Sunday, December 18, 2011

Goat Maintenance


Today was hoof trimming/ear maintenance day for our goats, and well... yuck.

Goats are awesome little critters, and though they can be challenging at times, are sweet and fun 90% of the time. The other 10% - crazy, smelly, ornery and bitey.

Today was a 10% day. Their hooves all looked really great; no hoof rot, impacted gunk or anything else nasty. I am especially grateful about the absence of the hoof rot. One of our girls had a terrible case of it last year when we first bought her. It took a lot of foot baths, intramuscular antibiotics and constantly refreshed bedding to get her hooves back in shape. Hoof rot is also very contagious, so we were lucky that our other goats didn't get it. Keeping their feet trimmed and clean, and having dry, poop-free bedding are the keys to keeping their feet healthy. It is a lot of work!

When we do hoof and foot maintenance, we also do ear checks. Seven of our nine goats are Lamanchas, and have tiny little ears that occasionally need to be irrigated and medicated, because they have very small openings and don't "breathe" well. Needless to say, the goats are NOT fans of these procedures, and wrestle and wiggle the whole time that we're trying to flush out the gunk and administer the ear drops. It is thankless and messy.

So by the end of it all (today it took about 2 1/2 hours), you smell like a buck, have bits of hoof trimmings in your hair, have had ear goobers flung in your general direction and have probably had your finger chomped a time or two by an overzealous goat seeking his or her snack. A shower and change of clothes will knock the smell down, but not always out, and the "essence of buck" has a way of lingering in your sinuses and throat for a few hours after the fact.

Even with all of that, how could you not love sweet faces like these?

Just like with kids, all of the work and the craziness are rewarded with little moments of sweetness that remind you why you bother with it at all. I heart my stinky, ornery, snuggly little goaties, even on days like this. ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Suddenly, I could go for some soup...

...starring this here buttmunch, King Kong.

They call me Captain Jackhole, or Doofus for short.

Our pretty boy is suddenly quite aggressive. He does a little stompy/dancy number, and if his move-busting doesn't intimidate you sufficiently, next up is the hackle-puffing and charging. He actually came at me with spurs up today. He's dang lucky that he didn't find himself on the receiving end of my boot.

Oy, the machismo. Apparently some ladies find that kind of stuff endearing.

Agnes, King Kong's best girl, clearly appreciates the agro-beefcake type.

Doofus gets to stay, for now. Much more of that funny business though, and his reign of fury will end in similar fashion to Louis the XVI's. Comprendez vous, Monsieur Derriere?

Bien. ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Kink in the Flow

The goats have finally been dried off for the Winter, and the chickens' egg output has dwindled down from a dozen plus per day to two or three each day. In terms of the milking, it is a relief to be free from the daily chore.

We have a few cheeses aging, but will otherwise have to learn to live without fresh goaty goodness until the gals kid in late February/early March. As for the reduction in eggs; well that's just a bummer, no upside to that at all!

Last March, when I was browsing to buy the day-old chicks who have since grown to be our laying flock, I sought a "workhorse" of a breed. Between my research and the glowing recommendations from fellow chicken owners, the Australorp breed really stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Our wish list was this - a sturdy laying breed that was a) friendly b) hardy, health-wise c) would lay during the winter. The 'Lorp fit the bill on all counts.

So I ordered 10 hens and 2 roos, and the hatchery sent us an extra free roo. Out of our original 13, we still have 10. One was butchered (a mean roo), one died of a mystery virus (a nice roo) and one passed away from egg binding. For a flock of free-rangers, that is not a bad rate of attrition. Now the Polishes on the other hand - oy! - hothouse flowers. Never again!

Besides being hardy and better than their fellows at avoiding predation, the 'Lorp girls have indeed kept up their end of the bargain in terms of egg-laying during these first few weeks of dark Fall/Winter. Every last egg that we've collected since mid-November has been a Lorpy egg! We're averaging a dozen and a half to two dozen eggs per week now, as opposed to the 8 or 9 dozen that we were getting at peak production. I can't complain though. Even if it isn't quite enough for us to sell, we still don't have to buy eggs for ourselves, and to me, that's a pretty big deal.

So I'll take the slow down in production and try to enjoy the break. All of our "baby" hennies are headed toward their first birthdays, and therefore their first Spring of laying. I anticipate a landslide of eggs. :) Add to that the fact that, as best as we can tell without a veterinarian to confirm, we have five (maybe six) pregnant goaties. Keep in mind that twins are the standard in goats and visualize the sproingy-happy kid fest that will be my back pasture in just a few more months. :) We'll be swimming in milk and eggs again before we know it, so right now is our time to hunker down and rest up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I've been a busy little Farm Girl

Earning my housewifey stripes today, I -

*Knitted a dishcloth and started a set of bike helmet earmuffs
*Turned 15 pounds of "junk" pears into 1/2 gallon of pear cider - which will likely eventually be wine. :)
*Juiced 10 pounds of apples
*Made 4 quarts of chicken broth (thanks, Thunder!)
*Washed 4 dozen eggs
*Am making two loaves of bread/a dozen+ eggs worth of French toast for freezing.
*Wrote two posts

Not too shabbeh! ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

El dia de los Pollos

I probably mangled the Spanish, but what I'd meant to say way "The day of the Chickens". Does that sound like a bargain bin children's book or what? ;)

Today started with Bill & Liv butchering Thunder-chicken. We tried multiple times to re-home him via Craigslist, but in the end, had no takers. He was such a pretty boy, I'd hoped that he could've gone off and made some harem of lonely hennies happy, alas it wasn't to be, and so soup he is.

We also delivered our 26 three week-old chicks to their new owner and made just a few bucks more selling them than it cost us to raise them to this point. That's farming for ya. We're lucky to have made anything, I guess.

We still have the 10 six week-old "babies", and plan to raise them up for meat. Though I'm slightly tempted to keep a hen or two, just to see if they got their mother's blue egg gene. How cool to have a frizzled, crested, blue egg layer! :)

Alright, enough bird nerdiness for one day. Mama Bird - out.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

27 minus 1

Our final chick count was 27 hatched, 26 of whom have survived. Our little one that passed was born with congenital deformities of his legs and feet, and was unable to walk or stand much, and essentially just failed to thrive. I guess that it's a blessing, really, but I always feel bad losing a critter, even if it is for the best in the end.

On the bright side, I got my naked neck frizzle! We have at least one little Turken chickie who is starting to grow some whirly wing feathers. Happy. :)

We discovered my little dream baby when Scarlet and I were undertaking "butt patrol". Pics of the baby (not butt patrol!) are forthcoming. Right now the poor little monkey is rocking back and forth in a corner, actively trying to repress the memories of his first aggressive bum-cleaning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


That's more than half of the eggs in our incubator that have hatched so far! We haven't lost a chick yet either, though we have one little guy who is struggling, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Four more in the incubator have substantial pipping. I hope that they bust out of there soon!

Meanwhile, the smell coming off of the incubator is gnarly. It's not a rotten egg smell, per se, but it's still pretty nasty. Please hatch, bambinos, so Mama can clean that thing and put it away. :P

Monday, October 24, 2011

On the edge of my seat...

waiting for my babies to hatch. They've started peeping well, and so far two have small pips in their shells. I need to go to sleep, but I don't want to miss a thing!

How nuts would it be if I went to bed and woke up to every last one of those 42 eggs hatched?


Monday, October 10, 2011

We have a goatie dooooon!

Our poor Fritzen girl has just come down with a mild case of mastitis. :(

Fritzen & I, on our first go with the Henry Milker.

Thankfully, it is "sub-clinical", meaning that it is both less uncomfortable for her, and easier for us to treat than "full-blown" mastitis.

She presented with reduced milk supply and increased tenderness upon milking, which made Bill & Liv suspect mastitis. A paper mastitis test strip confirmed their suspicions. To err on the side of caution, we threw out the past two days' milkings. Boy does that suck!

We'd been looking at beginning the dry-off process for our milkers anyway, since they are both likely already pregnant with this spring's kids (on their schedule, not mine - d'oh!) and need to focus their energy into growing babies and keeping a good amount of meat on their bones this winter instead of milk, milk, milk.

So Fritzen is officially drying off now. We will continue to "pump & dump", just to keep the milk from further backing up and clogging the works. We're also treating her with an udder balm and teat dips, and will be talking to our vet for further instruction with regard to either treating her with injectable antibiotics and/or orifice flushing.

It's kind of insane, the sort of stuff that you end up having to do with and for livestock that is soooo beyond the scope of what you'd normally think of doing for a "pet". Giving intramuscular injections, for one. We had to give Chardonnay i.m. antibiotics last January, right after we first bought her, because she had a severe case of hoof rot. That was awful. Thank God for Bill being tough enough to do what had to be done, because I don't know if I could have.

That was a particularly tough case anyway, being that she was a) new to us, b) weeks away from delivering twins and c) didn't have a lot of muscle in which to insert the needle. The poor lass was not in great shape at all when we first got her, but we managed to help her find her way back to health, and learned a heck of a lot about veterinary medicine in the process.

Hopefully Fritzen's health hiccup will be nowhere near as serious, but we're prepared to do whatever we have to to make our girlie well and comfortable again.

The Trap is Set... a manner of speaking.

We've had a few "intrusion" issues here lately. #1 is the jerk-o's that keep messing with our garbage cans. Their idea of fun is to take our can and bring it a mile or so down the road and leave it in someone else's driveway, or knocked over in a ditch. It isn't a critter doing it, we suspect that it is a group of bored teenagers.

Problem #2 is that someone, perhaps the same folks behind the garbage can shenanigans, have been helping themselves to items in my husband's boat. We had a gas tank full of two-stroke fuel go missing. God knows what the people who took it plan to do with it, but if they we're going to put it in their car, the joke's on them!

Problem #3 is that something has been coming into the chicken yard and has killed one chicken, and did some serious feather-plucking to another.

Which brings us to the eluded to "trap" - a game camera. Bill picked one up today that will hopefully answer at least a few of the questions that we have about who's helping themselves to our property and livestock.

And now the question is - how do we keep these jerk-turkeys from stealing our game camera? Oy...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Here we go again!

A brand new batch of eggs just went into the incubator. 42 this time, which is as many as the egg turner can hold. This next batch will have a more diverse mix of babies, including purebred Australorps, Lorp/Polishes, Lorp/Turkens and (please, oh, please) Turken/Polishes. There'll of course also be more Americauna/Lorp & Americauna/Polishes, which are what this most recently hatched lot all were.

I'm seriously praying that we get at least one Turken/Polish frizzle out of this batch. He/she should look a little something like this -

Turkens seem to be a love 'em or hate 'em breed, and I just adore them. They are so dang awkward looking! But a frizzled Turken - you have to admit that that's one cute little chickie.

Fingers are crossed that we get a good hatch out of this latest batch, since we seem to have a lot of interest from folks wanting chicks, pullets or meat, and should be able to sell or eat every last one of these little peepers.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Banner Day in the Bog

We had two harsh realities bearing down upon us this week that spurred us into frenetic activity.

Number one was the unexpectedly early arrival of our chicks. The babies that we were expecting tomorrow instead started hatching Friday at around dinnertime. So far 12 have hatched, 11 of whom survived. We have at least one more trying to hatch, and can hear the little peeper in his shell but see no pip marks at all yet.

So, we had less time than we'd expected to get their brooder set up, and to clear a house/run in the coop for their eventual lodging. Making room for the babies in the coop of course meant that the rooster that we'd been putting of harvesting, Mr. Meanie, had now officially seen his last sunrise.

Bill & Liv made fairly quick work of Meanie, and gave their thanks for his sacrifice and a small prayer for his soul when they buried his head up under the big Alder tree. The rest of him is simmering in a stock pot this minute.

In addition to pressing chicken issues, the number two item on our list was another which could not be delayed or ignored, the onset of frost. Ye Olde Farmer's Almanac says that our first frost is due this coming Friday. So to hedge our bets in the event that Mr. Frosty showed up early, I picked just about every last little thing in the garden today. Tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, coriander, celery and carrots all came out, ready or not. 99% of the tomatoes are green, so they'll be sitting in the front window for a spell until they're ready for saucing. If only we'd had another 2 weeks or a month Indian summer, my 'maters would have gone bananas. :(

Liv & Carly started the apple picking today, but didn't get terribly far. I think I'll have to finish that up later this week.

So we butchered a roo, harvested the garden and finally sold Leap, our last bunny from the litter born in February, all in a day. Now if only I'd been able to finish picking the apples and could've shimmied a cheese making in there somewhere, my chore list would be all wrapped up, farmy-wise.

Who am I kidding? My chore list is never finished. I'm exhausted, my fingernails are still caked with dirt from digging carrots, my back is wigging out and I still have to ledger and put away today's eggs, make the kids' lunches and do a load of dishes before bed. Some days this farm gig is rough. :P

Today's Take-
Goats Milk, 60 ounces
Eggs, 15
Chicken, 4 pounds (after plucking & gutting)
Tomatoes, 15 pounds
Pumpkins, Sugar Pie - 4 pounds 4 ounces, Cinderella - 9 pounds 6 ounces
Carrots, 6 pounds
Apples (haven't weighed them yet)
Odds & Ends - baby zucchinis, baby straightneck squash, Amish pie squash, peas & coriander.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today's Take 9/29/11

-Goats Milk, 64 ounces
-Eggs, 7
-Hawthorn Berries (haws), foraged, 5 pounds between my friend B & myself. ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today's Take 9/28/11

I've mostly only been bothering to check the garden for harvestable goodies every few days, since all of our stuff is stunted and ultra slow growing, but for most of this week I've been checking it daily and getting little drips and drops of produce.

Today I ventured into the garden to kill a little time while I let our does out to graze a while. Since we don't have the pasture properly fenced in, the girls could wander up as far as the front yard, if not supervised, and eat all manner of toxic plants like our rhodies, azaleas and irises, which they have an unnatural attraction to. So I hung around picking a few berries and tomatoes while my gals snarfed down grasses, weeds and freshly fallen maple leaves. The maple and alder leaves seem to be the thing that they're gaga for these days, because they even went so far as to stand up on their hind legs to try and reach the lowest hanging leaves of our neighbor's 50+ foot tall maple trees that droop over the fence and into our yard.

It'll be interesting to see if the milk takes on a different, maybe sweeter flavor with all of the maple leaves that they've been eating. Hmmm....

-Goats Milk, 60 ounces (Fritzen kicked the jar over again. GRRRR!)
-Eggs, 6
-Tomatoes, 6 ounces
-Blackberries, 6 ounces
-Cinderella Pumpkin, 3 pounds, 4 ounces

Today's Take 9/27/11

Posting this a day late, because I'm a slacker who also happens to be on muscle relaxers for my bad back, which makes me an ultra space cadet. Good times!

-Goats milk, 60 ounces (The teat cup on the Henry Milker broke, so Liv had to hand milk the girls, which never seems to get quite as much out of them as the milker does.)
-Eggs, 10
-Tomatoes, 1 lb
-Handful of pea pods

The apple harvest looks like it's going to have to wait another weekend. We have just 6 days until the chicks in the incubator hatch, so harvesting "Mr. Meanie" to free up a run for the little 'uns is our first priority this coming weekend. The coop also needs cleaning, the goats hooves trimmed, the list is endless. So hopefully the apples can do us a favor and hang in there for just a bit more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today's Take 9/21/11

The days are definitely getting shorter now that Autumn is bearing down upon us. It's dark when we wake, and pretty dark by dinner time. Pretty soon we'll be back to doing all of our critter chores in the dark and damp - not looking forward to that so much.

One of my doelings, Hop, I think, is acting all kinds of crazy today. She's meeeehhhhing like mad every minute or two ALL DAY. I wonder if she's in her first heat? All I know, is that every time I go down to the pen to check on them, they all start mehhing, and all bounce around just fine, so I really have no way of knowing who the yapper is. What I do know is that she completely ruined both of my attempts at a nap today. Grrr!

On the up side - only one more day of antibiotics for the chickens, then a few days for the meds to work all of the way out of there system, and we can finally start eating out eggs again. It has been killing me to throw all of those beautiful eggs in the compost bin, but we haven't had any takers on the hatching eggs offer, so back to the earth they go.

By the way - our eggs in the incubator are nearly halfway there! 12 more days to go, just 9 more until I take the turner tray out and lay them on their sides to finish orienting themselves inside their eggs in preparation for pipping. Happiness! :)

Goats Milk, 1/2 gallon
Eggs, 15 - composted :(
Nothing from the garden today, but that is pretty much the story of this year. :\

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today's Take 9/20/11

Goats Milk - 4 ounces - A whole half-gallon jar got kicked over and spilled by Fritzen. :(
Eggs - 9 (Still not edible, due to antibiotics)
Blackberries - 1 pound
Sugar Pie Pumpkin - 4 pounds, 8 ounces (1 pumpkin)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today's Take 9/19/11

Our first squash! Or pumpkin, according to some. I've seen this listed as both am Amish Pie Pumpkin and Amish Pie Squash. It looks like a pumpkin, and in a few days, I hope to find out if it tastes like one too. I'm looking forward to making some raviolis with this lovely. :)

Our apples are looking quite ready all of a sudden too. I think that if we can find the time, we'll pick them this coming weekend.

Goats Milk, 64 ounces
Eggs, 12 (For hatching/decorating only - not edible)
Amish Pie Squash, 2 pounds 6 ounces (1 squash)
Tomatoes, 6 ounces

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken & Eggs Update

The chickens are on night #3 of their antibiotic regimen. No new chickens have fallen ill, so this course of tetracycline and electrolytes will hopefully fix anyone who might have been a bit sick, and prevent any other chickies from contracting whatever the mystery illness was.

The one thing that we're sure that it isn't is Fowl Pox, which is what took two of our bantams last year. Before our vet was able to rule the fowl pox out, I was really stressing and kicking myself, half convinced that that must be what was making our hennies sick. Fowl Pox is a nightmare - not only does it spread like wildfire from native and migrating birds to livestock birds, killing them fast, but we actually have the flippin' vaccine for it in our fridge, but just haven't got around to administering it yet. Well this was a wake up call for sure. As soon as these antibiotics are done and everybody is on an even keel health-wise, it's shot time!

We've collected 14 eggs so far since we've had to stop eating our eggs. We have them on the porch, as the weather has been cool, still deciding whether or not we want to toss them, hatch them or decorate them.

Two days ago I was begging people to take eggs off my hands, and today I had to turn a egg buyer down. Bummer! I'm as sad about them not getting to experience our amazing eggs as I am about having missed an opportunity for a sale. Ah well, we're doing what we have to for our babies. God & weather willing, there will be more eggs to come.

The eggs in the incubator are on day #5. The yolk no longer moves freely through the egg, the blood vessels are quite visible, and the size of the air sac (in the point of the egg) has increased. If I remember correctly from our last foray into incubating, somewhere around day 7-10 the babies will actually start to react to the candling light, and move around a bit. So excited!

I also can't wait to see if we end up with any frizzled chicks in the lot. Curlie gets around, so the odds are decent. :)

Shoot me a comment or email if you are interested in hatching eggs or some of our (hopefully) 20 mutt layer chicks. They're due to hatch in 16 days!

*Update 9/18/11* I forgot to mention yesterday when I posted this that Bill made 1 1/2 gallons worth of Feta on Saturday, and 1 quart's worth of cajeta. :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Today's Take 9/16/11

It was a pretty quiet day today. The vet got back to us late last night with the findings on Judith the Australorp's necropsy. She was not egg bound after all, but had an infection of some sort, which appeared to be bacterial. As a precaution, we began treating the whole flock with Tetracycline dissolved in their water. The treatment will last for a week, and began last night. As a food purist and organic farmer, I do not believe in using antibiotics or any other pharmaceuticals, pesticides or other chemicals willy-nilly. But, as we can't be 100% sure what the culprit is here, we are hedging our bets slightly and treating the whole flock prophylactically, lest we lose them all.

In addition to using medicines on my animals that I'd rather not, this treatment prescribed by our vet has an additional downside - its effect on the eggs. All of the eggs laid while the flock are on antibiotics are considered unfit for consumption. Therefore, we have to throw approximately 7-10 dozen eggs away during the medicated time frame, and for a few days following the treatment.

We're considering our options here, since, for one thing, that is a LOT of eggs to dispose of. If we were to throw them all in the compost pile, we'd almost certainly bring a hoard of raccoons, foxes and opossums to our doorstep. No thanks!

Maybe we could/should bury them then?

The other options we are entertaining/researching, are hatching them out, or saving them for making Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs.

We'll have to decide soon, because chicken ovaries wait for no man. Or woman. They are hardcore like that.

Goat Milk, 1/2 gallon (64 ounces)
Eggs - None collected
Tomatoes - 8 ounces
Bachelor Buttons - A few cups of flowers for dehydrating. The don't really have a fragrance, but they are beautiful, even when dried.

We also weighed Bill's parmesan, which is now 6 days old, just to track the weight loss that occurs as it dries. Today it was 1 lb, 7 ounces.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today's Take 9/13/11

Our poor little Junebug didn't make it through the night last night. She looks like she went very peacefully though, so that is a small comfort. We are now down to 22 hens and 5 roos.

As it usually, thankfully, seems to happen, we had some blessings in the chicken department today along with our loss. We set yet another most-eggs-in-a-day record today with twelve. A dozen in a single day! And those were the ones that we could find. Who knows how many may lurk in the bushes? I fully expect that any day now, one or more hens will come strutting out of the shrubbery, trailing a flock of wee ones. If so, and the eggs in the incubator hatch out, we're going to be drowning in birds. ;)

Goats milk, 1/2 gallon (64 ounces)
Eggs, 12! :)
Rose petals, bachelor buttons and lavender - a few cups worth for dehydrating for sachets.

Today's Take 9/12/11

Chicken ups and downs today. Junebug, the Australorp hen is still unwell. This is day three of her illness/egg binding. Liv and I tried to help her out by oiling her vent to grease the skids a little, to no avail. She is very weak and not eating, though still drinking. She has passed a very small amount of poo, but without much force, leaving her a bit pasted up. I cleaned her when I applied the oil, but overall, I am not optimistic. :(

In contrast to Junebuggy's distress, we had a very pleasant, very surprising gift from Huckleberry the Americauna hen. We found her hidden in the shrubbery on a nest of 18(!) eggs. I also found two more eggs in another nest, so we now have a very full incubator, and a broody hen with a grudge against her nest-raiders. You can read the full story of the unexpected eggs over on Girl Gone Granola.

Behold, our bonanza! :)

Goats Milk, 72 ounces
Eggs, 5 (for eating) 20 (for hatching) :)
Tomatoes, 6 ounces
Handful of sugar snap peas - YUM!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's Take 9/10/11

Bill made us a lovely goats milk parmesan today, our first. It's still in the cheese mold pressing now, but the labor intensive, watching-the-clock part of making the cheese is done with. Now it's just more pressing, flipping, watching and eventually waxing. Our recipe specifies that parmesan needs to age for at least 8 months, but is best at 18 months. Yikes, that's a long wait!

Following cheese mania, we went blackberry picking. The blackberries are magnificent this year, on account of all the rain, followed by the late summer heat. I can't wait to make my girls some fruit roll ups with them!

Goats Milk, 48 ounces
Eggs, 8 (another new one-day record!)
Blackberries, 4 pounds

Friday, September 9, 2011

Today's Take 9/9/11

Today was a very good day, harvest-wise. Better late than never, sunshine. I'm just glad that you finally showed up to ripen things. :)

Goats Milk, 2 1/2 Quarts
Blackberries, 8 ounces (the deer have been getting them more often than I have.)
Tomatoes (finally!!!), 1 lb, 2 ounces
Cheyenne Peppers, 2
Handful of sugar snap peas

Today's Take - 9/8/11

Milk, milk and more milk!

*Goats Milk, 1/2 gallon (64 ounces)
*Eggs, 5

We're staring to see Americauna pullet eggs daily now, and have had a few small brown eggs that can either be attributed to the Turkens or the Australorps, we're not sure. Five eggs per day isn't bad, but considering that we have 23 hens, it isn't great either. ;\

If we can clear out at least one run by harvesting Mr Meanie, or by re-homing Thunder, we'll be ready to get some meat chickens started.

Sooo... anyone need a dashingly handsome white-crested black Polish rooster? Anyone???

Monday, September 5, 2011

Today's Take 9/5/11

Well, the whole separating the baby does from the Mama does thing has worked out well, as was expected. We set a new record for the most amount of milk in a day - 1/2 gallon! At this rate, we could be socking away a two-pound cheddar every four days. :)))

*Goats Milk, 64 ounces
*Eggs, 5
*Blueberries, (picked for jam from the farm down the way) 4lbs, 12 oz
*Windfall Apples, (for critter food) 2 wheelbarrows full

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Today's Take 9/4/11

This morning we moved the doelings (Oreo, Valentina - aka "Teeny", and Hop) into a pen of their own, away from their mamas. And they are NOT happy about it!

They are being finally, very belatedly, fully weaned. They haven't been taking that muck milk from their mothers, but based upon today's milking, it's definitely been enough to make a dent in what we're getting for ourselves, so I'm glad that we went ahead with the move. We're probably going to move ol' Miss Blue down with the little girls too, since she is never happy without babies around her. ;)

Today's Totals-

Goats Milk - 34 ounces!
Eggs - 4
Blackberries - 1 lb, 12 oz

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Ups, The Downs

This past week has held a few nice surprises as well as a few disappointments in terms of food productivity.

Firstly, our egg production has reached never-before achieved heights. On Friday we collected 6 eggs in a single day for the first time ever, and today there were 7! :) Still no sign of an Australorp or Turken egg yet, but two or three of the Americauna pullets are gracing us with a tiny, sky blue egg daily now. Their yolks are about the size of a quarter - so cute!

A Pullet's egg compared to the jumbo egg of our two year-old girl, Amelia.

The garden has finally given us our first tomato and first two zucchinis. Better late (or even waaaay late) than never, right?

Our potato plants died a little prematurely, so I decided to go ahead and pull them and harvest the spuds. Yeah... 90% of them are marble or golf ball sized. Bummer! This is my second year in a row where I've probably planted more potatoes than I've harvested. Apparently I've lost my touch for them. :(

The pumpkins are starting to change from green to yellow, with new babies still coming on. I am so thankful that we have at least one thing that seems happy in this soil! We also found three pea-sized watermelon fruits. I don't know if they are fertilized, so it remains to be seen if they'll make it, but I'm pretty darn excited about the prospect of home grown watermelon. :)

August 26th-29th-
*Eggs, 18
*Zucchini, 2 (4 oz)
*Potatoes (Blue, Yukon and Red Fingerling) 24oz total :(
*Handful of Yellow Wax Beans and Sugar Snap Peas
*Goat Milk, 1/2 gallon

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Year in Review

My musings on my first year as a Farm Chick, followed by some potentially boring farm statistics. ;)

Short and simple, this year has kicked our butts.

We bought this place just over a year ago now, and as much as I'd love to tell you that we have, through the sweat of our brow, transformed this place into a working little farm in that time, I'd be straight up lying my butt off. We have stumbled and struggled, battled issues of health, money, time, depression, bad weather, ignorance, exhaustion, and unyielding soil. We weren't starry-eyed enough to think that this would be a cake walk, but the ass-whooping handed to us has been a real eye-opener. We are barely keeping our heads above water right now, but there is hope that things will improve in the coming year.

For one thing, we've realized that we need some professional advice in how to best lay out our farm to maximize the sunlight, water and soil that is available to us. My new friend, Brighida, at DeVa Designs is undertaking the task of designing/plotting our yard, garden and pasture for us. What a relief to have someone who knows what they are doing to get us started moving in a designated direction toward our goal of a functional, sustainable and FUN farm!

In the category of minor triumphs, we have the goats. We've taken on dairy animals, and actually done reasonably well with it! The goats have been one heck of an adventure. They are so smart, and for the most part, loving, fun little critters to have around. AND you get milk from them! It's like a dog with benefits! ;) We have successfully bred and delivered mamas and babies, treated hoof-rot, ear infections and lice, and wrangled everything from love-struck bucks to ticked off mamas, all without getting gored or kicked in the face even once. I call that victory.

Our chickens have continued to be a source of enjoyment and great food for us. We moved into this house with four layers and nine baby bantams. The bantams have all gone, and have since been replaced with another 19 hens and 5 roosters, all standard size. Bantams are evil. I won't make that mistake again.

We presently get anywhere from 1-5 eggs per day, with an increasing number of the eggs coming from our Americauna pullets, who are just beginning to lay the cutest little baby blue eggs you've ever seen. :) If every hennie did her bit, all on the same day without fail, we'd be getting nearly two dozen eggs per day/fourteen dozen per week. Someday, someday.

Our eggs have a very loyal following among our friends and Bill's co-workers. The girls are in charge of collecting, ledgering, cleaning and packaging the eggs, as well as extolling the virtues of a free range organic egg to anyone and everyone who will listen. We fetch $4 a dozen for our beauties, and our eggy "income" is finally almost enough to cover our feed expenses. It will get there, especially once the army of Australorps start laying, but for now, half of the benefit of having the chickens is just getting to sit and watch them do their thing. I dare say that I enjoy them even more than the goats at times, and have come to see that they too have very individual personalities. When I need to clear my head, I take a lawn chair and a glass (or bottle) of wine out to the chicken yard and sit under the canopy of my sequoia tree and watch my chickies graze and dust bathe. It is my answer to watching fish in an aquarium, plus wine. ;)

Our garden this year was a flop-a-roo. I thought that I'd go ahead and plant straight into the ground, as opposed to using raised beds, as we had in the past. I was fooled by the gorgeous color and texture of the soil. Epic fail! A soil testing kit later revealed to us that we have too little nitrogen and too much something else that I can't remember. Remediation and supplementation are what's called for, and the quickest way to reach that end is to literally build up the soil with raised beds and compost. Alas, our compost was not yet ready when planting season finally arrived this year, so I tried to supplement with some organic bat guano liquid fertilizer, worm tea and a little top dressing of bunny and goat poo. It all helped to some degree, but the garden overall just didn't perform. I'd had visions of running my own CSA. In reality, our garden didn't even provide enough food for our little family of four, let alone enough to share or put up. This is seriously the first year that I can remember ever having to buy a zucchini in peak season. :(

If there is an upside at all to our garden woes, it is that we actually have had some success with a crop that has failed us miserably every year before - pumpkins. Why the pumpkins are going ape but the zukes aren't is a complete mystery to me, but I'll take it anyway. We may not have much to eat this Fall, but our jack-o-lanterns will rock your socks, baby!

Between the shortcomings in the garden and being kept insanely busy by critters, children and attempting to maintain a social life, we've also fallen short on the amount of foraging and fishing that we normally do. We've managed to grab up and sock away a few crab and flounder, and I found a new love of stinging nettles that will definitely have me grabbing up more of them next year, but I'm waaaay behind on my berry picking. Canning season is bearing down upon me, and I don't really have anything to can. Such a bummer. I will count as a triumph my making two different kinds of cheese, feta and chevre, from my own goats' milk. We have a gallon and a half of goat milk in the fridge right now that will soon (with a little luck) be transforming into a farmhouse cheddar. It will need to age for at least six months, so that's putting food up too, even if in a different way that we've done before.

Turning back to the wins as far as foraging, I did manage to forage a lot of my animal food this year. Fir tree branches, blackberry brambles, miscellaneous weeds from the yard and scotch broom were all gobbled up gratefully by bunnies and goats. At least somebody is getting some fresh food for free!

We've slowed down on our beer, cider and wine making this past year, but are hoping to get that going again soon. I presently have a few gallons of rhubarb wine working, and hope to try some hawthorn flower and maybe make some more cherry wine before they go out of season. Sooooo much to do in such a small time frame!

Anyway, that about sums up our year here in the Hollow. We've learned a lot, and look forward to putting much of what we've learned into practice in the coming year. We haven't really established goals for the year just yet, as we're too busy running around to ever stop and contemplate what lies around the next bend. But we will get it together, and we will keep pecking away at all of it until we either fall down or fly. Wish us luck and strong backs, we're going to need them. ;)

Edit: My darling husband pointed out to me that I failed to mention all of the infrastructure changes that we (mainly he) were able to knock out this last year - a new 8x12, 4-run chicken coop; 3 goat pens; a tilled and deer-fenced 25x85' garden and a hand-built goat stanchion/milk stand. No too shabby for a couple of noobs. ;)

Goats Bought - 7
Goats Sold - 4
Goats Born - 7
Goats Died - 1 (Fritzen's stillborn doeling)
Current Goat Count - 9

Starting # of Chickens - 13 (4 "big girls" and 9 bantam pullets/roos)
Chickens Bought - 35?
Chickens Given to us - 3
Chickens Sold/Given away/Harvested - 5 (Scout, Sunny, Snowflake, Harold & Mr. J, all evil roos)
Chickens Died (illness, injury, predation) - Hens - 5, Roos - 3, Chicks - 8? (that number seems a little low)
Current Chicken Count - 28 (5 roos, 23 hens/pullets)
These numbers don't seem like they jive quite right, but my memory is a little fuzzy, so it's only a general count.

Starting # of Rabbits - 2 (Both supposedly female - NOT)
Rabbits Bought - 0
Rabbits Born - About 25
Rabbits Sold/Given Away - 4
Rabbits Died (illness, injury, cold weather) - About 20 :(
Current Rabbit Count - 3 (one doe, one buck and one neutered male)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Goats, Goats, and more Goats

We sold off all of our Nigerians except for Spike and Blue last week. It was hard to see them go, but Gertie, Violet, Blackjack and Archie all went together to live with a lonely llama up in Seabeck. I miss my sweet babies the most, especially little Blackjack. Who couldn't love this face?

So I'm having some baby Nigerian withdrawals. Luckily young Mr. Buckley, one of our six month-old lamancha bucklings, has kept my mind off of missing my babies by keeping us running after his wily little butt. He's turned into quite the little escape artist since the does started coming "into season". Goats do not seem to have the same moral hangups about "dating" their twin sister, or their own mother, for that matter, leaving us to stop things from getting creepy and inbreed-y.

We came home from a few days of camping to find that Buckley had been out for the majority of the time that we had been gone. It wasn't our critter sitter's fault. When a horny teenager sets his sights on a lady love, there is absolutely no stopping him from his pursuit.

So there is a possibility that we may have some baby lamanchas due in January. We had really hoped to avoid a winter delivery this coming year, as last winter was all about fretting over babies comfort and body temperatures. But the best laid plans...

If they are preggo, then we're going to have to start the drying off process, which I really have no experience at all with. The learning curve in this animal husbandry business is steep. How do we know if they're pregnant? Will their being pregnant make their milk taste funny? How soon should we start drying them off? How do we dry them off safely? Ayeyiyiyi!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today's Take 7/29/11

* Goats Milk, 9 ounces
* Eggs, 5
* Radishes, 12 ounces (Pulled the last of them, teeny though they were, to make room for another row of corn.)
* Oregano & Lavender, for a birthday bouquet ;)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today's Take 7/28/11

The goats' milk production is bouncing back, thank goodness! Adding the alfalfa to their diet seems to have made the difference. I guess that the local orchard grass hay just didn't have enough good stuff in it. Crisis *hopefully* averted. ;)

*Radishes, 1 pound
*Eggs, 7
*Goats Milk, 12 ounces

Friday, July 15, 2011

Things I Learned from Fritzen

Fritzen is the herd boss.  She's the oldest of the mini-lamanchas and the toughest.  She rules the roost and Chardy, Blue, Gertie and all their babies make way for her.  She is a tough old goat and has a beard to match.  I don't think I really knew her though until we started milking.

Every time we think we have the hang of something they throw something new our way.  Two days ago I went outside to milk them and it was windy and cloudy.  Chardy hopped right up on the table because I think she both likes being milked and eating the grain we give them in their bin as a bribe.  She milks out fast and not as much as Fritzen so off she went back into the pen.  I collected Fritzen and hopped her up on the table.

One side of her milked out, it takes more time with Fritzen and I switched to the other.  Then the rain started. By started I don't mean there were a few drops here and there before it went to a steady light shower or drizzle.  I mean God turned on the shower kind of rain.  I was sans coat and Fritzen munched on her grain for a few moments as she watched her babies and pen mates run into their little goat house.  A few moments after that she was pulling back on the milking stand.

Now I'm paranoid about them getting mastitis, an infection and sometimes blockage of their udders.  You avoid that by milking them all the way out each time.  I know their babies are still drinking a bit but still, I worry so there we sit as I quietly encourage her to be patient.  She begins doing the riverdance with her hindquarters, turns her head around, looks at me with her one eye, sticks out her tongue and literally screams at me.  I put my hat on her head to see if that helps her block out the rain.  She screams again.  And again, and again and again......

I wait a few minutes until I know she's milked out a little bit and drag her back to the pen.  She is, needless to say, a bit crabby and I am soaked (even after Chelle sent Livy up with my raincoat).

Lately she has been only letting me milk out one side.  She doesn't let her milk down on the other side for some reason.  Both sides have done this so I know it's by choice.  I try sweet talking her but ever since the rain incident she just looks at me like "you lose buster".  I finally figured out though that she's OK with hand milking the other side.  This is a skill I thought I'd never get down pat but after practicing quite a bit to get them ready for the Henry Milker I seem to be able to pull it off.  It takes some stamina but I think she prefers it.

Last but not least I finally got her tender hoof trimmed up.  It took help from Chelle to hold her head and snuggle her because it hurt but I got it done and got the medication in there.  Today I used the berry treats before and after brushing her hoof with iodine water and medication and she got nervous but seemed OK at the end.

She is a tough old goat but she's tender too.  She can't stand hearing her babies cry and when she's sore she lets you know.  She's as patient as she can be with us as we learn this milking business and sometimes is even tender towards us.  At 6 years old she's second oldest of the pack and a good mama.  Slowly but surely she's training us as much as we're taking care of her.  Words of wisdom that she has passed on to me....

1.  "Never milk an angry goat in the rain"
2.  "I can't take care of my feet so I need you too, even if it hurts"
3.  "I'm in control of if and how you get my milk"
4.  "Learn how to milk by hand, like it or not"

She is our cash cow too so to speak.  She gives easily three times as much as Chardy, even as she's twice as hard to milk.  So today as I drove home thinking about milking the goats in the rain I remembered what Fritzen told me the other day.  Before I got the milker put together I went into the basement and got some nails, rope, a tarp, saw and hammer.  I grabbed a couple of 2x2's and a dowel and went up the hill.  In went two dowels to anchor one side of the tarp and up went the 2x2s and lo and behold the milking stand was dry.  Up went Chardy and was done in a hurry (her right side is finally giving us some more milk) and into the pen I went to get Fritzen.  She was hesitant until I got the leash on her and then up and onto the table she went.  She stayed dry, didn't fight too much when I brushed her hoof and looked over at me with thanks when I gave her the berry treats.  Success!  Then I switched the milker over to the other side.

She wouldn't let down on the left side until I hand milked her.

Yes, ma-am.  Whatever you say ma-am.  You're the boss, Fritzen-big-mama.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New in the Garden 7/12/11

I just picked up a few goodies that I still haven't figured out a place for yet. This is an unfortunate habit of mine. Maybe I'll eventually ditch the lawn altogether and fill it with my goofy nursery finds? ;)

Just bought, haven't yet planted-

*2 Heavenly Blue grape vines
*2 Hinnomaki Gooseberry - one yellow and one red. This is a Finnish variety, so I'm thinking that our low temps here should be no sweat for berries that can tolerate Scandinavian winters.
*4 Basil - Three Genovese and one Amethyst.
*1 Rosemary
*1 Nero de Toscana Kale - the bunnies LOVE this stuff!
*2 Mints - one chocolate mint and one "chewing gum" mint. These were the girls' choice.
*1 "Cheyenne" pepper. Seriously, this says Cheyenne and not Cayenne. I have never heard of this one before, but it was $1.99 and it's already loaded with peppers and blossoms, so I had to take a chance on it. ;)

Now as soon as this drizzle stops, I get to go and wander around the yard to try and figure out where these babies are going. If it weren't for the deer, I think I'd take advantage of our fugly chain link fence out front and pop the grape vines in out there, but if the deer like grapes as much as they like cherry trees, that wouldn't fly too well. Hmmm....

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today's Take 7/11/11 (and other ramblings)

Wow - I just realized that I have been writing the wrong month in these "Today's Take" posts for over a week now. Where is my brain? ;P

I pulled a whole wheelbarrow full of weeds from around the pumpkins and watermelons in the garden today, then fed the lot to some very grateful chickens. The only disappointment was that for all of my weeding, I hardly made a dent in the onslaught. Does that expression "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life." apply to the yard and garden too? I hope so!

Speaking of the garden, the radishes are all about ready to come out, and will thus make way for my last few Yukon Chief corn seedlings to pop into their place. The lettuces are finally looking good. What a strange growing year this has been! In an average year (what does that even mean anymore?), my greens would have bolted by now. Then again, I'd also probably have zucchini coming out my ears, and that's not happening either.

The pumpkins and Amish Pie squash are both spreading out and producing nice big leaves and blossoms now. In fact, one of the pumpkins has a baby on it, but I don't think that it's going to make it. It is wee and yellow. Maybe it wasn't fertilized?

With respect to the critters, we're having some ups and downs, as seems to be our new normal. We had to segregate an Australorp roo from the rest of his flock because his testosterone was getting the better of him and making him act like a rather aggressive jerk to the ladies. When we originally ordered our chicks I opted for 10 hens and 2 roos, so that we might have better odds of getting a "good" rooster. A gentleman. For whatever reason, Murray McMurray included a free 3rd Australorp roo, so we feel like we can afford to be that much more picky about our keeper. If we had somehow magically ended up with three saintly boys, we'd have craigs-listed the extra two, but since Captain Crankypants has outed himself as an irredeemable misogynistic thug, he's destined for the frying pan.

As for the goaties, it looks like two of our does, mother and daughter, may have some hoof issues. This is the never-ending issue with goats! The little girl's hooves are so thick that the trimmers won't cut them, and she's walking on just 3 legs right now. Her Mama has dirt, poo, and straw "impacted" in her hoof, and the stuff will. not. budge. I think we need to give her some warm iodine foot baths to get the gunk soften up. Poor babies! I'm going to email the vet, just to see if she feels that they need to been seen or further medicated. I want so badly to give these animals the best life possible, but we just keep hitting these snags. I feel especially bad that it sometimes takes me a little while to figure out that there is a problem, being that I'm still a relative newbie goat owner. Live and learn, I guess, and pray for my babies to stay well and strong.

*Goats Milk, 16 ounces
*Eggs, 3

Friday, July 8, 2011

Today's Take 7/5,6,7/11

*Goat Milk, 38 ounces
*Eggs, 10

We finally had enough milk at once for me to make a small batch of cajeta. I brought it to a friend's house for a dinner party, and it got the thumbs up from her Pops, who is apparently a cajeta fiend. Hooray! All of the crazy goat wrangling and drama leading up to this appears to have been worth it after all. Next stop, cheese. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Today's Take 7/4/11

*Goat Milk, 9 ounces
*Eggs, 4
*Handful each of sugar snap peas and French breakfast radishes. :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today's Take 7/3/11

*Goat Milk, 6 ounces +/-
*Eggs, 4

It shouldn't be too much longer before peas and greens find their way onto this list. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Milking - Day 3

I didn't stop to jot it down, but yesterday we got just 5 ounces from a late morning milking and this evening we got over 10 ounces of milk from our goaties. Pics of the milker in action to follow shortly. ;)

Thursday, June 30, 2011


We finally got our Henry Milker in the mail today, and took it for a spin straight away. We had a little trouble at the start, as one of the holes in the modified lid wasn't bored out completely, and wouldn't let the milk flow into the jar. A little poking around and, problem solved.

We tried the milker out on all three of our lactating does, but only got decent results with one, Fritzen. Her milk seemed to flow best out of her right udder, at about 5-7 pounds of pressure, per the gauge. Chardonnay just would not let her milk down. I got a few squirts out hand milking, but the pump just didn't do it for her. Gertie, the first time Mama/milker of the lot, was that hardest to milk. I got a few dribbles and drops out of her, but she was very antsy, and frankly, mostly milked out already by Miss Violet by the time we got her onto the stand.

My plan for tomorrow is to turn the ladies out to graze for an hour or so before trying to milk, in the hope that they will "refill" from having fed their babies that morning, and have a lil' sumthin'-sumthin' for Mama.

I was nervous to try the milk for the first time. In fact, it grossed me out a little. I was the same way about eating the first eggs from our chickens. It felt odd to be eating something with my "pet"'s DNA in it. I told myself, They're farm animals, this is their gig!, but it still felt weird.

Until it didn't.

I guess I'll just have to hang in there until I feel the same way about the goats' milk. The kids and Bill are already on board. The girls had little cream moustaches after trying their first sips of homegrown milk. They both commented on how sweet it was, and actually finished up all 6 ounces of today's milk with their dinner, before having to switch to the store-bought organic cow's milk. Now, I just need to get the supply and demand thing matched up with my goaties, and we'll be off and running. :)

Cajeta, here I come! :)

For the Record:
*4 eggs
*6 oz milk! :)))

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New in the Garden 6/26/11

Today Scarlet-girl and I went to the Farmers Market to pick up a few seedlings to put in the garden to replace a few plants that croaked/got murdered by slugs.

Our haul-

*3 green cabbage
*3 red cabbage
*six pack of mixed lettuces
*2 English cucumbers
*2 Black Tail watermelons (red fleshed)
*2 Yellow-fleshed watermelons (They were called gold or yellow something. Gold Star? Yellow Sunshine? Something like that.)

Both vendors who sold me my new plants assured me that they were suitable for growing in Western Washington. Seriously? Watermelon and hothouse cucumbers in 60-degree slugville? I ventured a whopping $10 on it, so I guess we'll have to wait and see. ;)

I've been meaning to mulch the garden with goat poop for like, two weeks now. And it keeps not getting done. Bad Chelle!

In spite of my neglect, we have peas, strawberries, tomatillos and Stupice tomatoes all blooming, so I'm assuming that means that they're not wanting for too much. I'll try to think of the goat poop mulch as a bonus, then, instead of an urgent necessity.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For the Record, week of 6/13-6/19/11

The garden is still getting its feet under it, and growth has been s-l-o-w, despite my fertilizing and fretting over it. I guess that this soil is just not as plant friendly as we'd thought it might be.

We've also had some slug problems. Bill is planning to set out some beer traps. God help us if the goats get into them!

New in the garden this week -
*1 row (about 12 seeds) of Giant Greystripe Sunflowers
*1 row of French Breakfast Radishes (the first row got hit hard by something - we think slugs)
*1 row of Golden Improved Wax Beans
*1 row of Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
*Re-seeded a few pumpkins that didn't make it

Still pondering about where to squeeze my beets in. I'd normally fret over having started them too late, but with this early spring-like weather in what is about to be summer, well, I'm just not that worried about it. Now whether or not my stuff will ever get enough sun to do anything, is another question entirely.

Our new roo, Thunder, is fitting in nicely. We had him in a separate run/house right next to Curly so that they could get to know each other a little before moving in together. Just yesterday we put the two together, and things are going fine. Thunder is definitely more interested in Curly than she is in him, but that's ok. He's not being rough with her at all, so I think we'll leave them together unless relations go downhill.

Hop's ear infection seems to be clearing up well. The vet called back yesterday to check on her, and I was glad to report that she was back up to being her sassy, bouncy self. Bill's been giving her her ear drops each night (no easy feat), and tonight I'm going to try and irrigate her ear, just to make sure that we don't have any residual gunk down in there.

I hope that I'm not jinxing us by saying this, but right now everybody is happy and healthy and looking good. :)

Tonight Bill racked & bottled our beer and wine. His beer is a ringwood ale, and I *think* that he made 5 gallons of it, which ends up being about 2 cases of beer (I think). He racked our two gallons of rhubarb wine that was started back in November. We'll bottle it in another 3 months or so. The dandelion wine was bottled, and made 9 wine bottles worth, after occasional sips and samples on the sly took their toll. The dandelion was started in April, 2010, so we were actually a little bit late in bottling.

While Bill bottled our booze, I snuck a little of our kegged hard apple cider, and a bit of our rhubarb wine, and inoculated them with some of the "mother" from some store-bought natural apple cider vinegar. I filled the bottles just over half full, leaving plenty of air space for the oxygen to move through the liquid and let the acetobacter breathe and do it's thing. I topped both bottles with a double-thickness of cheesecloth, and rubber banded it on. It is supposed to take 4-8 weeks to go from alcohol to vinegar, but as I'm storing it above the stove, and summer is on it's way (supposedly), this small first batch may convert faster. My fingers are crossed!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

For the Record, week of 6/6-6/12/11

This has been a mostly sunny but mild week, weather-wise. A few little showers here and there - just enough to keep things growing but not ruin anybody's day. ;) As a result of our sunny but not hot weather, we've all found ourselves with a little more energy, and have been spending more time outside working.

Scarlet has been, as ever, my number one garden helper. Today we planted 36 Yukon Chief corn starts, 1 row of French Breakfast radishes & 1/2 row of Red-cored Chantenay carrots. Coming up next are the wax beans and pole beans, which have gone nuts under the grow lights and are ready to go in the ground and do their thing.

I still need to find a place to shimmy in some beets. Maybe between the rows of peas & beans?

In critter news, we had a sick little goat this week. While trimming and cleaning hooves earlier this week, we noticed that Hop had copious amounts of yellow discharge coming out of her right ear. We'd noticed a week or two before that she wasn't quite acting herself, but never did see anything wrong until we had her in the stanchion for grooming. Poor girl! I took her to the vet the next day, where they flushed her ear. The vet said that there was a LOT of gunk in there, but no foreign objects. The likely reason that she got infected is because she has such small ears (as do many Lamanchas) that can't "breathe" that well. So we're giving her ear drops once per day, and are going to irrigate her ears with a solution of one part silver sulfadiazine cream dissolved into 9 parts distilled water. If worst comes to worst, she can have the opening to her ear surgically enlarged. Boy I hope that it doesn't come to that, because that sounds spendy! Our wonderful vet, Dr. Natalee, said that in a production dairy, Hop would no doubt have been culled for this tiny defect. We're just not that intense here, but it does make me think twice about ever breeding her, even though she comes from excellent bloodlines. Luckily I have a while to think it over.

We also aquired a new roo this week who the girls have named Thunder (no pic of Thunder-chicken yet, but he looks just like this guy.). He is a white-crested black polish, like Curly, but not a frizzle, like Curly, which is a good thing, because breeding a frizzle to a frizzle doesn't work out well. The feather curling gene goes haywire and produces a "Curlie" who's feathers are overly curled and brittle. So if/when Curly and Thunder fall madly in love and have babies, about 75% of the chicks should be frizzle. I can't wait!!!

The guy who raised Thunder up to this point lives in city limits, and therefore can't have a roo. So he gave us Thunder and we gave him an Australorp hen. A good trade for all concerned.

Besides all of that gardening and critter care, this week was fairly low-key. The kiddos have just a couple weeks of school left, so I'm trying to get all of my do-not-disturb type chores out of the way before I have myself a couple of shadows 24/7. I'm forgetting something huge, I just know it.

Weekly totals-
-20 eggs
-4 knit dishcloths finished

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Our Guests in the Pasture

We've been seeing this doe here and there a lot lately, but this is the first time that I got a pic of her and her babies in the front yard.

Click on a photo to see it larger.

We usually see these turkeys up in the back pasture, behind the goats. In fact, I stumbled upon the place where they have been bedding down when I was cutting down some scotch broom to feed the goats. A fawn came rocketing out of the brush and about scared me to death. Besides the sneak attacks and the tree nibbling, I actually don't mind having the deer around too much. They are welcome to all of the grass, dandelions and scotch broom that their bellies can hold, I just need them to leave my poor baby cherry tree the heck alone, and we will all get along just fine. ;)

The Egg Ledger

Bill has just started the girls keeping records on our egg production and sales. We're trying to teach the girls a little lesson in accounting, supply & demand, etc. It'll be interesting to see after a month or so if the chickens are really earning their keep in terms of egg revenues versus feed costs.

I don't know if Bill has a solid number for how much the new coop ended up costing us to build, but if we factored that in, we'd be in the red for years to come yet. I feel like the infrastructure items like fencing and outbuildings are more of an investment in the property than they are in just the animals that they are built for so I don't feel like we're cheating if we don't count them as liabilities against our egg income.

Lately we've been averaging 4-5 eggs per day, with the pullets not yet due to commence laying until August or thereabouts. When those gals are up and running at 100%, we should be getting about 20 eggs per day. We currently get 2 to 2 1/2 dozen eggs per week and have been selling them for $4 dozen, which is a steal for free range organic eggs. After all, the booth I once saw at Pikes Place Market had "heirloom eggs" identical to ours for sale for $8 per dozen! Seventy-five cents per egg - good gravy!

If you live in Thurston County and are interested in some beautiful organic eggs, give us a buzz and we'll put you on our list. livysmom27 at yahoo dot com. ;)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's Happenin' - 6/5/11

Scarlet and I finally put the strawberries in today. I'd been thinking of waiting and giving them their own plot, but as busy as we've been, I couldn't really afford to wait any longer, lest I miss strawberry season altogether, which would be highly lame.

So anyway, the strawberries are in the garden. Eight plants in all -
*3 Rainier
*2 Hood
*1 Benton
*2 Shuksan (which are supposed to be the best strawberries on earth!)

We shimmied them in in their own little row, between the yellow carrots and the shelling peas. We primed the soil with a few shovelsful of bunny poop and straw, the watered the holy heck out of them. I hope we're not too late to get some berries this year!

In addition to putting the berries in, I side-dressed pretty much everything with still more bunny poop. I want to take some before and after pics so that I can fairly evaluate how well the bunny poo works.

The tomatoes and squash have sort of just stagnated since being planted, hopefully this little manure boost will get them growing.

I noticed one Burgess Buttercup and one Early Yellow Squash sprout today - yay! The cilantro, lettuces and arugula have all really taken off, so it seems that we will at least have a boatload of salad this summer, if nothing else. ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Under the Grow Lights

Waiting for their turn in the sun, that is, if they ever wake up -

*48 Yukon Chief Corn
*12 Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
*12 Golden Yellow Wax Beans
*7 Scarlet Runner Beans
*8 Job's Tears (grown for ornamental seeds)

Where they will go, once they're grown and ready is still a mystery, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it I guess. The weather has been rain showers and sunbreaks for the past few days which seems to be working just fine for everything that's already planted out. It's enough rain that I don't have to water and of course the sunshine is always welcome. I worry a bit about fungus & mildew with this mild, wet weather, but since when had worrying ever helped?

Once the squash and 'maters show me that they have a good foothold, I'm going to bring in a little goat-poopy straw and mulch them. I also need to make a little trellis for the peas to climb, should they ever find the energy to do so. This is a pace that I can manage. The garden has been work, but still feels fun. I hope that my momentum continues when those first weeds appear in my newly turned soil. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Project Mania

Our family has really knocked a lot of projects out this weekend! We've built, planted, mowed, bushwhacked, pruned and so on, almost non-stop during the daylight hours since Friday night. I guess that this better-late-than-never spring of ours has finally snapped our farming spirit awake. :)

Bill is thisclose to finishing the new coop and runs. Scarlet and I chipped in where we could, but the coop has been Bill's baby from day one, and I'm glad (and I KNOW he's glad) to see it up and running. The girls are going to paint the coop eventually, red or white, we're thinking, with the back side of the coop (the side facing the street) painted in chalkboard paint so that we can have the girls write up what we have for sale on any given day. Won't that be cute?

Today Scarlet and I put the rest of our peas and carrots in the garden, and sowed one row of French Breakfast radishes. I'll sow another in a few days or a week, so that we have a slight reprieve between waves of ripe radishes. They'll be mostly for the bunnies anyway, so it'd actually be pretty hard to grow too many of them, the way they're eating these days, but I've also seen a few recipes for roasted balsamic radishes that have me intrigued, so I might end up eating a few myself.

The last few things that I need to shimmy into the garden are beets, beans, corn, sunflowers and basil. The wax beans, pole beans and corn are germinating and getting a head start indoors on the seedling heat mat and under the grow lights, while the radishes and peas temporarily occupy their eventual space in the garden. I'm running out of room quickly! I'm debating putting some of the giant greystripe sunflowers in the flower bed, even though we're growing them for food. The little buggers throw a lot of shade when they're big though, so I have to consider carefully where they will work best. Hmmm...

Later today I'm going to plant a tray each of beans and corn to start indoors under the grow light. I sure hope that they transplant well, as I can't remember every having bought either of them as starts in the past. Another garden gamble. ;)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This week in the Garden 5/28/11

We're still chipping away at getting our garden in. Today Scarlet and I planted-

-2 rows of Atomic Red Carrots
-3 cilantro plants
-8 arugula plants
-2 rows of Mesclun Mix lettuce
-2 rows of Red Romaine lettuce
-2 red celery plants (from the school plant sale - woohoo!)
-1 Purple Sicilian Cauliflower (ditto on the plant sale. These weren't exactly flying out the door.)
-1 Lemon Thyme
-1 Spicy Orange Thyme
-1 Hardy Marjoram
-1 Italian Parsley
-1 Dwarf Curry

In Scarlet's Flower Bed-
-2 packets Autumn Beauty sunflowers
-1 packet Lemon Queen sunflowers
-1 packet Annual (wild) sunflowers

I'd meant to get all of the carrots in today, but between what we did plant and exercising the goats, it just didn't happen. The root crops have presented a particular difficulty with our soil. The carrot seed packet suggested that you loosen the soil a foot down for the carrots to penetrate easily. A foot down! Even though we tilled the garden just last week, the rain and hail that we've had off and on since, combined with the clay that was turned up, have made for a very dense layer that doesn't yield to the hoe all that easily.

So instead of digging a foot down, Scarlet and I hoed up little hillocks of soil, and topped them with off with some NuLife Organic Container mix that I have been using for everything this year. I buy it by the bag (or four), but I swear I'd buy it by the ton if they sold it that way. My plants are loving it! I do wish that we'd been able to use our own compost as amendment instead, but on account of our compost only being 9 months old, and the no-heat summer that we had last year, things just didn't break down as much as they should have. The NuLife will hopefully be a fair stand-in.

In addition to the fancy soil, I plan to mulch the holy-heck out of everything just as soon as I can, using my goat pen cleanings. Bill has a friend who raises sheep and uses his poopy straw around his tomatoes and recommends it highly. Sounds good to me.

So all in all we have summer and winter squash, pumpkins, lettuces, tomatoes, celery, herbs, cauliflower, tomatillos & ground cherries all in. Coming soon, weather and physical well-being permitting - more carrots, peas, beans, beets, giant sunflowers and radishes. We're going to sew a few waves of radishes in the spot where the corn will eventually go, since they only take about 20 days to mature, and our soil isn't nearly warm enough yet to plant corn out. I'm actually going to try starting my corn inside to try and skirt the bird/rodent seed pilferage issue. We'll see how that flies I guess!

After we fiddled in the garden, Scarlet and I took the mama goats for a walk up to the chicken yard to munch down some brush. Unfortunately, all they seem to want to eat is the grass, so I had to cut the Scotch Broom down myself and truck it up to the less-finicky wethers who gobbled it down like candy.

Hoooo-wee I'm one tired girl tonight, but it sure does feel good to get out in the dirt and play! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our First Garden

Bill and I (mostly Bill) managed to get our garden plot prepped, tilled and fenced yesterday, and today put in our first few plants. So far we have-

6 Cinderella Pumpkins
5 Sugar Pumpkins
3 Amish Pie Winter Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Early Prolific Yellow Straightneck Summer Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Cocozelle (zucchini) Summer Squash
2 Stupice Tomatoes (indeterminate variety)
4 Principe Borghese Tomatoes (determinate variety)
2 Siberian Tomatoes (determinate variety)
1 Purple Tomatillo (I learned my lesson from last year - one plant's worth of tomatillos is all that we can handle.)
2 Aunt Molly Ground Cherries

In the next few days I hope to get our carrots, beets, herbs, lettuces, beans, peas, sunflowers and celery in. Since we didn't do the mondo-sized garden that we'd hoped to put in, we're just going to have to shimmy things in where we can and hope for the best. We're holding off for a bit yet on putting the corn in, because the soil temperature needs to be at least 65 for the seeds to germinate. That could take a while yet, but we at least have a dwarf, short-season variety that was developed for growing in Alaska, so we may just have a fighting chance of actually getting some corn this year after all. Fingers and toes crossed!

I have just 8 tomato plants in so far, and am wondering if that will be near enough for canning? I haven't picked up a cherry tomato yet either, so maybe I'll have to cruise that farmer's market this weekend and see what pops out at me.

I also have a few oddball seeds that I bought on a whim that I'm not sure will find their place in the garden this year, with space being as limited as it is. Number one is the "Homemade Pickles" variety of cucumbers that I have tried to grow, unsuccessfully twice. Do I bother wasting precious space on a potential flop? I also have some Romanesco Broccoli and Giant Prague Celeraic that I'd like to try, but their relative unpopularity in our kitchen make them a somewhat dicey proposition, considering the garden space that they'd require. My only fail safe here is that if the hubby and kids won't eat something, odds are either the goats or bunnies will. On the fence here. Hmmm....

Anyway, the plants that did make it into the garden today are some of our most core veggie staples, so I feel pretty good about the progress we've made so far, small though it may be. I know that we won't have veggies enough to sell this year, but with any luck we'll at least have enough to can, dehydrate and freeze for ourselves for the coming year. Now as to whether or not we'll come out ahead in terms of what we've spent on tiller rental, deer fencing, plants and seeds, I'm a little doubtful that we'll recoup our investment this first year. But monetary savings is not my chief motivation for growing my own. I get such satisfaction and joy from nurturing my little seeds and starts, and even more so from harvesting them. I'm a nerd for the numbers, so I keep track of every pint and pound that we grow. Having my little checklist of jars and freezer bags full of homegrown goodies is satisfying to my mother/provider instinct/imperative like nothing else.

Now I just need a little blessing from mother nature and some decent weather to see my little plants on their way.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Things I learned in Kinder.... Er, Garden Building

Today we got the garden patch ready (a little late but it's been so cold no biggie...) and here's what I learned.

Lesson 1. Renting a $2.6K piece of equipment for two hours is a good idea because I'll only need it once per year.

Lesson 2. Being cheap and agonizing on the right kind of deer fence is not a good idea because it'll make you go back to the feed store you started at.

Lesson 3. Investing time, dollars, energy and work into protecting your garden from deer will encourage you to hunt in the fall. Furthermore, where I live in the county I can't shoot deer with a gun but I do know how to use a bow! Bambi eats my plants and is delicious.

Lesson 4. Happiness is finishing 9 fence-posts in an hour. A one man auger is my new friend.

Lesson 5. Hot pink duct tape makes a good visibility flag.

Lesson 6. Wanting to finish something in one day is a good thing because you can spend subsequent weekends upgrading instead of stressing about being able to put the garden in.

Lesson 7. Beer tastes better after a long day of manual labor.


BHF ~ Photo of the Day 5/22/11

Two of the seven Long-Toed Salamanders "rescued" and relocated by Scarlet, just ahead of the plow. I think someone has been watching a few too many reruns of Billy the Exterminator. ;)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Putting the Goats to Work

Well, since the milking thing hasn't worked out that well so far, today Scarlet and I tried another angle on getting the goaties to earn their keep. We brought them out on the leash to eat down some tall grass, Scotch broom and out of control alder saplings up by the chicken's yard.

They were initially pretty freaked out by the proximity of the chicken yard to the road. They flinched and tried to bolt the first few times that cars passed, but eventually learned to disregard them. Then there was Bill with his circular saw, working on finishing the new coop. The abrupt whir of the saw spooked them good. If you could call two panicked, madly fleeing goats a stampede (you can't), then I'd call it a stampede. Like the cars though, they got used to the sound of the saw and eventually all ventured a sniff, only to be shooed away by a mildly annoyed Papa.

They ate 'til their bellies were full and they could no longer ignore the cries of their babies calling them back to nurse. We walked the girls back up the hill to the pen, or rather, they walked us. We didn't make a huge amount of headway on the brush, but I think we'll keep chipping away at it. I think the goats enjoyed the outing, and I liked getting to sit in my lawn chair in the chicken yard, sipping coffee and playing shepherdess for the day. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eggs for Sale!

$4.00/dozen for our beautiful, free-range organic eggs. Brought to you by these lovely laydies-

Amelia, Rose & Anabelle

Miss Cotton


Drop by or give us a shout at livysmom27 at yahoo dot com to get your farm fresh eggs! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring, she has finally Sprung!

And about darned time too! It's only 4 weeks until the official start of summer, and we're only just now having multiple rain-free, even sunny days in a row. The weather here is weirder and more unpredictable every year, which plays hell with my mental faculties and my planting schedule.

Thus far, I've only put a few of my hardier plants out - the peas, potatoes, raspberries & rhubarb are all in, to be followed shortly by pretty much everything else this coming week. Bill and I have made peace with the fact that we won't be getting the "big" garden in this year like we had hoped, as we're running quite late, and are already overwhelmed by a never ending project list. That seems to be our story at every turn - two steps behind and projects popping up double time. UHG.

I'm not going to let the dream of the big garden and it's cobbled paths and deer fences die, I'm just going to have to send it to the back of the line for now. We bit off a lot with this farm, and for the sake of our family's collective blood pressure, we're going to have to let a few things go for a while.

Things that have been put on hold or scratched altogether- turkeys :(, meat chickens, cheese making, doing something with the bog, the big garden, keeping bees.

The things that are still on - expanding the egg-laying flock (done!), getting goats (done!), milking goats (stalled :\), building a big new coop (almost done!), putting in additional orchard trees (in progress), squeaking in a small kitchen garden (this weekend), & fixing the pasture fences (God knows when, but it HAS to be done.)

Not to mention our wine & beer making, canning & preserving, fishing, foraging, etc. We always have a full plate!

At least the weather is on our side now. If this no rain thing holds for another two weeks or so, I think that the bottomland might finally dry out. No more wiping out in the mud with an armful of hay - imagine it! ;)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Wheel in the Bog Keeps on Turnin'

We lost two more roos this past week. Uhg! And we had house guests at the time who wanted to know, (perhaps interpreting our seasoned acceptance of a farm animals untimely deaths as a something like callousness toward loss?), how often does a critter kick the bucket around here?

Too often.

We're learning as we go, and even though we try our darndest to give our critters the longest, happiest lives possible, shit happens. Like our surprise litter of bunnies, born in January. Had we any idea that Goldie was in fact a boy and had impregnated Cinderella, we could have moved them inside or at least better prepared the hutch for the babies' coming. But we didn't and we couldn't, so we lost them.

And now it's the chickens that we're struggling with. Our last Polish rooster just up and died, as did Queenie the Turken, who turned out to be a roo, but didn't live long enough to receive his name change. :( We're not sure what's happening. We've just started letting them out in the run daily, and we've recently switched them up from crumbles to pellets. Is it too much change too soon? Who knows.

To answer our guests' question, we did a hasty, grim count of our critters that have passed on since we established this little farm in August. I believe we arrived at 29 souls. Sheez! That's more animals than we had altogether when we moved to this place.
Most of that number are chickens, including the evil roos that did not die naturally, but ended up being someone else's dinner. Only one was a goat, and she was stillborn, though she looked tiny but perfect to my biased eye.

All of the passings have been met with sadness, but I think that over time I've become somewhat tempered to the gutting despair of a loss by the recurring guilt and shock of it. You can't have a stay-in-your-pj's-and-cry day every time a chick doesn't make it. The kids don't tend to take it as bad as they used to, but every once in a while a "special" animal dies and they lose it a little. I hope that they are never hardened or take lightly the passing of a life, but I do hope that their little spirits aren't dented by this life too much either.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lucky #13

Gert finally had her baby. Just one, a little girl, at around 11pm last night, Mother's Day. Kinda nutty considering that our bunnies we're born on a friend's birthday, Chardy's baby goats were born on another friend's birthday, Fritzen's on Valentines Day, and now Gert on Mother's Day. Weird!

We're still mulling over names for the baby. Bill likes Lucky, as in Lucky 13, but I'm maybe a little too superstitious to name anything Lucky.

Anyway, mother and baby are both looking good. Gert has been very protective of her little bambina, bleating and lunging at the other Mamas and babies that come to check them out. Very un-Gertie-like, but understandable for all that.

Here are some snaps of the proud new Mama and her sweet little girl -