Bullet is our blue merle-colored Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Different than the Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s that you see more commonly, Cardigan’s are a larger breed with larger ears and they have a tail. Bred as a sheep herders, his favorite game is to try and gather all the neighborhood kids playing in the yard by nipping at their heels. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, but when the kids are running his natural instincts come out. Interestingly though he is wonderful with the farm animals. While he will chase the goats sometimes when they are running around to join in the fun, I have never seen him nip at their heels and is a wonderful guardian to the chickens. I’ve had a few dogs in my life, and Bullet is by far the best dog ever. He’s my constant companion and I adore him.
Louie is a sorrell quarter horse gelding with some serious ‘cow’ bloodlines. He’s got a few brands on him, and one is a number 8, which I’ve been told means at some point in his life he probably worked a dude ranch or someplace like that. While we anticipated he would be a great ‘cow’ horse for my team penning aspirations I think he may turn out to be a better cutter. He’s turned out to be a better all-around horse that I could have hoped for and I can happily ride him as and so can all of my kids. He’s a horse that can read people well and adapts to each person’s abilities.
Jive was my beautiful quarter horse mare. I had to put her down this July. You can read about the tragic event here. We called her B.A.D. for short, which stands for Big-Ass Dunn, since her favorite place was at the feed trough. My friends Terry & Randy found for me in Idaho with great ‘cow’ bloodlines (which means that she had some proven winning bloodlines in western events such as team penning and cutting)
. She’d won some big western events before coming to me and was an extremely well-trained and well-rounded horse. I’ve got aspirations of competing in team penning one day, and she had enough spunk to keep me on my toes, and enough training in her to not make me look like a complete idiot. She was beautiful and loving. I owned Jive for 5 years and I miss her. I will never be able to replace her.
Melina is a Nigerian Dwarf goats that I bought in the early spring of 2009. I bought her together with her best friend, Cissy, who passed away after childbirth in May of 2011 from toxemia. They were not sisters but were raised together and were inseperable. Although Cissy was very standoffish when I was picking them out at the breeders, within a few days of settling in she was far and away the more loving of the two, which just means that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Goats are extremely loving, adore attention, scratches and treats. They are very social animals and like most herd animals, would be very unhappy without others of their kind for companionship.
On May 16th Cissy gave birth to two beautiful doeling kids (that means they were girl baby goats). We named them Grace and Kiki. Bottle feeding them has been fun, challenging and very time-consuming, but I adore them. We plan on keeping them both. Their mom, Cissy, died from toxemia 3 days after the birth after a valiant struggle. It was absolutely heartbreaking to lose her, but she left me with two glorious gifts.
Although Cissy and Melina had always lived quite happily in my small barn together with the chickens, I recently merged my two chicken coops together and there was no room left for the goats! They lived in a giant doghouse I bought to temporarily house them, and they recently moved into the new goat barn I had built Their brief stay in the doghouse is over.
I have just added a Tennessee Fainting goat to my herd. She’s still an adolescent, and she’s very petite and delicate. She was extremely shy when I brought her home, as she was raised on a fairly large meat goat farm and had not had a lot of human interactions, every day she gets more social. We’ve named her Princess Kate, as I picked her up from Maryland on the day of the royal wedding.
I started raising chickens probably 9 or 10 years ago. My coop was an old playhouse my kids didn’t use anymore and that worked very well. I’m in the process of building a new larger coop and all the girls are very excited about this. Chickens make great pets, are easy to take care of, enoyable to watch, and once you’ve eaten a freshly laid egg you’ll never want a factory-farmed store-bought one again. I’m selling my eggs locally for the first time this year, which is very exciting. It’s wonderful to be able to provide fresh, truly free-range eggs to people.
I’ve had many different varieties of chickens over the years and still don’t have a favorite. I’m always experimenting with new breeds. I love all the different colors and sizes of chickens and the different colored and sized eggs that each provide. It’s true about the old saying that ‘chickens always come home to roost’; no matter how far into the yard or the neighbor’s yard they’ve traveled in a day, by sundown they are all back in the coop for the night. They have social groups or “chick cliques” as I call them, and they tend to roost in the same positions every night, which is, I suspect, where the term “pecking order” came from.
I usually order day-old chicks from poultry suppliers, but have also had a wonderful time hatching my own eggs in my incubator. It is very exciting for the kids to watch and partake in this exciting process. I firmly believe that happy animals mean healthy animals. So far that has proven to be true for me. I treat my animals extremely well and they love me and trust me. In return they all give me great joy and eggs too!
Last year we added a top bar beehive to the farm with very exciting results. Top bar hives are very different from traditional box hives that you normally see in that they are completely natural. The bees make all of the honeycomb themselves in the way nature intended them to. Somehow this equates to happier bees. I rarely have to wear protective gear when handling the hive, once again proving the point that treating animals in a kinder, gentler way produces happy, healthy animals.
While top bar hives will yield less honey than a traditional box hive, the sacrifice seems worth it to me. Bees are extremely easy to keep and maintain and are perhaps the most fascinating creatures with an incredible social infrastructure. There is definitive proof that if you suffer from allergies, eating as little as a teaspoon of honey a day produced by local bees will greatly diminish your allergies.