Farm animals

You’ve already read a lot about our goats and you’ve met Snickers and Doodle, our Australian Shepherds, but lots of people want to know what other critters live on the farm. So, this blog is all about the non-human residents of Middle Fork Farm--horses, a mini-mule, cats, and chickens.

I’ll start with horses and introduce you to our newest barnyard resident, Cunningham (aka Charlie).

MiddleForkFarmAvery&Charlie

Cunningham is a Warmblood colt born on April 15 to my mare, Avery. He’s a big guy and quite rambunctious. We were lucky enough to get to watch his birth, which was really exciting. Avery is doing an amazing job as a first-time mom. She’s super attentive to Charlie, but perfectly happy to allow us in to handle and admire him.

MiddleForkFarmCharlie

 

MiddleForkFarmGracie

 

Avery’s herd-mates include Gracie, Isabelle, and Jackson.   Gracie is a registered Paint without any spots. This is known as a breeding stock horse. She’s a wonderful trail horse and even though she’s the smallest, she’s the alpha mare.

 

 

MiddleForkFarmIsabelle

 

Isabelle, another Warmblood, is my friend, Bennie’s, dressage and trail horse. She and Avery are best buddies and before Charlie, were always together.

 

 

Jackson, our clever and precociousMiddleForkFarmJackson mini-mule has experience as a foal-nanny and can't wait to play with Charlie.  Last fall he discovered a way to escape through the electric fence. After we caught and returned him several times, he decided he didn’t need an escort and as soon as we got close, he’d take off and put himself back in the pasture.

 

Keeping the horses company in the barn are our 5 wonderful barn cats. They are friendly and earn their keep as incredible hunters! Two years ago a neighbor gave us Jewel and her week-old kittens. All are solid grey. Two, Subway and Pepper, went to live with Sara and Rick (really with Laura and Maya), one went to a friend, and other two stayed with us. As they were identical, it seemed only appropriate to name them Darryl and Darryl.

MiddleForkFarmGrayCats

 

MiddleForkFarmLarry

 

 

And, since we had Darryl and Darryl we needed a Larry (see Bob Newhart show). Larry is either trying to roll over on the top fence board or following someone around. He was with us to watch Charlie’s birth!

 

 

IMG_8713

 

Ty Kitty is our last addition. She was a rescue after Sara’s friend found her stuck in the engine of her car. She was a tiny kitten when we got her and has since grown into a beautiful fluffy cat determined to catch the birds in the rafters of the barn (totally impossible!).

 

 

Twelve laying hens round out the barn. We do love our fresh eggs but have discovered the origin of the expression "dumb cluck."  Recently we added 7 Cochin hens to our flock.  I was warned that this variety likes to "sit" (i.e. sit on eggs and try to hatch them, even if they're not fertile).  It was certainly not an understatement. How many chickens do you see in this box?

MiddleForkFarmCochins

The answer is 3.

If you’ve been following us, you know our goat herd has grown. Most of the kids have moved on to new homes, but we added 7 doelings from this year’s group to our herd. We do have our last 3 bucklings are for sale (for more information contact Sara at 540-540-424-3986).  Two of the bucklings (now wethers i.e. neutered males) are 4-H market projects and will be for sale at the Fluvanna Fair in August. Quizno, our buck, will be with us through this year’s breeding season.

MiddleForkFarmDoelings

Snickers and Doodle haven’t gotten into any trouble for awhile, although Doodle did present us with a dead raccoon this week—it is the beginning of raccoon and possum hunting season for Snickers and Doodle (mostly Doodle). They had their spring buzz-cut and, as you can see, look like puppies with big feet.

MiddleForkFarmAussies

Strawberry News

The berry fields are looking quite white with blooms. We will be opening for Pick Your Own on Sat. May 23 and continue to be open on Sat. and Sun. through June (maybe even July, depending on the weather).  Exact dates and times will be posted on our Facebook page. If you have a group of 10 or more, we will schedule a special private picking for you during the week.

Please come visit us, pick some berries, meet Snickers and Doodle, and enjoy a picnic by the creek.

MiddleForkFarmBerries

 

The peepers are chirping, the daffodils are up, and the trees are showing their colors--spring has come to central VA!  But, along with spring comes spring work, and this year it’s compounded by tasks we weren’t able to get done during out snowy, wet, and ridiculously cold winter.   So, this past week we were busy in the vineyard, berry patch, and barnyard.

To begin, we had 4,330 new bare root vines arrive—our new varieties, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Cab Franc, as well as replacement vines for plants we lost during 2013.   Normally, we would have already set the poles for the new vines but this year, we were lucky to just get the IMG_5737new two-acre section ready to plant.   This is a multistep process…ripping then rototilling the soil and then digging a trench for irrigation pipe and laying the pipe.  Once this was accomplished the rows were staked and marked with string for straightness and the location of each plant was marked (yes, that’s a lot of marks!). Finally, holes were dug and our new vines were planted in their homes.

Once that was done, each new vine got a bamboo stick and a grow tube to protect it from the ever present and ever hungry deer, as well as other hazards.  The grow tube also acts as a miniature green house and keeps the young plant warm.  Next week we’ll get started on the posts and the trellis wires and in about 2 weeks we hope to have bud break!

And, the strawberries should be budding soon, too. Last fall we covered all our berries with hay to protect them froIMG_5588m the winter weather so we’ve been uncovering them and cutting them back to prepare for their new growth.   Rick’s also preparing berry field #2 for the daughter plants.  We’re expecting A LOT of strawberries starting mid to end of May and continuing through July. Beginning in June, our berries will be available at the Fluvanna’s Farmer Market (www.facebook.com/pages/Fluvanna-Farmers-Market-Pleasant-Grove/368116841344) on Tuesdays, Farmers IMG_5638in the Park (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Farmers-in-the-Park/81048539935)  on Wednesdays, some Saturdays at the City Market (http://www.charlottesvillecitymarket.com/), Salt Artisan Market (http://saltcville.com/), local restaurants, as well as on the farm during TBA Pick Your Own days.

S0070194Goats unlike plants have a lot of opinions. Much to the dismay of the moms and kids we weaned the baby goats. There’s really no way to do this without a lot of unhappy, noisy goats.  Our plan was to move the does to a different field and confine the kids inside the barn, aka Goat Palace, for a couple of days.   We were hoping to separate them by more than a fence for a couple days.  No one was happy, but it appeared all was well until 11 pm, when I looked out the window and saw kids in the field.  Bruce and I promptly changed from our PJs to barn clothes and went out.  It was like the first day of school for new moms and toddlers…all the does were on their hind legs and emotionally calling, “Buttercup, Peanut, Apple…” while all the kids were on their side of the fence crying, “Mom, don't leave me!”DSCF0184

 

We started to catch the kids one by one and put them back in the Goat Palace until there were about 6 nimble kids left.  After running in circles and tripping over ourselves (it was dark!) and goats, we realized that once we returned them to the Goat Palace there was nothing to prevent them from escaping through our clearly ineffective “kid proof ” fencing again.  We gave up, opened the gate and got back in our PJs.

Thinking we were really done for the night, Bruce went to brush his teeth and discovered we didn’t have any water—some nights just go on forever!  The problem wasn’t in the cottage so back into our photobarn clothes to find the problem.  It seems that Jackson, our adorable but precocious mini-mule, had opened a hydrant in the field and drained our well.  Fortunately, after we locked the hydrant, our well refilled relatively quickly!

On Saturday, we said good-bye to all of our boy kids and two of the girls.  The doe kids staying on the farm were again noisy as their siblings and friends departed but seemed to quickly forget when thIMG_5768ey realized that the dinner table was much less crowded.

All in all, it was a productive week with just enough comic relief.

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This is not the post I planned to write today—I planned to write about making strawberry fruit spread at the Prince Edward Cannery, and I will but first, how to de-skunk a dog…

Tuesday is yoga night so Bruce and I were pretty relaxed when we made the mistake of thinking we could add Internet service to the farm’s new IPad quickly & maybe watch an epiSnickers&DoodleSnowsode of Chopped.  An hour into my phone conversation with tech support, Snickers and Doodle, our wonderful but precocious Australian Shepherds appeared on the deck after cruising the farm.  It took Bruce only one whiff to know who they’d been hanging out with.  We ignored them and continued with our futile tech support call knowing it was going to be a long night.  Finally, after almost 2 hours we got to the fun task of de-skunking our favorite canines.

If you’re wondering, tomato juice does not work!  But, we do have a recipe that works. We found it on-line years ago so I no longer have the link but I keep it on my phone as a Note – you never know when you’ll need it

De-Skunking RecipeDe-skunk

1 qt. 3% hydrogen peroxide

¼ c baking soda

1 tsp dish soap

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bucket. We use one recipe per dog
  2. Wet the lucky pooch
  3. Wear rubber gloves and use a sponge to apply the solution (we pour any extra over the dogs as a top dressing)
  4. Rinse, sniff, and repeat

We live in a small cottage so washing stinky dogs in the house is not an option.  Fortunately, our horse barn has a wash rack with warmish water.  It was 350 F outside so we prepared the first batch, bundled up, and with dogs mistakenly excited about our late night walk headed for the barn.

We woke the horses, mini-mule, and chickens but the barn cats, Jewel, Larry, Darryl, and Darryl, were happy to see us. We sealed all the exits—there would be no escaping!  I held and Bruce de-skunked Snickers first.  She was definitely more stoic about it—and stinkier! Doodle was sure it was the end of the world as she knows it, but Doodle is a professional worrier.  The cats gathered around and supervised.

Around midnight, our overalls were in the laundry, Snickers and Doodle were happily tucked in their crates and we capped the evening with yesterday’s Daily Show.

Today we bought 6 more quarts of hydrogen peroxide—skunk season has just begun!