Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Dream of Fence

Fence, fence, fence.  It's a homesteader's constant want, need and chore.  When we bought this place, there was a decade's old barbed wire fence that had once surrounded about 3/4's of the perimeter of the land.  What posts that haven't become termite food or downed by falling trees aren't worth a lick, and the wires that were strung from them are buried underneath composted leaf litter, intertwined with greenbriars, snapped and wrapped into convenient ankle breaking and tripping hazards along the way.  In other words, that old fence is nothing but a hazard and another project in itself.

We originally had about a 3/4 acre five-wire electric fence for the goats.  Then the ice storm of 2009 took that out so we switched to a "temporary" cattle panel fence, but their browsing area had been greatly reduced.  We (meaning Paul) have been adding on to the panel fence so it's much larger than what we started with, but we now have many more goats than what we started with and the area, even though greatly increased, is still not adequate.
Why didn't anybody tell me I had so many freaking goats?
Not only are we unable to rotate paddocks (because there isn't room to) but they really need to be off that part of ground to help reduce the parasite load.  Paul has been working on a larger, permanent pasture area for the goats and Ms. Melman (the mule) but it's slow going because of his lack of help from yours truly and the fact that every stinking corner and line post takes an inordinate amount of time to break through the boulders riddling our land.  I'm hoping that by Summer the posts will all be in and we he can start installing the fence.  We decided to go all-out (i.e. Cha-ching!) and bought Red Brand Goat & Sheep fence.  It's a 48" high web wire with 4" squares and will eliminate not only the problems of the goats getting their horns/heads stuck in the fence, but will keep the smaller goat kids IN and hopefully keep any predators OUT.  That will solve our goat fencing problem, but it doesn't solve our garden fencing problem.
What could have been part of Rhiannon's college fund
Even if we didn't have the chickens to scratch, peck and destroy my gardens, there's still the deer to contend with.  Although Charlie seems to keep them away if he sees them, most of the time he doesn't see them as he's snoozing on the porch.  Paul put up a permanent fence around my berry / grape / whatever garden two years ago and that has been very helpful in keeping what berries & vegetables that did grow on our plates instead of in the munching maws of the local wildlife.

I'm hoping to have a small picket or waddle fence put around the raised beds and herb garden in the front yard, not only for protection from the chickens and deer, but for the simple fact that I think it would be nice to look at.  I've always wanted a little secret garden and I think Rhiannon would really like being able to "hide" out in her own little garden area.

Even after the pasture fence for the goats and mule is finished and the gardens are fenced in, there's still the job of fencing off the property.  We've had the property lines surveyed and marked and we know our neighbors are in agreement so it's just the "simple" job of dozing the entire 4,600-odd feet of line, driving almost 600 t-posts into bare rock and stringing whatever fence we decide on.  One day. Hopefully before I'm dead.  Or before Paul keels over from exhaustion.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Short on hay

We ran out of hay for the goats on Wednesday and have just one opened round bale up at the mule barn so it was way past time for a hay-run.  I've been hand cutting green munchies for the goats, but not with the kitchen shears anymore.  I didn't get to see if the feed store or hardware store had a sickle blade, but I remembered that I already had one.  It was just sitting on the wall outside as a decoration!  It was rusty, and the wrapping for the handle is a bit worn off, but Paul sharpened up the blade and I'm now using that to cut greenery for the goats:
I've been using this for two days straight....and still have all my digits!
Technically we still had one of the really stemmy bales of hay from last summer so I asked Paul to pick up the bale with the tractor forks & dump it into the goat pen figuring that they could pick their way through it and find some good stuff.  It was like Christmas morning.  Running and pushing and shoving, all so they could try some of the "new" hay.  Which they seemed to absolutely LOVE.  For like ten minutes.  Not that I blame them, it's really crappy hay.

Paul hauled home six round bales of a decent grass mix and I forked some of that over to the ingrates and they dug in.  For like ten minutes.  I expect that the buggers are still expecting me to hand-deliver freshly cut munchies to their maws every day now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waste of a perfectly good lawn

Today Paul brought the mower into the garage to do some maintenance on it because the front "lawn" is looking to take over in a few days if it's not cut.  Knowing that all that wonderful, free green goat feed will soon be chopped and blown to the wind made me get my lazy bum out there to get a few totes of caprine salad to the herd:

I've been feeding the goats hay since like forever and they were very appreciative of the greenery.

I didn't give them too much and I fed them their grain beforehand so their stomachs (hopefully) won't get upset.  The kids can still squeeze in and out of the cattle panel fence so they've been munching away at the grass and weeds around the place, but the older goats haven't had much time out on the leads to enjoy the fresh grass.

I just used kitchen shears to give the lawn a clipping here and there, but it's time consuming and not very nice on my hands.  I've used the bagger on the lawn mower before but it chops up the grass too much.  I'd like to get my hands on a good sickle blade or maybe even a scythe, although I tend to think I'd be more likely to lose a limb using the scythe.

As usual, Outside Kitty was there to keep me company.  Seems as if Pioneer Preppy isn't the only one with a small, furry Supervisor.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cheap labor and the gift of fungi

Paul, Rhiannon and I attended a local FFA (Future Farmers of America) function a few weeks ago for their fish fry and labor auction.  It was great food and great entertainment!

Well, except when Rhiannon kept raising her hand to bid on the plate of chocolate chip cookies.....we finally had to hold her arms down when it got to $27.  I like cookies and all, but we needed to save our money for some REAL goods.  Or shall I say, cheap labor?  We "bought" ourselves two strapping young FFA men for eight hours a piece to help with some landscaping chores.

They came over after school on Tuesday and raked and burned leaves for three hours (there's a LOT of leaves over at his Mom's place) then came back again on Wednesday for another three hours of leaf burning and stall mucking.  I swear we moved about a ton of manure / wasted hay.
Good ol' FFA labor
I have blisters on my hands, poop stuck in my boots and my clothes were covered in soot for two straight days.  Although that's really not that strange.  But we had pizza and soda afterwards so all is good with the world.

Anywho, their Ag teacher is one of our friends, Adrian (she's the lady with the poor Nigerian doeling that had to be put down two weeks ago) and she came over to help....and probably acquired some blisters of her own.  Her husband  also just so happened to happen upon a small patch of Morels.  She posted them on FB Monday night and I just ogled at the pictures.  We went out on the weekend and Paul's been going out after work, but we still haven't found any.  Even though our searching yielded zip, we didn't end up empty handed:

Adrian and Aaron gave us some of their bounty!  Oh, I was so very, very excited.  I can't wait to sautee those babies up tonight.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hope this isn't goodbye

I took pictures of my herb garden and some of the other greenery around the homestead earlier this evening.
Oregano, nice & green & healthy.
Cilantro, just popping up.
Green, furry, fern-like leaves of Yarrow.
Chocolate Mint
Strawberry blossoms
Arkansas Black apple blossoms
When I was taking the pictures, I felt kind of morbid.  Because this is what I had to do right after taking shots of those beautiful blossoms and greenery:

Covering up the herb garden.
Putting tarps over the strawberry patch.
Tonight we're supposed to hit a low of 28 degrees and Tuesday night is only slightly warmer at 31 degrees.  I didn't cover the apple trees, so they'll be on their own.  We didn't have a single apple last year and I'm afraid that this will be another apple-less year as well.  The nectarines, peaches and pears have already lost most, if not all of their flowers; I'm not sure if that means they'll survive or not.  Luckily I procrastinated and hadn't put the vegetables in the ground yet so I just moved the flats into the garage.

Everything in the herb garden pictured above came up from last year.  I was certain that our horribly cold winter would have wiped everything out, but they must be real troopers.  I just hope that the new greenery on them can survive the freeze.

I'm not pulling the tarps or buckets off the plants until Wednesday morning.  Hopefully Wednesday's post will be titled "They Made It!" and not "No fruit this year".

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Spring Hunt

Paul, Rhiannon and I went out in the woods yesterday afternoon searching for wild mushrooms.  Morels, to be exact.  I've only seen and eaten one in my entire life.  It was picked by a friend of ours up in Missouri, brushed off and fried in a little bit of butter and a pinch of salt.  My memory of it is only vague now, but I remember saying "Wow, that's the mushroomiest mushroom I've ever tasted".

We walked up and down slopes, down the creek beds, flipped over piles of leaves.  Found the only known sycamore tree on our place, found a few elms and looked for some ash trees.  These are places where the morels are supposed to be found.  Of course, we have very few of the trees that elusive mushrooms are purported to be near.  But that didn't stop us from looking.  What eventually sent us hiking back home us was the fact that the ticks were out in full force.  Since we knew we were going to be out in tick territory, I sprayed Rhiannon's shoes and legs as well as mine but Paul had gone out before us and went un-sprayed so he got most of the ticks.

Even though we didn't find any mushrooms, we found a bunch of spring wildflowers, my favorite being Rose Verbena, and Rhiannon found another skull to add to her collection:
Partial armadillo skull
Since we didn't find the exact wild edible we were searching for, I had Rhiannon pick a different, and definitely more abundant wild edible and fried us up some fritters:
Dandelion fritters
The smaller, individual flower fritters were just battered in a milk/flour/egg mixture, fried in some vegetable oil and dusted with a bit of powdered sugar.  After about two pans of having to individually dip each stinking flower, I just dumped the remaining flowers into the batter with added sugar and I made Dandelion Doughnuts.  Of course, Rhiannon liked the doughnuts better.  Not that I blame her.

Nothing like battering and deep frying a weed from your front yard!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Is it worth it? We may never (want to) know.

I had this very long, very detailed and very BORING post titled "Is it really worth it?" regarding the keeping of milk goats.  I figured, I calculated, I ran numbers, I looked up current prices, I looked up past milk records, I amortized this way and that way.

I worked on this post for like five days.  I came up with a dozen different numbers.

And I gave up.

It is almost impossible (well, at least with my shoddy and haphazard accounting methods) for me to figure out exactly what it costs for us to have fresh milk and eggs.  Oh, I know how much we spent on animal feed, medications, vitamins and supplements (more than I thought).  And how much the MILE of soon-to-be installed Red Brand Goat & Sheep fence costs (you don't want to know).  I know how much I sold in milk, eggs and the sale of kids (not as much as I'd like).

We "made" about three hundred bucks last year off the sale of milk, kids and eggs.  I know it's not a true profit / loss kind of number because I didn't amortize the equipment and facilities, didn't factor in what milk and eggs we consumed or gave to family/friends and didn't count spilt milk or dropped eggs as "Loss of Inventory".

If I were really keeping good records, or had I used GAAP or IFRS and didn't change from LIFO to FIFO and back again on the chicken scratch,  I may have a better grip on things.  I suppose if I did all those things, I would be able to come up with the magic money number.  But I don't.  Mostly because I don't have to.  Should I?  Maybe.  Will I in the future?  Probably not.  

As long as I'm relatively sure we're not hemorrhaging money from keeping the goats and chickens (the mule and mini-horse is a whole 'nother story), we will continue to keep them.  There is a profit that cannot be calculated into any accounting spreadsheet:

Nettie and her first kid, April 2007.
My first kid, playing goat herder.
Healthy, wonderful, fresh raw milk!
Snuggly goat kid.
We always follow safety protocols when feeding
the livestock here at Krazo Acres.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meet the Kids

So I finally got to go outside this afternoon (between storms) and take pictures of the not-so-small-anymore kids.

Some have been named (other than the cuss words I use when they get their poopy feet all over me), others are still awaiting names.  Some will stay, some will go to the local FFA group, one will be sold and one will go in the freezer.

Annette's doelings, born 2/24/14.  Pilgrim (Nubian) was the sire.
They are 1/2 Nubian, 1/4 Saanen, 1/4 Nigerian Dwarf.
Annette actually had three kids, but one was stillborn (and kind'a deformed).  Since I didn't get any doelings out of Nettie, I'll be keeping at least one of these gals for my future milkers.  Still have to think of names for the little stinkers.

Clover, Lily's doeling born 2/27/14.  Herman was the sire.
She is 100% Boer.
Clover was the incestous bastard lovechild of Herman and Lily.  She actually had twins, but the buckling was much smaller and died several days later from hypothermia.  Clover is putting on weight very nicely and is very friendly.  I think she'll be a keeper.

Dilly (female) and Gimpy (male) born 2/22/14.
Pickles's kids, Herman was the sire.
They are 100% Boer.
Pickles had twins, a male and female.  The male had problems from the get-go with his legs.  We splinted him, slung him, gave him lots of meds and he finally came around at about three weeks of age.  Although I had hoped to use him as our next herd sire, he's destined for freezer camp because of his problems.  His sister Dilly, however, is turning out to be a very friendly, and very plump, little gal.  She's longer in the loin than Clover so she is definitely a keeper.  Especially since she seems to not have inherited her mother's knack for yelling all day.

Lira, Penny's doeling born 3/4/14.
Was supposed to be sired by a Boer......
Kind'a like her mom, Penny was supposed to be a Boer.
Not sure what's going to happen with Lira, Penny's doeling.  I bought Penny several months ago, being told she was a Boer (only saw a fuzzy picture of her when she was a few weeks old) only to drive two hours and find out that she wasn't so much ALL Boer.  If I had to guess, I'd say she's 1/2 Boer and 1/2 Nubian.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly what I had wanted.  On a good note though, I've been able to get some extra milk out of Penny (must be that Nubian side of her) to feed to the new bottle buckling.  Penny was also supposed to be bred to a Boer buck, but looking at her doeling, I'm beginning to wonder if the lady who sold her to me even knows what a Boer looks like.  I was hoping for a "more" Boer out of Penny's kid, but she honestly looks more dairy than anything.  Not sure what we'll do with her yet.

MamaGoat's doeling, born 3/21/14.  Merv the Perv was the sire.
She's 3/4 Nigerian Dwarf & 1/4 Saanen.
MamaGoat was bred to our rental stud, Merv the Perv.  He was a tiny Nigerian Dwarf so I'm not really surprised that her doeling is tiny.  Although she's a little cutie, I don't plan on keeping her.  MamaGoat is a great milker for her size (she's a Mini-Saanen) and the main reason for having her bred was to get her to freshen again.
Studly DoRight, born 3/6/14.
Both dam and sire are Boers (bought from another farm).
I bought Studley DoRight from a farm about an hour from here.  Both his dam and sire are purebred Boer (although not papered).  I bought him at two weeks old as a bottle baby (gawd help me) because he will hopefully be our next herd sire and I need him to be both friendly and disbudded.  We disbuded him at two weeks and one day old and there didn't seem to be a problem with disbudding him so late.  If he does get scurs, I'm going to band them asap.  He was born a week after Lily's doeling but I bet he's still half her weight.  Hope I didn't end up with a bummer of a buck, although I didn't pay much for him.  If he doesn't live up to my (admittedly lowered) standards, he'll end up in the freezer, we'll use Herman again this fall and maybe I'll spend a little more money on our new Boer buck.

So there are the eight little bundles of jumpy joy.  Kidding season is finally over, we just disbudded the last kid yesterday and I can't wait to stop bottle feeding Studly DoRight....eight weeks from now. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Back again

The goat posts, that is.  Although the first "Back to talking about goats" post is pretty sad.  Actually, really sad.  But since I try to be as honest as I can in this blog (well, except for maybe my weight) I'm going to go ahead and get the horrible goat story out of the way.

Oh, don't worry, Nettie is doing well.  Her udder looks like hell in a hand basket, but she's ok.  But it still doesn't make this story any better.  You'd better grab a cup of coffee / tea / soda because this is a long one....

Monday is a hectic day for me.  We have Ballet / Tap class in the morning (We, meaning Rhiannon.  Couldn't pay me enough to get into a pair of leotards.) and then we meet up with a homeschooling group about an hour and a half later for classes the rest of the afternoon so we normally don't get home until after 5 pm.  On the way to deliver some goat milk to a friend before classes, she said that one of our mutual friend's goats was in labor and not progressing.  She had to go back to work so we went to check on the goat for her.  When we got there, there were feet sticking out......and had been like that for approximately three hours.  With the other woman holding the front end of the goat, I went in to try and figure out what was going on.

Let me back up a second.  Adrian (the lady who owns the goats) just started her small herd of Nigerian Dwarfs last year.  Her and her husband are no neophytes when it comes to farming stuff (they have chickens, a horse and cattle in the family), but this was their first official kidding season.  They already had two or three other does give birth, unassisted with no complications and this doe was the last one of the group, and a little late at that.  And to say that these goats are small would be an understatement.  Not quite Pygmy tiny, but small enough that you can easily sit one in your lap without much trouble.  We were just over to their place the night before to disbud the kids and I was laughing at how funny the still pregnant one looked; tiny little stick legs with a huge barrel of a preggo belly on her.  She was showing a mucus plug so Adrian was pretty sure she was going to pop any day.  And in my head I wondered to myself how in the heck one would help an animal that small with a complicated pregnancy.  Of course now I feel like I somehow jinxed her.  Because that is exactly what happened less than 18 hours later.

Fast forward back to me behind the struggling doe in labor.

The doe was having contractions so I had to ease my fingers in between them as there wasn't much room.  I followed the legs up to try and find the head, but it was nowhere to be found.  It was behind the pelvic bone and even with my hand in the most compact position I could make it, there was no getting past her pelvis.  I could only get my fingers in to feel around.  No head, no teeth, just chest and what was the bent-back neck.  I tried to hook a finger around something but just couldn't get a hold of anything.  Tried to ease the legs back in to reposition it, but I could only get them so far back and the doe kept pushing.  After about fifteen minutes of trying, I gave up.  We both had to leave (I had a class to teach) so we settled the doe back in her hut and left.  I felt like such crap for leaving her.  Although honestly, I think the doe was in less pain without us messing around inside her, but something obviously had to be done.

Phone calls were made, I was able to get away from the homeschooling group for a few minutes to go check on her (no progress), and the decision was made by the doe's owner that as long as the doe wasn't in imminent danger or horrible pain that it would have to wait until she could get back home.

When school got out (for both of us, she is a teacher at the local high school), Rhiannon & I drove back to their house and Adrian had brought the doe up to the porch so we had more room.  She said that she made calls to the local vets.  The one who does farm visits wasn't available (of course) and the other vet said that she could bring the doe in and they'd do a cesarean for $400 (not including all the "extras", of course).  Adrian decided against taking her to the vet.  And I don't blame her one bit.  It's a hard decision.  You have the life of your livestock in your hands, but there are also financial decisions that have to be made.  $400 plus is a significant chunk of their income.

We tried rearranging the kid again and again, but there was just no getting past that tiny birth canal.  I even tried to hook something using a make-shift O.B. snare, but it just wasn't going to happen.  We let the doe rest.  We fed her cookies.  We talked over options.  We were both in agreement that there was no way that kid was coming out that way, at least in one piece.  We talked about cutting it apart (it had been dead for hours), but even that wouldn't have worked; the legs were the only leverage we had and if they were severed it still wouldn't help us get what was left out past the birth canal.  We discussed trying to save any kids still left inside of her.  Adrian went in the house to call her husband, get the clippers and a new razor blade.

Adrian's husband came home and they talked some more.  He came back with a .22 pistol and ended the doe's life in one of the most quick and humane ways possible.  Within seconds, we went to work.  He made a straight cut just through the skin (Adrian had just earlier shaved her side), then the two layers of muscle one at a time.  I held the intestines out of the way to reveal the uterus.  He quickly, but carefully sliced through the thin, yet tough uterine membrane so we could bring out the other kids, hoping beyond hope that they were still alive.  Except there wasn't any "they".  There was just one; the huge buck that had it's front feet out of the doe.  There was no way he would have been able to pass his head through the birth canal.

I felt like crap and I know Adrian felt even worse.  Her doe went through the last weeks of pregnancy with a huge, unwieldy belly, eight hours of painful labor, had two people thrusting their hands up her backside for hours and after all of that was finally rewarded with a lead projectile to the brain.  I know, I least she's not suffering any more.  And I know there are those of you (not necessarily my blog readers) who have spent a thousand dollars on saving a animal and think we were stingy in not providing the doe with a potentially life-saving operation for the sake of four paper notes bearing Franklin's resemblance.  But it is what it is.  And I know I would have likely done the same thing if it were my doe because I had gone through this exact same scenario in my head just one month ago when Nettie was having pregnancy problems during her illness and recovery.  I researched the surgery online, watched videos and felt confident that if I absolutely had to do something, I could.

This tragic event ended Adrian's kidding season.  And it was a pretty crappy one for her too; every single kid was a buck.  She has already made it known that she will be re-vamping her breeding program starting with the sire of all those buck kids.  If you know of anyone that would like a Nigerian Dwarf buckling (or five) or a buck goat named Deuce Bigalow, give me a holler and I'll hook you up with Adrian.  Seriously.

In the mean time, thank you for taking the time to listen to me ramble on (and on, and on) about the goats.  I didn't mean for it to be a crappy goat post.  But I promise tomorrow I'll overload you guys on cute, bouncy, crazy goat kid pictures and even some good goat news.