Well it has been a long time in between blog posts, but that has been because we have simply been so busy on the farm. Spring came early to the mountains of North Carolina, so we really didn't get much of a winter break.
We have been working on the house a bunch. Most of the light fixtures are in, but the biggest news is that we have a brand new hardwood floor now. We went with locally milled #2 Hickory in 3-, 4-, and 5-inch widths with Southern Cypress in the bathroom. Neither of us had ever put down hardwood before, so it went pretty slow. Hickory is the hardest domestically produced wood for flooring, so the cheap hardwood flooring nailer we used jammed a lot. A whole lot. Our best day we put down around 150 square feet, which is about half the rate of a professional. About as good as we could expect to do. The Southern Cypress was very easy to put down, as it is much softer. We chose it for its superior water and rot resistance.
A few weeks ago, we bought 4 jersey/holstein cross dairy calves. I know I have said before that we were not going to do that again. I wish I had heeded my own advice. We lost 3 of the 4 to E-Coli. Matt and I spent over a week tube feeding and giving large doses of antibiotics to no avail. This was one of the most heartbreaking times I have had farming. We did absolutely everything we could, but it hit so fast. A calf would be fine one day, and the next morning unable to take milk. I found it interesting that the youngest calf was the one that made it. We got him off the farm when he was hours old, while the others were at least several days old. I have a theory that the ones that were at the dairy longer simply had more time to be exposed. The scary thing is how antibiotic-resistant things like E-Coli have become. Dairies use antibiotics in almost everything they feed a calf, so when they actually need them, they simply don't work or provide little relief. So, lesson learned. Commercial dairies are never getting any calf business from me again. I took too much of a loss, and the suffering and loss of life was too much.
On the bright side, we sold off two of the older Jersey/Holstein steers and bought two nanny goats and their four kids, and a 5-month-old Black Baldie heifer we have named Panda. Hank the Dexter bull is very curious about the new lady in the pasture. Unfortunately, we have her put up in a pen until she is weaned. We got her from a neighbor whose fence line adjoins ours. The first time he delivered her, she ran through five fences and back home to mama. We are going to leave her in there for a few weeks with all she can eat until she is fully weaned and eating out of our hands.
Bessie the Dexter had a bull calf back in December that has grown off really well. Unfortunately, during the time we were dealing with sick dairy calves, Bessie sprained her ankle and gave us quite a scare. We put her up for awhile, and she got over it, but it was really stressful to have my boss cow hurt like that. I was relieved it wasn't broken. Dexter cattle are such happy little cows that even if they are heavily pregnant (thankfully she wasn't at the time), they will run downhill doing the happy cow dance. There isn't much you can do about it, but it scares me that they will hurt themselves to a possible fatal degree.
We are going into the pig raising business this year. Gertie is over 500 pounds now, and we will hopefully be taking her over to the neighbors to get bred really soon. I tried to sell her because I didn't think I would have the time to fool with piglet raising this year, but I have folks calling me and saying they can't find piglets anywhere and offering $75 a piece!
Back on the house front, we are ordering our solar panels next week. We are getting two panels for a total of 460 watts of solar power. Since all our light fixtures are 12 volt LEDs, even if I have every light fixture turned on, we will only be using slightly more than 100 watts. We still have a few expensive things to buy for the solar, like the battery bank and charge controller, but we are getting there. All told, counting the solar hot water set up, we will have about $1,800 in our solar set up, including some 12 volt outlets in the house. Our television is going to be 12 volt, and I will be able to use the system for my laptop and tablet as well as charging batteries and the cell phone. It will be nice to have some back up power for the chest freezer as well. In a grid down situation, it will at least give me some time to pressure can what is in the freezer. Also, we can have backup power for the electric fence and such.
Oh, and other good news includes a hatch of baby ducks and three or four more ducks sitting!