Monday, May 19, 2008

Homesick.

For a place not home.

I lived in Ireland for seven months, working at a stable. Mornings like this, overcast, muggy, green - I miss it. I miss it a lot.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fixed the goat kid pen - we'll see tomorrow morning if it worked.

Oats are coming up! Radishes and some beets are also coming up. Peas are showing themselves!

Onions started from sets are flourishing.

Broccolis/Cauliflowers that I didn't think were going to make it are fighting hard and look like they'll make it.

Rhubarb is coming out my ears. I need to harvest it.

I have lots of planting/starting to do tomorrow. Corn needs to go out in the garden, melons/pumpkins/squashes need to be started.

Two blueberry bushes are doing very well, one appears to have not made it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith.

This is the real meaning of faith. Believing that those little seeds that you planted *will* come up, that they really are doing something under the ground that you can't see and that you really will get food later.

My faith is faltering - my "soil" is really just clay. I'm holding my breath, waiting for something, *any*thing to break through that dirt and prove me wrong.

I really should stop perusing Californian, Eastern and Southern gardening blogs. They're way ahead of us here in the North.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Overheard.

Hannah saying to Ariel's female baby, in a matter-of-fact voice. "Come eat the raisin. You need to tame down or you'll have to visit our freezer."

Hannah's been working with Ariel's babies daily since they were born, but the female, Triplip, has gotten an attitude problem in the last week. She runs away instead of toward Hannah, she collapses when you catch her and just lays there like you're a predator she's hiding from. I don't understand it. If more of the babies were having attitude problems, I'd think something had gotten in and scared them or that I wasn't watching my little one and she was chasing them, but it's just Triplip out of all the babies. The rest are very friendly. I'm afraid we may have a repeat of Tamari's Cayenne baby from last year - just a nutty kid that won't tame down. It's a bit genetic, or maybe learned (although Trip, Ariel's other kid, is just fine). I've been milking Ariel for a week and I still have to catch her to milk her instead of her coming in for the grain on her own. Physion's waiting for me in the morning (so is Tamari and I'm not even milking her), but Ariel still takes Dan to close off escape routes to get her to the milking stand. She's better than she was, but not as good as she needs to be, and I think her daughter's either inherited that or is watching momma a bit too closely.

Tonight I gave Hannah some raisins to try to bribe Triplip into taming down some more. The other babies were eating the raisins up. Hannah had to open her baby's mouth up and stick the raisin in. Then the baby would spit it out. No matter how many times Hannah stuck the raisin in, that goat would spit it out. Reminded me of when we tried to see if Hannah would like a pacifier when she was an infant. She didn't.

We're sitting down in a few weeks and having the "who do we keep" discussion. That discussion will deal with cost of feed, genetics, available land, usefulness of all of the animals - sheep, cattle, horses, goats. Hannah will be involved in the discussion this year since she has a goat. She knows this and is preparing for it - she's trying to prepare her goats for it also, giving them the best chance to stick around. Animals with attitude don't stick around on a farm with young kids, and with the price of feed, not many of those babies will be sticking around anyway. This necessary part of animal raising - culling - is not fun.

Getting ready for chickens.

I have fifty baby chicks scheduled to arrive at the beginning of next week. I'm a big ball of nerves, like I am every time I start something new, trying to get everything ready, trying to get everything perfect.

I'm re-reading all of my chicken books, but trying to remind myself that the most I'll learn will be after the chicks arrive, from doing this myself. It's not working. These people that wrote these books know it all, don't they? If I just read enough books and use the knowledge they've shared, I should have no problems. You'd think I would know better by now. But still, here I am, re-reading Pastured Poultry Profits and Raising Chickens at midnight while I have some rare time for myself. I should be watching the latest episode of Bones.

I'm going to get the basic supplies tomorrow - waterers, feeders, chick feed, heat lamp. What is the best bedding to use? I wish I'd reviewed these books two weeks ago before the last of my peat moss went into my garden beds.

Deep breaths, more planning.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sneaky sneakster.

Physion gave over two pounds of milk today, Ariel gave just over a pound.

What's the difference? Ariel sidles up to the kid pen and lets her kids stick their heads through and nurse. Going to have to move the kid pen.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Trimmed Ariel and Physions feet.

Put Ariel and Physion out on grass for a few hours.

Checked on the kittens - all three are still alive! And their eyes are open. Cute as three little buttons, they are.

The girls found my hidden flower patch. Bright orange tulips are now picked and replanted in their garden. But they got so much joy from them.

Lettuce starts are in. Final luffas transplanted. Next batch of lettuce started indoors. Fall crop of kale started indoors.

Two more ten gallon buckets of dandelions dug and dumped to the sheep and goats.

Strawberry patches weeded.

Baby giggled.

Good day.

Let's hear it for the goats!

Over two pounds of milk from both my girls today!!!

The cats and dogs were so happy - four pounds of milk! The goats each put one foot in the pail while I was milking.

No bucking, hopping or sitting today, and only one (unfortunately well aimed) kick per goat.

But overall, I'm thrilled. They've doubled their milk production.

I'm interested to see how much Tamari will milk out. I didn't weigh production last year, but she steadily gave six cups a day with babies on her. I'll start milking her next week, right around when I get my chicks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Busy day in the garden today.

Most of my cabbage and broccoli starts didn't make it, so I went to a small greenhouse and bought some to plant. They also had onions and leeks so I got some of those and put all of it in the ground.

Second planting of carrots, spinach, scallions and radishes went in.

Parsnips are in.

Kale and chard starts are in.

Strawberries and comfrey are showing signs of life.

New Zealand spinach is in.

I'm getting a nice tan already.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Raw milk.

For health reasons, raw milk is the ideal for me. For political reasons, raw milk is impossible for me to buy here in Idaho, and next to impossible to barter for. Some of our close friends are organic dairy farmers that run a clean barn, but due to liability issues, they can't sell to us or barter with us for milk. This situation, knowing what I wanted but being unable to buy it, led me to wanting to own my own milk-producing animal. Enter a milk cow. No, scratch that. Too expensive. Enter the poor man's cow. A goat. A LaMancha goat with delicious milk.



When I got Tamari, I went with recommendations for which breed of goat had the best tasting milk. LaManchas were always in the top two breeds suggested, usually number one. I found a 'local' (3 hours north) breeder who had a name for smooth tasting milk and bought my first 'real' milk goat. (I'd bought some 'cute' goats from the local auction on a whim and had milked them. That milk was *foul*. Those goats later, but before I got my LaManchas, got infected with a contagious disease by another auction goat and had to be put down. I don't buy from auctions anymore.) Tamari lived up to her breed's reputation - fantastic milk.

I milked all summer and let her dry off in the fall. After a long winter with no raw milk, we're back in milk. I milked out Physion and Ariel today. Both are first fresheners and I was nervous about the process after Celtic's shenanigans. One big difference is that these two seem to be good mothers. They let their kids nurse, after all.

I brought Physion in first, got her on the stand, gave her some grain to keep her patient, and washed her udder. She moved around nervously and then settled down. The cats got the first few squirts. Physion flinched a bit but then went back to the grain. I milked her almost all the way out and she never needed the hobbles. She never kicked, sat or laid down. She gave a bit over a pound of milk. Her teats face a bit forward on her udder and are smaller than I'd like - it tired me out faster to milk her than it has to milk Tamari (with longer teats) in the past.



I brought Ariel in and started the routine again. The grain wasn't such a distraction for her and I had to use the hobbles. She hopped around quite a bit and yelled the entire time for her babies. Ainsley can't stand the sound of yelling goats, babies or adults, and was in tears. I didn't milk Ariel out as much as Physion and got about a pound of milk. Her teats are bigger and more centered than Physions making milking less taxing.



I kept the milk from both separated, and will do that for the next week or so to test the flavor from each goat. If one has an off flavor, I'll keep their milk separated, using the good stuff for drinking and cheese and the 'goaty' stuff for soap. I can't wait until I start milking Tamari again. She had the best tasting milk. If you didn't tell people it was goat milk, they didn't know. They could tell it was raw, but not that it wasn't cow's milk.

So for the next five or six months at least I'll have raw milk. A milk cow (and possibly one milking sheep, for the cheese, natch) is in my future, but for now, my LaManchas will do. (And I now think goats with ears look funny.)

Resources:

All things goaty - fabulous resource: FiasCo Farm

What to do with the milk (includes proper milk handling): Fankhauser's Cheese Page

Campaign for Real Milk

Book: The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid

Another warm day.

Onion and leek starts and flax are in.

I learned something starting the onions and leeks. It may seem like a good idea to start both onions and leeks in the same tray, but it's really not. Especially with toddlers around who pull out markers. I have my onions and leeks in one bed, all mixed up together. I have no idea which starts are which plant, since I've never started either of these from seed before and they look so similar. This probably means that my leeks will not thrive, and to be honest, I'm not too hopeful about my onions. They looked so fragile when I planted them.

An interesting thing happened when I was sitting on the ground planting my flax seeds. I paused from planting to watch my daughters playing in the 'forest pasture'. I was concentrating pretty hard, so I was holding very still. Then something hit my hand and I started, thinking it was a bug. It was a very tiny yellow winged sparrow type bird. The winter must have been so long, the flax seeds so tempting, and my body so still that the bird thought that it was worth it, and the bird *did* get some seeds. But it still startled both of us when we noticed the others' presence.

In chicken, or rather, rooster, news, both are still alive and doing well. They got separated for a few days, one roosting in our shed above the bum lambs, the other roosting in the forest pasture. I could hear them talking to each other, but it wasn't until today that the forest rooster gained the courage to cross the open field and find his buddy. They look very content roosting together in the shed.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The owl and the pussycats...

are doing a bang-up job of rodent control. Mice are finding our property very unfriendly. Luckily, the farm surrounding us has plenty of rodents to keep our predator population well-fed. We've even had two hawks circling for the last week. The farm has tractors plowing and planting and that always brings out the rodents which brings out the predators.

I got these pictures of our owl.





I can't seem to get a picture of its mate. I can only find one owl at a time, though I can hear two. One always stays much better hidden than the other.

Our calico barn cat had a litter. She's had three litters since she moved in with us and all three have had three kittens - a white, an orange, and a black and white. She had this litter under a big pine tree on our property. I was able to squirm through some branches and get a picture, but I didn't pick them up. She doesn't do well if her kittens are handled before she brings them out. She's not the best mother.

The orange is obviously a male - it will be interesting to see what the other two are. In her other two litters, the white one was female and the black and white one was male.



The first litter she had, she had in our barn attic, and only one kitten survived - Desiree, our white cat. The second litter she had, she had in an old birds nest in our lilac tree.



Not surprisingly, none of those survived. I'm hoping for a better outcome with this litter, and I'm hoping to get her spayed soon. In our rural area it's $90 for a cat spay. That's a lot of money to pay to spay a barn cat. We're still discussing it.

Big day today.

I got the oats in.

But that's not the big news. Tamari had her babies! I've been watching her like a hawk for two days. Checking through the fence every twenty minutes today, hoping to get a video of a goat giving birth for some friends online. She was getting sick of being watched. I swear I saw her roll her eyes at me. Then I head in the house to put the babes down for a nap. Thirty minutes and she sneaks them out. I'm sure she didn't feel like they snuck out. I came outside and I'd missed the second birth by two minutes, tops.



She had a boy and a girl, both jet black, no white on them that I could see. It looks like the girl may have elf ears while the male definitely has gopher ears. The female is much stockier than the male. So much so that I stuck them together for a picture.



Tamari is a very attentive mother. All of my babies are born now. I start training Physion and Ariel in a few days. I'm much more hopeful about them than Celtic. They're very good mothers who don't kick their babies off.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Early birds.

Earlier than I expected. I'm not supposed to get any poultry until mid-May. My husband's very funny boss had other ideas. He had two extra roosters and thought it would be funny to put them in my husband's work truck. When Matt got home, he cut the string holding their legs together and they took off before he could cut the string *off* their legs.



So now I have two roosters of unknown temperament running around my property. Roosters aren't known for being kid-friendly, so now I'm having to keep my eyes open for poultry.



Of course my labrador who has never shown *any* interest in birds before today has decided that *these* are interesting birds. I might not have to worry about how dangerous they are for very long...

I was in feeding the bum lambs tonight with Ains when I heard her say "Bauck! Momma, bauck! Roosken, momma! Baucka baucka!" I looked up, and there on the fence railing was a lone rooster - I couldn't find his buddy. I don't know if he's hiding, or whether a dog, a cat, an owl, or a hawk got him.

Today's tally.

Planted spinaches, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, turnips, and beets.

Nice overcast day for planting. My little redhead didn't get sunburned and my babe enjoyed bouncing beside me while I worked.



I gave Ainsley a spade and a section and she stayed busy. When she got bored with digging, she drew in my plan book.



Every time I found a rock, I'd absentmindedly throw it over the garden fence towards the canal. At the end of the day I noticed my border collie had a large pile of rocks collected.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I want this horse.

I can't have this horse, but I want this horse.

If I had the money, I'd invest it in this horse to start back up jumping in a few years.

I don't want to use up her bandwidth, so you'll have to follow the link.

I've been poring over this site since I found it a few hours ago. It's a beautiful ranch with a beautiful philosophy that raises some of the animals I want to raise. You know, when I have enough money to raise "wants". Red Wattle Hogs, Akhal-Teke horses, Komondor guard dogs. Actually, a guard dog might be on the near horizon...

She doesn't live that far away. Maybe I can talk my husband into a trip to the B&B. I would love to visit. That's stunning country and he could take the kids fishing.

She also does a CSA for meat. I'm trying to talk my husband into doing that with his sheep and I'm planning on doing it with my turkeys, maybe branching out into chickens and hogs. Matt's stuck in the market mindset - have to sell them to a broker or at the auction as a group. I'm slowly making headway with the 'individual sales' tack though. Websites like this make our dream of having our family all at home seem more doable.
Since my last post:

-Cabbages, cauliflowers and broccolis are transplanted out. Cauliflowers are doing well, I'm worried about the cabbages and broccolis.

-Onion sets are planted out.

-Peas are in the ground.

-Goats are in the garden as we speak cleaning up the weeds left over from last year.

-Garden fence is up so planting in that area can begin in earnest. Hopefully spinach, kohlrabi, and radishes will go in today.

-Baby goats were disbudded. That was not fun for anyone involved, but it was less traumatic for all involved than I thought it would be.

-I've been moving my poor root-bound luffas into bigger pots as fast as I can find the pots. So far gallon ice cream buckets have been the most available pots - I hope these babies survive long enough to get in the ground. It's still weeks until they can go out.

-Trial planting of crownvetch is out in the big ol' dirt field. We have nearly six acres here, but half of it is in feedlot since this used to be a dairy. Dirt doesn't do much to help with the feed bill. Since we live in the desert and don't have a lot of water, I'm experimenting with drought-resistant ground cover out there. This is my first experiment. A "dry-run", if you will. Hee.

-I've given up on milking Celtic. I was told that it is hard to break a "layer" of her habit, and "they" are right. It's not just me she lays down with, it's her babies too. They are doing well, but it's not from having an attentive momma, it's from being good at sneaking nursing sessions on the run. Literally. I've watched them hang on to the nipple while running behind her. Then she lays down so they can't nurse. She just doesn't want anyone touching her teats, be it a human or her babies. I have three other goats and one on the way. I don't need to be struggling with a goat with an attitude problem also. Her breeder has expressed interest in getting her back (she's my only registered LaMancha), so I'll go that route first.

And just because a post is no fun without pictures, here's a random picture of a lamb we had a few years back. It was born the same time that Pirates of the Caribbean came out. We named it Jack. That skull looked scary!