Kind Horn Farm Blog—News from the Farm

Spring Farm Life - The Joy of Manure Spreading

Living on a small family farm, one derives joy and satisfaction from a different set of situations experienced by most.   Manure spreading happens to be a superb example of this.  As I await the first arrivals of our beautiful Icelandic lambs this spring, I content myself with the sight of flying dung.   Let me just start by telling you that this happiness began last fall.   My husband unexpectedly bought me a very sweet gift:  a manure spreader.   (I have a strong feeling that he did this to assuage his guilt over having bought himself a special motorcycle, The Rokon, which has the singular use of being a trail building machine.)   I was quite thrilled, as we had been piling up sheep bedding pack for years.   So, this spring, we wasted no time in giving that spreader a whirl.   Now, I do quite enjoy seeing my husband spreading manure.   He is what we call a "seriously reluctant shepherd".    So, seeing him happily spreading manure on this 35 degree spring day gives me encouragement that someday he will come around to my way of thinking.   Not that much has changed in the last five years with his attitude toward farming.... you know, with all the responsibility and financial investments that need to be made.   But, he will gladly do any chore that requires use of the tractor, manure spreading included.   It does get him hours of i-pod wearing solitude while I contend with the chaos of our four children back here at the house.   I can see the appeal of it.

But, there is a more serious reason for loving the sight of manure spreading this spring.   Our soils are in desperate need of amendments.   We cleared this land from fairly mature forest, with lots of pine,  just six years ago.   What we were left with was land that is very acidic (5.1 pH) and lacking in fertility.   The land would only support native grasses that are low in protein and nutrient content.  Over seeding that we did with pasture mix and legumes was a failure.  Acid soils don't have what it takes to support healthy plant growth, which in turns doesn't support healthy animal growth.   Running an organic farm, we are highly reliant on the quality of the food we feed our animals as the basis of good health.   So, we knew that we needed to address the soil first.   This does not happen overnight.   We started last fall with a substantial investment in liming our pastures.   Being on a hill, the ag company needed to bring over their special creepy-crawly spreader to navigate the terrain.  Of course, this cost us extra big bucks.   But, this was the necessary first step to improving the soils.   The lime will raise the pH of the soil, allowing the macro nutrients of the soil (calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus) to become more available to the plant.   This spring, we augment the good lime work we did last fall with distribution of our composted bedding pack all over the fields.   I am now over seeding the manure spread areas with a mixture of three clovers and chickory.  We are confident that we have invested wisely our dollars and time.   The addition of lime has begun its good work; already this spring I can see ten times the amount of clover that I saw last year.   So, I look forward to a more healthy grazing season this year for our Icelandic flock.  Happy Spring!




Well, there is always a lot of excitement on the farm when mid-March rolls around.  Lambing time is about to begin.  Icelandic lambs have to be just about the cutest baby animals on earth.  New life on the farm is always wonderful, but lambing time with Icelandics is always super fun because of their complex color genetics.  Part of the excitement of lambing is just waiting to see what will come out..... black, brown, white, spots, badgerface, mouflon, etc.  No two look alike.

This year,  there is an added element which increases the level of anticipation for the beginning of lambing time:  our first lambs conceived through artificial insemination.  Last fall, we acquired semen from 6 rams in Iceland and we used this semen to breed some of our ewes.  The process of doing the AI breeding is very tricky, and one usually expects only about 50% success rate, at best.  As this was our first year with the AI breeding process, we probably won't even get that.  But, we have our fingers crossed.  RastaGirl, our first ewe due to lamb, is one of those successes.  She is bred to a gorgeous AI ram named RAFTUR.  He is possibly the best ram to come out of Iceland yet.  Normally, I would want to see RastaGirl have twin ewe lambs.  Not this year!  I am hoping for at least one ram lamb from this Raftur breeding that we can use as a farm bred ram next fall.

Nine more days, and we will see!




Breeding Season 2009


Well, finally after getting up our equipment shed and putting up new barnyard fencing for it, we were ready to put together our breeding groups.  Of course, as is with all building projects, it took us a couple of weeks longer than anticipated and so the breeding groups were put together a bit later than we wanted.  But, the rams were all that much happier to get in with their gals!!!!

We were really happy with the three rams we used last year, so they got to go back to the breeding pen this year.  We also have one ram lamb that we are using on a few ewe lambs and as "clean up ram" for the adult ewes.  I am just hoping that as the clean up guy, he's got what it takes.  This young guy has a super genetic background, with 75% AI.  I will be adding him to the rams page soon, so you can get a look at him and his lineage.

Looking forward now to lambing season and seeing what lovely lambs we get from these breeding combinations.

Read more: Breeding Season 2009


Restoring The Pasture

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Bringing back good pasture from forest land is not an easy task.  Fortunately, we have these wonderful Icelandic sheep who will eat just about anything.  Our sheep do most of the work in restoring the pastures here.  They are quite happy eating saplings and briar bushes!  As we practice intensive rotational grazing, the sheep are spreading their manure as they graze.  This saves us from having to spread much manure and the fertilizer is free!  Our Icelandic sheep are improving soil quality every day.  We have seen dramatic improvement in the fields over the last two summers.

Read more: Restoring The Pasture


Restoring The Farm

Kind Horn Farm Barn

Five years ago we decided to resurrect an old hill farm here in North Central Vermont. Our farm had been a sheep farm in the 1800's to sometime in the early 1900's, but by the time we came to the land, it had all grown up into pretty mature forest. But, we could see the outlines of the farm through the old house and barn foundations and the numerous old stone walls that divided up the property. Our first summer, we began by carefully clearing fourteen acres, preserving the old hedgerows, stonewalls, and roadways and letting these be our guide to shaping the meadows.

Read more: Restoring The Farm

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