SMCPC Midsummer III Announcement!

Share and share alike! The St Mary’s County pagan community welcomes friends, friends of friends and et cetera to come celebrate Midsummer with us! Follow the link for more information.

http://smpagans.blogspot.com/2018/04/midsummer-iii.html

Follow the blog for vendor updates, workshop information and more!

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Late Night Visits From Bobcat

It was a late evening like almost any other this time of year, cool with a damp wind that smells of earth and promises rain later. All the stock were sound asleep in their coop, hutches, or sheds. Nothing to indicate the presence of a potential predator.

Around 0230 (I know because I had to check twice…) I was dragged suddenly and unceremoniously out of sleep by the frantic whining and snarling of a very concerned mastiff. She was having something akin to a panic attack, I think, and after about 30 seconds of confusion (which is a very long time when you’re in the middle of it) I heard it. A barking bobcat.

Now wait a minute, bobcats don’t bark, right? Well, yeah they do. They bark as a way of testing the edges of their territory and to call out/size up and even invite (in certain circumstances) other bobcats. I’m not sure if I heard another one or not but once I realized what it was I knew I had to take a walk outside.

Now wait another minute… you went outside with a wildcat prowling? A- it was calling, not prowling. B- It’s a bobcat. Epekos is bigger, although the smaller cat would probably win in a fight between the two. The dog is large but the little bobcats are basically distilled viciousness blended with crazy if you push them to a fight. They’d much rather run, and may we all be truly thankful. So, weighing my chickens and rabbits and goat kids on one hand and possibly pissing off a nasty little cat on the other I grabbed my playing field leveler and walked outside.

Yes, I went outside and gave that cat a piece of my mind at full volume. Told it to heck off with all that noise and go eat the neighbors’ chickens instead.

You… yelled at it? And it worked? Yep, I was in a yelling match with a bobcat at 0230 this morning. Remember, bobcats are scary fighters but ONLY IF YOU CORNER THEM. At the sound of a challenge, each successive call was further and further away. Which is a good thing because if the first call was more than 30 feet from the henhouse I’d be surprised.

I *like* the local wildlife, even the wildlife that is potentially problematic. I’ve almost gotten used to hearing the coyote pack across the river. So far they haven’t made it to this side but it’s only a matter of time. Between the two, I’d rather have the bobcat. At least they’re still afraid of humans. We’re lucky enough to have some decent wood sward around the farms and between the useful, arable parts of the farms so while we can’t support very many of these predators they can coexist here, at least in small numbers. They stay away from the livestock and eat the rats, mice, moles, squirrels, snakes, and stray cats (FarmCat will be spending the night inside from now on.) instead. You could say that we have a truce. I wouldn’t have bothered this one at all except that it was getting too close to the chicken coop, and they’re more or less helpless, especially at night. Maybe the bobcat will decide that it likes the wooded strips around the farm, and all of the vermin that the farm attracts, and will stick around on the margins. It would keep the rats and wild rabbits and groundhogs under control AND keep the coyote pack at bay. I’m OK with this.

Me being me I decided to soothe my curiosity and see if there are any particular magical/superstitious/folkloric associations with bobcats. That got interesting. Apparently they bring the wisdom of knowing when to be silent, when to strike, and how to strike true. They also indicate that it’s time to take some time for yourself, as they are strictly solitary hunters.

Well… I really do need a vacation. But I already knew that.

((Edit because yes, it COULD have been a vixen scream from a fox… but I’ve heard those before and while they’re a special kind of spooky in the dead of the night, this call was a bit deeper and rougher sounding. I’m pretty sure it was, in fact, a bobcat.))

A Case Against Egg Waste

Hey there internet, long time no see. I’ll spare you all the stressful details about difficulties with baby rabbits and absconding beehives and focus on the current conundrum. I have 16 dozen sale-worthy eggs in my sales fridge right now.

That’s a lot of eggs.

But there are another 9 dozen non sale worthy eggs in the other fridge, our every day family groceries fridge. And that’s a problem. Let’s take a look.

Here is two days’ worth of fresh, free range farm eggs. Impressive, innit?

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Let’s get a close up of this farm fresh egg goodness, just because we can. Our girls do a mighty fine job. Appreciate the eggs, I’ll wait. OK, all done? Let’s move on.

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This right here is a bonafide AA Large Egg. It’s perfect, despite having come out of a chicken’s butt. What, you did know where eggs come from, right? This thing is perfect, but look back at the last couple of pictures. How many of those 4 dozen eggs are perfect? I’ll give you a hint: Not many. In fact nearly half of these will be rejected because they are oddly shaped, stained, or too small for my local market to want. Like these next photos.

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On the left, a lumpy egg. On the right, what we refer to as a torpedo. They taste just fine, there’s not a single practical thing wrong with them…. but they are technically Grade B and can not be sold. If I was commercial I’d have to figure out which hens are doing this consistently and remove them from the flock, then replace them with pullets that would hopefully lay Grade A or AA eggs. These eggs are waste, from a market perspective. I think they make pretty good omelets, sandwiches, and salad personally.

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Or this one. This egg is stained and no amount of soluble safe soap scrubbing is going to remove those stains. Shell is porous and it’s been muddy. Muddy chicken feet in the nest equals stained eggs…. but you want your eggs free range, right? Again, this egg will taste just fine fried up with breakfast. But I can’t sell it to you. Fortunately I can keep *most* of these from happening by keeping the nests full of fresh clean bedding. Unless the weather has been terrible stains aren’t normally an issue.

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So here’s the scary part. I’ve screened, date stamped (with food safe ink). weighed and sorted the whole haul. Now, given that the weather was really mucky and there are more stained eggs than normal, this does look worse than normal. It’s usually about 30%. But with the staining, half of this haul has to be rejected, some are misshapen, some are stained, some are too small to sell with any success because the local market wants big eggs and only big eggs. Seems pretty bad, huh? Well, it’s not as bad as it seems and here’s where we get to my REAL point. Keep scrolling.

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Buying your eggs locally goes a long way toward reducing TOTAL waste. Even though I can only sell you the eggs that make the grade- literally, they have to be Grade A or AA to sell- the rest of the eggs aren’t actually wasted here. There’s no law anywhere saying that I can’t eat the Grade B eggs myself, or use them to supplement feed for the four legged security system. What do you suspect a large scale producer does with the eggs they can’t sell? Yup. Trash heap.

For me this has just been one more piece of evidence in the pile for needing to move as much as possible in our everyday supply system back to small scale, local sources. Yes, it’s more expensive. Or is it?

Spring Kidding Part 2!

The rest of the girls have done their thing and Top Hat surprised us with a second kid! (They usually come one right after the other, there were some issues going on with the second one but through significant human effort he and his brother and their mother are all doing just fine.)

On to the pictures!

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This is the absolute star of this year’s show, Uru’s baby girl from the 28th of February. She’s just perfect, and she’s the only other girl in the entire bunch!

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Here’s Uru with her two, one perfect little girl and one perfect little cream colored boy. She may not be as impressive as her sister Flash but her kids are always AWESOME.

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This is Uru’s grandbaby, out of Sheba who is Uru’s daughter by the previous (now retired and gone) buck. Sheba had us all a little worried since she had her first kid waaaay too soon (there was an escape involved…) but she delivered twins and had them on their feet and nursing and was cleaning them off in record time.

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This is Sheba’s second baby- he’s stunning!

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Flash had some seriously flashy twin boys this year! One looks like he’s going to be a bright chestnut like her and the other is really hard to describe- hopefully I can get a picture of him soon. He’s black with patches of brown/black brindle-like coloring! I’ve never seen anything like it!

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Remember Top Hat and her big single? Turns out she had big TWINS. The second boy was malpresented and she needed some help to get him turned about the right way so she could deliver him. The poor guy had been stuck so long he was blue, but yours truly is not bad at this goat raising thing and was able to get the little guy breathing again. A few days after his very difficult birth he’s out in the field with mama and doing just fine.

Final count is ten boys, two girls out of six does. It’s way too early to tell the keepers from the meatloaf yet, so for now we’ll just sit back and enjoy watching the little guys. TV is for people who don’t have goats to watch.

Spring Kidding is Underway!

The girls are doing their thing!

First up was Sinter, the big BoKi doe now a veteran of many kidding seasons. She has a very handsome single buckling this year:

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Right next door in the other shed, her twin sister Kisswhere was busy with QUADS! Unfortunately only three of the four survived, we’re pretty sure that she just couldn’t get the fourth kid dry in time to save it from the cold, wet weather.

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And just this morning our Lamancha/Kiko doe Top Hat had her big boy. Look at those colors!

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That still leaves Sheba, Uru, and Flash, (our commercial Kiko girls) who I expect any day/hour/minute now.

Winter Wares

Well I’ve got the Yule tree up and the pelts all finished and the winter house plants all ready to go! Take a look in the ‘From the Farm’ section to see what’s waiting to find its way to you this season!

Please note that while pelts and even plants can be shipped, live animals require in -person pick-up or arranged in-person meeting to hand off the animal. I don’t ship critters.

Well hello, Fall. Took you long enough!

After a glorious and extremely busy Indian Summer, as they’re called around here, fall has finally brought us its first frost! So where have I been?

I’ve been rebuilding bee hives for new packages to arrive in spring.

I’ve been getting the last of the winter squash harvested and stored away.

I’ve been overseeing this year’s goat breeding.

I’ve been covering up the new rabbit cages so that the rain and wet can’t drip into the cage.

I’ve been acquiring rabbits.

I’ve been taking the mastiff on her first ever camping trip.

I’ve been acquiring Grinder’s replacement.

I’ve been planning Frost Fest and attending regular meetings and drum circles.

I’ve been attending an amazing goat nutrition workshop.

I’ve been panicking over the last cutting of hay that never got cut and is standing dead in the field.

I’ve been attending craft shows as a vendor.

I’ve been sub teaching.

I’ve been tanning the last of last year’s hides.

I’ve been saving seeds.

I’ve been making my first attempt at pemmican.

I’ve been learning to propagate fruit trees via stem cuttings.

I’ve been busy.

To really go into all of those things is far too much for one post. I’ll try to hit the highlights but a couple of things are going to get their own announcement posts as well.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Grinder is no more. The big bad jerkface of a goat has been sent to his eternal rest and his horns and skull are being cleaned for display, as they are impressive. He’s been replaced by a really spectacular 100% New Zealand Kiko named DAD Red Man, who came to us via Kidding Around Kikos near Raleigh, NC. The girls he’ll be covering are QRR Fred’s 50% daughters and they won’t be old enough until next year but y’all I am SO EXCITED to see what they produce.

Speaking of goats, all of this year’s crop has been spoken for. I’ll have a batch of hides to work with starting next week. We’ve worked out an arrangement with a second local custom processor who can turn your goat into chops and burger for you. (Please note, we’re not selling meat. We can’t. We will happily arrange transport to the custom processor, who also does not sell meat but processes an animal specifically for its owner. Maryland has very strict rules.) This processor will be kicking back any hides to me to tan. I’ve acquired an additional connection in that market as well, and anticipate being able to sell all of the pelts without any difficulty.

This was part of the conversation during breaks at the recent small ruminant nutrition and body condition scoring workshop that I attended (with a few of my does as practice animals) this weekend. I’m proud to say that my does were pronounced to be both beautiful and in great shape by people far more experienced than I am. Knowing something and having it validated are not the same thing, after all. I met some great people, made some good connections, and came out with a much better understanding of the way a goat’s entire feed intake- not just one aspect of it- can be balanced out for efficiency and performance. It was a very worthwhile drive.

I also found out at this same workshop (because many of the same people are also raising other livestock as well. It’s an ugly truth that you simply can’t make much money on small ruminants.) that rabbits fall under the same volume exemption as poultry. Since I sincerely doubt that I’ll be slaughtering more than 2,000 rabbits a year, I think it’s safe to say that yes, you can buy a rabbit from me and I will happily dress it out for you. First batch of kits from the new silver fox rabbits is expected in March, as well as the second batch of kits from the Giant crosses.

Can I just pause for a moment to express how psyched I am to have a breeding trio of Silver Fox Rabbits? They are beautiful, they are hardy, and they are a little bit of American history to add to my hutches. The breed is listed as “Threatened” by The Livestock Conservancy so I am quite honored to have some potential part in bringing them back. I really am very impressed by them. Go here to read up on why. I think I will go looking for a second, unrelated male in a year or so, after I build more hutches, apparently.

It’s the season for building and repairing, after all. Butchering is the last big step in the annual cycle of events, and there is a lot of prep work to do before soil tests/amendments, rabbit breeding, and kidding all start in February. There’s a huge section of fence to go in, garden boxes to be repaired, and better hutches to build. I got the current additional ones as part of the deal but they’re falling apart. The tannery and the Itty Baby Forge are calling my name.

The work never really ends. It’s rough right now because we’re still doing more building than maintaining. It’s going to stay rough until we shift to more maintaining than building, probably in the next three years, give or take. Happy Fall, y’all. It’s its own kind of busy.