Saturday, October 30, 2010

Play Area for Rhiannon

Rhiannon just LOVES playing with the gravel in the driveway & the pea gravel in the local park so I figured we’d make her a little “gravel pit” in the front yard using an old tractor tire.  Of course she wanted to help. 
Still have to put the landscaping fabric down in it & pick up a load of gravel – hopefully on Monday.  She keeps wanting to go inside the tire & play but it’s just a bunch of dirt right now.  Took two baths today.

It will be nice to have an area for her right in front of the house so I can sit on the porch & be able to watch her.  When she gets too old to play in it I’ll just convert it into a raised bed or dig the gravel out & move the tire to the goat pen for those kids to play on. 
We’ve accumulated quite a bit of freebee treated lumber the past few years and also have a few of those plastic 55-gallon drums so I’m trying to figure out some other simple playground-type stuff that I can build for her.  Anyone have suggestions?

Friday, October 29, 2010


It got down to 33 degrees last night and supposed to be just as cold tonight.  Highs today in the lower 60’s.  I’ve been in denial, but I guess I have to finally admit that summer is really gone.  Not that I should be complaining; we had a doozy of a hot & dry summer this year.  We lost several of the blueberry bushes and four of the 20 fruit trees we planted earlier this spring.  Although two of them didn’t even break dormancy so I’m pretty sure that they were dead when we bought them.  We made a 4-hour round trip ride up to a place that had “special ordered” the dwarf fruit trees for us.  Well, stupid me didn’t check the tags on all of them & it turns out that half of them were still semi-dwarf or even full sized trees.  Needless to say, we’re not very happy; $100 worth of dead trees, wrong sized trees, and no refunds.  I can kind of understand about the refund stuff  because they don’t know what kind of care you’ve given the trees, but the two plums we got were definitely dead & not “dormant”.  Live & learn. 

I was at Lowe’s yesterday picking up some “fixing stuff” and went through the plant section to see what goodies they had on sale.  And lo & behold, their trees were at least 50% off!  So I wheel my buggy over to the picked-over tree section & find several plum and nectarine trees. 
So I got two nectarine trees for under $20!  Not bad, hugh?
I would have bought more, but we don’t have any holes dug yet other than the empty spaces left by the dead trees.  And around here unless there is a place ready to go for a plant, they end up sitting in their pots forever.  So unless I get really ambitions, or unless Paul puts the backhoe attachment on the tractor, two nectarines are all that are going in the ground this Fall.  The cheapskate urge in me may be too strong though – come on, fruit trees (with a guarantee!) for under $10 a piece!  How can I NOT go back and get more?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


We have a several persimmon trees around the property, although a lot of them didn’t make through the ice storm in January of 2009.  I’m sure there are more out in the back forty, but I really don’t feel like stomping around in the woods until the tick population has diminished some.
I heard that you can tell how harsh or mild the winter will be by looking at a split persimmon seed.  If it looks like a knife, winter will bring winds that cut like a knife.  If it’s a spoon (shovel), there will be a lot of snow.  And if it’s a fork (good eating), it will be mild.
Great.  Looks like a shovel if you asked me.
Even though it’s not quite time for harvest yet, I did find a persimmon on the ground & it was pretty mushy.  So, of course, I took a bite.  It wasn’t totally ripe yet.  And if you’ve ever bit into an unripe persimmon, you can relate.  If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of such an experience, let’s just say I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy.  I’m hoping to collect enough for jam and breads and some for snacking on.  Although I’ll be eating positively, no doubt-about-it ripe ones. 
I’ve got to go and try to scrub my mouth out with a brillo pad now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bolus Goats. Check!

I’m such a bad goat-keeper.  In the four years we’ve kept goats, I’ve never given them a copper bolus.  They have free choice mineral, but the loose or block minerals I’m able to get around here lack copper because it’s an all-purpose mineral.  Copper is apparently toxic to sheep so I guess it’s left out of the mixture so there aren’t sheep just keeling over all around the county. 
I finally went and bought some boluses from a local lady and got myself a small balling gun.  Then I started reading on Homesteading Today that just about everyone eventually has a problem with getting the bolus down their goats using the balling gun.  So I’ve had the boluses & balling gun sitting on my desk for several weeks. 
After going back to the forum, others had written in that they use marshmallows or something sweet & sticky to put the bolus in & the goats just ate it up with no problem.  Now that was something I could definitely get my goats to do. 
Went out to the barn with a bag full of Dried Plums.  Not sure why it didn’t just say “Prunes” on the bag.  Maybe they sell more by calling them Dried Plums; eating Prunes must be un-cool.   Hmmm.  But I regress……
As soon as the troop got a whiff of the “Dried Plums” they went bonkers.  So we had a taste testing session.  I don’t think they even chewed them twice.  Which was exactly what I was hoping for.  The boluses don’t have powdered copper in them, but actual little copper rods, and I was afraid that the goats would be grinding their teeth on them.  But since the “Dried Plums” were basically inhaled by the goats, I didn’t think it would be a problem.
Everyone enjoyed their treats of copper-laced “Dried Plums” and I got the boluses down them without a hitch. 
I wonder if they would have eaten them if the bag had said “Prunes”.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Easy Cheese

No, not the fake squirty cheese stuff in a can.  Just Easy-to-Make Cheese.  I still haven’t mastered the art of hard cheeses, although I haven’t tried in over a year.  We made mozzarella a few months ago & it turned out ok, but I really want to learn how to make a good, sharp cheddar.
Anyways, since I’m lazy, I just make a fresh cheese; some call it Queso Blanco (or something like that).  And it’s easy enough for me to make in the early morning & have it ready in the afternoon.
I get out my nice handy-dandy, thick copper bottom pot, about one & a half gallons of goat milk, thermometer, stirring spoon & about ¾ cup of white vinegar. 
Heat the milk up to 185 degrees and then hold it there for ten minutes.  Move the pot off the heat, give it a quick stir while pouring in the vinegar & let it sit for several hours or until it’s cooled down.
I make two slices in the set curd to make four large pieces so it's easier to pour  out.  Drain off the whey and strain it through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  You don't have to save the whey, but I keep it for the chickens; it's a good protein supplement for them and I hate to see it just go down the drain.
When it's finished draining, I pack it in a plastic tub & it will keep in the fridge for about a week.  I've also had luck with freezing it, although it's best used in a baked dish instead of a "fresh" spread as some of the water separates out of it and the consistency is not as smooth. 
This batch made 2 lbs. 11 oz. of cheese.  The cheese will be used for pizza topping, lasagna or cheese enchiladas, although when we're up to our eyeballs in it, I’ll put it in just about anything I can.  I’ve also made a sweet cheese spread for bagels or toast by whipping it up with some stevia or honey and I’ve also made some with dried onion and other herbs for cheese & cracker snacks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Oak nuts.  Acorns.  Or, as they say ‘round ‘ere – “Akerns”.  Well, whatever you call them, we’ve got ‘em.  Haven’t had a good crop in several years so it’s good to see so many on the ground.  The deer aren’t even bothering with the corn in the feeder & suppose they won’t until they’ve finished up all the acorns on the ground.
Rhiannon & I have been picking them up & giving them to the goats for treats.  Not sure what kind of nutritional value they have, but if it cuts down on my grain bill, I’m all for it.  So I’m going to start bagging them up & storing them for winter treats.  I’m thinking I may have to stick them in the freezer before storing them to kill any of the bugs -I don’t want to open up a bag next month and find a mass of grubs instead of a bag of acorns.

I pondered trying to attempt processing them into acorn flour.  I tried several years ago with no success.   Boiled them in about a dozen changes of water & just couldn’t get the water to run clear.  So I just drained them, spread them out on some baking pans & put them in a low oven for a couple of hours until they dried.  They were still horribly bitter.  I’ve read somewhere that the Native Americans would tie them up in a bag & put them in a running river / stream for several weeks to leach out the tannins.  Well, I don’t have access to a running stream, so I guess I’ll just leave the oaken bounty to the animals.  It’s a bummer I can’t use them for us.  They are so easy to shell & have a lot of nut meat to them.  The only nuts we have around the homestead are the black walnuts (which I pretty much hate, even in cookies) and the hickory nuts.  And the hickories are just as hard to crack open as the walnuts.  I was hoping to get one of the outfits that come to the area during walnut season to shell a bunch of hickory nuts for me but I heard they only do walnuts.  Bummer.  Guess if I want to eat hickory nuts I’ll have to go outside on the porch with a hammer & a nut pick. 
All this talk of nuts is making me want to browse some online nursery catalogs.  I’ve been wanting to buy some hazelnut bushes for a few years.  Maybe this will be the year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boating, Goating and Baking

Boating season was officially over on Labor Day, but since I hadn’t been out on the boat this year, figured we should at least get out once before Paul winterized the boat.  I’m not comfortable with bringing Rhiannon out on the lake yet, so Grandma was gracious enough to watch her while Paul & I spent a few hours out fishing & enjoying a warm day on the water.  And since most people have already packed their boats away, there were hardly any other boaters out there.  We had a nice cove all to ourselves.

We took the mini-horse to the vet today.  Paul had him in the trailer pretty quickly.  He (the mini, not Paul) took the drive real well.  The vet confirmed our suspicion that he is just a baby so we’re going to give him another six months for his other testicle to drop.  Hopefully it will; then we’ll have him gelded & start working him with a saddle on.  If it doesn’t, we’ll have to take him on a two-hour ride to the closest vet who will do the surgery.  Also had the vet give him a tetanus shot & I picked up a dose for Ms. Melman at the feed store since she’s never had one.  Ms. Melman gets really upset when we take the mini out of the pasture.  Last time she got herself all in a huff, running around the perimeter fence & breaking a pretty good sweat.  When we brought him back home she seemed happy to see him.  I’m glad that they have each other for company.
On the goat-front; Ishtar is in heat.  I’m not going to have her bred until next month though.  This way Nettie will kid first in the middle of March, then Ishtar and Annette in April.  Hopefully Ishtar & Annette “cooperate” and kid at least a week apart so everyone can have some time in the kidding pen alone.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to have Nettie’s kid, Cloud, bred this winter or not.  She’ll be eight months old in January, so if she’s still in heat then I’ll probably breed her.  If not, I suppose it will just have to wait until next fall.  I’m definitely not going to have Stormy bred this year.  She’s a bit on the small side & I’ll have enough to deal with three kiddings next year.  I keep wondering when I’ll start selling the does.  It’s so hard to decide which ones to sell – I want to keep them all.  But they will eventually eat us out of house & barn & how much milk do we actually need?  Maybe it would be different if I were able to make hard cheeses, but since I haven’t mastered that skill in the least bit, the milk we get now from two goats is more than enough. 
Made some bread on the weekend.  A nice, sweet loaf with a decent rise (and I only let it rise once in the pan – I didn’t punch it down).  It’s a bit too sweet for meat-type sandwiches, but it was awesome with peanut butter & jelly or just a bit of butter.
 Here’s the recipe for one large loaf.  375 degrees for approximately 35 minutes.
1 ½ cups water
½ cup maple syrup (could probably use maple flavored syrup)
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 ½ teaspoons yeast

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Working at the Goat Wash - yeah! Come on & sing it with me....Goat Wash

I don’t know about anyone else, but all of my goats totally hate getting wet.  Anytime it gets even the least bit moist outside, they go running for cover in or under the barn. Like it’s acid rain or something.  I’m melting…. I’m MELTING!!!!  I can’t even get them out in the rain with a bucket full of grain.  Anyways……….
Nettie was in heat earlier this week so we had put her in with our buck, Mr. Stink-O, (aka Pan) a few hours for two days.  She smelled so bad that I ended up tossing her milk to the chickens both days.  Not that there was really anything wrong with the milk, but after having my nose up next to her during milking time, I just couldn’t bear the thought of drinking milk that came from anything so very, very stinky.  And to think that this was “second-hand” stink.  The does and their kids stay in the goat barn up in front & Pan & the freezer goat stay in a pen in the back yard.  It’s been so smelly this year during rut that I’m no longer able to put my laundry outside to dry in the back yard.  I couldn’t bear to smell Nettie anymore so I decided to give her a bath.  I’m sure some people wash their goats, especially those that go to the fairs, but I’ve never really had a reason to.  Until this weekend.  So I walked Nettie up to the house by the water spigot, gave her a handful of ‘Nilla wafers and drenched her with the hose.  Since I didn’t have any goat shampoo (I’m sure there is such a product, but I don’t even buy doggie shampoo so I sure as heak wasn’t going to be buying any goat hair care products) I just used some Dawn dish soap.  Hey, I figure if it’s safe enough to use on those cute little sea creatures covered in oil sludge & strong enough to take petroleum products off, then it should be good enough for a goat with buck stink all over her. 
Well, I had Nettie tied up to the front porch & did a pretty good job at scrubbing & cleaning her up. Of course, she was less than helpful.  At one point I was basically hog-tied by the goat lead & the hose wrapped around my ankles.  After I untied myself, I rinsed her off, gave her a nice fluffing with a towel and we were done.  She was so very, VERY clean!  She was so shiny & white that I didn’t want her to go back with the other does in case they messed up her hairdo!  Maybe if I get ambitious & we have another warm day I’ll give Ishtar & Annette a bath. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hey! It's Hay!

Paul went to get our winter hay for the mule and her buddy (still don’t have a name for the mini) and for the goats yesterday.  Bought 72 bales of a good Bermuda / mixed grass hay from a friend of his who raises cattle & hays his own fields.   It won’t last the entire winter though, especially now since we’re up to eight goats & two equines.  What I wouldn’t give to have 10 acres in pasture.  But nooooooooooo, I had to have all woods.  I will never again complain about the price of pasture land.


My Mom came over on Thursday with a hunk of ground beef & a determination to make either chili or meatballs.  Since she doesn’t like beans, nor the choice of wild meats I normally put in my chili, I decided to make meatballs.  Mostly because I’ve never made them.  It’s kind of weird that I’ve never made meatballs; I’ve cooked, fried, baked, stewed, smoked or BBQ’d just about any & every kind of dish but I've never made meatballs. Or fried chicken.  Isn’t that weird?  So here’s my first attempt at meatballs.
They turned out ok.  Some kind of spice was missing & they weren’t as firm as I would have wanted.  Maybe it’s because I finished cooking them in the sauce in the crockpot.  Paul’s Mom says she pan fries & finishes cooking them in the oven.  Maybe I’ll try that next time.  Nonetheless, we all ate meatball sandwiches until we were stuffed. 
I’ve get back to you on the fried chicken.

Daddy, I want a PONY!

Rhiannon must have been silently praying for a pony because guess what we ended up with?
Paul went up to feed Ms. Melman last weekend & found a mini-horse wandering around the pasture.  He opened the car door & the mini ran right up to him.  After he decided that he & Ms. Melman were going to get along ok, Paul put him in the pasture with her.  We called the Sheriff’s office to report a found horse, called &  drove around to the local horse people we knew to see if anyone was missing a mini but no one had.  Before the day was over we found the owner & offered to buy the mini from him.  He wasn’t in the best of shape.  His hooves were in bad need of trimming so Paul started working on that.  His front knees are swollen, although we’re not sure if it’s because of his long hooves or something else.  Given the other conditions, we’re assuming that he hasn’t been wormed, so that’s on the list of things to do.  Oh.  And he only has one testicle.  Ask me how I know. Nothing like getting up close & personal.  A vet friend of ours stopped by & she also gave him a quick once-over & confirmed my original suspicion that he had in fact, only one of his “boys” present.  So now we’re got an appointment with the large animal vet on Monday for an official check-up; and to find out how much it is going to cost to have him put under for surgery to remove his retained testicle.  Why couldn’t we find a healthy stray horse? 

Paul is smoking! Fish, that is.

Paul spent some time smoking some of the freezer meat we’ve accumulated this year.  A slab of goat ribs and a some rainbow trout.  We’re not big fans of trout unless it’s smoked, or unless it’s brown trout.  I think the rainbow are pretty much “blah” tasting in my opinion.  But I’ll eat just about anything (much to the amusement and horror of my family & friends).   I wish he would spend more time on the lake or river so we could have fish more often.  Now if I could just get him to find a spot where the Walleye are easy to catch……..

Last month I was able to pick enough wild grapes to make a decent amount of jelly.  I’ve made plenty of types of jams before, but never jelly, so this was my first attempt.  The first batch turned out just a wee-bit too firm so it’s a little hard to spread easily on toast, and the second batch was just a wee-bit too soft, although not soft enough for it to be considered a “failure” and become ice cream topping or pancake syrup.  A friend of Paul’s also gave us a bunch of apples and I made apple butter.  I’m hoping to make some jelly out of the persimmons when they are ripe later on.  I made a few loaves of persimmon bread last year, but this year I’ve found a tree with lots of persimmons on it so should have enough for bread AND jelly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spring / Summer 2010

Paul made two raised garden beds earlier this year.  Only had tomatoes & peppers in them & they didn’t do too well with the heat though.  Paul said he’ll try to get several more beds in before winter so I can start digging compost into them to get them ready for spring planting.

Nettie had two kids in mid-May, a doeling named Cloud and a male freezer goat.  Annette had a single doeling just a few weeks later.   We bred the goats a little late last year so I want to breed them earlier this fall.  Here's a picture of Annette & her first kid, Stormy. 

We also got sixteen fruit trees planted this year.  Started with twenty, but lost two plum & two apple trees.  No fruit for a couple more years. 
Had a couple of our hens go broody this summer.  Unfortunately lost one hen & her two chicks to a raccoon because she wouldn’t go into the shed at night, then another hen's chick went missing & I had to put one down that had some really bad leg problems.  So out of eight hen-raised chicks, we only have four now.  One of them is already laying, but the others have a couple more months until we get any eggs from them.  If I find a cheap incubator in the paper I think I’m going to try my hand at incubating again.  I’d rather have the hens raise them so I don’t have to keep a heat lamp on them, but it seems that my broody hens can’t manage to keep more than five or six eggs at a time (they either keep breaking or they are eating them, not sure which) and out of those only a couple of chicks survive.  

Our garden was pretty pathetic again this year.  I started like 100 seedlings indoors in March, but most of them didn’t make it.  I think I didn’t have the light close enough; they were really spindly & never grew much once they were planted outside.  We got lots of yellow & red pear tomatoes, sweet banana peppers, a handful of green peppers & about a dozen cantaloupe.  The raspberries & blueberries didn’t do well this year, probably because I didn’t water them enough during the hot weather.  Mom’s raspberry & blackberry bushes did real well.  I’m going to have to plant the type of blackberry bushes they have as they were huge, thornless and absolutely delicious!

February 19, 2009

Rhiannon's here early!
Short, short version of a long story.  My water broke at 32 weeks.  Had planned a homebirth but my midwife said I had to go to the local hospital because she was so early.  Had to be transferred to the big-city hospital with a NICU.  I stayed at The Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital for a month while Rhiannon was in the NICU.  Brought Rhiannon home.  All is well now.  And here’s proof!  (Rhiannon is the kid in the middle in case you were wondering) 

Even though she was born two months early, I'm glad she was able to wait it out until AFTER the ice storm.  We just got power back to the house only nine days before.  I can't imagine what would have happened if she came just two weeks earlier when we were stranded at the house.

January / February 2009 - Ice Storm

This was our first Ice Storm.  It started sleeting on the evening of Monday January 25th and continued through Tuesday morning.  Luckily the weather guys gave us a day’s warning & I filled up all the water buckets & the bathtub the day beforehand. Barn chores were interesting; the entire place was a skating rink.  Goats, chickens, dog & I all ended up on our behinds several times during the day.  The scanner was full of traffic with calls about fires, electric lines down, accidents & a lady was even trapped in her house after a tree fell on it.  Our electricity went out around 10 am on Tuesday, something we were pretty much expecting.  Thank goodness we had the wood stove for heat and a generator for keeping the freezers going.  Of course, we had just bought another freezer & both were just packed with a hog & half a steer. Another thing that saved us some trouble is that Paul set up a goat area in the back yard using cattle panels.  The goats have been in there for a while & I’m glad of it.  The area they were in before was just electric fenced & a lot of it came down with all the tree limbs.  Several limbs came down on the cattle panel fence, but didn’t damage them enough for the goats to get out.  I’ve heard people describe the sounds of cracking branches like shotguns going off; they were right!  The trees started breaking & it probably lasted for over 24 hours.  It sounded like a war was going on & every time I heard one, I was half expecting something to come crashing down on the house & into the livingroom.
Paul left for work as normal on that Tuesday, but after 12 plus hours of cracking trees & downed limbs, the road to our house was totally blocked.  He had to park the truck about ¾ of a mile up the hill & walk down the road in the dark.  The constant noise of trees cracking had me up almost all night.  We both woke up with first light to see how the animals & structures were doing.  Paul called into work Wednesday.  He & our neighbors spent the entire day cutting a path out to the main road.  Even with four people, two chainsaws & a tractor it was slow going. 

As if no electricity, no running water & no heat wasn't bad enough with a big ‘ol pregnant belly on me, my beautiful feline-friend of fifteen years, Cheese, was preparing to leave this world.  It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.   After two plus days of seeing her slowly fade away, I finally was able to get a vet out here (with 4-wheel drive) around 4 pm on Thursday to ease Cheese’s passing.  It was killing me to see her and knowing that she needed help, but not being able to do anything about it.  I tried to get the car out twice already, and failed both times.  I even got the tractor going & tried scraping the road to get some traction & that didn’t work.   I just needed to get out of here so badly to help Cheese.  So after failing to get the car out of here, Cheese & I just laid down by the wood stove & stroked her.  If it weren’t for Cheese, I don’t think the storm would have bothered me so much.  As sad as I was (and still am re-reading this), I think that Cheese knew that I would be so busy with Rhiannon soon on the way (who was nice enough to “wait” until after the storm to be born) that she knew it was time to move on to her next kitty adventure.
My stored water supply ran out after three days.  I didn’t realize how much water the animals go through.  We were lucky enough to get water from a house up the road that has city water.  If it weren’t for that, we’d have to unhook the generator from the freezers & hook it up to the well pump.  During that time we heated water on the wood stove and used that for washing dishes, clothes & ourselves.  I cooked meals on the camp stove or on the wood stove.  Made good use of our oil lamps. We used paper plates, paper napkins & other disposables to save on water.
About five days after the storm & when the main roads were passable, Mom & I went to town (had to get my mind off Cheese).  Most of the smaller stores were still without power, but the Wal-Mart was open.  We went in there just for “fun”.  It looked as if the entire population of both counties were there.   Probably the only warm place with lights so if people could make it out of their house, they figured they’d just hang out there.  Only a few types of batteries left, no kerosene or propane or lamp oil and all the camping supplies were picked over.  There was plenty of food in the grocery section though.  Guess the produce truck weren’t having problems getting through the major roads.  I feel sorry for the employees there because not only were they crazy-busy, but the customers were getting ticked at them when they had to say they are out of something.  I was very tempted to tell a few people off.  They come into the store because they were unprepared and then expect every store to have all their supplies in stock, just waiting for them.  I shudder when I imagine what would happen in a “real” emergency.  And to think this was only five days after the storm started.   
Mom got her power back after seven days.  I think she spent the entire day vacuuming (just kidding Mom).  On day eight, I broke down & went over to Mom’s house for a long, hot, wonderful shower.  Washing long hair in a sink is no fun.
We were fourteen days without power.  I’m glad we “survived” without much trouble & without too much damage to the house.  So, what did I learn from this experience?
I really, really missed the microwave.
I miss hot showers even more.
I can actually live without the internet.
I need to buy more books.
Baby butt-wipes are indispensible.
Though not eco-friendly, paper towels, plates, cups & disposable utensils were very useful.
Scented candles in the bathroom are very nice, especially when you can’t flush every time.
Do ALL the dishes, laundry & other cleaning before a potential storm.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been without power for two weeks; you will still flip on the light switches.
Instant Cup-O-Soups aren’t really that bad.  Well, they aren’t that good either, but they didn’t kill me.
Need a bigger wash tub & wash board.
Need another / bigger generator.  (accomplished, finally)
Need one of those battery-operated camp shower head thingies.
Winter is coming up pretty fast.  I’d better go over my prep’s list again!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spring 2008

In March, Paul built a “Chicken Extension” on the backof the goat shed because he wanted his storage shed back.  I have to admit, the storage shed was a bit overkill for housing the chickens.  So now the chickens & goats share the same shed, but on different sides. 
I also started my first batch of incubator eggs.  Out of 40 eggs, I only got 17 hatchings.  But I’ll attribute the low hatching rate to the fact that I had a not-so-great homemade incubator that didn’t like to stay at temperature.    I’ve tried incubating on two other occasions, but have given up on that until I get a good incubator.

Ms. Melman joined us in May.  I haven’t been working with her like I should though. At first we were doing pretty well.  Got her halter & lead broke, did some lounging & got a saddle on her.   Then in late June,  I found out I was pregnant so that meant no major training opportunities.  Now I have my hands busy with Rhiannon.  I hope to be able to spend a bit more time with her this winter when Rhiannon is with Paul or Grandma. 

Fall 2007

Been going back & forth about replacing the crummy fireplace with a wood burning insert or a stand-alone wood stove, or even an outdoor wood furnace.  Well, one of our friends just so happened to be selling theirs, so we bought it.  Got it for a steal (thanks Ed & Sandy!) and installed it right before the cold weather started.  We have an electric heat pump, so we saved a lot of money on our heating bill.   Paul really busted his behind felling trees, cutting & splitting wood.  A wood splitter, other than Paul, is on the wish list.  The cats & dog fight for a spot in front of, or even underneath the stove.  I swear that one day I was going to come home to a slow-roasted pet.  
I love heating with wood.  I’ve also cooked many a meal on top of it.  Nothing better than coming inside to a toasty warm house & smelling homemade baked beans or stew.  Even cookies!  I made a make-shift oven using a high walled baking pan.  Put some foil over the top of the stove, put my cookie dough on it & covered it with the pan.  It took a lot longer than normal to bake them, but they still turned out great. 

Spring / Summer 2007

In the spring of 2007, we bought our first batch of Cornish x’s.  Once again, probably went a bit overboard and got fifty.  Which actually is just about the right amount for our use and freezer space, but it was our first time & probably would have been just as happy with half that amount. 
Since it was still a bit chilly outside, we kept them in the kidding pen in the goat shed with heat lamps until the weather warmed up then they went into the dog kennel.  I was amazed how quickly they grew.   They were eating & pooping machines.  I’ve never seen an animal eat so much.  Every time I went out to feed them, they acted as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks.  I had to keep one arm free when going into the kennel to feed them so I could swat the voracious buggers away from me.  It probably took us a month’s worth of weekends to butcher them all.  We dry picked some of the first ones, thinking that it was faster than taking the time to heat up water to scald them, but quickly learned otherwise.  So now we scald about 90% of our birds; I’ll skin the others for a “healthier” meal.  The older birds were dressing out at just over 5 pounds.  We were very happy with our first batch of homegrown chickens. 
Since then, we’ve grown out / butchered two other batches.  The second batch consisted of only ten birds and they were already at butchering size.  We bought them from a local lady; she bought too many and was sick of butchering, so we got a great deal on homegrown chickens and didn’t even have to keep them around for eight weeks!  
This year's batch were day old chicks from the local feed store. 

I normally like to get the chicks either in the early spring or late summer so butchering time isn’t so hot, but I was again sucked in to the store by the sign reading “We have chicks!”.  So, in to the store I go & buy 40 Cornish x’s.  It was late spring; not the best time in my opinion to raise birds, but I couldn’t resist such a good deal.  The chicks were only in the goat barn for a week, then went into the chicken tractor until butchering day. These chickens didn’t dress out nearly as large as our other batches, but I attribute it to the fact that they had to deal with a very hot summer.  I also fed them a “mash” of crumbles & water or whey (as opposed to just dry crumbles) thinking that they needed extra moisture because of the extreme heat.  So that may also have had something to do with the lower weights. We had a couple of the guys on the fire department come over to help one butchering day.  I’m going to have to invite Johnny over again next year.  He was a natural chicken “de-gutter” and could quarter a bird in a flash.  I was amazed at his dexterity at “de-gutting” and quartering.  I’d hand him a plucked chicken and a knife – and BAM!  In a whirr of hands & cleavers, the chicken was finished.  What a man!
Another pictorial reminder to myself that they were yummy, but messy.   We bought 10 cute, fuzzy, flappy-footed ducklings from McMurry for Fall butchering.  They were put into the dog kennel with some other day old layer chicks until it got too crowded.

When the ducks & chicks got too big for the kennel, we put them in the garden (which was finished for the season) along with a kiddy pool thinking they could swim & drink from it.  They did.  But they also liked to clean out their bills & poop in it.  Like every ten seconds.  I would have to change the water at least twice a day.  So the kiddy pool went out & in went some shallow buckets with wire on top.  The wire was large enough to let them clean out their bills & drink but they were unable to swim / poop in it. Oh, and they absolutely hated me.  No matter how many times I went in there to feed, water or give them treats, they would run away from me en mass like crazed, insane, flapping things right into the corner of the pen & practically smother each other in order to get as far away from me as possible.  Just as well I suppose since we were just going to eat them.  We waited just a little too long to butcher.  They started getting their second set of feathers & there were a lot of pinfeathers to deal with.  As soon as I forget how messy they were, we’ll get some more.  We baked one, fried one & smoked the rest.  The smoked ones (glazed and served with an orange / brandy  sauce) were by far the tastiest duck I’ve ever eaten.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winter 2006/2007

Winter 2006/2007
In December 2006 we bought a pregnant, registered, pure-bred Saanen doe and a Nigerian Dwarf wether. Nettie, the Saanen, came from a very nice local gal who raised Saanens for commercial milk.  She’s no longer in the goat business, which is a shame as the bucks she had were great sires & gave us beautiful kids.   She raises dairy cows now if I’m correct.  Last time we saw her she was chucking a big ‘ole rock at one of her cantankerous cows.  The wether, which Paul named Chop Suey, came from another local lady.  Here are pics of Nettie & Suey their first day at our place.  The goats went into the shed we originally built  for the chickens & we put up electric fence around about ¾ of an acre around the shed for them to roam & browse.

Nettie kidded on Easter Sunday 2007 with our first goat baby, a female named Ishtar.  We knew her due date was coming up, so for the week beforehand I was checking on her day & night, sometimes even napping out in the barn.  It was our first time being midwives to a farm animal & I thought we did pretty well.  Nettie has kidded four times now, so I'm more aware of the signs of impending labor and don't have to nap in the cold barn.  Although I do use a baby monitor now.  Wish I thought of that before. 
We still have Nettie's first kid, Ishtar, and her third & forth doe kids.  The three male kids she gave us are (or will soon be) going to be in the freezer for our dinner table.  We also adopted a Nigerian Dwarf buck, Pan, from a friend of ours who was moving out of state.  So we’re up to eight goats right now; one buck, one freezer goat, one wether, three does & two doelings.  Getting a bit crowded around here.
Winter 2006
Building the Chicken / Goat / Whatever Shed

February 2006
I fondly remember driving into town & seeing the marquee sign at the local farm store -  “Chicks are here!”  I squealed with delight, almost causing Paul to drive off the side of the road.  He managed to veer into the parking lot without causing any traffic pile-ups, and off I ran to select my first farm animal acquisition.   Not long after entering the store, I was sitting in the truck with a box of day-old chicks, sacks of chick feed & bedding.  I was so happy.  I think I even called my sister & Mom to let them hear the “peeping” in the box.  I also recall shaking the box to make them peep when they stopped.
Oh, did I mention that we got thirty?  Yes, thirty.  Three – Zero.   30.  Ten black sex-link pullets, ten straight-run Barred Rocks & ten straight-run Rhode Island Reds.  Don’t know what I was thinking at the moment.  But I told Paul that the reasoning behind having to buy so many chicks was that some would be roosters & some wouldn’t make it to laying age, so we HAD to get more than we thought we needed because of the possibility of a high mortality / rooster rate.  Well, since it was still cool outside & I wanted to give my first chicks the best possible chance at survival, we put them in big plastic tubs in the basement utility room.  This will NEVER happen again.  The bedding was so dusty & the poop was in such abundance that it took me months to get it back to pre-chick days.

Well, they finally made it out to the chicken shed.  Which turned out to not even be the one we built.  After much consideration on my part, I decided that the animal shed we built would be better suited as a goat house.  Granted, we didn’t have any goats.  Yet.  So the chickens went into the fancy pre-fab storage shed. After about six months, after several predator KFC dinners (Krazo Freerange Chickens) and having a few rooster dinners for our table, we finally started getting eggs.  How wonderful fresh eggs are.  I don’t think I can ever go back to store bought eggs again.  I’ve become an egg-snob.
We still keep our laying flock around eighteen birds, although that varies year to year depending on the coyote / bobcat / hawk population.  I don’t think we’ve had an individual chicken around here survive for more than two years.  Yes, we could build a predator-proof enclosure, but I really like watching the chickens in the yard (or porch!) & goodness knows we have ten million other structures & feet of fence to build.  Maybe one day we’ll have a large enclosed chicken run.  We have been very lucky this past year and have only lost five hens and three chicks.  Let’s hope the luck lasts through the winter.