This winter many parts of the country have been entombed in bitter cold, and record snowfall. As such, I’m almost afraid to say that so far our winter has been incredibly mild. We have had a few storms pass through, but our temperatures have been spring-like for weeks, soaring past the 80-degree mark for a number of days this month.
The advantage of our unseasonably warm winter has been that we’ve been able to cross some projects off the list during our relatively quiet time of year.
Our first priority this season was to install a new dedicated hay storage shed.
The shed was installed a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, which gave me some time to actually get a coat of paint on it before the next round of rain. I used this as an opportunity to test out a potential new house color, as I figure it’s much easier to repaint a shed if I hate the color, than repaint the entire house! After a few tries, I finally found a yellow-based color I like, and it’s so much cheerier than the drab tan our house currently is. Hopefully this summer we’ll get the house painted to match.
It was a tremendous relief to have the shed in place, so our stored hay could finally be moved out of the workshop, and it also holds a lot more bales of hay than we could store before. At least this year, if we find good hay with the ongoing drought, we can stock up!
Another task was to get some of the garden areas spruced up. The native garden area in front of the house was getting rather overgrown, so it was good to beat back some rampant growth before the plants bloom and push new growth in the spring.
After their hair cut our native deer grasses (Muhlenbergia rigens) look a little Dr. Seuss-esque at the moment, but they’ll look better once the new growth pushes in.
The native sages, and monkeyflower were so overgrown in this part of the garden, that I’d almost forgotten what our fountain in the garden looked like, but after some weeding and trimming at least now I don’t wince every time I walk up to the front door.
Last year we installed a new low retaining wall along the edge of the workshop, and we planted that area with a mix of native sages, deer grass, lavender, and rosemary, all of which are quite deer-proof here.
This newly planted area is directly opposite the goat pasture, but even after we’d planted everything, it still felt like there was something missing. Even though it’s a rare occurrence here, it seemed this would be a great place to sit down, and relax. Somewhere to watch baby goats bouncing around in the green grass.
After some hunting, I finally found a bench that looked like it would fit in perfectly.
We’ve tried some more economical benches in some of our previous gardens, but they never seemed to hold up for more than a season or two, so this time we chose to go with a more traditional and robust teak garden bench, and even had it customized with the Farm’s name.
This bench is as sturdy as it is beautiful, and we’re looking forward to getting some very good use out of it this spring, and for many more to come!
However, before we can sit in the sun and relax, we decided that this year we really needed to bring some younger poultry stock to the farm. Our existing flock of hens is aging, and eggs aren’t as plentiful as they once were. We also lost the Farm’s iconic Dark Brahma rooster, Frodo, in December during one of our severe storms, and the farm just hasn’t been the same without him.
So, in early February, we brought some new chicks to the farm. We were so enamored with Frodo, and his gentle demeanor, that this time we chose to go with an entire flock of pure Dark Brahma hens, and a replacement Dark Brahma rooster.
This is a slow-to-mature breed, so it will be some months before the new ladies start to lay eggs, but hopefully by late summer this new flock will begin to lay, and we’re really looking forward to seeing them all feathered out later this spring!
In the meantime, the goats are looking as if they’re about to burst as we prepare for our 2015 kidding season. This year, though, we have some additional spectators on the farm, who perhaps are also anticipating our new spring goat kids. Since mid-late January we’ve had a number of encounters with Mountain Lions. Until recently we’d only ever seen a single Mountain Lion on the farm. However, in January, Mr. CV encountered not one, but TWO, lions just outside on the slope near the back door to the house. He was taking the dogs out for one last evening trip, and suddenly noticed he was being watched.
After that encounter I deployed our remote critter camera, to see if these big cats were just passing through, or if they were spending more time here than we realized. After a couple of additional encounters since then, where the lions somehow managed to evade the camera, a few nights ago we finally captured this footage…
Interestingly enough, the first lions (in the photograph above) were not wearing tracking collars, but the cat on the video can clearly be observed wearing a tracking collar, and is being tracked by the Santa Cruz Puma Project. This cat was obviously very VERY interested in one of our turkey pens, and between this collared cat, and the pair observed in January, we’re starting to think the farm has become quite popular with the local predator population. Its efforts were unsuccessful this time though, as we do strive to build robust pens here to protect our animals, but we have changed our chore routine on the farm, and now all farm chores are completed before sunset, and not started until well after sunrise. This definitely is less convenient, especially during the shorter winter days, but for now, it’s a necessity.
However, these recent Mountain Lion sightings here do finally help to explain our absence of deer that I posted about in December. I knew something was amiss. I have little doubt that our missing deer herd is due at least in part to the increased presence of these cats, and perhaps because the deer are now gone, our livestock and poultry are looking that much more interesting to the cats that wander through.
I’m not sure why there’s suddenly so much increased lion activity here, and I admit, it is truly awesome to see these lions up close, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m also a little concerned. With kidding season upon us, we’re going to have to be extra aware of our surroundings, and ensure that our herd is protected and safe.
With the hay shed installed, and the workshop now devoid of hay, this season we moved the kidding stalls up to the workshop as it’s closer to the house, so we can limit the amount of running around in the dark on the farm when the does are in labor at all hours. New stall mats and pens were installed, and a brand new barn camera system was configured over the pens.
Yesterday morning, the first doe scheduled to kid, Lotus, was moved up to her new private suite, along with Minnie for company.
Lotus is due to kid Friday, just in time for another round of rain to move onshore, so hopefully her kidding will be uneventful, and soon we’ll have the first 2015 babies of the season to show you!
For now though, Lotus is relaxing in her stall, and enjoying some peace and quiet. I just wish I could say the same, but my chore list is never complete, so before the kids arrive I should probably get back to work!