Goats, Milk & Cheese

We have written many articles about our goat adventures. You will find them in the archives under The Goats That Feed Us & The Things You Can Do With Milk. Just a reminder – most of our archives go to the old blog over in Blogger. If you want to leave a comment, make sure you do it here, they have been turned off at the old site since we don’t check things over there anymore.

We have continued to downsize our herd. We currently have four adult does, three of which are in milk. Kids were born to them in January and are being weaned and sold now. The cycle continues. One of the does I am milking is a first freshener, what I call a first timer. She has been very easy to train to the milk stand and to hand milk, which is great. Some in the past have not been near this easy. I’m not sure if it’s the temperament of the animal or the years of experience training a goat to be milked. Maybe both.

My favorite milker before she had her triplets in January.

We have one more first timer to birth in May. I don’t really like this goat, and have thought about selling her pregnant, but want to see if she will hold us in milk through the winter until the others have babies again next January. We haven’t been successful in having year round milk because most goats won’t breed in the off season. This doe didn’t breed at all until we got a shot from the vet to force her into heat. We were told if she was pregnant and very far along, the shot would make her abort, but we had never seen any signs of heat or breeding and she had been with the buck for months. The shot worked and now we await her first kids.

This year we are keeping two adult does in milk, the third will be sold after we have our cheese supply stocked for the year. We will keep two young does for replacements, just in case. In years past we have tried to keep does from separate blood lines within our closed herd, but not this year. There has been one ‘family’ of does that consistently out performs the others with temperament, udder size and production, and ease of milking. That’s who we are keeping.

The buck we had, on the other hand, after breeding all of the does including the late one, started losing hair until he was practically bald. It happened over a number of months. We treated him a number of times according to the vet’s directions to no avail. He still ran around when he wasn’t freezing in the cold weather, ate well, hollered like the rest, but looked horrible. He is no longer with us. This was the goat with the strange story of purchase we wrote about on the other blog in this article – Goat Tales & the Stench.

Young buck

This leaves us without a buck, or billy goat, except for the three that were born here in January. We’re on the look out for a new unrelated buck, but if necessity mandates, we will use one of these young ones for future breeding. We will ban two of them for wethers for meat, but keep one for a buck.

We have started making cheese for the season, two batches of mozzarella so far. We ran out of our cheddar a while back and bought some in several different stores. It all tastes the same, kind of like what we remember Velveeta would have tasted like. It’s the first cheese we have bought in years, we don’t remember the last time we bought any. The plan is to make a dozen wheels of cheddar and set them to age while eating fresh mozzarella for now and freezing a whole bunch. We are spoiled to our own cheese, to me, it is so much better.

Mozzarella

You can find the beginning and progression of our cheese making experiences in many of the archive articles. I still make & drink kefir everyday. Frank has always been a milk drinker and prefers goat milk to any other he has had. We did appreciate Braum’s (a regional ice cream store that also has burgers and now some fresh market foods) going to A2 milk. When our does were dry, we bought milk there, usually six to eight gallons at a time since the store is 25 miles away and we don’t like to go to town very often. If you’re not familiar with A1 & A2 milk, look back in the archives. We were very glad we discovered the difference years ago and have tried to share the information far and wide. Our vet can’t drink cows milk without ending up on the floor with cramps. He can drink the A2 milk from Braum’s with no issues. If you don’t know the difference, check it out, it’s interesting information.

Now is the milking, cheese making season along with putting in the garden. As Bear Claw, from the movie Jeremiah Johnson would say, March is a green, muddy month down below, fit for farmers and such (or something like that – we have watched that movie many times, just not in the last decade or so). He’s right. It’s a busy time of year. A good busy. We planted blueberries and strawberries yesterday. Today we made bread and planted a few more things before a rainy spell comes upon us. We do the normal chores, milking the goats, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, preparing for the rainy weather, planting more seedlings in the greenhouse. The things that make up our daily life.

It’s a busy time and that’s great. I’m glad we have this time to continue our chosen way of life. The choices appear to become more narrow with each passing day, with each new executive order, and attempted legislation. I have no way of predicting how the next few months or years will turn out, but the folks out there saying local, local, local are correct. Frank has made more contact with neighbors in the last few months than we have in years. It’s a good thing. We’ll give you an update on the garden soon with thoughts about planting every square inch with way more than we need.

Always do what you can for yourself, your family and any you deem worthy of your efforts. Work is not a dirty, four letter word. It is what feeds the body and soul. Literally.

We would love to hear what you think. Ideas that will help us all. How to raise animals, grow food, where to buy supplies. God knows we all need help at this point in time.

Until next time – Fern

Winter Greenhouse Salad

The greenhouse has turned out to be bountiful, and a good learning experience. I have tried to grow a number of things that were failures, but in the process we learned a lot. We have also been able to eat fresh greens for the past few winters that weren’t available to us before.

Since we have changed our diet to healthy low carbohydrates and quality proteins, our meals have become more simple, with less ingredients, and contain as much homegrown food as possible. Actually, we have gotten to the point that we have to be very careful what we eat from the store, because most of it makes us sick. But that’s another article for another day.

We are far enough into the winter growing season that the spinach and lettuce in the outdoor, back porch bed is slowing down and buried in oak leaves, while the greenhouse vegetables now provide a good plate of salad fixings.

Small garden bed by the back porch. We have wanted to use this area for a long time.

For these salads I picked…..

Romaine, Buttercrunch and Black Seeded Simpson lettuces
Simpson lettuce

Bloomsdale spinach

Pak Choy cabbage

Cress

The cress is still pretty small. I transplanted it from the back porch bed about a month ago since it had really slowed down it’s growth from the weather.

Kale

We have finally found a way to eat kale. All of the other ways we have tried, we don’t like because of the strong flavor. Here I pick the leaves when they are about the size of a quarter to half dollar. They are starting to get that kale type of flavor, but mixed in with the other greens, they aren’t noticeable.

Parsley

The parsley wasn’t growing well back in the herb bed this year, and neither did some of the other herbs. I’m not sure why, but I ended up transplanting them into pots and growing them on the porch instead. Now all of those herbs have moved into the greenhouse to see how they do over the winter. We had a bit of parsley in some of the salads, but it didn’t set well in Frank’s stomach, so it’s just growing in here for now.

When the forecast is in the teens at night, like it is tonight, we cover everything with some frost cloth and turn on a small electric space heater. Tonight is the second time we have used the frost cloth and space heater this winter. I don’t worry about 22*F and above. The water barrels seem to keep everything warm enough and most of the things growing in here are cold hardy plants. The space heater and frost cloth seems to help and we haven’t lost anything yet. Not even the yellow squash, believe it or not, or the flowers.


I never thought this would grow. We haven’t done anything special for it.

It’s nice to be able to tell Frank I’m going to go pick some lunch, even in the winter. I feel like I am providing some good nutrition and at the same time, get to enjoy the process of growing things, something I have always enjoyed.

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

A Fascinating Chicken Story

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

I have an unscheduled chicken post for you. This is not going to be one of those six, twelve, eighteen kind of things, but the other day something really cool happened in our chicken house.

Proud daddy

We’ve had a couple of hens wanting to set for a good while now. For you non-chicken types, this is one of those things that a hen does occasionally. She’ll want to stay in the nest box until the imaginary eggs underneath her hatch. Well, it’s a chicken thing. Everyday we take the eggs out from underneath them.

If you are looking to start a flock of birds, there are birds that are advertised as broody and non-broody. If you don’t want a bird to exhibit this type of behavior, get a non-broody breed. If you think you might want to hatch your own eggs using a hen, then get a bird that will go broody. But just because a bird goes broody, or I will call it setting, doesn’t always mean that they will sit on the eggs for 21 days, hatch the baby chickens and raise them. Some birds are good mommies and some birds aren’t. We have never let a hen set on a clutch of eggs.

Now, back to the story. As mentioned above, we have two hens that have been trying to set. We have an assorted flock, two is not bad. One is a Dark Cornish, one is an Black Australorp. Well, we put our recently hatched baby chickens in the chicken house about 10 days ago. Three nights back, one of the setting hens decided she would go over and set on the opposite side of the pen where the baby chickens were. Now she’s still in setting mode. The next morning, all the baby chicks are crowded on their side of the pen right up next to where this setting chicken was. This hen just happens to be a Black Australorp.

Well, Fern and I thought that was really cute. And then we thought about it some more and talked about it. This setting hen was talking to these baby chickens. We thought we would try putting this hen in with the baby chicks. We did. We watched her for awhile. Now, remember these are not day old chicks, they are about 10 days old. But these baby chicks took to this hen just like she was their mommy, and she probably is the mommy to at least a couple of them. There are dangers in doing what we did, because adult hens on occasion will kill a non-related baby chick. All the baby chicks are still fine and healthy. This hen has adopted these 36 baby chicks. I can’t necessarily say that they have all bonded with her, but at night many of them sleep under her wings and under her body, and the rest crowd around close. 

So, what does this mean to us, the humans? Now, this is what I have read and been told. If you release a mother with her baby chickens into the flock, then the mother will protect the babies from the other adult hens. After a couple of days, with the mother hen defending her chicks, the other adult hens won’t bother them. 

Here is our plan. We have already started another batch of eggs that will hatch in about two weeks. We will put these chicks in the pen where the current baby chicks are. We will move the current baby chicks into an adjacent pen, still separated from the adult birds, but without the direct heat source that the first pen has. After this move of birds, about three weeks later we should be able to release the current baby chicks with their mom into the general population. That would make them approximately six weeks old at that time. We normally don’t release birds into the general population until about 10 to 12 weeks of age. This will provide us with the opportunity to start another batch of eggs hatching a little bit sooner.

You might say, “Why do you need so many baby chicks?” Well, for all of the babies that are hatching, they will become our replacement laying flock in about six months. We will freeze more friers this year than we have in the past. But our big plan is to can quite a bit more chicken meat for long term use. We also make our own chicken broth when we are canning chicken. 

The cool part of this story is the mother hen and the baby birds. I thought you’d want to know this. If you’ve had any experiences like this, or know of anyone that has, please let us know in the comment section. We’ve heard stories about how you can take a setting chicken with eggs underneath her, and during the night replace the eggs with live day old chickens. But we were just floored with the behavior of this adult hen and the relationship she now has with the ten day old baby chicks. Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Take care.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

No Shampoo & Sauerkraut; An Update

Not long ago, a reader asked us for an update on my no shampoo experience and how our sauerkraut was doing. So, here it is.

I quit using shampoo in March, 2014. I posted updates on my progress at three months and six months. I have to tell you, after looking back at these articles, I think my hair looks better now than ever. 

Before I started, March 20, 2014

Comparing the first picture, March 20, 2014, and today, I can see where my hair is healthier and has a more natural shine. I have continued to use only baking soda and water for my ‘shampoo’, along with apple cider vinegar and water for my ‘conditioner’. I still have the occasional itch on my scalp from psoriasis, but nothing compared to what it was when I used commercial products. I have not used any of the prescription medication I needed for decades to control the itch on my scalp. I couldn’t be happier.
 

April 22, 2014


June 12, 2014


September 24, 2014

June 5, 2015

This was one of the many steps Frank and I have taken to decrease our chemical exposure and intake, in our effort to improve our overall health. Fermenting our own sauerkraut has been one of the most recent experiments I have conducted on Frank. At first we were both hesitant, but now we’re not at all. We happily eat our kraut at least six days a week. Sometimes it just doesn’t fit into the meal, and a few times, I just plain forgot to serve it.

The current batch we’re eating now was a combination of        1 1/2 heads of cabbage and about 15 large carrots. This is okay, but the vegetables are softer and don’t taste quite as good as the plain cabbage. It was something I wanted to try, but probably won’t do this combination again.

I removed all of the carrot/cabbage kraut from the crock two days ago and stored it in the refrigerator. We got about four quarts this time. I don’t pack it down solid, so it’s not a full four quarts, but it is enough to last us quite a while. We eat about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of a cup per serving. 

 

Since the crock and fermentation process seem to be going well, this time I put    3 1/2 heads of cabbage in the crock, filling it pretty full. I continue to use some of the juice or liquid from the previous batch to inoculate, or speed up the fermenting process. I also drink some of it on occasion when we get to the bottom of a jar. It is pretty stout stuff, but it’s good. We prefer the cabbage shredded, which I do with our KitchenAid. I have started using sea salt instead of regular table salt for the minerals it contains. I use it in all of my cooking as well as the kraut. 

I add a little vinegar in the moat to keep it from getting slimy.

This summer I hope to try fermenting some of our garden produce, like cucumbers, okra, turnips, peppers and beets. It would be nice to discover another vegetable, or combination of vegetables we enjoy as much as we do the cabbage.

I appreciate Deb’s request for an update on these two topics. There isn’t any reason for me to ever use commercial products on my hair again. What I am doing now is effective, keeps my hair and scalp healthier, my hair looks better and another added benefit is that it costs pennies on the dollar compared to commercial products. The sauerkraut experience has shown us another way to improve our health by making something for ourselves instead of depending on someone else to do it for us. It takes time, planning and effort on our part, but the health benefits of consuming fermented foods well outweigh the effort expended. It’s a great life. One full of learning, work and progress. I am grateful.

Until next time – Fern
 

Life’s Little Trials

There are times recently that we feel like we’ve been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn’t contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.

  • How to garden with too much water

 

 

       

      • Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice) 

       

        • Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn’t happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)

        • The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.

        So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let’s start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I’m glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.

        Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.

        Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.

        Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We’ve had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can’t get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that’s really tough on a community. We’ve had people’s houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories. 

        As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.


        Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don’t get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know? 

        Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn’t have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.


        Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged. 

        We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it’s a low lying spot, it’s got water sitting in it.


        So, that’s what we’ve been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We’ve learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don’t get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn’t. But there’s been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks. 

        We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they’re about four days away from hatching. We’ve had some incubator issues lately, which I’ll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.

        And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.


        Part of what we’re talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it’s easy to deal with life. But we all know it’s not like that everyday. We didn’t lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It’s easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don’t have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don’t need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it’s got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you’re of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.

        We’ll talk more later, Frank

        Getting Ready For Pigs

        We spent part of today getting ready for the arrival of our American Guinea Hog piglets. The original plans included doing some of this work yesterday while the sun shined, but a relative’s unscheduled hospital stay, changed our plans. We were glad we had the opportunity to visit him for a while. So today before the rains arrived again, we rearranged some of the goats, brush hogged down some wet, wet, tall grass and weeds, and got ready for the pigs. Well, not really before it rained, because we got some light showers shortly before dawn. Thus, the grass was extra wet, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped, and you make do with the circumstances you’ve been given.

        American Guinea Hogs. I had never heard of them until I read an article from Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream last June. I had no idea a pig could grow so small. That is what captured my attention and started a slow,

        gradual bit of research that has landed us in the current predicament, the adventure of becoming not only goat herders and chicken cluckers, but pig farmers as well. We can only pray it is not the misadventures of becoming pig farmers. If you have read here very long you have probably run across a statement from me saying something like this. “I hate pigs.” And I did. I just hope I don’t anymore. Part of that sentiment is because I am afraid of pigs. I think they will bite me. It’s kind of like being afraid of dogs. It’s just a fear that I have decided I want to get over, because the benefits of raising American Guinea Hogs can far outweigh this fear.

        I am including a number of links throughout this article so you can see where my research has taken me. The first thing that captured my attention when reading Leigh’s description of her new pig was that they only grow to be about 200 to 250 pounds full grown, even the boars. I was very surprised. I had never seen anything about pigs being less than 800 to 1000 pounds or more full grown, and I didn’t want anything to do with animals that large. So I read the link she provided and thought it was very interesting that these pigs are naturally small. They aren’t miniatures, dwarfs or midgets of any sort, they are just naturally smaller than most commercial pigs.

        Then I started looking up more articles, and found that another characteristic of these pigs is their docile, friendly nature. Well now, how is

        a person that is afraid a pig is going to bite them going to handle a pig that wants to run over and be petted and scratched? I’ve decided I’m going to treat them like a dog. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But if a dog does something that is unacceptable they get corrected and trained to exhibit behavior that is acceptable. I plan, or hope, to do the same things with the pigs. I’ve read that they may try to jump up on you like a dog, but are easily trained not to, so their friendly personalities are another plus.

        The next major plus from my perspective is that these pigs thrive on pasture and do poorly if they are confined and only fed grain, or fed too much grain. That’s great! We have been trying to produce more and more of our animal feed, and if these pigs are healthier and happier grazing in

        a pasture, then wonderful, we have plenty of room for them to graze and grow. Another example Leigh has given me is that she feeds very little grain, and what she does feed, she sprinkles on the ground for the pigs to forage and root. I thought that was a great idea and will be doing the same. I will also now have another bucket to take to the barn at feeding time. The pigs will get whey from our cheese making projects as well as garden scraps and other kitchen waste. For instance. Today at lunch I emptied a jar of beets, and told Frank that after the pigs arrive the water from the beet jar will go into the pig bucket instead of down the drain. They will get all of the scraps that don’t go to the chickens or dog, and that will be great.

        When I realized how small these pigs grow, I like to think of them as small, even though a 200 pound animal isn’t really very small, I thought about having another source of meat on the hoof. That’s how I think of our

        goat wethers. They are just meat walking around in the pasture waiting to make it into the freezer. Frank and I can handle butchering a 150 to 200 pound pig, and it would be another great source of meat. But not only that, Guinea Hogs are well known for the quality of their lard, like some old heritage breeds used to be. These hogs will not only provide us with meat and lard, they don’t require a lot of feed to do so. The lard will provide us with a natural cooking oil, and we hopefully will also be able to use it in our goat milk soap recipe. The smaller carcass of these pigs will mean less meat to preserve before spoilage if we live in a grid down situation, as well. Just like with our goats, I view a smaller carcass to be to our advantage.
         
        The breeders in the area that I have talked to all agree that these pigs are healthy, friendly, easy to manage and very productive. They don’t require vaccinations or worming, even in our area that is known for wet years that are very conducive to the worm population, like this year. Guinea hogs will have litters of six to eight piglets about three times every two years on average, according to my research. This is yet another benefit to raising this small, heritage breed pig.

        These are the reasons why we are embarking on the adventure of adding pigs to our homestead. These animals don’t grow very large, they thrive on pasture, they are naturally healthy, friendly and easy to manage, the meat and lard are well known to be of excellent quality and we will be able to butcher them ourselves. A concern I have, and will for a while, is if they will stay in their pasture. Our fencing should hold them just fine according to all I have read, but this is my biggest concern so far. We’ll see if more arise after their arrival.

        Friday, if the weather cooperates, we will be bringing home two boars and one gilt. This is new vocabulary for us. I had this vague notion that a male pig was a boar because you hear of wild boars being hunted in these

        parts, but that was about it for my pig vocabulary. One of these boars will become a barrow when we have it castrated to raise for meat. We will keep them both intact for a while until we decide which one we want to keep for a boar. The gilt, or young female, will become a sow when she has her first piglets. We have debated back and forth about whether to get one gilt or two, and actually thought we had been able to line up two boars and two gilts that we could pick up all in one trip from two different locations. Then when I called to make the arrangements, I found that one of the gilts had been injured, so there was only one available. I don’t know if you ever have these feelings, but I felt like that was an answer to our question. God answered our question by only having one available for us at this time. It’s interesting how things happen sometimes.

        I hope to have a report for you Friday or Saturday, with pictures and hopefully no mishaps. I freely admit we are entering this adventure with a little trepidation and doubt, especially on Frank’s part, but entering it we are. Fear is a powerful thing. It can control nations, it can preclude success, it can tear down dreams. But only if you let it. There is a quote somewhere that says something like, courage is fear in action. Maybe that would be a good name for a pig…… I wonder what the goats and Pearl are going to think. That should be interesting.

        Until next time – Fern