Friday, May 30, 2014

Difficult Decision

This is a very personal post tonight.  No, it doesn't involve grooming or hygiene - not that kind of personal.  But I have to get it off my chest.

I LOVE this, almost wet my pants when I first saw it.
BTW, I'm the last glass.  Sad, but true.
I am on Facebook (admittedly, too much) and have been posting articles that are Anti-Common Core.  One of my FB "friends" and real life acquaintances is a teacher for the local school.  She also just so happens to get very offended when I post Anti-Common Core links.  She believes that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the schools teaching by Common Core standards.  But the method of teaching is not what my big gripe is about; it's the privacy issue.  She believes it is all a conspiracy, that there is nothing new being done, that there is no new information being collected on students.  I believe otherwise, and not just because someone posted something on FB and I just copy & paste it.  I've done research.  I've attended a non-partisan, non-political seminar on it.  I've read both pro & anti Common Core articles with an honestly open mind.  And I do admit that a lot of the Common Core hoopla is fueled by persons that actually have no idea what Common Core is about and just because they are Republicans or Libertarians or Space Hedehogs they hate it.  That is why I did research on it.  That is why I try to listen to both sides of the story.  But I suppose I am just a pessimist and believe that when government is given that much information on your child(ren), that that information WILL be abused, either intentionally, unknowingly or "accidentally".

I know that when one is on a social media sight that it is much easier to "debate" with someone as you are not face to face.  It is easier to fight over something when you and the one you are arguing debating with are not physically able to see the human behind the arguments.  I'm notorious for being The Devil's Advocate and maybe I should stop putting up posts about controversial topics.....about topics that make people uneasy...about topics that nobody wants to talk about because they are either afraid, uninformed or uneducated about it.  I'd like to think that I have an open mind.  I'd like to think that I could sit down with someone and truly debate difficult topics and see both sides.  It doesn't mean that you'll change my mind or I'll change yours, which is long as your decisions do not adversely affect me or my family.

I am a sometimes detrimentally stubborn strong willed person.  I can see that my attitude towards things like personal responsibility, freedom and political leanings has the potential to destroy friendships.  I know that this woman is a very dedicated teacher and wants the best for her students.  I know that she believes that no harm will come from Common Core (or whatever it was called before, is now, or will be).  But I just cannot stay silent.  I cannot let things like this go.  Even if she "unfriended" me on FB.   (To her credit, she did message me and told me the reasons she felt she had to unfriend me and I respect that.)  Even if I lose a real friendship over it.

It makes me wonder how people will react when they are forced to make difficult decisions about truly life-altering matters.  If  When the political / economic / social storm becomes too strong to ignore, how many friendships will be torn apart?  How many families will be torn apart?

Where do you stand?  And will you stand for what you believe or will you stay silent and just go with the flow?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Whittling down the goat herd

Three of the Boer kids left to go to the local FFA barn last weekend.  I sold MamaGoat's doeling on Saturday.  Now all I have to do is get rid of Penny.  I thought I had her sold, but that fell through.  Twice now.  And I have another potential buyer but I'm not getting my hopes up until I see somebody pull up in a truck with a livestock cage in back and waving a Benjamin at me. I'm tempted to bring her to the sale barn but it's an hour trip there plus whatever rigmarole I have to go through to get her registered, and hour back home, and then a wait on the check.  I've got her on the local livestock paper and FB pages for a hundred bucks.  If it was ME looking for a goat there wouldn't be one within six hundred miles for less than $350, but the second I need to sell one the goat market takes a freaking nosedive.  If it weren't for the fact that I don't even think she's worth it to us in meat costs, I'd slaughter her.  Yes, that sounds horrible, but she needs to go.  I'm even going to sell her doeling, either with her or without her, but only after Penny is sold.

I'm also thinking of getting "rid" of my future milkers, Annette's doelings.  Well, not exactly get rid of them, but ship them off to finishing school, or something like that.  I had a message from the gal who spearheaded the Community Food Pantry Garden asking if I had any goats that Mountain Village 1890 (the place where the garden is) could "borrow" for the Summer and Fall.  Apparently they used to have a petting zoo there, gave it up, but want to start one again.  I don't have any wethers to give them, but Annette's two doelings need to be weaned.  I was just yesterday trying to figure out how I was going to separate the pens in order to wean them, but I think this petting zoo proposition may work just fine.

A friend of mine suggested that I should let them have Pickles.  Now why didn't I think of that?!? Although I wonder if they'd totally hate me if I dumped my screaming-mimi goat on them.  I'm going over there again this week to check out the livestock facilities and talk with the owners to see if something can be worked out.  I'm a little leery of letting my two future milkers go to someone I'm not good friends with even if it's only for a few months, but the facility is close enough that I can check on them at least once a week and then do some gardening work on the food pantry plot while I'm there.

Speaking of food plots, I have yet to plant ANY squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bush beans or ANYthing in the "new" garden area.  Mostly because it's still a rock-infested hell-hole of a garden where only mullein, ragweed and other non-edible plants thrive.  But Paul did me a favor this afternoon that should get my sloth'ness out there tomorrow to start working on it.  Pictures tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Moving on up (and out)

It's just a wee bit quieter at the homestead today.

No.  I didn't get rid of Pickles (yet).

Adrian (our friend who just so happens to be the Ag teacher at the local high school) came over Sunday night with her husband and they took three of our Boer kids to the school barn for her FFA kids.  This is our first year sponsoring livestock and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what transpires besides the loaning out of the animals and the funding of said animal's feed & medical needs.  All I know is that even though we're still spending money on feeding them, I don't have to deal with them for four months.  Which is good in my book.  I have three less goats to take care of and three FFA kids get "free" goats to mess around with and show at the County Fair.  And, in theory, Adrian will return our goaties all fat and grown up and sporting blue ribbons.

Pickles and Lily are not nearly as upset as I thought they would be.  Lily only bleated a bit while her doeling was being loaded up and crying out.  Pickles basically told her kids "Don't let the barn door hit ya in the arse" as we hauled them out of the goat pen.  I hate Pickles.

MamaGoat's doeling leaves us this Saturday to go to a farm just south of us.  And I'm still trying to get someone to buy Penny and her doeling.  Seems as if the market on goats took a dive and I can't even sell her for a hundred stinking bucks.  Buy high and sell low, right Dad?  Ugh.

If I can't get her sold I'll have her bred to Herman as soon as she comes back into heat.  If she's going to be here she may as well pop out a Boer kid for me.  I've never bred a goat in the spring / summer and not even sure if she'll go into heat then, but supposedly Boers can be bred year round.
We'll see about that.  Herman better get his mojo on.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Planting for Others

A very energetic and driven friend of mine recently had pitched the idea of a community garden to benefit the local food pantry.  There's a cute little tourist trap just off the beaten path with old buildings, a small cave and an "Olde Tyme" store with penny candy (or is it dime candy now??) and touristy knick knacks.  They also just so happen to have a lot of green areas surrounding the buildings and along the pathways so she figured it would be a great place to start a the garden.  She contacted the owners and they agreed to let us use their place to plant the community garden.

Andra (the lady who started this), two of her brood, Rhiannon & I were over there yesterday for about an hour, trying to figure out where we should start.  Unfortunately we have a lot of shaded areas to work around / with, but I'm hoping that something will grow and that we can eventually expand into sunnier areas and maybe even get enough donated materials for raised beds.

Rhiannon & her girlfriend dug a few holes (for like two seconds & then ran off to play....oh well), older brother flexed his muscles and dug holes and we quickly planted the few vegetables we brought along.

We only got eight tomato plants, six okra, two lemon balm, one oregano, one chocolate mint and the two teeny-tiny basil plants in the ground, but it's got to start somewhere.  Andra also bought some grape vines but we'll have to figure out where to put them and set some sort of trellis up.  I think deciding on where to put beds and then getting them installed will have to be the next step.  Once that's done it's just a matter of getting the plants in the ground.

We're hoping to get more volunteers and more items donated so that there's more than one salad's worth of veggies out there.  It might not look like much now, but hopefully with time and getting the word out, this will just be the start of something bigger and better.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Homemade Stretchy Cheese

I've finally been able to accumulate enough milk to make some homemade Mozzarella (i.e. Stretchy Cheese).  You'd think that milking two goats would give us enough milk for cheese making, but it just hasn't worked out that way this year.  Normally I'd be milking three goats, but by now you all know the story of Nettie's destroyed udder.

Because we lost Nettie's milk, we're out a gallon a day.  That means I lost two milk customers.  Which really isn't that big of a deal, but even just fifteen extra bucks a week helps with the feed bill.  I'm still able to give a half-gallon here or there to friends or family and I haven't short-changed the guy we trade milk for hay as he still gets two half-gallon jars once a week, but there isn't much to spare.

I milk Annette and MamaGoat every morning and occasionally Penny if I can manage to catch her kid and toss her in the kidding pen with the rest of the dairy kids.  We get just shy or just over a gallon of milk a day, depending on the weather, if they're eating hay or eating green munchies, how late / early I get out there to milk, etc.

So, exactly where does that gallon of milk go every day?  Half of it goes right into the gaping maw and down into the belly of our future herd sire, Studly DoRight:

He drinks an entire half gallon of milk a day.  And I'm certain if I didn't cut him off, he'd gladly drink even more.  He is ten weeks old today, and technically ready to be weaned.  But since he's going to be half of the gene pool in our Boer Goat Breeding Program, I figured I'd keep him on milk for at least another two weeks, maybe even four.  He's eating grain with gusto and getting plenty of hay and greenery so I'm not really worried about taking him off the bottle, although it would mean that we'd be able to make more cheese.

And who doesn't like fresh stretchy cheese?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dry Alfresco Dining

There was a storm that hit the local boat docks last year and our neighbor's pontoon boat was damaged.  Since it was an older pontoon, they decided that it wasn't worth the money to fix it so they started disassembling it to take it to the scrap yard.  One of the pieces that came off during the deconstruction phase was the aluminum awning.   When I saw them working on it one afternoon, I finally got the nerve to ask them if I could have it for whatever they thought they'd get in scrap for it.  Not because I wanted to take it to the scrap heap, but because of the potential I saw in it.

Of course, my wonderful neighbors said, "Go ahead, take it, just come and get it whenever you want!"  Well, this past weekend was finally that "whenever" day.....prompted by seeing them back out there taking more pieces off the boat.

Paul drove the tractor up the road, strapped the awning on and hauled it back down to our place.  

So.  What do I want with an old aluminum awning from a pontoon boat, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you!  Eventually.

The goats are picky little buggers.  And when it rains, they decide that they just cannot stomach even a single mouthful of hay that got in the least bit moist (effers, I told you).  At one point I had made a hillbilly hay shelter right before one of our numerous snowstorms this past winter.

And it worked ok.  Except that I cut myself like fifteen times on the metal roof edge and it wasn't very stable as the cattle panel fence was two sides of the structure and the goats pushed on the fence therefore occasionally causing the metal roofing to fall off.  It eventually came down, although I don't recall if I took it down, if the wind blew it over, if it finally collapsed under the weight of the stupid snow/ice we had this year or if Paul was sick of looking at it and got rid of it.

Anyhow, I was still in need of some type of roof or shelter to put the goat's hay.  And that's where the pontoon awning comes in:

This keeps their daily hay rations pretty much dry and that was tested out just one day after Paul put it up as we had a pretty big storm come through Monday night and into this afternoon.  The awning posts are tied with wire to the t-posts and set in the corner so it keeps both the girl's hay dry as well as Herman's.  I'm also debating on whether or not I want to attempt putting an entire round bale underneath there or continue forking hay to them twice a day.  The lazy sloth in me wants to put the whole bale in there so I don't have to feed hay every day, but the cheapskate in me knows that if they know that there's an entire bale for them that they'll be picky bastards and waste even more (if that is even physically possible) hay.

The only problem with this new setup is that snow will be a problem.  But I suppose I'll tackle that dilemma later.  Like, next winter, a day before we're predicted to get a foot of snow

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rock'n Herb Garden

On Saturday, Rhiannon and I went out for an early Mother's Day lunch with both of her Grandmothers. After chowing down at the local restaurant, we headed out to the nursery to pick out some pretty things for each of us.  Although Rhiannon didn't get what she really wanted....they had "yard art" all around the nursery and there were several metal dinosaurs that she fell in love with.  If I had a million bucks that would be so cool to have those whimsical metal sculptures scattered around the gardens.  We'll just have to go back there to "visit" them.

Anyways, I ended up getting a nice sized English Lavender plant (thanks, Mom!).  I had planted one in my rock / herb garden last year but it didn't make it through the winter so had to replace it.  Paul even dug the hole and planted it for me so I didn't have to do a thing!

After the lavender was planted, I sat my butt down and started weeding between the rocks.  Although the rocks are lovely and provide the plants protection from the scratching claws of the chickens, it does make it difficult to weed.  There's no Hula-Hoeing my way out of weeds here; it's a tedious task of hand pulling the undesirable greenery out while trying to avoid the multitude of black widow spiders who seem to appreciate the rocky area to build their webs.  But there's one advantage of having to get up close and personal with all of those weeds; they aren't all "weeds".
Would you lookie there!  Teeny-tiny Basil seedlings!
And bigger Basil seedlings.  Which I did NOT have to plant!
The cilantro reseeded itself in several places as did the yarrow, basil and even a few watermelon.  Had I been wielding the Hula-Hoe, I would have missed those free plants.  I'm extra excited about the basil seedlings as one can never have enough basil, but especially since I didn't buy any basil at the nursery (was too cheap to spend $5 on a basil plant).

The herbs in the rock garden are getting a little big for their britches and I still want to add some German Chamomile, Comfrey, Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley and Lemon Balm so I think I'm going to increase it in size by double.  There's plenty of room for the addition so I'll dig what "grass" (i.e. weeds mixed with some grassy-looking vegetation) there is up, lay down some paper feed sacks and top it with some compost and pulverized goat poop from the goat yard.

I'm pretty happy with this type of rock gardening.  It's been a struggle to plant anything with the chickens running amok but this seems to have done the trick.  And not only is it close to the house (meaning it gets weeded on a sort'a regular basis) but it even kind of reminds me of an "English" type of garden - you know - where it seems as if every kind of plant is just haphazardly thrown into an area, but still looks pretty in it's own discombobulated way.   Which is kind of how I end up gardening anyhow.....even though I don't originally plan it that way.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fire in the Pear Trees

Last Spring one of our three pear trees got fire blight.  It came on & took over almost overnight.  We pruned the crud out of it, leaving just the main trunk and burned the branches.  It survived and now looks like this:

There were still a few blight spots that showed up this spring and we took them off.  But now, the other two Moonglow pear trees have fire blight, and although nowhere near as much as the other pear had last year (not sure which type of pear it was, but it wasn't Moonglow), it's still freaking me out.  Paul went out to prune any blighted branches and burned them.

There were tons of blossoms on the pear trees earlier in the season, but it seems as we'll be getting zero pears this fall.  Almost every single blossom was rotted.  I'm not sure if we should take all the rotted blossoms off or not.  I'd hate to lose those trees as they gave us a huge crop of pears last year.

I didn't get around to pruning trees this winter.  And these pear trees really, really need a good whacking back.  If they survive the year, I'll probably prune them down to the bare minimum in hopes of getting rid of all of the blight.  It didn't seem to hurt the one we pruned back to the main trunk.  In the meantime, today I'm off to the nursery to see if there's such a product to help with fire blight and to check out prices for new pear trees.

Pioneer Preppy was talking about fire blight a bit ago.  Wonder if he, or anyone else, could chime in on how you treated fire blight and if it was worth the effort?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Born a Yankee

But eating like a Southerner:
Pork steak locally raised & butchered by Paul.
Homemade/canned pickled okra and applesauce by yours truly.
Poke weed harvested right outside our back door, cooked &
fried up with some wild onions & wild garlic.
I swear, I must have been born too far north.  I cannot tell you how much I love cooking (and eating, obvious by my steadily growing backside) Southern kind'a foods.  I don't know if it's really a "South" thing or if I would have still made the same culinary changes in life had we moved to a homestead North of the Mason-Dixon line.  Well, except for the fact that I wouldn't be eating wild greens quite this early.......I know some of you still have snow in the woods.

The fact that we've been trying to change our eating habits probably has a lot to do with this.  As does the fact that I'm cheap and will harvest any wild munchies (i.e., free) like poke and lambs quarters, rabbit, squirrel, deer, fish and wild fruits like grapes and persimmons.

After spending some quality time in the garden again today (and getting swampass in the process), I'm going to gather some other wild weeds from the property like Lyre Leaf Sage and try some for tea and see what I can do with the clover blossoms.  We have a bunch of clovers & clover-like greenery (black medic or hops clover, white clover, red clover, arrowleaf clover and sweet clover) and I need to see if I can make it into something yummy for us.  Why should the goats get all the munchies?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teachable Moments (whether you know it or not)

Rhiannon is no stranger to the kitchen; either by way of sneaking snacks in the fridge or by helping me cook.  This past weekend, she asked to make breakfast "All By Myself".  So I let her.  Supervised, of course.

Nothing tastes better than something you made yourself!
It's really no surprise that she wants to help cook; she sees Mommy in the kitchen a lot (probably too much if you know what I mean) and as most young'ens are apt to do, they watch and they want to imitate.

Rhiannon and I were playing in her bedroom a few days ago.  I was eventually able to extricate myself from the Princess Diamond Pony and Velociraptor Adventures and went to sit down on the bed with a magazine while she continued playing.  Not really watching her, I was a bit puzzled when she announces, "......and now we take the guts out."

At some point she had abandoned the plastic horses and dollar store dinosaurs and had taken my Svengoolie* rubber chicken (*sorry, a Chicagoland reference......BERWIN?!?), wrapped a hair band around it's feet, secure it to the bedroom doorknob and apparently was at the end of the butchering process.  She had even gone into her bathroom to grab a pair of tweezers and was picking off the imaginary pinfeathers!

So I guess that my worrying about how she would take being around poultry butchering days when she was younger was all for naught.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Horns of Shame

Herman, sporting the Horns of Shame.  I'm tempted to
hang some little dingle berries or ornaments from the ends.

Penny, showcasing the newest in Horns of Shame fashion.
When researching the horned vs. hornless aspect of goat ownership, I had originally decided on a hornless goat herd.  Our first two goats, Nettie and Chop Suey, were disbudded when we got them.  All subsequent kids born on this farm were disbudded by Paul and I.  After eating a few of the male offspring, I decided that I really, really liked the taste of goat meat so I figured that our next step would be to add some Boers to the mix.  But I've never seen a hornless Boer, so really the only way to get a hornless Boer goat was to buy a very young bottle baby and disbud it.  Enter Pickles.

She was a two day old Boer doeling who was pulled from her mother because she suddenly became ill and wasn't producing milk.  We brought Pickles home and disbudded her and she became the start of our meat goat herd.  But in order for us to get any meat (other than butchering Pickles herself, which I honestly now contemplate at least on a weekly basis) we had to have her bred to another Boer.

Thus I acquired an additional two Boer goats, Herman and Lily.  Who both have horns.  Which I said I would never do, but I just could not find anyone with Boer kids young enough to disbud.  My plan was to have both Pickles and Lily bred to Herman, keep the offspring (and disbud them) and then sell Lily and Herman.  But Lily's doeling is really turning out to be a little chunky-monkey and I think it may be worth it to keep Lily around, even with the horn issue.  Which isn't actually that bad with her as the way her horns are growing down and back, there's less likely of a chance for a horn accident like there was with Penny and Nettie.

Penny was acquired in hopes of doing the same thing; keep her just until she kidded, disbud the kid(s) and then sell her.  But before that happened, we had the "horn incident".  It totally ruined Nettie's udder and almost cost her her life.  Penny has pointy horns and ones that kind'a curve up at the end instead of downwards like Lily's.  Thus she's been fitted with the horns of shame - something I should have done when we first got her.  The hose doesn't stay on all of the time so I'm finding it in the goat yard and having to put it back on, but at least it's some sort of protection.

Herman's horns, on the other hand, are not posing a real threat to anyone except himself as he's penned up separate from the rest of the herd.  Why are his horns a threat to him?  Well, because I want to bash his stupid noggin in because I have to go out and get his head unstuck from the fence about fifteen hundred times a day.  Like, really Herman?  You haven't figured this out yet?  I'll push his head out and five minutes later he's hollering again because he's stuck.  Often I just leave him there for a while if he's not in a compromising position.  Maybe because I'm secretly hoping that a coyote will come chew his head off and then we can eat the bastard.  And it's not like there's anything on the other side of the fence.  He doesn't even get it stuck through the fence with the does, it's the other sides.  Where there is not a single stinking blade of grass or green thing to eat.  I swear to gawd he does it just to piss me off.

So finally yesterday I talked Paul into going into his pen and helping me duct tape a length of PVC pipe to his horns in order to prevent him from sticking his fat noggin through it.  Which he ended up doing somehow anyways as he was bawling about an hour and a half later.  Which made it even MORE difficult to release him.  But after getting my fingers smashed between horn & fence and lots and lots of swearing, I got his head out.  It's now been a full 24 hours since I've had to extricate him.  But now there's the constant click-clack-click-clack-click-clack of the PVC pipe hitting the fence as he runs the perimeter.

Which still beats having to go out there to free him a dozen times a day.

And is still infinitely less annoying than Pickles screaming.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Operation Rent-A-Chicken

Paul's Mom has a little place just up the road from us.  She comes here for a few months every year to get away from the sweltering gawdawful heat of Las Vegas.  Yes.  To Arkansas.  To get away from the heat.  Go figure.

But anyhow....

I've promised her several times that we'd find a way to get her some chickens.  Since she's only there a few months at a time, I didn't want to build anything really large or elaborate (and I'm lazy and cheap) so I planned on making a little hut with a chicken wire fenced run.  But as luck would have it, a friend of mine was getting rid of this whole setup last winter and I was able to get it for the hauling (or, for Paul's hauling):

Rhiannon, my Mom and I gathered up some basic supplies; chicken waterer, feed bowl, nesting box and a five-gallon bucket filled with chicken feed.  Oh, and four chickens.  Who were not very happy about being crammed into a small dog crate, but it's less than a mile drive up the road so I told them to zip it and deal with it.  I was able to catch one of the hens who is an obvious favorite of the roosters as the feathers on her back are almost completely missing.  I'm sure she won't mind the move to the all "chick" apartment and it should give her some time to heal.

I still need to make some modifications to the existing coop, namely a roosting pole for the gals and small door on the outside of the chicken hut so poor Grandma V. doesn't have to crawl around inside looking for eggs.  I'll put the nesting boxes on the opposite side of the door so all she'll have to do is open up the door and gather the eggs.  And hopefully not let the chickens out at the same time.  Hmmmmmm......didn't really think about that until just now.

When Grandma V. leaves for Vegas again, we'll just shove the chickens in the crate and reunite them with their flock at our place.  And when she comes back, she'll have her little mini-flock waiting for her at her Ozark home away from home.