Homestead News, Volume 18

I’ve been thinking I need to update you on the animals around our place. They are a big part of our daily lives, so sometimes the changes appear subtle to us, but others notice the changes more readily. The young ones are growing, and some of the older ones will be increasing our numbers soon.

 

I’ll start out with the goats. We still have three older wethers waiting to fill some of the freezer. I’ll have to wait until the surgeon gives me the okay before I tackle this project. Believe it or not, the meat from the previous goat we butchered and ground is gone. Since these are dairy animals, we don’t get a lot of meat from one carcass. Last year we kept three young wethers, this year I think we’ll keep them all. More meat on the hoof that way.

We will be having baby goats soon, January 5th is the first due date with one or two others to follow by mid January. One Stripe, our old lady goat of seven years, will be first. She has developed her characteristic waddle and her udder is developing nicely. I need both hands back in action to begin milking her the day of delivery. I will milk her everyday and give the colostrum to the pigs, dog and cats. After five days, I will begin keeping it for us to drink, which we really look forward to.

Next in line is up for grabs. Back in the summer I turned Cricket in with the buck for breeding, wrote down the date and thought all was well. Later on, she spent the day by the gate with the buck indicating she was back in

heat, so I didn’t think she ‘took’. At that point we had decided to sell the buck and borrow one from Faith, which is what we are doing now. Well, Victor the borrowed buck,

Victor the borrowed buck

has now been here for 22 days and Cricket has yet to come in heat. So, is she pregnant and due in January? She is the only one what knows. She is also the only one I am milking once a day now. We only get about a pint, so it’s barely enough to keep the kefir going, another reason we look forward to new baby goats and an increasing milk supply once again. I didn’t keep Cricket’s summer breeding date so I can only guess a due date. If memory serves me correctly, which it often doesn’t, that’s why I write things down, she is due somewhere between One Stripe and Copper. We’ll see.

Next in line is Copper, one of One Stripe’s daughters. Copper is an old hand now at having babies and she looks very good. Her due date is January 11th. With two does back in full production we will soon have plenty of milk which is very good. We also need to replenish our reserve supply of frozen milk.

Besides having plenty of milk for us, another reason it will be very good is the expectation of having piglets sometime in the next month. That’s a guess anyway. We are estimating Liberty may be due around January 10th if we have an accurate breed date. That estimate could be anything but accurate, so we will just have to wait and let her tell us when the time comes. I figure after a few weeks the piglets will be more than happy to drink some goat milk, so it turns out to be very good timing. Right now the pigs are getting some of our old powdered milk in their daily ration. They will be happy to have goat milk instead.
 

 

Two of the pigs have turned up with greasy pig disease again. From all of my reading, this is caused by a staph infection that sets up in scrapes or scratches. It can be very contagious and it can spread all over their body, but it can also run it’s course and heal without medical intervention. According to the vet, staph bacteria is everywhere, in the soil, on the surface of most animals skin, etc., it just needs an avenue

to grow. With all of the briers and thorny plants in our pastures, the pigs are going to get scrapes and such as they graze and root around, so this looks like it may be a recurring event here. The first time they got it the vet came out and gave each of them a penicillin shot. We don’t want to repeat that performance on a regular basis so I did some research to see what we can do naturally. For now I have added dried minced garlic and yeast to their daily ration. The sulfur in the garlic is great for it’s anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. The yeast contains zinc which is good for the pigs immune system. I have found a book that I will be ordering about natural pig treatments to see what else I can learn.

We did some more bartering with Emmet and he took home all of our older hens and two young roosters that were causing too much commotion in the chicken house. We kept our older Buff Orpington rooster. He is calm, not aggressive toward us, calls the hens to eat and overall, has been a great rooster. This leaves us with 20 young hens, many of which are laying. There are two different ages of hens in this flock from the first two sets of eggs we incubated in the spring, so some of them are almost a month younger than the rest. We are getting 10 to 12 eggs a day for now and a few of them are getting to be good size along with the smaller pullet eggs.

There are about 40 more young chickens that will be ready to butcher in about two to three weeks if the surgeon releases me to do so. This chore will have to be completed around the healing of my right hand and the timing of the surgery on my left hand. It will be the same thing, trigger finger and ganglion cyst, so I will have another splint for a while at some point.

Life on the farm is good. Very good. It fills our days and our bellies. It seems with each passing day we talk to more and more people that see very hard times coming our way. There are pieces of the coming storm that some focus on, the economy, the terrorist activities, the racial hatred, the government, but most don’t consider the immensity of it all. It’s a huge complicated mess and there is no telling which way the avalanche will fall when it all lets go. I have talked to some older folks that know something is coming and they are afraid. Some of them hope to be gone before it gets really bad. Fear is a powerful thing. It can paralyze you or motivate you. Remember, even though it is the holiday season, it appears to become more important everyday to avoid crowds. And if that bus or truck every pulls up out front, don’t get on it. You never know what may await you at the end of that ride, but it will no longer be a life of your choosing.

There is still much to be done here. We can only pray we have it completed before the time comes. You might want to do the same.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 17

We are still working on our antenna project. The rains have softened the ground enough that we can’t get in the garden to work on raising the first of three towers. We attempted to raise the first one as the rains were coming, but found out we need a stouter pulling pole to get this tower up. We’ll give you a lot more details in an article dedicated solely to this project when we’re closer to completion.

Our young hens are starting to lay and we get varying sizes of pullet eggs everyday now, and that is great. We were blessed with eggs from Grace and Faith to tide us over until we had enough.

October 29th

The garden is history for this year. There are still a few potatoes that keep coming up out there, but we already have two pots in the greenhouse. I may add another one or two but it will have to be tomorrow if I do since the low tomorrow night is supposed to be 24 degrees. This will be our first hard freeze of the season. We’ve had a few dustings of frost so far, but haven’t even made it down to 32 degrees yet.

Easter & Patch

We brought home a buck this evening that we are borrowing from Faith. It was dark by the time we got him unloaded and settled, so no pictures yet. Faith and her husband have been gracious enough to provide us with an opportunity to add some new blood to our herd, and we haven’t been able to find a permanent replacement buck for our herd yet. Victor, the borrowed buck, has four does to breed while he is here. Our plan is to keep him for 60 days to make sure all of the does are pregnant, especially our two young does, Patch and Easter. Young does don’t always ‘take’ the first time they are bred, so we will be counting days to see if they come back into standing heat 21 days after breeding. If not, it’s usually safe to say they are pregnant.

We tried the pear sauce this morning on some sourdough biscuits and it is very good. To us it seems very sweet even though there is no sugar in it. The very ripe pears I used worked great. Very nice.

The outdoor kitchen work has been on hold because of the wet weather. We need to spray down the plywood walls and let them dry for a day or two so we can paint them before we start setting up the stove, smoker and sinks. Maybe next week it will be dry enough to get the painting done.

We cleared out the stuff that had accumulated in the livingroom around the woodstove so we can get it ready for use. When we paint the outdoor kitchen we’re also going to paint the concrete board that goes behind the stove and get it fastened to the walls. We plan to paint the exterior doors on the house, too. I hope we can finish off the painting soon, neither one of us like to paint, and really don’t look forward to that chore.

The Survival Radio Relay Net continues to slowly grow. There were two new people on the net this week. Our ability to communicate has been somewhat limited with the towers down, so Frank has been calling the net from one of our vehicles that has a CB and a VHF/UHF in it. We are all learning how to be more effective in contacting each other and relaying information between different people. It is a great learning experience and we get a little better at it each time we meet.

Life is good. It has slowed down a little with the coming of winter, but not much. We’re hampered a bit by the weather, but still making good progress. 

The events of the world continue to unfold with increasing speed and TEOTWAWKI comes more into focus each passing day. I often think of Ol’ Remus’ advice, “Avoid crowds”, especially in light of holiday shopping. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing among us.

Until next time – Fern
 

Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

Pig Tales, Volume 3

Even though Frank and I are still a little cautious around the pigs, they have become a welcome addition to our homestead. I am very pleased with the demeanor of our American Guinea Hogs. They have some little quirks that we are slowly trying to shape more to our liking, though. Like taking the end of our shoes in their mouth when we enter the pasture. I still haven’t figured out if it is a greeting or a taste test. Either way, I really don’t like it. I keep picturing Lance, full grown at around 200 pounds wanting to ‘taste test’ my shoe. With my foot in it. I really don’t relish that idea at all.
 

Lance


Then there is Liberty. She like to run right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan, and bump my back foot as I pick it up to take the next step. I also picture her full grown around 180 pounds. She could easily trip me and make me fall. On the ground is somewhere I do not want to be in a pig pen.

Liberty


Then this evening when Frank went in the pasture to feed the pigs, one of the barrows bit the back of this leg. That didn’t go over too well, and he received a correction with a shoe. This is one behavior that will not be tolerated. We need to be able to go into the pasture without the risk or fear of being bit. We don’t want to raise pigs with unacceptable behavior due to our ignorance of normal pig behavior since we haven’t raised them before. There is still a lot to learn.

When I went to the pig pasture to take pictures for this article, the pigs were down at the pond. I was hoping they would be. The first one surprised me by coming up over the pond bank. One by one they all came over to see me expecting to be fed, even though I have never fed them in this location. It’s just that most of the time when they see me it is feeding time. It took them a while to figure out that there was no food forthcoming.

 

What the pigs showed me were the trails they have created through the tall grass and weeds around the pond. Some are right at the edge of the water and some are farther out into the vegetation.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of the trails took me right past these beautiful flowers. Does anyone know what this is? All I know is that it is a three foot tall weed that I truly enjoyed. It is as close to blue as any flower I’ve seen.

After I made it around the pond to the far side the pigs lost interest in following me. That’s when they showed me where their wallow is located. I don’t think I would have ever figured it out if they hadn’t shown me.

At first, the pigs would wallow on the west side of the pond closest to the barn, but there wasn’t any shade. Now they have found shade on the south side of the pond in the form of these tall, grassy weeds. Pretty smart if you ask me. The water is shallow there, and the grass provides the shade they need. 

The pigs are now 4 1/2 months old, and growing nicely. Most pigs would be much bigger than these by now, but since our pigs will only reach about 200 pounds, they are doing well. According to everything we’ve read and the folks we’ve talked to, Liberty should be coming into heat in about a month and a half. I hope they all get along during that time since we are not planning on separating them until she is ready to farrow.

Our biggest fear in getting the pigs was that they would get out. That hasn’t happened and they don’t seem inclined to even try as far as we know. They are comfortable with their territory and seem to get around quite well. I don’t think they will ever run out of things to eat. This pasture could hold many more pigs, but we don’t plan on having more than one breeding pair, with two to four barrows on the hoof awaiting the dinner table. There will be piglets around from time to time, but we will sell the extras when they are eight weeks old and ready to wean.

Liberty


Lance


Having piglets will be the next big step for us. If that goes well, I guess we will officially call ourselves pig farmers. And goat farmers. And chicken farmers. And vegetable farmers. I guess that makes us homesteaders. It’s who we are. There’s no place like home.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 7

There is not a lot going on here right now, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We have told you about many of our latest activities, so we thought we would give you a run down of our general, everyday homestead life. I waited until evening chores with the sun going down to take the pictures for this article. Just as we were wrapping up and I was going to take the last pictures of the pigs, the camera batteries died.

And speaking of pigs, our American Guinea Hogs are doing very well. They are pretty friendly, and now come running anytime they here one of us holler, “Come on pigs!” They know that means we are carrying a bucket with something good to eat. The contents of the bucket tend to vary

widely depending on what we’re harvesting from the garden, whether we have whey from making cheese, or just getting rid of some older staples that have sat on the shelf for too long. I’m starting to eye the barrows and think of the future meat and lard they will provide. We really look forward to butchering one of them so we can see how they taste. Lance, the boar, and Liberty, the gilt, like to greet me in the morning with mud on their noses. They have become very adept at putting a nice big nose print smear on my jeans, especially if I have just put on a clean pair. I like to think they are just bumping me with their nose in greeting and not wiping their faces. What is it about pigs and shoes? Why does Lance think he needs to taste or try to bite my shoe when I go in there?

One Stripe. See it right there on her side?

We have been putting two of our does, One Stripe and Cricket, in the ‘boys’ pasture during the day for about a week. Cricket has fully recovered from the scours she had earlier in the month which prevented us from trying this a few weeks ago. Our temperatures have hovered just under or over 100* for a couple of weeks now, and we think that has, and will, prevent them from breeding. We had hopes for them to breed in July for December babies and a winter milk supply, but I just don’t think that will happen. Next year I will breed two does in May for October babies. That will require the does to breed not long after they kid, but then we should be on a more even cycle of once a year again. We will see. It is a real challenge to keep ourselves in milk year round, but continues to be an important goal.

 

We are still picking tomatoes, green beans and cowpeas from the garden. The last of the squash plants have succumbed to the squash bugs, and I have already replanted a few hills. The pepper plants are finally growing well and starting to produce. I will pick a few jalapenos next week to make salsa. Tomatoes are filling up my crispers in the frig awaiting enough company to can salsa for the pantry shelves. We have been out for a while and have missed it. We eat a lot more salsa than canned tomatoes, so it will take first place in the canning process.

 

The cucumbers are gradually growing and starting to bloom quite a bit. There aren’t many plants so I don’t know how many pickles we can make. I’d like to ferment them, so it may be in individual jars. I’m just not sure how well they will keep on the pantry shelves. I’m still hesitant to leave them there instead of refrigerated. We only have one refrigerator, and no other cold storage for jars of fermented food, so I just don’t know what to do. I’ve read that fermented veges will be fine on the shelf after they complete the fermenting process, but I don’t trust that practice yet. Any advice you may have for me would be appreciated.

 

In our efforts to clear the weeds and grass from parts of the garden for fall crops, Frank used the disc on the tractor (like we showed you in a previous post). Well, today we went out to work on it again and Frank got a great idea. Instead of raking and removing the dead grass, he scraped it all together with the bucket on the tractor. It made quick work in the hot sun, instead of using a rake and wagon. That was one of those time and body saving ideas that really paid off. Now after one more session with the disc, the ground will be ready to plant. 

Work on the greenhouse and other slated projects will resume before long when our one man crew returns from vacation. Frank’s list of things he wants to complete grows a few more items from time to time.

I continue to do contract work for the school district we both retired from, and with school starting before long, I will be more involved in that process than I have been for the past few months. I will be attending training on a new computer program that the state of Oklahoma is adopting, then spend a day at the school training the teachers how to use it as well.

Frank’s Ham Radio & Survival Communications class is going very well. They have two more weeks of class before some of the members will be testing for their ham radio licenses. The local county emergency management office has arranged for Volunteer Examiners to come to the class location to administer the tests instead of the students having to go 60 miles to another testing session being offered by an area radio club. This is the first time the local Volunteer Examiners have administered a test in this area. The ARRL requires them to administer four test sessions before they will be recognized as a certified testing group. It’s great that Frank’s request for a local test session has lead this group to start up their own program.

Once the radio class is over, the real work will begin. There are several class members that want to set up towers or antenna poles to begin the process of creating a communication network in our area. This is the whole purpose of this class and we are excited to see the interest that is being expressed. Many of these folks know that there are hard times coming and want to be able to look out for each other when they arrive, and for that, we are truly grateful. So even though we expect the deterioration of our country and world to continue, it’s comforting to know there are those that are willing to create a workable communication network in this area.
 

 

This morning we turned 16 of our eight week old hens out with the adult flock of birds. This gives the 17 or so young roosters more room in their pen to grow a few more weeks before they take up space in the freezer. We look forward to having fresh chicken again. We rationed out the last few from last year and are now out of chicken meat. 

 

The young batch of chicks are now a month old and will soon need both ‘baby’ pens to prevent overcrowding. We will be looking at the hens in this group of birds also to see which ones we want to keep. We plan to keep about 20 young hens to replace the current laying flock. We will also choose two young roosters. In about three or four months, the older bird will find their way into jars once the young hens start laying. Then the cycle will start once again.

Scruffy drinking fresh squeezed milk

 
The heat keeps us inside during the hot afternoons this time of year. Our busiest times outside have waned until the weather starts to cool in September. We will continue to work on our projects in the mornings, or when the heat allows. There is still so much to do, and we feel the time gets shorter everyday. 

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 6

The days have been so full, Frank’s Tuesday night radio class seems like more than a week ago. It is going very well, good attendance, with more questions coming up all the time. One of his students came by to discuss antennas and towers yesterday morning while I got started on an all day canning spree. We continue to be very encouraged by the interest folks from around our small area are expressing about being able to stay in touch with each other by radio should an emergency arise, short term or long term.

The day before yesterday I harvested all I could from the garden. The tomatoes are finally ripening and taste really good. We don’t have enough to can yet, but we will. The canning spree yesterday included 16 pints of yellow squash in the first canner. It filled up both layers in our canner with some left over that made it into another batch with one pint of green beans and two pints of cowpeas.

After I got that started, I worked over the plums that our friend Grace gave me. They are very sweet and a pretty, dark red. I canned five pints leaving plenty of room for water to make a nutritious juice to drink along with the fruit. 

 

Next came some minced garlic. I bought nine pounds of peeled garlic. I haven’t harvested ours yet, it’s out there, I just didn’t get to it. Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution has a tutorial on canning minced garlic and I wanted to give it a try. I have been using dried minced garlic for years, but wanted to switch to fresh. The problem is I never take the time to peel and chop garlic for our meals, dried was always easier. The house REALLY smelled like garlic last night, so much so that Frank wondered aloud whether people would shy away from us today because we smelled like garlic. Well, no one turned up their noses at us, but we didn’t ask how we smelled either. 

The garlic turned green on top when we added the boiling water to it, but when it came out of the canner it was brown, which concerns me. I had added a quarter teaspoon of citric acid powder to each jar. I read in my canning books that when you can onions they darken and get soft. I hope that is the case with this garlic. We had a little left over that is in the frig which we will use first before we open one of these jars. We’ll let you know how it tastes.

We’ve had another rainy spell with a little over three inches in the last few days, but it looks like we’re in for a hot dry spell for a while. The humidity and heat index have been pretty high and look to go even higher next week. We will have to be extra cautious when we’re working outside.

I’m having a time battling the squash bugs and haven’t spent enough time on my efforts lately. We have lost some plants and if I don’t get out there and fight them some more, we may lose them all. This is another instance of not enough hours in the day.

I have started my mulching project in the garden in between everything else like making another batch of cheddar cheese. We are eating the third wheel and it tastes great. I may have already told you that, I’m not sure. Anyway, the cheese is turning out well, even though there are still a few small holes in it from all the yeast floating around our kitchen. And speaking of yeast, the sauerkraut continues to ferment along over in it’s corner, only needing a little water added to the moat every so often. It’s also time to make bread again, which means I need to get the sourdough starter out of the frig and wake it up for a day or two to lessen the acidity that builds up during storage. 

You know what? I love my kitchen. Not so much the physical aspects or aesthetics of it, just the fact that we have a working, functional kitchen. I like to cook. I love having naturally occurring, healthy foods ‘perking’ away on my counters in the form of cheese, kefir, sauerkraut and sourdough. I like having another bushel basket over flowing with Cushaw squash sitting on the floor that I need to can again. I like fixing fresh food that grew from a tiny seed in the dirt outside my house, that I can pick and cook and serve to my husband. Kitchens are a central, integral part of a home and I like the fact that in this house, where you enter is in the kitchen. Our kitchen is the heart of our home and where most of our living takes place. It’s a busy, happy, productive place. Messy sometimes, since I don’t like to clean near as much as I like to cook, but in our kitchen you will find our ‘home’.

 

And speaking of the kitchen floor, a big section of it is now covered with eight half bushel boxes of peaches we picked up from a local orchard today. Yes, I talked myself out of buying five bushels and settled for four. The next few days will be filled with more canning, while fighting off a few squash bugs and spreading out more mulch.

 

The goats are doing well. Cricket has recovered from her worms and scours. She is still a little thin, but is already well on her way back to normal. We had scheduled the vet to come out this week to teach me how to administer the copper boluses, but Frank and I have been fighting sinus issues with all of the wet weather, so we have rescheduled the vet for next week. The day he was coming this week we both had bad headaches and another hours long rain storm would have had us all soaked in the process. I’m glad we rescheduled. I will take pictures and let you know what I learn sometime soon.

Now that Cricket is doing so much better, we have changed back to our original plan of breeding her and One Stripe this month. We backed up the date to July 15th instead of the 1st to give her more time to recuperate. With the hot, 95* to 97* temperatures that are forecast next week, I don’t know if the goats will breed or not. We have had them do so in the past, so we will just have to wait and see.

 

The greenhouse exterior is almost finished. We still need to settle on which doors we are going to use and figure out some final details on enclosing the roof line and corners. Then the door leading from the greenhouse into the house will be installed. There is currently a house window being covered by the greenhouse. That will be taken out and a door installed in it’s place, with steps leading down to the ground level. The gentleman that we hired to

help with the work is on vacation for a few weeks, and in the meantime, Frank and I will bring our 55 gallon water barrels down from the barn and begin placing them inside. They will be the ‘workbench legs’ we will be using. We will explain more about that once we work out the details of how everything will be set up.

Our adoptive momma hen decided it was time to go back to the flock. One evening when we were feeding and watering she decided to go out into the big pen and visit the rooster, then she walked right back in with ‘her’ babies. The next day she laid an egg in the corner of their pen. That evening when she went out to visit the rooster and the flock she didn’t go back, so now the teenage chicks are on their own again. The young roosters are starting to square off to see who is boss, so it won’t be long before we start butchering them. There are some interesting color patterns developing and we are starting to think about which ones we may keep to replace the current rooster. Once these new young hens are old enough to lay, we will butcher and can the current laying hens, thus renewing our flock and putting more food on the shelf.

 

The baby chicks are doing well, growing and acting like chickens. When we brought them out to the chicken house they made the ‘teenage’ chicks look much bigger. And the ‘teenage’ chicks made these babies look awfully small. The young babies are learning from their next door neighbors. When I bring out greens for all of the birds in the morning, I put the babies greens right up next to the ‘teenage’ pen which encourages the babies to peck at them. It’s been interesting to watch their interactions.

 

The pigs are doing fine. They have adjusted to the routine and environment well. Sometimes they complain if I don’t bring them their desired scraps. They squeal at me, and it’s quite funny. One day they even followed me back to the gate complaining. I kept telling them that’s all they get and if they want something to eat they would have to eat what I brought. It was a funny conversation. I had brought them the Cushaw seeds and peelings from the days canning without any whey or milk or other liquids. Guess that wasn’t their favorite meal. They are all growing well and are a good addition to our homestead. So far.

The days seem to be just flying by, and it’s hard to believe we are almost to the middle of July already. As time ticks quickly on, there are so many things we want to accomplish before the fall arrives, the fall of the year or the fall of the world. We can only hope we can work hard enough and fast enough to beat it here. As we watch the financial markets of the world and read as many perspectives as we can on the complexities of our world, we can’t help but know, really know, deep down that time is running out. But that’s okay. We will do all we can, and it will be enough. As we were talking about it today Frank said it’s like he’s been preparing for this all of his life, and it really does seem that way. There have been so many experiences Frank and I have been given that have lead us to this time and place. We are right where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and if the truth be known, loving every minute of it. No matter how the world turns out, it truly is a great life.

Until next time – Fern

Nary an Udder the Same & Goat Happenings

As I milk the does each morning, it is always interesting to note the differences in their udders. It’s something I have experienced for years, but I didn’t think about sharing it with you until recently. Goats, just like people, each have their own special peculiarities that make them unique. And since I milk my goats, one of the things I pay particular attention to is their udders. Many goats udders are very similar, but the group of does I have right now don’t share many characteristics, and because of that, I thought I would explain the differences and what I think about them.

I’ll start off with One Stripe, our old lady goat. She is now seven years old and has been with us since she was five months old. I think she is starting to slow down a little, but for an old lady, she is doing quite well. Her udder is getting longer as she ages. It also has more mammary tissue that the other does. The first year or two I milked One Stripe, her udder was much firmer and more congested than the other does. She didn’t have mastitis, but either she wouldn’t let me have her milk or the mammary tissue took up so much room, she didn’t have much. I have always wondered if that has affected the size of her udder. It still never completely empties when I milk her, but she is a breeze to milk. One Stripe’s teats are straight, easy to handle and allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. She and I have been doing this together for so long that sometimes she will turn her head around and nudge my shoulder when she is ready to leave, but I’m not finished.

Copper is One Stripe’s two year old daughter. Copper’s udder is even, and holds a nice capacity. She does not have the longer, type of udder her mother has. The teats are even, a little longer than some, and also allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. Copper is a taller, longer goat than the other does I have. I scoot my chair closer to the end of the milk stand to reach her udder comfortably. Copper was an accidental single kid in the middle of winter, so she didn’t have anyone to play with when she was born. Consequently, she came back to the milk stand with One Stripe while I was milking. She has always been very tame and easy to handle, if sometimes a little onery.

Cricket and Lady Bug are twin sisters that are one year old. They each had their first kids this spring. It is always interesting to see how a doe will turn out on the milk stand. Ivory, their mother, was a great milker so I had high hopes for these two.

Cricket started off with very small teats. She was hard to milk and not at all interested in letting her milk down. After a few days I remembered that Ivory started off the same way. That gave me hope that Cricket’s teats and udder would develop well during her first lactation. So far so good. She is definitely easier to milk, and she will let her milk down for me now. One of the challenges of increasing her milk production is having her son continue to nurse through the fence. With the work on the barn and the addition of pigs, available space for weaning is limited for now.

Lady Bug started off too wound up for my taste. She was not relaxed, but furtive and anxious. Now, after almost three months she has calmed down nicely, and is very easy to milk. Surprisingly, her teats are much larger than her sisters. They are not as long as One Stripe’s or Copper’s, but they hold a good volume of milk per squeeze, making her very easy to milk. For a first freshener, Lady Bug also has a very good quantity of milk, even though Easter is still nursing some through the fence.

We sold Penny, who is Copper’s daughter, to Faith back in April. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of her udder before she left. She is the first doe I have had that had two different size teats. Noticeably different. One side is much easier to milk than the other. At first I wondered if it was because her twin bucks were nursing more on one side than the other, but Faith tells me they have continued to remain different sizes. She doesn’t have any trouble milking Penny, and has adjusted to the different techniques needed to get milk from each side.

Every milker has a preference for the type of udder and teat they prefer to milk. I know I do. As time has passed and my experience as a milker has increased, I am now much more particular about the animals we add to our herd. If we are looking for a new buck, I ask to see the mother’s udder in milk or at least pictures of it. If it is pendulous, or the teats are large and bulbous, I pass. If the teats are small, or the udder is poorly attached, I pass. Since I plan to milk our does, I want animals that have the genetic propensity to produce healthy, well formed, udders and teats. I don’t have to have an animal that will produce a gallon a day, but I would like to have a decent amount per animals.

Speaking of bucks, when the vet was out recently working on our new pigs, we also had him work on Bill’s horn scurs. Bill’s horn burning didn’t go well before we bought him. We knew he had some scurs when we brought him home, but we have never had any that grew
out like this. Bill had rubbed or caught the sideways scur that had gotten pretty long, and ripped it away from his skull, which caused it to bleed a little. The vet takes care of these types of scurs with large landscaping loppers. Scurs on goats don’t generally bleed a lot because they don’t develop the same type of blood supply that a regular horn has. This was true for Bill this time. The vet applied some standard blood stopper powder for good measure. While we had Bill in hand, we also wormed him and trimmed his hooves. We hadn’t caught Bill in a while, but he is usually tame enough when we feed. You can reach over and pat and scratch him then. But when I poured out the feed and took him by the collar, he jumped up on his hind feet, hollered and fought valiantly to get loose until the vet could take over. I was very happy to turn him over to someone else. If you had been standing around, the dance Bill and I did would probably have been somewhat comical. Luckily, it worked out okay.

We plan to turn One Stripe and Cricket in with Bill on July 1st, to begin our first breeding cycle. We hope they breed sometime in July to give us December babies. This will allow us to have plenty of milk through the winter. We tried this last summer, but Bill wasn’t mature enough to handle this responsibility at the time. If our breeding plans are successful, Cricket will dry up around the end of August or early September. One Stripe has already been dried up. Since she is older, I wanted her body to have a break before she becomes pregnant again. I will continue milking Copper and Lady Bug until late December or early January when One Stripe and Cricket are in milk again.

We will breed Copper, Lady Bug, Patch and Easter in November. This will provide us with the larger supply of milk in the spring so we can begin making next year’s cheese supply. Well, that’s the plan anyway. We will see how it goes.

We still need to butcher our older wethers. We hope, cross your fingers, to get that done in the next week or so. It will be nice to have our own meat in the freezer again. I want to figure out how to make a very simple jerky from our ground chevron. Most of the recipes I have read have more ingredients than I want to use. If you know of a very simple recipe that does not use liquid smoke or any sweeteners, I would be interested in looking at it. I would like to use little more than salt and pepper, but I don’t know if that would work or not. I need to do some more research on simple jerky recipes.

The over abundance of rain this spring and early summer has also caused an over abundance of worms this year. I have had to worm the goats more than usual. Even Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, has had difficulty with worms which she has never had before. The vet said the weather this year has caused a tremendous flush of worms for all of the animals he sees. It’s something good to learn and be aware of as we continue to learn the nuances of our location. We have been here seven years and in that time we have had two years of serious heat and drought and two years of incredible rain and flooding.

We continue to see our goats as vital to our homestead. They provide us with milk which we make into kefir, butter and cheese. The by product of whey is then fed to the chickens and pigs. The dog and cats also benefit from the milk everyday. The goats provide us with meat and the other animals with nutrition through the organs, fat and scraps from our table. We enjoy our goats. They are a good farm animal. But more than that, every animal on our homestead is here for a reason. They all have jobs to perform, and if they don’t meet the expectation or need that we have, we don’t keep them. Regardless of how much we may like them or want them, if they don’t perform adequately, or exhibit an undesirable behavior that we are unable to alter, then we don’t keep them. Some we eat, some we sell, some we give away with full disclosure of why we are getting rid of them. 

Homesteading is our way of life. Soon we feel it will be our survival. We continue to increase our skills, so that hopefully, we can depend on what we know, what we have, and what we can do, to see us through the hard times that will soon be upon us all. We would encourage you to do the same.

Until next time – Fern