Tag Archives: australian shepherds

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

 

A lot has happened on the farm since my last post, so here’s an update on the goats, strawberries, vines and bees.

Quizno, our buck,  was happily reunited with the does at the end of the June. Sara says that not only was Quizno elated but the ladies were pretty darn happy to see him, as well. They

photo 2

are now enjoying the ample grass and forage in their new field and, hopefully, all or some of the does are already carrying their next offspring.  The average gestation period for meat goats is 150 days, which means we should start having kids on the ground around December 1 (hopefully, we won’t have an arctic blast during kidding as we had this year!).IMG_4377

This year’s crop of does are continuing to grow (especially their ears) and entertain us with theirIMG_4392 antics. You can see Apple’s ear taking off as she and her friends race down the hill to greet Sara (hum, does Sara have treats in her pocket?). Annabeth is the adorable kid playing hide and seek inside the tree and in the next photo, her friend, ShyGirl, is trying to squeeze in with her.

IMG_4390

Snickers and Doodle are continuing to work as a team to round up the kids for us. This is tremendously helpful when we need to catch them for worming, hoof trimming, or any other reason. Check out this very short video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5iR4oBrgWU&feature=youtu.be. Once they have them corralled Snickers patrols the perimeter like a herd dog should, while Doodle prefers to pass out kisses to any goats that are willing. It’s a tough life for dogs and goats at MFF!

DSC_0037

Our strawberry season was shorter than anticipated due to the rains in early June. We were hoping our ever-bearing plants would make a comeback and produce a July crop but sadly it didn’t happen. We still have plenty of berries in the freezer for our spreads so I’m making it as fast as I can! We sell it at the Fluvanna Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, Farmers in the

IMG_7256

Park on Wednesday, and the UVA Market on Thursday. This week we introduced a sampler pack which includes three 4 oz. jars--one of each flavor and it sold out in no time. It’s a great choice if you can’t decide which flavor you like best or as a gift pack (great alternative to a bottle of wine).

In addition to all the traditional uses, we’re discovering lots of new ways to enjoy strawberry spread. Our friend, Mark, served 4th of July ribs cooked with a sauce made from our Strawberry Balsamic spread. I’m trying to get the recipe but Mark’s not a recipe kinda guy -- we’ll see. He also made a chicken marinade by combining Strawberry Vanilla and tomatillo sauce. Daughter Amy created a summer cocktail by combining Strawberry Lavender spread and vodka, then adding sparkling water, and finishing it off with a sprig of mint. Thursday a group of ladies were excited about scones and strawberry spread—a little afternoon tea? And, of course a super simple dessert is topping your favorite ice cream with Strawberry Vanilla spread. If you’ve got a recipe using any of our strawberry spreads, send it to me (with pictures, if possible) and we’ll share it!

photo 1

The vines are prospering and look beautiful! It looks like we had minimal damage from the winter this year (those burning hay bales must have helped)! Our new sprayer and spray program are doing great and the irrigation system for Block A and Block B are photo 5operational. As of Friday, all 400 posts for the new vineyard, Block C, are in the ground---good work guys! Next, comes trellis wires and then irrigation to complete Block C.

The beehives are filling up with honey. Both hives now have two supers and the bees are starting to draw out the wax in the upper super. Its really amazing watching them work and seeing the growth of the honeycomb and development of the eggs. Cover crops and crop rotation are an important part of sustainable farming so Rick planted one of the empty berry fields with cover crops, buckwheat and clover, and the bees love it!

IMG_7246bees7.18.14
Remember to send us your Strawberry Spread recipes and photos!

For all its promise and beauty, spring in Virginia is quite fickle…

Every part of the farm is alive and showing growth.  The does are enjoying their lush new pasture and the kids are just plain cute! P1050806 P1050830

Isn't she adorable?

The bulbs and flowering trees are creating new displays of color everyday. 

P1050784

 

The bees are making honey and the frogs are reproducing (by the millions!)

IMG_5855

IMG_5869

Strawberry field #1 is packed with blossoms and field #2 has about 10,000 daughter plants!

IMG_5857

 

About the fickle part… 

The new vines are in the ground and we were starting to see bud break when a nasty cold front blew in freezing temperatures--not good for vines (strawberries are much hardier). We decided that our best preventative would be to strategically place round hay bales around the vineyard and create a smoke layer to insulate the ground (helicopters and wind machines are more effective but just a bit more costly).

IMG_5824

In the afternoon of Day 1, Bruce and Rick checked the wind direction and put 8 round bales in the vineyard (with the help of Snickers and Doodle), ready for lighting sometime around midnight. Unfortunately, in the process of igniting bales the truck got stuck in the mud, so it wasn't until about 2 am that they called it a night.

That just about finished off the farm's supply of old round bales so the next day we called friends and neighbors and located a large stash of really old musty bales, ours for the taking and burning—thank you, Channing!

IMG_5833

Again, we checked the wind and placed the bales. When we were almost done, we looked across the vineyard and noticed that we’d dropped a bale on a smoldering pile from the night before—oops! That one went up in smoke.

When Spring came to her senses and returned to central VA, we checked the vines and it looks like our big burns did some good, despite the 26F temperature-- only limited damage to the vines.

So, enough of the fickleness!  Like all farmers we want spring to bring rain (just enough), plenty of sun, and warm temperatures!

As I write this, our "just enough" rain has turned into 2" with another 2" possible--we might be needing rain boots for our goats!

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!