names mean “Freckled.” We wanted our farm’s name to be family related, and freckles have become our family theme.

My husband and I have always talked about having a farm. At first it was our retirement dream. We were going to move out to the country, raise a couple of dairy goats (a childhood dream of mine) and work on becoming self-sustaining. We were happy living in the city at the time, and weren’t really ready to be out in the middle of no where. After I graduated college we left Richmond, VA, and moved to Philadelphia. We wanted access to bigger cities, and had plans to renovate and flip a house. Well… we had terrible luck and many very scary experiences that year, so we sold the house (luckily before the housing market crashed) and moved back to VA. As we started to discuss having children the country seemed like the best place to raise them. We were also looking for space, peace, and privacy, so we decided to move up our farming plans.

A year after moving back to VA we found our sweet little farm, although at the time it was just a house on some property. It only had a shed and lean-to. No where to keep animals, and absolutely no fencing. It was also less property than we were hoping to get, but we quickly learned that land is expensive, and when we found the perfect house we were willing to make the compromise and make due with just 3 acres. Come to find out years later 3 acres is a lot to maintain and plenty of room for all of our plans.

Fast forward almost 5 years and here we are; 2 children, 6 chickens, a deluxe chicken coop built by my handy husband, a barn, fencing in progress and goats waiting to move in. It has been such an amazing adventure for all of us and it just continues to get better and better.

This farm will play a large role in my children’s education and I am excited to share it with all of my readers, especially over the next few weeks as we finish up our fencing and prepare for our first goats to move onto the farm!

Be sure sure subscribe to my blog (enter your email in the widget in the right hand border) so you never miss a new installment of “Growing up on The Freckled Farm” 

Images from The Freckled Farm

Tina – Moving in on November 18th:

Hillary – Moving in on November 18th:

My favorite picture from the farm. Big B supervising the chickens:

Our Chicken Coup:

Our Barn: