KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: babies (page 1 of 3)

A First & Future Generation Farm (2FGF): Happy 2nd Anniversary

With our 2 year wedding anniversary coming up tomorrow, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a homesteader, to raise a family, and to believe that our land carries spiritual and cross-generational significance.

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Our wedding day, on our land. Photo by Jenny Tenney Photography.

Plenty of young farmers our age (30 & 26… Oh yeah, I married a young one!) inherited their land from their parents or even grandparents, on down the line. We did not. We both grew up in cities, with varied experiences of what land, nature, and farming meant. My parents raised chickens and the best veggies you could ever hope to find, as we went hunting, swimming, and camping on land we owned beginning when I was 12 or so. My father grew up a country boy and taught us how to kill and gut our first chicken (how long ago that seems now). Jason’s family has two folds: a maternal side that hails from the tropical beauty and abundance of Puerto Rico, where fruits and other crops grow in backyards and chicken go wherever they please, and a paternal grandfather who always hoped to be a farmer but whose allergies assaulted him every time he tromped through the bushes.

This is our lineage.

I used to feel a bit sad when I read about other farms being Fifth Generation, or any other awesome, unbroken number of generations. I would think about the legacy that, despite the reality of precarious land inheritance, these families continue and carry with them everyday. Both the maternal and paternal sides of my family have memory of family land that for some sad reason or another was lost to the family history, either through development, the Depression, or family disputes. I wager that you have a similar history in the living memory of your family. Just ask your oldest uncle and see.

But although this family land was loved and lost and is now just a memory, it doesn’t detract any value from the land we love and live on now. Jason and I are building a legacy, however long or short-lived it may be, one that we hope our children will love as much as we do. We believe that this legacy will stand the test of time because we are tied to the land, but more importantly, because of what the land means to us.

Our land means life. It means meat and vegetables raised in the healthiest possible way. It means medicine. It means joy watching the leaves change and the pigs farrow and the cows calve. It means memory. Yes, already there is memory here. The trees speak of it and earth remembers. The patch of ground where we said our vows and committed our lives to each other remembers and reminds us. Sacred ground where animals have bled, we have also bled. We use the earth but it also uses us. It takes over our old things, and conquers even the toughest changes we make. And we speak back to it, and ask to use this space for a while, to carve out a place for our children, and our children’s children, and beyond. This land will always be here, until the end of the earth. It will change and morph and gather new history once we are gone, but it will still remember.

Our land is our life. We work on it, live on it, love on it, and one day we plan to die on it. It is the full circle that after two years we have already come to see as what unifies us in all things.

And so even though we start fresh in this land, as First Generation farmers, we are also so much more. We are Future Generation Farmers. We create now what we hope will support and care for our grandchildren, and theirs.  We give as much life as we can in all that we do. It’s a fair trade, because we certainly take as well.

It our most sincere hope that this land will hold a place in the genetic memory of our babies. Science recognizes that the unique microbes existing in certain locations colonize and proliferate inside the bodies and digestive tracts of animals living there (contributing to immunity). So our children (and ourselves) will have a very real biological connection to this place, to these humble and bountiful 16 acres. To me this is epic. An epic connection to an epic place, called home.

Two years ago when I said my vows to Jason, I promised many things. He spoke to me of the memories we’ve already made on this land, and what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. I said these words then, and I will say them again and forever mean them:

“I will always love you. Until I do not live. Until our children are all that is left of us, I will love you.”

And when the time comes that our children are all that is left of us, this land will live on, through them. This land, and the two farmers who lived their lives on it, will carry on.

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What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

For those of you raising chickens for the first time, or just for those of you who are interested in the way we do things around here, this video gives you a brief summary of what supplies you need to make sure that your little ones make it through the first days.

We just received our 204 Red Rangers in the mail (we ordered 200 but they often send extra), and they are all set up and safe in their brooder space. They have lights for warmth, food, water, and space to explore and interact with each other. They also have guard geese living outside their brooder, which is an old, truck camper shell with hardware cloth added. Check out the video below!

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Heifer vs. Cow: What’s the Difference?

Ruby is a cow, Dani is a heifer, and Johnny is a bull calf!
So, what’s the difference?

Holy Cow: A Calf is Born!

Last Friday, something amazing happened here at the homestead! Something we were anxiously waiting for… The birth of a calf!

Our calf was born early in the morning, around 5am. Jason and I were sleeping, and in the predawn we heard one loud, long moo. Jason got out of bed to look at the cows, and saw something laying in the grass next to Ruby. Luckily, we had just moved Ruby and Dani to a small area in our side yard, right by the house and within the light of the street lamp. This means we were able to watch the story unfold from our kitchen window without bothering the new family.

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Jason came to tell me that the calf was born, and together we watched as Ruby licked her baby to dry it off. After a few minutes, the baby started to wiggle, and we could tell that it was preparing to stand.

It is common for calves to stand in the first hour or so after birth, and considering their evolution as prey animals it makes great sense… Babies have to be up on their feet and ready to move from place to place in case a predator attacks the herd.

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In the early morning light it was difficult for us to see the baby very well, so after a little while we ventured outside to check on the calf and see how Ruby was doing. Dexter cattle are well known for their uncomplicated births, unlike most dairy and meat cows. These larger breeds need a great deal of assistance to birth without injury. This just goes to show you what overbreeding can do to such a normal process!

About an hour after the birth the calf arose on wobbly legs. It stood for a short moment and then tumble-walked downhill towards the edge of the fence. We were worried that it would roll out of the bottom of the high electric fence, so we added a few cattle panels to keep the baby inside the area that Ruby was confined to. By the time we were done with this task, about an hour later, the baby was walking well and had even started to get interested in nursing. What exciting news!

Over the course of the next few hours, the baby dried off (with the help of Ruby’s tongue) and we could see the color of its coat… It is red like Ruby’s! And then, we could finally see the sex of the baby…

A baby bull! And then the name brainstorming began!

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I originally wanted to call him Prince (in honor of well, you know, Prince), but it just didn’t quite fit. So now he has the nickname of The Ungulate Formerly Known As Prince.

And then yesterday when we were watching him clumsily frolic around the yard, I yelled “run, Johnny, run!” And that was it. Perfect name for a perfect little baby.

So our lovely, little, healthy bull calf is Johnny. And that Johnny sure can run!

Of course there will be many more pictures and videos forthcoming…

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Ducklings and Goslings Tour the Yard

This video shows you typical duckling and gosling behavior!

Sometimes we let the little buggers (literally, bug hunters!) out for a chance to roam free. We still have to keep an eye on them because they are small enough to be hurt by a larger chicken or taken by a hawk (especially the ducklings). Today they got a solid 2 hours of freedom out in the yard, where they enjoyed chasing bugs, sun bathing, chowing down on seed heads, and drinking from random puddles of water!

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Meet the Gosling Quartet…

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Our 4 goslings.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know that we recently received our Embden goslings in the mail. You also know that even though we ordered 10, we were only shipped 4. Sad news for us!

We ordered a “straight run” from Murray McMurray Hatchery which means that they were not sexed to determine how many males and females were in the bunch. Ordering them this way is cheaper, and since we only wanted to keep 2 males and 2 females to add to our breeding flock (and eat the rest), we figured that ordering 10 would ensure that we got what we wanted. Unfortunately, now that we only have 4 (apparently the hatchery has experienced lower hatch rates than expected and they will not send us the other 6), we are going to have to just wait around and hope that we have at least 2 males in the bunch. The 4 geese that we have now (only one of which is an Embden) are all females, a fact that we weren’t certain of until recently!

This is our second time this year that our shipments of birds were delayed or altered (beginning with our turkeys). Although the whole thing is disappointing, we’re just going to have to make due with what we’ve got!

So now we have another goose quartet, this time one that is filled with lots of fuzzy cuteness. Goslings are by far our favorite babies (I honestly enjoy them more than the piglets, to be honest)! They have such personality even at a few days old, and the fact that they imprint on the animal nearest them when they are born, makes me excited to hatch our own future geese and have them be best friends and adventure partners to our children! Geese are super loud and can flog any animal with such intensity that I am inclined to think them just as protective as dogs.

Our goslings are already “fussing” at us when we come over to visit them, just as adult geese do–bending down and stretching their necks out at you while honking.

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The “fussing” posture!

We’ve let them out in the yard (supervised, of course) to roam around and they enjoy eating grass and seed pods. What self-sufficient little marvels!

They will probably outgrow their current home in a few weeks, and then they will probably get to go live with the other geese and ducks. We’ll see!

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Jenny Wren Babies in Their Nest!

What a wonderful sight to see, when you come out of your front door… A little nest filled with little tiny babies!

This nest has been occupied for 3 years, same nest and same plant. The jenny wren love their home here!

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Maternal Magic: Pig Preparing to Give Birth

Today one of our sows is preparing to go into labor. She knows just when the time is right and she starts to make the bed on which she will labor and give birth. It is a ritual, really, a dance. Just like human women, when allowed to labor in natural, animal ways, her female body knows just what to do and when to do it.

She’s nesting, just like women often do before labor!

I find this video to be magical, since it is the first proof that birth is sure to begin soon… How exciting!

Check out our pot belly pig, Thelma, as she prepares her nest for her babies…

Notice that at the end of the video, she has her eye on the tarp, and starts to rip it to shreds. Her instincts are telling her that that blue flapping thing is a perfect addition to her babies’ nest!

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Meet the Baby Turkeys!

We recorded this video today… The turkeys are doing very well and are the friendliest birds that we’ve ever had! They even try to follow you out of their pen!

Check it out…

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Baby Ducks On An Outdoor Adventure!

Our newest addition to the homestead, our Hybrid Layer and Cayuga ducklings, finally got to explore the outside world for the first time! When they are a little bit older, we plan to keep them in their newly finished shed/house during the night, and every morning usher them out to a pen so they can enjoy the world and the sun!

We tried our hand at herding them for the first time the other day, to see if they would be easier to herd than our Khaki Campbell ducks. They did super well, and were so excited to leave their cage and find new bugs to eat and rocks to peck at!

We herded them to a small, exposed space with one of the kiddie pools inside. It was filled with water, and the ones that could figure out how to get inside had a great time… Diving under and splashing water everywhere.

Check out this video for the full experience… Beginning with their first glimpse of beyond the cage and ending with wet and sloppy babies!

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