Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lots of planting.

Three blueberry bushes are in the ground. We'll see how well they do here.

Junebearing and Everbearing strawberries are in the ground.

Comfrey is in the ground.

Cherry, sandwich, and paste tomatoes, green and purple tomatillos are started.

Anaheim, Banana, Bolivian Rainbow, Jalapeno, and bell peppers are started.

My second batch of lettuces is started.

Goddess, I hope *something* survives being transplanted this year.

Waiting for Matt to help me put the garden fence back up before I plant the peas and such outside.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two births and a milking.

We have been so busy here. Two goats have given birth and I've begun training Celtic to milk.

The first goat to go was my favorite of my new goats, Physion. My husband has more experience with livestock births and let me know that she was having trouble - the baby coming out wasn't positioned right and I would have to go in and adjust leg positions. I've never had my hand inside an animal before. Since I'd be going inside, I moved her onto the cement pad and Matt went and got hot water to keep things as clean as possible. Then I got to work with Matt talking me through it and me trying to comfort poor Physion while I tried to straighten things out inside. That was an experience - more unpleasant for poor Physion than me, I'm afraid.

I got the first baby straightened out and she came out. Here she is right after birth. Poor thing was exhausted and not sure life was such a great thing.

Then we waited to see how the second baby would present. He was coming out fine so we left her alone (except for Hannah who watched the birth intently) and let her birth her little boy.

So Physion had healthy twins, a girl and a boy, and immediately began bonding with them. She's a fantastic mother. She spent a bit of time on the boy and then turned her attention to the girl for about fifteen minutes. The little girl had been stuck for long enough that she couldn't decide for a bit if living was really worth it. After Matt cleared out her lungs, the best person to convince her that it was worth it was her momma.

Physion convinced her to stick around and she, her brother, and her mother are all doing very well. The intensive involvement in the birth seems to have taken care of the imprinting. The babies are not at all nervous when I enter their recovery pen. Physion's always been the friendliest of my new first fresheners, but she's become a bit more cautious around me. Not that I blame her - she probably remembers where my hand was recently, poor thing.

Physion and her babies.

The babies the next day.

A few days later, Ariel unexpectedly gave birth to twins, also a girl and a boy. Ariel is Hannah's goat - you can tell by her pink collar. Hannah's watched me work with Celtic's babies and was present when I worked with Physion's newborns. When we found Ariel's babies, she immediately went and got some grain for Ariel and came back to work with them.

She's been religious about working with them every day since then, several times a day. It's really impressive to see that dedication in a four year old. Three days and counting. :) She's named them. Introducing Trip and Triplip. Ariel appears to be as attentive of a mother as Physion.

Hannah getting grain for her goats.

Ariel and her babies.

Hannah holding the little male.

And the little female.

The only goat we have left to kid out is Tamari, my goat that I got last year.

In other goat news, I've started milking Celtic. Her babies turned two weeks old at the beginning of this week. I pull them off in the evening and put them in a kid pen. The plan is to milk the momma the next morning and put the babies back with her to nurse all day. The momma will of course be glad to be milked in the morning since her bag will be full - it worked like a charm last year with Tamari and Jasmine. Celtic didn't get the memo. Or she got the wrong memo. She seems to think that milking is a medieval torture that can only be countered effectively by literally laying down on the job. She tried kicking, jumping, and sitting. I put the hobbles on her that I'd gotten when I bought three first fresheners. She resorted to laying down. With her head in the milking stand. This may take some time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Adding something for the animals.

This article was fun to read. Lots of basic information and ideas for feeding animals from your garden.

Some of the suggestions I'd heard before so was already planning on implementing this year. Mangel beets for the poultry, sunflowers to make my daughters smile and use as fodder, comfrey for all of the animals.

Last year I fed all of my extras to the animals, any pumpkins, squash, extra greens, thinnings, lawn clippings, fallen apples. My sister can tell you about the wagon full of weeds that we'd haul over to the pigs. It was fun to watch them go crazy for the green stuff - they got some every day and still acted like it was the first fresh food they had ever been given. I would also go around the property and pull up all the big weeds - Russian Knapweed I think it's called? - and feed it to the animals in the feedlot area. I couldn't put the animals on the fenceline to clean it up themselves because of our nearest neighbor's poorly tended dogs. When the growing season was over, I put the goats in the garden to clean it up.

This will be the first time that I've planted varieties specifically for the animals. In addition to the Mangel beets, suflowers, and Comfrey, I'll keep feeding the animals "scraps" and extras. Weeds (which are usually higher in nutrition), thinnings, clean-ups. Next year I'd like to try Jerusalem Artichokes. Belanger says that the stalks and leaves are enjoyed by cows, sheep, and goats and that pigs enjoy digging for the tubers.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I went surfing to try to find help for making goat cheese. And landed in chocolate.

How did I land in chocolate? This website came up on my results list. It's a lovely place - I wish I could visit. They do have intensive language retreats...

But once I pulled myself out of fantasy world travel, I found exactly the type of site I was searching for. It not only has cheese recipes and precise instructions, it has in-depth instructions on milk-handling around milking-time, something I was iffy about last year when I was a rank beginner. Turns out I was pretty much doing it right, but now I have a few new tips to try.

Fias Co Farm, the wonderful website that last year gave me hope that I *could* leave my babies on their mommas as I wanted to, also has a good page about milking procedure.

About 14 years ago, my sister was asking me what my email was. I didn't know *what* email was. She was flabbergasted and said "Do you use the internet much?" Nope, I said, and I don't see the point. What can the internet tell you that you can't learn just as fast or as thoroughly from books in the library? Jeez Louise. I actually said that. Now look at me, surfing the internet at midnight for instructions on goat milking, goat cheese making, and touring France. Can't run to the library at midnight when I want to get information on goat milking. Now off to watch the latest 'The Office' episode, something else I can't run to the library to do. Dwight would appreciate my goat cheese. And I loooves my internet.

Pony got a cart.

This is what Matt did today - went and bought a pony cart.

We've been looking for one for awhile and finally found one that we liked in our price range. We want to go riding as a family but don't have a horse that I can trust riding with an infant or a toddler. With this, Matt can ride his horse, I can drive the cart with the kids on it. We're still in the market for a nice, gentle old ranch horse that Hannah can ride and do barrel racing in the kiddie rodeos on. If we find one of those, it will be just the two youngest and me on the cart and Hannah and Matt riding - a good family activity.

After working as a wrangler in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the man that also ran the stagecoach in town, I know what kind of wrecks can happen when you hook an inexperienced animal up to something like this. I was kind of looking forward to Princess (the pony) deciding she didn't want to have anything to do with it because Matt was sure, absolutely sure, that she would be fine.

She was fine.

More than fine, actually. It really appears that she's either done this before or she is the most easy-going pony I've ever met. I don't think it's the latter, but either way we got a better deal when we bought her than we thought.

She was amazing. We pulled her around without the girls for a few minutes, then put the kids and the mom on and Matt pulled us down the road. Hannah held the reins the whole time, pretending she was in The Aristocats.

I wanted a turn at leading her, so Matt got a turn to ride. Notice how Ains is leaning off the back. She was less impressed than she thought she'd be. Apparently the pony needs a turbo button.

*Matt's feeling self-concious about the appearance of the pony here and wants me to let you know that she's not really mangy looking in real life - it's her winter coat starting to come off that makes her look so poorly. Just so you know. lol

Here the girls are resting while Matt unhooks the cart.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A good blog.

Throwback at Trapper Creek is a blog I read every other day or so. She has so much information on there. If I'm reading between the lines right, they not only have a greenhouse, a milk cow, use MiG, pasture poultry, and produce their own food but are unschoolers. That's cool.

The rough thing about homesteading, about having a small farm, is that it never stops. There's always something else - or a few hundred something elses - that you want to do, that you want to learn about. I'm feeling overwhelmed this year with my starts, my poultry, and what to do with all of my goat milk, and I have eleventy-hundred other ideas swimming around in my head. Luckily, there are blogs out there like this one that give you lots and lots of information.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Here it is, folks.

The first flower of the season. Too pretty to stay in the ground.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Poultry orders are in.

We've got chicks coming around May 19 from Meyer Hatchery. Cuckoo Marans, Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and - wait for it - BUCKEYES!!!

I ended up going with Meyer Hatchery because they had the Buckeyes. I couldn't find any other hatchery that did and they had two other breeds I wanted, so I opted out of the Light Brahmas (which Meyer's doesn't carry) and substituted the Buff Orpingtons. I have 50 baby chicks coming. *gulp*

I also ordered turkeys from Porter's Turkeys. I've got 20 (minimum order) Bourbon Red poults coming in June. If they can't fill the 20 poult order, some of those will be Royal Palm (first choice) or Narrangasett to get them up to the 20 poult minimum.

I'm trying to start a breeding flock of Bourbon Reds and another breeding flock of the Buckeye chickens, so I'm anxious about these babies. I have a month or two to work out my anxiousness and get ready for them. Hannah's excited about the babies getting here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Imprint training update.

Four days and all is well. Some things I've noticed with the imprint training.

1) Unexpected, but nice - imprinting the babies calms the mother! This mother (and my other two first timers) were not worked with at all by the breeder I bought them from. Not only are they first time fresheners, they're untamed to boot. Celtic here was the least tame. However, now she lets me come right up to her. She's cautious, but willing to wait and see what happens. Why? Because her babies don't move away from me like normal momma-raised babies. The first two days she'd move away and her body language would clearly be telling the babies "Human! Careful! Come with me!" - the babies would ignore that and just look at me. So *they're* taming *her*! I hope that holds when I start milking...

2) The book I have only deals with imprinting horses. You're told to imprint before the baby gets on its feet for the first time. Horses have one baby. Goats have two. While you're imprinting one, the other will get up. This happened with me. I imprinted the white and black one first, before she got up. I had to lay the brown and black one down to imprint it. The imprinting process was noticeably longer. Now the white and black one is without a doubt more "imprinted" than the black and brown one. Interesting. Must remember that. If I have a twin set that is girl and boy I'll need to imprint the girl first...

I'm excited that this appears to be working.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Starter update.

Hannah's flowers

One tray of onions

I will not have a toddler forever. I will not have a toddler forever. I will not have a toddler forever...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First goat babies.

Well, that's a surprise. Celtic went first. I think the breeder switched Celtic and Physion's due dates accidentally. I wasn't watching Celtic as closely as I was Physion, so she gave birth outside instead of in the shed. No big deal since it was dry. She picked a well-protected place to give birth and bonded well with them.

Two females.

This one has a large underbite. Not "affects how she eats" large, I don't think, but definitely "don't want to breed that back in" large.

I was able to be out there only a few minutes after the birth so I got to do the Imprint Training that I wanted to try on my babies this year.

Imprint training is supposed to work wonders for precocial species like horses, zebras, llamas, and, I'm hoping, goats.

Since my momma goats raise their own babies, I don't get "bottle babies" - goats that will run you over when you come in their pen because they're so happy to see you, their "mom". Last year I had two different experiences with these non-bottle babies. My first goat whose babies were handled by me every day and my second goat (my current goat) who I bought back from a friend who didn't have the time for a goat.

My first goat's babies were friendly enough, had to be coaxed in every night, and worried me when it came to training for the milk stand later. One was a male, so that wasn't an issue, and one was a female that I didn't end up keeping because my second goat produced not only more milk but, more importantly, a better flavored milk so I was hoping to keep her baby girl.

My second goat was one that I'd sold to a friend right before she gave birth. She had twins, a male and a female. My friend kept the male and I took momma and baby girl. Unfortunately, by the time my friend realized she didn't have the time or inclination to milk the goat, the baby was a big ball of three month old crazy. I worked with her every day and never was able to get her to calm. After a month of daily handling she was as crazy as the day I got her. If you attached a lead rope to her collar, she would run and hit the end of it hard enough to throw her to the ground. And she'd do that until you took the rope off.

Because of these two experiences - friendly-but-needing-to-be-coaxed and completely-batshit-crazy - I wanted to try the imprint training that I'd heard of with horses. I wasn't willing to give up momma-raising.

So I got the book and read up on it. A few minutes after birth, long enough for her to have bonded with her babies, but not long enough for them to have gotten steady on their feet, I started the training.

The idea is to work with the babies soon enough after birth that they imprint on you as they would on another member of their herd - they trust you. I worked with one before she got up and the other after she'd been up for about thirty minutes (while I worked on the first). The first one was definitely easier. The second one fought a bit more.

Imprint training is pretty simple, just time consuming. You touch the babies all over and if the baby struggles with a certain portion (like the legs), you keep the touching going until the struggling stops. This way you don't teach them to struggle and get away. With horses you do a lot more, working with things like their mouth (for a bit), their ears (for the halter/bridle), their back (for the saddle), etc. With my goats I worked with their face (for general handling), their legs and feet (for hoof care), and their udder area (for milking).

I left them out in the field for a few hours with their mom. She's a first time mom and I didn't want to put any undue strain on bonding by moving them around - Celtic was momma raised and is definitely a need-to-be-coaxed goat. After a few hours I went out to bring them in. Celtic moved away from me immediately, as expected, and seemed confused when - to my serious delight - the babies didn't move with her but looked at me like "Hi there! Good to see you again". I was worried for a bit because I want them to move away when they should - like from dogs.

I had to get Dan (my border collie) to stand about twenty feet behind Celtic to encourage her to move forward with me towards the shed. When the babies saw the dog they immediately went to their mother. When the sheep and horses came near them, they went to their mother. So we were on track. I was simply another goat to them. Not momma, but not danger either. Good enough.

I hope it holds.