Happy Holidays from Square Peg Farm!

christmas_ farmThanks so much for following along all year long. We appreciate every click, comment and “like” we receive. Mostly we keep this blog as a sort of journal for ourselves so that we can look back over projects that have succeeded, and those that have failed, and make plans for future projects. Its been such a fun surprise to find that we have “followers” and regular readers. Its really neat knowing that when we learn something new on the farm there are other people out there learning through us. Hopefully we can help prevent you from making some of the mistakes we have made, or at least let you know what you are getting yourself into!


From our family to yours we hope you have a Happy Holiday and a Wonderful New Year!


Right now our farm is full of little families as all the babies from the spring are still sticking tight to their mommas and their siblings. But not everyone has their own babies and sometimes every momma needs a break.


Thelma is one of our angora goats that became temporary residents of the farm over the winter. Eventually she and her two angora buddies will go live at my parents’ farm but until they get their fencing up we are happy to provide them green pastures and lots of interspecies buddies. Thelma hasn’t been bred in a few years and, because she isn’t registered, probably won’t be bred again. That doesn’t mean she has lost the mothering instinct, though! Each night we go out to make sure the chickens are safely in their coop for the night and lock the door to keep them safe. Normally, chickens instinctively return to the coop to roost in the evening- its so easy! This batch of chickens, though, has decided that they prefer to sleep with their buddy Thelma.


Unfortunately, Thelma sleeps in the pig pen (that’s another story…) which isn’t secure against raccoons or other predators who might be out looking for a chicken dinner, so we have to move the chickens to the coop for the night.


Today I went out to the barn for Ivy’s morning milking and realized that Tinkerbell and Marie were hanging out near the barn like usual but there was no sign of Thelma. Its very unusual to see Tink and Marie without Thelma with them so I was immediately concerned that Thelma was sick or injured. The pasture has grown pretty tall this summer so you often can’t see the sheep and goats until you are right up on them and I had to search around a bit before I found her. Thelma was uninjured but agitated, and then I saw why. Ivy’s twins, Luc and Lilac, had managed to get over/around/through the fence into the neighbors pasture but couldn’t figure out how to get back home. After their adventure with freedom they had clearly decided that there is no place like home and were crying on the other side of the fence. Their mother, Ivy, had shown no sign of distress when I brought her in for milking– she had a full udder and an empty belly and was ready for her breakfast and her milking! Thelma, though, had stayed right by the fence with the kids even when the rest of the flock went back to the barn. Its very unusual for one member of the flock to let herself get separated like that, but she wasn’t leaving those babies behind! When I rescued the kids from their accidental exile all three of them ran around bouncing in joy!

Weekend Farm Report

Chris built, and re-built several times, a chicken run so that the chicks can safely spend time outside of their enclosure in the barn. It had to be re-done several times because the goats kept destroying it. As of this evening I’ve discovered a new hole in the chicken wire at pig-level. I wish we could just let the chickens roam free but we have foxes in the area.

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Ivy’s milk production decreased from and easy five cups or more a day to not even four cups. I take this to mean that the babies are now completely weaned and so her milk production has decreased to compensate for the lesser demand. Since I want her milk production to keep going I’ve switched her from once a day milking to twice a day milking. On dairy farms they generally milk twice a day from the get go but that is because they remove the babies and bottle feed them. I was more or less letting the kids take over one of my milking shifts. After two days of 2x daily milking I’m still only getting 4-5 cups total per day but am hopeful that after a few more days her milk production will ramp back up.

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Most of the milk is going straight into the freezer to be saved for future cheese making. One batch of cheese takes 1-3 gallons of milk which takes over a week to accumulate, so I freeze it in the meantime to keep it fresh. I keep a pint jar in the fridge for drinking and putting in my coffee. Its particularly nice with a bit of coffee liqueur.

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I’ve made three batches of chevre so far. I’ve tried different herbs, and plain, and so far my favorite flavoring is salt, garlic powder and fresh dill.

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After making cheese there is a bunch of whey left over which you can use for baking and other things but I’ve been giving it to Schnitzel. Right now she is completely on pasture with the rest of the flock and we are worried that she isn’t getting enough protein. The whey is packed with protein so it should make up for any deficiency in her vegetarian diet.

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I used some of the fresh milk to make fudge last night. The flavor was great but it didn’t set up properly. I don’t think I got it hot enough. I blame my dad because he called me while I was in the middle of heating it and distracted me.

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I also experimented with blending plain chevre with melted chocolate chips (50/50 ratio) to make truffle filling. Again, its a little softer than I’d prefer. Maybe because my chevre tends to be on the soft side? I’m not sure if it’ll work for truffles because it gets very soft at room temperature.


The garden has just started producing edibles. We picked our first cucumbers and had them on bread with chevre and dill. It looks like we should have green beans within a week.

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The chamomile has been in bloom since spring and every several days I harvest it, dry the flowers and save them for tea.

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Its been hot and muggy. The animals deal with the heat by napping in the shade as much as possible. Grace likes to stand in her pool. She makes Cinderella watch.

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Our one remaining bee hive finally died. It had been weak all spring and so we were not surprised when eventually we stopped seeing activity and opened it up to find it empty. Right now a wild bee colony is cleaning it out and stealing all the honey. There wasn’t enough honey to make it worth the effort of collecting for us so we are happy that it isn’t going to waste. We don’t know why the hive died. Perhaps it was the unusually cold, harsh winter.

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I sent about 20lbs of wool off to a mill today to be processed into roving. I sent a bag each of Francine, Jeb and Kaylee/Kelly so I’ll get back roving in oatmeal, brown and black. Once its been processed it can be spun as is or dyed. I’ve been processing it into roving by hand at home but have more fleeces than I have free time. Having it commercially processed also gives a better quality roving than I can produce by hand and will be ideal for selling. Its about time for these critters to start earning their keep!



p.s. most, if not all, of these photos were originally shared on my Facebook page along with many others. If you like getting daily updates on farm life, please follow me here. I post much more regularly on Facebook than I do here.


Earnest Update

Earnest the rooster is still hanging on after being attacked by a fox four days ago. He hasn’t changed much in the last several days- he still has a hard time lifting his head and spends most of the time laying down. But just now, for the first time since the attack, he started crowing again! I have to admit I hadn’t really missed all the crowing- it can get a bit annoying- but this is certainly a sign that he is feeling better. I am theorizing that this means the swelling around his neck is beginning to go down, giving him the ability to crow again.

Fox Trouble

I’ll be safe up here!

We’ve been having fox troubles recently.It started nine days ago when a fox killed two of our chickens, scared most of the others into neighboring yards and had one hen in his mouth when Chris saw him and scared him off. That hen, thankfully, lost a bunch of feathers but nothing more serious. Since then he has returned several times, usually between 3:30-5:30 in the afternoon, and killed a total of 7 hens. We had 14 hens before this started, we are down to 7 hens and only three of them are old enough to lay eggs. The others were just hatched this spring so they won’t start laying till fall or possibly next spring.

Gardening and Guarding

We have set out traps, scattered human hair (thanks to our neighbor who is a hair dresser) and urine around the fence line, and put up electric fencing around the coop but nothing seems to deter this guy. I now spend every afternoon on fox guard, working in the garden and patrolling the yard, carrying a gun and listening for disturbances. This has kept the fox away all week. Until this morning. I guess he has figured out that his afternoon dining appointment won’t work anymore and so he is changing things up.



Earnest with his droopy neck

The fox came back again today (for the 4th time? 5th? I’ve lost count) and this time he grabbed our beautiful rooster, Earnest. He dragged him by the neck all the way across our yard and into the neighbors yard where they, thankfully, saw what was happening and scared the fox off and called us. When I went to retrieve him he was laying in a heap and I thought the worst, but when I tried to pick him up he pecked at me and tried to run away. I was able to corner him and carry him home, but he struggled against me which I took as a good sign (we almost never pick him up normally, so he doesn’t like it). When I got him home and looked him over I saw that he had been bitten on the back but it didn’t look serious. The real damage was to his neck. Chicken necks feel weird and floppy to me even when normal so its difficult to tell what exactly is wrong. Though he CAN lift it up into a normal position he is keeping it held very low and droopy. Very abnormal for a rooster. Clearly the fox must have dragged him by the neck and done some damage. I don’t think anything is broken because 1) he isn’t dead and 2) he can move his neck. I’m not sure if damage to the tissue like this can heal or what else may be damaged that I can’t see. Right now he is hanging out on the porch where I can keep an eye on him.

He is eating (I gave him some of the chick feed which the adults think is super tasty) and perks up when he hears his ladies clucking. Right now I can’t think of anything else to do for him. I’m trying not to mess with him because I don’t want to add to his stress levels. Mostly he is laying down, resting, but he does stand up if I come closer or if the hens come over.


Earnest? Where are you?

The few remaining hens in his flock (the 3 layers) don’t seem to know what to do without him. A hawk flew into the yard this afternoon and they started squawking and running around like, well, like chickens with their heads cut off! Normally Earnest makes them hide in the bushes or under the coop when a hawk is in the area. I don’t know what they will do without him!

Spring has Sprung!

New Growth



Just a couple of weeks ago I was posting pictures of a winter wonderland in our own backyard and now its in the high 70s and sunny and new life is popping out everywhere you look.






The animals are all enjoying the warm weather and the fresh grass. Our yard is full of wild onions which the sheep seem to love, but it sure makes their breath stink!





And the chickens have started laying again. They had nearly stopped laying eggs during the winter but the warm, sunny weather has turned them back into egg laying machines. We are getting almost a dozen a day!





We had our first real snow of the season last night. We’ve only gotten about 1/2 an inch -enough to be pretty but not so much that the roads are dangerous or people are in danger of loosing power or getting in trouble. It’s COLD though and isn’t supposed to get above freezing till Monday so I expect the snow will stick around for a few days.

The sheep don’t seem to mind the cold or the snow. Because the snow isn’t very deep they are easily able to paw through and graze. It gives them snow “mustaches” on their noses. Ivy, with her short coat, keeps ducking into the barn to warm up. We gave them a generous scoop of corn this morning just in case they aren’t able to graze as much as usual. Their water bucket has a heater in the bottom to keep it from freezing and so far its keeping up fine.

The chickens have enough sense to stay inside their warm, cozy coop today. Its unusual not to have birds all over the yard! We also gave them extra rations of dried corn and chicken feed since they aren’t foraging in the yard today.



I don’t even know why I bother trying to landscape the yard. Remind me next time I put out mulch NOT to get the pretty light brown/red type but to go with the boring dark brown that matches the soil. That way when the chickens scratch it up its not quite as noticeable. I suppose I can’t blame them too much, though, it is a pretty day for a sunbath and these two boys seem to have been kicked out of the chicken yard by Ernest, the dominant rooster.

Automatic Chicken Door

Etta Helping

Chickens are so easy to raise. All we have to do is fill their feed bucket and waterers every couple of days and collect the eggs. The only real inconvenience is letting them out of their coop every morning and locking them in at night. Its not a big deal when the weather is nice but as winter approaches it becomes harder and harder to leave the warmth of inside to run out and close them up at night. And we worry about them if we are out late in the evening or go out of town. So this weekend we installed an automatic chicken door using this guide. We built the door frame and door with scraps of wood we had on hand and ordered this motor. Installation was pretty fast and easy, now we are just waiting for 6:30pm when the timer is set to close the door!


Automatic Coop Door