Monday, February 28, 2011

If it isn't one thing, it's a 4.7

I was wanting to scrape another section of yard in order to start another garden spot, but it’s really soggy out there after the storm last night.  It was a doozy too.  I love thunderstorms, especially at night when you can see the lightning flash across the sky.  But like most storms, strong winds came with it, and that I don’t so much like.  I’m paranoid of tornados.  If there’s a storm coming, I’ve got the real-time radar on my laptop on until it’s over.
As if a nasty thunderstorm weren’t enough, I felt my first earthquake last night.  I was up late (watching the radar map) and around 11 o’clock I heard rattling & felt the house shake.  I kind’a sat there for a second or two then got up to see what was making noise.  I have a wall-mounted clock that has three glass shelves inside for knick-knacks and they were rattling.  I just sat there staring at them thinking, what the heak?  I put my hand on the wall & felt it vibrating.  Then my heart dropped as I thought it was a tornado’s first blast at the house.  But there was no wind; the storm was still about an hour away (I just love that radar website!).  After a minute I put two & two together and figured it was an earthquake.  Checked the website & confirmed my suspicion.  A 4.7 quake hit central Arkansas, with several other aftershocks.  Guess there’s a fault down there that’s been pretty active lately.  Nothing big enough to do much damage, but still kind’a freaky.  Last night’s quake was the largest since 1969.  I figured if we ever felt earthquake tremors, it would be from The New Madrid Fault.  But alas, I now have two fault lines that are within my home range.  Something new to worry about. 

I wonder how many people called their insurance companies today to see if they were covered for earthquake damage.  I know earthquake insurance was an “adder” for our homeowner’s policy, and we don’t have it. 
Maybe I’ll call our insurance company in a few days (after the initial flood of calls subside) to see what it would cost.  You know, just because I’m curious. 
Oh, and would somebody, anybody please join in my giveaway!  I'm getting a complex that nobody wants to enter!  Click"Here" to see the post for it.

A Watched Chicken Never Lays

I finally found out where the Splatted Eggs were coming from (click "Here" to go to the original post).  I got out to the barn a bit later than normal this morning so when I let the chickens out of their coop, one of them ran with me and the goats to the goat parlor.  As usual, Nettie jumped right up on the milking stand for her morning snack but right behind her was my youngest Australorp hen.  The hen flapped her way up onto Nettie’s back, onto the headstall, up on a shelf & then flap-flap-flapped her way up to the rafters.  Or is it called eaves???  Whatever.
Yeah, so I'm up here.  What you going to do about it?

The hen started doing the “I’m gonna lay an egg” routine.   Turning in circles, scratching at the soffit board, turning in more circles, scratch-scratch-scratch, and then seemed to hunker down for business.  I pulled her out of there and put her on a nest of hay that the other chickens use for laying their eggs.  I did this three times.  Since she wanted nothing to do with the fluffy “normal” nest, I finally gave in and let her lay in peace up there one last time so I ran into the house to grab my camera.  I thought that by time I got back she would have laid her egg & it would be in the typical “splat” pattern on the goat stand, but she was still circling & scratching when I got back.  For.  Like.  Ever.
She eventually laid her egg.  At one point I actually sat down on a bale of hay, wondering if she was ever going to pop out my breakfast for tomorrow morning (sounds kind’a gross when you think of it like that, hugh?).  But it seemed like I was waiting out there for an eternity.
Can't a girl get ANY privacy???

Whoever coined the phrase “A watched pot never boils” obviously never had chickens.
Paul's Take
Stupid chicken.  When are you going to close off the milk parlor so the hens stop laying in there?  The proper place for the hens to lay is in the nest boxes.  I made those nest boxes in the exact dimensions as specified by the National Chicken Keepers Guidebook and they should be laying in those instead of all over the place.  You really need to clean out their coop more often.

*** Don't forget to check out my previous post "Fun & Prizes!" for a chance to win some homemade Goat Milk Soap (Click "Here" to go there).***

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How it really is

Paul reads most, if not all, of my blogs.  I’m pretty sure it’s not because he’s particularly interested in the inner-workings and thoughts of my homesteading misadventures, but because he’s making sure I don’t divulge information too confidential or somehow incriminating.  He feels very strongly about practicing good OPSEC and I’m sure it drives him crazy that I’m blogging in the first place.   Well, it was either this blog or paying for a therapist.  The blog is free.
Anyways, he will occasionally comment on a blog I posted.  And the reoccurring theme of his comments (besides wanting me to shut my yap) is that he wants to know when I’m going to tell things how they really are.  Not that I’m lying to my readers or anything, but he thinks I tend to dwell on the “nice” things that happen around here and either inadvertently or purposely omit the “not so nice” things……usually having to do with the stuff he has to deal with because of my homesteading urges.
So in order to give things here a more diverse perspective, I will occasionally add a blurb at the end of my blog post entitled “Paul’s Take". 
Hopefully it won’t discourage anyone from reading as he does tend to get pretty grumpy when I do certain (ok, most) things.  We’ll see how it goes.

Fun & Prizes!

I hate to keep pointing out all the bad news blaring from recent headlines.  I’m sure you are all aware of the Middle East turmoil (as if it ever stops), frozen crops in the southern US & Mexico, and a myriad of other things that I’m just not up on (admittedly, I had to go to CNN to see what was actually going on…..I try not to read the “news” anymore).
But the two things I think are most important are the fuel hikes and the food shortages.  I yelled at you all in my last few blogs and asked, “What are you going to do about it”, so I figured I could be a little nicer this time and perhaps give a small incentive for you TO do something about it.
We all need to be doing things to make ourselves more self-reliant and self-sufficient.  I don’t care if you are a city gal in a high-rise; you don’t have to covertly raise poultry in the bathroom.  You can walk to the store instead of driving.  You can grow a small pot of herbs on your window sill.  You can buy local produce instead of buying out of country.  I said “more” self-reliant and self-sufficient, not completely.
I’d like to challenge my readers to do one EXTRA thing this week.  Not something that you were already going to do, but something in addition to that.  Say you were going to start your flat of seedlings this week.  Wonderful.  But I want you to not only do that, but start a small pot of herbs or a tomato plant for someone else. 
You’ve been careful with your driving habits and cut your vehicle outings to twice a week.  Great job!  But I want you to see if you can get someone you know to hitch a ride with you on one of your trips in order to reduce their fuel costs. 
We can do something that is good for us and good for the chosen recipient.  And maybe by giving the crotchety lady down the street that little tomato plant, you can inspire her to start her own little container garden.  And it will be one less person buying one less tasteless tomato at the Big Box grocery store.
So, what’s in it for ME, you ask?  A prize of course!
Now I really wish my blog were large and successful enough that I could plaster paid advertisements all over the page (well, not really) to help finance a nifty and expensive prize like a custom painted KitchenAid mixer or something, but alas…….I’m pretty broke.  So you’re just going to get something from our farm.
The winner will receive, not one, not two, but four, yes you heard me right, FOUR bars of homemade Goat Milk Soap.  I know, so very exhilarating.  Try to contain your excitement.

So here are the “Rules” (subject to change or all together scrapped because it’s my blog and I can do what I want, so nah!):
Your Extra Effort Entry (EEE) has to be fuel (vehicle or heating), electricity or food related.
Your EEE has to be something that will also benefit someone else.
I will not be “judging” your EEE’s on how many extra peppers you started or how many GPM you saved, but by the fact that you did something, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Only one EEE per blogger.  But if you can get one or more of your family members to do something in addition to your EEE (and they don’t have a blog profile), feel free to post it but mention that it is of their own effort.
Your EEE is honor based.  I am a firm believer in Karma; you may pull one over on me, but the Universe is waiting my friend!
Sorry, but I can only ship the prize to an address in the continental US.
Your EEE must be posted to this blog no later than Sunday, March 6th at Midnight (your time or my time, I’m not that picky).
The EEE winner will be chosen by a random number generator (i.e. me putting everyone’s name in a bowl and having Rhiannon chose one).
I am also encouraging my family (hint-hint Christine) to join in on this.  If one of my immediate family members is chosen, I will have Rhiannon pick an additional winner so you don’t think I’m cheating.
Good luck everyone!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Chicken WHAT?

There’s a contest going on right now over at Mandy’s Rabbit Ranch for a Chicken Saddle.  Click "Here" to go to her blog.  For those of you non-chicken fanciers, it’s a little jacket for the backs of chickens.  Not to keep warm, but to keep the toenails & spurs of the rooster from tearing up their back when he’s breeding them.
This hen is getting a bit too much Rooster luv'n.

I’m sure all you non-farm folks are saying “ewwwww” right about now.  But just think, you can use this little bit of trivial information to win a bet one day while out drinking with your friends.
Go check out her blog & enter your chicken picture.  Here’s my entry:
The girls gossiping at the water cooler.

Lookie what I got!

I’ve been wondering what I was going to do about lighting for the seedlings as they have been planted for a few days now.  I’ve been going back & forth about just setting the light between two bookcases then setting the seedlings underneath them on chairs or making a break-down light stand using some PVC tube.  Got the idea from a blog I follow.  Click "Here" to see it.

But this morning I woke to the sound of the electric drill and saw this:

Paul had taken a two-tube fluorescent light fixture and mounted it underneath a section of kitchen cabinets!
I think it’s a great spot for them as the sink is just to the right for easy watering, the countertop is easily cleaned if any spills occur and I really don’t use that part of the counter for anything other than the chicken bucket & collecting stuff that I haven’t put away yet.
I'll have to use some boxes or something to bring the seeds up closer to the light.  And as you can see, I have room for another two trays – or fifty peat pellets – of more seeds!  Now I just have to see what other plants I want to start.  I’m having a hard time controlling myself though as it’s still too early for some of the veggie seeds and I’ve also decided that the squash will be just as well off being planted directly in the soil in a few months.
I think Paul was assuming that I’d have him take it down after the plants are outside, but I’m thinking that I may keep that light there permanently.  Then I could have a bunch of small potted herbs inside all year long.
Maybe I can start some herbs or flowers.  Or more tomatoes and peppers.  How many peppers plants are too many???
More importantly, what are you planning on growing this season?  Need I remind you that you are going to be griping about the price of veggies at the store?
Don’t complain……ACT!  Pick up a packet of veggie seeds on your next trip to town.  You can buy a 25-pack of peat pellets and four different varieties of vegetables for under eight bucks.  And that’s assuming you paid full price (which I know you didn't!)

You SAY you want to save money - or - HIPFT, part 1

Prices of everything are going up; many say out of control.  Produce, fuel oils (gas went up 19 cents in one day here), corn, wheat, rice, cotton, coffee, chocolate… isn’t going to get any better people.
Then we complain when the monthly bills come in the mail.  Electric and natural gas rates went up.  The phone company’s list of added charges are long enough to require two additional pages.  Your cable bill is actually three digits long (not including the numbers to the right of the decimal point).  Your land line phone, which you hardly use anyhow, steadily goes up. And that’s just the stuff you get in the mail.
The majority of the people will do absolutely nothing about the price increases (except complain).  Not that you can just go to the store & say, “I’m only paying $1.20 for that bag of apples”, but you can do other things to reduce your spending.  I strongly believe that one of the reasons our country is in such a mess is that nobody is willing to work for what they want or need.  They will bitch & moan about this or that, but won’t personally lift a finger or change the teeniest habit in order to make a change.  I bet you know of at least one person that’s sucking on the fed/state tit in the form of welfare, but are more than capable of providing for themselves.
Sorry for the rant.  Now, back to what I was getting at:
So what are you going to do about it?
No.  Really.  What are you going to do about it?  Besides griping?
I know it stinks.  You haven’t seen a raise in several years.  Your paycheck doesn’t automatically adjust itself for cost of living increases (unlike some of our politician’s paychecks….nice, hugh?)  So how do you compensate for the disparity between what your paycheck brings in and what you lay out for living expenses?
You get cheap.  You start thinking to yourself, “How can I spend less on _______”, and then you make a list of ways to do that, and implement those ideas.
Start with one thing.  Like your electric or gas bills.  Heating anything, be it your stove, your hot water or your clothes dryer, costs money.  Your electric bill has gone up 20%, so make a conscience effort to cut down your usage by that much.
But how can I do that?  By planning & always thinking, “Hey, I’m paying for that!” 
If we had a device on every electric appliance that had a real-time read out of what it was costing us to run it, I bet there would be a lot more frugal minded people out there.  But since we only get that utility bill once a month, we tend to forget that running our dryer on high for an hour for a half load of towels cost us x dollars or that baking a single loaf of bread in the oven costs x dollars.
Here are some of the things we do here to save on our electric bill.  Hopefully it will inspire you to take some cost-cutting measures yourself.
Heat.  We are fortunate enough to not only have a wood stove, but timberland enough to keep us in firewood, even just using downed trees or standing snags.  If you don’t have a wood stove or furnace, can you try lowering your thermostat down a degree or two?  Don’t think you can live with a 65 degree household?  Then keep turning down the heat just one degree at a time.  Close doors to rooms that aren’t used and close the vents to those rooms.  Close your blinds or curtains during the night to reduce the heat loss through the windows.  Better yet, buy or make yourself some insulated curtains.  Thrift stores around here usually have a boatload of insulated curtains.  They are usually butt-ugly, but you can either sew a different material on the front or just use them behind the “nice” curtains & just pull them down during the evening.  Oh, and wear sweaters or socks…I know you have them. 
Turning off the water heater.  The main reason we have hot water is to bathe.  And since this usually occurs in the early morning, why are you paying for heating the water for the other 20 hours of the day?  Remember…..”Hey, I’m Paying for That!”  (I think I’m going to have to make that into a common acronym around here; H.I.P.F.T!  Catchy, don’t you think?) 
You can manually turn the water heater on & off, but if you’re like me, you’ll end up forgetting and have to wait a half hour for hot water (which really isn’t that horrible) or take a very invigorating – and quick – shower.  Your local hardware store should have a timer for the water heaters.  Invest in one.  I plan to very soon.
Clothes washer & dryers.  You don’t have to wash your clothes in hot, or even warm water all the time.  With the exception of really, really dirty clothes or a load that needs some major bleaching, I wash everything using cold water.  I also line dry our clothes as much as possible.  And if you just can’t bear the thought of crunchy clothing, try line drying until your clothes are almost dry, then put them in the dryer for the last few minutes to fluff them up.
Lighting.  I think everyone knows that fluorescent lights use less electricity.  And even if you have the new bulbs, turn the stinking light off if you’re not in the room!  I sound like your Mom, don’t I?
Electric phantom loads.  Things like your tv & computer are using electricity even when they are turned “off”.  We use a power strip for our tv / dvd player & stereo system.  Everything gets plugged into the strip & the strip is turned off after the stereo or tv is turned off.  If you’re a big computer user, use the sleep mode so it powers down if you’re not using it; better yet, just turn it off.
Cooking.  Try to bake several items at once.  With the exception of some cakes, cookies or other “picky” baked goods, most recipe temperatures can be fiddled with either up or down a bit.   Better yet, save some time and make several nights worth of dinners in one day.  It takes a little planning, but imagine how much better you’ll feel when you can just take a pre-cooked meal out of the fridge, pop it in the microwave & say, “Dinner’s ready!”
I’m sure there are plenty of other ways you can reduce your electricity usage but the heak if I can think of any more right now.  Do an online search or go to your library & check out some books.
Remember my new favorite saying….HIPFT!  
Hmmm……it’s not the easiest thing to pronounce.  Kind’a sounds like I have a lisp.  So much for making that the new household word.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Searching for an Eggs-planation

For the past two weeks, I’ve been finding a broken egg on the milk stand platform.  Not like an egg with a crack in it, or an egg that had been pecked by another chicken (as there wouldn’t be much of anything left as they will readily eat a broken egg).  It looks like it was dropped from a decent height, as it had a very large “splat” profile.  Egg shell, egg white & yolk were all still there.
I’ve also noticed that we haven’t been getting as many eggs as normal.  It’s still winter so I understand that they won’t be laying as much, but about a month ago we were consistently getting at least a half-dozen eggs and it seems that suddenly we were only getting two or three a day. 
Snakes?  Possibly, as I’ve wrangled my share of them out of the nest boxes and relocated them far away.  I don’t kill them as they also keep the rodent population down; and I’m a bit partial to the scaled fellas.  We’ve had a few days of 60 or even 70 degree weather around here this month, but I didn’t think it was anything hot enough or long enough to bring the snakes out of hibernation.
We’ve also had a sudden small, but noticeable increase of the squirrel population here lately and I’ve heard people say that squirrels could carry an egg away.  So I figured those little furry buggers were taking our eggs & in the process, occasionally dropping one on the milking stand while making its way out of the barn via the shelving & rafters. 
But dropping one in the exact same place?  Every time? 
So after finding the fifth, maybe sixth egg yesterday afternoon in its typical “Splat” pattern, I started to earnestly look around for any clues.  Not that I claim to know the inner workings or thoughts of the fluffy tailed rodent called a squirrel, but it seems to me that if it were to take an egg out of the barn it could have taken a much easier way out.  Then I looked directly above & around the scene of the egg-splat. 
Could a chicken be nesting somewhere on the shelves or in the rafters, lay an egg & have it roll off & fall to the milk stand?  I suppose that was as good of an answer than any, but I still couldn’t  figure out where the chicken would sit that could cause the egg to roll & fall into the egg-splat area.  So now I’m on a mission.  I’ve gone out to the scene of the crime four times already this morning in hopes to find a chicken nesting there, but nothing so far.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ah! So that’s why they make small bales.

We used to buy our hay in small square bales, but at $4 a pop (and that was relatively cheap), it wasn’t very cost effective.  So a few months ago, we bought our first round bale.  At $39 it was cheaper, but obviously it was much, much larger than what we were used to dealing with.  We put the bale in Ms. Melman’s barn on its side and I would peel away layers.  Definitely not easy to work with as now I had to grab a bunch of loose hay instead of picking up the flakes on the square bales.  We ended up buying a total of three round bales.  Ms. Melman and Nugget went through one bale in just under a month and they are about ¾ through their second bale.  The goats have only eaten about a third of their bale.

I had to stop at the feed store to get more goat chow so I checked to see if they had any more round bales left.  I was a bit nervous as it’s getting late in the season and still several months away from haying here.  They had one round bale left, but it had seen some water damage & was moldy on one side.  Mold is not good for anybody, even mules who can eat some of the poorest roughage.  The feed store did have four big square bales left.  They were $50 instead of $39 (for the rounds), but they were also supposed to be another 150 lbs. heavier.  So I paid for a large square and had Paul pick it up later that afternoon.  A large square measures 4’ x 4’ x 8’ long; a convenient size for those that have a pickup truck.  What wasn’t so convenient is that you just can’t roll this bale out the back of the truck like we did the rounds.  The feed store picked it up with their forklift & kind’a shoved it into the truck bed.  We had to figure out how to get it out of the truck bed when we brought it home. 

If it weren’t for the fact we had a tractor, I’m not sure how we would have done it.
The bale is at the house now.  But it needs to be in the Mule Barn up the road.  There won’t be enough room in the barn until they finish the round bale, so Paul set the new square bale on a pallet & tossed a tarp over it and he’ll tractor it up to the barn when they’ve finished the round bale.  We’re going to have to somehow shove it sideways into the barn as we can’t get the tractor into there.  That should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finally started my seeds!

It’s been on my mind since January when I started getting those farm porn magazines in the mail (i.e. seed catalogs).  And I’ve been going through my old seed packets like a farmish King Midas, heaping them in small piles, picking them up & letting them cascade off my hands, all the while wondering which ones I want to start this year (all of them, of course!).
Today was the day.  I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.  Technically I’m already a week or two behind in starting my peppers and tomatoes, but at least the garden is officially underway.
Last year I started like 200, yes two hundred, seeds in those little plastic containers.  I think there were 48 individual cells in each flat, so it really didn’t take up that much room.  But they either died shortly after getting their first set of true leaves or never grew more than a few inches tall.  I think it had something to do with not having the light close enough to them, but I’m still not sure.  They were all spindly & the ones that did survive being transplanted into the garden didn’t grow an inch more through the entire summer.  Talk about a bummer.  I babysat those little sprouts for week upon week and didn’t get a single tomato out of it.  So I ended up buying some heirloom veggie plants at the local farmer’s market.
This time, I decided to splurge and buy some of those nifty peat pellets.  No mixing up seed-starting soil, no dirt all over the kitchen countertop, just wet ‘em, shove the seed in there & done!  Yes, they cost me 8 cents per pellet and I could have used the seed-starting mixture from last year & those little plastic cells, but I’ll save the eight bucks somewhere else this month.
Like my "designer" round greenhouse?
It used to be the container for an ice cream cake!

I started 1
8 cabbage, 6 eggplant, 25 peppers, 10 tomatoes, 5 yellow pear tomatoes and 5 red cherry tomatoes.  I also saved some seeds from a really good batch of apples a friend gave us last year & planted six just for kicks.
Now that I have the seeds started, that means I only have a few days to find exactly where I’m going to keep them and how we’re going to hang the lighting.
I’m hoping to have a good sized garden this year, so I’ll also sow some more cabbage seeds directly in the soil later on.  My main focus this year is to have a big winter squash garden, although I still haven’t decided if I’m going to start them indoors or just sow them direct next month.
We currently have two raised beds right in front of the house and I want to start an onion and herb garden in those.  Paul said we’ll try to get two or three more raised beds made next to the other two this spring.  If we do, I plan on having my lettuce, spinach and other “kitchen” fixings in those beds.
Have you started your garden yet?

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm an Urban Homesteader (well, kind'a)

If you are a visitor to any type of homesteading, gardening or small-scale farming type of blog, I’m sure you’ve heard of the family that is trying to obtain a Copyright on the word “Urban Homesteading”.  I won’t go into much detail here as you can just do an online search and look up the word “Urban Homesteading” or go to Facebook and look up the same and you will be bombarded by articles, blogs, tweets, etc. on the subject.
I haven’t read that much on the newly controversial word, and I’ve never personally been on the family website that “started” this all, but what information & opinions I have gleaned from the web is that a family is trying to make people stop using the word “Urban Homesteading”  as they claimed to have given birth to the word and movement.  Kind of like a certain Vice-President claiming to have invented the internet if you asked me. 
Now, I understand that there are reasons to have Copyright laws.  But for a family to claim ownership of such a common word, something that was probably used by many, many others before and to send threatening lawyer-speak letters to bloggers is just plain, well, rude.   Not to mention arrogant. 
I think one of their reasons was that they didn’t want “Big Business” to get a copyright on it first.  There may be some logic to that;  Look what the FDA did to the word “Organic”…….that federally sanctioned label means absolutely nothing to me now. 
I guess that my idea of a Homesteader, Urban or Rural, is someone who wouldn’t use lawyers or threats to stop others from using such a common word.  A word that should be uniting people in their quest for a better quality of life shouldn’t be at the center of a Copyright controversy. 

Any goats missing a leg?

That’s what Paul asked me yesterday afternoon.  Seems like an odd question, doesn’t it?  So let me tell you what prompted the seemingly bizarre question.
Paul had just finished some (more) dozer work so Rhiannon & I brought him a beverage and we all sat down on a bench in the front yard.  Moonshine had disappeared into the woods for a few minutes, then came trotting back with the biggest grin on her face.  Well, as much of a grin that she could manage with the front leg of some animal hanging out of her mouth.

She seemed so happy that we didn’t bother taking it from her.  When Paul said that it was probably from the goats we butchered, something didn’t click.  First of all, we butchered the goats a month ago so any remains would have been long gone.  Second, the leg Moonshine brought back had black hooves…..and ours had white hooves.  So curiosity got the best of me and I went to inspect Moonshine’s newly found treasure. 
This was definitely a goat leg, but not one of ours as it not only had black hooves, but a black stripe down the front.  I took the leg from Moonshine & noticed that not only was it a goat, but it was a smaller breed of goat as the tibia / fibula (is that what they call it in goats???) was rather short.  The hoof was not a young looking hoof, and had not been trimmed for quite some time.  It was also very “fresh” – the joint actually bent quite easily and the bone still had bright red, somewhat moist meat on it.  Very “CSI” of me, hugh?
It’s not like Moonshine or the neighbor’s dogs haven’t come up with various parts of deer, squirrel or rabbit, so seeing wild animal parts is nothing really new.  But the fact that this piece of goat was found by our dog in say, five minutes, means that the carcass, or what was left of it, was pretty close by.  And I’m pretty sure we’re the only people around the immediate area with goats.   I’ve also heard the coyotes yipping the past four nights. 
I suppose some inconsiderate hillbilly could have butchered a goat & dumped it’s carcass down the road & the coyotes found it.  During hunting season (or even off season) we get our share of deer carcasses thrown out onto our road and eventually Moonshine ends up with a leg or hoof.
So now I’m worried about the goats.  And thinking about talking to Paul about getting another livestock dog.  Yes, we have Moonshine, and I suppose I could keep her outside, but I think she’d end up being a coyote snack instead of a coyote deterrent.
Oh, my answer to Paul’s question of “Any goats missing a leg?” was:
“Um.  No?”.
To which he replied, “Have you checked?” 
(I thought it was a pretty silly question as they were all within sight of our bench)
“Well, no.  No I haven’t.” 
Don’t worry, all goat legs were accounted for. 
Well.  At least the last time I checked.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kidding Kit

With kidding season just a few weeks away (and Nettie making me wonder if it will be earlier than anticipated) I’ve started getting things ready.  I cleaned out the kidding stall, let it air out for a day then put in fresh pine shavings.  Washed out the kidding pen water & feed buckets.  Dug out my Kidding Kit from the depths of the barn and went through it.  Of course, after a year of sitting idly in the corner of the barn, the cooler I keep all the kidding supplies in was just covered in dust, feathers and other icky unidentified barnstuffs. 
Here’s what I keep in my Kidding Kit: Wee-wee pads, bulb syringe, weak kid syringe, dental floss (for tying off umbilical cords), Iodine, cotton balls, scissors, latex gloves, lubricant, thermometer, ProBios.  Not shown is the Iodine, paper towels (lots & lots of them), empty paper feed sacks and garbage bags.

Not sure what happened to the Iodine, so I’ll have to steal some from our medicine cabinet.  I use the paper feed sacks to spread on the kidding pen floor to catch the majority of the goo from birthing.  After the kid is out, I’ll wipe it down with paper towels, then place it on the wee-wee pads for the doe to finish cleaning it off.

Then all of the stuff goes into zippy bags, into another lidded plastic container, then into an old cooler. 
The cooler also acts as a handy-dandy seat while waiting in the stall.
This will be our fifth year being midwives to the goats and I’m still a little bit nervous.  It’s Nettie’s fifth pregnancy, Ishtar’s second, Annette’s second and Cloud’s first.  If Paul is around for any of the kiddings, I’m hoping to take pictures so I can post them on here. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

All for Naught

It’s been two weeks since I put the eggs in the incubator so I figured it was time to candle them again.  I candled them on the 7th day and saw that a dozen of the thirty were duds.  Well, they ALL turned out to be duds.  I cracked several of them open to see what was going on inside & saw that most of them had a blood vein, and one or two had embryos starting, maybe the size of a wheat kernel.  I’m not sure what happened.  I did start collecting the eggs during the coldest part of the year, and some may have been near freezing when I finally got to them, and some of them were up to six days old before they went into the incubator.  I had the temps pretty much set at 99 – 101 degrees and the humidity around 50% with the exception of one time about five days ago when the temp got up to 103.5.  Not sure if that’s what did them in, but I don’t think so because the eggs seemed to have died before that time.
So two full weeks down the tube.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to start more right away or if I should wait a few more weeks when the hens are laying more (and I won’t have to wait as long to collect enough for the incubator) and the outdoor temperatures are warming up.  I guess I’ll wait as if I did start more in a few days, they would be hatching when Nettie is supposed to be kidding.  I’ll have my hands full enough with her.  And I can also start focusing on starting seeds; I’m already behind on them and I really, really want to get a good garden going this year. 
On a brighter note, we celebrated Rhiannon’s 2nd birthday today with a small group of family and friends.  The weather was still kind of nice, so I thought it would be fitting to have a BBQ lunch.  Hamburgers, Italian sausage, hot dogs, baked beans, coleslaw & a cheesy potato casserole that our neighbor brought.  And it wouldn’t be our little Ladybug’s birthday without……
Ladybug cookies!

Rhiannon got LOTS (too many Grandma!!) of presents.
The cookies took way too long to make, and it’s not like Rhiannon will actually remember them anyhow.  But I thought they turned out nice and they tasted good.  Besides, who doesn’t like sugar cookies frosted with sugar icing garnished with red sugar sprinkles?  Can you say "Sugar-induced Diabetic Coma"?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guess What? Goat Butt!

A lare part of raising livestock involves frequently focusing on the back end of animals. 
Nettie, our Saanen doe, was bred last October and is due to kid in three weeks.  But for the past two weeks, her back end has been swollen and pink.  Something that normally happens only during a heat cycle or just before giving birth.  Since I’m pretty sure that she was successfully bred, I was a bit concerned that she had some sort of infection.  So I took her temperature -another lovely chore having to do with the backside of the animal - and it was within the normal range (101.5 to 103.5).  She hasn’t been acting odd and hasn’t been off her grain or hay, so I’m at a loss as to why the puffy / pink rear.
The other possibility I was afraid of is that she may prematurely kid.  So I’ve been checking on her about half a dozen times during the day and feeling her ligaments.  Basically, you feel for a loss of muscle / ligaments on either side of the root of the tail (yep, right above the butt.  I told you there’s a lot of butt-stuff going on here).  If the ligaments are “missing”, it’s a sign of impending labor.  Those ligaments loosen up to make it easier for the kid to pass through the birth canal.
Well, her ligaments seemed to be loosening up yesterday morning, but when I made my last goat-butt-check, they were back again.  Or I’m just thinking that I’m feeling a loss of ligaments.  I was going to ask Paul to check, but since he hasn’t felt her recently I don’t think he’d be able to tell. 
So I’ll be reviewing rear ends again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  Until she finally kids.  Oh, then I get to do it over again three more times for Annette, Ishtar and Cloud.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Homeschool Outing

I finally found a web group that had information on homeschooling resources in our area.  Rhiannon and I met up with some local families at the library for Story Time yesterday afternoon and I think we did pretty well for first-timers.  Most of the kids were older than Rhiannon, two or three her age, and a few younger than her.  Being the newbies, we waited in the background to see what everyone else was doing.  The kids each grabbed a padded mat & sat down in the front of the room while the parents crammed their bums into the child-sized chairs and put diaper bags & purses on the toddler-sized tables. 
The theme for this week was President’s Day.  A short film on the origination of President’s Day started it off & then the librarian read a short story about George Washington.  We didn’t make it to page two of the book as Rhiannon had taken to running around the perimeter of the room, opening all the cabinets & collecting the little buckets of crayons.  Trying not to cause more of a disturbance, I picked her up, put the crayon buckets back as best I could, then went out to the main section of the Children’s Library.  After a few minutes, another mom & her toddler came out.  And shortly after, another anxious toddler & mom.  So at least I wasn’t the only parent who couldn’t contain their kid to the activity room.  We went back in to join the others when they started craft time.  Colorful crayon drawings of George Washington, red, white & blue paper stars for gluing together to make necklaces, moms snatching glue sticks from toddlers before they were consumed.  All in all, I thought it was a nice outing and we’re going to try to go at least every other week.  I know she isn’t really ready to sit down & listen to a story for a half hour, but at least I can get her used to the idea of going there and maybe she’ll imitate the other kids being “good” and sitting still.
Afterwards, some of the families meet at a local park for lunch & to let the kids run around.   Rhiannon seemed like she could use some more outdoor time so we went with.  I met three or four moms & their children (I’ve already forgotten names) and I’m hoping to be able to network more now that I have found a local group.  I’d like to eventually have a music tutor for Rhiannon and I’d also like to see if anyone would be interested in having a monthly get-together to discuss homeschooling outings or classes.  There are so many outdoor activities around here that I’m sure there would be plenty of people interested once the weather starts warming up. 
In the meantime, I think I’m going to take Rhiannon outside for some “Livestock Waste Management” classes.  Hey……I wonder if I could get a bunch of kids over here for a “class” like that?  Free child labor, yeah!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

It was another beautiful day today, so Grandma, Rhiannon & I went to the park for a Valentine’s Picnic lunch.  Nothing really special to eat, just some sandwiches, oranges & pretzels, but that was enough.  Especially since Rhiannon wouldn’t sit down for more than ten seconds to eat; the playground beckons!
I made some special Valentine chocolate treats for Paul and my Mom this morning.  Well, and for me.
Who doesn’t like chocolates?  And they are so easy to make.  If you have a couple of bags of chocolate chips in your pantry, you probably have the rest of the makings for goodies in your kitchen.
I melted the chocolate in a double boiler (I think you can also do it in the microwave) and then started dipping just about anything I could find.  I dipped graham crackers, pretzels and cherries.  I’ve heard that some county fair had chocolate covered bacon, and had I thought to fry up bacon ahead of time, I would have even tried that.  Come on, who doesn’t like bacon??
When I was finished dipping, I divided the remaining melted chocolate into three bowls.  I mixed walnuts into one, shredded coconut into another and crushed peppermint candies in the last one.  Spooned out little globs of each onto waxed paper & put everything in the fridge to harden up. 
You could go a lot fancier on the chocolates, but I was running out of time (i.e. Rhiannon was running out of patience……Mommy will be done in just a minute, sweetie).  I was able to sprinkle some red sugar crystals on the pretzel rods.  I had wanted to paint some hearts on the graham crackers using white chocolate but just ran out of time.
I’m hoping to do some fancier chocolate candies for Easter.  Some old fashioned hard candies, the obligatory chocolate bunnies…..wonder if it’s possible to make jelly beans?  Hmmmm.  Maybe even make some marshmallows!  This time I’ll start a few days ahead of time though. 
Oh, and don't forget to check out the stores for discounted Valentine goodies to put in your stash for next year.  Red sprinkles can also be used for Fourth of July and Christmas decorations.  Nothing better than not only having the stuff ready for next year, but getting it at a deep discount!
Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Goat Shots

Nettie is due in four weeks so that means it was time for her annual CD&T shot.  It also means that we’re going to have MILK soon!!!!  I’m soooooooo anxious to get fresh milk again.  Chocloate milk, granola cereal with milk, cookies and milk, milk…….you get it
Anyways, back to the goat medicating.
Syringes, needles and medication.

We give the goats a yearly CD&T shot.  Giving the pregnant does a shot four weeks before they are due to kid will give their offspring immunity even before they are born.  The kids will get two more booster shots; one when they are six weeks old and one three weeks after the first booster.
What are you going to do with THAT???
This type of injection is given subcutaneously (i.e. under the skin as opposed to in the muscle or a vein) and is actually quite easy.  Just find a stretchy patch of skin on your goat so you can pull the skin up & make a little tent with it.  I find the chest area in front of the foreleg to be the best place.  Then press the needle through the skin (make sure you don’t go through one flap & out the other) and depress the plunger until all the medication is administered. 
Nettie, with her head in the feed bucket, doesn't even notice when she gets the shot.

Pull the needle out, cover the tip with the little plastic cover (or another material that will cover up the sharp end) and throw it away.  Please don't re-use needles.  They are cheap and easy enough to find that you shouldn't have to compromise the health of your animals to save a dollar.
You can use another syringe if you want to assemble all your shots at once, but I use the same syringe and different needles for each goat.
Also make sure to stick around for ten or fifteen minutes after administrating any type of shot just in case the animal goes into anaphylactic shock.  Although not common, some animals can go into shock and die.  If this happens you have to give that animal a dose of epinephrine like right now.  That’s another medication I suggest you keep in your animal medical kit.  Be nice to your vet and see if you can get some to keep on hand for emergencies.
We gave Nettie, Stormy & Chop Suey their shots today.  Stormy wasn’t bred this year and Chop Suey is a wether so I figured we’d get them done since we had the medication ready for Nettie.  Annette and Ishtar will get their shots when they are a month out from kidding.  I guess we could have given Pan his shot but I was too lazy to put on my stinky-buck-overalls.  We’ll get him next time.
If the previous years are any indication on how Nettie will react to the shot, she’ll be limping for a day and acting all “Oh, I’m sooooo hurt, please give me some animal crackers and I’ll feel better”.  Of course, she’ll run to you if there are prunes or crackers in your hand but when the snacks disappear she starts the sympathy-limping routine again.
Please do some research on your own or ask someone with experience if you are unsure how to assemble the syringe/needle, fill the syringe or how to administer the medication.   It’s a very important skill to learn if you’re going to raise livestock.  I’ve only given intramuscular and subcutaneous shots.  I’m hoping to have my vet teach me how to give intravenous shots and how to draw blood in the near future. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good Kitty, Bad Egg

I had almost given up on having the stray cat (Missing Barn Kitty) as an addition to our farm.  He hadn't been coming around during feeding time and after a full week of not seeing him or finding the food dish still full in the morning, I figured he found a better place to hang out. 

Monday night I took the truck up to feed / water the equines and on my way back home I saw a cat run across the dirt road about a 1/2 mile from our place.  I thought it looked like BK (Barn Kitty), but it could have just been wishful thinking.  Just for the heak of it, I put out some cat food by the barn again.  The next morning it was gone.  Yes, I know that there are plenty of nocturnal fuzzy creatures that can eat the cat food, but I was still hoping that it was him.

After evening barn chores on Tuesday, I did my crazy-cat-lady "Meow-meow here kitty-kitty-kitty" and put some more food out.  This time I saw him in the woods and he came trotting up to about 20' from his feeding spot.  He doesn't let me get near him, but at least he comes out while I'm there.

Last night I went out a bit later than usual to close up the chicken coop & feed BK.  When I called him for supper, he actually meowed back to me!  So we had a short conversation and I left him to finish his supper in peace.  I may try going out there earlier tonight and sit down near his food to see if he'll let me get a little closer.

The eggs have been in the incubator for a week now.   I candled all thirty of them and twelve of them were duds.  Being ever hopeful, I put them all back in the incubator.  But only because I had a hard time telling the good from the bad.  I had thought that by now there would be more "stuff" going on in there, but there was just a faint blood vein visible in the good ones.  So I'll wait another week, candle them again, then take the duds out of the incubator. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Impromptu Apple Butter

I went grocery shopping last week to stock up on some of the items we went through on The Great Pantry Challenge; mostly frozen veggies and root-cellar type veggies like carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, cabbage and a few varieties of winter squash.  There were some apples on sale so I tossed a 5-pound bag in my cart.  I found out why they were on sale.
The apples seemed pretty firm, but when you bit into them they were starting to get that icky “mealy” texture to them.  Rhiannon didn’t seem to mind, but I just can’t stand it.  So we went through about a quarter of them before I decided that they were going to end up being chicken food.
But wait, I just spent like five bucks on those apples!  And although I like my chickens, the cheapskate part of me wouldn’t let those apples be tossed to a bunch of backyard poultry.  So I got out the good ‘ol apple peeler, corer/slicer thingy, some cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and a pot to cook them in.
Tossed the apples, spices, sugar & about a ¼ cup of water in the pot and let it cook for about ten minutes.  Got out my handy-dandy food-smasher and ended up with this:

I wasn’t going to bother canning it since it would just be immediately opened and eaten so I just put in in a mason jar & stuck it in the fridge.  There was exactly enough for a full quart.  We’ll have it with our oatmeal or on our toast in the morning. 

Don’t worry, the chickens didn’t get left out; the peels & cores went into the chicken bucket for their snack tomorrow morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cheap Winter Eats

I made barley & vegetable soup on the wood stove yesterday afternoon.  What a great way to warm up from the cold outside; a hot bowl of homemade soup and bread. 

I used the last two quarts of the chicken broth we canned in the fall of ’09, a cup of barley, four carrots, three stalks of celery, an onion and about a ¼ head of cabbage.  It turned out to be more of a stew than a soup though as there were so many veggies and so much barley that there was very little broth.  Not that anyone complained.
We had the barley & veggie soup for supper with the last of the sourdough bread and I put ½ the remaining soup in the fridge for Paul’s lunch today and the other ½ in the freezer for a quick meal (i.e. when I forget to make anything for supper).
Also made another Cheap Meal tonight; Spanish Mac & Cheese with Polenta and Pinto Beans. The Spanish Mac & Cheese is just macaroni in a cheese sauce with a can of diced tomatoes & chilies added to it.   Paul said we may have another ½ hog in the freezer soon so I had to “get rid” of some of the bacon ends.  I fried up the bacon with some onions & cooked it with the beans. 
I’m glad that we’re able to get our meats locally.  The hogs & steer come from two of Paul’s coworkers; we raise our own Cornish x chickens, butcher the male goats and try to get a deer or two each year.  Then there’s also the occasional squirrel, although I didn’t get any this year because I saw so few.  Not sure if the bobcats have been taking them, although that may explain why I haven’t lost many chickens this year.
Technically we should be able to have a freezer full of fish, but Paul hasn’t had much free time to go fishing.  I’ll have to “make” him go when the weather gets nicer.  I’m not crazy about the rainbow trout unless it’s smoked, but hopefully he’ll find a good fishing hole on the lake and hook us some crappie or a walleye.  Or catfish.  Or bluegill.  Heak, I’ll take just about any fish, batter & fry it up and serve it with a plate full of hush puppies and green tomato / onion relish.