January 31, 2009

Back On Line, Digging Out & Catching Up

Remember my grumbling about the phone line for the computer not working? That was fixed roughly 3 days after my calling the phone company. Then...this past Monday I attempted to get on line, regardless of how I tried, which phone line I used I could not connect. To make a long story short, the phone company had technical problems on their end. A piece of equipment failed. We were without internet service for 5 days. Brutal, I tell you.
Like many in the midwest we had a winter storm come through. Thankfully my plea not for us to have an ice storm was answered. Folks on the Arkansas Missouri border were not so fortunate. From my understanding thousands may still be without power. My heart goes out to them. In 2007 we were without power for 14 days after a similiar storm came through.
Here we had 3 days of freezing drizzle, sleet (about an inch) then 6 to 7 inches of snow on top of the ice and sleet. The weather has began to improve, the mess is beginning to melt away. Today it is suppose to be in the 50's hoping this will allow the mile long drive and side roads to town to clear. No one has been in or out for a week.
Even though we lost satellite and internet service, I feel blessed we did not lose power.
The animals weathered the storm well. The only ones I worried for were the meat and dairy goats (short hair) though they stayed hunkered down in their shelters. The sheep and Angoras seemed to enjoy laying out in the snow. The LGD's loved playing in the drifts. I used the paths where they patrolled the farm as my walking trails out and about.
The house goats, (twins born in Jan) are doing wonderful. They have doubled their birth weight and eat like little piglets. They are finally sleeping for 6 hours at night, which means I can also
Being holed up in the house without TV or internet was actually rather productive, tax prep was complete and ready to go to our accountant in record time. I did a winter version of spring cleaning, worked on budgets and bills, planned the garden and caught up on some reading.
Now I have much on line reading to catch up on from the look of my blog list.
Hope all are doing well and staying warm!

January 25, 2009

Not Exactly Spring Fever

Many blogs I read have mentioned having a touch of Spring Fever. I am not quite there yet. Getting there, but not quite. Much of the day have my head buried in paperwork and tax prep, not much time to think about Spring right now I suppose.
Mother Nature just surprised us with a spring like day in the dead of winter. It was 60 degrees 2 days ago. A beautiful day and I enjoyed it greatly. Then Friday evening into Saturday morning came snow! Now it’s a wicked cold 12 degrees, don’t know what the wind chill factor brings it down to.
Crazy weather I tell you. I can’t and won’t complain about the ups and downs in temps as long as we don’t have sleet, freezing rain or much snow. And please, please, please no ice storms this year.
This kind of fluctuation in the temperatures is just down right uncomfortable and confusing to the animals. I check everyone daily for any signs of upper respiratory distress, colds and pneumonia, which can pop up easily. Colds and runny noses are tough to treat. We look at the mucous discharge (ok their snot), the color, consistency, plus consider the amount. We then factor in normal breathing sounds, if there is a cough, change in temperature and other overall health factors. A cold can change into pneumonia easily.

We have one old country vet who told us "runny noses will settle when the weather settles". Then another vet told us to consider all the factors I listed above. Just like humans if the drainage is greenish brownish in color is a sign of infection. So we then treat with an antibiotic.
Goat Facts
Respiration rates 12 to 15 breaths per minute, faster for kids.
Heart rate or pulse 70 to 80 per minute, faster for kids.
Rumen movements 1 to 2 per minute.

The Angoras and sheep in full winter coat enjoy the colder temps. When in the 40’s to 20’s they are loving it. The sheep especially, doing their little hoppy, skippy, bouncy walk. The Angoras get frisky and extremely playful, gamboling about their pen. When it was in the 60’s they were looking for shade and almost panting. It just can’t be good for them.
Each morning when I go out to feed, I look at the Angoras and sheep in full coat and really can’t wait to shear. I suppose this is my touch of spring fever for right now. I am looking forward to shearing. Spending the little bit of up close and personal quality time with each of the animals. Shearing, trimming hooves, looking at their overall condition and knowing they are healthy. I do miss being able to get out there and have hands on time with the animals.

January 24, 2009

Storage, Craft Shop, Greenhouse & The Winner Is

For a couple of years now, I have wanted a small craft workshop. An area to call my own, where I can spread all my crafts out. A place where I can store, organize and keep fleece, set up the looms, the spinning wheel, the carder (when it arrives), even possibly the skirting table. A place where I can leave unfinished projects and not worry they are cluttering the house. Losing the spare bedroom and it’s closet for storage has created a bit of a challenge in where to put everything. The better half came up with a solution that everyone is happy with

Aren’t they cute! Love the porches. A great idea for a storage area and craft shop. The buildings come in various sizes. We are thinking 10X16 or 10X20. We have found local builders that will deliver and set up.
Both have a loft area in the peak of the roof. There is where all things that need stored will go (Christmas decorations and such). The rest would be for my crafts. We have a way to heat and cool the building so I can use it year round. We have an extra stove so it is possible there may be room to set up a fleece dying area. If the better half would happen to be motivated enough to install water lines an extra washer could be set up just for washing fleece. The possibilities are endless. If all goes well we will be shopping for the craft shop in spring.

Most of you have read that we have peafowl. They are a hobby of sorts, not really pets, are not hand tame, and they free range around the farm. They are actually my worst nightmare at gardening time. Even though we have 6 ft. welded wire fencing around the gardens to keep most critters out, they will fly over and help themselves. We ended up having to reduce the size of the original garden creating raised bed gardens and smaller gardens so we could totally enclose and cover with netting, chicken wire etc.
Last year we made a greenhouse hoop house out of cattle panels covered in plastic so I could start plants and then move to the gardens. Sometimes I think it would be easier just to give the peafowl away. Any hoo, this year we are taking drastic measures to ensure all our hard work is for not.
It’s 10 x 12. The windows and exhaust will be solar powered. Will have drip irrigation set up on timer and hoping that the heat will be also solar powered (that depends on cost). This is actually the better half’s pet project, he has wanted one for years. Can you imagine year round fresh tomatoes?

And the winner is…City Mouse. Actually the 5000th visitor was a google search for New Year family tradtions, 4999 was a search for bottle feeding baby goats, 4998 was a search on feeding goats, 4997 was someone visiting via the link from City Mouse. Since Mouse is a follower of the blog, and the 4997 visitor came courtesy of City Mouse/Country House , he wins!

January 23, 2009

Apron Strings

I have wonderful news to share, my son is moving home. He will be staying with us for a short time until he can get settled in the area and find a place of his own. I have begun cleaning out the spare bedroom, mainly the closet, preparing for his move home.

I use the closet to store seasonal clothing, extra canning jars, a few bags of fleece. I pulled out a couple of boxes to sort through, two were labeled summer clothes, one was not labeled. Thinking I still might find more summer clothes, I opened it. It held a pleasant surprise and walk down memory lane... treasured items that I had saved from my grandmothers. Not sure if you would call them retro or vintage, but I loved them back when they used them and still do now, hand embroidered Tea towels, table clothes, pillowcases; a sheet set with tatting on the edges and aprons.

I love aprons especially vintage aprons. I have been searching and collecting patterns for all sorts of aprons for quite awhile. Sister and Mother occasionally will surprise me with a new hand sewn addition to my collection.

Most of my vintage collection is of the fru-fru half apron style that my grandmothers wore, though my favorite is the below knee length full aprons with pockets, you know like the frontier women wore and pinafores. I love them.

Not long ago I ran across an apron for clothespins. During the summer I dry our clothes on the line. This would be handy dandy.

January 21, 2009

Weak Week

My get up and go has seemed to have got up and left.
Thankfully the better half was home while I was feeling my worst and a bit under the weather. Surprisingly he was actually home for a 3-day break, Sunday through Tuesday, leaving early this morning to go back out on the road.
Normally I would have been home alone and had to just grit my teeth, suffer through and handle everything regardless of how I felt. This time, being the good man that he is, he handled every single little thing while I stayed in my PJ’s, curled up under my favorite blanket on the couch dozing on and off.
I think the critters enjoy when he takes over the feeding and daily routine. Well all except Sarah Beth. She knows there is a different pair of hands milking her and has a tendency to be a bit reluctant to mind. She’ll get on the milk stand eagerly; stand quietly while eating her ration though when she is done eating she thinks you should be finished milking. She starts fidgeting, shifting her weight and stomping her feet trying to escape the stanchion. He has to really watch her feet during the last few minutes, she will think nothing of putting it in the milk pail.
He gives all a bit of extra feed, a few extra cookies and he will cut a branch off of the pine trees for them to snack on. Some of the goats have him so wrapped around their little hooves they know if they go stand by the fence and forlornly stare in the direction of the green branches just out of their reach he’ll go cut them one. He also lets one or two out to walk with him while he works out and about the farm.
I had baked a turkey Saturday, was planning on preparing one of his favorite dinner this weekend to celebrate his upcoming birthday. My being ill nipped that dinner in the bud. Actually having baked the turkey made meal prep much easier. He seemed to be quite content in making himself turkey sandwiches, chef salads with turkey and cheddar chunks, plus concocting some kind of open faced hot turkey sandwich with a baked potato one night. I on the other hand was extremely content with my orange juice, chicken noodle soup, crackers and 7 Up.
Even though he was home for 3 days, I didn’t see much of him. I think he purposely tried to stay away (I’m one of those who is best left alone while sick, so I can’t blame him). He stayed busy when not checking in on me. I remember he said our farm helper came out to help with some sort of project, he ran errands in town, went to the barbershop, worked on "man stuff" in his shop, trimmed 3 of the inside dogs toenails and went to help a neighbor with a sick goat. In the evenings he quietly sat and watched movies in between bottle feeding the kids and warming my soup. He’s a big western movie fan from way back and found a newer release called Appaloosa. I only remember bits and pieces but it looked like a half way decent movie.
Imagine wasn’t much of an enjoyable weekend for him. Bet he was glad to get back to work for some peace and quiet.

January 18, 2009

I Can't Take Him Anywhere

Wednesday while having his semi serviced at one of the company trucking terminals the better half sat in the driver’s lounge and called home to check in. One of his questions was "How are the kids?" So we chatted about the new twins for a bit before ending the conversation. About 30 minutes or so later he calls back laughing so hard I could barely understand him.

He says, you know I am sitting here in the driver’s lounge. I say yes. Still laughing he says there was another driver here earlier when I called. He said, "after I hung up from talking to you, the guy says you have kids?" The better half said I told him yes, twins just born Monday. The other driver says why aren’t you home? Better half says to the other driver, "aww it isn’t a big deal don’t need to be home for that."

January 16, 2009

Baby Pics

Sorry to say the camera battery has given out. So not many new photos of late. The first photo below is of one of the new kids born a couple of days ago. I don't diaper until their cords are dry. I keep them off the carpet and all else can be cleaned up easily.
One of the new babies checking things out

I find diapering the goat kids - boys are easier. I wrap the diaper around their middles to catch the flow. The berries are not difficult to sweep up or use the old handy dandy dust buster.
The Sundance Kid standing on the arm of the sofa in diaper

Merrygold & Brother in playpen

If the kids are out and about the house they have a diaper on. If they are in their play pens I put a puppy pee pad down, a blanket, sheet or other soft covering over the pad to absorb. I change their bedding in the play pen 3 or more times a day. Have a bit more laundry but I don't mind.

Sundance helping with the dishes

Holly napping in the rocker

Girls are a bit more difficult on the diapers, they have a tendency to purposely wiggle and walk out of them. It is also easy for them to turn their heads back and chew the connecting tabs off.
Once they reach a size where diapers do not fit, or the weather is nice enough they graduate to the screened in porch, then out to the kid pen.

January 13, 2009

A Welcome and Award

I wanted to say Welcome to a new blogger and follower. Mama from Ruby Creek Farm she’s just starting out blogging, so pop on over and say hi.

Lemonade Stand Award

Jennifer over at Goats in the Garden passed The Lemonade Stand Award my way. Thank you so much Jennifer, I so appreciate the kind words and gesture.
The award is for blogs showing great attitude and gratitude. The first thought that came to mind

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. "

The Rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post

2. Nominate 10 blogs that show gratitude or great attitude or both

3. Be sure to link your nominees within your post

4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog

5. Share the love and link this post to the person whom you received your award from

It’s so very hard to choose whom to nominate, not only since Jennifer and I read in the same blog circles and most have already been nominated, largely due to all showing a great attitude and gratitude.

So consider yourself awarded the Lemonade Stand Award and if you feel so inclined grab the logo and pass it on.

January 12, 2009


After a 2 week period of stressing and guessing when... Buffy kidded this morning at 7:30. We are the proud parents of 2 healthy boys.

Here they are, 2 hours old, all cleaned off, warmed up and ready to meet the world.

At breeding we normally put the girls in with the buck for a 2 week period of time. So kidding dates are never set in stone around here, there is a 2 week window, give or take. That is the worst part...not knowing exactly when.

I can now relax until spring.

January 10, 2009

My Spinners Flock

Our Angora Does

Bella – Black Angora Doe, herd queen. 3 yrs. old
When exposed to the sun, Bella's fleece turns silver gray.

Aurora (Bella's daughter) – White color carrier* Angora Doe. 1 yr. old Aurora was produced from breeding 2 solid black parents.

Bonnie Lass – White Angora Doe. 2 yrs. old Bonnie has a different horn set (puts me in mind of Long Horn cattle) than the other does, her horns turn out, instead of curving back towards her head.

Fairchild (Bonnie Lass' daughter) – White Angora Doe 1 yr. old She may also be a color carrier, her sire was a Red Angora.

Our Angora Bucks

The boys at 6 months old out playing

Jacob’s Chance – White Angora Buck 1 yr. old

The Sundance Kid – Black Angora Buck 1 yr. old
Jacob and Sunny are my babies. Both were adoptions from a fiber farm. Both were bottle fed and raised in the house. Jacob's mother died at childbirth. Sunny's mother did not produce enough milk to feed twins.

The Angora Wethers

Beauregard – Silver Gray Reverse Badger Angora Wether. 2 yrs. old

In fleece his has multi colored layers of silver gray and cream.
Sheared he is basically silver. Reverse Badger is dark silver top, light cream under markings. Some say a rare coloring.

Rip Shorn - aka Rippy. White Angora. 5 yrs. old Rippy was our first Angora. He came to us due to having a flaw (in the breeders opinion). As a young kid he somehow managed to get his ear tag caught in a fence and rip his ear in half. He was the kid no one else wanted. To us he was perfect.

The Shetlands

My Wooly Boys

Angus - Brown Moorit

Aberdeen - Brown Moorit

Kirby- Gray Blue

Kelly - Black

I am concentrating on breeding for black and white fleece. White for dying, blacks for the deep to light shades of silver, gray and black.
*Color carrier - White Colored Angora goats can come from one or both parents who are colored. They are considered "color carriers or colored factor" animals. They may carry recessive color genes and produce highly colored kids.

Fleeces vary animal to animal. Crimp varies by animal and some fleeces can be used for doll hair.
I shear the animals myself, at times I do not shear in whole fleeces. If not shearing in whole fleece, I shear the clean areas first and put them aside for spinning fleeces and toss the rest.

January 9, 2009

Turnip Slaw Anyone?

Have you ever eaten a fresh turnip?
To me raw fresh turnips, much like beets, taste like dirt smells. Turnips in my opinion also taste like cabbage. Did you know the turnip is a member of the mustard family and is related to cabbage and cauliflower?

We have a few turnips left, decided I really needed to start using them up. Normally would make mashed turnips & potatoes (aka neeps & tatties) or peel and quarter to add to pot roasts or boiled dinners. This time around I decided to go for Turnip Slaw. Have cabbage though am holding on to the heads of green goodness for eggrolls, stuffed cabbage rolls, stir fry, etc. Didn't want to waste a partial head on slaw.

I have learned over the years how to rid the turnip of that essence of dirt taste is to soak in salt water. The salt seems to draw the earthy bitterness out. I clean, peel and half the turnips then soak in saltwater overnight. Rinse, drain and dry off.
I then grate the turnips and mix with a simple vinegar dressing:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
To Taste-
You could also add celery or caraway seed and a bit of grated carrot for color.
I have tried different oils and vinegars in slaw recipes, whatever you may have on hand should work fine.
The critters also love the greens and peels during the winter.

January 6, 2009

Opportunity Knocks

Here we are just one week into the New Year and plans to move the farmstead forward have began.

A friend and fellow shepherd called, asking if we would be interested in adding to our flock. They have a large flock, actually a commerical flock which they are planning to downsize due to other family obligations. Their flock is mixed with Polypays, Suffolk and Dorset.

Truly coincidental that they should call, we were just debating if we should add one or two more head of sheep to the farmstead for various reasons (more on that later).

I have been doing a bit of research on breeds, focusing on quality of fleece along with market lamb production.

In the past we raised a small herd of Polypay. If you have not heard of Polypay...

From Sheep101

"** Polypay **
The Polypay is a synthetic breed, developed in the 1970's at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, and Nicholas Farms at Sonoma, California. Targhee x Dorset and Rambouille x Finnsheep crosses were mated to form a 4-breed composite that could produce two lamb crops and one wool crop per year. Polypays are a medium-sized, prolific breed with an extended breeding season. Good mothers and milkers, they produce lambs with acceptable growth and carcass quality. The name Polypay comes from "poly" for many or much and "pay" to indicate a return on investment and labor. Breed category: medium wool, dual-purpose"

During my reading on-line I also ran across a chart (shown below) that if anyone recognizes or knows where I can order one from please let me know. I think if you click on it, it will enlarge. Though don't hold me to it.

Any hoo, looks like the flock will be increasing soon.

January 4, 2009

Bucket, Sink or Float

Not really sure what made me recall our first year on the farm (10 yrs. ago) when the winter season got the best of me. Though I do vividly remember dreading each day, having to fight the frigid temps, ice, snow, sleet and all else that mother nature threw our way during that season in order to care for our animals.
Providing the animals with clean fresh water was one of the most time consuming and laborious tasks that winter. When the outside spickets or hoses froze, I carried water in buckets from the house. Imagine lugging and juggling the weight of the water buckets across ice or through a foot of snow. Imagine a person who can not walk and chew gum at the same time carrying those buckets on ice. Not exactly a pretty picture ehh?

We have a pond though we prefer not to use it as a water source for the animals. That year I did try to use the pond, trudging out daily to break the ice to expose the water. That ended the day I could not tell where the ground stopped and the pond began. Jabbing a short pole of rebarb in to break what I thought was the ice at the edge of the pond, I found I was actually standing about 2 foot out from the pond bank. Sliding into the murky muddy mess, winter boots filling with frigid water, I could not free my feet from the grasp of the pond.
This was my first experience with mud so deep it sucked the boots right off of your feet. I won’t bore you with the remaining details. I did make it back to the house, not too worse for wear and thankfully before the on set of hypothermia, though madder than a wet hen and with a severe case of potty mouth.

That experience is one that could have easily ended my choice of living this lifestyle, actually giving up on owning livestock. I also know now why many farms prefer to not winter over a large number of animals. What animals are meant to go to butcher, be sold, culled or moved off the farm are done so before winter.

The better half says one of his duties in life is to make my life on the farm easier (I so adore him for this). He also worries about my safety while he is gone. Wishing to make life easier and to avoid having another ear full of potty mouth brought about his installing tank heaters or de-icers that winter.

-Water Tank Heaters and Buckets -

The tank heaters we use come in two types, those that float, those that sink. Shown below are what we use. We hope to replace all floating with the sinking in the next year (sinking use less electric). We also find the sinking type is best for our inquisitive, sometime destructive, definitely chew on everything goats. The heated buckets are handy for dogs, individual stalls or kidding pens where you water one or two animals.

Sinker - Premium Utility De-icer
500 watts 120 v of power that can be used in any application of water that doesn't exceed 50 gal. Thermostatically controlled & cast aluminum design. Safe for plastic & metal tanks. De-icer comes on at 35 degrees and goes off at 45 degrees. 1 year warranty.

Floating De-Icer
1500 watts of power, a safety shut-off-system that automatically shuts the de-icer off before the heating element becomes hot enough to ignite a fire or destroy itself, especially if the de-icer is removed or thrown from the tank. The 6-ft. cord has a plastic cord guard. 120v. UL listed. Measures 8-1/4" diameter x 2-3/4" high. 1 year warranty.

Heated Flat Back Bucket
120 watts 120 v. 5-gal capacity. Thermostatically controlled, comes on at 35 degrees & off at 60 degrees. The heater is completely hidden within the walls of the plastic bucket. Heavy, duty power cord can be hidden away in a bottom compartment for better seasonal use. 1 year warranty.

We have outside electrical outlets by and in our milk room, well house and the shop. Exterior heavy-duty grade extension cords are ran through PVC pipes and temporarily laid out to the water troughs. The extension cords are then plugged into an outlet closest to the water trough. Well-laa, no frozen water troughs.

Making life easier getting the water to the troughs involved buying a large household outdoor 30 something gallon plastic trash can. These can be found pretty cheaply at any local discount store. Rolling up garden hoses to be stored in the trash can and placing trash can inside back door in mud room or on back porch. The hoses do not freeze, any water left in the hoses drains into the container, not onto the floor. It is a bit of work rolling the hoses up after filling waters for the day, though much, much easier than carrying buckets.
We do have frost free water spickets located in two central areas of the farmstead. I carry the hoses to the spickets, attach, take open end to troughs, fill, when finished filling, disconnect, drag hoses back to the house, roll the 100 or so feet of hose into trashcan. Well-laa, done deal!

January 3, 2009

When a Little Farm I Keep

When a little farm I keep,
I shall tend my kine and sheep,
And my pretty lambs shall fold
In deep pastures starred with gold.

On green carpets they shall tread,
Gold and purple be their bed,
Honey clover make their food
In a watered solitude.

Garden places I shall tend,
For a welcome to a friend,
Make for him a roomy seat
By the box and privet sweet.

And my kitchen garden shall
Grow me fruits on tree and wall,
Give me blossoms in the spring
And an autumn gathering.

An old dial and a cote
Where the pigeons fly and float,
And a well so green and dim
Where the little fishes swim.

Hives of honey I shall own,
Bees with drowsy monotone
Toil all day to bring me home
Heather honey at the gloam.

Twixt the mountains and the sea
There my little farm will be.
In a heart-remembered spot
I shall have my happy lot.

In a heart-remembered place,
Where the mountains lift their face,
I shall tend my sheep and kine,
And a thankful heart be mine.

When a little farm I keep,
I shall sleep the happiest sleep,
To my simple meals invite
Thanksgiving and appetite.

In the heart-remembered place
I shall wear a shining face,
And my quiet nights be praise,
And a prayer my innocent days.

Katharine Hinkson (1861-1931)

(Kine:cattle, box: evergreen, privet:scrub, cote:cottage, gloam:dusk)

January 2, 2009

Winter Warmth

Regardless of it being winter, the days still begin at dawn, there are still many outside chores that need done – milking, feeding, filling water troughs & hay feeders, collecting eggs and a few other odds & ends "have to do" chores.
The weather the past few days has been surprisingly pleasant, low’s in the 20’s, highs in the 40’s. According to the local weather forecast the temps may even rise back into the 60’s by the weekend. Woo Hoo!
For some the 20-40 range is considered cold, here on the farm it is pleasant, especially in January to feel a bit of warmth in winter. Any day the sun is shining brightly, the temperatures are not at freezing or below is truly appreciated. I don’t feel as though I have to rush through the outside work and get back inside.
Knowing the winter warmth is fleeting, I purposely take the time to enjoy the mornings on the farm. I wish you could see what I see on these warm winter mornings. The glittering white lace across the bottom pasture, the sheep sparkling from their blankets of frost, the late sleeping goats curled up on their warm beds of straw and the chickens snuggled down in their hay filled nest. All are at peace, healthy, happy and content.

I noticed on my visits to other blogs the topic of gardening has sprouted. Garden thoughts came to my mind a few days ago while sister and I discussed the Stevia plant. She grows her own to make a liquid sweetener and asked if I would add it to my herb garden this year.
The wheels started turning, out came the seed catalogs and well... as you know it is never too early to start planning for the next years garden. Deborah over at Antiquity Oaks
has listed some great links to check out if you wondering how much you would need to grow to feed your family.
Each year we have a tendency to grow big, more than enough for just the two of us. The excess goes to our families and friends and is used for a bit of barter. In these uncertain times, this year will be no different, actually plan to be adding a larger variety of vegetables.

Sister’s Stevia Sweetener
Dry the leaves, crush them to release the sweetness of the plant.
Put ¼ cup of crushed leaves in one cup of warm water.
Let it stand for 24 hours and then refrigerate.