Surprise!! We are all still here! Since the end of the fence construction we went straight into spring. It is the busiest time of year all on it’s own, but of course, just planting isn’t all that goes on. Now that the gardens are well on their way I thought I should at least acknowledge that we still exist. I have been doing this blog for about 8 years now and I don’t want it to get monotonous. Actually, I’m not really sure if anyone actually reads it. I guess I do it for future posterity. Assuming an internet still exists sometime down the road, it is a nice way to record everything we have done here – readers or not.
I am taking time today to do this because I am playing nurse. Basil the farm dog has been with us since we bought this place and launched into this grand self-sufficiency experiment. This past week she just up and stopped eating. Now if any of you have ever had experience with Labrador Retrievers you know that something ain’t right. More often than not she eats her food so fast it is likely that she doesn’t even taste it. Noticing that, she became the third animal in a string of three inside of 2 weeks that needed a vet’s attention. First, we had a baby goat that got stepped on by one of our donkeys and is now in a splint for 2 months. Oh the crying and lamenting going on because she can’t be with her other sisters! We let her out once in awhile just to give her some attention and it doesn’t last long due to the unauthorized hopping and tearing around that ensues. She is alive only because I have other people in my life. We could make another one that looks just like her in short order so you can bet on the fact that she WILL behave. Vet visits are expensive.
Next up on the vet list was one of our pigs. We have breeding pairs of American Guinea Hogs. It is a bit of a different experience than just buying babies, raising them up and sending them to freezer camp. The adult female, Petunia, went lame. She couldn’t (and still really can’t) put any weight on her front right foot. We read up on it, of course, and discovered to our surprise, that pigs need to have their hooves trimmed. Who knew!? So we figured that that must be the case. It is easy to trim goat hooves and the Ferrier comes out to do the donkey’s hooves, but how does one trim the hooves of a 250 pound hog that is in pain? They are pretty sweet and docile animals, but still…. she wasn’t likely to be terribly cooperative. So we called the vet out. Two of us pinned her to the ground while the doctor set to giving Petunia a manicure. Unfortunately, that didn’t solve the problem. So now, once a day for the next couple of weeks we are hiding pills of Meloxicam inside hardboiled eggs. Evidently, pigs are susceptible to arthritis in their ankles and the pills are helping her to reduce inflammation and lessen the pain. She is a registered Guinea Hog so we didn’t want to give up right away but if she doesn’t improve she will probably have to be bacon. We have a new little pair that I got from Kansas, so we have another female coming up (Polly).
Then we come to Basil. She is feeling so badly. Upon seeing her not eat and then realizing that she was likely losing weight, not because of her diet but because of being sick, off to the vet we went. She has an exceptionally high White Blood Cell count, a liver enzyme out of whack, and up until today she had a 104+ temperature when normal is 101. It helps not one bit when the vet calls it “A fever of unknown origin.” So she went on some pills for her liver, antibiotics for whatever the infection might be, and pain pills. After a few days she had not improved. We took her back and they admitted her to their vet hospital and was there for 2 days. So as not to bore you with details, she is now on a different anti-biotic and Prednisone (Steroid). This has succeeded in getting her fever down and she is eating her food – All pluses. However, she is as lethargic as ever and they have noticed that she has an enlarged spleen. This can be a sign of cancer (Which I had been asking about since this started – have had animals go through this before). So now we wait. As Basil is really my only in-person friend other than Zina and Aaron, this has been pretty depressing. How long do you prolong things like this? I guess we will just keep playing it by ear. If nothing changes, then the next step is going to get her an ultrasound. I’m thinking that at that stage we will need to face the music. Labs don’t live that long to begin with, but they totally steal your heart while they are around. She is one sweet beastie. She was an alpha female, which made her almost impossible to train. They seem to think they own the place and you exist to serve them. Personality – wise, she has been quite a challenge. But no matter the challenges, we certainly don’t want her to go. Her little sister, Sage, is very confused by it all.
I don’t have many pictures of the gardens this year for obvious reasons. But we have been working diligently on food storage. Due to the Bat Bug Industrial Complex and it’s resulting supply chain disruptions, it has been a real issue trying to source canning lids. After waiting for 18 months, we finally got some from Lehman’s. They are their own brand, not authentic Ball lids, but I trust Lehman’s for their homesteading products so we are pretty well stocked. BUT! So as not to get caught like this again, we investigated Freeze Drying. We already have dehydrators that simply heat up the food and blow hot air on it to make it store-able. We Can, freeze and ferment as well. But Freeze Drying made some sense to add to our food storage repertoire. It retains 97% of the food’s nutritional value and if you store the results in sealed mylar bags with an added Oxygen absorber, it can last for 25 years. Harvest Right makes really the only machine on the market. Fortunately, it has been all the rave on the homesteader websites. So we bit the bullet and purchased their medium sized unit. Since it’s arrival it has run non-stop. We have tried several fruits for fun, and have started to freeze dry our sweet corn and our green beans. Because almost anything that doesn’t have a high oil or sugar content can be freeze dried, this will help to ensure that nothing we grow or produce will go to waste… including meat! We still have many many pounds of potatoes from last year’s harvest frozen in the freezers and this season’s potatoes are just about ready to be dug up from the gardens. By using this contraption we will save huge amounts of room in our deep freezes and it will also last much much longer than had we canned it.
We have also gotten our little dairy operation going full swing. I have just dried off (stopped milking) two of our little goats. I have been teaching myself cheese making and so far have had great success making Yogurt, Mozzarella Cheese, Colby, Cheddar and Monterey. In the past couple of weeks we have been finally able to cut a couple of them open (after having aged properly) and wouldn’t you know it, it tastes like cheese! They all have a bit sharper taste because of the more tart nature of goat’s milk, but we are fans! So in September we will breed three of our ladies in anticipation of more miking in the spring. Anybody want baby goats?? They are ridiculously cute and we can’t keep them all.
Because our little goat flock has been growing (Between the bucks and the does we are now at 13), it became necessary to rethink our pen situation. Goats are pretty rambunctious critters and we needed a way of separating them in order to get the right one’s out at the right time for milking and to separate the babies at night. Again, with the supply chain disruptions, the new gates took MONTHS to arrive. Finally, they showed up and that created yet another project. No wonder I am so behind with the farm blog. Aaron is supposed to create a new drone video so keep an eye out for that. I think this turned out great and it is so much more practical than the big single pen we had.
And of course, there is the never ending sourcing of feed and hay. Because of the drought and what seems to be corn and grain crop failures, the bags of feed have increased by about 15%. So I ordered a bunch and stored it in the barn. As our main source for hay irrigates his land to raise it, I was able to get enough to likely get us through to next spring. Gotta get it when you can find it! It is very frustrating to get low and not be able to find it. Answer, don’t get low. 3300 lbs of hay and 6000 pounds of feed…. check. With my back the way it is, I was happy to have Aaron’s help. Not to mention that it has been one seriously HOT summer.
So that pretty much gets us up to speed. Oh ya, we have a new flock of turkeys and Aaron and I need to reconfigure how their coop and run are set up. Not a big deal but we are always looking for ways to make things more efficient. These little guys/gals are “Spanish Blacks”. Very cute with black bodies, white heads and big ol’ eyes. This picture was when they just arrived. They are now out in the world running around in the grow-out pen.
So now that we are into August and the garden is moving into harvest mode, there will be more on how it all worked. We have a goat hut to build, the turkey coop to re-jigger and a pen to make for our boar pigs, but nothing excessive. Oh ya, we are having a battle trying to deter, catch and dispatch an egg eating skunk that figured out how to get into the chicken coop. Gotta be careful because that can be one stinky affair.
I have become the homestead/farmer I had hoped this place would allow me to become. I must say, that by enclosing the place, closing the gates, declaring the homestead infrastructure complete, I am finding a piece of mind I have never had before. I live my life anymore by the acronym “IDGAF”. I realize now that so much of what brought me to this point had been from dealing with a level of insanity that negates any assertion that humans are the “most intelligent species on the planet.” We most decidedly are not. Sane creatures don’t destroy their habitat. So as not to use this new awful word, “Woke”, I will use “Enlightened”. If you want to know what I mean, check your baggage at the gates up by the entrance and come spend some time just sitting with the donkeys. You will see what I mean. Become a Hobbit. Drop out and come to your senses. This way of life will certainly help you do it. Peace.