Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We've got babies here.

Five lambs. Four females, one male. Only two moms, which means that we'll have to bottle-raise one. My little girl is the only one thrilled about that.

Here are the twins.

And the triplets.

Hannah holding one of the triplets.

Walking out to the barn, trying not to trip on Ghandi.

And my girls. Just because I love 'em. Ariel, the tri-color on the right, is the first one due to kid. Hopefully in two weeks.

Earning the title.

Today is calm. Winds no more than 25 mph, but no less than 17.

The last three days have been hairy. Winds no lower than 25 but holding steady for up to 12 hours at a time at 35 or 40 mph. Gusts have been much, much higer.

It definitely blows here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Steady wind, steady cold.

This is the season for planning. Run out and feed and water, run back in. Flip through seed catalogs and poultry catalogs and dream. Plan and scheme and then try to fit in the budget. Slash and cut seed and poultry orders so that you can afford the supplies necessary to help those endeavors thrive.

Sigh. I don't think I'm getting a fruit tree this year. But I really want those strawberry plants still...

Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Earning the name.

37 mph here and climbing. What snow we have is being blown away, the animals are hunkered against the sheds and wind breaks, the dogs are curled up in the kennel, and we're curled up eating popcorn and watching Backyardigans.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Yesterday's chore was to go through my plant varieties and mark down which need to be started indoors (and when) and which need to be started outdoors (and when). It took more time than I thought because while I was jotting down that information, I went ahead and jotted down important information that I'll need at planting time - after all, I already had the books open.

I used two books to help me with the planning. My favorite, Square Foot Gardening, a book that makes gardening easy for beginners, and The New Seed Starters Handbook, one that I've been poring over for advice on how to be more of a success with my starters this year. The latter had information on the more unusual varieties I'm planting, like celery, leeks, and amaranth.

It feels good to have that done.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Meet the girls.

After a rocky start with goats (I started buying from the auction - big no-no), I've hit my stride and feel really good about where I'm sitting now.

Last year I saw some beautiful milking goats go through the auction and almost bought them. I was watching the crowd and saw the woman who was obviously the seller so I went over and introduced myself. She's a lovely lady named Juanita and she has some wonderful stock.

These goats are La Manchas. They're unusual looking goats because they appear to have no ears. They are fantastic milking goats, producing lots of great tasting milk. I left the babies on the mommas and still got more milk than I could use last year. Juanita breeds for production AND taste, so we have some yummy goat milk with none of that 'goaty' taste at all.

She told me that it was a good thing that I hadn't purchased the goats she put through the auction as she only sells goats with issues in the auction. Her quality stock is private sale. So we bought a doe named Jasmine from her that spring and our friends bought a doe named Popcorn from her.

Popcorn ended up being too much of a handful for our friends, so we bought her from them and she calmed right down, we're not sure why. I couldn't have asked for two better goats to learn to hand-milk from. They didn't put up with tugging, but they'd stand pretty when you treated their teats right. Jasmine ended up getting poisoned in our pasture from some pine needles - it happened so fast - and it was only quick vet work that saved Popcorn (now renamed Tamari). I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost her... I'm kind of attached. (I adore her.)

Since I liked the previous goats I'd purchased from Juanita, I went back to her for a buck and possibly more does. Possibly. Maybe. I have a baby due in a few weeks and I didn't want to overwhelm myself. So we were probably not coming back with does, just a buck.

I bought three does. Three first fresheners. As in never been milked before, as in momma with brand new baby has to teach these girls to milk. That's how pretty her goats are. I couldn't resist. I did try to excuse myself on one - Ariel (previously Ears) is one that I very much wanted and Hannah really wanted. Matt wanted her to have her own goat, so I really only bought two, right? Even though I'll be milking all three... These pictures don't do them justice - not many animals are their prettiest in a snowy pen with shaggy coats. So here they are.

Tamari (Popcorn) (Due May 2)

Ariel (Due February 4)

Physion (Due April 15)

Celtic Satin (Due April Fool's Day)

Young buck. This poor little guy needs a name. I don't think calling him "Big Stinky" or what Matt calls him is sending out good energy. Any ideas?

And a picture of my Jasmine. I wish she were here this year. She was so gentle.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Current seed list.

I went through my seeds leftover from last year and was alternately appalled and amused at what I'd bought last year and how many I still had (I did *not* do a stellar job of planting last year).

I will obviously be planting more greens than I planned on. Also some string beans, turnips, radishes, various peppers, and cucumbers that I wasn't planning on planting at all.

The soup beans I'm especially proud of - they're seeds saved from my bean plants last year.

I won't need to buy any herbs or flowers (Hannah's entranced with several I already have), and Matt is pleased with how little I will be spending on seeds this year.

For my own records, here's the list.

-Black Kabouli Garbanzo
-Yin Yang
-Tiger's Eye
-Jacob's Cattle
-Hutterite Soup
-Edamame Soybean
-Bountiful Stringless Snap Bush Bean
-Royal Burgundy Bush Bean
-Beurre de Roquencourt Wax Bush Bean

-Thai Green
-Bronze Arrow
-Rouge D'Hiver
-Carmona Red
-Bronze Mignonette
-Red Riding Hood
-Simpson Black-Seeded
-Ruby Orach Mountain Spinach
-Red Russian Kale

-Red Core Chantenay
-Purple Haze
-French Breakfast
-Black Spanish
-Yellow Intermediate Mangel
-Shiraz Tall Top
-Purple Top White Globe Turnip
-Scotland Leek

-Red Bell Miniature
-Sweet Banana
-Purple Beauty
-Cal Wonder Bell (green)
-Sunrise Orange
-Bolivian Rainbow
-Habanero Chile
-Ring-o-Fire Cayenne

-Bule Gourds
-Red Kuri
-Moon and Stars
-Early Moonbeam
-Crimson Sweet

-Mideast Prolific
-Satsuki Madori

-Black Beauty Zucchini
-Red Drumhead Cabbage
-Nutribud Broccoli
-January King Cabbage
-Cheddar Cauliflower
-Rosa Bianca Eggplant
-Star of David Okra
-True Gold Sweet Corn

-Parsley (2 varieties)

FLOWERS: - don't ask.
-Sweet Pea
-Picotee Cosmos
-Blanket Flower
-Purple Coneflower
-Purple Coneflower Echinacea
-Nematocidal Marigold
-Zulu Prince
-South African Pearl
-Evening Sun
-Russian Mammoth
-Velvet Queen
-Gloriosa Polyheaded

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What to plant, what to plant...

I'm approaching garden planning a bit differently this year. Instead of simply going through scintillating garden magazines and picking out what looks "delicious to the taste and very desirable", I'm planning my garden based on what we will actually eat, what I have recipes for, and what I can store (freeze, can, root cellar) - and will use if I store.

There are two small exceptions to this rule -

1) I'm giving myself 1-3 "splurges", fun things to try.

2) Hannah is picking out some items to plant. Mostly flowers, I'd think.

Based on those criteria, here is my tentative list for this year.

Apple tree (I buy at least one new fruit tree per year.)

Fruits for freezing/canning. (Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)

Sweet peppers for freezing, canning, fresh eating. (Red and green)

Corn for freezing.

Amaranth (grain)

Tomatoes for canning.

Squashes (Spaghetti, butternut, pumpkins, kuris)

Melons (Watermelon, canteloupe)

Onions (yellow)


Beans - dry (Garbanzo, soup varieties)

Greens (Kale, chard, spinach some lettuces)

Potatoes (Red, russett, sweet)

Broccoli (freezing)

Cauliflower (freezing)

Cabbage (saurkraut, storage)

Eggplant (fresh eating)


Peas (fresh, freezing)

Quinoa - grain

Celery (for stock)

Zucchini (freezing)

Herbs - to dry and use fresh. I don't need to buy any of these - plenty of seeds from last year.

Next on the list is to go through my seed box and cross off the items I already have so that I don't double-purchase.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'm not so good at moderation.

I'm supposed to be limiting myself to two new species of animals a year. Apparently, turkeys and chickens classify as two different species. I was trying to convince my husband that they were really just one - poultry - but he wouldn't go for it. Damn.

There are two more I would like to start with this year. A breed of duck and a breed of pig.

The duck is for purely practical reasons. It's a Muscovy duck, known for being prolific fly eaters. I don't know if they eat knats, which would be even more useful than fly eating around here. Dairies and stables are starting to use these as fly control now, and it seems a wonderful, organic option to me - the fly jugs we use now are barely effective and they reek of the chemicals used in them (even though the company who makes the fly poison insists that it is safe for you to dump the flies drowned in the chemicals in your compost pile - just nasty). Another benefit to these ducks is that they do not swim, so we would not need to provide a pond, and they are quieter ducks, hissing, not quacking. These are not endangered in any way, but they look very useful, so I'm all for it.

I can only purchase Muscovy duck *eggs* from the McMurray hatchery and I have no reliable way of hatching out the eggs. A place like this may be my only option if I want some of these ducks.

This is one picture of muscovies. From what I can find out online, they can be quite different looking, some being striking, others being drab gray and brown.

The pig that I'd like to start breeding is a Tamworth, but my husband wants to breed Herefords. Ideally, he'd like to breed none at all - who wants to keep a boar on their property? - but when I showed him the Hereford, he was impressed. I'd like to get one baby sow and one baby boar this spring to have ready to go next year, but it looks like I'll have to start with the babies next year. Even if marital harmony didn't require it, finances would.

Tamworths are originally from Ireland and are nicknamed the "bacon hogs". Two counts for them right there. I've lived in Ireland and we're a bacon family. My three year old wants to turn every animal we eat into bacon - elk, moose, chicken, beef, turkey - it all needs to be bacon. These pigs are known for being excellent foragers and mothers, both necessities for "pasture pigs".

Like I said, Tamworths are my choice, but my husband wants a Hereford herd, and when you add up the pros and cons, he may be right. These are very gentle animals (good for a young family), do fine under pasture conditions (though not as aggressive about foraging as a Tamworth), would probably be a big 4-H hit around here, and are excellent mothers. And they really are beautiful for hogs.

The Red Wattle is a hog that I would *really* like to breed, but we need more acreage. Look at the SIZE of these suckers. They can grow up to 1200 pounds and be eight feet long, still smaller than their ancestors. A very, very few breeders are trying to bring this animal back to its original size and reputation for meat quality. They are said to be very gentle animals (a necessity for the size, I'd think - much like draft horses) and be good mothers and foragers. I would love to get involved in helping this breed limp along awhile longer once we have more land.

Poultry beats out plants.

Between my daughter and myself, the gardening magazines had no chance once the chicken magazine showed up.

Since last spring we've been telling Hannah she could have chickens this year. Now that we have a neighbor who we buy eggs from (and who we could buy pastured poultry meat from), my husband who hates chickens sees no reason for us to get them. Luckily for my daughter, the poultry are my project, not his.

I pored over the magazine with her, separately from her, and she did the same separately from me. We both circled only one in common (she circled almost half the magazine - there are a lot of pretty chickens in there), and I think it's a good choice for her. It's called a Light Brahma.

Check it out here (ALBC page) or here (hatchery page). These are huge birds that lay well throughout cold winters (a must here) and are known to be "exceptionally quiet, gentle, and easy to handle", a good trait for birds destined to be cared for by a four year old. They're beautiful too, non?

I still haven't figured out which chickens I want to get - my main goal this year is turkeys.

The ones that I'm trying to choose between are the Dark Cornish (for the meat), Araucana (for the "Easter" eggs), the Cuckoo Maran (for their chocolate colored eggs - some of the darkest eggs laid by chickens), White Rocks (good layers in the winters), and the Buff Orpingtons (good winter layers). All of these are on the ALBC website ranging from "Watch" to "Study".

ALBC stands for American Livestock Breed Conservancy, a worthy group trying to stop breeds of livestock from going extinct. It seems to be a losing battle in our increasing mono-culture society. One breed of chickens for the huge chicken factories, one breed of turkey (that can no longer even breed without human help), one or two breeds of hogs, a few breeds of cattle. Sheep and goats are taking a hit but not nearly as critically as the hogs, poultry, and cattle.

If I were selling poultry meat, I might have to go with a more "standard" (quick growing) breed of chicken - though I have my doubts about that - but since I'm raising it for myself this year, I'm free to only choose breeds that need my dollars, and those breeds are, overwhelmingly, the "heritage" breeds.

A few breeds that I've been eyeing for a few years that I'd like to get some specimens of are the Delaware, Buttercup and Lakenvelder.




But the chicken that I really want to start a breeding flock of is a chicken that is on ALBC's "Critical" list (as are the Delaware and Buttercup). It's a chicken that calls out to me for several reasons. It's supposed to have amazing flavor, be good layers of brown eggs, be cold-weather hardy, do well under range conditions, be very friendly, be good mousers (go figure on that one), and make noises that chickens don't normally make (the males can roar...). But most of all? My prickly feminist heart won out - this breed is the only American breed known to have been developed solely by a woman. Since it's in the critical category, there are "fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks (50 birds or more), and globally endangered". I would love to add another breeding flock to the list. These birds aren't sold by any major hatchery, though, so I'd have to find one of those five or fewer breeders and get my birds through them. A project for next year...


On to the turkeys...

I've wanted to raise turkeys for a few years now, much to my husband's dismay. This is my year to start with poultry, so I've got to decide between the two heritage breeds Bourbon Red and Narragansett. Since I'm wanting to start a breeding flock, I need to make a good choice this year to get a jump on it.

I want to raise "pastured poultry", poultry that is kept on pasture for the majority of the year, which makes for a healthier, happier bird, healthier land, and meat that is healthier for us. Due to our high owl and hawk population, it will likely still be necessary to pen them, but I'd like to use movable pens so that they are on pasture for as much of the year as that is feasible.

The Narragansett is in a more critical position on the ALBC page. They are reputed to be amazing foragers - a necessary quality in the type of operation I would like to run. They are also known for the excellent flavor of their meat, meat that is said to make factory "white" chickens taste completely flavorless in comparison. Add in "calm disposition, good maternal abilities, early maturation, and egg production", and I would love to have a breeding flock of these beautiful birds.

The other breed up for consideration is the Bourbon Red, an absolutely gorgeous animal. Less is known about this breed even though it is considered to be less in danger than the more commonly known Narrangasett. It is said to have very tasty meat and be an active forager.

So what do you think? Which would you buy if you were in the market for a Thanksgiving turkey?

I don't even want to have these babies in my hands until probably mid-late May, so this planning is a bit premature, but it sure is fun.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Now come the chicken catalogs.

Today I got a chicken catalog. My husband's just shaking his head.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Gardening magazines.

My husband hates this time of year. It's only the second year, but he already hates it. It's the time of year when I get gardening magazines by the cartload in the mailbox. Last night when he handed me the mail he grumbled something about making me go get the mail with a wheelbarrow.

I don't sign up for these magazines. I order mostly organic, mostly heritage seeds. There aren't THAT many gardening magazines that cater to a consumer like me. They must share their mailing lists.

There's not much better in the winter than curling up with a gardening magazine and dreaming of the season to come. If my garden were to follow exactly the winter planting dreams I have, it would be completely overwhelming.

Luckily, I am constrained by time, space, and energy. Especially since this year I will be gardening with a 3 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old, and a newborn.

My goal this year was going to be starting a CSA garden. Then I found out I was pregnant, so my plans changed. I'm not starting a CSA garden with a newborn. Now my focus will be on growing good starters - something I failed miserably at last year - and planning my garden around good fresh eating veggies and what I can put away.

Off to drool at my magazines again...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

This is necessary.

It used to be hard for me to keep up with one blog and now I have three! It became obvious to me last night, when I was about to update my unschooling blog (The Napping House) with gardening posts, that I needed a different blog for that.

This new blog will have my posts about gardening, my milk goats, my husband's animals, my new additions (hopefully turkeys and ducks), and work on the food we eat here, trying to make it more local and home-grown. None of those subjects would gel well with an unschooling blog focused on how damn cute my kids are.

I'm also excited to add some sidebars to this blog that I've seen on other blogs but haven't seemed appropriate for my other blogs.

So a new year, a new blog. At least in the spring, this may be my most active blog while we're gearing up for the production season. I have no good name for this blog yet - I'll work on that.