Wow. This hiatus was a LOT longer than I had intended. I really love writing, and especially blogging. The thought that my words may go out and find someone who needs to hear what I have to say, or just enjoys reading is amazing to me. The end of 2015 was a brilliant blaze of busy and a plan for better days in 2016. To get us reaquainted and catch you up on farm happenings, here’s a rundown on the last 5 months of 2016…
-The first week of August we drove and hour and a half to purchase a new herdsire. A beautiful moonspotted nubian buck. His name is Buddy, and he has been an adventure.
-We sold Roy and Roger, the nigerian dwarf bucks we had late September. We were going to butcher them, BUT they got so smelly we changed our minds. The gentleman who picked them up was getting them for meat I’m sure. He was extremely kind to them as he loaded them up, even giving one a kiss on the nose, that I knew their life would be ended with kindness.
-I tried out using an anti mating harness on Buddy, as I wanted to make sure we didn’t have kids born when it was really cold out.
-I basically gave up on the garden. The lower garden became a lost cause, though we did get a small potato harvest, a small pumpkin harvest, and a nice zucchini harvest. The larger upper garden was a pain to keep even slightly weed free, but we got a nice harvest of tomatoes, and a great harvest of peppers. I canned 22 pints of jalapenos! The back to eden garden got weedy, but not like the others. In the fall we started converting the large upper garden into a back to eden garden as well for 2016.
-I came to the conclusion that both our turkeys were hens, and found them a stunning black spanish tom.
-I also realized both our turkeys were in fact meat turkeys. Our gals are HUGE. I’m hoping to get the best of both years having heritage, meat breed mix poults to raise.
- we purchased half a cow and tried out a pork bundle from a local butcher.
-I am rendering my own lard.
-we butchered 50 chickens in one day.
-rearranged the goat barn, and added a hay bale wrapped with a cattle panel as a feeder and gave them a stock tank for water.
-in October I took the anti mating apron off Buddy to anticipate March kids.
-in November girls were still going into heat!!
-right before Thanksgiving we went and picked up ANOTHER buck, this one an ok looking lamancha, for hopefully late April, early May kiddings.
-as the last doe went into heat Buddy may have finally figured out how things work, but we won’t know until babies are due what we will get!
-right after we got Buddy the first of August, he caused some of the girls to go into heat sooner than usual. That’s what adding a smelly boy goat will do. Miri went into heat, but the apron saved her. And I suppose the apron would have worked to keep Ladot from getting pregnant too...except her dad/uncle both escaped. Yeap. How lovely. So she is due literally any day now. (in the coldest time of the year of course)
-right before selling Roy and Roger I made a big mistake. I opened their pen one day to take them on a walk with everyone else. No one was in heat, and they had been locked in a small paddock for weeks. When they finally caught up with us, I realized Lola apparently was in heat! I drug her back to the pen as quickly as possible, but I’ve not seen her go into heat. So, I assume she is bred, and due in February.
-as the temperatures got colder, and the goats roamed farther for food, they started visiting the neighboring cemetery. Until we can fix the fence there I didn’t allow them into the pasture. So they started escaping into the yard. I had to make emergency goat stops at the farm daily for a couple weeks until I fixed where they were getting out. They haven’t escaped in awhile, knock on wood.
-Lola, Lucy, Miri, Pixie, and Trixie keep getting their heads stuck in the cattle panel around the hay, so...we duct taped sticks to all of their heads. They look so silly, BUT no more stuck heads!
-Haha, just kidding, one of our big gals really tried, and managed to get her head stuck...so we had to cut her out.
-I learned goats are the bane of my existence.
I’m exhausted just rehashing all these details! I’m kind of glad 2015 is behind me, and I hope 2016 is full of lots of milk, and eggs, flashy doelings, well behaved goats, and no weeds in the garden!
How was your 2015? Any big plans for 2016?
May really has been a blur, because although I'm writing this on the 29th, it feels like May has only just begun. We are almost 6 months into this year, yet I feel as though it couldn't have gone by any faster! May has been a great month, albeit busier (which I am unsure how that is even possible). The garden is doing great, the meat birds are doing great, the goats are fat, the chickens laying, and it is just flashing by.
May has been a pretty good month for the goats. We had our last kidding for the season! Lola, who I was scared would not be a good mother birthed twin DOELINGS (one of which has SPOTS!) and is the best mother of the bunch. Very tentative, and alert, always calling to her kids. We've been getting good amounts of milk, and everyone has been on their best behavior, except Juniper where she suddenly forgot that it is right and polite to get straight on the stanchion for grain, and Lucy who has been slightly difficult and also tried to wean me. Patience. That is what I learn from goats, patience. Milking and goat knocks over bucket? Patience...just keep milking and stay calm. Thankfully everyone seems to be back to normal. One night I thought Juniper was bloating, but then seemed fine. We've had some udder cuts, and are having a bit of a bug issue. Flies and ticks are driving them a bit crazy...any suggestions on what I can safely use on dairy animals?
May 7th, Lolas ligaments were gone and I knew kids were coming! I sat around all day with nothing exciting happening. The later it got though, the more things progressed. I don't know how much Lola appreciated me being there, but I am glad I was. There was a bit of a struggle with the first kid coming out, but the second came out a little easier. I couldn't believe they were both DOELINGS. Adorable, cute, precious doelings, one with long ears, one without, one totally black, one with spots! Lola's milk was quite slow coming in, which I was concerned about. Everyone else's milk came in very fast, and almost all of them had over full udders. Not Lola! She was slow to fill and hasn't ever really been too full. I am milking a little in the mornings. Lola has been one of the best mothers out of everyone. She is highly protective, even going after one of our dogs, and calls to them always. After a week or two the other goats calmed down, but not Lola! It's one of the reasons I haven't started keeping her babies locked overnight. I know I should, but I think it will be very traumatic for her! I do not think I will lock Miri away from Berta overnight. Berta is nearly impossible to milk, I don't think a super full udder would make things any better. I am unsure at this point if Berta will be bred again. Though I have put it off, I also really need to sell both of our bucks. I hate too but because they are Nigerian Dwarfs they are constantly in rut. I.E. they are constantly bothering the girls, and have started showing interest in the doelings (well, the bucklings as well to be fair!). I hate selling them for some reason, but it is definitely time!
The chickens, chicks, and meat birds have all done wonderfully. They are all in love with the nicer weather! The geese, ducks, turkeys and chicks are doing great! I was worried about their different nutritional needs but they seem to be doing great. They have been moved to the big coop in a removable pen and have access to a small outdoor pen and a little pool. With all the rain it's a soggy, muddy mess, but I pick grass for them every day and toss it in. I'm going to have to put a thick layer of hay down soon though. The layers need their coop cleaned as well! I meant to keep track of eggs this year, but I haven't done a great job. I'd estimate we get about 3 eggs a day. Doesn't sound like a lot but adds up quickly. A week or so ago I noticed our old barred rock hen acting a bit strange. Then I realized she was going broody! She picked a spot out of the coop, out in the hoop house. I removed any eggs she was on, and put in a fresh clutch and let her have at it. She broke three, the last one did show some development. If all goes as planned we would have chicks by June 7th. That just seems hard to believe! We will see I suppose. May 4th we had a meat chicken get run over while we moved their pen. My husband didn't know if he was not feeling well and so was slow and got run over, or if he just wasn't being very smart. Regardless we dispatched him and put him in the freezer. May 18th we did our first round of butchering and slaughtered 8 chickens. We made a DIY chicken plucker and had some technical difficulties. However, we got it straightened out and it's excellent!! May 26th we had our second round of butchering, slaughtering a total of 20 chickens. My 10 year old nephew was at the farm that day and ended up being a great help! He is not necessarily farm-y but was full of great questions, and ended up being the one to help eviscerate and pull out lungs!! We have 41 left and hope to finish those the first week of June.
I haven't been as diligent as I should be at milking. I have plenty of good excuses! I started really dreading milking as my hands were hurting so much. My hands started falling asleep, my thumb hurt, it was just an unpleasant situation. When I put all my milk totals on paper for May, I realized I hadn't milked nearly as much as I should. About the same time Lucy tried to wean me and it freaked me out! I thought I may be prematurely out of milk and I had nothing to show for it. So, I started milking daily, but may take Sunday's off so I can get to church on time. We fixed a hand milker we had been working on. Using it the first time was a huge pain and frustration. However it looks like it is fixed and usable now! It does one side at a time now, but we plan to get it so I can do both sides at once. I need it mostly for Juniper who is such a big producer AND has shorter teats. It's been great, and as of May 25th, I am getting about a gallon of milk a day! I ordered some more cheese cultures, a cheese mold, and my husband is building me a cheese press. I hope to start making and storing cheese! On the list to try is cheddar, farmstead cheese, colby, gouda, feta, monterrey jack, and queso fresco.
The garden has done great!! The only issue is the weeds, especially in the lower garden. We have spent a lot of free time tending to other, more pressing things (butchering/making chicken plucker), that the gardens haven't been tended to as well as they should. It doesn't help that the few times we've been available to work in the garden it has rained! May 2nd I started harvesting radishes. May 5th we got some grass clippings spread. May 12th we had to get cattle panels up for the tomatoes. They've grown like crazy and had to have support. May 13th I pulled a lot of radishes, half the row. The easter egg radishes were ready and delicious. I turned some into pickles, the rest were devoured quickly. My radish row had two types of radishes. The latter half was watermelon radishes. They produced great foliage but not so much for the radish part. I kept waiting hoping they would form better radishes, but they have all gone to flower now. I also realized I accidently left some easter egg radishes thinking they were the watermelon type. I think I am going to try to collect seeds from them! We will see how that goes. May 20th we had our first ever broccoli harvest!
Anyone else out there that breathes a sigh of relief when the grass starts coming back the first of spring? This winter wasn't extremely snowy, but it was cold. I was waiting with baited breath and just about squealed with delight at the slow greening outside. April was very busy, there is so much to do come spring time around the farm!
During morning chores on April 23rd, the day before Berta's due date, I realized she had lost her ligaments! Meaning babies should/could arrive anytime within the next 12 hours. Of course, this was also the day we decided to scrape out old bedding and really switch out the goat pens. We scraped hay out and built a kidding stall, but had to leave a dirt floor because Berta was freaking out. By late afternoon, there wasn't much exciting happening, so I went to check on something else. Within minutes, I heard Berta screaming and ran back to the goat barn. Berta ended up having 3 healthy kids! Two flashy bucks, and a cute little doeling. I took pictures of the bucklings, and decided to list them for sale as bottle babies. Not my favorite thing to do, but I had attempted selling LeRoy weaned with little to no interest. These guys sold quickly and went to their new homes at a week old. Berta has done great and has been a wonderful mom. The biggest downside is she looks to be a great producer...with very small orifices. The hole milk comes out of is small, and so hand milking is going to be nearly impossible. I'm hoping to try a homemade milker to see if that helps. If her daughter also freshens with small orifices, Berta will either not be bred or her daughters will be sold.
The regular chickens are laying up a storm! I also bought the Homestead Delight package from Murray McMurray. It was indeed a delight!! I received 10 chicks, 2 goslings, 2 ducklings, and 2 turkeys. They have all thrived and done absolutely wonderfully. Having goslings and ducklings has proved to be...messy. I'm very interested to see how they grow, and I'm hoping the geese with keep everyone a bit safer. The meat chickens have done so great. We lost a few chicks, but nothing compared to what we did last time. Mid-April we moved them to a huge moveable chicken tractor. They did amazing! Our first batch of cornish cross we did were super lazy, messy, and just laid around getting fat. This new batch have been extremely active, and vigorous. In fact I wish we had a safe way to free range them because they would have done great that way! We will maybe try out electric poultry netting in the future, but we're scared of my mom's dog, Toby being able to get through. He's a 10 pound chihuahua. Anybody have any experience?! Let me know!
April milking went really well. Getting into a schedule is crucial, as well as really building up hand strength! The husband had surgery the 8th to cut out a torn meniscus so he was off for most of the month. There were probably more days that I took off from milking than I should have! It's very nice to be able to let the kids stay with the moms if needed/wanted. As of April 13th, I had milked a total of 102 pounds of milk!! Roughly 12.75 gallons! I've done quite a bit of cheese making, though tentatively! I've only done chevre and mozzarella. Chevre I like for its versatility and ease. I made a chocolate goat cheese cheesecake that was amazing!
April was a super busy garden month! April 1st we planted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and 4 tomato plants (which got hit by frost but recovered well) April 7th all the previously planted seeds were sprouting. April 11 and 17th we got the rest of the garden planted. April 28th we had corn sprouts, bean sprouts, potato sprouts, melon/pumpkin/squash sprouts! April 29th I noticed blooms on the tomato plants! I think that is the earliest we've seen blooms on our tomato plants. My grandpa once got his first tomato in June. I'm hoping to get one that early this year as well...we will just have to wait and see!
Just a few days ago I got a Timehop notification. When I pulled it up I was pleasantly surprised. It was an April 2013 garden/farm recap. I talked about how the chickens, goats, and garden were doing. It was so interested to read about what had been happening. Needless to say, that is what has inspired this blog post! Thankfully I've taken notes, and shared updates on Facebook so I can go back and get everything in a somewhat cohesive timeline! I plan to do these updates the first of every month (yea right, I'm already late with May!)
(Note: February 21 Lucy kidded a single buckling; Buckwheat <3 )
March 3rd, at 6:40 AM, Juniper kidded triplets. One didn't make it. She had a very slow labor, starting about 4 PM the following day. I'm glad I ended up being with her because she was so exhausted she wouldn't get up. I pulled her babies up to her, and she started cleaning them almost immediately. It was really cold, but the kids did great!
On March 10th we ordered a batch of 75 meat birds. They arrived March 20th, and we ended up with 78. We were using a large reptile enclosure we found on the side of the road (so classy). The humidity was too much however, so we built another large brooder. It turned out EXCELLENT. Big enough to accommodate everyone, and low enough I can reach in easily.
I started milking Lucy fairly soon after she kidded. Buckwheat wasn't nursing things evenly, or enough. I didn't have any problem milking, though I could not do it two hands at a time at first! Lucy took to being milk really well, and we only had an incident or two. Juniper was an absolute nightmare on the stanchion. She kicked/stomped, knocked the milk over, and just general huffed and puffed and threw a big fit. I had to tie one of her back legs up for a bit. I tried to keep as patient as possible, but really did consider selling her! Then one morning, she was absolutely perfect...and has been ever since! March 23rd, I started making cheese. I made a batch of mozzarella and chevre. The chevre turned out great! I ended up making it into a log and rolling it in basil and tomato I dehydrated from last years garden. Yum! The mozzarella didn't turn out right, however it was quite tasty! By March 27th I could milk two handed!
(The first week of February I started all my seeds indoors.)
March 27th I planted collards, swiss chard, spinach, kale, lettuce, beets and radishes. Everything but the beets and radishes were done in our Back to Eden style garden bed. My wood chips were a little thick in areas, but it worked well regardless!
My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.