Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Milking a Cloud

Today was Cloud’s second official milking.  I normally let the kids have all of mom’s milk for the first five days, but Cloud only had one kid, and of course, she favors one side so the other side looked very full. 
Cloud wasn’t very friendly as I didn’t spend enough time with her last year.  So about two months ago, I started training her to eat on the milk stand.  For the first week, I just let her eat.  The second week I started petting her and getting her used to me sitting down next to her on the stand.  Then I gradually started touching her udder and massaging it.  She didn’t care for it much, but I persisted.
So milking went pretty well.  She did freak a bit when her doeling started bawling so I had to let the kid into the milk parlor to calm her down.  I emptied the un-favored side and was quite happy with how she milked.  Nice sized teats and a large orifice. 
I’ve been going back and forth on which types of goats to keep. 
Nettie is my purebred Saanen, and I love her to pieces; she’s going to stay here until she goes to the lush, green pastures in the sky. 
Ishtar is Nettie's daughter and is also a purebred Saanen.  She puts out a lot of milk like her mom, but her teats are nowhere as nice as Nettie’s.  She’s also larger than Nettie and I had considered having her bred to a Boer to get some meaty kids, but am still undecided on that.  Ishtar has also taken over herd queen status from Nettie and I’m not very happy about it.  Not only because I have a soft spot for Nettie and hate to see her lose her status, but because Ishtar rules with an Iron Fist........
Isthar giving me the Evil-Goat-Eye

......and as much as I understand that there has to be a goat pecking order, she is just really mean to everyone else in the herd.
Annette and Cloud are Nettie’s first Mini-Saanen kids (½ Saanen and ½ Nigerian Dwarf).  They are probably what I will continue to breed for, especially after seeing that both have very nice udders.  Both have nice attachments, teats that I can grasp with my entire hand, and even better, they both have a large teat orifice.   And that means faster milking! 
Feed prices are going higher and higher, so I don’t have much choice but to find homes for the rest of the herd.  That means finding homes for Nettie’s two doelings, Annette’s buckling and wether, Ishtar’s doeling and wether and even Cloud’s cute-as-a-button doeling.
That’s seven kids I have to get rid of.  Although I actually have a buyer for the buckling and two wethers, so I need to re-home three doelings and one wether.  I really thought I’d have a problem finding homes for the males, but it seems I have the opposite problem now.  Who would’a thunk it?
Unfortunately, I’ve been finding out that the goat market has taken a nose-dive around here.  I suppose it’s probably due to the fact that it’s spring and everyone has either lambs or kids for sale and the market is flooded.  I’d hate to just take them to the sale barn.  Not only do you not get squat from the sale, but you don’t really know where they are going.  It’s not that I’m totally against anyone buying the male goats for butchering, but if it’s at all possible I’d like them to go to a home where the females can become useful as a family milker or where the wether can be a pet.
If I get really desperate I suppose I could hold on to the doelings (ugh, I’m already talking myself out of having to sell them!), have them bred and then sell them as milkers next year….but then I’m back to having to buy more feed throughout the summer and winter, and then hope they sell next spring.  Because if they don’t, I’ll not only still have them, but their kids as well.  Oh boy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anaconda of The Ozarks

Yesterday afternoon, Paul tells me that there is a huge, like six-foot snake in the wood pile. 
Ok.  And your point is?
Well, after much insisting that I come out and "take care" of it (with some #8 shot), I go out to the wood pile to investigate this Anaconda of The Ozarks.
"Well, don't you see it?"
"Uhm, no."
"There, he just went under that log."
So I flip over a log or two and see the snake.  And decide that the gigantic serpent is not, in fact, so gigantic that it warrants splattering its slender body against our store of firewood.
So I grab the snake and take him (her?) into the house....

where he (she?) is put into a pillowcase.....
and driven down the road to be released into the "wild".
Normally, I wouldn't really consider killing a black snake unless it's a return customer to the hen house.  But when Paul said that it was a huge snake, I did consider the fact that if it were large enough, it could, possibly, maybe, theoretically, eat one of my cats. 
And another reason I even considered killing this supposedly enormous snake was that I just saw a darned near huge snake earlier in the day. 
I was walking up to the neighbor's house when I saw what looked like some type of road kill.  It was furry and had black scales.....like somebody had run over a snake and a squirrel at the same time.  But upon closer examination, I realized it was both a snake and a squirrel!  The snake was in the middle of swallowing a squirrel.  I had no idea that black snakes got big enough to eat big, fat, tree rodents.
Even though it was an impressively sized black snake, I still let it live.  I did remove it from the middle of the road though (i.e. picked it up by the tail & tossed it into the woods), but didn't bother to wait until he was finished swallowing the squirrel. 
I'm nice, but not that nice.
Paul's Take
The snake Carolyn picked up was obviously a different snake.  The huge snake must have slinked away while she was taking her sweet-old-time getting to the wood pile.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eight is (more than) Enough

Last night was the beginning of the end….the end of Kidding Season!
Cloud’s due date was supposed to be on Sunday, but yesterday morning I noticed that she had lost her plug and her ligaments were very loose.  Being a first freshener, I wasn’t sure what her particular signs of labor would be, but the other two physical signs were a good indication that she may kid before Sunday.
So I got my butt in gear and finally cleaned out the kidding pen, put in fresh shavings and straw and got everything ready for a pending birth.  Cloud was still walking around pretty much like normal and didn’t seem any different until just before dusk.  Paul, Rhiannon and I were out in the goat pen for a while and Cloud was starting to talk to herself.  I kept an eye on her and didn’t see her arch her back and didn’t notice any contractions, although I did notice her tail was held a little bit higher.  We brought her into the kidding pen and turned on the baby monitor just before we turned in for the night.
Rhiannon and I were sleeping (well, Rhiannon was at least) when I heard a couple of goat-grunts.  Nothing that sounded too bad, so I just kind of stayed in bed and kept my ears tuned to the monitor.  A few minutes later, I heard Cloud grunt again, so figured I should get up, put some old duds on and grab a magazine while I waited out her labor in the barn.  But before I could even wrench Rhiannon from my arm, I heard another grunt, and less than a minute later, another louder goat-grunt.  So I bolt out of bed, throw my barn clothes on, grab the flashlight and trot out to the barn.  When I get there and open the kidding pen door, I saw Cloud laying on the floor and figured she was starting hard labor……..except it was OVER! 
Right next to her was a little brown and white kid, half cleaned off and starting to shake her head!  So I grabbed some clean towels out of the kidding box and finished cleaning the little doeling off.
Cloud stood up after a few minutes and I nudged the doeling towards Cloud’s udder and she almost immediately started nursing. 
This had to be the quickest delivery I’ve ever attended!  And I felt very unneeded!  All I did was tie off the umbilical cord and clean up some of the birthing goo.  I sat in the barn for about an hour waiting for Cloud to pass the afterbirth, but eventually gave up to go back in the house and get some shut-eye.
This morning Cloud and the doeling were doing just fine and I cleaned up the pen, found the placenta, gave her some fresh water, grain and alfalfa pellets.  I usually give the mom and kids a few days alone in the kidding pen, but for some reason Paul thought it was imperative that they all be outside so he opened the door and they both wandered out into the big goat world.  It was a beautiful and warm day so I suppose there was no harm in letting them out.
Krazo Acres 2011 Kidding Season Stats:
Nettie: 3 doelings, Annette: 2 bucklings, Ishtar: 1 doeling & 1 buckling, Cloud: 1 doeling

Friday, May 27, 2011

Homestead Hazards

Pretty normal, innocent looking, farmish kind of objects, aren’t they?
But both of these relatively harmless looking objects have recently become the center of potentially life threating situations.
Our goat herd is contained using cattle panels for fencing, which means the smaller kids can easily go in and out of the area.  Not the ideal type of fencing for little goats, but that’s what we have right now.  Anyways, one afternoon I heard one of the kids bawling, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary.  Except that the bawling went on for several minutes straight.  So I go outside to investigate and find that a kid had wedged herself in between the boards of a wood pallet.  The pallet had been leaning up against the garden entrance as a temporary gate and had been knocked down….probably by the same goat stuck in said pallet.
I didn’t think either of her hind legs were in such a position that they were in danger of being broken, so I tried to ease her out of the pallet.  Of course she struggled like a crazy-goat-kid, screaming the entire time, so I had to stop and reevaluate the situation.  I tried to pull up the board with a pry bar, but I wasn’t strong enough to pop the nails out.  I went into the garage and grabbed the little cordless trim saw.  I was able to cut one side out, but I wasn’t able to safely cut the other side without the possibility of cutting into her back leg.  So there she sat, bawling even more because of the noisy saw, all the fussing and my constant cussing.
What I needed was a strong pair of hands to help me pry the board off.  But Paul was at work as were my neighbors.  I did, however, have my wonderful brother-in-law just down the road!  So I called him up and in just a few minutes he was here flexing his biceps and got the board off and the goat free.  She jumped right out, kind’a gave me a nasty goat-look, and ran right to mom for a snack. 
During routine goat /chicken rounds yesterday afternoon, I went into the kidding pen, where I’ve also been keeping three of Christine’s Silky chickens.  The kids were out of the pen for the day, but the chickens stay in there all the time.  I went in to give them some fresh water and counted not three, but two chickens…..there should be two roosters and a hen.  Oh great, I think to myself, some raccoon or opossum or snake got in here and had an afternoon snack of a chicken.  And of course, it had to be the hen and not one of the annoying roosters.  So I look around for any tell-tale signs of a chicken struggle or chicken feathers / parts, but find nothing.  I sigh and tell myself that it’s my fault for not having a more secure chicken run.  I finish filling the water and feed trays and pick up a goat food bucket in the corner to return it to its proper place on the wall. 
And when I pick up the overturned feed bucket, out pops the missing hen!  She was kind of wet, probably from being underneath that bucket for several hours, but otherwise unharmed.  Luckily it wasn’t a very warm day yesterday otherwise she could have cooked under there.
Two close-calls because of improperly attached items.  And I know it’s hard to do, especially when there seems to be farm junk, equipment and tools everywhere, but hopefully I’ll be more careful about those in-plain-sight dangers around the homestead.
PS – I’m not ignoring comments you guys have made, or ignoring your blogs, but am STILL unable to post comments! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frozen Yogurt Cups

Rhiannon is an ice cream fiend.  She can hear you whisper the word a block away and will run to the kitchen & point up at the freezer.
We’re flush with milk now as I’m milking three goats, so I’ve been making a few batches of homemade yogurt (and cheese, and anything else I can think of to get “rid” of the milk).  The first batch didn’t gel up as much as I’d normally like so I figured it would be best used in smoothies!
Although I’d love to make my own ice cream, I’ve yet to perform such acts of magic.  Yes, I know it’s simple, (as simple as making, say yogurt….and I still manage to screw that up) and maybe one day soon I’ll post on my frozen dairy adventure, but for now we’ll both have to settle with frozen yogurt smoothies.
So I’ve been taking some of the yogurt, milk, a few ice cubes and some sort of fruit and throwing it all into the blender.  Depending on the sweetness (or not-so-sweetness) of the fruit, I’ll add a little packet of Stevia and / or a drop of Vanilla.
We’ll have a smoothie right away and I’ll save the rest to make into frozen yogurt treats.  Since I save hillbilly-tupperware, I have plenty of the little yogurt containers with lids.  The perfect size for a little toddler (or her Mom) craving a frozen sweet treat.
Yogurt & peach smoothie ready to pop into the freezer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not-so-much Sprouted Wheat

I’ve been a bad, bad gardener.  I didn’t start any lettuce or spinach.  The only real greens I’ve been harvesting have been the wild ones.  But I can make sprouts!  I’ve sprouted mung and alfalfa sprouts before with no problem and they are a semi-regular part of our diet.
I’ve only sprouted wheat once before and I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet it tasted.  I put it on a salad, in a loaf of bread, even in my granola cereal for breakfast.  I’ve also read somewhere that you can sprout the wheat then dry it and grind it to make a sugar substitute for baking or to make, wait for it….Sprouted Wheat Bread.  I always thought that you just put the fresh sprouts in the bread dough (that’s what I did in my loaf) but apparently you dry & grind it and then use it in the bread recipe.
Anyways.  The main reason I wanted to try sprouting wheat again was to use it as a sugar substitute in some of my baking recipes (which I suppose would technically include, you guessed it…..Sprouted Wheat Bread).  And to have some more on my granola.
It kind’a made sense that it could be used as a sweetener in baking because the fresh sprouts were really very sweet.
So I soaked some hard red wheat berries along with some mung beans and alfalfa seeds.  I let them sit in the water for 24 hours, then drained them, rinsed & drained again for three days.  The alfalfa started to sprout in just two days, the mung beans a day later.  But nothing with the wheat.  After the fourth day or rinsing the wheat berries, the water started to get cloudy. And still no sprouts.  What could I have done wrong?  Soak, drain, rinse, drain & repeat.  Hard to screw that up.
Alfalfa sprouts, no-so-much wheat sprouts, mung bean sprouts.

Then I remembered that I used one of the older bags of wheat from 2003 for this batch.  Not that eight years is old in wheat-storage-years.  We had sealed several pounds of that wheat stored in mylar bags with a desiccant and an oxygen absorber in each bag before vacuum sealing them.  I suppose taking the moisture and oxygen out of the bags caused the wheat to lose its sprouting ability…..kind’a makes sense as it is a living thing, albeit in hibernation.  The rest of the wheat from that bag had been ground up and used for bread and biscuits, long since eaten.
So my second attempt at sprouting wheat was a failure, but one I was glad to make as now I know that if we want a constant supply of wheat sprouts we’re going to have to buy new wheat every year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

And the Weiner is.....

Note the highly scientific procedure of producing a winning name. 

Tom S. ! ! !

Come on down, Tom, to The Price is Right!  Well, not exactly.

But if you'll email me (at carolynrenee@centurytel.net ) your mailing address, I'll get the book sent out to you in the next day or so.

Thanks for playing everyone!  The cleaning continues so keep your eyeballs open for another book giveaway.

Bye-bye Birdie!

We’ve been fortunate to have a nesting pair of Phoebes take residence under the back porch for the past four or five years.  They haven’t had the best of luck with their brood the past two seasons though, so this year I tried very hard to keep an eye out for them.
After they finished remodeling their nest, I took a picture of the eggs and found there was a cowbird egg in there.  Although I wasn’t crazy about doing it, I “evicted” the cowbird egg.
You can see the nest from the kitchen window, so I’ve been watching the parents bring birdie-lunch to the hatchlings every day.  I went up to take a peek in the nest a few times, but didn’t want to disturb them too much.
Until yesterday.  I just couldn’t keep my nosey self out of there so I grabbed my camera and took a few close-up shots of the trio.  I couldn’t believe how much they had grown…..and how in the world they managed to fit in that nest!

I snapped a couple of pictures and then scooted a bit closer and BAM!
Three fully feathered fledglings furiously flapped their wings past my face and into the tree next to the house!
I almost pee’d myself I was so startled!  Of course, now I feel guilty that I may have caused a premature exit from the nest, but they all managed to stay in the tree and the parents followed them to their new perch.
Good luck little guys!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fast Food - Pancakes

I have a bad habit of making way too much food.  Like, if you were to just so happen to stop over during supper time and brought your husband and two kids with you, there would be plenty to eat without me having to do anything more than put out four more plates and sets of silverware. 
This habit of mine poses both an advantage and disadvantage.  The disadvantage is that we tend to eat too much.  The advantage is that we can have leftovers the next day for lunch or supper or I can pack the extra into hillbilly-tupperware containers and freeze them for last-minute lunches for Paul to take to work. 
A few weeks ago we had pancakes for breakfast, and in usual fashion, I made enough to feed a farmhouse table full of lumberjacks.  But instead or gorping out, I froze them:
Extra pancakes ready to go into the freezer.

I got out of bed late this morning (I just love it when Paul’s home on the weekends!) so by the time barn chores were finished, I had one very hungry little girl waiting at the table for breakfast. 
My fall-back-quickie-breakfast for her is usually oatmeal with raisins and maple syrup, but then I remembered the frozen pancakes!
One happy, pancake-eating, syrup-slopping little girl!

They freeze very well and make a great last minute breakfast.....sure beats a bowl of Fruit Loops.
*** Tonight's the deadline to enter to win "Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance".... Click HERE to enter.***

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sometimes you feel like a Nut...

…sometimes you don’t.  Advance apologies to the guys who read this blog.
We took Harley to the vet today.  Not only to introduce him to our vet, but to get him neutered.  I’m not sure why he hadn’t been altered by the previous owners, although it may have something to do with the fact that he was a purebred and registered with the AKC. 
The fact that he’s a papered German Shepherd is all fine and dandy with me, but since we don’t intend on breeding him, we feel it is best that he be altered.  I’m a big advocate of spay / neutering programs so it took me the whole of twelve hours before I gave our vet a call and scheduled the appointment.  And the only reason it took that long was because Paul brought him home in the evening and I couldn’t call the office until the next morning.
Since we were relieving one of our animal family of his manhood, I figured today was just as good a day as any to band Ishtar’s little male kid. 
For years I went back & forth about how we would deal with castrating the non-breeding male goats on the farm.  Basically, you have three options; Cutting, Banding or using a Burdizzo. 
Cutting is just what it sounds like.  Restrain, pull, cut, yank, apply iodine (simplified a bit).
Banding is done with a really thick rubber ring that is stretched over the scrotum using a tool called an elastrator.  It cuts off the blood supply to the testicles and after a few weeks, the dried up dead scrotum sack falls off (hopefully someplace where the dog won’t gulp it down). 
Elastrator and castrating bands

Then there’s a contraption called a Burdizzo.  Basically it’s a clamp-plyers-looking-type-of-thing that is made to crush the veins and sperm cord that supplies blood / sperm to the scrotum and testicles, basically “killing” them.
There are pros and cons for each method.  Cutting causes an open wound.  Banding seems inhumane to most folks.  Using the Burdizzo is a bit (but not much) more complicated, some are not made as well as others and may not always guarantee a castration the first time around.
I really, really thought we were going to use the Burdizzo.  But after much reading, much deliberation and actually finding out what is customary for this area, we decided on using the elastrator and bands.  I may eventually buy the Burdizzo though.
We did our first castration using the elastrator three years ago and after seeing how well it went, we continued that method.  Does it hurt?  Although I can’t speak from personal experience, I’m sure it does.  But the goats that have it done don’t seem to be uncomfortable for too long.  They kind’a kick their back legs around a bit, walk a little funny for maybe half a day, but other than that, they seem to go back to having goat-kid-fun in no time.  We only had one kid that really verbally complained about it.  He was pretty pathetic sounding, but I’m sure if we gave him the option of keeping his boys and ending up in the freezer, or losing his buck-hood and going to a home to be a glorified lawn mower, he’d pick the testosterone-less grass muncher.
Now I’m just waiting for the call from the vet so we can pick Harley back up.  Hopefully he doesn’t totally hate me now for dragging him (literally) into the vet’s office this morning.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

We got a Harley!

Paul picked it up last Wednesday but I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about the new acquisition because I wasn't sure how it would fit into the blog.
But, I just couldn’t contain my excitement any longer.   We've been looking for one for over a year.  It’s beautiful!  It’s fun!  And……
He slobbers!
We had (well, me mostly) been searching the papers and pounds for over a year for another dog.  Our “dream” dog would be past the puppy stage, a shepherd or collie mix, have to get along with our 2 year old daughter, numerous cats, an older and smaller dog, goats, chickens and horses.  Admittedly, it was a pretty big order to fill.
While putting in my somewhat-daily ad for goats, goat milk & eggs in the freebie online paper, I happened upon an ad looking for a new home for their German Shepherd.  Rhiannon and I went over to their house and met Harley.  He came right up to me.  He slobbered on Rhiannon once and then came back to lay down by me on the grass.  (Rhiannon ignored the dog after seeing the playset in the yard).   While we were there, one of their very loved (i.e. plump) tortishell cats came sauntering up to us and plopped down right next to Harley.  They also said that although Harley did occasionally chase the larger deer out of the yard that they had a pet fawn they kept in the yard and that Harley was his buddy.
Likes kids?  Check!  Likes cats?  Check!  Likes little goat-looking-animals?  Check!
Harley does have some issues though as the owner readily admitted.  The reason they were giving Harley up for adoption was because the father, who used to train Goldens and Shepherds, no longer had the time and also admitted that Harley didn’t have the right temperament for the type of dog he wanted to train (meaning more timid than he’d like).  And he didn’t have a lick of training, not even on a leash.
Anyways, after Rhiannon & I met Harley, I called Paul and asked him to take a look at him after work.  Later that evening we heard Paul drive up so Rhiannon and I went out to say hello….to him and Harley.  I didn’t actually think he’d be coming home with the dog, so I didn’t even have anything ready for him. 
But he’s here now, and he’s ours.  And boy do I have my work cut out for me.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Look what Paul found in a water-filled rut from a dozer track:
And, in my insane attempt to save every single one of them, I collected as many as I could, put them in a few tubs of clean water, and brought them inside.  The water was steadily receding so I had to do something!  I’d been filling the rut with water ever since I noticed the water level lowering as to keep them from becoming dried up, crispy frog offspring.
One of three containers filled with tadpoles.

What the heak am I going to do with all these tadpoles???  We don't have a pond yet.  I’d really like to be able to grow them all out to frogs (or toads) as I love the sound of their peeping (if frogs) and would like to have more toads around the place to eat all those nasty bugs buzzing around at night. 
So, how many million frogs / toads do you think I’ll be able to keep in the house before Paul pitches a total hissy fit?  Well, none.  And as usual, he’s the voice of reason around here, so I’ll be relocating them to a stream just up the road.  But I may just keep a small bucket of them so Rhiannon can watch the miracle of metamorphosis.  Ok, ok, I know….Rhiannon is a bit too young to care for or even be captivated by them for more than ten seconds…it’s all for me. 
Me, me, me!
Hopefully they aren’t some kind of invasive, alien, environment-destroying, goat-eating type of amphibian. 
Paul's Take
Why the heak did I even show them to her?  Next time I'm keeping my mouth shut.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Eating the Weeds - Lambs Quarter

We’ve been swimming in eggs lately and I’ve been lax on posting “Eggs for Sale” in the daily online freebie paper so the fridge if full of them.
One day last week in a desperate attempt to figure out something to make for dinner (as I had neglected to thaw anything from the freezer) I decided to make omelettes.  We have eggs, goat cheese, onions and henbit literally just outside the front door.  But I was kind’a hoping to put something else in the omlettes.  We didn’t have any frozen spinach, but we do have…….
Lambs Quarters!
Which taste darned close to spinach if you asked me.  And they also just so happen to be right outside the door.
So I went to pick a bag full, washed them off, picked the leaves from the stems and sautéed them with the front-yard onions and henbit.
Put some goat cheese inside the omelettes with the sautéed goodies and shredded store bought cheese (found in the depths of the freezer…there was like a ¼ cup left in the bag….what was I thinking that I couldn’t have used that in whatever other recipe I had used it before?) on top to make it look purty.

The young, tender leaves of Lambs Quarter can be used in fresh salads, or cooked like spinach.  But just like spinach, you need a lot of them because they shrink down when you cook them.
The fridge is still overloaded with eggs and milk so I think I’ll make a Ham and Lambs Quarter quiche for dinner tonight.
I just love having Breakfast for Dinner!

*** Don't forget to enter for the free Chicken Book Giveaway!  Click HERE ***

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Too Much Stuff

Yep, that’s what I got.  Waaaaaaaay too much stuff.

But it’s not like it’s all useless stuff.  Really.
Those two dozen empty half-gallon cider jars will one day hold our homemade wine.  We’ll eventually get to building that lean-to with all the reclaimed decking we got from a friend.  And that bailing twine I’ve been saving?  Well darned if I’m not going to figure out something to do with it even if I have to make myself one of those old-lady macramé plant holders.
Any homesteader (or packrat, hoarder, recycling junkie, etc.) would agree with me on saving the above items.  You’re with me….right?  Please say you’re with me.  Please.  (muffled sobbing)
Anyhow, I’ve been trying to do some much needed Spring Cleaning.  I’ve been working very, very hard to get rid of the (real) junk around here as well as finding homes for those other useful-to-someone-else items. 
Like books.  I’m a book junkie.  Not only a book junkie, but a hardcover book junkie.  I can’t pass up a library book sale.  I can sniff out a pile of old cookbooks or how-to books stuffed under a pile of musty wool army blankets at the local thrift store.  Fortunately, I’m pretty specific on the subject matter and have very few fiction or New York Time’s “best sellers” in my library.  Not that there aren’t some darned good ones out there, and I admit to having a number of science fiction novels, but I’m more of a reference or history book kind’a gal. 
I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of giving away my Storey’s Guides, Peterson’s and Audubon’s field guides or how-to books, but there are definitely a bookshelf or three of other bound parchment treasures that I can manage to part with.
And that’s where you - yes you - my lucky blog addicts, can help me with my Spring Cleaning.
As much as I’d like to be able to ship out all my discarded and unloved books (I swear, I feel like I’m hurting their feelings when I get rid of them), I can’t really afford to do that with everything.  So I’ll be giving away only the homestead-y type books when I can scrounge up some extra egg or milk money.  Here’s the first book:

I believe I got it from my friend Kathy (another book junkie whom I believe has no less than thirty-six-thousand-four-hundred and twenty-two books in her second bedroom alone), and I hope she understands that this is in no way dissing her gift to me.  I’ve had this book for some time now and have read it at least twice.  And honestly, I’m probably going to read it again before I ship it out , because if I don’t, the next three months I’ll be wishing I did then end up going out and buying another copy just so I can read it one last time.
So if you want to win a gently used copy of Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance, just post a comment here and I’ll pick a winner next week……let’s say next Sunday.  Oh, and to make it even more interesting, give me the name(s) of your chicken(s) - you do name your chickens, don’t you??? - or, if you don’t have any chickens, what you would name your chicken.
Oh, and if you’re a book junkie, but can manage to actually part with your books, might I suggest becoming a member of Paper Back Swap?  The web address is www.paperbackswap.com and it’s a pretty cool site.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Guess What? Chicken Butt!

Wow, where has everybody been?  Oh, wait, that would ME that has been missing from the blogosphere lately.  But I had a great excuse….my Sister & her husband were here visiting for the week!  Although I did take a few minutes to make a post a few days ago only to find that Blogger was out of commission.  So I’m back now, and I’ll make it up to you, but you’ll have to check back tomorrow.  How’s that for building excitement?
About a month ago, I noticed one of the Barred Rock hens was acting kind’a mopey.  I made sure she was getting to the food and water, and to my surprise, even though she was feeling down, she still kept her high rank in the pecking order.
I did some research on chicken illnesses and couldn’t really nail down what it could be or even rule out what it wasn’t.  Chickens aren’t the best patients and tend to downplay their sickness; not to mention the fact that the little biddies can’t actually tell you what’s ailing them. 
After a few weeks I caught her again and noticed that she was really, really heavy and her abdomen was hard and distended.  Did some more research and figured she was egg bound.  This kind of made sense now; we had been getting a ginormous egg every few days from somebody, and lately we hadn’t.  So I’m assuming it was the sick chicken that was laying the huge egg and that she was now unable to pass them.  So basically, they were just kind’a collecting inside her.  Not exactly sure what happens to them while they are still in there, maybe reabsorbed to some degree, but it’s still not a good prognosis. 
Egg bound hen.

So I do what any good keeper-of-chickens does; grab the chicken book with detailed pictures of the chicken anatomy, a pair of rubber gloves and the bottle of lubricant from the goat kidding box.  I won’t go into detail……you can all use your imagination this time.
My brief foray into chicken proctology didn’t yield any noticeable results.
She continued her lethargic existence and I readily admit to bringing her milk and special kitchen scraps in an attempt to make her (or me) feel better.  Once or twice I mustered up the courage to putting her down as to end her suffering, but it seemed every time I went out there with that idea, she’d be stretched out in the sun or just sitting there picking at bugs that passed by.  Wouldn’t I want to enjoy a few last bugs or hour in the sun before I left this world?  I know, I know, chickens aren’t contemplating such things as the afterlife and the teachings of the Buddha or Jesus.  But still.
One morning last week, I went out to open up the chickens and do barn chores and she was on the ground, dead.  I knew it was coming, but it was still sad to see.
As the circle of life continues here on the farm, one of my Sister’s Silky hens hatched out a chick!  She went broody last month ago so I let her set on three eggs.  I was hoping to have her set on a few more, but she didn’t lay any more and she didn’t want the standard sized eggs.  So over the course of the twenty-one day incubation period, one egg disappeared and on egg was a dud so there was only egg left.  On what I was guessing as the day before hatching, I picked up her lonely egg and held it to my ear….and it was peeping!
The next morning I went to check on the hen and her egg and I was greeted by a really pissy, fluffed-out momma Silkie and a teeny-tiny peeping chick. 

Mom and chick are doing fine and will have the entire brooding stall to themselves for the next couple of months until I figure what I’m going to do with her, the chick and the other three Silkies.  I haven’t let them out of the barn since we first brought them home because I was afraid they would just be pecked to death from our older, larger flock or become a chicken nugget snack for a passing hawk.  I suppose that they’ll end up in the chicken tractor until I make a more permanent coop for them. 
I’ve been meaning to make a brooding / hatching coop so we can keep breeding our own chickens.  The Silkie acquisitions were the first step as I was hoping to use them as broody hens for the larger breed eggs.  But the Silkie hens are so tiny that I couldn’t see putting more than three standard sized eggs under her.  I may have to eventually buy some other breed of chicken that has a better chance of going broody in order to get a decent number of hatchings.
Just another thing to add to the list.  And one more thing for Paul to complain about.
And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow; I’m having a Chicken Book giveaway!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Camping...in the Basement

Paul & I used to go camping in our “younger days”.  We’ve camped in a tent, a small pop-up and even a travel trailer (complete with a shower & toilet!).  Although as the years go by, the tent looks less & less inviting.  But as Rhiannon gets old enough to be able to go on camping trips, I’d like to be able to use that tent instead of the travel trailer.  Not all the time, because there is something to be said for having a travel trailer with a mattress, propane stove, hot shower and flushing toilet.  But I’d like for Rhiannon to have some fond (hopefully) childhood memories of sleeping outside, in the wilderness, in what is basically a fancy tarp.  To some of you, that may sound like self-imposed torture.  And it could be if you don’t like that sort of stuff.  Or if you don't like mosquitos, ticks or chiggers.
I think it is important for our children to experience the world outside of the house.  Away from the strip-mall parking lots.  Far from the noise and exhaust fumes of the city or suburbs.  Stars & moon lighting up the night instead of street lights & neon signs.  Crickets chirping throughout the night.
Wait a second…..I just described our backyard.
Well, I still think it would be neat if we could all go camping, even if it is just down the road at the lake or river.  Besides, it’s a great excuse to eat hotdogs (you do know what they’re made of, right??) chips and roast marshmallows over an open fire and make s’mores and those disgustingly-sugary-icky campfire cherry pies using that metal sandwich-smooshy-thing that you stick over the fire.
Long term or distant camping trips aren’t that easy to plan around here anyhow with the livestock, so we may as well take advantage of all the beautiful parks and campgrounds in our area.  That way I can still run home for morning and evening barn chores while Rhiannon and Paul stay at the campsite. 
And as an added bonus, I can still take a hot shower and use an indoor toilet!
Told you I was getting soft.   

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Enough Already!

I know there are parts of the country that are in a drought right now, but I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t make my dislike of our area’s almost constant daily rainfall any more palatable.  This is the Ozarks, not Oregon for gawd sakes!
The seedlings that I rushed out to plant two weeks ago are now a sodden, sorry mess.

I suppose I should be glad that I only planted a small percentage of the seedlings, but the ones still sitting on the porch in their little jiffy peat pellet prisons are starting to look like they’ve given up any hope of ever being planted in the ground. 
And the other miscellaneous teeny-tiny seeds I planted directly into the raised beds (like the lettuce and turnips) have been carried away to parts unknown with the constant deluge.  
Although something seemed to like the moisture:
Ain't that weird look'n?
Luckily I took some time yesterday to mow the front lawn.  It wasn’t as dry as I would have liked (because it rained the day before….imagine that), but I figured it was my only chance to do it before we got more rain.  Which, by the way, we got last night.  Oh, and it’s still raining this morning, which is why I’m in the house on the computer complaining about the excessive moisture instead of tending to the animals outside.  But according to the radar (I’m a radar junkie), it should let up shortly and I’ll grab my bag o’ milking stuff, don my muck boots and slosh my way into the muddy poop-soup area formerly known as the goat pen.
As not to be a total pessimist, I suppose I should point out that all this rain should make for a great first-cutting of hay. 
That is, if they can get it cut, dried and baled……before it rains again.  That’s not pessimism, that’s just being a realist.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Among the (almost) Living

It’s officially been a week since I started feeling sick.  I’m still not quite back to normal, but slowly improving.  And thanks for thinking of me fellow blog-addicts!
I think I may have overdone it this past week and made things worse, but as those of you with farms and livestock are painfully aware of, the animals don’t particularly care if you’re feeling under the weather or if the sheer act of putting your shoes on hurts the top of your feet.  They want their breakfast / lunch / dinner and they will let you know if you are even fifteen nanoseconds late.  And I was very slow, and very late with the distribution of foodstuffs the past four or five days.  The only advantage to my illness is that my head cold has made my hearing less than perfect, which means that I didn’t have to hear the goats screaming that they were hungry and would just keel over, shrivel up and die of starvation if they didn’t get their grain like right now.
Sunday evening, Ishtar decided it was time to go into labor.  Her due date was supposed to be Monday, but I was happy to help out a day earlier as Paul was home and able to take care of Rhiannon while I played goat midwife.  Exhausted as I was, I waited inside for some time before going in to the kidding pen with her.  I had the baby monitor on and was waiting to hear some serious labor grunts before I went into the barn.  But as usual, I ended up going in there a bit early as I still sat in the pen with her a good hour & a half before she kidded.  I don’t know why I get so nervous; it’s not like goats haven’t been having kids on their own for the past millennium or so. 
Her kidding was uneventful, albeit a bit exhausting on both of us.  She seemed to be having a hard time pushing the first kid out so I figured I should find out if it was presented properly. I gloved and lubed up & went in just far enough to confirm two front feet and a mouth.  I’m a bit concerned that she had a difficult time as I was hoping to have her bred to a Boer this fall, and these were kids from a Nigerian Dwarf buck.  The family that originally bought her from me as a kid didn’t have her bred until her second year, then skipped breeding her the third year, then I got her back and had her bred her fourth year.  So this is really only her second kidding when she “should” have had four.  I wonder if that has anything to do with it.  She also has much smaller teats than her mother Nettie does.  Anyone know if delayed or skipped breedings have anything to do with the way a goat’s teats develop or mature?
Anyways….Ishtar had two kids; a buckling and a doeling and they are doing just fine.  Right after she delivered them, I cleaned and dried them off and called Paul to come take over before I ended up on the floor.  I went inside to clean up and lay down while he tied cords and made sure they had the nursing-thing down path. 

Ishtar & her kids stayed in the barn until Tuesday when it finally stopped raining.  When I opened the door to the world outside and the rest of the curious caprine crew came charging into the kidding stall, there was lots of pushing, shoving and head-butting. Ishtar didn’t want anyone even glancing sideways at her offspring.  Thankfully the moms have all calmed down since then and we once again have happy goat kids jumping around like Jack Russells on Red Bull.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leg Lamp-ish Prize

Guess what?   Chicken butt!  No, not really. 
I’ve been given an award:

The Versatile Blogger Award, by Susan over at e-i-e-i-omg!  (Don’t ya just love that name???)  If you haven’t visited her blog yet, go over there and take a look at her sheep-filled homestead and read about her farmish adventures.  Oh, did I mention she does this all of it while holding down a full-time job?  Wowza.
Anyhow, in order to accept above mentioned blogging award, there are three rules and here they are:
1.  Link back to the person who gave you the award.  That would be Susan at e-i-e-i-omg!
2.  Share seven things about yourself that people may not know about you. 
3.  Pass the Versatile Blogger Award onto another blogger.
So here are my “Seven Things”.….
I collected Star Wars action figures as a kid.
My daughter is named after a Celtic witch with a fondness for horses and ravens.
I can’t stand the sight of my own blood.  Yes, I’ve killed, skinned and butchered numerous wild game and livestock, but the sight of my own blood will send me crashing to the floor in a cold sweat.
I’m a staunch Libertarian.  It causes much “discussion” between other D or R friends, but I forgive them for their misgivings and continue our friendship regardless.
I have a colossal sweet tooth.  Chocolates are my favorite, especially (cue shameless plug) Louisa & Millie's Chocolates!  But I’ve also been known to eat an entire package of Peeps in under a minute.  Really.
My husband and I met at my Dad’s bar, where in a buzzed stupor I dropped my head to the table and murmured, “All I want is some land and a Dodge Cummins Diesel”.  The rest is history.
If there were a surgical procedure that could enhance my backside with a tail, I’d do it in a heartbeat (well, I’d definitely think about it for a while).  Not just a fluffy or fuzzy tail, but something like a Lemur’s prehensile tale. 
Now ain’t that just too weird?  But imagine the possibilities!
Anyhow, now I get to pass this, uhm, award, to another blogger, who in turn has to divulge seven things about themselves and pass it on to yet another blogger, thus continuing the evil cycle of blogosphere spam-like awards. 
Soooo…..who do I dislike, I mean, feel deserves this award?  I’m pretty partial to those virtually unknown, obscure, homestead-y type of bloggers but I’m also a sucker for cats.  So I’d like to introduce you to Clyde & George, I mean, Danni at On the way to Critter Farm.  Want to know who she, Clyde & George are?  Then go over there and take a look-see.
Start thinking about those seven juicy tidbits of personal information that you are going to reveal to the universe Danni!  Bwaaaahahahahah!!!!
BTW Danni, if you don’t like the idea of the award just let me know and I’ll pick another blogger to play as to not disrupt the cyber-running of this particular award.  I’ll understand.   Trust me, I will.