Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Egg Carton O'Rama

Anyone that owns chickens has probably had to deal with this from time to time:
One of many small towers of egg cartons consuming
the area above my refrigerator, the laundry room, and
any other place I can manage to stuff them.
It seems that once someone knows that you have chickens, they start saving egg cartons for you.  Tons & tons of egg cartons; so many that I think people intentionally buy extra eggs at the store just so they can "gift" me with the cartons.  Maybe it makes them feel better thinking that those egg cartons are not going into a landfill.  And some of them I do re-use.  But let me tell you, especially during spring, I usually have a tower of cartons exceeding me in height (although not in girth or that would be an incredible amount of cartons!!)  And although I appreciate the thoughtful intentions, I can only use so many.  Last year I actually put an ad in the paper for them hoping someone else would need them.

On a side note.....why is it that McDonald's got all that flack years ago for having their hamburgers in styrofoam  packaging, but the majority of egg cartons are still made with the stuff?  I'd have to think that more eggs are sold than Big Mac's were.  Or maybe not?  And why are't the cardboard cartons used more?  Probably more expensive?


So even though I use my fair share of egg cartons and a few leave the house when I sell or give eggs away, there is still a plethora of cartons left.  I've used them in counting games with Rhiannon, for watercolor paints, storing small craft items and this time of year, starting seedlings:

My pathetic attempt; 72 measly seed starts.  But more planned.
Soon, I hope.
Does anyone have any other ideas for these things??  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Making Lasagna in a Cold Frame

I've been wanting more raised beds in the front yard.  I also recently mentioned my desire for a small cold frame.  So Paul went through our scrap pile of lumber, dug out the old shower door from underneath a heap of other "future" project materials, got the saw and drill out and made me this handy-dandy little cold frame over the weekend:
Paul was going to hinge the glass door onto the framework, but I asked him not to.  I wanted to be able to take it off during the warmer months and not have to worry about propping the glass up (seemed like an accident waiting to happen with a 3-year old around).  When the plants no longer need the warmth, I'll just put the glass away until Fall. 

Now I had my little raised bed framework and glass top, but I didn't have anything resembling dirt to put into the bed.  Since I haven't yet managed to get enough "dirt" from various locations around the homestead, I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to try my hand at Lasagna Gardening.  

I put down about six inches of leaves and liberally watered it; my theory being that instead of using cardboard or newspaper (which I didn't have any of) the wet mat of leaves will smother the sod underneath.  Then I put down about 6-8" of wasted hay and watered that down.  

In the next few days, I'll haul some old manure from Ms. Melman & Nugget's pasture and put it in there with another topping of wasted hay, then some goat berries, then finish it off with some semi-finished compost.  Unfortunately I don't have any green stuff to put in the beds, so I'm wondering if I should add anything in lieu of the "live" stuff.

I won't be planting anything in the "lasagna" layers yet, but will be putting containers filled with soil inside the cold frame and planting in those.  As the materials compress, I'll add more layers.

I'm hoping that by fall the lasagna layers will be nice enough to plant some spinach, lettuce and other cool weather leafy veggies in.  Then I'll drag out the glass top again and use it as my cold frame.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Got Poop?

As we live in The Ozarks, "soil" is a relative term around here.  Being born & raised in Illinois, it had never really occurred to me that there were places that didn't have dirt.  If one were to scrape or burn the top covering of greenery from the ground around our homestead, you'd see something that closely resembles a gravel driveway.  Really.

Pounding fence posts requires mechanical assistance.  Falling on the ground isn't something to just shrug off as there is invariably a large rock hidden just underneath the sparse vegetation.  Our first year here we dug holes in the "garden" for the tomato plants using the backhoe.  Really.

What does one do when there is no dirt, but still requires the growing medium to sustain a decent sized garden?

We bought "Super Dirt" (or that's what they called it) from one of the local nurseries a few years ago to fill up the raised beds.  What a disappointment.  This so-called dirt contained a plethora (told you I liked that word!) of sticks, rocks, wood chips and other items, and though technically organic compounds, nothing you would consider actual dirt, let alone "Super" dirt.

I am trying to get a good compost pile going, but it does take time.  And I am not a patient woman.  The fact that I keep moving the compost pile and using it even before it's really done cooking doesn't help.  It also doesn't help that the chickens keep flinging it all over since the pile is never really contained well enough to keep the scratching biddies out of it.

When Paul's running the dozer through the woods, there are spots where I can get some soil, usually directly surrounding the area of a large, downed tree.  So I can screen some decent dirt from that.

But the easiest, and by far the nicest garden amendment comes from here:

and from here:
and is found right in front of the goat / chicken barn:
This area gets a lot of goat berries (nice word for poop) and the occasional chicken turd.  Every morning I sweep the barn floors right out the door.  This area also gets a lot of foot & hoof traffic so stuff is pretty much pre-pulverized.  After a particularly heavy rain, I'll put down some straw so it's not so smooshy.  And about twice a year I collect the already-composted, nutrient-rich material, and "fluff" it up a bit by crumbling up the bigger pieces and adding sawdust or whatever other organic material I can scrounge up around the farm.

Super Dirt?  No thanks.  We got Super POOP!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crumbing Right At Ya!

So here's the close up.  

I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the only piece left (it IS much bigger than it looks, it's at a "skinny" angle!).  But hey, it was made Thursday afternoon, and Paul did take a chunk to work, and I gave a hunk to my Mom.....and, and, and.....

Oh hell, we're just a bunch of gluttons.  And I wonder why I'm thirty pounds overweight.  

So, now that you all have an up-in-your-face but-you-can't-eat-it photo, what say ye about the texture?  I have noticed another thing though; the longer the cake sat, the better it got.  

So, is it that I'm just used to the twinkie-like consistency of commercially sold pound cakes?  Possibly.  But honestly, I no longer care about trying to match that texture anymore.  This cake is good enough as is......imperfect looking as it is!

Saturday Oven Lovin'

I tried making my first Pound Cake on Thursday morning.  I looked up recipes in the old standby's (Joy of Cooking and BH&G Cook Book) as well as online.  The BH&G recipe called for shortening instead of butter; I just didn't trust a pound cake recipe that used shortening instead of butter.  And I though that it was called a "Pound" cake because there was like a whole pound of every major ingredient in it, and many of the recipes did not adhere to this. 

So I did a little web searching and found this one:

3 cups cake flour
6 large eggs
1 pound butter
1 pound sugar

2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk

325 degree oven for an hour and ten minutes.

Pound of sugar, check.  Pound of butter, check.  Crapload of eggs, check.  Nothing else fancy or frilly or "new and improved" in order to make the good old version of a pound cake more "modern".   Sounded good to me.

The batter itself was beater-lick'n good so I was hoping for an exceptional baked version.

Never having made a pound cake before (as if I were living on Mars or something where I didn't have access to butter and eggs), I wasn't sure how the batter was supposed to look like, but figured it was going to be thicker than normal cake mix.  Which it was.

The cake itself was very dense, like a pound cake.  And oh so buttery.  And oh so good.  And oh so how many extra layers of cellulite would you like on your thighs, thank you very much.

But the consistency just wasn't right.  Although it was a dense cake, it still had a crumb-like texture.  Not
crumbly by any means, but it was definitely not what I would consider a pound cake kind'a consistency.  Unless I've been so used to eating commercially produced pound cakes that I didn't know what an actual honest to goodness real homemade cake was supposed to be like.

Did I beat the batter too much?  Too little?  Did I not have all my ingredients exactly at 70 degrees?  Did I fail to sift the dry ingredients enough?  

I guess I'll not know until I try out another recipe.  But in the meantime, we're enjoying every slice of my first-ever pound cake.

Got a recipe you'd like to share with the blogosphere?  Then go over to Tiny Gardener's blog and share your recipe (possibly for a pound cake???) with her.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Easy as Pie(crusts)

In my seemingly ever-continuing quest to squeeze as many pennies out of a dollar, cram as many seedlings into a raised bed, and make use of almost every part of an animal, I have had to learn new skills.   One of them just last night.

Paul picked up most of our hog yesterday afternoon.  Since we still wont have the ham and bacon for a little while longer, I'm waiting to do the final math for how much meat we got for what we spent. 

I managed to clean out just enough room in the chest freezer to put away the plethora (hehe, plethora) of pork-goodness that was crammed in the trunk of the car.  Seventy pounds of pork chops, roasts and ribs.  Sixty-two pound of sausage - OH YEAH!   Six pounds of liver.  And thirty pounds of fat.

I could smack myself in the head though.  In my haste to tell the butcher that I wanted a shoulder and a ham made into sausage, I forgot to say that I wanted the feet and head.  But I guess that isn't the end of the world.  Especially since I still have the feet from last year's hog in the freezer and I think we just ended up tossing last year's head into the woods for the coyotes when we were scrambling for freezer space for the Cornish meat birds.  Not exactly sure what I was going to do with the head.  Head cheese maybe?  

But I regress (imagine that).

Back to the freezer and our pig-a-
licious procurement.

Everything fit in the freezer, with not much room to spare.  And there was still a thirty pound box of pork fat staring at me:

So I was up until almost midnight rendering the fat.  There are four ways (at least that I recall) this can be done.  But they all start with cutting up the fat into nice little pieces, or you could even run the chunks through your meat grinder and I'm sure it would speed up the process.

Once you have your pork fat in the desired cut or ground state, then you have to decide how you are going to melt all this piggy goodness into lard.

Stove top, oven, crockpot or microwave.  I chose the stove top and crockpot as I wanted to compare the two methods.  The microwave may seem easier, but it didn't seem feasible as I'd have to do over a dozen batches as I'd only be able to do a pound or two at a time.  I just couldn't see having the oven on the entire night (electric bill is bad enough).

Basically, you just want to warm the fat up to the point that it melts, not fry it up.  I put my chunks into a thick-bottom pot on the range and set it to medium/low, or just to keep the temperature of the oil around 220 degrees.  You don't want the bottom to scorch so at the beginning you'll have to stir it around a bit.

Hmmmm.  Why does this make me want to get back on the treadmill?
While my pot on the stove was warming up, I chunked up more fat and tossed it into the crockpot and set it to medium:
My stove top fat was finished in about two & a half hours.  I let the oil cool a little bit, then strained it through a sieve lined with a coffee filter:
Then poured it into jars:
Notice how the middle jar is a darker color?  That's because I got hasty.  I drained some of the lard thinking it would speed things up, so the lard in the back jars weren't on the stove as long.   And then the remaining lard and cracklings got a little too hot, therefore burning it a bit and changing color.  I'm not sure if this will affect the taste or stability of the finished product or not.

The cracklings are what you are left with:

Basically, homemade pork rinds.  Grab a beer, a salt shaker and chow down; arteries be dammed!

The crockpot rendering is taking much longer.  I say "taking" as it is still in the crockpot as of 9 am this morning and looks like this:

At least I didn't have to babysit it like I did with the pot on the range.  And since I didn't mess around with the heat in order to hurry things up, the lard is looking like it has a lighter color.  We'll see as time goes on.  Because it seems as if it's definitely going to take more time before it's finished.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Going Whole Hog!


Normally we only get 1/2 a hog each year, but this year the guy we get our hog from had an "excess" of piglets (i.e. the boar got out of his pen) so we agreed to take the entire animal.

Although I wish I could take credit for this magnificent
work of art, it was just a pic I saw online.
"Our" hog went into the butcher last week and I got the call yesterday that the fresh meat would be ready for pickup anytime.  The bacon and ham will have to wait a bit.  But we'll still have plenty of sausage right away.....or more like a plethora.  (...would you say I had a "plethora"?.....anybody remember that line from Three Amigos?)

As much as I love, love, love bacon, I'm also a sausage freak.  And since I cannot do much about upping the amount of bacon we get from the hog (oh wouldn't it be just heaven if you could get an entire hog in bacon???), I do have some control over the amount of sausage we get.

So I got one shoulder and one ham made into sausage.  Yes.  I "ruined" a perfectly good ham in order curb my cravings for breakfast sausage.  Paul claims that this was not what was planned when we were discussing how to have the hog cut up, but I think he misunderstood, or at least underestimated my desire to have as much sausage crammed into my freezer as space would allow.  

Anyways, the last ham we had cut into 1" steaks and it lasted almost a year, so I figured we really didn't need that second ham anyways.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Paul's Take
There was no "misunderstanding".  We can talk, discuss, yap, chat, whatever about something and she just goes ahead and does whatever she wants anyhow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seeds? Planting? Hugh?

With all this goat stuff going on, I have neglected my seed-starting obligations.  I had my gardening calendar all filled out, dates highlighted for which types of seeds to start, containers accounted for and seed starting medium acquired.  But Nettie's kidding had me in a tizzy the end of last week and then this weekend I cleaned up the goat yard and we disbudded Nettie's kid yesterday.

My oregano, parsley and mints were supposed to be planted already.  And my peppers, eggplant and cabbage need to be planted in like, this week.  I'm trying to plant by the Moon Signs this year.  But then we get a beautiful, warm and sunny day and I just want to plant right NOW!

So, which adage to I adhere to?  

lant by the Moon" or "Make Hay while the Sun Shines"?

According to the Moon, I should be planting my above ground crops this Thursday and Friday and I missed the date for planting root crops by two days (supposed to be the 20th).   So can I manage to NOT plant any root crops until the next Moon day, the 9th of March?  Unlikely.  But I will try to busy myself with other homesteading chores in order to keep my mind off carrots and turnips and parsnips (oh my).

According to the weather though, I should have planted stuff yesterday and today. Because the weather has been just beautiful, and how can I not dig into that dirt when it's just calling my name??   

Maybe I'll get working on building the frames for another couple of raised beds.  Or start collecting rocks (i.e. boulders) for terracing the side of the house for my new garden area?  Maybe burn some leaves.  Or gather them up and use them as a smothering-kind-of mulch for a lasagna type garden somewhere?  Move all the little piles of compost into one big compost pile?  

All this planning is exhausting.  I think I should just sit down on the porch, watch Rhiannon play in the front yard and do some reading:

Nice looking book, isn't it?  Jealous?  You should be, because I WON this big honkin', full-color, homesteader's dream of an encyclopedia!  Kim over at Jabez Farm hosted a giveaway for this book a few weeks ago and I won!!  Aren't giveaways great?!?  Isn't Kim great!?!  Isn't life great?!  The FedEx man brought this up to the doorstep just yesterday and I ripped into it.
It not only has the obligatory chapters on livestock, preserving and gardening, but also includes such "artsy" stuff like blowing & painting eggs, jewelry making and basic furniture making.  And the photos are just gorgeous!  If this 888 page book didn't weigh fifty-two pounds, I would keep it on the little side table a it's beautiful even just as a decoration, but the sheer weight of it might buckle the table legs!  Thank you so very much, Kim!!

So I think I will get myself a glass of sweet tea (yes, it's going to be that warm today) sit on the porch and flip through this beautiful book.

Maybe I won't get any planting done today. :)

BTW, if you haven't been over there yet, go check out
Jabez Farm.  Kim is currently working on gluten-free goodies, so if you have any awesome recipes you'd like to share with her, go over there.  Oh, and don't forget to scroll down a bit until you get to the  " # 3 - You Should Know" post.  You'll never be able to look at a turkey egg without flinching!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My First Quilt

....and more likely than not, my only quilt, was finally finished last week.  

I have a girlfriend back "up north" who just recently celebrated her birthday.  About a month ago, I was racking my brain for some sort of gift to send her.  We usually don't exchange birthday gifts, but she is constantly sending Rhiannon books and clothes and I just never know how to repay her.  Then in January (about a month before her birthday) I had this insane brilliant idea that I would make her a lap quilt for her cottage get-away.  I found a picture of their living room and figured I would make the quilt to match that room and the bright red couch, so I was off to do some fabric hunting.  

I love shopping for fabric!

Except it took me like two whole weeks to find the colors I wanted.  Mom was with me on most of the trips and I think I about drove her nuts.  I found several fabrics that I just loved, but then couldn't get three of them to look good together.  I originally wanted to do a red, blue and green block pattern, but after going into every fabric store within a 25 mile radius I just couldn't find what I wanted.  I think the employees were told to keep an eye on me because I was not only in each store several times, but was shifty-eyed, anxious and unsettled while in the store.  The signs of a thief, or signs of a frustrated and burned out fabric shopper?  I finally settled for just red and blue Batik and a Mossy green.

Because if I saw another bolt of fabric I was going to vomit.

My Mom has been quilting for a few years now and she has all those nifty little quilty helping things like the wheelie-bob cutter, plastic squares, rules and the squishy mat for cutting.  With her help I cut out the main blocks for the quilt, nice and square.  How the hell did people do this before the wheelie-bob cutter?  There's no way that you can get anything square with just plain ol' scissors.  Mom showed me how to sew the blocks together and I was pretty happy at how quickly it went together and how nice it looked.  

I wanted this quilt!

I still didn't have a backing for the quilt, so back to the fabric stores I went.  Of course, I then found a green Batik that would have gone with the red and blue blocks.  But the hell if I was going to rip out the stitches for the work I already finished so I just settled on using the green I already had as a border strip.  I picked out a blue flannel for the backing.

This quilt was going to look awesome!

Putting on the green border wasn't as difficult as I had imagined.  Neither was getting the front, batting and backing sewn together (although I did cheat and used some fabric adhesive to keep the pieces from moving all over).  There were some puckering problems, and I admit that some swearing accompanied the actual "quilting" of the blocks.  At first I wanted to use a fancy patterned stitch for the quilting, but the foot of the machine kept hanging up on the flannel backing.  I tried several fancy stitches before finally giving up.  I had taken out no less than three-thousand-eight-hundred-forty-two stitches with the seam ripper.  My eyes were beginning to tear up half-way through taking them out, not sure if it was because I was straining them too much or because I was going to have a breakdown and just uncontrollably sob.  I ended up using just a straight "stitch in the ditch".  Good enough.  

I loved this quilt!

The binding, however, was a frekking nightmare.  At first, I thought I was going to use a red binding.  Mom said how easy it was to make binding, but I was going to go the really easy way and bought some pre-made binding.  No cutting, no ironing, just bam!, put the binding on and sew away.  Except when I laid the red binding on the quilt I didn't like the look (yes Mom, I know you liked it, but too bad, I didn't).  I tried to like it.  I reasoned that it really didn't matter.  But I just couldn't embrace the red binding and it drove me nuts.  So I threw the easy-peasy pre-fabricated binding in my fabric bin and asked Mom to show me how to make binding.  Since I liked the green border I decided to use the same material.  I guess making the binding isn't really that hard (of course, assuming you have the wheelie-bob, an iron and my Mom) but I was still distraught that I wasn't able to go the really easy route and just use the store bought stuff.  

Mom.....will you finish this quilt for me?

I hated the homemade binding.  It wasn't as stiff as the other stuff and we had to piece a bunch together to get the correct length.  There were also six hundred straight pins required, at least half of which ended up being run through my fingers or thigh and causing much blood loss.  I also made a slight binding error so we had to do some creative folding and tucking to get it to look halfway decent.  At this point I would have used a store bought binding even if it was cat-puke-Meow-Mix-orange; I didn't give a rat's ass what color it was just so long as it wasn't the homemade stuff I was working with.  

I couldn't wait to finish this quilt.

Then there was the thread color.  The thread was a little too bright and didn't blend into the green border, so I figured if we were going to see the thread, I may as well make it stand out like I had wanted it to be seen (brilliant logic, hugh??).  So I tried the fancy stitch pattern again and it worked ok as it didn't have to contend with the flannel material anymore.   It was difficult to get going, but after a while it worked out.  Not perfect in any way, but it served the purely functional purpose of holding the edges together and hiding the raw seam underneath.  

I wanted this quilt out of my sight.

Finally finished, I shoved the damned thing in a box packed it up lovingly and sent it off to my friend for her belated birthday present.  I hope she likes it.  I hope it matches her cottage living room.  I hope she doesn't notice the obvious quilting technique faux pas and evident sewing mistakes made purely in an act of desperation.

I hope I never see that stinking quilt again.

I'm going to go crochet something now.

Monday, February 20, 2012




Susan over at e-i-e-i-omg! saw my pathetic attempt at sewing up a last-minute, butt-ugly goat coat out of an old blue towel for this guy and took pity on me.  She not only sent me the beautiful wool sweater the kid is wearing in the above pictures, but also another one made from Llama hair (wool? fiber? angora?  What is llama fuzz called anyways?).  

It fits him perfectly, and with some room to spare!  I will no longer worry about the little guy getting cold at night or having to endure being the laughing stock of the barnyard.

I have to admit, after admiring the beautiful fibers of these handmade items, I was more than a little bit jealous that my livestock was going to be wearing a hand-knit sweater made of Llama wool.  I'VE never had a llama sweater!!  I mean, come ON!  What the hell is up with that???

The things we do for our critters.

And the things we do for our blogging buddies. 

Thank you so very, very much Susan!

(Wonder if Susan can knit Cat's Pajamas???)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Party on, Dude!

Just so you all don't think that we neglected Rhiannon on her birthday, I'd like to disclose that she had not only one, but two parties!

We had  two of Rhiannon's friends over yesterday for some running around, screaming, party games and the regulation consumption of mass quantities of cookies, rice krispy treats and ice cream cake.

Rhiannon & Daddy playing with one of her presents.
Then we went over to Grandma & Grandpa's house this afternoon:
We had Rhiannon's favorite meal; Fried Chicken!!  Then more presents.  And of course, more cupcakes.

She won't be asleep until at least 1 am.  Ugh.

Three years ago

Just a mere half-hour from now, exactly three years ago, Rhiannon decided that she'd had enough of life in my uterus.  She wanted out, and wanted out right THEN!

As she made this decision two months early, and without consulting Paul or I, it was quite the experience for us.  And our plans of a quiet  home birth were thrown out the window.  So much for laboring in the tub with candles, incense and classical music playing in the background.

Heak.  That's how I WANTED it to be.  Granted, I'm pretty sure there would have been lots of loudly vocalized swearing, cussing and the like.  But since we'll never know how it would have gone at home, I'd like to think that it would have been a very calm and spiritual experience.  Well, let's just pretend, shall we?

To say that our world was turned upside down for a while would be putting it mildly.  Two ambulance trips (one that cost over five grand!!!  What's with that???  Although in retrospect, that was one of the cheapest line items on the bill.), two different hospitals, one almost two hours away, and a month of Rhiannon in the NICU.  

But after all the insanity, we were able to bring our daughter home.  And as any parent knows, she has forever changed our lives for the better.

And even though I tend to lament on about how my serene, natural home birthing experience was stolen from me, I am glad for the availability of modern medical facilities.  I cringe to think what may have happened if we did not have these options available to us.  

I'd like to add just one more thing about our month-long stay at the hospital.  Although Paul was there by my side 24/7 for the first week-plus, he eventually had to go back home for work and to relieve my Mom and our neighbors from the daily tasks of our farm.  Since the hospital was a two-hour drive from home, I couldn't feasibly drive back & forth every day to see Rhiannon.  After being kicked out of the hospital bed, we had to find some sort of hotel so I could stay nearby.  That's when we found out about The Ronald McDonald House.

I cannot say how wonderful it was to have that facility available.  For those of you that may not know about
The Ronald McDonald House, it is basically a large home away from home, usually located very close to a hospital (the one I was at was within a very short walking distance).  They provide room and board to families that have members in the hospital, believing that having family close-by is one of the best medications to a healthy recovery.  Daily home-cooked suppers were provided by local volunteer groups, an office with internet connection, a nursery / play room for younger children, a basement recreation room with a pool table for the older kids, and plenty of support from other families struggling with a member of their family in the hospital.  It was more than just a bed to go to after a long night at the NICU.  It truly was home-away-from-home during our time there.

For those of you who frequent The Golden Arches (do they even call it that anymore???), I'd like to ask you to think about dropping some of your spare change into one of those little collection boxes at the counter.  Yes, their fat and calorie laden franken food is pure evil to us homegrown / home canned / home made folk (but their french fries.....ooooooo, their fries!!!!), but I like to focus on the good that they have done.

Unlike many of the larger, always-in-your-face asking for donations charity organizations, this is one that we can honestly say does the most good in our community and is one of the few carefully chosen benefactors of our charitable donations.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Got Milk? Sure do!!

I was so worried about Nettie not producing milk that I put an ad in the freebie paper a few days ago.  If Nettie had more kids than I though she could provide milk for, I was going to give the male(s) away as bottle babies.  I just couldn't justify bottle feeding any kids, especially since any males were going to end up in the freezer and having to buy milk replacer would be cost prohibitive.

I really figured that it would be a problem getting "rid" of a male bottle baby, but I got five calls the first day the ad was online.  I took names down and explained to each of them that it wasn't necessarily a sure thing and that it would depend on how many kids she had and how much milk she had.

This is Nettie's udder about five hours before kidding:

It seems that Nettie is going to have more than enough milk for her kid.  

Since Nettie was so full, I also did something that I should have been doing every year; 
I milked about a quart and a half of colostrum out of her.  At first I felt badly for taking it away from the kid, but he seemed to be getting his fill and her udder still looked full.

It's a good idea to have some extra colostrum in the freezer in the event that a doe doesn't come into milk after a kidding (says I, the one who did NOT have any).  Even if you don't have any fresh milk to give a bottle baby and have to purchase milk replacer, getting real colostrum with all those good antibodies into that kid as soon as possible after birth is the best thing you can do for it.

Of course, in the days leading up to Nettie's kidding, I was wishing that I had saved some last year.  I did end up going to the feed store and buying a $12 bag of powdered colostrum just in case; wonder if I can return it?  But now I'm going to try and remember to freeze some every year.

Since Nettie only had one kid, I had to call back the people who had inquired about the free bottle baby and tell them sorry.  But there was one lady that was still interested in taking the kid after he was weaned -  and actually paying for him!

So although I'm a little disappointed that kid won't be fattened up for a tasty dinner for us (yes, I'm horrible, mentioning eating the cute little bugger, but that's how it usually goes around here with the male kids), but I'm also happy that he will be going to a home where he will be a pet and not a roast (or burger, or rack of oh-so-tasty-ribs).

Oh, and a great big "Thank You" for all of your well wishing and happy thoughts the last few days!  You guys are the greatest!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


This has been, by far, the longest kidding labor I've ever attended.  Nettie started talking and hunching her back around Noon today.  She was out of the kidding stall for the morning and I figured I'd let her stay out until she started getting down & dirty about labor.  

I swear she was going to have another quick kidding.  Or maybe it was just wishful thinking.  She was having pretty regular contractions since about 1 o'clock.  But then she'd just completely stop.  I'd walk her around some to get things moving again and then she'd have a few more.

This lasted throughout the afternoon.  And through suppertime.  And getting darn close to bedtime.  Finally just before 8 o'clock she starting having really hard and fast contractions.  Normally she'll lose her mucus plug several hours before kidding, and her water will break before the "bubble" shows.  But this time she held on to the plug and water (or whatever you call that other water thingy other than the birth sack) right up until I saw the kid.  He was presented correctly, although Nettie was having quite a hard time.  He was in the "diving" position, but I ended up helping her along just a bit by gabbing hold of the front feet and gently pulling as she had her contractions.  I knew it was a male before the sack even broke because I could already see the horn buds on his skull.  

I helped clean him up and dry him off, expecting Nettie to hunker down and get busy delivering another kid, or at least the placenta.  But as of 9:45 there wasn't another kid, or the placenta, unless she already ate it (the placenta, not the kid!!).   

If there isn't another kid, this will be the only time Nettie has kidded with only a male.  I guess I shouldn't complain.  The first two years she gave me a single doeling each time.  The third and forth years she had twins - one doeling and one buckling.  The fifth year she had triplet doelings.  Not a bad female to male ratio.

The little guy was happily nursing when I left.  It's only supposed to be in the mid-30's at night so I had to put him in my homemade-five-minute-butt-ugly-goat-coat:

Warmth was the main objective.  Fashion was obviously a second thought.   

I'm off to bed before I do a face-plant onto my laptop.  Goodnight all!

It's GO time!


See ya all in a while!

Still waiting

You know, if I never second-guessed myself on the date of Nettie's kidding, I would have only been anxious since yesterday.  But nooooooo.........I had to re-calculate breeding dates and all that.  Serves me right.  Not only that, but when I checked the calendars for the past several years, Nettie has kidded a day later than her anticipated date the last three of five times.  So really, I should be expecting a kid sometime today.

It's now almost 4 in the morning on Thursday and I've been up for at least an hour.  Not only to check on Nettie, who has FINALLY bagged up, but to go coyote chasing.

Maybe a little over an hour ago, I half woke up and though I heard coyotes howling, but since I was being a lazy sloth still sleepy-eyed and mostly incoherent, I just shrugged it off and dozed off again.  Then a little while later I was awakened by the sound of a chicken squwaking like mad right outside the

SOB......they're back again!!!!

Ugh!  I'm back now; not that you really noticed my absence.  And my right ear is ringing from the sound of the shotgun going off.  (Yes Paul, I know I should have been wearing hearing protection)

Anyways, back to my original rant.  There was the distinct sound of a chicken going nuts-o right around the back of the house.  I throw on a pair of pants, grab the shotgun, hop into a pair of Paul's boots, don my handy-dandy headlamp (how DID I ever get along without one of those things???) and Moonshine and I rush out the door.  Don't ask me why I even let Moonshine out, the coyotes would just laugh so hard they'd piss themselves, but oh well.

The culprit is long gone, or at least that's what I figured as I didn't see any glowing eyes peering back at me from out in the woods or around the house.  Made a quick circle around the house and as I'm making my way out to the goat barn to check on Nettie (again....***sighs***), Moonshine must have got a whiff of something as she goes running out into the woods baying like mad.  

Now really.  What the hell does she think she's going to do?  I mean, LOOK at this dog:

In what alternative universe would you think a dog like this would ever stand the slightest chance of doing anything to a coyote but make it snicker when it realized it was being chased by an overweight beagle mutt??  I actually get a little concerned when she goes chasing after the deer thinking that I'll later find her pummeled into the ground with hoof-prints across her soft and supple sausage-like body.

But I regress (as usual).

I get to the goat barn and Annette, Chop Suey and Pan are all in their "what the heak's going on" stance.  Nettie is in the kidding pen, wondering the same.  I take her out to pee, let her wander around a bit, then after consoling the caprine crew with a handful of corn, make my way back to the house.  Moonshine is back, tail a-wagging and I give her an "Atta' Girl" pat on the head and we both come back inside.  I wanted to look for signs of the chicken struggle, but figure I'll look in the morning for the possible survivor or the pile of feathers from the coyotes snack.

What's a chicken doing by the house, you ask?  Well, there is one chicken that does not like to go into the coop at night.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe she's being picked on when trying to go inside.  Maybe she has claustro-coop-o-phobia and the thought of being cooped up with everyone else makes her queasy.  Or maybe she's just a stupid chicken and only just now realized why it's not such a good idea to roost somewhere other than the secure chicken coop.

Anyways, back in the house again, I turn on the computer 'cause I'm obviously too wired to go right back to sleep.  Grab myself a glass of water, put on my fuzzy slippers and start to type away on this post.  Then I hear the damned coyotes again.  (Which is where I left you guys hanging the last time)  Headlamp, shotgun (pants are still on btw) and fuzzy slippers on, I go outside and wait for a few minutes, listening to the choir of yipping canines.  It sounds like they are farther down the property by the creek so I just popped off a shot into the air to make them think twice about coming back around.  Oh.  Don't forget to swap your fuzzy slippers for "outside" shoes even if you're just going to be out on the porch for only a minute.  Because you won't be on the porch.  And you won't be out there for just a minute.  And then you'll have to scrape chicken crap off your fuzzy slippers.

Haven't heard them in about a half hour now, so I'm going to finish this post.  You know, the short one that was just supposed to be an update that Nettie still hadn't kidded.  

Which she still hasn't.  Which is good I suppose because I really, really need to get some sleep.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I need a break...

....from goat bums.  And a nap.  Thank gawd I've only got two pregnant does this year.  

Anywho, I haven't talked about my injured rooster in a while and thought I'd give you all an update because I just know you've been all been all nervously wondering if the next rooster post would be a good one or a bad one.   So I'll save you the anxiety and suspense and tell you he's doing ok.  Although he's still really underweight, he's perked up significantly in the last week.  He's been carrying himself a little higher, tail feathers in the air and all again.  Although he still stays away from the younger roosters, I've seen him all the way up by the front porch on occasion, picking through the vehicle-pulverized acorn pieces on the driveway.  I even saw him "run" a little distance when I tossed a half-eaten apple out in the yard.

Still no crowing or hen-wooing though.  I wonder if he had more than just his foot and pride injured.  He's becoming quite the shadow though; following me around hoping for some good scraps or his own little pile of chicken scratch.  Which I usually provide him with; sucker that I am.

BTW, I was just out there at the barn and Nettie was just laying down in the hay.  Took her out so she could relieve herself, the she walked back in the kidding pen on her own.  Probably thinking I would give her another scoop of grain or something.  

Which I did; sucker that I am.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A watched goat butt....

...never kids.
I've been in and out of the mucky, muddy, squishy goat area about every stinking hour.  And bringing in all the mud caused by the melting of yesterday's snowfall.  At least the snow is gone.

Still no visible contractions.  No dilation.  No plug, not goo, no nothin'.  Nettie had bedded down in one of the goat huts for a while (and immediately
pee'd in it of course), but I attribute that to the fact that I finally cleaned it out and put fresh hay down in there.  She came right out when I tossed them another fork full of hay:
Are you going to look at my butt AGAIN??
Can't you see I'm trying to eat here?!?!
 The only kind'a sort'a sign of impending labor would be this:

Nettie has been holding her tail much higher than normal.  I would also expect to see her back end hunched over a bit more, but not yet I guess.

I suppose that this "delay" could just be a total error on my record keeping.  And honestly, I suppose I'm glad that she hasn't kidded yet as she still isn't quite as full in the udder as I would like to see.

So the wait continues.  

I swear, I wasn't this anxious when I was pregnant.

She IS! (I think....)

After checking on Nettie no less than sixty-four times yesterday (in the snow, yes, it finally snowed....figures), I have decided that she is, in fact, pregnant.

I have the kidding stall all fixed up so figured I could put her in there a little early.  I normally try to put off bringing the does in there until I'm positive they are in labor in order to keep it as poop-and pee-free as possible.  Because you know, as soon as they go in there they have to go to the bathroom.  

Bucket full of warm water.  Bunch of hay for munching.  Kidding kit all ready and in the barn.  Baby monitor hooked up (which didn't end up working anyhow because of interference from the power inverter) and my flashlights and handy-dandy headlamp all ready to go.  

Several days ago our spring-like weather finally gave up and made way for the "normal" winter weather.  Teens at night and only 30's during the day, but today is supposed to be near 50 degrees and above freezing at night thank goodness.  

One thing I didn't think about with such an early kidding (I usually plan on a late March or early April kidding) is that it's still going to be cold at night, and there's no way I'm going to keep a heat lamp out there with a curious goat in there!  I'm not really concerned about Nettie, but her babies could get cold.  So I scoured the internet for some quick and easy baby goat coats and sewed three of them up just in case.  They are pathetic looking examples, but I promise to get pictures once they are on the kid(s).

Oh, back to how I decided that Nettie IS pregnant:

While sitting with her in the kidding stall, waiting for a contraction or an arched back or straining or pawing or
something, I saw what was absolutely, definitely without a doubt a kid pushing on the side of her stomach.  I thought I felt a kid earlier yesterday, but told myself it could be her rumen or other goat-gut kind'a stuff going on, although it really did feel harder than intestines.  Now I was almost positive.  

Now I just have to worry about her milk supply.  And if her milk doesn't come in within a day of her kidding, what I'm going to do with any male kids.  As much as I don't want to, I would bottle feed a doeling, but since the male kids are just going into the freezer anyhow, I can't see spending too much additional time or money for milk replacer to "fatten" up a dairy goat for the freezer.  A few people suggested putting him up for a freebe on the local trading post and I think that may be a good idea.

In the meantime, I'm off (again) to check on Nettie.  Hopefully she'll at least wait until daylight hours and until Grandma can get here to help me with Rhiannon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is she? Isn't she?

After checking (and checking, and checking) on Nettie as she's supposed to be kidding on Wednesday, I went back to my calendar to double check my dates.  And guess, what?  I was off by two days.  

But not by two days later, but two days earlier!  I obviously just wrote down five months later as opposed to the actual 150 days.  Nettie's kidding day is supposed to be TODAY!  And she's still saggy-baggy with no real signs of labor.  Her ligaments seem pretty much normal, but then I feel them again (and again, and again) and I think that they
may be loosening up.  Or maybe I'm just hoping to feel that.  Then I feel her udder and think that it may be filling up, but her teats are still all saggy.

She'd been underweight at her last spring kidding with three doelings so I stopped milking her after the kids were weaned hoping to put weight back on her.  I also continued feeding her grain even though I wasn't milking her.  She got a top dressing of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds and Rice Bran on her grain as well.  Nettie was starting to get meat back on her and by September she was looking good enough that I figured it would be safe to have her bred.  

I though that the breeding went successfully as she never went into heat afterwards.  Her belly isn't huge by any means, but last year I wouldn't have guessed that she was even pregnant by just looking at her size, yet she popped out three kids!  

Did the breeding not take?  Why didn't I notice her go into heat again?  Did she abort without me knowing?

So.  Now what?

Well, nothing I guess.  It's not like there's much I can do about it.  I suppose I'd rather her not be pregnant if she's not going to produce milk enough that I have to bottle feed kids.  And we'll still have milk in a month when Annette kids (assuming she was successfully bred!) so we won't be milk-less for long. 

I'm still going to keep an close eye on her for the next several days.  And hope for good news, in whatever form I can get it.

The Logistics of Hay, Part 3

Some people get hay fever.  I get hay paranoid.

I guess in a normal year I wouldn't be so hay-anxious, but as most of you know firsthand, droughts across the country have been not only sending hay OUT of areas that had plenty of hay, but driving the costs UP.  It's not like our standard operating procedure is to constantly scrounge for hay, or have a J.I.T. kind'a system set up for livestock feed.  On the contrary, I do all I can to cram extra hay and grain in whatever type of storage system I can manage.  But last year we were, well, screwed to put it lightly.  Before the first cutting, we met the guy doing the hay cutting (he cuts & bales for thousands of acres around here) saw the pasture the hay was coming from, agreed that we would buy a trailer load (14 round bales) and he would deliver it (giving him a chance to make some more money, and relieving Paul of having to do it).  I kept in touch with him on a weekly basis.  But there seemed to be never-ending excuses, some of which were obviously true (the drought), but others not so believable.  He promised to call when the bales were ready for delivery.  After not hearing for him for some time, I called him.  He said that he sold everything because he didn't think that the hay would be good enough for us.  What???  To say I was pissed would be an extreme understatement.

So back to our hay acquisitions this past year.  After finding the not-so-much-ours hay was more than likely on it's way to Texas, we were able to get eight not-so-large bales (3'x3' instead of 4'x4'......but for the same price, of course) to add to the two large rounds we had in the barn.  But as the months went by it was obvious that it was going to be a very close call to make it through to the first spring cutting.  My hay panic attacks were back.

So this past fall and winter I have been on a constant lookout for hay.  Or let me be a little more specific; hay that didn't look like it had been sitting out in a field for a year and been used as cattle bedding beforehand.  I couldn't believe the stuff people were selling as "hay".  Maybe sub-par animal bedding, or the makings for a good compost pile, but definitely nothing I would want my animals to be eating.

Two weeks ago I drove by the local feed store and saw that they had several large round bales in the parking lot and about a dozen in the back.  Only a few hours later I drove back by the store and the ones in the front lot were gone.  I immediately called Paul at work and told him that we'd have to make an early morning run the next day to get some hay before the rest were sold.  I called the feed store first thing in the morning only to find out that they were already gone; they sold almost twenty bales in less than 12 hours.

Two days later I was passing the feed store again and went in to get a bag of goat chow.  Not that we were out of goat food, but I figured since I was passing by anyhow I'd just get another bag (and honestly, sometimes I just
gott'a go shopping, even if it's only at the local feed mill).  When I was in there I overheard one of the employees on the phone saying something about a hay delivery first thing Monday morning.  When she hung up, I apologized for my eavesdropping, but said I couldn't help but overhear that there might be more hay in.  She said they were expecting a trailer load, but didn't know what kind of hay nor what the price would be.  Hoping for the best, I said thanks and went on my merry way.  At least there was another chance of us getting more hay.

Monday morning came around and I called the feed store.  They had hay in!  They hadn't had a chance to price it yet, but I told them I'd be right over and wait if I had to.  I packed Rhiannon into the truck and we zipped out to the store and there were already two other customers there for the same reason I was.   I bought three bales of "OK" looking hay for $65 each (last year they were $50 and much better quality).  We patronize that feed store often so they were willing to hold on to them until Paul could pick them up later that evening.  One went into the mule barn, the other two came to the house for the goats  No more 
hauling hay in the back of the car, whoo-hoo!
We really need to get a better storage solution for goat's hay.
So although we may have made it through to the local spring cutting, I feel a hundred times better knowing that we should have a little extra.  The fact that there is now one less goat to feed also helps some.  

Hopefully this year won't be as nerve wrecking as last year.  

And the moral of this story?  Don't count your bales until they're in the barn!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


....the last bit of milk from Thursday evening's milking of Ishtar:
Yup, that's all that's left.  Technically there wasn't much anyhow (only a quart) as she's at the end of her lactation period and I was going to stop milking her once Nettie kidded and I had more milk again.  But that really IS it.  No more milk.

Because I sold Ishtar yesterday.

I've been going back and forth on what to do with her.  Although she's a great milker, I don't particularly care for her attitude.  Yes, I know there is a pecking order within a herd, but she's the Herd Queen that rules with an Iron Hoof.  In my opinion, one does not have to be a total bully to be Herd Queen.  Butting lower goats on the totem pole is acceptable, as is expecting to be fed first, petted first, led out to green pasture first.  But Ishtar took her position as herd ruler just a bit too far.  Maybe I was just being too motherly about it; can't everybody just get along??  But when Nettie was Herd Queen, there wasn't nearly as much pushing, shoving or head butting going on.  Last year I even saw Ishtar pick up one of Nettie's week-old kids by the scruff of the neck and fling it across the goat yard.

So I decided to put an ad in the freebie online paper and got a call on her that afternoon.  They came and got Ishtar that evening (darnit....maybe I should have asked for more $$).  I wrote up all of Ishtar's information including date of birth, dam and sire, breeding date, anticipated due date, and list of shots she's had and dates when she'll need others.  She will be part of a larger herd now; about a dozen other Saanens, Alpines and dairy crosses.  They don't sell the goat milk, but use it to fatten up calves.  

Although I feel like I should be saying that I'll miss her, I don't really feel badly.  Feeding time last night was very calm and orderly.  I didn't get trampled by Ishtar going into the milk parlor for her grain.  I didn't have to sweep up the "undesirable" goat food pellets that she spits or flings out of her food dish and onto the floor.  When I forked fresh hay into the feeder, there was no pushing or butting and I didn't have to scream "ISHTAR!!" at the top of my lungs.  

So not only am I savoring the last bit of milk (at least for another few weeks), but I'm savoring the relative peace and quiet that has finally come to the goat pen.

Saturday Oven Lovin'

I know there are several of you that share your recipes with us on your blog.  There are times when you guys are my "Go-To" place when I'm scratching my head trying to think of something to make for dinner, a different treat, or another bread recipe to try.  

If you want to share with a few more people, Tiny Gardener hosts a weekly Saturday Oven Lovin' where you can post a link to your recipe there.  

Here's my recipe for this Saturday:

Chocolate x 2 Cookies
1 1/4 Cups Butter, softened
2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 Cups Flour (I used 1 c. whole wheat & 1 c. white)
3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Chips (although white chips would probably look neat)

Make like any other cookie recipe.  350 degrees for 10 minutes.  They will be a little soft, but don't be tempted to cook them much longer as they will get too crunchy after they cool off.  Not that doing so stopped me from eating the over-baked cookies dunked in milk.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chickens and Turkeys and Eggs....

Tuesday was a monumental day.  Well, not really monumental, but a kind'a big deal.  Not much happens around here so I pretend that every little thing is, like, amazing.  One of our new pullets laid an egg!  These chickens were our own barnyard mutts and hatched on September 1st of last year, so it's been five months and one week from pipping to laying!  Both on Wednesday and Thursday there were two pullet eggs!  And the best part is that they were actually IN the nesting boxes.  Well, one was in the nesting box, the other was on top of the nesting box.  What's that they say about horseshoes and hand grenades?  Good enough for eggs then, says I.

One of the (many) things I worry about is having all my chickens suddenly decide that it's a good idea to find a secret hiding place somewhere out in the woods to lay their eggs.  I've stumbled upon many a "secret" nest during our six years of chicken-keeping.  Under an old sink behind the house.  Beneath the not-put-together stack of greenhouse panels.  On the tractor seat.  Underneath the bulldozer.  Stuffed between the big round bales of hay.  In the goat house rafters.  Even smack-dab in the middle of the goat yard; although it could have been kicked there by another chicken wanting to play soccer I suppose.

The older hens have been laying more too.  I've been getting on average four eggs a day from them.  I guess that light in the coop is helping (yes, I'll eventually post on the illumination of the chicken coop) as well is the warmer weather and increased daylight.  Or it could be the extra helping of greens they've been getting:
Peck quickly Gloria, the crazy-screaming-broom-waving lady is coming!
What's left of the dormant cabbage plants.  Luckily I just picked the three
that had a decent sized head on them before the chicken onslaught began.
We've also been seeing and hearing the local turkeys a lot more.  I've seen them almost every day in the back yard where the temporary goat pen used to be; today I counted twenty-two!  There's lots of still-green grasses, clover and other delectables back there for them to eat so they've been having breakfast there lately.  I've been tempted to scatter some corn back there to give them a snack but then my next though was to take the rifle out and bean one of them so we can have a turkey dinner (how's that for a conflicting series of ideas; feed 'em or eat 'em). Yes, I know, we have a freezer full of homegrown Cornish, but turkey is soooooo good!  That's one of the things I'm hoping to add to our farm this year.  How great would it be to have a homegrown turkey for the Holidays?!

Not sure if we're going to get some heritage breeds from the hatchery or if we'll just get the boring whatever-they-get-in poults from the feed store this spring.  I'm leaning towards the heritage breed, but then I would have to buy at least a half-dozen because I'd have a moral obligation to keep a breeding pair around in order to perpetuate their breed.

Ugh.  I've been having anxiety attacks lately thinking that we're going to have to reduce our livestock numbers because of the high feed and hay costs.  And now I'm talking about breeding rare poultry.  Will I never learn???