Destination: Pearl

The farm activities began before dawn Friday morning.  We woke the sleepy kids from their warm beds and informed them the moment had finally come!  It was time for our road trip to get Pearl.WP_20160129_16_18_29_Pro

With the suburban stocked with grain-free pumpkin muffins, coffee and water we rolled out of the driveway at 7:30am and met another farm couple (they also happen to have a large family and homeschool!) in Grand Forks, ND around 1pm.  We backed our trailers together to transfer Pearl safely from their trailer into ours.  Oh my, isn’t she cute?  She’s 6 months old which gives us plenty of time to work with her before we need to take on the tasks of selecting a bull, calving, and learning to milk.

After the 4.5 hour drive we figured the kids needed play time.  We spent a couple hours at the fitness center pool in Grand Forks to let them burn off excess energy before heading back home.

I couldn’t wait to get Pearl home safe and sound.  Even though I knew it was highly unlikely, all the time we were swimming I was nervous Pearl may somehow break out of the trailer and my sweet cow would be wandering the busy streets of Grand Forks!  I was happy to get back to the vehicle and find her mooing and eating hay in her trailer.  WP_20160129_16_18_52_Pro

We finally returned home after 10pm.  What a day!  9 hours in the suburban with 6 kids, getting our first cow ever, keeping track of everyone at the pool…needless to say we were exhausted!  It was a long, crazy, busy day but we accomplished our mission.  We now have our family cow and we adore her.

We went back and forth on what cow would be the best for our small farm.  At first I was insistent on a Jersey.  (Those big doe eyes!  Lots of milk!)  However the more we researched, the more we discovered the Jersey probably was not the right choice for our farm.  Most dairy breeds, like the Jersey, have been selectively bred to produce a large quantity of milk, usually on a grain diet.  And you know what?  Feeding grain to cows and overproduction of milk not only encourages mastitis and other health problems but is expensive, neither of which we want to deal with.

Ryan had heard of the Dexter breed of cattle and together we began to research.  The Dexter is a hardy, old fashioned, small breed of cattle that thrives on pasture alone and reputed to produce exceptional meat and milk.  This means they are easy-keepers for small farms and not so intimidating in size.  Pearl is actually 3/4 Dexter, 1/8 Jersey, and 1/8 Belted Galloway, which is where she gets her adorable white belt.  I’m hopeful this will be a nice mix!

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Pearl should top out at 3 gallons a day of rich milk, plenty for our family as well as her future calf, and all on free grass and sunshine.  What more could you ask a cow for?

Warmly,

Becca

 

 

 

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Our First Lambing!

Today was a special day here on the farm!  Our ewe, Olive, lambed!  We have a new ram lamb and he’s doing great!  The first thing ever to be born on our farm and it was a success!  Yay! 🙂

We had an inkling Olive was going to be ready to lamb today.  We had been watching her udder slowly expand the past couple days and this morning it was almost as big as Lyla’s who is nursing twins!  Hannah ran to check on her just before lunch and came back brimming with excitement!  She was certain Olive was in the process of lambing!  By the time I got out to the barn we could see hooves! WP_20160128_10_57_27_Pro After a few minutes Olive’s new lamb was born.  Olive immediately licked her little lamb clean and dry.  What a good mama!WP_20160128_11_03_14_Pro

We were told it’s important to give the new mom and lamb some alone time from the flock to bond.  Plus, I was worried the little guy would get stepped on by one of the other sheep.  I was still wondering how I would manage to separate the pair when the ram head-butted the poor baby because he got too close to the hay.  The little lamb fell right over!  I had to intervene.  I scooped up the still-goopy lamb and tried to coax Olive to follow me out of the stall.  Sheep hate to be separated from the flock and Olive is not our bravest ewe so she resisted my attempts, despite the fact I was holding her new lamb.  After several failed attempts I finally decided to try putting the lamb down in the new stall and backing away to give that nervous mama some space.  Olive anxiously looked for her lamb, peering out from the stall and calling for him.  He was giving little, tiny, newborn lamb baa-s in response.  Finally her mothering instinct overcame her fear and she ventured away from the safety of the flock and into the new stall where her helpless lamb was waiting.  I instructed the kids to close the stall door behind Olive but those sheep just cannot resist following each other!  The whole flock began to move behind Olive!  Noooo!  The kids began pushing the heavy door closed but only the ram, who probably had his head busy in the hay feeder, got trapped in.  Lyla, her lambs, and Poppy all managed to escape through the rapidly-closing door!

Lyla is our most fearless ewe and the leader of the flock so Hannah and I grabbed her lambs, put them back into the “home” stall and she easily followed me.  Success!  Now we just had shy Poppy to get back in, and it didn’t take her too long to realize she was safer staying with Lyla in the home stall.  We rolled the door shut and secured it.  PHEW!  Now we had successfully separated the new mama and her tiny lamb who still hadn’t had a chance to nurse.  He was lying down in the hay and looking very sleepy.  With all the time that had passed finagling the flock and with the cold temperature outside,  I needed to make sure he was up and nursing before leaving them.  Ignoring Olive’s stomping hoof I gently picked him up and placed him near his mama’s milk.  He instinctively began nosing and nudging and relief swept over me as he began to nurse.  Now I knew he was going to be warm and strong!WP_20160128_14_08_46_Pro  I went back later to bring some fresh water for Olive and I was delighted to see him nursing, fluffy-looking, and as cute as can be!          WP_20160128_14_07_10_ProGreat job, Olive!  We had all been excitedly waiting for this moment to come!  What a great experience and something I don’t think we’ll soon forget!

Warmly,

Becca

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to Little Arrows Farm!  I’m happy you’ve stopped by.  We decided to start this little blog to share what’s new on the homestead, what we’re learning, our livestock, food we are growing and producing, plans and progress on the old farmhouse remodel, raising our six kids on the farm and to simply document for ourselves this little dream that has finally come true!

We’d love for you to join us!

Why “Little Arrows?”

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  Psalm 127: 4-5

Our children are one of the main reasons we wanted to farm!  To get them into nature, learn new life skills together (many of these skills are no longer passed down from generation to generation!  We have to learn them together!), and of course be able to provide wholesome, healthy and real food for our whole family.

Several weeks ago we moved to a 10 acre hobby farm.  It needs work, but we are willing and excited to recreate it.  We have about 4 acres of woods, 5 acres of pasture, and plenty of space for gardens, chickens, honeybees and fruit trees.  We love the diversity of woods and pasture and think it’s just enough to get us started.

The transition from our cramped housing development to this 10 acre piece of country has been refreshing!  The views, the sky, the space to stretch out a little…the freedom!  It’s all still so new to us and there will be much more to explore when the spring arrives.

We have really hit the ground running!  Less than a week after moving we purchased a mini flock of sheep.  Now we are busy planning a new farmhouse kitchen and Ryan has some interior projects on his agenda like jacking up and leveling the kitchen floor, as well as a never-ending list for the barn, pastures and animals.  We are also about to add a heifer to our farm, making our flock a “flerd!”  Should be fun. 😉  But for now it’s time to get back to work. 🙂

 

Warmly,

Becca