Homestead News, Volume 8

Sometimes it seems as if there is not much going on here to report, but once I really stop and think about it, I can usually come up with something. This time the news is full of a number of small things. Take the goats for instance.

Last night I started penning up our two youngest kids again. They are both four months old, but are still nursing. We had separated them into the old weaning a pasture for about a month, but then the pigs came and took over that pasture. Then for a while, the kids just nursed through the fence after we put them in with the buck and wethers. As the young doe approached four months we didn’t want to leave her in the buck pasture, so we brought her back out with the does and hoped in vain that her mom wouldn’t let her nurse. She did. Now the young buck comes through the gate to be with his mom and nurse. We haven’t been able to block off the gate yet, and even

Lady Bug has a nice udder for a first freshener

if we did, he would still nurse through the fence. Both of these moms are first fresheners and we still want to develop their udders as much as possible this first season, so last night I started penning up these two kids again. This morning I got over three quarts of milk instead of one. 

That’s good since we are eating our cheddar cheese a little faster than we have in the past. It’s a great part of our low carb diet. So with this increase in milk, we will make more cheddar to replace the six wheels we have already consumed. The wheel I opened yesterday was waxed the end of April and is quite good. Did you know that room temperature cheese is better than refrigerated? Quite by accident we discovered we like warm cheese better, and it doesn’t taste the same as cold cheese. When we open a new wheel of cheddar, I leave it out on the counter in a bowl. The rind will dry out more and harden, then eventually the oils in the cheese will begin to coat the outside of the wheel. In times gone by, cheese was stored at room temperature, maybe covered by a towel or cloth. In a strange way it seems this is yet another small step we’ve discovered that will be one less thing to change when the power goes out and stays out.

The temperatures here continue to be at or over 100* with dangerously high heat indexes. Any outside work is accomplished early in the day, with very few exceptions. I have been having some serious sinus issues for about a month or more which have greatly impacted the work I do in the garden. The heat and humidity, not to mention bending over, many days make the headaches I’ve been having intolerable. Has anyone out there had a sinus balloon dilation procedure? I am scheduled to have this performed in a week or so. At this point, with the headaches I have been having, I am ready for some relief. The headaches have definitely impacted accomplishing things around the homestead as well as writing here on the blog.

In the last few days we have canned the last of the winter squashes. The bugs have killed all of our squash plants and it’s too late to grow any more winter varieties, so we won’t have any fresh to store for winter, but we’ve ended up with 41 quarts, which we are happy with. I have replanted yellow summer squash which should be able to produce before frost if I can keep them alive and win the war with the bugs.

We also made 11 quarts of salsa yesterday. It’s our favorite way to eat canned tomatoes, and I hope we can make another batch. Even with all of this heat, the tomatoes are still producing very well. Frank just walked by the thermometer and told me it’s 104* outside. We closed down some of the blinds to help the AC try to keep up. Now Frank just told me it’s been 106*!

It’s nice to have a few fresh things from the garden in the crisper. I started chopping and freezing fresh peppers today. We really enjoyed using them through the winter last year and I hope to freeze a number of quarts. I’m also doing an experiment with fermenting a few jalapeno peppers. I took the last batch of sauerkraut out of the crock today and put it in the frig. We started this batch on June 20th. It smells and looks great. When we first started eating kraut, Frank wasn’t very fond of it, but like many people predicted, we now really enjoy our daily portion. He even asks for larger servings of it now. 

We got this plastic strainer spoon to use with the crock to prevent scraping the ceramic finish. It works very well.

After I emptied the crock, I strained off a bit of the juice to use with a few jalapeno peppers. I read somewhere, sorry I don’t remember where, it could have been a comment here, that fermented peppers were crunchy and very good, so I’m going to try it. I added a few peppers to the kraut juice then covered them with salt water. I discovered this small jar fit just right into the pint jar, so I’m using it to keep the peppers submerged. For now, it will reside on the cabinet on a plate. I will be very interested in how this turns out since we prefer crunchy to soft peppers.

I used a half gallon of milk. This bowl wasn’t big enough.

I’ve also decided to take the plunge and try the cottage cheese ‘recipe’ from The Organic Prepper several people suggested. Even my aunt wrote and told me what she remembered about how my grandmother made cottage cheese. Thank you for that email, Aunt A.N. The only ingredient is milk, and all you do is leave it in a covered bowl on the cabinet for two or three days. When the cream rises and sours, it is skimmed off and eaten. That’s it. It’s almost too easy, so we will see how it turns out. I will let you know.

 

Our chickens are doing well. The young hens are blending in with the main flock just fine. The young roosters will be ready to put in the freezer soon which is good since we are ready for some fresh fried chicken. The youngest batch of birds are growing well and will soon need to take over the young rooster pen for more space.

They all like the tomato skins from the salsa.

Young roosters

Youngest flock

I made a new batch of lotion this morning since the last one was starting to turn brown in places. Tewshooz left a comment for us early on about using a preservative to prevent this problem. When I made the last batch I forgot to add the vitamin E, so it didn’t last as long as it could have. This time I wrote vitamin E on the recipe I got from Leigh at 5 Acres & A Dream, so I won’t

forget it next time. Since this lotion is made from olive oil, herbal tea and beeswax, I fed this old portion to the pigs. It’s nice it didn’t totally go to waste. The other thing Tewshooz taught me with a comment was to keep working the lotion until it emulsifies, that way the oil and water won’t separate. To do that now, I place the pan of warm oil, wax and tea into a sink of cold water while I stir it briskly with a small whip. It works great. Thanks for the tips, Tewshooz, they have really paid off.

 

Peppermint and lemon balm for the herbal tea ingredients


 

Takes about 20 minutes

Cooling in cold water

For lunch today we had a no taco, taco salad. It has most of the normal ingredients a taco salad would, just no corn chips or shell. A serving of kraut goes well with this meal. We used some of our canned jalapenos from last year, the salsa we made yesterday, a fresh sweet pepper from the garden, some lettuce, spinach, onion, olives, and room temperature, grated, cheddar. It was great! 

Tonight some of the members of Frank’s radio class are taking tests for their ham licenses. We are excited for them and hope everyone does well. We’ll let you know how it turns out and give you an update on how the class went in general. Now that it is over, we’ll see if our hopes of a local communications network materializes. 

By the way. Has anyone been having trouble with their internet service? Our internet service with Verizon over the past few months has gone from good, to a few glitches, to terrible. We get disconnected or ‘frozen’ numerous times a day now. Then we had someone tell us that Verizon and AT&T are having issues nationwide. Then we found out some other folks in this are are having connectivity issues with Verizon. Then we found out a medical clinic in Fort Smith, Arkansas has been having issues for a month. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else knows anything about this or is experiencing any difficulties.

We have taken to carrying a small bat with us into the pig pen for training purposes. The pigs have responded well and no longer crowd around right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan. We will continue to be very consistent in shaping their behavior. So far, so good.

Life on the homestead is good, very good. We continue to keep tabs on the world with a growing certainty that things will not remain as they are for much longer. The stock markets continue to exhibit the roller coaster pattern that many leading economists have been predicting. The media continues to distract the populace with the same mindless drivel they

have served up for years now. Every so often they intersperse their drivel with small tidbits of real news, news of increased violence, intolerance and suppression of the freedoms we once took for granted. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We have taken too much for granted for too long. Now the pursuit of pleasure and recreation is the end goal and the means justifies the end for a large portion of our world’s population. When this pursuit is no longer an option, what knowledge or skills will exist that can be utilized for survival? I’m afraid it will be like looking into the bottom of an empty barrel. There will be nothing there.

You’ve heard this many times before and here it is again. Learn all you can. Experience what you can now when failure is still and option and you can go to the store and obtain whatever it is you will need. Every single thing you can learn now will increase your possibility of making it yet another day when everything around you has changed. If some of the things we read and hear are anywhere near accurate, the beginnings of major upheaval or change may not be far away, not far at all. Do everything you can. Prepare yourself mentally to see and experience the unthinkable.

Until next time – Fern

Effects of A1 vs. A2 Milk

This past winter we drank regular store bought, whole milk for about four or five months, because all of the goats were pregnant and not producing milk. After a few months, Frank and both started having more and more head congestion, drainage and ick in our throats. Frank also developed a mild, daily cough of sorts, especially in the mornings. I was constantly having to clear the mucous from my throat, worse in the mornings, but it lasted all day long.

After a few months I really began to wonder if we were developing some kind of allergy, but I couldn’t figure out what it would be. Then one day I remembered that there are many people that react to milk with allergic type symptoms, and I began doing more research on A1 vs. A2 milk. I wrote an article explaining the A1 vs. A2 milk controversy a year ago. If you’re not familiar with this information, I encourage you to stop here and read the old article to provide a knowledge base. This will help the rest of this article make more sense.

As I began researching more and more about A1, or most regular, store bought milk, I came to the conclusion that our consumption of this milk was probably the cause of our symptoms. This made me even more anxious for the goats to have their babies and start producing enough milk for us to drink. I want to stop here and share some of the information I read as part of my research. Each quote contains a link to the source I found. 

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 I used to think I digested A1 milk as well as the A2 milk, but I have been rethinking this recently. In just the past couple of weeks we switched from milking our A1/A2 Blossom (who is my favorite cow) to our A2/A2 Emma Lou. I have noticed two things:

  1. My lower back has not been as stiff in the mornings.
  2. I used to avoid drinking milk in the evenings because it would make my legs jerky. I have consumed A2/A2 milk in the evening several times and that has not happened. The other night I had symptoms again and thought that maybe it is not the A1 after all. Then I remembered that I had feta cheese on my salad that was made from A1 milk.

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The inflammation from A1 casein causes lymphatic congestion, metabolic suppression, and weight gain. A1 milk can worsen acne, eczema, upper respiratory infections, asthma and allergies.
It causes digestive problems, and not because of the lactose. Because of the massive histamine release from casomorphin.

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My family and I all took cautious sips and waited. [of A2 milk] Amazingly, no symptoms! No mucous or congestion for my husband. No lactose intolerance for my daughter, who couldn’t have even one tablespoon of regular milk. My son, whom we used to tease if he ate dairy today he went to work with his dad tomorrow (as he would become very much like a bear, and not a fuzzy sweet one), did not react to the raw milk at all.
Not only did we not react adversely, but we felt so much better and more satisfied once we started consuming raw milk on a regular basis. My daughter, who in spite of almost no sugar and frequent brushing could not get her cavities under control, has not had one new cavity in the eight years she’s been drinking raw milk.

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When my in-laws moved from India to the United States some 35 years ago, they couldn’t believe the low cost and abundance of our milk—until they developed digestive problems. They’ll now tell you the same thing I’ve heard a lot of immigrants say: American milk will make you sick.

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Milks containing mostly A2 proteins are often said to be better for ‘allergies’ (such as gut, skin rashes, hayfever, cough). There is also research to suggest that A1 beta casein may be associated with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes type 1 and autism.  

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Although it may be inconclusive as to the exact dangers of A1 milk and the resulting BCM7, we feel the precautionary principle should be invoked. Humans have been consuming cow milk for 10,000 years, but A1 milk and the BMC7 that comes with it are a relatively recent development. Only in very modern times with the supremacy of the Holstein breed in US Dairy (accounting for more than 90% of all dairy cows today) has so much A1 milk been consumed. Realistically fluid milk is a minor concern compared to A1 cheese where the lactose carbohydrate and whey protein components have been removed and the casein proteins are further concentrated. Imagine how this has become even worse in our ‘fat is bad’ culture where even the fat is also removed in low and no-fat cheeses leaving only the casein. For example 2 slices of fat-free American singles made from A1 dominant Holstein milk would likely have nearly 3g of A1 beta casein or more than 2.5 times the amount found in a cup of our raw milk.

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I have been dairy free for several months, but decided to give the raw A2 milk a try.  I have been drinking it daily for two weeks now and have actually noticed some improvements in my autoimmune symptoms.  This gives me a lot of hope.  I still consider myself dairy free when we are out and about and I’m not eating cheese or anything pasteurized, but so far the raw A2 milk has done me a body of good (literally!). 

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Interesting, huh? Now that Frank and I have been drinking our raw, fresh, A2 goat milk for around two months, our symptoms are gone. Frank no longer coughs at all. I still get a little drainage sometimes, but it comes when there is a change in the weather. We have also had a tremendous amount of rain this year with constant standing puddles everywhere. 


Can I say conclusively that our symptoms were caused by consuming A1 milk? No. Can I say conclusively that no longer consuming A1 milk alleviated our symptoms? No. I do not have any specific testing or scientific proof, so keep that in mind. But what I can tell you, is that we feel much better and our symptoms are gone. I find this to be unscientifically conclusive based on personal experience. That doesn’t mean everyone will react the same, or react at all. The articles and experiences of the people I quoted above are very good examples of that. If you find this interesting, I would encourage you to read the original article, it has more links that help explain what A1 and A2 milks are, and the differences.


There are so many things that we consume or are exposed to everyday that man has altered or created for ease and profit, that we have no idea of the impact upon our bodies. If you have read here for very long, you know we are trying to eliminate as many chemicals from our bodies as possible, whether ingested or topical. I have no doubt that everything we need to be healthy human beings was created and place here for our use, we just need to figure out how to use them wisely. 

I find this information to be just fascinating. Now, I wonder what we will discover next? There are times we discover new information that makes us wonder why we didn’t see/learn/discover it sooner. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or years of my life to learn everything I would like to learn. I truly hope I am able to continue to learn everyday that I am given. Now, on to the next great adventure.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 1

We decided to start a new feature and call it Homestead News. Every so often we have given you an update of things that are happening around here, and we’re running out of names for those articles. So, now they will just be called Homestead News and be numbered by volume. It may not be very original, but it simplified things for us. We have also added a new page to the list of Things To Read, at the top of the right hand column, titled Homestead News where you will find links to these articles. Now that we have explained our new feature, on with the news.

Pearl wants some attention while I wait for a goat to finish eating on the milk stand.

We are now milking five does twice a day. That sounds like a lot of milk, but really it’s not…..yet. Copper and One Stripe have been providing us with the bulk of the milk so far since their babies are being weaned. Our three young does have only been giving us a little, morning and evening, until this morning. Last night was the first night I penned up the young babies away from their moms since the youngest, Easter, is now two weeks old. The young does are developing their udder capacity, which will continue to increase over the next few months. This morning from a full milking with all five does we got a gallon and a half of milk. Tomorrow will be less because this morning I wormed Copper and One Stripe. I will still milk them, and keep their milk for the animals for five days before we keep it for human consumption again. In the meantime, we will be getting the milk from the young does.

 

With all of this milking we have been making cheese two to three days a week. Now that we have plenty of milk we use four gallons every time. That makes a double batch of cheddar and a quadruple batch of mozzarella. So far we have six wheels of cheddar waxed and aging and two more in the cheese presses on the kitchen counter that we made today. There are several batches of mozzarella in the freezer. Our plan is to make 30 wheels of cheddar for the season. Mozzarella? Well, we always eat some fresh when we make it, then freeze the rest. I separate each batch into three pieces of cheese that are probably around half a pound. The supply in the freezer is building, and that’s okay. We are eating more cheese on our low carb diet and there is nothing like homemade, just like with any food.

In our efforts to successfully grow cabbage for humans instead of insects, we are trying something new this year. Our first batch of green lacewing and praying mantid eggs arrived in the mail today. I’ve already had some friends tell me that it sounds weird to order bugs or to get bugs in the mail. That’s okay, though, because they already knew I was weird. And they’re still my friends! The bug thing will be an ongoing process and I will do an article about it as we get farther along.

I’m kitting a few dishcloths for a wedding shower gift for a young couple at church. I think it’s always nice to get something homemade.

We spent half a day trying to program a radio scanner that we can’t figure out. That was very frustrating. It is now in a box on a shelf. But we do have another one we are going to take a look at. 

Frank has been talking to a young man at church about survival radio. They are now working on setting up a class that Frank will teach for some of the folks in the area. This class will provide information about getting a ham radio license at the Technician level. But even more than that, Frank will provide information about using CB, GMRS, FRS, MURS, scanners and shortwave radio more effectively. They will be talking about how to use a small solar panel to power the battery in a car, or any battery, and allow continued use of radio communications when the power is out. Frank feels very strongly about trying to set up a network of local people that will be able to communicate via radio if there is a natural disaster, emergency or collapse situation, whether it lasts a few days or indefinitely. We really look forward to this class and the relationships it will build with people in our surrounding area.

Cowpeas
Cushaw winter squash


The garden is growing, so the masterpiece has begun. We have had so much rain that it is still hard to get into the garden and get a handle on the weeds, or plant a few more seeds. So far, the old pinto bean seeds I planted have not made an appearance. I don’t know if they are too old, or it has been too wet. There are many people around here that haven’t started their gardens yet because it is so wet. We are grateful that we have so many things planted and growing.

 

I am very excited to see the wild blackberries blooming. We now eat berries every morning with our breakfast, and I look forward to serving fresh berries we have harvested instead of having to buy them at the store. I will be picking every berry I can get my hands on this year in an effort to freeze enough, so we won’t have to buy any. I don’t know if I can do that or not. I would also like to can more peaches and pears, but I’m trying to figure out if I can do it without sugar. I know in some recipes, sugar is a sweetener, but it also provides part of the preservative properties. I’ll have to do more research on that.

We have been picking a variety of things from the garden and herb bed to include in a salad about three to four days a week. I’ll be doing an article on that before long as well. I have to tell you, the herb bed is doing wonderfully this year. I hope to actually start harvesting and using what’s out there. Instead of only growing the plants, it’s time to learn to preserve and put them to use. The new comfrey bed is doing well. I pick comfrey everyday now for the chickens and the goats. 

And Frank the funny photographer took some beautiful pictures after one of the latest rains. We had a nice double rainbow for a short time.
 


There is always a lot happening on a homestead in the spring. It’s the time of increased activity after a long winter’s rest. Now, if it would just quit raining for a day or two we might get to mow the grass before it gets knee high.

April 13th

April 18th

April 19th

Keep an eye on Yemen. It looks like things are heating up in the Middle East. We just pray it doesn’t boil over.

Until next time – Fern

It Was a Very Good Day

I guess I could say our day started at 2:00am when I went to the barn to check on Lady Bug to see if she was in labor. She wasn’t. It always takes a little while to get back to sleep after a nighttime trek to the barn. I intended to get up at 6:00am to check on her again, but I just couldn’t talk myself into it. We’ve been at this middle of the night routine for three nights now with no end in sight. It does wear me down. Anyway, I rolled out at 7:00am, got the milk buckets ready, enjoyed a swift cup of coffee and headed out to the barn and the morning.

One Stripe and Copper enjoyed their typical morning routine. Penny now likes to stand around and talk very loudly to anyone that will listen. I hope she becomes more content soon because she has an irritating voice, and she needs to turn the volume down. Especially in the morning. But this morning was especially noisy because once I finished milking One Stripe and Copper, I did not let their babies out of the baby pen. They remained there awaiting their move to the weaning pen.

Penny was next up on the milk stand and so far has been very cooperative. She was followed by Cricket who is doing well at day two post delivery. I have some concerns about her boy I will share in a few days after I see how things work out. Lady Bug got to eat in her birthing pen, the lone pregnant doe now. She is pretty interested in the other babies. 

After the milk was strained and breakfast was cooked I debated about starting a batch of bread and a batch of cheese. I’ve been waiting for Lady Bug to deliver so I won’t have to worry about cheese sitting in the pot too long, or not being able to work or bake the bread when needed. Today we decided we had been waiting long enough. The sourdough starter has been out on the cabinet being fed for at least a week in preparation to make bread, and the frig was overflowing with over five gallons of milk.

So I ground some wheat and stirred up the sourdough bread and set it to proof on top of the frig where it’s warm. Then we started a double batch of cheddar cheese using up four gallons of milk. One thing about cheddar, is it needs attention in frequent intervals all day long. It’s now set to press for 24 hours and will be ready to remove from the presses tomorrow evening to dry for a few days before it is waxed. This is our first cheddar of the season. It won’t be ready to eat until about the middle of July at the earliest, for a very mild cheddar flavor. 

Making cheese means washing all of those jars the milk was in.

And washing up the cheese press that hasn’t been used in a while.

After the cheese reached the point that we had about a 30 minute window, we went up to the barn and moved the babies into the weaning pen. There was still some commotion, but not a whole lot. We have weaned babies before that screamed and hollered for their mommas until they were so hoarse they didn’t hardly have a voice left. These guys were running around playing some of the time and didn’t seem to be very stressed, which is great.
 

Frank drilled a couple of holes in each of these so the rain would drain out.


Frank had a great epiphany recently about the garden. We have kept enough room between the garden and the house to drive around the house if we needed or wanted to. He was standing outside looking at something the other day and thought, why don’t we forget about driving around the house and expand the garden into that area? It will make the garden a third again as big and allow us to grow a whole lot more food for us and the animals. Great idea! We have been thinking about how to incorporate an ‘animal garden’ into one of the pastures, but we use them pretty regularly. We have four pastures that connect to the corral at the barn and right now there are goats in three of them. When we add pigs to the mix, that will use them even more. Frank’s idea of increasing the garden size where it is will give us another way of increasing food production now.
 

This green grassy area is now becoming part of the garden. 2014 picture


So with that in mind, as we were leaving the barn, Frank brought the tractor down to start tilling up the ‘new’ garden spot. Right off the bat the shear pin broke on the tiller. So we replaced it. He went back around to start tilling one end of the garden which is very, very rocky, and immediately broke the shear pin. So we replaced it. This time he started at the other end of the garden down by the herb bed. He made it the whole length of the garden back into the rocky area just fine. Then he turned around to come back down the other way and immediately broke the shear pin. That’s when he announced that he was finished with the tiller for the day. We still have at least one, but now we need to get some more shear pins.

While Frank was busy breaking shear pins instead of the soil, I was trying to get some manure tea started. There is a new piece of garden we have already tilled up in front of the herb bed where I planted turnips, spinach, lettuce and swiss chard. This area has not had all of the great barnyard, ashes and such added to it, so it is not very rich in nutrients compared to the garden. Some of the spinach leaves are turning yellow. I wanted to give this bed a boost, so I took a couple of five gallon buckets to the chicken house, collected a deposit of manure and hay, filled the buckets with water, put on the lids and set them out in the herb bed where I will be using them. I’ll let them steep for a number of days before I begin side dressing the plants with tea. I won’t water them directly with this tea because I don’t want to burn the plants. I will also give them some wood ashes we have saved in the ash can from the woodstove, and some whey. 

After about 35 years of mowing our lawn with a push mower, we finally broke down and got a riding mower, which is a pretty green color and runs like a deere. It arrived yesterday but we were too busy to do anything with it then, and it was trying to rain. Today after Frank returned the tractor to the barn, he brought the mower down to try it out. In the meantime, I’m in the house working the cheese again. When I got to the point that I had a few minutes to go outside, I tried out the mower as well. It’s interesting, and since we have never had one before, it’s different. I do like it though. It will make it easier to keep some areas from becoming a jungle and needing to be brush hogged with the tractor in the summer. So I played on the mower for a while. Then I went back in and worked the cheese. Then I mowed a little more, returned it to the barn, checked on Lady Bug who refuses to have babies, and went back to the house to work the cheese.

Now one of my goals today was to get some more things planted. I didn’t. It’s all still sitting there waiting on me with rain coming tonight and tomorrow, and a chance of more every day this week until Friday. But maybe I can still get a few things planted over the next few days if it doesn’t get too wet.


Since we are weaning the older babies that means I will now be milking One Stripe and Copper twice a day and getting two gallons of milk a day instead of one. That means every two days I will have enough milk to make a double batch of cheese. But I still need to get things planted…… And then when Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug’s kids, if she ever has them, are two weeks old and I start penning them up at night, we will get more like three gallons of milk a day. Am I sure I need or want to milk five goats every day? Hmm……something to think about. But before long we hope to get those pigs and they will be happy to drink milk or whey everyday.

The old way to store whey.


And speaking of whey. Frank had a great idea. In the past when we made cheese, we put the whey in old peanut butter jars and sat them on the floor in the kitchen. There is way too much to fit in the frig with all the milk coming in. We feed one jar to the dog and cats each day, and two jars to the chickens morning and evening. Frank recommended we get out the water bath canner and just put all of the whey in it and dip it out into a jar as we need it. Great idea. Simplifies things. If we get overrun with whey, I will use it to water some of the garden plants. They love it, too.

So, now the animals are fed and tucked into bed, the cheese is doing it’s thing in the press, the bread is baked and sampled, and this blog post is now written. It has been a very good day. We enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, each other’s company, the quiet peace of a country life and the blessings that work brings. Peace, joy and contentment. We pray that the season of Easter, with the renewal of life, brings much joy and happiness to you and yours.

Until next time – Fern

The Saga of Penny’s Babies

The past few days have been very busy. You see, Penny, according to my obviously inaccurate estimations, was due to kid tomorrow, on Saturday. Instead, she and her kids decided this past Tuesday was to be the day. So we will start this saga that day and see if we can squeeze the events into one rather long post.

Tuesday morning when I went up to milk and feed the goats, I realized that Penny’s udder had really filled in the night. I had been checking to see how far her hips, or ligaments, had spread for a number of days. I told Frank the evening before that Penny really seemed to be almost wide open and I just didn’t see how she was keeping those babies in there. Well, it didn’t last much longer.


Tuesday was supposed to be a laid back day that allowed us to clean out the barn and get the birthing pens ready at a lolly gagger pace. Not to happen. I called Frank on the radio, remember we use them all the time. I told him that I didn’t think it would be long before Penny went into labor and that we needed to get the birthing pens set up. I asked him to scramble up some quick eggs for breakfast while I milked two does. His idea was better. Milk the goats, bring the milk down and start chilling it, then we would clean the barn and set up the pens before breakfast. Thus began the mad dash to prepare. Not our preferred mod of operation. We would have much preferred the lolly gagger pace. Anyway. I quickly completed the morning chores, took the milk to the house, filtered it and set it to chill in ice water, we woofed down a few bites of cottage cheese, and away we went. 

Frank fired up the tractor while I started in with the pitch fork. It was a surprisingly quick and thorough cleaning. Since Penny was not showing any signs of imminent birth, we went back to the house for a real meal and a cup of coffee. By this time we were hungry, I cooked up a big brunch of sausage and eggs hoping this would hold us for a while. We both knew this would turn out to be a long and busy day.

After we ate, I went back to check on Penny. She was out in the pasture grazing with the herd, showing no signs of labor, no discharge, nothing. She was talking a little which made me think she may be in the beginning stages, but that was all. So I left her grazing thinking this would be the last good exercise she had for a few days and that the new green growth would do her good.

We decided to go to the post office and buy gas. While we were at the gas station some folks from church called to let us know the bacon and sausage we ordered from the local ag class had come in and they were heading our way. So we waited at the little country convenience store, got our bacon and sausage, visited for a few minutes, then headed back home. The longest possible time we could have been gone was about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, but I don’t think so.


As we drove in past the pasture, I could see all of the goats except Penny. Uh-oh. I still had my radio with me, so as soon as we hit the house, I hoofed it up to the barn. As I topped the little hill where the barn sits, Penny saw me from the pasture and started hollering at me. Double uh-oh! I called Frank on the radio to let him know what I was seeing as I went through the barn and into the corral on my way out to the pasture. As I got closer I called him back and said, “We have babies! I need your help!” As I got even closer, I called back again and said, “We have twins!” 

Now, we have had does birth or begin birthing out in the pasture before. I usually pick up the baby or babies, hold them in front of the does nose, and she will follow them to the barn. Penny would have none of it. She paced and she hollered, and she paced and she hollered, but she was afraid of her babies and would have nothing to do with them. I know I called Frank on the radio again and reported the situation, but I have no idea what I said this time. He was busy trying to get the bacon and sausage in the freezer because he knew it would be a while before we would be back down to the house. He asked me to think of what we may need from the house for the birth. We had just about everything there except some towels, so he gathered them up and headed up to the barn.

In the meantime, I decided to take the babies to the barn, get them set up in the birthing pen, then go back for Penny. When I took the babies to the barn, the whole herd followed me there. That is, the whole herd except Penny. She stayed where she had given birth, hollering and pacing. She knew her scent and the scent of her babies was there and she wasn’t going to leave it. After I went back out to the pasture, it took me a while before I could catch her. One Stripe led the herd back out and helped me catch Penny by standing between us. Penny was comfortable enough with One Stripe, our old matriarch, that I could reach across and take Penny’s collar. It took some coaxing to get Penny to leave her birthing place, but when the herd came with us, she did much better.

Now I have her in the barn, in the pen with her babies. I quickly leave them alone hoping she would begin to lick and tend to them. She still frantically called and called, even though her babies were right there, she ignored them. Not a good sign. But she was quite agitated. So we put a brass double end clip on the side of the pen down low, clipped it to her collar, then placed her babies right under her nose, and left her alone. As she continued to fuss and call, her babies answered. She started to smell them, then after a few minutes started tentatively licking them. Thank you. I was relieved. After she showed serious interest in cleaning her babies, we unclipped her collar from the pen and let her finish the job. I’m sure you’re not surprised that there are no pictures of any of this process.

Now the next hurdle was for the babies to nurse, and to make sure Penny would let them nurse. I left them alone for quite some time since she was tending to them and I didn’t want to disturb that. Lucky for us the temperatures were right around 80* so I wasn’t too concerned about the kids getting chilled. Penny wasn’t real excited about letting the kids nurse, so we clipped her collar back to the side of the pen again. I put one kid under her nose, while I assisted the other one in getting that first meal. Once the first one was full, I traded them off and made sure the second one had a good meal. We also trimmed off the umbilical cords and sprayed them with 7% iodine somewhere around this time. Now, I could sit back and relax for a bit.

Faith came to see the babies. She plans to have her own goats soon.


Now for some reflection. What a surprise this birth was. Here is what we based our decisions on this day. Penny is a first freshener, meaning this is her first set of babies. Most, obviously not all, but most first timers take a while when they birth. Most pending births are indicated by the amniotic sack breaking and a long string of mucous type material hanging from the doe’s vulva. This is fairly standard. So, when I checked on Penny in the pasture before we went to the post office and she had no discharge, I figured it would still be at least a few hours before she gave birth. Now, we haven’t been able to see all of our goats birth over the years, but we have seen many. I don’t remember any of them having twins from start to finish in under an hour. Penny is definitely the exception when it comes to that observation. 

If I had known she would be giving birth in such a short period of time, I would have penned her up right after we finished cleaning the barn. No matter how much experience you have dealing with animals, there will always be an exception, or a difference that needs to be dealt with that you can learn from. Penny has been an interesting teacher for me this week.


After Penny calmed down and bonded with her sons, yes they were twin boys, she was very attentive, talked up a storm and just fussed over them for hours. She showed no signs of rejecting them, and they are healthy, vigorous and doing great. Since One Stripe and Copper have already provided us with boys named Breakfast and Lunch, we are calling Penny’s boys Dinner and Dessert. They will be banned and become wethers when they are about two weeks old.


We let Penny and the boys out with the herd this evening. First we penned up One Stripe and Copper’s babies in the baby pen for the night, so there weren’t any extra babies around to cause any confusion. And little do the older kids know, but they had their last drink of milk this evening. In the morning we will move them from the baby pen to the weaning pasture. They are now eight weeks old and their moms are ready for them to be weaned. So we will have new little babies in the barn with the herd, older babies in the weaning pasture, and the buck and older wethers in their pasture. We still have wethers that need to be butchered and had plans to put one in the freezer today, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there just weren’t enough of them today. 

Cricket had a son yesterday, but that story will have to wait for another time. I think I learned some important lessons from her as well, and I want to share them with you. Life is an interesting journey. There are many, many lessons to be learned. Some of them are even taught by a goat.

Until next time – Fern

The Sounds of a Peaceful Morning Milking

I’ve told you before how much I enjoy milking in the mornings. Listening to the birds, the goats, and just watching the world wake up for the day. Well, recently I took the camera with me and recorded a few more short videos. Just for you. So, without further ado, A Peaceful Morning Milking.

You will notice a metalic kind of sound in this video. I have just begun to milk, and the bucket is empty. Copper fusses at me every morning because she has to wait and be second in line. She just doesn’t see any reason she should have to wait for her mother, One Stripe, to be milked first. If you milk more than one doe, and are consistent with your line up, you will find that they figure out their place in line, although at first the goats new to the milking routine will try to cut line. 

Now the sounds of milking have changed and Copper is on the stand. I was surprised at how well the sounds came out while taking these videos with my camera. Interesting. By the time I am about half way through milking Copper, the babies start to get restless because they know that they will get to have breakfast soon.

This was the first morning I noticed one of the kids up on their ‘dog house’ playing. This was originally our Great Pyrenees, Pearl’s, doghouse when she was a puppy. Now we use it for the kids when we pen them up away from their moms at night. The first fresheners are still fussing at me because I didn’t feed them out in the feed trough like I do on most mornings. This morning, I brought them in on the milk stand to eat individually. I have been doing this off and on for a few weeks now.

This video shows the kids ‘escaping’ the pen for breakfast. It’s a little shaky here and there, but shows you the routine.

Now I have Lady Bug on the stand and I’m showing you how I feel the babies kicking. You can usually, but not always, feel the babies moving around when the does are about three months into their gestation. At first the babies are higher up on the side and up closer to the rib cage. Since all of the young does are due next week, their babies have dropped down and moved back closer to the udder. All of their tail bone ligaments are very loose, and their udders are growing out nicely. I handle the does a lot when they are on the stand. I want them to be comfortable so when it comes time to be milked, that will be the only new thing added to this routine. I show you how I get them comfortable standing with a little wider stance. This gives more room for the milk bucket and for me to comfortably reach their teats to milk. It is a matter of patience and repetition. After a while they will be comfortable and not resist the repositioning of their leg. 


This is Cricket. Here I show you how much I handle the does. At first they kind of cringe with all of this attention since they are a little skittish about being on the stand at all. But by this time they know they will get to eat while I mess with them. I’ve also trimmed their hooves once since I started bringing them in. It’s much easier for me to have the milk stand hold the goat, and I don’t have to bend over as much making it easier on my back.


Now for the switch over. I will take Cricket out and let Penny in. Penny is the most hesitant to come in to the stand, so sometimes I have to bring her in, but she’s doing better. At first when these young does left the stand they were kind of lost and didn’t know which way to go, but now they have figured it out for the most part. Penny is also like her mother, Copper. She will usually come in, turn in a circle, then jump up on the stand. It’s funny how that runs in families.

I had to find an application to shorten the videos I had originally taken before Blogger would upload them. First I had to learn how to do the video on my camera, now I am having to learn how to alter them to fit into the blog format. You know, if we had never started this blog, we wouldn’t have bought a new camera a year ago, and I wouldn’t be learning any of this stuff. So, thank you for encouraging us in our blogging endeavors. We continue to learn much all of the time.

As I try to think of the things we do and have learned about goats so I can share them with you, it helps me to really think through everything. I guess that can go for just about anything we do. We have felt all along that the purpose of this blog is to share what we have learned so that it might benefit others in some way. I hope that is the case.

Until next time – Fern

What Have We Been Up To?

For the past month, Frank has been attending a CERT class. Community Emergency Response Team. Some of it has been a good review/refresher to some of the things we learned in our EMT training. This training involved five Thursday nights, one Tuesday night, and two all day Saturday classes, with this last week involving a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He finished up this afternoon. In the midst of this class, he also attended a Tuesday evening storm spotter class, during another week that CERT was on a Thursday evening and all day Saturday. Now he only has his monthly county Communication Support Team meeting, which is next Tuesday evening. It has been a rather busy month for Frank in this respect.

In the meantime, we have both been studying for our Amateur Extra Class license. This is the top level of ham radio licensure and is more involved and detailed than the Technician or General class license tests we’ve taken so far. We have been trying to put in an hour or two per day for our studies, but haven’t always been successful. There is an area ham fest coming up in about three and a half weeks where they will be administering licensing tests, but we’re not sure if we will be ready by then. It just depends on how much time we can devote to studying.

In the search for variety in our new low carb life style, I have come up with a new twist for egg salad. We have some Chevre cheese in the freezer we need to get eaten up, so I have been gradually thawing it out and experimenting with a ranch type of seasoning. Not long ago, Frank mentioned having egg salad. I have to admit, my egg salad has always left something to be desired. Like flavor. Well, this time I chopped up six boiled eggs and added a few spoonfuls of the ranch flavored Chevre, along with a little mayo and bacon bits. It’s actually pretty good for a change.

We had been crossing our fingers in hopes that the hay in the barn would last long enough for the snow to melt, and it did, just barely. So yesterday we cleaned the last of the old bale out and moved another large round bale into the barn. We shouldn’t need to feed much of it now that the temperatures are rising and the grass is beginning to grow. But we will need it in about three weeks when Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug kid

The other thing we needed hay for is the ‘baby pen’ where we pen up the kids at night, so we can milk the does in the morning. This will keep the babies from nursing in the night and will probably give us almost a

gallon of milk a day. After I finish milking, I let the babies out so they can have their breakfast. We planned to start penning the babies up a couple of weeks ago, but then went into temperatures in the teens and low 20’s at night and decided to wait until the weather was a little more cooperative. So, today

while Frank was finishing up his CERT class, I finished cleaning out and setting up the baby pen. I didn’t take one picture, though, so this is what it looked like last year when we penned up Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug when they were babies. When we did the chores tonight, we penned up Patch, Breakfast, Buttons and Lunch. Surprisingly, they didn’t do much complaining while we were still in the barn finishing up, but I expect they will be complaining in the morning when I go to milk.

I also moved the ‘garden’ outside today while Frank was gone. The weather was gorgeous with light winds, sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s for most of the day. 

 

We will leave the seedlings on the south side of the house in the sun during the day, and move them onto the west porch in the evenings when the temperatures are predicted to be in the middle 30’s just in case of frost. 

All of the seedlings so far are cold hardy, so they should be just fine. As long as the kittens stay out of them, that is. I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed on that one. 

While I was at it, I planted another 40 paper pots with carrots and 40 with beets. Now that the south window in the house is empty, it’s time to start the tomato and pepper seedlings. Maybe I can get to that tomorrow afternoon after church.

Cabbage
Transplanted seedling for a friend

Carrots

My favorite watering can

That’s what we’ve been up to. We have been very grateful for some sunny, warmer days. The weeks of long, gray, cold, dreary days were really beginning to wear on me. They always do. Just looking out the window at the sunshine can make my day, and it’s even better when I can be outside playing in the dirt. 14 more days until spring. We hope you’ve had a good productive week. It always makes you feel good when you can get something done, even if it’s just the little things. Thank you for taking the time to read.

Until next time – Fern