Sunday, October 26, 2014
The weekend of October 25-26th 2014 was absolutely spectacular! This was THE weekend for optimal foliage color, perfect warm, sunny weather and a delightful breeze.... Too bad us farmsteaders had to work!! This was one of those weekends when on Sunday afternoon I realized we shoulda gone camping or something..... But alas, we had projects to complete and work to be done preparing for winter. Work first, play later is what I always say. It's the only way I can really enjoy play, otherwise I'm worrying about all the stuff I HAVE to do. I'm old, I know.
I'm the one that does the everyday feeding and watering and such of all our critters. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to hang out and love on everybody as well as a visible inspection. Sis usually follows along chattering about something. She likes to help and that's what it's all about if you ask me.
The exception to this is when I'm trying to feed the 25+ goats their grain. Goats like their grain, A LOT. They trample me. Well, not actually trample.. but they do step on my feet, try to run through my legs and someone usually ends up accidentally jabbing me with their horns. Once they see me with the feed bucket, they all congregate at the gate. This is really contrary to their desire to eat the grain because I can't get to the feed pans to pour the feed. So I play this little game where I act like I'm going to pour over here, then run as fast as I can over to a different pan and try to pour the grain without spilling it all over the ground. (The goal with goats is to keep them from eating close to the ground which is where the parasites live.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't... Sometimes I get lucky and they are out in the woods and I can sneak over and get it poured before they spot me. Most of the time they step in the pans and/or spill the grain on the ground anyway..
Good times it is.
So I've been thinkin about a way to make this easier on me and healthier for them. Thanks to the Internet, I found plans for a homemade feeder that keeps the troughs up higher than their rear, preventing them from pooping in it. (Because they can figure out a way to drop their pellets in darn near in anything!) It also prevents them from spilling it on the ground.
Here is a completed goat feeder. We cut a 4 inch PVC pipe in half which is small enough they can't get in it. I used wood scraps we already had laying around. The horizontal board is for them to stand on with their front feet to eat. It's taller than they are.
Goats eating at the new feeder.
I came up with a great idea to fence off the old garden spot by the gate that goes into their pasture. It's grown up from lack of attention for several years. I figure win-win right? Get the goats to clean it up, fertilize AND also end up with a closed off section to feed in.
After they get it cleaned up, I won't allow them in there so I will have a goat-free zone. Pour the grain, open the gate and let them in.
GENIUS. In summary, my weekend projects to help prepare for easy-peasy winter feeding were: (1)Put up panels around the old garden spot and (2)build two feeders. I do have to say this: I did all of this on my own; I worked the circular saw cutting boards to the right length, screwed everything tight with washers, pounded in the fence posts and wired the panels to the posts. Good work Mama, good work.
"What was the husband doing?", I bet you are wondering... Well, he did another winter feeding project. You see, we messed around this summer and didn't acquire the correct amount of square bales for the goats. Why? Because they are a pain. You have to go to the field, load them on the trailer, drive them home, then unload to the barn. It's a lot of work for us old folk. (Plus, we were in Ireland during peak square bale season. That's as good as any excuse, right?) I'm planning on feeding round bales anyway. No heavy lifting. They last longer too, thus not requiring me to drag one down from the barn every day in 10 inches of drifting snow..... However, you cannot feed round bales to goats like you can to cows with the big round metal feeders. Well, you can, but they would waste a big part of it. They could slip right through the bars and climb on it. King of the round bale is a fav goat game! Then they poop on it. And of course, once the hay is on the ground, they won't eat it. If it gets wet, they won't eat it. Hay is a substantial cost for us, so we need to utilize what we have the most we can.
So I'm talking with the husband about potential cost effective (cheap) ways for us to build some sort of roof over the round bale to keep it dry and I will use a utility panel around it to prevent as much waste as possible. (FYI, use the panels with holes smaller than the goats head to prevent goat heads from getting stuck... The smaller holes work better at holding the hay in anyway. The one I use has 4 X 4in holes, is 4ft high, and 20 ft long. Keeps them from jumping on top of it too.) He meanders outside and looks stuff over. He has an amazing mind for cost effective (cheap) solutions and problem solving. He's good to have around. Anyway, he comes back in and explains his ideas: Go between a couple of trees to attach a roof... That sounds pretty good.. OR open up the east side of the goat shed and move the metal walls to the north side, and extend the roof about 8 ft for cover and more inside space. "Wow, that might be a lot of work, but it sounds cool! Let's do it!"
The "before" of the east side of the goat shed. We removed 3 panels on the short end and moved them around for the new north wall.
The "after". We left the south and east sides open for easy access with the tractor and for the goats.
You can see little waste on the ground. You can also see all the little holes where the goats have stuck their noses in between the wires fishin' out the hay.
Good work Daddy, good work!!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Here's a story about "Fluffy". It is a story about a broad-breasted white turkey, (otherwise known as a meat turkey around here) and its contribution on the farm. So if eating meat or processing farm animals bothers you, you don't have to read any further....
Normally, we try not to name animals we raise for meat. But Grace called this bird Fluffy because it "fluffed" out all the time. If you haven't guessed by now, Fluffy is a boy, struttin' his bad self around the chicken yard all day. The kids knew when we got the turkey as a poult that we would be eating him so no surprises there. In fact, Grace was really excited about the day we would process Fluffy so she could have the feathers. She constantly harassed me if this would be the day. Go figure, right?....(The Sister is totally obsessed with feathers, always carrying one and usually flapping her little wings and running around "flying".)
Although I knew why I bought this bird, it is still hard. After taking care of him all summer and hearing his boy turkey noises all the time, it's difficult to decide which day should be processing day. I do not ever look forward to this day. And besides, I have never done a turkey before. So... Fluffy got really, really big. Like probably every bit of 50 pounds BIG. Excuses were easy to come by.. "It's too hot" was the main one. Then it was "I don't have all the tools I need because now he's too big now to fit in anything to scald". <Sigh>....
One day last week while I was feeding the birds, Fluffy wasn't trying to tear the bucket out of my hands to get the feed like normal. In fact, he wasn't around at all. Uh oh.... something's wrong. Oh Lord, please don't let me find this bird dead... Please don't let me find this bird dead... Please Lord, if I find him alive, then today is the day.... no more procrastination. Ah! There he is! Inside the chicken house.. Hmmm.. That's not normal. I dropped some feed in front of him. He acted like he wanted to eat but didn't. Alright then.. It's officially time. After all the energy and feed this bird has consumed, I'm not going to let him die on me and be dog food. He's supposed to be the Thanksgiving turkey.
I made the decision and acted quickly. It had to be done and the sooner I get it over, the better. I informed the husband and asked if he would sharpen the knives for me. (I really need to learn how to do that effectively, really sharp knives are essential for this sort of project) The sister is on my heels in anticipation of all the feathers. He's definitely too big to scald so I'm figuring I will just skin him. I didn't know what else to do. I'm in a hurry, right?? (If you don't know, you dunk them in hot water to "scald" them to release the feathers, after they are dead of course) It's about 5:00 pm and not hours of daylight left. Ok, I've got everything gathered. He's too big for me to carry so I shuffle him out of the chicken yard over to the cherry tree. Ok, the hardest part... How to dispatch him? I've never done a turkey before, remember?? ... Oh jeeeezzz.. Ok I'll use one of those sharp knives and cut his throat. He won't feel a thing.
You've heard the ole' saying about chickens running around with their head cut off?? It's true. They flop and flutter and carry on. It's terrible. I don't like it. To combat this, you use this cone thingy to put them in so they don't do that and bruise the meat. It is much less violent. Of course, I don't have anything like that for this giant turkey. I figure I'll just straddle him and lay all my weight on him to keep him from doing that. I send the Sister inside to get something in case this goes wrong.
Ready... 1...2.....3......4.....ok just gotta do it.. NOW. Oh my. Part of me wishes this was caught on video so you can see just how big he really was and what it was like to try to keep him from flopping. He was STRONG I tell ya, STRONG. But Im glad it wasn't because I really don't like reliving that. It's the worst part. In fact I don't have any pictures. Sorry.
Finally, life leaves his body. I'm thankful. Sis is back and we give thanks. She's upset at seeing him lifeless. Me too. We pray some more.
Gotta get to work. The sun is down. I managed to get him hung from the tree by a couple of ropes. I started the skinning process but the feathers were coming out fairly easily so I just started plucking. I've never plucked without scalding before so I have no experience. I just kept after it. The Brother is outside now, investigating everything. We did a fairly decent job of plucking, I thought anyway. Ok now I need to get the insides out. Hmmm.. How am I going to do that, I wondered. I need some muscle. I called on the Husband to help carry him over to the table so I could lay him flat.
I took the opportunity for a turkey anatomy lesson. The kids like seeing the insides. Me too. I find it fascinating how God put everything together and made it work. We checked each organ. Makes me miss surgery... (I was a vet assistant for years) Everything looked good. Nothing weird or any disease that I could tell. The gizzard was HUGE though! Like as big as my hand. I have no idea if that was normal. The dogs got the organs, head and feet. No sense wasting those parts, they have a lot of nutrition in them.
Packed him up and hauled him to Nana and Grandpa's because we didn't have the room in our fridge. We learned the hard way not to freeze them during rigor. It makes the meat tough and stringy. Let them rest in a fridge or cooler about 24 hours. The next day, we separated the breast because it was more than enough to feed the whole family on Thanksgiving. Packaged it up and stuck him in Nana's freezer. The rest I cut up and packaged separately for dinners. One leg would be 2, probably 3 meals. Roasted, then BBQ, then lastly soup of some sort.
After everything you go through for homegrown meat, trust me, you appreciate it more than something you picked up at the store. You know exactly what the animal ate, how it lived and how it died. It is a very gratifying experience.
So there's the story of Fluffy. Thanks for reading!
Many blessings friends,
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I was wondering where the tradition of carving pumpkins came from so I googled it. So if you are also curious, read on!
The Origin of the Carved Pumpkin
First off, the carved pumpkin is called a Jack O'Lantern. Right, we all know that. But did you know that originally it was not a pumpkin? This is an Irish/Scottish tale and pumpkins were native to the Americas... But back to the story....
A long, long time ago; several hundred years in fact, there lived an Irish man named Jack. He grew up in a simple village where he earned a reputation for cleverness as well as laziness. (Because it takes great skill to get out of working) He preferred to lie under a solitary oak tree, endlessly whittling. In his whole life, he never made a single friend or performed a selfless act for anyone. Stingy Jack, a miserable 'ole drunk, liked to play tricks on everyone; family, friends, his mother and even the devil himself. (I've got a neighbor this guy reminds me of)
In order to earn money to spend at the local pub, he was always on the lookout for an "easy shilling". As the legend goes, Stingy Jack invited the devil for a drink and convinced him to shape-shift into a coin to pay with. When the devil obliged, Jack decided he wanted the coin for other purposes, and kept it in his pocket beside a small, silver cross to keep the devil trapped as a coin.
Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between Heaven and hell. He asked the devil how he could leave as there was no light. The devil tossed him a burning coal from the flames of hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out turnip, one of his favorite foods. From that day forward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".
Since, on all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. (Remember, pumpkins were native to America) They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away.
The photograph above shows an Irish 19th century Jack-o-Lantern made from a turnip, which is on exhibit at the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out, thus starting the tradition of using pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.
Disclaimer: this was a simple, quick googling attempt and is by no means TRUTH. I am by no means any sort of professional historian.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Who are we and what are we doing?
Hmmm... Sometimes I gotta stop and remind myself of who I am and what my mission is. Ya know, because sometimes it is easy to get lost in the day to day business of life on the farm. Especially, homeschooling life on the farm!
My husband always says: "Too much of anything is not a good thing." And he's absolutely right. Balance is the name of the game here. We try our best for equal parts: husband and wife time, family time, school time and farm time. Are we perfect? Of course not and sometimes we have to combine family time with get-the-yard-cleaned-up-time-so-we-can-have-a bonfire-and-roast-marshmallows-time, or bring-in-the-wood-so-we can-stay-warm-family-time. Sometimes we get really lopsided with too much work and the kids remind us ever so repetitively, we need more family play time!
So who are we? Besides that my name is Carie and I'm almost forty.... And my husband is Mike and he's over forty...and we have a couple of kids ages 5 and 8....
Well, first and foremost we are followers of Jesus.
Our main mission? To live a life that brings glory to God. Simple right? Simple, but not easy...
And we are doing it on a farm with chickens and turkeys to feed, lizards to catch, dogs to wrestle with, mud to cake-on, cattle to care for, goats for entertainment, frogs to catch, trees to climb, worms for fishing, grasshoppers to play with... Well you get it... loads of dirty laundry, messy floors, weedy garden, goats to milk, eggs to collect, dinner to cook, grass to mow, endless fence projects, stuff to fix, and we can't forget about the cat to pet...The list seems endless.... But, it's what we like and I wouldn't have it any other way!!
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Yep. I did it. I made a rule and then I broke my own rule. Actually, it's a 2 part rule; 1) I am not bringing ANY new goats to the farm. They must be born here to stay here. 2) I will certainly not trade our Dexters for goats. Who trades a cow for goats?
Ok, so technically I didn't trade a cow/calf pair for a dozen goats. They are 2 separate transactions. I sold the cow to pay for the goats. Oh booooyyyy....
In my defense, this was a great opportunity to get quality, high percentage Kiko yearling doelings, ready to breed, in their prime.
They came from Arcadia Valley Goats farm close by in Ironton. They have decided to sell them all. They only had like 800 some goats.. These girls will be hardy, good parasite resistance, hopefully good mothers and will require little input from us. While we are investing less in terms of input, we should be increasing our output as well. These kids will be worth more as breeding stock for the commercial meat goat breeder.
I like goats. They are transforming the pastures (In a very much good way)! Goat kids are the best, great entertainment! Good for the soul! And we had a heifer year here at the farm. I have replacements for the cow/calf pair. It's all good, right??
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
February 2014 is our second kidding season and the start of our third year raising goats. The initial motivation on this adventure was brush control for our pastures. Our farm really is a goat haven; 40 acres of blackberry brambles, buck brush, multi flora rose, oak saplings and woods with a generous portion of varying weeds and a dollop of mixed grasses.
Goat-proof fencing is by far our biggest investment. We installed 48 inch graduated woven wire along with an offset electric strand about 12 inches from the ground. So far I think we have about 6 acres fenced, providing 3 separate paddocks. The plan for this year is to build some temporary electric paddocks and expand further on the property as well as continuing the woven wire permanent perimeter fence. Here is another previous post on fencing:
I pulled a super rookie move our first summer and traded a steer for 7 goats. 5 were purebred Lamancha dairy goats, a Nubian and a Mini-mancha. I knew nothing about them, not even their age! What a silly thing for me to do! But we have been blessed with these girls; they have provided us with our foundation dams. We are crossing these dairy girls with hardy Kiko bucks. The Kiko is a feral meat breed imported from New Zealand. We need brush eaters that don't cost a fortune to maintain and can reproduce easily. I cannot justify spending hundreds of dollars on a goat; they die too easily. Sad but true.
On this day, we have 19 goats. And 18 baby goats so far. Unfortunately,keeping them all is not in the cards. We need to start culling; keeping only the very best to improve the traits we are seeking the most. Parasite resistance, strong feet with correct conformation and good mothers are the top three. Next comes behavior and personality. It is going to be very hard for me to do. The boys are all for sale- if they are not sold off farm, they will go to the sale barn in the fall. As for the girls, it's going to be much tougher to decide. So for right now, time will tell and how well they perform this spring/summer. I may let the purebred lamancha girls go... It will be hard though! However, moving in the direction of chunky, fast weight-gaining kids increases the chances of profit at the end of the year.