Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good job, Chicken!

All but three of the RIR pullets have been making their way into the coop at night.  Which is a good thing because I was getting more & more ticked off as the evenings went by and was being not-so-gentle in my relocation efforts.  Ever see a farmchick manhandle (chickenhandle?) six or seven chickens at once?  At one point I was just opening my coat and jamming as many of the buggers in there as I could to lessen the number of trips back & forth.  It's a sight unfitting for man (woman) or beast (chicken).

Not only have the majority of the pullets made their way into the correct side of the coop, but I even found a pullet egg in one of the nest boxes!  Double-happy-dance.

Now if I can just convince the rest of the flock to deposit their unborn children into the appropriate area we'll be doing great.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Stand Corrected

It IS freaking cold outside.  And colder than normal.  And I don't mean to make light of the fact that these abnormally frigid temps are taking a toll on many people.  I guess I'm just sick of hearing the media (well, which ones I manage to pick up while online) telling everyone to "wear warm clothes" and "fill up your gas tank" and "have extra food in the house".  It never ceases to amaze me how people need to be reminded of things like that.  Oh, it's going to be below zero today?  Maybe I should put on a sweater instead of my mini skirt and silk top.

And I do have to admit that I check the weather forecast several times a day.  Just so I can complain to Paul about it (it drives him absolutely bonkers).  But really,  I LOVE it that we have the technology to give us (somewhat) accurate weather predictions.  For example; Sunday we hit 70 degrees.  I took Rhiannon to the park and and even bought her an ice cream cone.  Had I not accessed the wonder that is the internet weather channel, I wouldn't have even guessed that the day time high temperature was going to drop almost fifty degrees the following day.  And had I not known that, I wouldn't have taken the time on Sunday evening to put down fresh bedding for all the critters so they don't freeze their keesters off.  I would have been doing it today in the 21 degree weather, swearing up & down how darned cold it is.

Even with the evening temps getting down to the single digits, would you believe that I am still picking ticks off of the GSD (Giant Sloppy Dog)?!  Will they never die?!

Of course, with the extreme cold temps these next few days, I have the potential for Lily and Pickles to kid.  Hopefully their second breeding date is the "good" date and I won't have to worry about taking care of a baby goat in damnitsfreezing weather.  It's bad enough the the GSD and Outside Kitty are in the house at night; Paul will totally flip if I have to bring a hypothermic baby goat into the kitchen.

By Wednesday we're supposed to be back up to more normal winter weather, around 40 degrees, and slowly creeping up to the upper 40's later in the week.  Which is still too cold for me.  And I will continue to complain about it while people who live in states North of me will envy my above-freezing temps and call me an ingrate.  Oh well.  Gotta blog about something :)

small Egg Increase

The Polar Bear Rolex, or whatever the heck they are calling "winter", has descended upon us once again and in anticipation of this rare event (you know, cold temps during, uhm, WINTER) I spent some time out in the barnyard cleaning out goat huts and filling them with clean bedding.  When I was about to empty out Chop Suey's goat hut of choice, I spied two eggs in there. So I sent our smallest farmhand in there and she came out with the two eggs.  One of them was almost half the size of the larger one; a pullet egg!  Add that to the fact that my older biddies are starting to lay more and pretty soon I'll be using up that huge pile of egg cartons in the laundry room.

The Rhode Island Reds are just shy of five months old so it's about time I started finding pullet eggs.  Unfortunately, it wasn't in the coop.  I'm still hand-delivering about half of the buggers to the coop every night and each time they are more & more wary of me so it's more of a challenge to catch the effers.  I'd lock them up in the coop until they finally "got" it, but the older birds are picking on them and they want to get out as soon as I open the door in the morning.

I really don't feel like chasing chickens and playing hide & seek with eggs, especially in the cold!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting my money's worth

I've been using our microscope for doing more fecal floats on the various goats in our herd and spent so much time on them one day that I got a headache from looking into the eyepiece so long.  I felt like I should have been wearing a long, white lab coat and those huge plastic goggles.

I've done tests on Nettie and found her worm load to be within limits (12 or so barber pole eggs) so I didn't worm her.  Then I did a test on Annette and her worm count was about three times higher than Nettie's so I wormed her orally with Ivomec.  A few days later I took another sample from Annette, hoping to find significantly less eggs, but there was only a slight improvement.  I'm still uncertain if I'm going to try worming her again with a different anthelmintic drug (fancy name for deworming medication) right away or wait until right after she kids.  She should be ok this far along in her pregnancy that the drugs shouldn't affect her pregnancy, but I'd hate for her to abort because of it.  MamaGoat's fecal came back within acceptable levels.

Then I did tests on my Boer gals.  Collected fresh turds (I hate it when people call it a "sample", it reminds me of samples of food given away at supermarkets) and got all scientific'y again.  Pickles, Lily and Penny were surprisingly sparse on worm eggs, and I've only wormed them once with the Positive Pellet medicated feed.  Not sure if Boers are just less susceptible to worms or if it's because I've had the dairy gals around here longer.

I still have to do tests on NewNew, Chop Suey and Herman then should be finished for a while.

I'm tempted to take a sample from the same turd deposit that I do a sample on and bring it into the vet just to see if our numbers jive.  I know there will be some inconsistencies, but I would like some confirmation that I am doing this correctly.  But I suppose as long as I do each test exactly the same way, at least I'll be able to determine if there is an increase or decrease in parasites.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sad reminder about goat deworming

Annette has been coughing for several months.  Nothing bad, and it's usually only after rushing in to eat some "new" hay or after eating grain.  I just figured the coughing was caused by her eating too quickly, but then began to wonder if she had lung worm.  So I got my microscope ready & went out to get me some hot-outta-the-oven goat turds.  I didn't find any lung worm eggs, but I did find a surprising amount of barber pole (Haemonchus contortus) worm eggs, like three times as many as Nettie had on her recent test.  I had just wormed the entire herd with Positive Pellet Goat Dewormer on the 3rd of January and it is supposed to take care of that type of worm.  So either it did (and Annette had a lot of worms) or it is not working.  If you read any literature or articles about barber pole worms in goats, you probably already know that they have built up a resistance to many deworming medications.  There are many farms that will cull animals based upon their ability to be naturally resistant to them.

I went to the feed store to pick up another bottle of Ivomec injection as my supply was down to only half a dose.  When I got into the parking lot, there was young girl (maybe ten?) and her father carrying a Nubian doe out of the store and to their truck.  And the doe was making pitiful bleating noises.  Death noises.  I know this sound because I was there when one of our does was dying.  I asked him what was wrong and he said she was riddled with worms and that she was probably wasn't going to make it.  I wanted to ask more, ask if he'd try hitting her hard with a high dose of wormer, ask if he knew what kind of worms, etc., but the look on his daughter's face was so sad and despondent that I couldn't bear to hold them up any longer.  They carefully put the softly bleating goat in the back seat of the truck and drove away.

Now I was really, really determined to get something going for Annette's worm problem.  The grim reality of seeing that doe and hearing her pathetic groaning seems to give one a kick in the pants.

I bought a 200mL bottle of Ivomec injection and went right back home.  Although it is labeled for cattle and swine, it is used off-label for goats by just about every goat keeper I know of.  I put Annette in the milk stand with a handful of alfalfa pellets to keep her still and then gave her 3mL of the medication orally using my handy-dandy drenching gun (a must-have for administering meds).  Although the Ivomec is labeled as an injection, it is more effective to give it to the goats orally.

Since I did not run a fecal sample on Annette before giving the herd the Positive Pellet medicated feed at the beginning of the month, I cannot know how many, if any, worms were knocked out of her using that particular deworming medication.  Bad farmer, I know.  But now I have a baseline for "Before Ivomec" and will run another fecal on her in a few days and see if there is any noticeable difference.  Ivomec  claims that it will remove all types of stomach worms, but I have also read that an older type of wormer, Levamisole, is supposed to be able to knock out drug resistant worms and if her fecal shows up with lots of worm eggs again, I'll use that on her.

Besides doing fecal floats, I occasionally check the eyelids of my herd.  There is a color chart called FAMANCHA that gives you an idea of what the inner bottom eyelid should look like color-wise.  If it is pale (or white!) that means you probably have a heavy worm load.  This is because the parasites / worms literally drain all the red blood cells out of your goat and the normally pink pigment in the eyelid will be missing because of the nasties sucking it out of your goat, making the goat severely anemic.  Having said that about the FAMANCHA chart, I will say that I do not own one (it's just a little plastic card with the colors on them).  When first hearing about this method of checking for worm loads, I went out to my herd and almost fell over when I checked Nettie's color.  It was pale pink.  I immediately went berserk and wormed her.  Then after a while, I realized that I should have been checking the eyelids on a regular basis to establish a baseline.  Nettie just has paler eyelids than the rest of my goats, and after doing some internet searching found out that many other people said their white goats had paler eyelids than the rest of their darker coated herd mates.  There are also other signs of a high worm load such as reduced milk production, dull coat, diarrhea and in extreme cases, bottle jaw (lower jaw becomes swollen).

None of my goats are currently having any symptoms, but since I've got a saline solution ready and the microscope out I'm going to bundle up and go out to the goat pen to ollect samples from my Boer gals and see how they are doing.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prego...Is it REALLY in there?

Well, the mass-produced spaghetti sauce may have "it" in there, but I'm not too sure if my goats have kids in there.

Lily is due in eleven days.  Maybe.
Lily, due in eleven days....OR forty-one days.
She's been looking a bit more rotund lately, but is she really due in less than two weeks?  She was bred twice, so it's either eleven or forty-one days.  She's no where as large as Annette is:
Annette, with a super-duper Muffin Top..or Side.
Annette is due one day after Lily's second potential kidding date.  Forty-two days away and would you just look at that bulge?! Annette has always had a hay belly and I've had people ask me if she was pregnant just after she kidded!

Both Pickles and Lily were bred at the same time so the first due date is January 30th and the second is March 1st.  Pickles doesn't even look much larger than normal so I'm betting she took the second time around:
Pickles.  Just a little bump showing.
Nettie was also bred two different times, so her kidding dates are either the 24th of February or the 2nd of March.  She's looking like she's got a little bit of a baby bump going, but she's also another hard one to judge.  One year I swear she was so small that I expected only one kid, but she ended up throwing three of them!

MamaGoat is due on on the 21st of March and NewNew is due on the 26th of March:
NewNew sporting a baby bump.
And then there's Penny.  The "Boer" goat (that turned out to be a Boer x Nubian cross) that was "supposed" to be bred anywhere from mid-July to the mid-October.  She doesn't look the slightest bit pregnant.  Well, maybe a little bit.
Penny......better be pregnant!
Hopefully that's because she was bred in October and still has until the middle of March until her kidding.  Would make perfect sense because two other goats are due at that same time and we wouldn't want to have them spaced out or anything.  Since coming here in the beginning of December she hasn't shown any signs of going into heat, hasn't been oogling over Herman and Herman hasn't been going crazy, so I'm hoping that she is, in fact, pregnant.  Especially since I swapped her with one of my pregnant goats.  Well, I suppose there is a chance that my girl wasn't pregnant, but I did hand-breed her and she never went back into heat.  Penny, however, was just left in with a buck for three months and the previous owner just assumed that she was bred.

This is going to be one of the most interesting kidding years yet.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It is my Purpose in Life to Amuse

Because I can find no other reason for my recent antics in the barnyard the night before last.

The RIR chickens are still being stubborn and refuse to roost with the other chickens in the coop.  You know, the one with the light on when it gets dark.  The one with fresh bedding.  The one with nice fluffy hay in the nesting boxes.  The one that will prevent them from becoming a nocturnal carnivore's midnight snackie.

It still absolutely amazes me that none of them have been eaten by now.  There have been plenty of opportunities for nighttime critters to take advantage of my forgetting to close the coop door as well as the daytime marauders that have often plagued the chicken yard.  I started with twenty and there are still twenty.  Want to know how I know?  Because I've been having to carry each and every one of the buggers to the coop each and every night.  And each night it becomes more and more difficult of a task.  They are on to me.

They've been huddling together in the corner of the barn (opposite of where they are supposed to be roosting) and up until recently I've been able to grab me an armful of squawking, flapping poultry and make my way over to the coop side with at least three chickens per trip.

There's been a full or nearly full moon for the past few nights.  Bright enough that one does not really need a flashlight to see one's way around the barnyard.  And apparently chickens have better night vision than I had previously thought because they have been scattering when I come up to the barn.  Once they leave the barn, I can no longer corner them and it's pretty much a chicken free for all outside.  They run under the barn, run under the goats, run into the goat huts, run back under the barn, run every stinking place but into the gawdforsaken well-lit coop.

After ten plus minutes of chasing the damn birds and swearing into the crisp night sky, it finally dawned on me that I could be using a net to expedite my chicken roundup.  There was a fishing dip net hanging in the barn (probably from some other long forgotten chicken catching foray) so I grabbed it and started chasing them with that.  Just as I thought I captured one in the net, the bugger ran away.  I'd manage to catch another one, and it would somehow get out.  I tried to "scoop" them into the net.  I slammed the net down on top of them.  I even tried some lacrosse techniques. I think to myself, what the hell is wrong with this thing?!  More swearing.

After the fifth chicken "popped" out of the net, I finally examined the net and found that there was a hole in it.
But of course by this time, what chickens I hadn't managed to bludgeon into unconsciousness and toss into the coop were pretty much hunkered down under the steps of the barn and there was no way they were coming out.

"Fine!" I yelled at them. "Go ahead and get eaten you freaking morons!" and I started stomping my way back to the house.  "But don't come crying to me when a raccoon is chowing down on your intestines while you're still alive.....that'll teach you a lesson!"

Except the only one that would be taught a lesson would be me.  Because I would curse myself up and down if I were to let any of them get eaten.  I've haven't been taking care of those buggers for the last four plus months only to have them become the equivalent of a late night drunk White Castle run for a couple of opossums.

So after a while I put my muck boots back on, went outside and managed to get the rest of them into the coop.  And now I have to modify my plan of attack for tomorrow night's round up.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Krazo Acres Biology Class

Today's homeschooling lesson was on Biology; namely pathogenic nematode eggs and amoebas.

The nematode eggs came from the backside of one of our goats.

Nettie had some poop'n problems on Monday ago so I dosed her with some Probios, Vitamin B Complex and limited her to hay & alfalfa pellets.  A day later, she was poop'n pretty much like normal so I gathered some fresh goat turds and went about to making a fecal solution to check for worms.

I had just wormed everyone on the 3rd of January with Positive Pellet Goat Dewormer and it is supposed to take care of Haemonchus Contortus (barberpole worm), Ostertagia Circumcincta (brown stomach worm) and Trichostrongylus Axel (small stomach worm).  I know, I know, I should be doing a fecal test before and after worming the goats in order to establish if the wormer is actually working.  One day I will.

Anyways, I tested Nettie's poop and found about fifteen (what I think are) barberpole worm eggs and two thread worms.  
Barberpole Worm Egg (I think).
I'm not too concerned about those numbers, but I think it's something I'll have to check up on again in a month.  Now I just have to remember to do it.  I also need to order some slides with grids on them.  When searching for stuff on slides, you're supposed to do a up-across-down-across-repeat movement in order to make sure you cover the entire slide.  But when searching at a higher magnification, it's difficult to keep on track.  I also found some other funky looking round things, which I am assuming are some sort of grass pollen.  The pollen is not in the air this time of the year, but we are feeding hay and I'm sure there's plenty of pollen trapped in the bales.
Pollen (I think).
The amoebas came from my daughter's bedroom.  Not from the carpet or the bed or in some corner of the closet, but from the fish tank.  The fish tank that was waaaaaaaay overdue for a cleaning.  So I saved a little of the green gunk from the filter and put that under the microscope.
Classic example of an amoeba.  Eating something or other.
Some sort of nematode, just cruising 'round the block.
Rhiannon found the fish tank microscopic life much more interesting (as did I) and to quote her, the fish tank goo was neat and the poop was "just poop".

I love homeschooling on the homestead!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Oh Poop.

I was out doing some barn chores this afternoon and almost stepped in a very runny, very messy goat poop plop.  Like, melted chocolate soft-serve ice cream kind'a plop (you're welcome for the visual).

So I immediately go around chasing goats (who normally would come running up to me, but the instant they suspect that I need them to come to me, they run for the hills) trying to figure out who's backside the abnormal plop came from.

It didn't take long to find out as Nettie's backside was icky.  I tempted her (and everyone else, of course) up to the barn by shaking a bucket and got her up on the stanchion.  I filled the feeder with a handful of alfalfa pellets, locked her in and went to gather some supplies from the house.

Since I now had my animal medical kit all straightened out, it was a breeze finding what I needed.  And while I was in the kit, I grabbed stuff to give Lily, Pickles and Chop Suey their yearly CD/T shots since they were due soon.  I went back to the barn, cleaned Nettie up and took her temperature.  102.6 degrees; pretty much normal.  Checked her eyelids and they looked a little pale, but hers never did look bright pink.  Gave her 5ml of Probios and 5ml of Vitamin B Complex and let her finish her alfalfa pellets in peace.

I'm not sure what caused her diarrhea, but now that I think about it, when I forked over some "new" hay yesterday, everyone but Nettie went running towards it.  She was laying down (as were half the herd), soaking up the sunshine so I figured she just didn't want to move from her sunny spot.  Now I wonder if she had a stomach ache.  And wonder from what.

I went out again during feeding time and took her temperature again and it was 102.3; still within normal range.  Everyone else got their normal rations of grain, but I gave Nettie more alfalfa pellets instead of grain to try and firm up things.  Tonight I'll make up a salt solution and get ready to do a fecal sample in the morning and look for any worm load.  Guess tomorrow is going to be a Turd-tastic Tuesday.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Non -Conformist Reuben Sandwich

During our Carnivore Kind'a Christmas, we dealt with lots and lots of meat.  Shot some squirrels, roast a goose, made venison sausage, smoked half of a beef brisket and started a brine on the other half of the brisket to make homemade Pastrami.

I just looked up a Pastrami brine online, trimmed most of the fat off it and soaked it in the brine for six (I think) days in the fridge.  Took it out of the brine, rinsed it off and rubbed it with a now-forgotten dry rub consisting of salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed coriander, mustard seeds, dry mustard and brown sugar (I think).  Paul put it in the smoker and several hours later, we had our first pastrami!

We didn't have the patience to wait until it cooled off - Paul sliced right into it and we chomped down.  After sampling our efforts, it was wrapped up and put in the fridge to cool.  Eventually we hauled out the super-cool meat slicer my Dad gave me last year for a Christmas gift (or was it the year before??) and sliced it up:

Hot out'a the smoker!
Cooled & sliced....and pilfered by a hungry 4 year old.
I ran out to the grocery store to get some rye bread, swiss cheese & Thousand Island dressing.  Found some canned sauerkraut in the pantry, then set about to making a Reuben Sandwich. Well, I started out making a Reuben Sandwich and then Paul pointed out to me that a Reuben is made with corned beef, not pastrami, and he refused to let me put the Thousand Island dressing on his sandwich.  Then I decided to fry up some onions in bacon grease and then fry the sauerkraut up with it instead of just plopping the plain kraut on the sandwich.  So it wasn't really a traditional Reuben Sandwich.

But then again, we're not your traditional kind'a folk, now are we?

We're continuing our quest to make & process as much of our own foodstuffs at home, and being able to make lunch meats is a very nice addition to the larder.  Sometimes I crave soup and sandwiches for lunch or supper (heck, even breakfast) and sandwiches are a quick and easy meal to make for Paul's lunch.  The meat slicer has made all of this infinitely easier, although one could simply thinly slice the slabs of meats, it would just take a little more time.  We've also been able to buy larger chunks of meat from the store and slice it up at home vs. buying lunch meat from the deli and it saves quite a bit of money.  Of course, we don't eat the entire five pound mound of freshly-sliced meat.  I package it in sandwich sized zippy bags, squeeze as much of the air out of it, and pop them in the freezer.  The smaller sizes ensure a quicker defrost time as well as ensuring that we eat all of it before it goes bad.

I doubt that we'll tire of the pastrami though.  If anything, I think we'll try and find someone with a butcher steer and see if we can get another brisket from it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Crunch 'n Munch

The weather guys made such a big stink about the last (potential) ice storm and not much really came from it.  But just yesterday afternoon we got freezing rain and ice pellets and it continued lightly through the night.  The porch was a sheet of ice at 3 am.  And how did I know this?  Because I was up cleaning coals out from the wood stove and on my trip back from dumping coals (thankfully not before) I slipped on the steps.  My left elbow has a noticeable knot in it and my ribs, belly and boob are killing me.  When I got up from the fall, it hurt so badly that tears started welling up in my eyes.  Nothing's cracked or broken (well, except for my pride), but is it just me, or does falling in one's later years just like totally suck?  Luckily I didn't break a hip or Paul probably would have put me down.

Anywho, enough of my sob story and on to (slightly) more interesting things.

It's an icy wonderland outside.  Anything weighing more than a cat crunches through the frozen landscape with each step so it's fairly noisy in the barnyard today, even without Pickles yelling (yes, she's back to yelling for absolutely no apparent reason).  I forked out some fresh hay to everyone, and after the initial "That's MY hay! And so is THAT.  That hay over THERE is also mine!  Don't even THINK of eating this hay!!" ruckusing has subsided and the sound of  ice breaking beneath cloven hooves eventually abated, I was able to enjoy the quiet of the crystal-encrusted wonderland.  Well, almost quiet.

The sound of little goat mouths munching on hay broke the silence.  The steady munch-munch-munching of nine caprine chompers working on their fibrous forage filled my ears.  And honestly, I love that sound.  I find it calming, almost mesmerizing.  I stood out there for a good ten minutes, just listening to them grind away.  And have you noticed that it's a slightly different sound when they chew their cud?  I suppose I spend too much time around goats if I can tell the difference between the sound of fresh hay vs. partially digested hay being chewed.

I guess there's worse things I could be doing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Gift that keeps on giving

We had Christmas Dinner at Mom's house this year; salad, green beans, salad, two kinds of homemade Kluskies (thanks Wally!!) and a big ol' ham.  A few days later (probably after Mom couldn't bear to eat any more ham), she came to the house with a ham bone in hand.  Whoo hoo!!  There was still a good amount of ham on the bottom, so I cut chunks off and put them in a zippy bag in the freezer.  The bone was almost immediately put into a pot along with fixings for split pea soup.  Oh, how I love split pea soup.  Oh, how quickly it disappears.

Since the woodstove had been cranked 24/7 for the past however many days, I've been trying to keep it working to heat both our house and our food.

After Rhiannon and I did our math school work for the day.......
Greater Than, Less Than, Simple Fractions, Addition & Subtraction
.........we utilized those same delicious educational components by soaking them in water overnight then dumped them with the ham chunks, bay leaves, onions & other obligatory soup seasonings and let it sit on the wood stove most of the day:

We had such a big chicken supper last night that the soup kind'a sat on the sidelines.  But that's ok.  I think it tastes better once it sits for a while.  Today I'm going to try cooking cornbread on top of the stove and we'll have that and soup for supper.

It's Soup Weather.....are YOU making any?  If so, I'd love for you to share the recipe so I can add it to  the "Soup" section in my recipe box.  I made a homemade Cream of Mushroom that I got from Mama Pea last year and it was heaven.  Maybe I'll splurge on a package of mushrooms and oyster crackers next time I'm at the grocery store and make that again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Yes, it's cold outside. It's WINTER.

I know, this is an unusually frigid snap for most of the country, but what I don't get is the news media blitz about it.  Do we really need to remind people that they should wear hats and gloves when they go outdoor in sub-freezing weather?  How many stations have done the "Vaporizing water" trick?  I'm still waiting for some news outlet to send some intern out in the streets with a flap of chicken skin and time how long before it's frozen.  For some reason, that sticks out in my mind from a weather broadcast years & years ago.

Anyways, things back here at the homestead are, well, cold.  Colder than usual.

The weather being the Freezing Vortex that it is (or whatever the heck the media is calling, you know, winter), the wood stove has been cranked for I don't know how many days straight.  During the coldest part of the day, it was 42 degrees in the master bath, 51 in the bedroom and 61 on the couch closest to the stove.  I know, I know, there are people who have it worse and I shouldn't complain.  And it's not the end of the world if I can't walk around in shorts and a t-shirt indoors.  I'm actually kind'a liking the long underwear / sweatpants / sweatshirt / socks / slippers layered look.

The outside critters have all survived the worst of the cold snap; 1 degree at night with a windchill of "OMG that's cold".  But we're expecting a high of 30 today and only 18 at night so we're over the worst of it.  Although we didn't have any animal casualties, we did have two egg casualties:

I've never had eggs crack from freezing so quickly before.   I've occasionally left eggs out overnight in the winter and they had cracked, but these were gathered during the day.  I just let them defrost on the kitchen counter, fried them up really well, then make myself an egg & cheese sandwich for supper.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dreaming of Spring

Or at least of temperatures above freezing.
If I could knit, I would sooooo make this for you, MamaPea.
I won't bore you with yet another blog story about how freaking cold it is.  You are probably already painfully aware of that fact.  I did, however, want to let my Mom know that we opened up the barn for Ms. Melman and Nugget (and they still refuse to go in there), that I put a ton of bedding in the goat barn and opened it up for them (where it is normally reserved for kiddings), and ALL of the chickens are in the big coop side, together, snuggling as much as chickens can snuggle.  And, much to Paul's dismay (I love you honey, please don't divorce me), Outside Kitty has been allowed inside the house temporarily.

Being stuck in the house, I've been on the computer a lot and started searching for anything spring-like or gardening-related for some eye candy and to take my mind off the fact that my feet are freezing even in socks and fuzzy pink slippers.  I clicked through enchanted gardens, rock gardens, desert gardens, gardens with sculptures, gardens with cats (imagine that) and garden plans.  They look so perfect, so organized, so wonderfully neat and tidy:

Then there's MY garden plan:

I've got my Baker Creek catalog dog-eared and post-it noted, inked up and generally abused.  Trying to figure out what "New and Improved" something or other I'm going to plant.  Even though I have a bunch of seeds from years gone by, seeds saved this past year, and seeds given to me by friends.

I'm also seriously debating just purchasing the old standbys (Roma/Rutgers/Beefsteak tomatoes, California Wonder Peppers, some sort of cabbage) at the nursery down the road, or, if I'm lucky at the Baker Creek site up in Missouri if it's early enough in the season.  I don't have a lot of dedicated area for growing seedlings and although I'd be saving money to grow my own, I just don't have the patience for anything except hard to find vegetables.  Melons, squash, pumpkins, beans, peas and cucumbers I've had decent success just direct sowing them so I'll continue that route with them.

I've been composting just about everything our livestock can squeeze out their backsides and I'm putting piles of wasted hay in the new garden plot that Paul dozed for me last spring.  In the summer I dug holes in that garden with the tractor auger, filled the holes with compost and put in a few dozen summer and winter squash seeds and didn't get jack from it.  The plants grew to a certain stage, flowered and started to fruit, but the fruit were teeny-tiny.  Not sure if the "soil" is just so crappy (i.e. not so much dirt as it is rocks) or if it was just a bad squash year as I heard other gardeners complain about.  But we managed to get decent garden beds in the Berry Garden after three or four years of constant composting additions so I figure this new garden will just take a while.  But of course, in the interim, I will continue attempting to plant something, anything in there.  And I suppose if the plants don't thrive, if they die, or the seeds just rot in the earth, at least it's adding to the overall soil-building plan.  And one day - hopefully before I'm dead - we'll have another thriving garden plot.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Great Chicken Relocation Project

I've got something of a routine down when it comes to raising a batch of laying hens.  When the day-or-so old chicks arrive here, they go into the small kidding pen with a heat lamp for about a month.  When they run out of room or when the heating lamp is no longer needed (whichever comes first), they get relocated across the hall to the large kidding pen and will stay there for a month or so.  Or in this case, until I need the kidding pen for, well, kidding.

It's been three (or four?) days since I opened the slat in the large pen door in order to allow the new Rhode Island Red (RIR) pullets to stretch their legs and explore the great wide open.  At first, they were obviously skeptical of my removal of the board keeping them from the rest of the chickens and goats.  Lots of curious chickens craning their necks to peek at what lies outside of the barn, but none convinced enough that it was safe to leave their home area of the past four months.

That is until I stopped putting feed in the pen and scattered some cracked corn outside of the pen:

It didn't take long for their gizzards to trump their uneasiness and one after one, they hopped out of the pen to peck at the corn.  It didn't take much long after that for the goats to find their way to the corn either; stinking gluttons.

I think all of them have been out and about the barnyard at one point or another.  There's a lot of chicken squawking as the older hens are having a field day teaching the younger ones who's boss, but nothing horrible.  I've even seen a few of them manage to find their way to the main chicken feeder located outside of the goat / chicken yard.  Some seem much more willing to explore than the others, but I'm hoping that they stick close to home because our resident red tail hawk has been hanging around again and I'm sure they'd be an easy snack.

I finally managed to hook up a light in the main coop and have been turning it on before dusk.  But since the kidding pen is still open, the younger chickens continue to roost in there at night.  I figure I'll give them another few days of access to the pen then hope they'll be smart enough to seek out the light in the main coop and roost in there.  Smart?  Chickens?  No such thing.  So in reality what is going to happen is that come dusk they will all congregate in front of the closed kidding pen door and I will have to hand-deliver twenty chickens to the main coop every evening for several weeks until they finally get it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

She's stuck. Oh, rats!

Paul had yesterday off from work so we all spent most of the day outside enjoying the 50 degree weather.  Lots of poop was scooped and tossed into the compost heap, fresh bedding was put into the goat huts, storage areas were cleaned out and the RIR pullets (and two RIR roosters) were again scooted out of the kidding pen.  Oh.  And Penny got stuck underneath the barn.

The night before, I noticed Penny's head sticking out from under the barn when I tucked everyone in for the night, but just figured she was hanging out there or trying to avoid getting picked on.  Then in the morning she was in the same spot.  I tried coaxing her out (i.e. poked her butt with a shovel) but try as she might, she couldn't wiggle out from under there.  So I ended up having to move the steps in order to give her more room.  Paul took her by the collar and I poked her butt; she shimmied and Paul pulled and she made it out.  A little bit stiff in the legs and a little bit poopy in the behind, but no worse for the wear.  What IS it with these stupid goats?  First Pickles and now Penny.  Is it a Boer thing or is it I just happen to get the dumbest goats in the Ozarks?

I then started tackling other goat-keeping chores.  The little enclosure that the protein tub, minerals, salt and baking soda is in was cleaned and I noticed that they were out of baking soda.  I opened the seldom used storage area located in the back half of the barn to get the soda and when I opened the doors I saw a bunch of orange peels, egg shells and a lot of hay.  At first I though that the mice had taken over again, but there was sooooo much stuff packed in there I figured something larger had holed up in there.  And when I moved one of the folded up dog crates, there he was, staring at me; a big ol' pack rat.  I immediately put the crate back and looked around for something to kill it with.  The scoop shovel was too big.  A rock wasn't going to work.  Didn't have a sidearm on my hip.  Then I spied one of the metal rods that are used to hook the dog crate together.  Heck, why not.  And I actually managed to shish-kabob his rodent butt.  After tossing the carcass out of the barn, I went ahead and pulled everything out of the area and found a ton of stuff jammed in behind the buckets and crates.  Enough grain to fill a 5-gallon bucket.  A big ol' feather lined nest - thankfully with no rodent offspring.  Shredded blue tarp.  Wad of feed sack string.  Additional piles of other indistinguishable organic materials.  And a chewed up photograph of what looked like the JFK autopsy.
New Year's Day Fun.......
Poking a dead rat with a stick!
While we were cleaning out the barn, Outside Kitty was also doing a little cleaning of his own.  Rhiannon had opened the door to the feed room and Outside Kitty ran in.  Rhiannon eventually came back out, but he stayed in there.  After a while I heard a lot of scratching around and peeked in there to see him playing with an almost-dead mouse.  What a good kitty!  Paul said that he should have been after the pack rat, but I don't blame him for going after less threatening quarry.  That pack rat was almost as big as my boot!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Obligatory New Year's Resolutions

I won't say that I hate New Year's Resolution.  Nor will I say that I enjoy them.  It's just that my entire life seems to be filled with lists and NYR's seem to be nothing more than an additional list that I have to keep from losing.

But in order to keep with socially mandated traditions, here is my list of Resolutions for 2014:

Eat Less *
Exercise More *
Spend Less
Plant More
Worry Less
Enjoy More

*Been on my list for, say, the last ten years.

This should not be confused with the "Homestead To-Do List" nor the "Things I Really Need to Do, But Probably Wont" lists, which are much, much longer and much more detailed.  And since the 2014 NYR is rather vague, I'm hoping that I can actually adhere to it.

Even though I'm not going to spend any additional time contemplating how to be a better person, how to get rid of my muffin top or how to squeeze a penny harder, I am looking forward to planning for the Spring garden.  Which seems like a pretty good way to tackle every one of my 2014 NYR's now that I think about it.  I'd be eating less (calories) if we ate out of our garden more.  I'd be exercising more by working in the garden.  We'd spend less at the grocery store on fruits & veggies if I planted more.  I'd worry less about what questionable chemicals that are on store-bought food if they come from our own homestead.  And I'm sure to enjoy being with Rhiannon as she helps me out in the garden.

So there you go.  My New Year's Resolutions can all be accomplished by planting a garden.

How Zen is that?