Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yank on my Pickles, would ya?

Yesterday afternoon I came home from a little jaunt into town.  Pulled into the driveway, parked and started unloading packages.  Heard Pickles yelling in the background as usual.
Pickles yells when she's hungry.  Pickles yells when she wants "better" hay.
Pickles yells when a car pulls up the drive, when the sun shines, when it rains, when there's the slightest breeze, when a gnat lands on her ass.  Pickles just yells.  Constantly.

So hearing Pickles yelling wasn't anything unusual.  Except when I went out to say hello to the goat herd, Pickles wasn't coming around to yell in my ear.  But she was still yelling from somewhere.  It was in the mid-80's so the coolest spot in the goat yard is underneath the barn.  Everyone else had just come out from there, but she just kept on yelling.  I called to her, even tempting her with a handful of grain but she just wouldn't come out.

She was obviously stuck.  The barn is on a slope, so one end of the barn is 22" off the ground and the lower end is only 7" off the ground.  Pickles had somehow managed to wedge herself closer to the 7" side.

I came in to the house to tell Paul that Pickles was stuck.  His answer was to let her wiggle out herself; she got in there, she'd get out.  (I was secretly hoping that Paul would say, "Oh, ok, I'll go get her out right now, you just sit down and have a glass of sweet tea.")  So I waited about another half hour and went back to check on her.

Yep.  Still stuck.  And still yelling.  And there was an ominous looking storm cloud in the distance.  I figured if I didn't get her unstuck now, I'd be doing it during a downpour or at the least after the downpour when I'd be mucking around in poop soup.  I put on an old shirt and asked Paul to eventually follow me out to the barn in case I got stuck.

I found a somewhat clean tarp & shoved it under the barn, shimmied my just-barely-fit-under-there plumpness as close to Pickles as I could manage and was able to grab a front leg.  And of course, as any owner of livestock knows, if you want to have an animal go one way, it will instinctively go the opposite way.  I really needed her to lay down on her side so I could yank her out, but that is also another almost impossible feat.

But after a few minutes of swearing, wondering why I have stupid goats in the first place, getting dusty poopy dirt flung in my mouth, nose, eyes, ears and hair, I was able to "coax" Pickles' head down while simultaneously pulling on both front legs, and managed to get her to the point where she was able to wiggle out toward the higher side of the barn and get out.

She was a bit muddied and a little stiff legged, but other than that no worse for the wear.

And continued her yelling as I left the goat pen to take a shower.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Satisfying Breakfast

Here's what we had for breakfast yesterday morning:

Eggs, hash brown like stuff, maple flavored breakfast sausage and milk.

The eggs came from our chickens.  The special fixings for the hash brown stuff (bacon grease, henbit, wild onion, wild garlic) came from the front yard and the hog we had butchered.  We made the breakfast sausage from the deer we shot a few months ago.  And the milk came from our goats.

Even though there were still items that we could have produced here, like the potatoes and various herbs used in the seasoning, it's still a great feeling to know that a lot of the food we eat comes from our own homestead.

It's almost like an addiction.  Trying to grow/harvest/make everything you can from your own homestead and using your own hands.  I know that we'll never be 100% self-sufficient for various reasons (personal & logistical), but every little step brings us closer to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

It starts with a little unassuming cherry tomato plant stuck in an old pot on your front porch and the next thing you know you've got a feeder pig in the hatchback.

What started you down the "gott'a do it myself" path?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

For Whom the Dinner Bell Tolls

The Creepy Meats have about two more days of feed left.  And I am not going to the feed store to buy any more.  So unless a bag of feed magically appears in the barn, I've got some butchering chores ahead of me.

Three of the seven Cornish crosses are bigger males so they will be the first to go in the freezer.  Even though I know I said I wouldn't buy any more feed, I'll have to feed the others for a day or so until I can get the rest of them processed.  I'll just give them some of the layer scratch and whatever leftovers we have from the kitchen.

Once I have them all processed and weighed I'll do another post showing total feed costs and a price per pound.  I'm anxious to find out how this batch comes out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finally started the garden

I planted all seventeen of my Rutger's tomatoes a few days ago.  Even though we've been amending this garden with manure and compost for the past six years, there are still a lot of stinking rocks in there.  I keep rock buckets in the garden because a day doesn't go by when I don't till up, dig up or find a newly "grown" rock in there.
See that little bitty hole under the plants?  See those rocks to the left?
All those rocks came out of that single hole.  It defies physics.
Paul says I planted the tomatoes too close.  He says that every year.  But in retrospect, every year I have to put on a pith helmet and grab a machete to go harvest tomatoes.  Maybe he's on to something.

Today I took advantage of Grandma's awesome babysitting skills and worked outside in the garden again.  Weeding.  For like two hours.  My back is killing me, my hands are sore, but I'm making a dent in the jungle that has sprouted since our last deluge.  I've never realized how insanely difficult it is to pull out clover once it has a foothold in the soil.  This is some of the stuff we're trying to get established in the pasture, but of course, likes it better in my vegetable garden.

I also put down a 10' row of cucumber seeds and two 6' rows of snow peas along the garden fence.  Hopefully the stupid f'n peckerhead poultry chickens won't be able to poke their beady little heads through the fence and peck them to oblivion before they get established.

Checking the radar every half hour, hoping for rain.  The weather forecast was for a 70% chance of rain last night and today.  It's overcast, but not a drop anywhere near us.  Guess I'll have to water the tomatoes and newly planted seeds after all.  At least it's nice gardening weather.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Monthly Letter Writing Challenge

So, have you finished your monthly letter for April?  Not to brag, but I have two sitting on my desk awaiting delivery to the post office.

Get your hineys in gear, there's only nine more days to get them in the mailboxes!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cornish Hens

The Creepy Meats are getting bigger.  I actually had to go to the feed store and buy another bag of chick feed for them last week.  I contemplated just butchering them all instead of having to put more money out for feed, but I just couldn't do it.   I know I told Paul that we'd try for Cornish Hen sized chickens this time, but I just hate to think that they could be really big and juicy and yummy in just a few more weeks.

I may end up butchering three of the seven in the next few days though.  That way we'll get a (kinda biggish) Cornish Hen sized supper out of it and the rest of the food can go towards fattening the other Creepy birds for nice sized roasters.  I am not going to be buying another $14.50 forty-pound bag of food (really?  would it kill them to keep it in 50# bags?  I'd pay the difference, just stop trying to make it look like I'm getting a good deal when in all honesty you're just skimping on the weight of the bags....ugh!!) so once that's up, their time is up.

I may also just keep them all until this bag of feed is gone.  That way I can have an actual accounting of exactly what it cost in feed to get them to butchering size as well as a per pound of meat price.  Several years ago I'm pretty sure I kept track of how many bags of chicken feed we went through, but I never did figure out how much per pound the chickens cost us.  Although I DO know that it's a heck of a lot more expensive now.   Two years ago chick feed used to be $9.65 a bag and it's now $11.95 per bag.  Chicks were $1.08, now they're $1.69.

Rhiannon is still being pretty good at keeping care of them and she's past the "Oh, they're so cute!  Can I pick one up?" and has moved on to "Get away from me!!" because as any grower of Cornish Cross birds knows, at a certain age they start to attack anything or anyone resembling a source of food.  I figure it'll only be another week or so before she starts getting frightened and decides that they are much cuter on the supper plate.

Which is just fine with me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week in Review

Don't ask me where I've been.  Because I honestly couldn't tell you.  I mean, I think I've been busy.  I'm pretty sure I haven't been watching Oprah.

Well, I could show you a few pictures of where we may of may have not been in the past week, because I'm going to have to rely on them in order for me to figure out what happened the past seven days.

Paul went fishing on the river and brought some trout home.  They were promptly smoked and eaten.

Paul spent more time on the dozer, downed some trees and cleaned out another area where we'll be able to add more raised beds for the raspberry / blackberries and hazelnut bushes.  

Not sure if he's going for a hugelkultur kind of thing or if he is just using the logs as a bed border because he's sick and tired of chopping & splitting firewood.  The logs will serve two purposes; to keep the compost/dirt in and to to keep rainfall from washing down the hill.  He hauled a truck load of kind'a composted mule poo and shoveled it behind the logs, but the chickens have already scratched and scattered most of it to oblivion.  Not sure what I'm going to do about those darned chickens; I'll never have anything planted more than ten seconds before they decide to scratch it up.  

This weekend I sold New Goat's buckling to a farm where he will have the company of about a half-dozen other ladies to keep him happy.  I've also sold the remaining three kids and am just waiting until they're ready to be weaned and sent off to their new homes.  

Oh, and the ultimate excitement for the weekend was this:

Although Paul did pitch a fit about me being a horrible mother and letting our daughter fall off a sheep.  Yeah, she fell off (although technically, EVERYONE falls......that's how you GET off the sheep!) and cried because she got a mouth full of arena dirt.  The entire pre-Mutton Bust'n time, she was all like "I wann'a ride the sheep!!!" and then after her sheep riding stint, she was all like "I don't wann'a ride the sheep!!!".

By time we got home that evening, she was back to "I wann'a ride the sheep!"  

Women.  Just can't make up their minds!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Sad First

I got a call from a friend of mine this afternoon.  Her doe was in labor and I had previously said I'd come by to watch and help.  We had actually thought she was going to kid three weeks ago as that was the due date according to her first breeding.  But she seemed to go back into heat several weeks later so she brought the doe back here for Pan to try again.  Apparently the second breeding is the one that stuck.

This was the doe's first pregnancy so I was kind'a anxious to see how things were going.  When I got there, there was a nose already presented, but the doe wasn't really pushing in earnest.  I didn't see much movement from the kid, but I didn't want to just go right in.  It wasn't my doe and I didn't want to seem like a Mrs. Know It All Goatlady.  In hindsight, I should have.

After about a half hour of no more real progression, I went in a bit and tried feeling for feet.  And didn't find any. The doe was finally starting to really push, but there seemed to be no life in the little nose and tongue sticking out.  I waited a little bit longer, hoping for stronger contractions, but ended up going in and searching for the feet.  Which were both bent backwards.  By this time the head and neck were totally out and there was no sign of life.  But regardless of the kid's prognosis, it still had to come out and it wasn't going to happen without assistance.  I was able to work both my hands inside the poor doe, hook my index fingers in the armpits of the kid and pulled the feet forward and with another contraction pulled the lifeless body out.

We cleared the nose & mouth, dried & vigorously rubbed it's little body.  I even tried to compress it's chest for a while and gave it mouth-to-mouth.  Not sure if that hurt or not, but I figured it was worth a try.  After about ten solid minutes of massaging and rubbing, we gave up on it.  The mother was licking the little body and talking to it, and it was a sad sight.  It was a pretty little doeling, all black with a white spot on her forehead.  Rhiannon was with and asked what was wrong with the baby.  I had to tell her that she was dead.  She asked if we were going to take her to the hospital so she could get better.  I could have cried.  Needless to say it was a sad afternoon for everyone involved.

We had to get back to the house so I told my friend to keep an eye on the goat to make sure that there were no more kids and to watch for the placenta.  I just  now got off the phone with her and she said the placenta passed shortly after I left and that the doe was doing ok.  She milked out the colostrum and saved it in the freezer.  Since I had my hands up her back side, I also told her to get a dose of antibiotics in her just to be safe.

Technically, the real reason for having her doe bred was so that my friend would have milk.  So the the kid was actually just a "side effect" (yes, I know that sounds horrible), but it's still sad to see a little life ended before it was even born.  I guess I jinxed myself.  Just a few days ago I was thinking how lucky I was that I've never had a difficult kidding.

Farm life.  Not always rainbows and ice cream cones.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Access: Denied

In order to provide the new Creepy Meats with some room of their own without having to fear the pecking of the other birds, I finally scooted all of the younger hens out of the small kidding pen where they had been roosting and set up the creepy chicks in there.  Creepy Chicks got more fresh bedding, water & food.  Since the weather has been warming up and the birds have feathered out, I was finally able to turn off the heat lamps.

There was just chicken wire on the bottom section, but I had to physically board it up because the younger laying chickens still haven't figured out to roost with the rest of the gang on the other side of the barn and try to push their way through the wire in order to get in the pen.  They've been roosting there for months now and I've tried everything to get them to vacate the premises. I've tried being nice.  I posted eviction notices.  I turned off their light.  I kept the light on the other side on longer figuring they would "get it" and walk over to the main coop.  But almost every stinking one of them still want to roost in the small kidding pen.

I could just close the big barn door to this area, but then they end up under the barn and would become quick late night snacks for the local opossum.  So I've had the pleasure of carrying each and every one of them from one side of the barn to the other.  Every night.  In the dark.  Because if it's even the slightest bit light out, they run away from me.  So I have to ambush them after dusk.  And I get flapped in the face, poop from flailing chicken feet smeared on my sweater and an occasional nasty peck on the top of my hand.

I don't know what it is with this batch of chickens.  I've never had problems with other broods figuring out where they have to go at night.  But this group had got to be the bird-brainiest of the bird brains.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Taming of the Kitty

Outside Kitty is finally warming up to me.  Ever so slowly, he's been letting me get closer to him.  It seems like it's taken forever to get to this point.  I thought that maybe I had lost my Feral Kitty Mojo, but I suppose some kitties are just harder to tame.

He follows me around during barn chores, or more accurately, leads me on my barn chores.  He stays just a few kitty-steps ahead of me and close enough that I could actually punt him if I were to be so inclined.

Meowing for some milk when I'm in the barn.  Rolling around on the ground, looking like he wants to be petted, but just out of reach.  And when I reach down he zips away.

About two weeks ago I was able to do a "drive-by" petting.  Once I get my hand on his back, he's all like, "Oh scratch me, no....don't, but oh, please scratch a little more", but I have to do it all stealth-like.  I can't reach my hand up to his head, but instead have to make my petting move by ambush, reaching from behind and scratching.

Until a few days ago.  He's been letting me get all touchy feely with him now when he's eating.  But only when he's eating.  If he's not on the table where his food is, petting is out of the question again.

I've been trying to pick him up, but he's not going for it yet.  I'm hoping to eventually gain his trust enough that I can get him in a cat carrier (and probably lose that trust again) in order to get him fixed.  Because I'm thinking kitty condoms are out of the question and goodness knows we don't need any more pregnant cats around the neighborhood.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Strike Three....

....you're an Enchilada!

For the past couple of weeks I've been noticing a little pool of egg goo in the nest boxes, or if there were a bunch of eggs together, some of them would have dried up yolk on them.  Somebody was eating eggs.  

About two weeks ago I found a hen in the nest box with dried up yolk on her beak.  I threw took her out of the nest box.  Then a day later I saw the same hen in the coop, picking at some egg goo on the coop floor.  Coincidence?

Well, a few days ago the suspected egg-eater was in the nest box with fresh yolk on her beak.  I've never had to butcher a laying hen before, but her time is up.  The fact that this was also one of the hens that were making their way into the garden (which is fenced in, and I had already clipped her wings) and scratching up my blueberry plants kind'a sealed the deal.

I was hoping to use this situation as a learning experience.  Paul's sister and her son were in for the holiday weekend (thus the lack of posts....mostly because I'd eaten so much ham and Easter Pizza that I couldn't drag my bloated body over to the computer) and I figured he could brush up on his biology (i.e. butcher the hen for me).

Well, lucky for the hen, we didn't get around to it.  We were kept busy at the fish hatchery, by  back-pain inducing hikes, shooting zombies and making the traditional family Easter Pizza.  The adults enjoyed a bottle of Clontarf.  Those under twenty one had to be happy kissing baby goats or practicing their double-tap on the local zombies.

Here fishy, fishy, fishy!!

Making the 20 lb. Easter Pizza

I think Ben could get on Walking Dead with these shots!
Post Easter Pizza Eating hike around the property

Even after the family fun filled weekend, I haven't forgotten about the egg-eating hen.  She is still destined to become supper, just a little later than I had planned. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

State of The Milk Stanchion

Since the kidding pen has finally been converted to the kid pen (meaning no more goat baby births), I've been locking the kids up at night in order to get lots o' milk for the morning milkings.
Help us, we're being held against our will every night!
And being served grain, fresh water and made to sleep on soft
straw instead of having to lay down on the damp ground outside.
Nettie gets milked first, then Annette, then New Goat (yeah yeah, still haven't named her).  Nettie is actually giving me a bit of a problem; she's holding her milk back on me, something she's never done before.  I'll get a half-gallon from her, then she won't let the rest of her milk down.  I gently massage it, firmly massage it, bump it, rub it with a warm towel, even talk dirty to her.  I'm even thinking of trying some Udder Shiatsu.  But no more milk.  Then as soon as I let her out of the milk stand and the twin bucklings come a'running, you can almost hear the milk slosh down into her teats.

Annette is milking just fine and New Goat is doing ok on the stand, although she'll occasionally give her back legs a kick and I've lost one container of milk because of it.  Not that the chickens and cats minded the little unscheduled snack.  So all in all, we've got milk flowing here again, and I'm pretty happy.  Except that I'm running out of room in the fridge.

One of my two normal weekly milk customers isn't in town yet, so I'm pretty much swimming in milk and continually having to move things in the fridge in order to find a place for the jars.  Time to make some cheese I suppose.

Or have milk with every meal.  And chocolate milk for snacks.

Or get a pig.