The Boy Goats Get A Home

Aaron and I got the fencing put up so the bucklings couldn’t escape.  They will be living in the grassy run area around the chicken coop.  The girls will stay over with the donkeys.  This should help to prevent unchaperoned breeding!  Tank and Dozer are the cutest little guys.  They are as sweet as the girls and actually are somewhat less demanding.

Aaron and I also built what we have named “The Bomb Shelter”.  It is a stack of cinder blocks and railroad ties we had lying around.  Because goats love having things to climb and hop around on, this gives them a place to play king of the castle.  It is also open underneath which gives them a place to get out of the sun.

To let then live among the chickens, the puzzle was how to keep them from getting at the chicken feed.  While they would love to eat it, it is very bad for them.  Goats, like cows, are ruminants.  This means they eat primarily grass, weeds and leaves.  Corn and other grains can cause “bloat”.  This comes from their inability to digest something and it can be fatal quickly.

So far, all is going well.  They lived up to their billing as being incredibly energetic.  It was explained to me while learning about them that keeping goats is like giving a three year old a hammer.  Yep.  Good description.

Tank eating out of the new feeder I built (Still needs a cover).

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Maybe if I eat from the side I can get my head in there farther.

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The Bomb Shelter (we figure it has to way close to 2000 lbs).

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King of the castle.

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I dare ya to knock me off!

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This buffet is pretty tasty!  I loves me some thistles!

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Dozer

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The Baby Boys

Here are a couple of shots of the new baby boy goats.  They get to go play at the bomb shelter when they have finished weaning.  Tank is the black one and Dozer is the patchwork boy.

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The Donkeys Have Roomates. Baaaaaaa!

Now that I am at the farm full time, we have been able to start building the livestock aspect of the farm.  The chickens and pigs were easy.  They could be set up on automatic waterers, bulk food and solar sensitive coop doors.  They required little maintenance during the week.  However, anything that needs hay is a whole different world.  The donkeys need their hooves cleaned, need fresh water, need fresh hay, and, of course human attention.

In keeping with our wanting to become more and more self-sufficient we have added a small flock of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Frankly, cows are too big and are a pain.  I’ve had a lot of experience being around them, but they are very large animals and we didn’t want them rubbing the fences which would require maintenance and dealing with something that large (900 – 1200 lbs) when we don’t eat a lot of beef.  So we investigated, and then purchased our little babies!  Nigerians get to about 70 lbs. which is the size of a moderately large dog.  These little sweeties aren’t raised for meat.  In addition to being pets, they have very high butterfat content in their milk.  It is our intention to 1. Milk them when they are old enough.  2.  Use the milk for making soap and 3. Cheese.  All of this to be made by a simple combination of pasture grazing, hay and water!

I knew quite a bit about the other creatures we have raised but these little buggers took some investigating.  They can come down with all sorts of health issues and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get caught off guard.  The girls arrived about a month ago.  They are Ginger (the patchwork baby), Cumin (The Chocolate one) and Paprika (the rusty colored one).  This past Sunday (will need to post pictures) our two little boys arrived.  Tank is all black with frosty white ears and nose and Dozer is a patchwork like Ginger.

Goats have an incredible amount of energy and personality.  They want, and demand, attention, just like dogs.  They follow you around all over and because they are currently pretty tiny, they can get underfoot without you knowing it.  These guys are the reason for all of the extensive fence building.  They are little escape artists so things need to be secure.

The youngest donkey has established his territory.  He does NOT like them coming into HIS corral.  He isn’t mean, but he will chase them off and the pecking order is being established.  Not much of a contest between a 15 pound doeling and a 300 pound donkey.  It has all been very entertaining.

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The Farm Doubled In Size.. Beginning With Donkeys and…. Turkeys!

As I limped back to health and got back on my feet, the new garden beds got built, the barn got constructed (we just had power run to it) and the pasture fence got built.  The donkeys arrived and in the whole process we brought in turkeys and built a coop  for them to gobble in!  We have 15 “Bourbon Red” cheepers.  They aren’t quite as bright as chicken babies.  We had to teach them how to eat and drink because they kept eating the pine saving bedding while they were in the brooder.  We lost a couple as a result but we have a healthy flock of 13.  We have no idea how many are Toms or Hens yet.  Our goal is to raise them for meat and to hatch out their eggs to keep our flock going.  They are very sweet and have been trying out their new wings.  Turkeys like to fly and roost in trees so we are going to have to clip their flight wings (which is completely painless to them).  Turkeys don’t lay eggs year round like chickens so when they mature we will be hatching them in our incubator when that starts to happen.  More fun!  We eat far more ground turkey than beef so this made perfect sense to us.IMG_2436IMG_1435IMG_2747

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Populating the Farm

No sooner did the barn get completed and the fencing all stretched and wired shut than two new members of the JAZ Farm appeared.  Meet Julio and Donavan (Donny)!

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These guys are two gelding (castrated) male miniature donkeys.  Julio is the old man (around 20) and Donny is around 13.  There is a donkey rescue shelter about 20 minutes from us.  We did some research and discovered that donkeys are great for small farms.  They are intruder alerts, great companions, and do very well with other animals (except canines).  While they don’t serve a food purpose like everything else here does, they are great protectors.  We have all manner of predator out here and they will sound the alarm if they ever show up.  Its not perfect, but when I was down and hurt, we got badly raided by a fox and he/she took out 22 of our 40 laying hens.  They will be a first line of defense and alert should it show up again.  The new barn is going to be housing these two guys along with half a dozen goats, 15 Turkeys and chickens that get housed over there when being brooded out.

The learning curve was actually quite shallow.  They are very sturdy animals and can withstand a lot.  The two things that need to be monitored is how much they eat (over-weight donkeys can get very sick) and ensuring that they have a non-stop supply of water.  The rest is kind of academic .  They deal with the heat with little issue and we only have to blanket them when the temps are in the low teens (like today).

As usual, we went to see the place this past Saturday.  We knew they had the boys, but Zina wanted to see some girls too…. until she actually saw them in person.  They were trailered out to us that afternoon!  They are the sweetest buggers.  Julio will just stand next to you waiting for butt scratching and Donny will follow him around like a shadow.  He is still a little skittish and won’t really let us pet him yet, but he let me clean his hoofs, trailer and lead him around, and pet him while he was still at the shelter.  He is younger and on higher alert than his partner.

Donkeys need to be adopted or purchased in pairs.  They bond with other donkeys and if the partner is taken away or passes away they actually will grieve for days just like a person.  So if Julio were to go, we would take Donny back to the shelter and see who he might bond to next and then bring them home as a pair.  We hope that is long into the future as donkeys can live 30 – 50 years!  They might even outlast us!

Here are the first pictures of the first couple of days:

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And of course when we brought them home it was 67 degrees.  Here is what we woke up to this morning.

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As long as they have hay and you have some treats in your pockets, they will pretty much stay by your side and follow you around.  They are WAY less work than horses and much much less high strung.  They are going to be great fun.

So this year is going to see the livestock ramped back up.  These two arrived Saturday afternoon, we have the dogs, of course (who are losing their minds over this – they will not be allowed in with them as the donkeys could hurt them and could frighten them pretty badly).  In April, the goats will arrive and 35 new laying hens.  The first week of May the broiler chicks arrive. The end of May the Turkeys arrive.  If we decide we like the goats, then sometime toward fall we will be getting a buck for breeding and a little wether (castrated male) as his companion.  Anytime during that time frame two little pigs will be added who will be destined for freezer camp.  We are also looking for a gilt (baby girl pig) that we can raise to be bred for an ongoing source of bacon seeds.

This week I will start to fill cubes with potting soil, fire up the lights and the timers downstairs in the seedling room, and planting season will begin again.  While I’m not 100 percent and I fatigue pretty quickly, I had a great check up about my back and it is just time and strengthening to keep me moving in the right direction.  Considering the hell I was enduring a year ago and how 2016 and 2017 transpired, I couldn’t be happier with the progress.  The animals are really not a lot of work and once the gardens are in, they need weeding and fertilizing.

I was told that in order to recover from both my old career and the trauma from my injury that I needed to live life in “The Center”.  Not getting to rev-d up and anxious and not dropping into the lap of my old friend depression.  Find a center.  I likened that to the PH scale where 1 was most acidic and 14 most alkaline.  Right in the middle is 7, neutral.  Thats where I am planting my flag.  Neutral.  It is a lot like finding the Zen middle path, which is where I’ve always wanted to be.  I’m finding that being out here on the farm full time is affording me that mindset.  The animals aren’t demanding, spoiled, or, for that matter, psychotic like the world seems to have become.  I simply could not have endured my career through this administration.  With animals, you know where you stand (usually involving manure!).  They need water, food, shelter and companionship.  They accept you for who you are and don’t make you feel like crap if you do something wrong.

We have found our niche.  I have no plans to leave here for any extended period of time.  We believed that we should build a life we don’t need a vacation from….. JAZ Farm is that place.

The Barn Passed Inspection!

The Livestock barn passed muster today!  So no sooner did that happen, the guys were out laying out the lean to.  I set to work flattening the dirt floor with my tractor and then brought in the gates to verify that I had the spacing correct (and I was dying to actually see if it matched what I had in my head). I also got to assemble the new goat hay feeders and was very pleased to see how stout they are.  It’s funny, I get such a clear picture in my mind about how something should come together, that when it actually shows up out onto the earth, it’s not a big deal.  My thought is usually, “Yep, that’s it!”

Tomorrow I will be unloading 25 sheets of plywood and start the process of putting them on the walls.  Between the insulated ceiling, hay stacked 6 high against the back wall, and boards to create airspace on the sides, it ought to be a rather comfortable critter hotel.

I’ll be in Vegas next week for the World Archery Championships.  When I get back, we should be all set to bring in the hoofed creatures.  Oh ya, I heard back from my solar guru and the battery company actually came through.  They are giving us a big discount on the battery replacements and it will cost about half of what I expected!  It’s nice to catch a break from time to time!

 

New hay feeder

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Goat Hilton

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Donkey pavilion

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Loads of room for stanchions and hay storage

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Getting Caught Up

It’s been a wild year.  I apologize for going so long without updating the blog but it has been a tough summer.  I’ve been going through, lets just say, an illness, and I haven’t felt much like blogging.  We managed to bring the garden in and the food processed and the pigs processed, but between that and the hell that I call work, I have been somewhat reclusive. 2017 looks like it has the potential to destabilize our world in a way that we thought was behind us and that we were better than.  I’m having to kind of start all over mentally and physically.  While some folks don’t always show scars and can put on a happy and professional face, it doesn’t mean the problems aren’ t there.  Let’s just say that 2017 will bring many changes.  But in the meantime, lets show you what has been going on.

The Garden:

We were plagued by grasshoppers this year.  They really made the plants have to work hard to grow.  Some did well, some didn’t.  We lost most of our hard bean crop, the potatoes produced but were very small and many of the herbs were feasted upon.  The Squash and the melons got attacked as well but they did quite well anyway.  The onions, beets, carrots, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, tomatillos and the Blackberries did pretty well and the canners ran for days and days as we worked to get things preserved.

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Because we had so many tomatoes we made lots of Salsacanning-2016-2

The onion harvest was crazy.  However, not all of them were storage quality, so we made quarts and quarts of canned French Onion soup.  The quarts up on the counter are chicken soup and chilicanning-2016-3

The Tomatillos lost their minds. They really like to grow here.  So we made Tortilla soup.canning-2016-4

The potatoes struggled because of the grasshoppers.  They weren’t a good enough quality to store in the cellar so we canned as many of them as we could.  They work great as pan fried, mashed, and in soups or stews.canning-2016-5

We found some strains of onions that do well here (and love Chicken Manure fertilizer).  We found some mesh bags and we tied them up and hanged them in the basement.  These should keep for several months.  Considering how many recipes use onions we will likely go through them with no trouble.hanging-onion-1onion-hanging-2

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I have really burned out mentally.  I brought on a partner at work to help relieve some of the strain.  After training him and introducing him to my clients I am thrilled to know that I will be able to take the entire planting season and summer off from work.  I haven’t had a real vacation in 30 years and if my clients want me to stick around, they’d best understand why I’m doing this.  I love em all but I refuse to die because of someone else’s financial whoas.  I desperately need to “Live Like a Hobbit” for a few months.  Either that or I need to quit altogether.  At this point, both are on the table.hobbit

We contacted the Dumb Friends League this year and picked up a couple of “working cats” or what ranchers and farmers call Barn Cats.  Their job is to hunt and eat mice.  We think they are doing their jobs.  They are quite feral so they are not looking for human companionship.  This is allegedly where they sleep.  We know they are around because the food and water disappears.  But this picture shows how much we know about them and what they look like.

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One of the funniest things that happened this fall was washing a chicken in the kitchen!  Yes you read that right.  We had taken the pigs to freezer camp the week before.  However, their wallow was still sloppy and muddy.  The chickens love to go into the pig pen and scratch around and eat any remnants of food left behind.  One evening Zina was out rounding the hens up to put them to bed and she noticed one was still in the pig pen.  When she got closer she saw that it had gotten into the wallow and was stuck up to her wings in mud.  The rescue attempt involved putting a plank out onto the mud, pull the chicken out and bring her into the house to rinse her off.  She was amazingly docile and is now doing well, but now we can honestly say we gave a chicken a bath in our kitchen.  I feel so fulfilled!

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We have commenced work decommissioning the gardens in the city.  We have decided to sell that house because the equity in the place will pay off the farm.  Zina and Aaron will maintain an apartment instead and I will pretty much live full time at the farm.  I lugged the boards we used for the raised beds to construct compost bins for the garden waste and chicken litter.  This past year we spread the composted chicken litter on the garden beds.  While it was terrific as fertilizer it was also full of herbicide resistant Amaranth seeds that sprouted the second we applied water to the beds.  This is an attempt to try to keep those down.  There were thousands of those infernal plants.

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Our newest members of the flock started producing in October and even with the shortening of the days into the winter we have never had a shortage of breakfast food.

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I never thought I’d see the day when our country could become so divided.  This was the unfortunate discovery of the fall.  We have a militia training facility about 7 miles from the farm.  These folks are pretty “out there” and I hope they have sense enough to leave well enough alone.  That mound of dirt running along the upper third of the picture is actually a big horseshoe shape containing a very large shooting range.  I fear our country has lost it’s mind and could be considered clinically insane.

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So as the farm progresses we have decided to start breeding pigs ourselves instead of buying piglets to raise.  We have some fences and pens to complete but if all goes right we will have a Hampshire Sow and Boar to raise in the next year.  If successful, the sale of the piglets we don’t want to keep should pay for the feed and thus allow us to have our meat for free (minus the physical exertion of raising them and processing them).  A lot of folks do that out here and between eggs, chicken, and pork, we see a way to completely offset our grocery bill.  That would make us, food bill, electric bill, water bill, house payment and car payment free.  Someone in this household is one hell of a financial planner!

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I thought this shirt was cool so I ordered it!

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The puppies had a ball this Christmas.  They could smell that there were treats amongst the gifts and when Christmas morning arrived they couldn’t wait to join in!

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So there you have it y’all!  The JAZ Farm has progressed despite our silence.  Not only are we looking forward to the growing season in 2017, the new pigs, and ordering our new meat chickens for the year, we will be hatching some of our new layers with our incubator, moving from the city, paying off the farm, taking the summer off, building a livestock barn, fencing in a pasture and perhaps, if the timing works, buying some pet goats to help with the lawn mowing.  If there is one thing that can be said for our homesteading/prepping project its this:  It Is Always An Adventure!  Happy New Year everyone!