Picking Wormer….From The Yard

As spring has come on, I’ve been thinking more and more about being able to grow natural wormer for our goats. For now, we still administer Fenbendazole (Safeguard) and Cydectin, and since it’s been an exceptionally wet spring, we have prime conditions for a heavy worm infestation. We allow a five day withdrawal period before we keep any milk for human consumption, but we do continue to milk, then feed it to the cats, dog and chickens. I didn’t want to experiment with all natural wormers only to have the goats become ill from worms, so this year we’re doing both.

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette di Bairacli Levy is an amazing source of information if you want to learn how to treat most farm animal ailments naturally. I have spent much time reading and re-reading about many different herbs and plants, especially pertaining to worms. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in herbal remedies for farm animals. As I read through this book, I began making lists of plants that are good for goats. 

This little notebook contains the beginnings of my research, with ideas for several categories including: plants for feed, plants for overall health, plants for worms and plants to increase milk production.

 

Now as I head out in the morning to do the chores, not only do I take a bucket to pick slugs and weeds from the garden for the chickens, I take a bucket for some goat pickings as well. The amount and variety of things I pick has grown since I took this picture, but it gives you an idea. Here is a tour of my morning wanderings as I pick for the goats.

 

I usually start off with comfrey, with anywhere from three to five leaves per goat each day. I am having to limit how much I pick for now until the plants are really at full production. Because of that, the chickens don’t get comfrey very often for now. Comfrey is a highly nutritious fodder plant for animals of all kinds.

 
Once the cabbage plants got big enough, I started picking leaves from the Michilli cabbage for the goats. It’s a very good source of sulfur and other vitamins. It turns out cabbage is good for lice, as well. Each time I introduce something new, it may take the goats a day or two to get used to it, cabbage was one of those things, but now they really like it.

I have also started including a few mustard leaves in the last few days, which helps to expel worms. Some of the goats seem to really like them, but some of them don’t. It’s always interesting to see how they will react.

 Next to the mustard is the dandelion patch. I always try to have at least a handful of leaves for each animal. Dandelion leaves are good for overall health as well as expelling worms.

 

I usually alternate between lemon balm and marjoram, which are both good for overall health. I want the plants to continue developing well for our own use, so the goats only get a few sprigs. They probably wouldn’t eat much more than that anyway. It’s part of the browsing nature of a goat.

 
Next comes garlic leaves which are high in sulfur and is an effective worm deterent. The goats won’t eat much, but they will eat some. I have started to include just a little each day. Behind the garlic is a patch of honeysuckle.

I have a couple of healthy chive plants that I have started picking small handfuls from as well. They are also effective against worms.

Honeysuckle

On Saturdays, I also pick a big handful of honeysuckle along with around four or five wormwood leaves for each goat. These two plants are especially good for expelling worms. One thing I have observed that I find to be very interesting is how the goats choose to consume them, or not. I have found that if I walk out into the barn with a large handful of honeysuckle vines, the does will gather around and heartily begin to strip the leaves from the vines. Until they are finished. Not until the leaves are gone, but until they are finished. My theory is, once a goat has eaten enough of a certain plant, they stop. Too much is not a good thing. And enough for one goat, may not be enough for another. They each stop eating the honeysuckle at their own timing. And the wormwood? Sometimes they will eat it and sometimes they won’t. Last week I wormed One Stripe and Copper with the commercial wormers on a Monday. Saturday when I brought up the honeysuckle and wormwood, neither one of them would eat them, even though they always did on the preceding days I had brought them. As I wondered why, I realized that they didn’t need the plants because I had just recently wormed them. Interesting, huh? Since tomorrow is Saturday, one week later, it will be interesting to see if they will eat these two plants tomorrow.

 

I started this wormwood from seed several years ago in this large wooden barrel. Now that I know it will continue to grow and have started using it, it’s time to move it back into the fringes of the herb bed. Many other plants don’t get along with wormwood too well, so it will be out on the edge of the bed next to the camphor wormwood I planted last year. It really does smell like camphor, and I haven’t quite decided what I would like to make out of it. I don’t use the camphor for the goats, though.

Since I recently read that blackberry leaves are good for goat feed, I stop at this patch of wild berries on the way to the barn and add a good handful of leaves to my bucket. 

Last week when the vet came to disbud our youngest baby goats, we found out they had lice. As far as I know, we have never had a lice problem on our goats before. The vet said our extremely wet spring has created prime conditions for lice. I got out my Herbal Handbook again and looked up lice. It turns out that sulfur is a good natural remedy and you can add a teaspoon of sulfur to the goat feed. Well, that wouldn’t work for the young babies that needed treating, so we put a little Sevin dust on them, and the teenage goats that are being weaned. But I needed a natural remedy for the does I am milking. It turns out garlic and cabbage contain sulfur. I was already feeding the cabbage leaves, so I increased the amount each doe was getting. That’s when I added in the garlic leaves. They ate more of them the first day, but since then, they will only eat a limited amount. But so far, I haven’t seen any lice on the does, so I hope this works.

So what do I do with all of these leaves? I dump my bucket on top of the big round bale of hay by the milk stand and sort everything out. I want to make sure each doe gets a portion of the harvest I have brought. And I only do this for the does I am milking, not the babies or the billy and wethers. As each doe comes to the milk stand, I give them their grain ration, then pile all of the leaves I have brought right on top of it. At first they seemed to be a little irritated with me, but now they just dig around the leaves, eat their grain, then usually have the leaves for desert. It’s rather comical. But if I took all of these leaves out to the feeder and spread them out for the goats to eat, they would just turn up their noses and go graze in the pasture. I’m not sure why they will eat them from the stand, but not from the feeder. It’s like it’s a treat or something.

I am hoping that feeding the goats plants that we have growing here will eventually be enough to keep them healthy and somewhat worm free. I don’t want to experiment to the detriment of their health, but I do want to try to eliminate the commercial wormers. I know there are companies that sell a natural wormer, but if I am going to change over to natural, I would like to see if growing our own plants will work. Only time will tell. It may take a year or more to really see what the outcome will be. I’ll let you know.

For the off season when the plants aren’t growing, I plan to dry the herbs. But, with nature, worms generally aren’t a problem in the winter months since the worms go dormant, some in the ground, some in the goat. There are other techniques for controlling worms, pasture rotation, short or tall grass and others. 

This brings us to another question. If the time comes when we are dependent upon ourselves, and we get worms, will these remedies work on us as well? Many of these plants are a common part of our diet and I have read that wormwood can be used with humans. But that is a whole different research project. Just food, pun intended, for thought.

Until next time – Fern

Herb Cheese & Planting Roses

We have another respite from the rain today with some sunshine off and on between the clouds. I went out yesterday and pulled back some of the free mulch, from the hickory and pine trees, off of the plants that are peaking up in the herb bed. It’s about all I could do since the ground is super saturated right now. We have slowly been building up the milk supply in the frig to the point where we can start making a couple of batches of cheese a week. Last week we made a small batch of mozzarella with one gallon of milk. When we have plenty of milk, I make two or four gallon batches of mozzarella and freeze the extra. For now, we are making fresh cheese to eat, and we’re very glad to have it. Once our three young does, Lady Bug, Cricket and Penny, kid and begin producing enough milk, we will have way more than enough to really ramp up our cheese production. First up will be cheddar since it needs to age at least three months to start having a mild cheddar taste. We have been out of homemade for quite some time and once you get used to it, store bought just doesn’t hold a candle to it in flavor, freshness, consistency and nutrition. 


So today I made a fresh, pressed herb cheese. It is the same recipe I used last year, with the same ingredients, but only the second wheel of herb cheese I have made. I mentioned last year that I thought it would be good as a pepper cheese, and that will probably be the one I try next. After that, I think I will try one with oregano and maybe marjoram. Both of those plants are coming out in the herb bed, so by then I should be able to use fresh herbs in the cheese.

Oregano peeking out, March 15th

Here is a pictorial of the cheese I made today. As I mentioned in the article last year, there are other cheese making articles that will show you some of the specifics of the process we use. If you have any questions about any step of this procedure, please let me know and I will address them to the best of my ability.

Time to dust off the old cheese press

These are the multiplier onions I accidentally planted, and then dug up out of the garden last year. They’ve been waiting all winter in this tub on the porch to be planted in the herb bed where they belong.

One of the garlic patches

The garlic is doing well. I chose the largest of this bunch.

The curds are ready to heat and cook down

Time to pour off the whey

We save the whey in plastic jars for the dog, cats and sometimes chickens.

I had to crumble the curd so I could add the garlic, onions and salt.

Last year I thought the cheese was a little dry, so I didn’t press it as hard, and I only left it in the press for three hours.

Frank wanted to taste the cheese right after I took it out of the press. I warned him that it wouldn’t taste like what he was expecting. He only ate half a bite and said it wasn’t any good. Then he asked when it would be good. I told him tomorrow or the next day after it has time to sit and let the flavors blend together.
 

The recipe recommends putting the cheese on a plate covered with plastic wrap. I chose a bowl and our reusable food wrap instead. After the cheese was in the press, I had three hours to do other things, like feed us lunch. 

We received the rose bushes we ordered in the mail today, which we opened right away, then started them soaking in water. Since they are bare root, they needed to be rehydrated and kick started before I put them in the ground. I guess one advantage for them now is the fact that the ground is so saturated. There will not be any shortage of moisture for them to get off to a good start, not to mention that we have a chance of rain everyday this week starting again tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise I would wait a few days for the ground to dry up before planting. But I think these bushes would be better off in the ground than sitting around another few weeks waiting for better conditions.

 

I planted four rose bushes last summer that had been living in pots on the porch waiting for a permanent home. Plants here have to be willing and able to live in rather primitive conditions without a lot of TLC, or they just won’t make it. These bushes are a mix of red and cream colored roses.

That being said, three of the four are budding out and seem to be doing just fine. The verdict is still out on the fourth one. It appears the upper branches are dead, but maybe not the rest. We will see. [After I wrote this I found this leaf budding out toward the bottom of the plant. Yea!]

One of the main reasons I am planting roses is for the nutrients in the petals and rose hips. We also have many wild roses growing around here and there. I used the rose hips I picked last summer, which weren’t very many, to make rose water for the last batch of lotion I made. I thought that was very neat.

The new rose bushes are called Harison’s, which is the name given to the classic Yellow Rose of Texas. You see, Frank and I are Texans, that have been transplanted to Oklahoma. If you are from Texas, you know how we feel. We will always be Texans. That’s why Frank requested I find and plant the Yellow Rose of Texas here on our homestead. And since these roses will have to fend for themselves in our semi wild yard, I bought four of them, just in case some of them don’t make it.

I gave the roses a small dose of this great barnyard compost.

I saved some extra coffee grounds to give to these new bushes since they prefer a slightly acidic soil.
 

I’ve said a little prayer that they will do well. Just for Frank. It’s nice to be able to do something special for your spouse, even if it takes years to accomplish. I envision a big, wild entanglement of rose bushes all over this fence with beautiful, yellow roses that I can pick to adorn our table. This is one dream I do hope comes true.

The herb cheese is beautiful and I really get a great deal of satisfaction making it. We will have some tomorrow with our lunch. I hope it’s edible then.

By the way. Yesterday at our small country church we sang Brethren, We Have Met To Worship, and it really touched our hearts. We both went back and looked at the words again. Here are two different versions of it, one very country, and one with a church choir. If you care to listen, I pray it touches your heart as well. The second verse really stuck with me. “Brethren, see poor sinners round you, Slumbering on the brink of woe; Death is coming, hell is moving, Can you bear to let them go? See our fathers and our mothers, And our children sinking down; Brethren, pray, and holy manna, Will be showered all around.”

Here is the site of tomorrow’s planting

 

I hope to get the cole crops into the garden tomorrow before the rains come again, so the next post may be a little muddy. I’ll let you know how that goes and how the cheese turns out. Spring is just a few days away and life on the homestead will get much busier. We will get the garden in, and spend time tending it. I have many, many more seedlings to grow, especially for the herb bed. After we kill off all of the weeds and scrubby tree stuff at the end of the garden, we will be starting a new comfrey bed. The extra strawberries that have spread out into the garden area will also be used to start a new bed. More baby goats will be arriving in a little over two weeks, and that means more time milking each day, especially with three young does to train. I haven’t gotten much more done on the rag rugs, but it will be sitting here waiting on me when I am ready to pick it up again. Life is good. It would be so much easier to sit back and be lazy, and I am actually pretty good at that, as well. But there is nothing like having plenty to do. It keeps you going, learning, dreaming and accomplishing. Blessings to you all.

Until next time – Fern