Archive for the ‘homesteading’ Category

You Rock. You Seriously Do.

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I want to thank each of you personally for all the kind words. But I can’t. Every time I try my eyes fill with tears and I can no longer see what I’m typing. Thank you – each and every one. And forgive me if it seems impersonal. It truly is not. I just can’t get past the emotion.

I suspect I’ll never get over losing sweet little Hope. Especially since I’ve learned what I could have done to prevent it. And even what I could have done to save her. It would have been hard. But I could have done it. That will haunt me forever I’m sure. But now I know. I won’t lose another to bloat. At least not without saying I did my dead level best to save her. But honestly? I did my best with Hope. I just didn’t know……

Georgia is doing GREAT. She is already running to me when I go into the goat barn. I’m not surprised that she is showing dominance. She is the Queen, and I am respecting that. Mirrie? Not so much. Mirrie couldn’t care less about the Queen. When I enter the goat barn Mirrie runs up to me screaming bloody murder. Georgia is right behind her, and butts Mirrie out of the way. I understand that Georgia is Queen. I reach down and pet her first. If I’m feeding Mirrie a bottle, I make sure I offer some sweet feed to Georgia first, and then feed Mirrie. I’m trying to teach Mirrie, but she is too danged sweet, cute, and stubborn. And before it’s all said and done I am on my knees kissing Mirrie and loving on her. Georgia comes right up, and I’m sure to show her as much attention as she will allow.

It’s going to be ok. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over this experience, but it’s going to be ok. We’re building a milking stand this weekend. It will hold goats while they are milked, and while they are worked on (trimming hooves, etc.) I’m excited to get that finished.

Please allow me to also quickly bring you up to date on the pups….We had to take them to the vet for booster shots this afternoon. Diesel weighs 77 pounds. Dolly weights 70 pounds. The vet wants to see Diesel at 70 pounds, and Dolly at 65 pounds. This will not be easy. These pups exercise daily – a lot. They also enjoy their treats – a lot. The vet asked what they get treats for and Bernie said “Breathing.” And the vet reached down and petted both of them and said “You are wonderful pups – but breathing just isn’t that special”. *sigh* Now the pups are on a diet. The good news is that the surgery Diesel is certain to have due to hip dysplasia may be prolonged if he loses weight. That’s worth is to all of us. At just over one year old, Diesel has a fair amount of issues with his hips and legs…..

Thank all of you. Not only for following my blog, but being such sweet friends. Spring is springing – and soon I’ll be posting about planting in the garden, preserving, canning, baby chicks, pregnant does, and all the wonderful things that this time of year brings. Thank you for sticking with me during the hard times. Because there are always hard times. No matter what you dream about living in the country, you must accept that there will be hard times. It’s not easy, but you can get past it. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes. In the end, that really is why I started this blog in the first place.

XXXOOO

There is Still Hope

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I have to tell y’all, losing our little precious Hope in such a traumatic way was a horrific experience. I would not wish that on anyone. As upset as Bernie and I were yesterday, poor Mirrie was beyond consolation. She didn’t understand where her sister went. She couldn’t stand being alone. It was such a bad day for all of us.

Even though none of us will get over our loss, Angie knew that we needed a companion for Mirrie as quickly as possible, and she offered us a sweet one year old doeling. Today I went and picked her up.

Interestingly enough, she had never been named. When she was born someone has asked to buy her, and requested that Angie not name her. This person wanted to choose the name. Time went on, and eventually the person that had wanted to buy her backed out of the deal. And the little doeling had gone so long without a name, that she was just known as the goat with no name! So, as I drove this little girl back to the homestead, I pondered on what her name should be. I didn’t have to think on it very long. Angie and I were both born in the same state. It seemed only fitting that I should name this little girl something that represented one of my first bonds with Angie.

Meet Georgia.

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Mirrie is SO happy to have one of her old friends here with her now.

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She’s still my baby…..

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But now we all have Georgia with us too.

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We miss our little Hope. But today it finally feels like things may be ok again.

Thanks to all of you for your overwhelming support and kind words during all of this. It means so much more than any of you will ever know.

(((hugs)))

And Speaking of the Nature of Nature….

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I just posted about the nature of nature – the fact that if we live with livestock and chickens, we must expect that we will lose them. And today, we lost our precious little Hope to bloat. This has been an emotional and horrific experience, and I really am not mentally able to go into detail. I will try to post in more detail in the future – so those of you who have not experienced bloat may learn what to look for – and maybe even the extreme steps that may save the life of your precious goat, cow, or other animals that are susceptible to it. I wish I had known……

Mirrie is ok. She is sad. She is lonely. But she is ok. I’ve spoken to Angie several times today. She has been, of course, my angel. The one person who could ground me and keep me sane during all of this sorrow. She has offered another goat, that is about a year old, to keep Mirrie company. Goats are VERY social creatures. They NEED company. I have accepted her offer.

Bernie was there with me throughout this ordeal. He just wanted to fix it. Bless his heart – he wanted everything to be ok, not just for Hope, but for me. And when it wasn’t, well….. we have spent the day trying to comfort each other. This has been the worst day on this homestead. And even so, the pups warmed my heart on the mail check. Mirrie made me laugh trying to suckle my chin. The cats were as annoying as ever. And Bernie’s hugs are worth all the money Bill Gates makes…….

This really is the nature of nature. If we bring nature into our life – and we SHOULD – we need to be prepared for the hand nature may deal us. The more prepared we are, the better chances we have at bluffing and winning that hand. I promised to step you through our homesteading triumphs and losses when I started this blog. We had a loss today. A very big, heart wrenching loss today. I am going to share it.

But not today.

Today I’m dealing with the nature of nature.

Goat Barn

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I’ve received a couple of emails requesting to see the progress on the goat barn. Apparently I’ve been remiss in my updates! We’re coming right along with it. Sunday is looking like the “big day”. And I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

Because of our building inspector issues, we focused on half of it first – that would be the right half in this picture.

goat barn

But once we got our “farm use” permit, we added the second half. Our neighbor “Mad Dog” has been helping Bernie with the second half all week. Now we have the entire building up, and they are putting in one of the windows in this picture.

goat barn

The room the guys are working in is the area the goats will live in. I’m taking the picture from the feed storage and milking room in this picture goat barn

The next two days will be spent on finishing up the outside so weather can not get inside and shoveling in dirt to fill it to the bottom horizontal line in this picture:

goat barn

Sunday is the big day. We’ll have our goat babies here and then Bernie will work on the roof, lean-to, and fencing in the paddock.

My friend Charlotte will go with me to get these goat babies. I’m excited to get them home. And I’m happy that such a good friend will accompany me.

Goat babies are wonderful. Good friends are nothing to sneeze at either :)

Making Lemonaide out of Lemons

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

OK. With two feet of snow on the ground, and the possibility of 3 – 6 inches more on Monday, it’s quite apparent that building a goat barn isn’t going to happen as quickly as I’d hoped. I’d be fibbing if I said that doesn’t bother me. I think about Mirrie, Hope, and Chance every single day and I do wish they were here.

Even though we can’t work on building the goat barn, I’ve been looking into the best feed/water configurations. So, for those of you who have goats, would you please do me a favor and tell me your thoughts on some of this? I’m mainly concerned about the water, feed, and hay I provide inside the goat barn. The barn will be 20 feet long, and 8 feet wide, divided like this – 5X8 stall, 8X8 main portion for goats, and an 7X8 area for milking/doctoring and hay/feed storage.

For the hay, Bernie planned to build a manger. But I found some wall mounted hay racks that look as though they help reduce waste, and that won’t take up as much space. With three goats, I figure a corner mount and wall mount may be sufficient? What do you think? This is what the wall mount looks like. Would two (corner and wall) be adequate for daily hay inside the goat barn? Or do you think we should just go with a large manger that Bernie builds? The goat barn isn’t going to be extremely large, so I’m hoping to save space where I can – but if those wall/corner mangers aren’t adequate, we’ll figure out something else.

How do you secure water inside so the goats can’t knock it over? I found these wall mounts that look great, but there are several different types. These are also used for feed. What do you do for securing feed and water? This page shows several – do you use any of these, or do you recommend another method?

Kendra, from New Life on a Homestead provided a link to the Fias Co Farm website, where I found detailed plans for building a milk stand. Milking may be quite a while in our future, but I can see that using a milk stand to secure a goat while caring for her may be a necessity long before then. And this is something I may be able to work on in the coming days to make me feel like I’m at least moving a little bit forward!

If any of you goat parents can offer some advice here, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

Homesteads Grow…….

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

If you regularly follow this blog, you know I’ve posted several time about Angie’s blog. Angie is nothing but awesome. She raises chickens, turkeys, goats, and heaven only knows what else. And she’s FULL of knowledge about how to raise them. I’ve learned so much from her. She’s also taught me to make grocery bags out of 50 pound bird seed bags, how to make homemade yogurt, how to….. well how to do many, many things. She’s also a moderator on backyardchickens and I have nothing but respect for her. She also happens to live a couple of hours from me.

Being the Angie Fan that I am, I also follow her on Facebook. And today she posted that two of her goats had kidded six babies. Three of them passed away :-( But three of them are alive and, thanks to Angie’s most excellent care, are doing quite well.

I need to explain “excellent” care here. Angie brought these three babies into her home and sat with them next to the fire. She put pampers on them (YES – pampers) and they are living in her home. She and her family hold these babies and wrap them in blankets that they rotate in and out of the dryer to make sure they are warm. They fedd these baby goats with bottles filled with the goat mama’s milk. Angie’s teenage daughters sleep in the room with these precious babies and set their cell phone alarms to go off every two hours so they can awaken and feed these babies. There are many, many days of goats living in the house for Angie and her family. And do you know what? Angie doesn’t care. She’s such a good goat mommy. These babies will be sleeping in laps and wearing pampers for quite a few more days. Or weeks. Maybe just 4 more weeks……

Angie knows how badly I’ve wanted goats…. really, really, really wanted goats……. We talked last fall and she had some ready for me to take. But Bernie and I were not ready. We didn’t have shelter for the goats. And we didn’t have a fenced in area for them. Angie said “No worries”. She knew there would be future goat babies, and I knew Bernie would build me a goat shelter in the spring.

But then these babies came. Early in the year. When we still had no shelter. And Angie taunted me with them. She posted pictures for heaven’s sake! *gasp* And I knew…. I just knew….. and after a day of “discussing” it with Bernie, he agreed. He’ll need one month to build a proper shelter, but after one month, I can bring these precious goat babies home! Yay! But shhhhhhh, don’t tell Bernie…… I’m hoping it won’t be a full month……shhhhhh……

So, without further ado, meet Mirrie:

nubian,saanen,Nubien/Saanen

And Chance and Hope:

Nubien/Saanen

The white baby is Chance, and the fawn colored baby is Hope.

There is a really precious story behind each of their names. And I will share it later.

But right now, please be happy for me. I am excited beyond words. And I am so very, very happy that three little goats from Angie’s farm will be coming to live with us on the homestead.

This homestead is growing. And I am smiling. Really, really, really smiling.

Quiet, Calm, Duke, and Pickled Eggs

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

We finally had a couple of days where the temperature rose above freezing, and we did not hesitate to take advantage of one of them and send nine cockerels to Freezer Camp. We are now officially extra-rooster-free for the first time since last spring. And it feels great. For everyone left on the homestead, anyway!

My poor hens have spent the past few weeks running and hiding from those extra cockerels. The girls would gobble their food as quickly as possible in the morning, if they ate at all, and then run/fly out into the woods to get into the trees. Sometimes they hung out on top of buildings.

chickens

It wasn’t the cockerels fault. They were victims of nature – specifically an over abundance of teenage testosterone. But they wreaked havoc around here. From the second they woke up until the second they went to sleep, the yard was filled with the sound of hens screaming and screeching as they attempted to escape from these cockerels, and the sound of the cockerels screeching as they fought over the hens. These cockerels were never tame and, although I never laid a hand on any of them, they would scream and run anytime I walked close by them. They also crowed non-stop. I do love to hear a rooster crow – but listening to 12 crow all day and night really pushes my enjoyment level.

And even though we were aware of the chaos surrounding these nine cockerels, we really had no idea how awful it was until they were gone! The resulting calm in the yard and the flock was immediately palatable. The quietness was a blessed relief, and by late afternoon, there were no hens in trees. For the first time in weeks, the hens were out wandering in the yard with Bobby Lee and Pico. I honestly think I saw those girls smiling……

Poor old Duke is hanging in there. He spends most of his day off to himself, with one or two hens. If I live to be 100, I will never understand why he gave up being Alpha Roo, and then withdrew from the flock for the most part. It really is heartbreaking. But even though Duke has lost his place in the pecking order of the flock, he will always have a special place in my heart.

Bobby Lee’s tail feathers came back beautifully after his molt. They seem to still be growing, and he’s got a couple that now drag the ground behind him.

chickens,Phoenix rooster

Pico is a sweet rooster, and I think he’s a pretty boy.

chickens,Phoenix mix rooster

And even though the older girls aren’t laying very well right now, the pullets are providing us with enough eggs that I used 4 1/2 dozen to put up 5 quarts of pickled eggs the other day.

pickled eggs

Pickled eggs are great. A calm flock is even better. All living things on the homestead are very happy right now.

Pumpkin Seed Chicken Dewormer

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

If you’ve spent any time at all on the Backyard Chickens forums, or any other number of chicken forums, you’ve undoubtedly heard that pumpkin seeds are a natural dewormer. I’ve done a lot of reading on this subject, and although I’ve never found anything that proves this conclusively, I will tell you that I’ve learned pumpkin seeds have been used for hundreds of years a natural dewormer for all types of pets and livestock. From dogs to horses, and even for humans. And with interest in natural products rising, there are even research grants available concerning the use of pumpkin seeds as a dewormer.

Pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid known as cucurbitin. Cucurbitin is inside the seed, and it paralyzes tapeworms and roundworms, and aids in eliminating them from the body. Some believe it takes very large quantities of pumpkin seeds to work effectively, and some do not believe it works at all,

Whether you believe in using pumpkin seeds as a dewormer for your chickens or not, one thing is for certain – they won’t hurt your chickens, and your chickens will probably love eating them! If you want to use the seeds as a dewormer, remember that the cucurbitin is inside the seed, and chickens can’t chew. You’ll want to make sure you chop the seeds a bit in a food processor, or blender, to expose the pulp of the seeds.

My chickens love a little pumpkin seed smoothie in the fall. I cut pumpkins in half, remove the seeds and put them in a food processor, along with a little buttermilk, milk, or plain yogurt, and whirl it all around until the seeds are a little chopped. Then I use the pumpkin halves as bowls, and pour a little of the smoothy in each of them.

Chickens and Pumpkins

Lordy, they do love a little pumpkin smoothie in the morning.

Chickens and Pumpkins

And when all that delicious smoothie is finished? They eat the bowl!

Chickens and Pumpkins

Remember those eggs I got from a neighbor and let my hens hatch out the end of August? Well, they are about 2 1/2 months old now and I still have no clue what breed they are. I’m certain they are mixed, but I’m just not sure what they are a mix of! And three of the six are HUGE. They also have well defined combs and waddles. I worry they are cockerels. With my original flock, I can typically sex them within 3 – 4 weeks. And some of the pullets, like the White Faced Black Spanish, do have large combs and waddles relatively early. But these three have me a little concerned. Take a look at the two large white ones in these pictures, and keep in mind they are only about 2 1/2 months old:

Chickens and Pumpkins

Chickens and Pumpkins

What do you think?

I’m certain this one’s mother is the only Barred Rock my neighbor has, and I have no idea about the father:

Chickens and Pumpkins

Cockerel or Pullet? I think they are some pretty chickens and I am just praying they are pullets. They’re friendly little things. So are the other three. The other three are smaller and I am 99.99% certain they are pullets. But these three……..

OK, the chickens have enjoyed their morning smoothie and I’ve got to get busy around here. No rest for the weary on this homestead.

Acknowledging Limitations

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

When we decided to get back to basic living and move to our homestead, it came with an agreement that we would work toward becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant. We knew this was a big order, and we were willing to take baby steps and be happy for the progress we made, even if it was slower than we wished.

We knew and had practiced some of the skills required before we got here. We had been growing gardens and canning for over 20 years. And, although I had become a little lazy at it, I had been cooking from scratch for at least that long. Bernie knew how to work on vehicles, do home repairs, and work with wood.

Within short order, Bernie learned to saw lumber, build shelters, keep firewood stocked, and fix things he never even considered working on in the past. I learned to make butter, yogurt, cheese, soap, lip balm, perfumes, etc. We got a flock of chickens and I learned how to raise them and doctor them. I’ve always enjoyed being somewhat crafty, and I began to make the vast majority of gifts by hand.

In short, we try to identify those things that we enjoy or that make our lives more comfortable – and then we learn how to do or make those things on our own. We may not always chose to do them that way, but at least we know how to do them, should we ever be in a situation where that knowledge is needed. A good example of what I’m talking about is making butter. We don’t eat a lot of butter, and I don’t always churn it myself. But I have a churner, and I know how to make butter.

I’ve told you all of that to tell you this: Everyone has his/her limitations. Just because you may want to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be good at it. No one knows this better than me.

I have several limitations, but I am going to acknowledge one of them right here and now. I. Can. Not. Sew. I really can’t. I hate it. But it’s the truth.

On September 2nd of this year, Bernie’s youngest daughter, Kimberly, blessed us with a grandson. Baby Jacob is a precious little thing, and in the joy of his arrival, I decided I would sew him a blanket, and a diaper bag for Kimberly. Somehow, in all the excitement, I forgot one minor detail. I can not sew.

I bought the patterns, material, thread, and everything needed for the blanket and diaper bag. I looked at the patterns and thought “How hard can this be? This blanket looks so simple. I’ll start with it.” And within the first two minutes I had messed it up. I tore out all the stitching and started again. Two minutes later, I messed it up. I tore out all the stitching and start over. Two minutes later….. well, you get the idea.

I did finally finish the blanket. And I gave it to the pups. Even they do not like it. I did an absolutely horrible job on that simple, little blanket. So I went on-line and I ordered one. I also ordered a diaper bag. I worked around that little problem.

I know if things got so bad that we could not afford to buy clothing, I could sew something we could wear. It may have one sleeve longer than the other, one leg shorter than the other, buttons that don’t match up with button holes, or zippers that don’t zip – but we would have clothing and there would likely be a lot more on our minds at that point than worrying about how we look in our ridiculous clothing.

I guess the point of this whole post is not everyone can do everything – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful at following your dreams.

Follow your dreams. Acknowledge your limitations. And learn to work around them.

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t sign up to sew a baby blanket if you can’t sew.

It’s That Time of Year

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Bernie and I have been busy in the yard, preparing for the colder weather that is quickly moving in. We cleaned up the garden and added some mulch from the straw, pine shavings, and chicken poop pile that’s been cooking all year. We covered the outdoor plants in leaves and pine straw. I brought in tender plants that have lived in the greenhouse all summer. And, for the few plants still in the greenhouse? Well, I’ve been saving milk jugs all year. So I painted them all black.

greenhouse

I took them up to the rain barrel filled each with water. And then I put all the greenhouse plants on the floor, and placed the jugs among them. The hope is that the water in the jugs will heat up during the day, as the sun shines, and provide a little extra warmth for the plants through the cold nights.

greenhouse

Well, not all the greenhouse plants. I left a couple of tomato and pepper plants on a shelf, just to see how well they will hold up in cold weather in the greenhouse.

greenhouse

The tomatoes plants have kept us in tomatoes for a while, but they are starting to peter out now. The large pepper plant is loaded in small, tight blooms. I’m interested to see if we get any more peppers off of it. I have a very small pepper plant I started a month or so ago. I have no idea how well it’s going to do as time goes on.

And as the cold weather moves in, so does the reality that Christmas is just around the corner. You may remember that I covered several eggs in polymer clay for Christmas ornaments earlier this year. Well, Angie, over at Home Grown, posted about some ornaments she made from eggs – and they are absolutely gorgeous. I knew I had to make some of these.

Here are some of the first few I made:

Christmas Eggs

This first batch was made with some fun stickers I thought would be cute.

Christmas Eggs

I have over two dozen more that are waiting for the caps and strings to be applied. These are mostly modeled after Angie’s beautiful eggs.

Christmas Eggs

This is such a fun project, and I think these ornaments are my favorite. They are easy to make I’m sure they will be a beautiful addition to any tree. You’ve still got time to make your own! Hop on over to Angie’s blog and learn how!

Fall is also the time of year that many people dig their horseradish to make horseradish sauce. When we lived in town, we had horseradish that started as two, small roots. Over the years it flourished, and we liked to dig it up in the spring to make horseradish sauce. When we moved to the homestead, I dug up a couple of roots to get started with out here. That was two years ago, and the horseradish is going strong.

I like to give new horseradish plantings at least a couple of years to get well established before digging them up, so we didn’t dig any of ours this year. But we have a neighbor who had some growing next to his house and, even though he didn’t know what it was, he really disliked it. Horseradish has huge leaves and, if not contained, will grow out of control. When I told him how lucky he was to have horseradish he said “You want it? Dig up as much as you like. I’m getting rid of it.”

So, yesterday, Bernie and I dug up our neighbor’s horseradish. It was well established, and the roots ran so deep there was no way we could get all of it. He’ll be dealing with horseradish again next year….. but, in the meantime, we had a bucket of horseradish that we planned to turn into horseradish sauce.

horseradish

If you decide to make horseradish sauce, I highly recommend you plan to do it outside. When we lived in town we made horseradish sauce in front of an open window with a fan sucking the air out. And it was very painful. Nothing can make eyes and noses water and sting better than horseradish! This year, we decided to move the entire operation outside.

I washed the roots under the outside spigot.

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They’re looking better already.

horseradish

Then we took them to the picnic bench we moved in the garage and began the tedious chore of peeling them. Knives and potato peelers work really well.

horseradish

Once they’re all peeled, wash them one more time.

horseradish

And then it’s time to grate them. We use food processors for this step, but you can hand grate them if you have the time and patience.

horseradish

When we finished, we had two large bowls full of grated horseradish.

horseradish

But we’re not quite finished. See how chunky it looks? We ran all of it back through the food processor on chop mode. And when we were finished with that, we had a nice, horseradish sauce consistency.

horseradish

Then I just filled jars with horseradish, dumped in a little salt, added a pinch of sugar, and topped each jar with white vinegar.

horseradish

And now we have two quarts, two pints, and one half pint of fresh, homemade horseradish sauce.

Oh, and see that tiny, empty jar? That’s a jar from some horseradish sauce Bernie bought at the grocery store a while ago. It was good, no doubt about that. But it wasn’t as good as homemade horseradish sauce, and it was very expensive! And have you ever read the list of ingredients on some of that store bought horseradish sauce? Making your own horseradish sauce is a little time consuming, but it’s extremely inexpensive and it’s easy. I think it’s worth every minute it takes.

It’s that time of year, and we’re staying busy with “Fall Chores” on the homestead. I always dread the cold weather, but I like doing “Fall Chores”. It feels good to have things cleaned and tucked in and ready to get a few months of rest. And it feels good to work on the things that only get done this time of year.

What kind of “Fall Chores” are you doing?