Everyone loves a cria!!!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ring in the New Year!

 We have many plans for 2013 for the farm, our wedding, and our dogs.  Keep watching for updates, and I will try and be more diligent with posting.   Thank you for all of your support as we go through this adventure we call life.   All of us here at Pacaberry Farm wish all of our family and friends a safe and Happy New Year!!! May your year be filled with love and happiness!!

The chickens and the bees...

  All of the hens and roosters have flourished with their free range lifestyle.  The roosters and hens have grown into beautiful animals with shiny feathers, and fully bodies. Their feathers are absolutely glorious from all of the scratching they get to do around the property.  They still enjoy their unlimited freedom around the property, and head to their coop at night. The roosters enjoying parading around the ladies acting  like men with their harems. 
    In the beginning of December, all of our hens began laying eggs on a daily basis.  We have built six nesting boxes for the ten hens, and they appear to be appreciative of them.  The ladies are averaging at least 5 eggs a day, which is about one egg from each hen every other day.  Partridge rock chickens normally produce about one egg each day, so we hope to see an increase in egg production as we change the lights in the barn.   In addition, our bantam girl has an egg about every other day.
  When we purchased the chicks as a straight run group (unsexed) we knew that we may end up with more roosters than we desired.  Since we had too many roosters, we have processed four of the partridge rock roosters.  It is certainly not our favorite task, but there were simply too many roosters.  We chose our two roosters  based on their temperament, size, coloring, and feathers.   We did decide to keep two roosters of each breed, so we will always have a back up.  We believe reducing the numbers was a smart idea to ensure fewer dominance battles between the roosters.
     We plan on incubating the fertilized partridge rock eggs, and bantam eggs this spring/summer.  A local friend has offered to lend us their incubator with the promise that we will give them some chicks.  We are excited to hatch our own eggs and look forward to this new experience.

Tina Claire the Bear Fighting Llama

  We got Tina Claire, the llama, with the intention of her being a herd guardian. However, little did we know how valuable she would be to us.  It was a typical Thursday morning at the farm.  Donald was feeding the outside crew, and I was making lunch for our work day.  We both were getting ready for our day job, teaching.  However, Donald came inside around 6:30am and said "Steph come outside now."  I quickly threw on my boots, because when Donald makes a statement like that it is not normally followed by a positive situation.
    Donald was outside, standing near the barn and he asked, "Do you see Tina Claire anywhere?" I replied, "She is not exactly a small animal that can hide."  I walked into the paddock and the barn, but I did not see any signs of her black woolly body.  All the alpacas appeared to be fine and were all accounted for.  We quickly started scanning the property, neighboring fields, and the woods.  I began walking the fence line and realized that one of the corners of fencing was bent down; the wooden pole had shifted from its home three feet underground. As I look at the corner I almost stumbled upon a HUGE pile of bear scat, that's right bear scat! I immediately began running multiple scenarios through my head.  By the looks of the fence, a great battle that rivaled a Tolkien Middle Earth battle, had taken place.  Donald and I immediately jumped into the car and started driving up and down our road, to see if we could spot our woolly warrior.  Yet, there were no signs of our girl.
    We immediately decided that this would be a great day to take a personal day to see if we could find Tina Claire.  We began making calls to local alpaca/llama friends and game them a heads up about our interesting morning.  Our mentor Patty set up a pretty clear scenario, based on her experience.  According to her, the bear smelled the sweet feed in the barn, and wanted to get to the barn. Tina Claire, as the herd guardian, was not going to allow that and she bent the fence spitting at him aggressively.  She eventually jumped the fence and chased him from the property, and may have gotten lost.
    Through my phone calls from neighbors and friends in the area we found out that our lovely llama girl was hanging out at the gas station, about a mile and half down the road.  It was about 9 am, and our llama had been sighted and appeared to be uninjured.  A  few neighbors, and alpaca friends helped us try to corral our bear warrior.  Hours dragged on, and it appeared she would not allow anyone near her and she was still excited from her earlier experience.  At about 2pm we decided we needed to call Virginia Tech and have her shot with a tranquilizer gun.  The veterinarian and vet students arrived,  and the first time they shoot the dart seems to lose energy and falls very short of our girl.  The vet stated that in all her years this has never happened before, but of course it happened that day!  The second dart was successful and lodged itself in her fuzzy hindquarter.  Tina Claire eventually became woozy enough and decided she needed a lie down.  We managed to halter her and quickly evaluated her for any injuries.  It seemed she escaped with not even a scratch, but her feet were a bit sore from her run on the road.
    By 5:30pm Tina Claire was locked in the barn, and was losing the effects of her tranquilizer.  As she recovered Donald and I quickly installed an electric top wire to our paddock.  Our neighbor had generously donated the kicker and wire, as they were just sitting in his barn.  We truly are blessed by such great neighbors.
    One week later, it was open season in Catawba.  Our neighbor called and told us that he had shot Tina Claire's bear.  Her bear was a 250 pound, four year old male.   It seemed this bear had been a menace in the area, knocking over barbeques, and following neighbors for food.  We were so thankful for Tina Claire and her dedication to her herd.  Her vigilance and protective nature prevented an what could have been an awful situation. 

Miss Piggy... I mean Piggies!

     First, we did end up getting two Yorkshire mix pigs at the end of September.  The two sows were approximately a month old when they came to live here.  After we got the first two girls, our friends asked if we would raise pigs for them and we said, "What are two more?"  We ended up picking the last two piglets from that litter.  All the girls lived in an area that we created with cattle fencing, which is relatively cheap, but strong enough to hold these strong girls in.  As they grew, we moved the girls to a new area with blackberry bushes, and expanded the amount of space they had.  In addition, we built them a bigger house to contain their quickly growing bodies.  The girls were eating a combination of pork maker, which we buy from our local mill, and corn.  We also gave them all sorts of great scraps, except for meat.  Here in Virginia, it is illegal to feed pigs meat due to the possibility of them contracting illnesses and transferring to humans through their meat.  It was not a problem; however, because the girls would eats fruits, vegetables, dairy, breads, and even vegan quinoa chili.
    As the piglets grew into 200 pound sows we knew the invitable time would be coming, and the reason why the girls were purchased in the first place.  So Donald placed the phone call to a local butcher that would process the pigs for us, they had great prices and many referrals.  We decided we would have two girls done before Christmas, and then two processed in January.  Donald and I roll up to the butcher's  address with the two girls in the trailer.  However, the house looks like a suburban neighborhood, and does not seem like a place to have pigs processed.  Donald tells the owner that we are here with our two pigs, and the man gets a wheelbarrow.  Donald looks at the guy and says, "What are you doing with that?"  The man responds, "helping you get your pigs."  Donald replies, "Well, I don't know how you think that is going to work because our pigs are alive."  It turns out that this particular gentleman is an excellent butcher, but he only processes animals after they have been killed.  Obviously that would not work for us.  So two of our sows had a lovely tour of Blacksburg, VA home of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
     This still left us with a need to process the pigs, as the girls were getting very big and were eating pounds of food each day.  So our excellent neighbor recommended us to a meat processor that lives down the road in Catawba.  He processed the two largest sows the following week and did an excellent job.  The meat from these two pigs were not cured, but the pigs that are due to be processed mid January will be cured.
    As an animal lover I had many  misgivings about raising an animal to be slaughtered.  However, I realized that I prefer to raise an animal and know that it has been fed and cared for properly, rather than to buy meat from the local food store where the animals may not have received such careful care.  Our pigs have led a great life with a big open space to run, dig, and play.  They ate a well balanced diet, and enjoyed getting ear rubs and tummy scratches.  I am confident that our pigs only ever had one bad moment in their lives.  We are sure that when they were processed they did not suffer whatsoever, and everything was done in a very humane way.  When the last two sows leave I will miss them, and their excited oinking as we come out with leftovers from dinner.  Pigs are truly lovely animals, and should be respected for their intelligent and affectionate nature.