I Guess It Is High Time To Get Caught Back Up

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.

Rosemary the invalid

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).

Pedro and Polly. The newest additions to the farm.

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.

Dad, I feel like shit

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.

Beans…. never ending beans
The new food storage toy

Freeze dried sweet corn

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.

The cheese press in action
Our first Cheddar!

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.

Goat prison cells

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.

Loaded to the gills

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.

A Cheese Is Coming, My Precious

The last livestock project that we have been learning about has to do with dairy. We could never use all of the milk that would come from a family cow, like a Jersey. At peak production they can give two or more gallons of milk per day! As we are not really milk drinkers, except for cream in our coffee or Zina’s occasional pancakes, it didn’t make much sense to pursue. I have been around cows a lot in my years and I must say that if a bovine were to take up residency here it would be for beef. That being said, however, we do eat a fair amount of cheese. Not mountains of course, but if you have been following along for any length of time, you know that if it is something we can make ourselves, that is what is going to happen. Our goats are little Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They are sweet, easy to handle, and have milk with a very high fat content. In their peak production we get between a quart and half a gallon a day per goat. So to insure that the babies get what they need, we never take them away from the mommas except at night. Over time the mothers will self wean. They can be milked for about 8 months and throughout that time the milk output begins to slowly decline. She gets to rest for a year and then can go again. It also allows us to only milk once a day instead of twice and avoids all the bottle feeding nonsense.

With the recent births from Ginger and Paprika, we have gotten into full milking swing. Yogurt will be happening soon and we have also made Chèvre (kind of a tart cream cheese). The next one to master is going to be Mozzarella. It is fairly simple to do and it is also the next one I thought was interesting in my cheese making book. Once I get that down, it will be on to the hard cheeses. The press arrived yesterday and now our little dairy operation is staffed, geared up, and making milk.

As with any new venture, there are always some pitfalls. The grumpy old farmer doesn’t always take those in stride. There are two things that can drive me to hysterics: techno – gizmos that think I need to be a computer nerd to make them work and unforeseen hassles where the solution isn’t readily available. Zina and I have both agreed that being raised by perfectionists have set the bars for success at unattainable heights. Ginger is producing a huge amount of milk, but Paprika is not producing much of anything and hates the whole milking process. Well….. why? Why are you doing this to ME!? Stupidity at it’s finest. Poor thing. So back once again to the Google gods to ask for the answers to all of life’s pressing questions.

Paprika is the lowest lady in the flock. She has always been something of a reject by the rest of the girls. Head-butting may look playful, but there is a real dominance, submission thing happening. Of all the flock, she was also the most slender and petite. In fact, we were never really sure that she was pregnant. We probably should have gotten a clue prior to breeding as she was always the one almost desperate to get the treats when we would feed them. She was hungry because she wasn’t getting her fair share of hay.

The Google gods informed us thusly: If a goat is too skinny and doesn’t have much in the way of fat reserves, she will have difficulty making milk. It can cause issues with calcium deficiencies and make it difficult to even make enough milk for her babies. BINGO! It seems that she simply doesn’t have the internal energy for production. With us trying to milk her, it was also depriving her baby of necessary nutrients (Poppy is doing fine, fortunately). So we have taken her out of the milking rotation and will be isolating her at feeding time to make sure she is getting enough to eat and try to fatten her up a bit. I may be a big, surly, grumpy, old dude, but I have a soft spot for the critters even when they piss me off to the point of a stroke. I will be going out to pet Paprika this evening, smooch on her and ask forgiveness of not seeing the signs sooner and, well, just being a dick. Animals are insanely forgiving. We could learn a great deal from them.

Paprika and the kids.

Perhaps if we breed her again after having gotten her the food she needs, things will be different. Next up for breeding, Cumin, Cinnamon and Clover…. Dozer is going to have SO much fun! P.S. The new electric milker is awesome!

Spring Is Actually Arriving!

Spring is actually coming. Of course we are expecting a snowstorm today, but it is the week here to start planting seedling in the basement grow room! Soon the big lights will be running and the new plants will begin their journey to the gardens. The annual garden grid is up and, of course, I do most of it in pencil because it always changes. This year we are moving all of the tomatoes (as usual) and the peppers, into the greenhouse. Some reading up on peppers indicated that they should do much better here under the cover of the greenhouse and the shade cloth. We usually have quite a large pepper harvest but the fruit always look like they fought a bit of a battle. It will be interesting to see if the protection and elevated humidity (versus none) help them out. One gardener said they saw a 500% increase. Doubt we will see that, but if the peppers are larger it would be fun.

But, before the hot weather plants go outside, the cool weather crops get to perform first. As we aren’t even to March yet, there are 3 months until our big plant in dates (usually around Memorial Day). Given the wild weather swings because we broke the Jet Stream, even if it looks like the temperatures are clear, buyer beware. Last year we put things out about 10 days too soon and we ended up scrambling with row covers to keep things from freezing to death before they even had a chance. In the next couple of weeks the Broccoli and Cauliflower and Spinach will get planted into the greenhouse. We still may need to use row covers (I have no doubt), but these three plants do pretty well in cold weather. Next up will be planting out onions and shallots, but that is still a ways off. Once it is time to plant in the peppers and tomatoes, the Broccoli and Cauliflower will be out and frozen and the same with the Spinach.

The newest addition to the main garden space will be the creation of a Blackberry hedge. This will be along the fence that Aaron and I put in last spring. There will be 24 bushes along the south side and will use the fence as a trellis. The irrigation will simply come from an extension of the hoses used to water the apple trees. More plowing, hole drilling, drip irrigation and composting will ensue. We should see those plants arrive sometime around the end of April. They come bare root, so initially they will go into pots and then, when the plot is ready, be planted in then.

In planning the garden we always have to assess what we actually need. If you have enough of something that you might never go through, why plant it, etc. I had planned on using one of our 50 foot beds to plant sweet corn. Out here that can be hit or miss, and we have a great source for sweet corn in Boulder. I have been doing the low carb thing lately so the sweet corn would likely just sit in the freezer and maybe end up getting fed to the chickens. So it was with that thought to feeding the animals that caused a shift in plans. Between that and the enormous potato harvest we had this past year, it was actually getting a little difficult to come up with enough plants to fill up all the beds. Enter the critters. American Guinea Hogs are walking scrap eaters. When we got them all the literature said how great they are as you can feed them on mostly grass and table scraps. Unfortunately, we are lacking in both so we have been feeding them store bought alfalfa pellets and pig feed. That isn ‘t too much of a problem but it is still having to turn dollars into pork. I read an article that talked about planting animal plots. They include vegetables that can be used by both humans and animals so nothing really gets wasted. While raw potatoes can be toxic to pigs, boiled ones are not. Pigs are natural rooters, so things like beets and turnips can be fed to them as well. This way we have ready potential pork to feed extra potatoes to and we can store both those and the beets and turnips I am going to plant in the corn bed, in burlap sacks. While this won’t eliminate the need for purchased feed, I can plant hundreds of root vegetables for a few bucks whereas pig feed is 15 bucks for a 50 pound sack. They will eat the roots, greens and all. Brilliant!

BIRDS EVERYWHERE!

Yesterday was the early spring cleaning of the chicken coops. This is probably the nastiest job on the farm. Unfortunately it is a job one can’t ignore if you grow food without fertilizer. Chicken crap is pure gold. It goes from chicken feed to eggs to poop to tomatoes (Both the humans and the pigs eat the eggs). We have never added commercial fertilizer of any kind to the beds since we bought the place. The animals make all we need. However, that cleaning job is a real butt buster. Not only is it simply no fun (it is after all just cleaning out an enormous bird cage) it is insanely dusty. In my case, and Zina’s too, being a bit asthmatic, that dust just locks up your lungs. As it is also quite a bit of exertion, the choice is made whether to inhale the dust and not be able to breath that night, or wear a bandana and pass out from lack of oxygen. It usually winds up being a combination of the two. Truly, if my locked up lungs last night are any indication of what a bad case of the Roney Virus is like, I am not going out into the world ever again.

However, the birds are all cleaned up, the new compost from it is over in the garden area waiting to be used, the coops smell nice again, and I like eggs and fresh chicken….. things could be worse.

As I had posted previously, we put an outdoor brooder in the barn this year. We did it because we were wanting to eliminate the need to have to start baby chicks in the house. They need to stay in a warm environment for about 4 weeks while they feather out and then they go out into a grow out coop before either going in with the flock or to the freezer camp resort hotel (You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave). We have 52 roasters coming next week (52 because that is where there is a price break). Of course, weather being unpredictable like it is now, we are expecting the first part of March to be too cold for them to be out in the new brooder (even with the heat lamps). We lost a bunch last year for the same reason….. live and learn. Soooooooo, back in the house comes the big tank, heat lamps, wood chips, and feed in anticipation of many small cheepers taking up residence in the basement. Fortunately though, after about 10 days to 2 weeks (instead of 4 weeks) we will be able to move them out to the new cage as they will be partially feathered and the lamps out there will be ample. The last week of a 4 week stint is pretty nasty. The whole house starts to smell like chickens and there gets to be a thin layer of dust settling over everything. This way shouldn’t be all bad. By the time they go out into the grow out pen, it will be April and they will have their adult feathers. Besides, you have never eaten chicken until you have had one raised right outside your door. This is a bit of a hassle (processing is a big job) but we never complain at dinner time.

THE GOATS HAVE EXPLODED!

We have posted about our new goat babies. I don’t think there are many animals as cute as baby goats. By now they are about 3 weeks and are hopping about playing dodge the donkeys. It is always so entertaining to see them learning howt to use their springy legs and seeing the wide open world under momma’s supervision. After 2 weeks the milking begins. This is Ginger’s second round of babies so milking her is pretty simple. Because she had 5 kids she is pretty full and I imagine having some of the milk removed in the morning is a welcome relief. That little lady is producing about 1/3 of a gallon in a morning! Momma Paprika is a completely different story. She is petite to begin with and doesn’t seem to understand this whole milking thing (“What are YOU DOING back there!!??”). To be fair, it is her first time, I am human, and neither one of us is known for our patience. When she doesn’t want to be touched she simply kicks at you and lays down. I pick her up by her tail, she kicks and lays down. Oh well, it will come around. But not all goats are great milkers by volume either. While Ginger has opened up the flood gates, Paprika is a bit of a trickle. As milking is why we have them, one needs to evaluate. I won’t breed her again (as we are only getting about a pint from her) so she might have a date with our local community sale barn to be sold as a pet (Nigerians are sweet little kid friendly buggers and Paprika is very cute).

The one thing that makes things a bit of a challenge while milking, is the way it is done. Me milking a little Nigerian Dwarf Goat by hand would be akin to Andre the Giant milking a Hummingbird. No way that is happening. The milker we had been using is a good one, but it was simply a hand pumped device. If you have a skittish goat like Paprika, all that additional pumping commotion doesn’t help matters. So, UPGRADE! We have gone all modern and got an electric milker that doesn’t require pumping. Once it is on and in place the little motor does the rest. The thing, of course, has a fitting name: The Udderly EZ milker. Yep…..

If I could convince Zina that we should have a Jersey Cow, it would work on her as well…….. but for the goats, especially when I am out in cold weather, this thing is awesome. So for those thinking I am some kind of Luddite, think again. This, plus the new filter for processing, is going to save me so much time. By the sound of the dogs barking their fool heads off as I write this, it sounds as though the new cheese press has arrived as well. Time to start making some righteous Cheddar.

So this was kind of a mish-mash of things. It is typically what happens as spring starts to appear. Last year at this time I was finishing the last of our raised beds and hail guards. This year, I am going to finishing our last needed fence. My goal, weather not withstanding, is to have that fence done by the end of March. The gas driven post pounder has come back repaired so, hopefully, I won’t be driving t-posts by hand like I did for the most recent pasture fencing. My shoulders can’t handle that impact much anymore and there are over 100 to do. So far this year I have thrashed my shoulders, popped my right knee again, broken the middle finger of my left hand and sprained the one on the right. I always thought that the old farmers in Iowa, hobbling around in their overalls, must be some really ancient old codgers who have been around the block a few times….. I really need to not look in the mirror. As POGO said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I are one. Maybe I just need a shiny new pair of overalls and I will be all fixed. Add some Bondo, a few bearing and U joint repairs and I’ll be all set to go. Or not. As my t-shirt says, “Everything will kill you so choose something fun”. Peace.

Because Of Course She Did!

150 days ago we put two of our does in with our bucks because none of our goats were in milk. Ginger is always a willing participant but we didn’t know about Paprika as she has never been bred. Nigerian Dwarf Goats come into heat roughly monthly. Sometimes it is painfully obvious when that is, other times it is a bit of a mystery. Paprika never really showed. Ginger…. well, ya know….. So to make sure one has the best chance of a pregnancy the bucks and does go together in breeding pens for 2 months, or until seen engaged. Paprika had a most diligent and dedicated buck (Tank), but it was never clear that she was willing…. kinda thought she was a Nun. Ginger…. well, it must have happened the day we put them together. Gestation is roughly 150 days. Yesterday was day 152. It also appears that Paprika is due as well, but as she is pretty petite, she isn’t showing as much as we have seen with previous does.

Ginger…. my god she was HUGE! About a month ago we started calling her Mother Waddles. Someone blew her up like a balloon! This past week we were very aware of the tell tale signs of impending birth. We don’t need to go into it all but she was set to pop!

Yesterday (Saturday thank goodness!) I was making breakfast for me and the human doe while she was out doing chores. I get a text from the barn, “She did it!!! 4!!!! OMG! Four babies. Twins and triplets are pretty common but 4! All I could think was, there are only two faucets on a momma, a couple of these are going to have to come in the house and be bottle fed. 10 weeks! Aaaaaggggghhhhh! We only keep females now as 2 bucks is almost 2 too many. So there was that to contend with. Evidently, Dozer (the buck) was a very good aim!!

So as one does in these farm-life circumstances, I threw on the overalls and muck shoes and off I went to see the happenings. Zina has come in the house a couple of times but I should have brought a cot with me for her. This is the first time she has been around for the immediate doings. In fact, when I got out there they were only minutes old and still being licked off by Ginger (She is an awesome momma).

So while we were observing all the doings of nature and watching momma do her thing and Zina help towel them off (It is winter after all), we came upon another wrinkle. What we thought was just the usual gooey birth stuff turned out to be another baby! QUINTS!!! Unfortnately, this little pup was still born. Good lord! Ginger only weighs about 60 pounds and she had 5!!!!!!!! Babies!!! No wonder she was Mother Waddles!! She was packed about as tight as a little momma goat could be. 5!!!!! She deserves a medal!!

In the photo above you can see Ginger, Zina the midwife, and the 4 that made it. Now here is some farm stuff. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are the sweetest things around, especially the does. Bucks? Well, they are sweet and the father of this litter is quite the gentleman and one of my favorites here on the farm, but when they are in the rut (Breeding season) they are doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They turn into absolute alien entities. If you have raised a teenage son, just amplify that by about 10X. It is the most ridiculous and stinky thing you can imagine. As they say, “Any port in a storm.” They get absolutely insane. So with that bit of background here is what we had: 5 total births, 1 still born (down to 4), 1 buck (no way we are having more bucks, so down to 3), 3 does (one full size, one a bit smaller, and one that almost looked a bit deformed – after all they were packed two to a bunk in there). So we were hopeful that two would make it and we didn’t hold out much hope for the little Chamois colored one. Yesterday was goat watch from dawn to past dusk. It is really important that the babies start nursing within about 6 hours. The first milk from the momma is called Colostrum. It has all sorts of goodies in it to help jump start immune systems, probiotics, vitamins, etc., to get the young-ns off to a good start.

Two of the babies are black with white spots. One is a bit larger, but both seem to be fine. The little Chamois baby couldn’t hold her head up and seemingly couldn’t figure out how to lay down. She spent several nap periods sleeping while standing up. I spent a few sessions trying to introduce her to the milk stations and it only worked if I helped her. She also wouldn’t take a bottle. As this was concerning, we had to decide whether or not to bring her indoors and start the whole bottle baby thing. We didn’t really want goats that weren’t productive and it seemed likely that she might have a tough life, so we decided to just let nature take it’s course. Off to bed and see what happens in the morning.

This morning, Zina went out to check on things. Low and behold, the little poop made it through the night and was actually nursing. She definitely has some issues, but it may go away as she unfolds a bit from such cramped quarters. She was up and nursing. The remarkable part to watch was goat motherhood. Ginger evidently knew her baby was having issues and was nuzzling her back to the milk shop. It will be a few days until we know if she is out of the woods, but this has been a very cool experience. Last night even the other two siblings were licking her and talking to her and helping her get through things. We could learn a lot from the critters just here on the farm. So now, in about a month, we expect Paprika to deliver as well….. hopefully not quints! It is doubtful as she just isn’t that robust! As we know when Cumin, Cinnamon and Clover come into heat, we will likely be breeding them around Valentine’s Day. For 2 weeks Dozer will get a Harem! Stay tuned.

Cuz It All Happens At Once

I had mentioned at the close of last year that it felt like the Twenty Teens was going to be the last normal decade that we humans, in this set of living arrangements we call civilization, would have. Whodah thunk that all the crap would be crammed into the very next year!

In addition to all of the bat bug issues, the greatest depression ever experienced, and a populace that seems hell bent on experiencing the horrors that accompany shooting fellow citizens, we here in Colorado and huge swathes of the west are on fire. My favorite places in the world up north of us are burning. East of our property in Montana burned 8000 acres and none of it looks to be abating any time soon. So we are enduring smokey air, burning eyes, heavy breathing and the most amazing skies ever. Even during straight up noon the skies are hazy and the air glows yellow and orange. Sunrises and sunsets are blood red and we still keep breaking heat records. Over 90% of Colorado is in a moderate to severe drought. Fort Collins, a town north of us about 90 minutes has begun water restrictions. How much more adventure can people take? I guess we are set to find out.

So then the big surprise happened. Because of a broken Jet Stream due to irreversible and abrupt climate change, we experienced a temperature swing that tied an old record. We also broke the record for the number of consecutive days above 90 degrees (76). Then, because of this vortex coming down from the Arctic, we experienced over a 60 degree temperature swing between September 8th and 9th. During the day it was in the high nineties. That night it plunged to 37. The next day it snowed 4 inches with the mountains getting over a foot and half. Fortunately, because it had been so hot, the snow melted right off, however, it was a this year’s garden killer.

The next couple of days saw highs in the 40’s. Knowing this was coming set us into a harvesting frenzy. We picked and brought in anything and everything we could from the garden. The greenhouse fared pretty well and a great deal of it was already done for the season, but BEANS, tons and tons of BEANS!! Peppers! Eggplant! Celery! Cabbages! Tomatoes! Cucumbers! Carrots! Bushels and bushels of things. The kitchen was stacked with buckets. We looked at it and realized just what a processing job was ahead of us. We canned close to 100 quarts of green beans, 26 pints of carrots, made over 40 lbs. of Sauerkraut, put cucumbers in the pickling crocks, canned Tomato Salsa, pickled Jalapeños, Green Tomato Salsa, Pasta Sauce, Diced Tomatoes, Canned Carrots and dehydrated mountains of various peppers and eggplant. It’s a good thing that we have been canning for years. We have lots of canning supplies. Because of the surge in gardening this year because of the stay at home orders, canning supplies are pretty scarce. Had we been in that boat, we would have had lots of wasted produce.

Another homestead staple that has been in short supply are baby chicks from the hatcheries. We hatch our own Turkeys, Layer Hens and Stewing Chickens, but because the fast growing meat chickens are a cross, they can’t be bred. Usually we can get them in a month. We got skunked this year and after placing an order for 40 from a second choice breeder, we finally got them the first week of September. Since building our barn, we have been able to brood them out to being fully feathered out there under heat lamps. It was a relief because we had been doing it in our basement which made things stinky and dusty. But, of course, with the onset of this storm, we didn’t take the chance of having 40 chicken nugget popsicles so back into the basement they came. As of today though, they are outside doing fine. After this stooooopid 2 days of winter in the first 10 days of SEPTEMBER (Save me the platitudes about “Ah well that’s Colorado” – no it isn’t. The last time this happened was 20 years ago.). it is back up to 90 and looks to stay that way until October. We done screwed up our environment.

So the delay in putting up more posts here was because we had been running the canners non-stop for a week after the scramble to get it all in, disconnecting watering systems, taking down shade covers and making sure the critters were all hunkered in. Everything looks good again, in fact a lot of the garden survived. Our big loss looks to be the sweet potatoes. They were in one of our new big beds, and they just can’t handle cold. We covered our Habanero peppers as the are the last to ripen of all the peppers. They look like they might have survived….. time will tell. 2020, the year they let the freaks out to run the show. I’m afraid 2021 will be the deeper, darker, sequel. So if you are still not prepping up for potential food supply disruptions, dahell is wrong with you? Quit reading this and go get stuff. This doesn’t look to be getting any better any time soon…. if ever.

Goats Iz Amazing…. most of the time.

Now that the big garden is completely moved over by the house and greenhouse, we have opened that field up to the boy goats. You have probably heard that goats make good lawn mowers. That couldn’t be more true… as long as it is weeds (they aren’t real grass fans). Tank and Dozer (our bucks) have had pretty much free range over the remnants of that old garden this season. Evidently, they liked it because the transformation has been pretty amazing.

When I hurt my back and was out of commission for awhile, that field seriously over grew. I don’t know what the weed was that took it over but it was three feet deep.

Now granted, I did remove the fencing and knocked down a lot of the weeds myself so as to avoid a wildfire, but here is what it looks like after one season of them munching:

They grazed this down so fast that the weeds never stood a chance. In fact, there is so little in there that we have had to resume hay feedings. This is over an acre….. TWO, count em, TWO dwarf goats!! If you ever need a field cleared, find a goat rancher…. your problems will be solved in short order!

Pig Farmers Yet Again.

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We sent our two pigs off to freezer camp a week or so ago.  We estimated them at roughly 350 lbs. each.  As in the past, they will fill our bigger freezer with about 400 lbs of meat.  At that stage of the game we are usually ready to see them go.  While pigs are friendly, they are very strong and become a potential hazard to their handlers.  I was having Zina take out a cattle prod with her to zap them away if they took to rubbing on her too hard.

We thought we would be done with pigs for the winter, anticipating more arrivals next spring.  That would make WAY too much sense and be WAY too logical for us!  A break?  We don’t need no stinkin’ break!!

We had done some searching for information on pigs that don’t grow to be such massive bull dozers.  There are Kunekune’s, Potbellies, miniatures, etc.  On a random  You Tube video we ran across American Guinea Hogs.  I did some research and discovered that they were once the most common homestead pig in the South East but due to agricultural changes, moving to large scale production, they had gone almost extinct.  In recent decades they have made something of a come back.  They are slower growing than conventional breeds and have a bit more marbled meat.  Our traditional hogs were always very lean, and in this climate made the meat a bit dry.  They also don’t get as big as a typical pig.  They are very docile and make very good parents.  Even the boars are easier to be around.  They are unique in that they aren’t big grain eaters.  They like grass, alfalfa and all the table scraps one can muster.  For minerals, they get a little bit of pig feed, but mostly they will roam around grazing.

So last weekend I checked into the American Guinea Hog Association and actually found a breeder here in Colorado.  She indicated that she had some piglets so we decided to take the plunge.  It was one of the more unusual trips to pick up livestock. They are a retired military couple living at 9000 feet way back in the hills west of Colorado Springs (About a three hour drive).

We picked up a registered female (Who we have named Petunia) and two little boys.  They are 6 weeks old and are about 5 lbs a piece.  They will reach breeding age at around 6 months.  Gestation is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days.  So it will be about a year before we have actual bacon seeds from Petunia.

So once more into the abyss.  Our thinking was that if we bred our own, we could eliminate the roughly $300.00 a year just to acquire new piglets, save some money on the ton of organic feed we had to buy every year, and have a breeding pair should the African Swine Fever that is currently decimating the Asian hog population find it’s way to the U.S., which seems inevitable.

New pets, new pigs, crazy farmers, wouldn’t trade it.  In fact, the trip out there to pick them up, which took me through rush hour and the city, reminded me of how high my constant base line stress levels were when I was still working. No wonder my blood pressure has come down.  I was so happy to get back home.  At least with farm animals you know where you stand. People, I find, not so much.  Donovan is honking as I finish writing this:  “Get off your butt and come feed us!”  Predictable, and peaceful.  Gotta go milk as well.

 

Bacon Harvest and Ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas

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After a week delay due to snow, the bacon harvest has finally happened.  We planted these bacon seeds at 3 pounds and they went off to freezer camp this past Friday at roughly 350 pounds.  That should put close to 450 pounds of pork in the basement.

I am getting around a bit better.  My hip is still pretty weak and stairs make me nervous, but I can get things done.  Thanks to all who volunteered to help.  It was very much appreciated.

Now that Zina is back, this weekend became turkey weekend.  We needed to get chicken wire over the turkey coops because we were sick to death of putting them to bed and waking up the next morning because they’d “Flown The Coop”.  Turkeys like to roost up as high as they can.  We had some shade cloth over parts of the coop, but when their clipped flight feathers grew back they sat atop of the chainlink fence.  They would hop down in the morning and some would go in the coop and a bunch wouldn’t.  So we fenced in the cover and so far we have had no escapees.  Turkeys are big strong birds and not the brightest of creatures, so it had become kind of an annoying challenge to keep them together.

Today was turkey harvest.  We want to get back down to just our breeding stock.  That consists of two Toms and six hens.  We will use them to hatch out next year’s crop.  So today we processed 4 big Toms.  It came in close to 50 lbs. all plucked, cleaned, shrink wrapped and frozen.  The two really big ones are for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

After I get to Cabela’s tomorrow to get our new meat grinder (I was burning out my Kitchen Aid mixer with its grinder attachment), the remaining hens will become burger.  Didn’t everyone become a meat processing plant this weekend? If anyone feels generous I would love a meat processing band saw.  Santa? LOL!

In addition were the usual chores and hay hauling and feed bag slinging.  Zina was snoring at 7:30 tonight.  Tomorrow, off we go to the big Shitty – Zina to a day of meetings at work, me to a Weaver’s Guild meeting and then off to hunt and gather.  Our month of November challenge proceeds on as well.  Have there been any new news stories other than the usual corruption,  celebrity gossip  and political bickering?  I doubt it.  So far our hiatus has revealed that we need more than one farm hand back up.  We have too much plastic storage junk and want to switch to glass with glass covers (seem to be hard to find) we need to start freezing the goat milk in Ball jars instead of ziplocks.  We are going through way too many of them. Also, we need to keep up on our off season indoor greens production.  We found that salads are a quick go to so we need a more reliable source of lettuce. We are doing it hydroponically, but it seems we need more and we need to keep it staggered so we don’t end up with it all maturing at the same time.  Easy fix, just need to do it.  So it was a pretty busy week.  Snow tomorrow and then back to the 60’s.  It hit 78 here on Saturday after a foot of snow the week prior.  Things are getting funny but there ain’t nobody laughing.

The Days Are Shortening, Time To Look Back On The Year

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We’ve noticed of late that we can go out earlier in the evening to put the chickens to bed and the sun is coming up later in the morning.  Being someone that really has his clock aligned with the sun cycle, it means a bit more sleep (Don’t fool yourself, I’m still starting to wake up before 4 am.).

But with the change of season (Today is 91. What change of season? – oh ya, the season we used to have before we screwed everything up), it is time to look back on the farm and assess the damage.  More and more we are becoming creatures of farm routine instead of construction engineers.  We declared an end to the expansion of the farm and have found that we are really at the limits of what two old farts can expect to accomplish (especially when one is only here half the week and needs to re-coup from the week at the “money and health care job”).  Every fall, we take a step back and survey all that we can survey and assess how things went and where we are headed.

The first assessment is owning up to our physical limits.  While we can still work most city folk under the hay bunk who are half our age, since adding quite a bit of livestock to the mix, it is an unrelenting schedule.  My back is doing great, but I have to watch how I bend (which makes hay stacking an adventure).  While the pain is gone from the spinal issues, they didn’t put me back together according to the factory specs.  I am never not stiff and sore.  From my neck to my calves, I have to stretch out every day and give myself a bit of time to get it all moving in one direction.  Zina has increasing responsibilities at work, so there has to be something of a balance between doing some chores, but also being able to simply “be” with the critters (Something we have come to call, Farm TV).  What we have learned this past season, is that the most important farm implements, the humans, have been tested to their limits and adding anything more would probably become something of a health hazard.  After all, if you consider that pre-civil war homesteaders lived about 50 years we are pretty long in the tooth.  We STARTED this place at 50.  Of course, we were urban farmers long before this, but the farm started on 12/4 of 2012.  We are coming up on 7 years of an unbelievable amount of work, both in its building and production.  If we do say so ourselves, we are some tough old birds.

So with that admission, the adding of anything new to the place that expands beyond what we are doing, won’t happen.  We had considered other livestock and such, but we already raise about 85% of all we consume.  There isn’t a lot left to consider unless we wanted some giraffes and kangaroos!  Any new projects will be enhancements of what we already have;  Things that come up that make you say, “You know what would really make this work well…..”  For instance, now that we have jumped into the dairy goat world, we discovered that we don’t really have a good place to milk.  The barn has a dirt floor and is pretty dusty.  So we may get another shed, just like the one we just got for the bucks, to use as a milking parlor.  We don’t milk the old fashioned way by squeezing.  We use a hand held milker.  That does keep the milk cleaner, but having the ladies in a dedicated area, along with our goat gear, makes a lot of sense.  So those kinds of enhancement things will continue.

The farm is a multi-faceted operation.  It is simply not possible to keep the schedule of “have to’s” in one’s head and hope to remain sane.  We have, and are, developing a yearly calendar that has all the reoccurring tasks in it; from goat vaccines, to coop cleaning, house cleaning, animal feeding, etc.  We’ve found that if we don’t do that, our minds stack everything up in front of us like a mountain and it is easy to get discouraged.  I suffer from Complex PTSD and anxiety ramps up pretty quickly when things look overwhelming.  We need to eat this elephant one bite at a time.  If our time is managed well, the anxiety is reduced significantly.

So then, How’d we do.  Overall 2019 GPA:  A  (Last year would have been a C)

The first goal was to have enough of the build out done so that we could focus on our gardens in ways we hadn’t been able to do before.  We were constantly splitting our time between making and building things and trying to stay ahead of the weeds in the old garden.  This year was a splendid success.  The move away from the hilled gardens to the boxed raised beds around the greenhouse was just the ticket.  While we weren’t able to really be intentional about it’s tending like we’d hoped, it was certainly better than in years past (surgery years not withstanding).  I worked like a madman to get the remaining 9 raised beds, hail guards and shade cloth covers up (I will be making 5 more this winter to finish them all off).  Last September around this time, we had water hydrants attached to the well and run to the greenhouse and to the barn.  This overcame yet another drought this year.  The high pressure was able to bring drip irrigation and provide hand watering to all 40 raised beds.  The spring started off cold and wet, which set things back about a month, then it all dried out.  Our temperatures were easily as hot as the drought from last year, but the shade cloth kept the plants from getting scalded in the mile-hi plains.  The hail guards did their job as well.  So unless we move into the 100’s for temperatures next year (a definite possibility), we have the vegetable gardens in a pretty good place.  I have planted Broccoli, Cauliflower, lettuce and spinach for the fall planting and once the tomatoes give it up in the greenhouse when we get our first freeze, I will be getting the cooler weather loving things going out there.  Shameless self-adulation:  I’m a damned good gardener.

Evaluation of the gardens:  Excellent.  Only the Tomatillos failed, but they have been particularly difficult to raise here for years (The grasshoppers love ’em) .  Everything has produced extremely well.  We had our first bout of white flies and tomato horned worms in the greenhouse, but we won the battle (tomato worms are disgusting creatures). The garden has done so well that we are crying uncle.  Next year:  No hard beans.  We have mountains of them and the beds can be put to better use.  You have to grow huge amounts of black beans to get enough to care about.  Probably going to punt on the Tomatillos.  We’ll rotate the tomatoes to the outdoor beds.  We need to get the cool season stuff in earlier in the spring and start the warm weather stuff later.  Try some melons.  Create cattle panel arches for the vining plants.  Foot long beans look interesting.  Grow more Shallots, they are great.  Keep doing celery.  Trust the seeder when planting carrots.  The carrots did great but they are way overcrowded.  Stay on the weeding to the neglect of everything else except the animals.  I cannot believe how prolific the bindweed is here.  They strangle everything.  More sunflowers.  Put in a long raised bed for potatoes and create a dedicated asparagus patch.

Construction to enhance:  Build the permanent fence around the gardens, string drip lines to the apple trees, finish the remaining hail guards, and build the potato, corn and asparagus beds.

Livestock:  We are officially turkey and dairy goat ranchers.  They were the new additions here.  On the bird side, we have begun hatching all of our own chickens and turkeys.  If you have never had a home raised turkey, boy oh boy are you missing out;  Absolutely incredible taste.  We are also hatching and raising Jersey Giants as our meat chicken flock as well as a smaller bunch of Cornish cross “Frankenbirds” in the spring.  We added grow out coops this year and moved the brooders to the barn so we don’t have to have the dust that baby chicks create, inside our home anymore.  All of this has gone great.  The only issue we have had to contend with is that turkeys are Stooooooooooopid!!  Chickens put themselves to bed at night, turkeys couldn’t find their tail feathers with a detailed map.  They like to roost up high so even clipping their flight feathers isn’t completely helpful.  The teenagers have figured out how to jump over to the breeder stock coop and that finds themselves getting their asses kicked by the adults. I mean KICKED!  Like dead.  I guess, if we had to evaluate the turkey flock as a meat source, it would be to hatch a bit fewer and process them sooner.  It is certainly worth the time, but as we speak I’d love to just take my shotgun and …….    Turkeys is dumb, Mkay?

We bred our little Ginger (Nigerian Dwarf Goat) this year.  That has been so much fun.  There is nothing cuter than baby farm animals.  As I write, it appears that one of our other does, Cumin, is pregnant.  We put her in with Tank, one of our bucks, and it was quite the courtship.  All of about 5 minutes.  I think we timed things correctly.

Ginger gave birth to Switch and Neo.  We have been using Matrix names for the boys.  Our intact bucks are Tank and Dozer (Also, Switch, because we first thought he was a she… nope…. two boys).  Now as sad as it is, bucks, like roosters, are not needed in quantity.  We have absolutely no need for two more stinky, crazy, breed-able boys.  So instead of simply doing away with them (They are our firsts, so of course we couldn’t just drown them), we will be turning them into Wethers (castrated males) and they will spend their lives with the girls.

Which leads me to the next point: Enough having to download more cranial software.  You’ve heard the canard, “It’s all a learning experience”, or “Learning is a life long process….”  all that New Age tripe.  I am tired of having to download new software into my head!  We are virtually all self-taught!  I want to have life be kind of routine for awhile.  Once those babies were born, it was a flurry of activity in trying to figure out what needed to be done.  Sure, as usual, we read everything there was, but its a whole ‘nuther thing to have them in your midst.  When do you de-horn?  What’s the best way to vaccinate?  Is momma supposed to be milked once or twice a day?  What do you do with the milk?  If I drink it will I die?  Whew!  The babies are still alive this morning, must not have screwed up too badly…..  Enough!  Now that they are going on 3 weeks old, we’ve pretty much got this wired, and, of course, if you just shut up and observe, you find out that momma goat has already got a lot of this figured out.  Observation breeds answers in most cases.

Evaluation of Livestock:  Raising goats is way fun.  Like being a first time parent, the unknowns are becoming known.  Considering that we have been raising other livestock for years and that I have experience being around cattle, we probably should have cut ourselves some slack.  We are looking forward to goat’s milk soap, and tasty cheese, and milk for our coffee.

The turkeys are a great success.  They aren’t my favorite animal, but considering that we don’t eat a lot of beef, ground turkey for meat and sausage does the trick (and they don’t weigh 1200 lbs).  Not to mention the fact that a roasted, home hatched and home grown Tom is about the best thing around.

We will be reducing our chicken egg laying flock. We are giving dozens of eggs away and it simply isn’t necessary.  We will hatch any replacements as the older hens get beyond their laying years (and the elders will become soup).  Also, the Jersey Giants are a heritage breed so they will also be laying eggs (and turkey eggs are huge and taste just like chicken eggs). We apparently have the butt nugget area covered pretty well

Meat birds.  Between the Jerseys and the Cornish Crosses we will proceed as usual.  We’ve got that wired too.

Pigs.  We will either keep buying gilts and barrows in the spring, or we may switch to breeds like Kunekunes or American Guinea Hogs.  If we want to breed them instead of relying on someone else to do it, I cannot handle an 800 lb. boar and a mad momma of comparable size any more.  Pigs are awesome.  They are smart, playful and friendly.  However, they are the size of a Buick and even if they didn’t intend to hurt you they certainly can.  We’ve taken to taking a cattle prod out with us when we interact with them. They love to come and rub on you.  They are currently as big as me and can upend you for no reason and then accidentally stomp on you while they run out of the way (I’ve seen them do it to each other…. not conducive to a human chassis).  Pound for pound a hog is probably the strongest animal you can have on a farm.  With the other breeds mentioned above, they are about half the size and a lot more docile.  So it remains to be seen which direction we head.  Again, we already have the infrastructure.  Its not a project that will  “add to” the farm.  More, its how best to move forward given all the above and what makes sense. Stay tuned.

Goats:  I’m all in.  Now that we know how to handle the husbandry issues, these little folk are about as sweet as they get.  And wow!  We eliminate another couple of staple items from the store: Soap and cheese.

Donkeys:  What can I say?  They are the Zen masters of the farm. We love them to pieces. I’d have a whole ranch full of them if we could swing it.  They are very old, wise, souls.

Looking Forward:

Our number one goal is to live with the place and just putz and have a routine.  This is a tough way to live, but now that the construction is on a “want to” instead of “have to” level, we can putz around as we choose.  Putting the gardens and the livestock at the forefront, as well as our personal enjoyment, is goal number one.

What would I like to work on?

  1.  Put the permanent fence around the gardens and get the remaining hail guards and beds built.
  2. If there is anything I would go into debt for (we don’t have any), it would be a solar hot water heater, a wood burning stove and a metal roof.  I hate the idea that we are dependent upon a guy and a truck to bring in propane.  Hail reduces 30 year shingles to 7.  While we are technically considered “off grid” I could virtually eliminate our propane bill just by heating water with the sun.
  3. I am looking into a gizmo called a “Cool-Bot”.  It takes a regular window mounted air conditioner and lets you use it as the cooling unit for a walk-in refrigerated room.  While we don’t need it to be refrigerator level cold, our “root-cellar”/ pantry in the basement still gets too warm in these scorching summers.  If I can insulate the room and use this gizmo, it will further our food storage capacity immensely.
  4. New shed for a milking parlor.
  5. Weave more.  Because of the farm schedule, I’ve not done much this summer.  Also, I was planning on having a booth at a local craft show for Christmas this year.  There is no way I’ll be ready for that.  Next year.  That is my art.  I’d love to see Zina get back at her quilting and needlepoint as well.  Oh ya, get my telescope out.  I miss my stars.
  6. Get the water catchment system up and running.  Almost there, just need to finish it up.
  7. Keep doing the vermi-composting and get the bio-char burners built so we can further develop our on site fertilizer operations

The only expansion (that’s not an expansion):

We operate this place roughly via Permaculture principles.  Everything is based on zones and everything eventually is supposed to bring in or create more than it cost.  So there are two areas that will be addressed (one will take years).

The first is to plant more trees.  We have locust trees down our southern border.  I’m going to be taking some of the seed pods and grow a bunch and plant them down our drive way and other places to serve as wind and snow breaks.

The second is to create a “food forest”.  For details do a search engine for it, but suffice it to say that it will be put into the old garden.  It will be a combination of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and vines, ground covers and pollinator plants, all designed to create a huge area that keeps producing food annually, increases wildlife, supports bees, and feeds us, all in balance with itself.

I have a line on some roofing steel and will begin to create a “roof” or lean-to that will allow me to divert water from that structure (about 1000 square feet) into ponds and irrigation drains that will feed some of the water needs of this food forest creation.  This will kind of be my canvas to paint on.  I’ve seen some in Colorado and it can indeed be done.  However, given the decrepitude of my old farmer butt, it will be a long term work in progress….. I guess, as it should be.

My ultimate goal anymore, is that no matter what the coming climate catastrophe may bring, it is to work according to what I see as “right action”.  I want this forty acres to know that I tried my damnedest to heal it and live with it.  It will ultimately fail, but that is what I know to be right and the only thing I really care about.  When the universe folds up on this minuscule part of itself, I’ll be damned if I go down with a legacy that I was just smacking a white pebble down green grass in stupid clothes consuming everything and serving no purpose.

So the JAZ Farm flourished this year; partly because the weather was more cooperative, but mostly because we improvised, adapted and overcame.  It’s always an adventure and I would suspect there are surprises lurking in the shadows as well as we progress into our 7th year.  What a long strange trip it has been.  Stay tuned.

No Matter What You Do, There Is Always A First Time.

While we are pretty proficient in all things farming, there are always firsts.  I’ve been gardening for a couple of decades, but a lot of firsts happened when we started adding livestock.  Mind you, none of it is hard, but if you are a perfectionist like me, failure is never an option.  From chickens, to pigs, to broiler birds, to rescuing donkeys, to raising turkeys, each has had its unique set of variables and challenges.  As we believe in raising our animals humanely, the last thing we want to see is any of them suffering.

So it is with our goats.  They require a certain amount of care that the other critters don’t.  Right now our poor bucks are turning themselves inside out because of their fall rut.  They stop eating, lose weight, pee all over themselves, stink to high heaven, and when Tank got to breed Cumin this past Sunday, Dozer practically came through a chain link fence because he wasn’t included.  I guess I was like that in High School too.  Who can blame him?  Pretty sure Cumin is a hottie in goat terms.

Baby goats needed to be dis-budded (horns removed).  Horns are dangerous and as the rest of our flock had them removed, so too must the new little kids.  I must have fretted over this for several days (and nights).  Conceptually I knew how, and I’ve been around cattle that were dehorned and neutered as well, but the tool today was in MY hand, and failure was not an option.  God forbid I burn them badly and have to report that to my female task mistress.

Suffice it to say that the worry ended up being worse than the actual task.  Yes, it’s a painful ordeal for the little babies, but within 15 minutes they were back with momma and hopping around.

Now this procedure isn’t something I took pictures of.  The horns get burned off and the gizmo one uses is about 1000 degrees (not conducive to photography).  Our farm helper was out here too and the last thing I wanted to do was brand her hand with a goat dis-budder.

If you are interested in real farm tasks watch the video below.  This woman is using the exact equipment we have.  Overall I’m pretty pleased with how things went.  Time will tell if any of the horns grow back; Yet one more skill tucked into the quiver.  Next up…… castration.  Joy.

On a happier note, we start milking momma Ginger on Thursday.

This video is a little unsettling.  I don’t really care if you pass out watching it, just realize that this is farming.