Homestead News, Volume 22

I keep going back to the quote on the last article.

Consider what you would do if you knew [we inserted if you actually BELIEVED] your country had already moved beyond the point of no return.”

When Frank and I discussed this quote, my response was we would keep doing what we are doing, because we do know that we are beyond the point of no return. So, with that, here is the next homestead update and some of the things we are doing to prepare.

We are watering the garden with the water well and a 12volt pump. Why now? It’s time. We have had this well and pump since late 2008. It’s been waiting in the wings. This spring Frank looked on the shelf at the box with the pump in it again, took it down and figured out what we needed to install it. Nothing. We had everything we needed, it was just putting in the time and effort to install it. Since then we have treated the well, pumped out the old stagnant water, treated it again and had it tested twice. The first time there was still one type of coliform bacteria in it, so we treated it again. The second time it came out clean. We’ve been watering the garden in two hour intervals about three times a week. When we started using the pump, we measured the production which is about three gallons a minute. This was one of the first things that came to my mind when we read that quote.

Frank’s next step will to be to install solar panels on top of the greenhouse which he has already configured, installed onto a framework and wired together. These panels will connect with a battery bank which is already installed in the greenhouse with a charge controller, and will be used to run the well pump. He is just waiting for cooler temperatures and some help. It won’t be long. We have some ideas running around in our heads about pressure tanks and plumbing the well into the house, but that is down the list quite a ways and may or may not materialize.
 

Next. Food. We have been canning more tomatoes and tomato sauce to replenish the stock. We canned instead of froze our winter squash. Today we finished grinding the remaining beef in the freezer. A few days ago some of it went to making and canning 14 quarts of chili.

We have plenty of cowpeas on the shelf, so this patch will be picked, left whole in the pod, and dried in the greenhouse. This will be some of our winter animal feed. It will be interesting to see how well it keeps and how well the animals like them. The goats love fresh pods, with or without the peas. The chickens like the fresh or dried peas, but not the pods.

Several of you have asked about the amaranth experiment. The spring planted crop is still producing even after four cuttings. I have learned to let the heads turn an almost rusty, golden, brown to make sure they are ripe to pick. The heads dry in the greenhouse, then I remove the seeds, winnow the chaff and save the stems and chaff for the goats, which they are eating quite well. They like it.
 

The summer planted amaranth crop has not done well at all. They grew very slowly, then started falling over. Turns out the pigweed weevil loves amaranth stems. Amaranth and pigweed are in the same family and wild amaranth, which is called pigweed, grows here quite well. All over the garden, in

fact. It’s just that I didn’t know what it was until this year when I grew amaranth and right beside it was this weed that had leaves exactly the same. Interesting, the learning opportunities that come along. Well, after the weevils came the cabbage moths, or I think that’s what they were.

Many of the plant’s growing heads became covered with sticky webs, small worms and black clots of eggs. I picked these heads off and fed them to the chickens. This batch of amaranth is just now starting to show seed heads even though some of them are much taller and thicker stemmed than the spring crop. They won’t have time to mature before frost. We plan to pull these plants and hang them whole to dry for winter animal feed. We’ll see how that goes.
 

Amaranth seed heads drying in the greenhouse
Wheat on the left, amaranth on the right


The amaranth seed we have been able to harvest is going into our bread. We tried the seed whole a few times, then started grinding it with the KitchenAid grinder on the finest setting, otherwise the grains are so small they fall right through the grinder. I like the additional nutrition this adds to our bread. We have not tried eating any of the greens even though we have read that they are edible in both salads and cooked as greens. Maybe next year. 

Our focus has been on increasing the food supply for our animals and ourselves. We consider our goats and chickens to be an important part of our food supply. Our garden has now become not only our food supply, but some of theirs as well. Since writing this article and running across the Ice Age Farmer, we feel it is wise to grow or store as much food as is practicable. The Ice Age Farmer had a couple of interesting videos out yesterday about cooler temperatures affecting crops this year due to the solar minimum and about some scientists saying we will have to rely on cannibalism for protein in our diet to help with global warming. Folks there are some very strange things going on with food and food control. Some people have some very perverted, dangerous ideas they are actually presenting to the public, not in some dark, back room. The more we can rely on ourselves and what is on our shelves, the better off we will be.

Wouldn’t it be great to be wrong? Wouldn’t it be fun to sit back and watch trash stuff on television and eat ice cream out of the carton (as long as someone

hadn’t licked all over it and put it back on the shelf in the store)? Wouldn’t it be grand to be clueless, hopeless and caught totally unaware when there are no more cell phone signals, television signals, talking boxes that can answer every question you ever had, a myriad of devices that can watch, track and record your every sound and move, in every room in your house, even in your bedroom? Wouldn’t it be great to know that there will always be food on the store shelves, gasoline for your car, Amazon delivery right to your front door and free stuff from the government? Wouldn’t it be great to have friends to count on in the event of a collapse that wouldn’t come and kill you for your stuff because they were the grasshoppers while you were the ant? 

Wouldn’t it?

What would we do if we knew that our country had already moved beyond the point of no return? We have been doing it most of our adult lives. Preparing. Learning. Practicing. It’s why we became reserve police officers before Y2K, became EMTs in remote Alaska, lived on a homestead where financial resources were focused on creating a sustainable life, learning what grows here, and how to care for animals that will help feed us. And now we’ve been drawn to this place, this world of the internet to share with those that might listen and that will teach us in return. Every last thing we can learn, practice and practice some more, will help us in this journey as we all fall off the cliff of civility and normality. Stay safe.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 14

Well, let’s see, what have we been up to lately? Bunches. Last week we got a comment that accused us of putting the youngsters to shame with all of the work we’ve been doing. It struck me as kind of funny at the time, and I’ve thought about it a couple of times since then. Because of that comment, I thought I’d let you know that the two men that are doing most of the hard work around here, Frank and Henry, are 65 and 60 years old, respectively. This little tid bit of information may motivate someone out there, so I thought I would share. As for the woman here? I’m 56.

The ditch we showed you last week looks exactly the same as it did then, except we ran a soaker hose across the yard where the rest of the ditch is to be dug. Emmet has been back since this ditch was

started, but during that visit he dug a different ditch, the one between these two buildings, and about half of it was done in the dark by lantern light. The one picture I tried to take showed too much of Emmet’s face, so I didn’t keep it. After the ditch was dug, Frank and Emmet ran 12/2 in conduit connecting the two buildings. And then there was light. Inside that is. Frank did his first night time tractor driving and covered up

the ditch with the bucket. He didn’t like it much, he prefers the visibility daylight provides instead. So now we have temporary power to these two buildings. Temporary because the solar panel installation will provide the power to these buildings in the long run.

 

Today Frank and Henry finished installing the braces and brackets for the new antenna towers. There is one on the garage, one on the garden shed and one on the house by the current antenna pole. Frank has been determining the angle of attachment because these towers will fold over at the bottom so they can be laid down to install or work on antennas. This has taken a lot of planning, plus acquiring some needed equipment and accessories. We will continue to give you updates on how this project is progressing.

 

 

As you can tell from the picture on the header, the concrete for the outdoor kitchen was installed last week. I have to tell you, watching Henry mix the concrete bag after bag made me tired. That was a lot of work, but it went quickly and smoothly. Frank brought the bags of concrete over in the bucket of the tractor so no one had to lift them. We kept water in a five gallon bucket for Henry to pour into the wheelbarrow, which saved time and effort as well.

Here is the first appliance for the outdoor kitchen. Neat, huh? It is neat and exciting to think about completing this project and having a functional, no-grid, rather primitive kitchen right off the back porch. But when I really stop and think about using it out of necessity in a survival scenario, the neat factor drops like a rock. This kitchen has not been conceived, nor created to invite friends over to enjoy tea and crumpets. I picture processing vegetables and meat out here, washing clothes and fixing breakfast before a hard days work. It’s rather daunting, actually.

 

Last week our friend Grace let me know there were some local pears ripe and available. There are folks that have pear trees, but aren’t using the pears. One gentleman’s tree is loaded and they are falling by the dozens to the ground. Yesterday instead of butchering and canning chickens, I went and got pears, five 5 gallon buckets full of pears. Guess what I

Washed pears in the sunrise that’s peeking in the backdoor.

did today? Yep, but I only got started. So far we have 21 quarts of canned pears. We did it a little different this time, no sugar (just like the peaches), and no peeling. When we had finished canning peaches a month or so ago, one person commented that they don’t peel their fruit before they can it. I thought that sounded great and read about other folks doing the same thing, so that’s what I did. Aren’t they beautiful? And there are lots left to put way. I hope to have them finished by the weekend.

 

We have had some cold nights this week, into the 40’s. This was the first ‘cold’ test for the greenhouse and the water barrels we are using for the thermal mass. The first night it got down to 47*, the greenhouse against the wall was 59*. Yea! That is where the tomatoes, peppers, ginger, potatoes and turmeric are living. The temperature on the thermometers along the outside wall read 54*. Another yea! That’s when I discovered that I hadn’t thought to close the screen at the top of the storm door on the greenhouse. That may have kept it even warmer in there. The plants are happy, even when it gets over 100* most afternoons. It is supposed to cool off, even for the highs later in the week. Today it got up to 97*, it was a hot day.

Beets
Carrots

Cabbage
Brocolli

Brussel sprouts
Muskmelon

Squash

Onions!

Spinach

Since I have been watering the plants in the greenhouse almost everyday, I thought it would be good to use the water well that is right next door. This water well has a Simple Pump installed that works very well, it’s just that we haven’t been using it at all. When I pumped some water out of it the other day it smelled awful, so today I put about half a gallon of bleach in it. We’ll let it sit for a couple of days then pump water out of it until the bleach smell is gone. It will be an easy walk with my watering can back and forth to the well. I figure it is a good time to get the well into good working condition since we may be using it regularly before long. I wiped down the main rod to remove any dust and grime. Before I use it again I will clean and lubricate the rod again with olive oil.

 

For now, I am filling the watering can with the hose and rural water supply. I have also been ‘watering’ the clothesline poles for several days. It is really dry here and it hasn’t rained since we put the poles in the ground with the dry concrete. I have watered each pole a number of times, several days apart. I’m ready to use it, it just isn’t ready to be used yet.

 

 

 

I almost forgot to tell you. Monday when Frank and Henry were finishing up shelving and braces in preparation for working on the antenna towers, I tore the carpet out of the bedroom. This

house has old, old, about 35 year old shag carpet in the bedroom, hallway and living room. Did I tell you it’s old? Well, last weekend Frank took up a small piece of the bedroom carpet, just to see what was underneath. That showed me what to do. I thought it would take quite a while and be difficult. It took less than an hour and was a breeze. The hardest part was moving the mattress out into the

hallway and back, and that wasn’t difficult. Now we have a somewhat uneven, paint splotched and stained in some places, plywood bedroom floor. It’s great! We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with it next, but there’s no hurry. We’re just glad to have the carpet and everything that was living in it out of our bedroom.

After I finished with the carpet, I snapped a few green beans I had picked over the weekend and thawed out the gallon bag of cowpeas I had put in the freezer over the summer. Out came the canner and they all went in together even though the green beans only require 25 minutes to can and the cowpeas require 40 minutes. I ended up with three pints of green beans and 10 pints of cowpeas. It sure is nice to have a few more jars of food on the shelf.

There is an interesting article on The Economic Collapse today that Frank ran across, The Numbers Say That a Major Global Recession Has Already Begun. We know that not everybody follows the markets, but we’re all invested heavily, one way or another. Please pay attention. And if you can or would, please pray for the Middle East. Things are not looking good there. Do you think the world economy and the Middle East problems might be connected? Certainly food for thought. A couple of extra cans of green beans might come in handy some day. You just never know when the stores might not be there.

Life continues to rush by at break neck speed. It’s amazing how much we are getting done and how much is yet to be completed. We have never worked this hard and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. Ever. It’s quite fascinating. This afternoon after Frank and Henry had quit for the day and we were waiting for the last batch of pears to be finished, Frank and I talked about how hard we have been working. I told him we are practicing for what is to come, when there won’t be a choice of working hard all day or not. It’s hard work, it’s good practice and it’s providing us with many things that will make life a little easier. There is nothing like experience for learning. It’s your turn, do, learn, and experience. It will get you one step closer to being as ready as you can.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 13

Life on the homestead continues unabated, sometimes it’s like running full steam and sometimes it’s more like a walk in the park. Lately we have been surrounded with steam. Here’s a look at what’s been happening.

Isn’t this a beautiful ditch? You’re probably thinking I’ve been in the ‘steam’ too long, right? Well, the ditch itself may not beautiful, but what it represents is very exciting. Emmet has returned to barter more labor, for radios this time, a few evenings after he gets off of work. Weekends are devoted to his family, which is as it should be. Emmet found many, many more rocks in this ditch than any of us were planning on, so it will take longer to accomplish this task that we first thought. This ditch will hold the conduit, that will hold two strands of wire, which will connect this building to the house. Why is that exciting? Because these wires will soon connect our radio shack and house, to a battery bank and solar panels. We’re not sure just how soon, but sometime in the not so distant future.

Yesterday while Frank and Henry installed storm doors on the house, which are great, I butchered a goat. Frank dispatched him for me and brought him down to the garage in the bucket of the tractor. I have to tell you, though, I did not take one picture yesterday. It was a long, long busy day. The goat provided us with about 45 pounds of meat, 10 pounds of dog food and some soup stock.

Dressing out an animal really doesn’t take that long. Processing the meat does. We only kept two partial hind legs as roast. The rest of the meat was deboned, ground and frozen. I wrapped the ground meat in one to one and half pound packages and got them in the freezer at about 7:45 pm, just a few minutes before our second Survival Radio Relay Net. After the digging, Emmet stayed for a cup of coffee, and to see how Frank ran the net.

As I removed the meat from the bones, I kept looking at all the meat left on the bones. In the past, I have always just thrown these bones away. The longer I looked at them, the more I knew I needed to boil them and make some soup stock. So I did. I cooked them for several hours as I worked on processing the meat.

The net went very well with most people from the previous net returning and some new additions. Not long after the net we received a phone call from a man that joined for the first time. I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes when life is really busy and we wonder why in the world we are ‘putting ourselves out there’ and possibly increasing our danger factor, we get a phone call or a comment that lets us know we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. This phone call was one of those. I almost cried. Not because of the content of the phone call, but because of the unmistakable message that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. So, I guess I’ll keep writing here for the foreseeable future.

We finally had supper at 10:00 pm in the midst of a very messy kitchen. I actually left this tub of dog scraps and many, many dirty dishes overnight. I had totally run out of steam for the day, and 6:00am would come very soon for the start of another day. I also forgot to bake the bread I had made this morning. I just shook my head and hoped it would taste good when I baked in in the morning. It did. Frank thought it was some of the best sourdough bread we have had so far. It sat for 24 hours after I made the dough and before it was baked. Interesting.

 

This morning it took me a couple of hours to clean up the kitchen. I returned the pots of stock to boiling, made rolls from the bread dough and left them to rise while I fed and milked the animals. Frank and Henry got to work early on the framing for the outdoor kitchen floor. Here it is today, but tomorrow these forms will hold a new concrete floor for the kitchen. We will keep you updated.

Frank worked over the lid and top edge of the All American Canner that wouldn’t seal well enough to reach adequate pressure and we tried it again. It still doesn’t work so we will be sending it in to see if the company can fix it at our expense.

 

It’s now 6:00 pm and there are two canners of soup stock on the stove with more left in the pot to go. So far we have 21 quarts of stock and we will put what’s left in pints. It looks like the last one won’t be finished until about 10:00 pm. Update. It’s now 8:00 pm. The last seven quarts will be ready to take out of the canner around 9:00 pm. I just put the pressure weight on the canner with 13 pints, and it has to come to 10 pounds pressure and stay there for 90 minutes. We won’t be finished by 10:00 pm, but we’re happy with the amount of soup stock we’ll have to put on the shelf.

 

We have one more incubator full of eggs hatching as we speak. At first I took this picture to share with you, but before I could finish writing and publishing this article, they started hatching. That means I need to butcher and can the last 12 or 13 chickens out there from our last hatch. They are a too old for fryers, and we wanted some chicken meat on the shelf anyway. Looks like that’s a job for Friday because tomorrow is mozzarella. The refrigerator is over run with milk again.


There have been several questions and comments about the greenhouse since we put this picture up on the header. It still doesn’t seem quite real that we finally have a greenhouse, and we have already decided it’s not big enough. 

 

We were asked if these barrels hold a back up water supply. The answer is yes. We don’t plan to use the water very often unless it is needed. We hope to have other sources of water connected and ready to use before long. But since we do want this water to remain potable, we treated it with bleach as we filled the barrels. We did a search on recommended amounts of bleach and came up with 5 teaspoons per 50 gallons of water. Five teaspoons is approximately one ounce, which is easier to measure when you’re trying to pour it out of a new gallon jug.

 

After we filled the barrels and got everything placed where we wanted it, Frank added some brackets to the back of the ‘table tops’ to hold them in place. We brought them an inch and a half away from the studs to allow room to place two trays side by side. This will allow us to use the space more efficiently. The bus tubs, there was a question about them, are the same ones that restaurants use to clean or ‘bus’ tables. Sam’s Club has them with the restaurant supplies. They have been great, but the sun just kills them and makes them very brittle. We will build our own before long and fit them to the trays. I hope they hold up better in the sunlight than the bus tubs did, we’ll have to wait and see about that.

The purpose of the water is for thermal mass. We are hoping it will help even out the temperature in the greenhouse. On sunny days when the outside temperature is in the 80’s, it quickly rises to 100*+ inside. The first day we moved the seedlings off of the porch and into the greenhouse was before we added water to the barrels. I didn’t water them enough, and in the afternoon, a few of them cooked, even with the fan Frank had installed. Since then, I have tried to make sure the tubs are watered very regularly, and we do think the water in the barrels makes a difference. Even if the thermometer is registering 100*, the plants don’t seem to suffer for it. I plan to dig up some strawberries and comfrey and bring them in for the winter and see how they do. That will be interesting. I also have kept the mandarin orange and lemon tree idea in the back of my head that someone mentioned a while back. 

I brought these two black peppercorn vines, piper nigrum, in to the greenhouse. They have been growing on the porch all summer. I also brought in a preying mantis with them. I hope it sticks around and helps with the bugs that may show up.

 

I planted more seeds in more tubs, but there’s not much to show for now. There are carrots, turnips, muskmelon, squash, lettuce and spinach coming up. I also planted some onion sets that I bought in the spring and never planted. Maybe we will have a few onions to eat this winter.

Tomorrow is another busy day, cheese and concrete. If you’re interested in radio communications, stay tuned. We will have new antenna towers going up soon. This will increase our ability to reach the folks in our area which is critical. The solar panel project will also help insure our ability to communicate. The radio shack will be the first thing to go ‘on line’ once we have the 12 volt system connected and functional. We really look forward to that day. Meanwhile the water storage tanks at the barn are still on the docket for completion. We need a few more supplies and some more ditches dug before we can proceed.


There are days that it would be easy to quit, days that we’re tired and worn out. There are some days that we just don’t want to get out of bed and tackle the day. But we do. There is much to complete and time is short. Our pace seems to quicken a bit more each day. When we get out of bed, we pour a cup of coffee and check out the news of the day including the blog. There is usually another comment telling us what you’re doing to prepare, full of encouragement, and we know we’re heading in the right direction. Make sure you are too.

Until next time – Fern

Hand Tools for the Near Future

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

We recently had a question that for me was thought provoking. It had to deal with tools. I’ve included a partial quote from the email, and my response in it’s entirety. It’s just food for thought. There is one item I would like to add to the list, though. It may not seem like a tool to you, but anything that makes your life easier I classify as a tool. That’s comfort food. So the tool I would like to add is a big box of Snickers. You know, those health bars covered with chocolate. Hope you enjoy the list. But it was a very good question.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“We have been finishing much of our “to-do” list (aka ‘preps’), including purchases of lumber and fencing for the future garden beds. I did want to ask your opinion on what type of hand tools should we get to keep on hand?  We do have many garden tools, and shovels and such.  Any other recommendations?  I am talking just what you think would be absolutely bare-bones necessary. Could you do a short article on that subject?  I think it would be most welcome by everyone.”

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Good question.

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I think your idea about doing an article on hand tools is an excellent idea. The garden tools that Fern and I use are good, solid, well-made, with long handles. We are both tall people. When I do buy extra, they are on sale and stock up for the future. Garden tools may make an excellent barter item some day.

As far as hand tools go, I buy the best tools I can afford. Not the most expensive, but the best. The last few years I’ve started relying heavily on battery operated tools. I rarely use a hammer to drive nails, so I buy a lot of long screws. My elbow will not take the pounding anymore. Saws are very important, all kinds of hand saws. But I use my battery operated tools as much as I can for cutting and drilling. A quality brace and bit is also necessary. Sockets and socket sets are a must. Buy lots of drill bits, especially the little ones, they break easily.

I have multiple sets of tools. One basic set in the house, a complete set in the garage, and a pretty good set in the barn.
Watch for sales at the big box stores like Lowes, and as mentioned earlier, buy the best tools you can afford. Don’t forget things like files, grinders, punches, chisels, nail sets, but especially don’t forget files. Heaven forbid, but you can sharpen your kitchen knives with a file. So, don’t forget good knife sharpeners too, which ever type you prefer.

A shotgun is a handy tool, too. Double 00 buckshot, bird shot, a Remington 870. This tool will help you keep your other tools much longer.

A good Bible comes in handy. Axes, big ax, hand ax, mauls, splitters, sledge hammer – big one, and smaller ones. Pry bars. The list goes on. On occasion when we have a small animal to get rid of, a small sledge hammer comes in handy. A good stock of lumber, as you mentioned, is very handy, as is fencing, especially barbed wire. A couple of extra loads of gravel is a nice tool to have.

A small, full functioning tractor is extremely handy, especially the front end loader. You can haul larger animals in the front end loader for butchering processes. Yep, I’d get a good, small, solid, full functioning tractor with implements.

Might want to stock up on clothes, too. Go ahead and buy that extra canner and water bath now. Don’t forget boots, socks and underwear, gloves and hats.
 

If I were you, I would switch all of your light bulbs out to LED bulbs. Don’t forget traps. Some day those traps might feed you. Get a good supply of mouse traps while you’re at it. Don’t buy the cheap ones, you get what you pay for.

Don’t forget trash bags, paper towels, kleenex, toilet tissue. Don’t cut hygiene short either. Laundry detergent in large plastic buckets? Get a bunch. The buckets are really handy and powdered laundry detergent will meet the vast majority of your cleaning needs.


I’m tired. Hope this helps. Just food for thought. Don’t forget rechargeable batteries and solar panels. Take care.

Frank

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Here is another handy tool. Tools for Survival by James Wesley, Rawles



Seriously folks, don’t forget the Snickers, man does not live by bread alone. It’s late, it’s been a real long day.

We’ll talk more later, Frank
 

Life & Death on the Farm

There are times that life on a farm or homestead can be a joy and a challenge. After One Stripe’s successful birth of healthy, vigorous babies, we had a couple of days before Copper was due. So we tried to get a few things done.

 

We wrote about the beginning stages of getting the solar panels ready for installation a week or so ago. Frank has started charging and conditioning the batteries that will be used with these panels. We bought the batteries a few years ago, and it’s time to charge and desulfate them in preparation for installation. He got that in the works yesterday in between trips to the barn to check on One Stripe and her babies, and to see if Copper happened to be in labor.

 While Frank was working on the batteries, I managed to make up some coleslaw and deviled eggs. I figured the next

few days would be busy and  wanted something quick and good to eat on hand. Then I was able to get a few seeds in the dirt. I have some old seeds that may not be viable any more so I wanted to try and use them up. I put a thick planting of dill, lettuce, mustard, onions and mixed baby greens back in the

herb bed. Then I planted three dishpans of seeds to put in a south window in the house. It was a beautiful, sunny, 65* day, and it was great fun to play in the dirt.

Patch and Breakfast this morning, 2 1/2 days old.

We decided to let One Stripe and her babies out of the birthing pen last night after two days of confinement. The babies are very vigorous, jumping around and exploring the barn. If they had not been this active, we would have kept them penned up for another day or two until we……….[Interruption…….] We just had a little rain shower pop up and I went to make sure these babies were in the barn instead of out in the corral or pasture. They were tucked into their birthing pen with One Stripe. This is one pen that we are able to remove the gate easily since we have it attached with double end brass clips. When we let them out, we actually just removed the gate so the kids can ‘go home’ when they want a warm place for a nap that is out of the way of the regular activity in the barn. And that is where I found them just now.

While Copper was eating on the milk stand last night around 5:30, I checked her udder and it was tight and full, which means her milk had come in. I knew then she could give birth anytime, so we planned to check on her again around 9:00. We also put her in a birthing pen, just in case. Her tail was becoming very pronounced and I figured she would have her kids in the night, so we made plans to come back and check on her at midnight. No babies.

When we got back to the house after the 9:00 barn check,  I went out to feed the cats and found Little Bit barely alive. She was having difficulty breathing and was very limp. Little Bit got her name from being the very littlest kitten of the four we got a few months back. She has always struggled to be healthy, fighting a type of kitty cold from the time we brought her home. We carried her to and from the barn a lot, because she couldn’t keep up with the others. We had taken her to the vet a few weeks back for a long acting antibiotic and steroid shot which helped a little, for a short while. Instead of letting her suffer and die in the night, with much sadness and tears, we put her out of her misery. Thus is life on the farm sometimes. This morning, I miss Little Bit.

After the short trip back to the barn at midnight, Copper hadn’t started labor. That made for a short trip, so it was back to bed until about 5:45 am. As I sleepily got dressed to head back to the barn, my thoughts were on another short trip, and back to bed for just a little more sleep. It wasn’t to be. My arrival at the barn this time found Copper having contractions, not often, but contractions. With the sun just beginning to color the horizon, I settled into my barn chair to await the sun and the birth of new kids. I called Frank on the radio to give him the news. Remember we use our handheld radios all the time, and they come in very, very handy. Now it was his turn to get dressed and gather water, coffee, the camera and some snacks for me. He is truly a great husband.

After a little over an hour and Copper spending most of her time standing up, we decided to go down to the house for a quick breakfast and to warm up. Upon my return, I found a beautiful baby girl, mostly cleaned up and talking to her momma. From the looks of Copper, I knew she wasn’t finished yet. Since nothing seemed imminent, I brought One Stripe in on the stand to be milked. No sooner had I gotten started, when Copper laid down pushed real hard a few times, and had another baby half way out. I guess she thought that was far enough because she stood up, and out he came and plopped in the hay. Copper is a great mom and started cleaning him up right away. 

Now you can meet Buttons, another beautiful baby girl. Her coloring and markings are very similar to Patch, except the white on her side is kind of splotchy and she has white on two of her feet like her grandmother, One Stripe.

Her brother, in keeping with the way we name boys, is named Lunch. He has more white than Breakfast, and is really a good looking boy.

Both of the babies are vigorous with a healthy set of lungs and a very good sucking instinct. I made sure they had another meal when I went up during the rain to check on One Stripe’s kids. I also collected the afterbirth from Copper’s pen since she was finished passing it. The goats will usually eat some of it, but we remove it once it’s passed to prevent the smell from attracting any predators. On this trip to the barn I found Pearl laying right beside the gate to Copper’s pen, right where she is supposed to be, protecting the new mother and kids.

Right before I left the barn this morning, I realized that one of the young wethers was limping very badly and wouldn’t put one of his feet on the ground. But my back needed rest, so inspecting his hoof will have to wait for the next trip up the hill to the barn. Raising and breeding animals is not always a successful venture. More often it is, but not always. Sometimes they live, and sometimes they die. Such is life on the farm.

A different topic. If you are looking for more information about homesteading, gardening, preserving food, moving to the country and more, we would highly recommend that you check out the new ebook store, Country Living Series by Patrice Lewis, from Rural Revolution. Frank and I have read two of them, The Death of Knowledge and Bovine Basics for Beginners, and found them well written and informative. The Lewis family has been homesteading for several years. Patrice and her husband, Don, share many of their experiences in these writings. There is nothing like experience to teach you something, but reading first hand information from someone that is describing their life and learning is the next best thing.

We continue to learn each and everyday that we are blessed to live, and for that we are truly thankful. Each day that we can spend living life on the farm is one more day in paradise. Challenges and hardships cannot dim the blessings that this life brings with each new day. Now it’s time for another trip….to the barn.

Until next time – Fern