New URL, New Look

I have exciting news!  Home Growed has grown up and is now Red Row Farm.  If you following our misadventures via an RSS Reader, post in the link and you should be all set.


Building up the berry orchard

Last weekend we headed to Edible Landscaping to pick out some blueberry bushes for the front yard.  While I was a bit underwhelmed by the staff’s ability to help me pick out the ideal plants for our farm (question: what does well organic?  answer: everything we’ve got.  question: what do you recommend for our zone?  answer: everything we’ve got. etc. etc. etc.), the selection there really is incredible.

We picked up 3 O’Neals and 3 Tifblues, so we now have 6 blueberry bushes that should do well in the quasi-south that is Virginia (when it comes to zone hardiness – it’s all South when it comes to mentality).   We also purchased 2 Arapaho blackberries, which may be the same variety I bought a pair of last July from Whole Foods (never underestimate their garden center – they have great sales).

It was too early for planting raspberries, but we’ll pick up 2 more of those in another month or so, to go along with our 2 Carolines from last July.  We still need to find a good location for our strawberry patch before I can buy the Virginia Native Strawberry I’m eyeing.

Since we didn’t own any house plants, I also indulged in a Novak Super Dwarf banana tree and  Sweet Bay Laurel.  Who knows if I’ll ever harvest a single banana, but at least this way I can pretend my decorative plants serve a greater purpose.

Guineas again? Not so much

We’re down to 12 guineas from the original 30.  The last few casualties could have been raccoon or our not-dog Lady.  We don’t know if her owners have been feeding her since she was banished from our yard, and we’ve caught her chasing the guineas before.  We’ve started feeding her again as we don’t have the guts to have a sit down with her owners or the stones to call in some sort of authority.  So maybe as long as she’s fed she won’t be tempted to snack on our exotic fowl.  Or it really was a raccoon.

The good news is these stupid birds have finally taken to roosting in the trees in the fenced pasture, so now they have Scout the Great Pyrenees to protect them from raccoons, and foxes (and fencing to protect them from Lady).  The bad news is that the noise level of these birds is completely out of control.  At dusk, they squawk and shriek their little faces off.  Between the smell of the pigs and the noise of these banshee, our neighbors must hate us.

Unless I don’t find a single tick all summer, we won’t be doing guineas again.

Early spring has arrived

Mother Goose she’s not

Our lady goose, Manet, has been sitting off and on in the corner between the foundation of the house and the front porch for the past two weeks or so.  She usually spends her nights here, and her beau, Lautrec, stands guard and honks loudly at all passers-by, sometimes even positioning himself on our front porch, I assume for the better vantage point.  The pair frequently try to chase me from my own front yard with little success.

This Sunday, while Alston was asleep in his car seat and we were enjoying a rare moment of childless daytime, Will noticed two eggs in this general vicinity.  I grabbed a towel, so as not to get my human stink on them, and placed them in the corner, only to notice that under a pile of leaves were at least six other eggs.  It appears Manet has been busy.

But why wasn’t she sitting on them full-time?  What’s with all the gallivanting off with Lautrec and the long swims in the pond?  Or worse, the naps in the front yard that could totally be taken while incubating my future Christmas dinner?

We called our friend Sarah, the real mom of these geese, and she said that Manet won’t sit on her nest until she’s done laying, so we shouldn’t be panicked yet.  However, she’s only ever successfully hatched out one gosling which ultimately died, so she doesn’t have a winning track record.

I’m tempted to buy an incubator and try to salvage as many goslings as we can, but that means dealing with turning eggs twice a day for a month and two months of hatchlings under heat lamps.  I had fantasies that as long as I owned a boy and a girl and kept them in a relatively predator-free zone flush with food and water, I could let nature take its course.  If anyone has any advice on breeding geese au naturale, I’d really appreciate a point in the right direction.

I so don’t want an incubator, even though I expect I’ll be singing the same tune when we try to hatch out our first homegrown chicks in another month or two.  Did we breed the ability to breed out of domestic birds, or am I just naive about how difficult this is supposed to be?

This is what happens when you make farming decisions based on aesthetics.

Night Shearing

The shepherd who sold us our five border cheviots was so kind as to hook us up with her sheep shearing guy.  He was coming out on Saturday to work her flock, so we tacked onto his agenda since he would be in the area anyway.  A bit like the cable guy, there was no real time frame given, just a “sometime in the afternoon” and “I’ll call you when he’s on the way” and so Alston and I spent Saturday hanging around the farm while Will attended a seminar on growing produce.

Will caught the sheep in the shed on Friday morning, so the girls had been sequestered for quite a long time.

The good news is that Big Bertha appears to have her sight back.  Otherwise, everyone seemed restless to get back to the pasture and its just starting to grow grass.

By the time Shearer was finished with the shepherd’s flock, it was already six o’clock.  Add in a bit of getting lost on the way here (this is where not having cell service in the area truly sucks) and he arrived around seven.  That being said, we couldn’t possibly be annoyed with the guy – he was as nice as could be and endured Alston’s chants of “sheep get haircut!” and my curious on looking.

My original plan was to play paparazzi during the shearing, but it was so dark Will ended up holding two flashlights so there was light enough for the Shearer to work.  Here’s the only shot I took, so I apologize for the low quality.

It probably took him around 8 minutes per sheep, if even.  It was amazing to watch how easily he could catch an ewe, lift her into a squatting position so she sat on her rump and get right to shaving her underside (careful not to injury her udders), then work down her legs and tail, and move onto the prime wool of her back and sides.  It was clear it took a lot of strength to hold the girls still, but he did so without any flailing or cries for help on their part.  I was completely in awe.  As he worked, he talked about how teams of shearers will shear the large flocks in New Zealand, shaving up to 250 sheep in a single day.

Based on their udders, the Shearer thinks two ewes may be pregnant.  Will had a keen eye on all of their bellies and thinks it may be as many as three.  The Shearer did warn that it’s especially hard to tell with young ewes until much closer to their due dates, so we’ll have to wait and see.

The next day, I took some shots of our newly pruned ewes.  To me they look like lambs, although Will remarked that they remind him of deer.

The wool filled five tall kitchen trash bags to the brim.  Now it’s off to the mill to be turned into yarn.

Are rabbits crappy moms?

Our lady rabbit (doe, if you will) gave birth late last week, most likely Thursday (3/10).  I say most likely because the babies are hidden under a pile of hay and fur in our makeshift nesting box, which is really just the hopper for the apple press turned upside down in her cage.  I’d read that you’re not supposed to disturb newborn rabbits, at least not for the first seven days, something about how their mother could abandon them if they smell like not-her (aka predator), which would be bad.  All of which is to say that Will’s been listening to the underside of the rabbit cage all week until he heard rustling.

On Saturday morning I thought I’d give Will a break from the farm chores.  When I checked on the rabbits, I noticed the doe wasn’t in the nest box so I panicked.  I was convinced she was neglecting her young, or worse that she’d eaten them (I don’t even know if that’s possible for rabbits, but my mama-brain took over at this point).  So I grabbed a stick and started moving the hay around to peer into the nest box.  Sure enough, there were several pink bodies covered in fuzz squirming around in a pile and I quickly covered them back up and apologized to their mother.

I mentioned this to Will after returning to the house and he gave me the tsk tsk that I deserved.  Of course, now I am completely paranoid about the bunnies.  I have never once seen the doe in the nest box with them and I keep thinking “if she doesn’t nurse them, they’ll starve!”  At which point my husband reminds me that I’m probably too close to the baby thing, being only one year past having every moment of my schedule dictated by when Alston needed to nurse (or I needed to pump).  That, and if she has abandoned them, it’s probably my fault.

Sure, she pulls fur off her own belly to line the nest box that will keep her children warm, but I’m ready to point my judgement finger at the doe and shout “Bad Mother!”