Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Moving the blog...

Okay all, I'm moving this ol' blog.


Well, blogger has been good to me, and it's certainly no slight to blogger, but I now have a site for my whole farm (though it's rather empty) and IT has a blogging tool so it just doesn't make sense to have a blog in two places. I could RSS this blog in, but that's not pretty. I could do something funky and try to program it so that it was pretty but that would take entirely too much effort.

So instead, I'm moving it, so come join me here:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Big Days for the Farm Animals!

I awoke yesterday late (which in my world means about 8 am.) I am still recovering from this stupid cold, which caused me to sleep through my alarm, again. So Pineapple was seriously ready to be milked. My routine goes like this:

Alarm clock rings.

I get out of bed, look around the room for the pair of jeans and sweatshirt that I set out the night before as though they were somewhere else.

Head downstairs and take the dogs out.

Wash my hands and prep the milk bucket by putting a freezer pack in it.

Fight with the cellophane to try to put a "lid" on the bucket.

Wash my hands.

Head down to the barn, flick on the lights.

Get Pineapple out of the stall, and onto the milking stand while simultaneously fending off cats and trying to ignore everyone else complaining that I'm not feeding them yet.

Milk while attempting to continue waking up, trying not to get milk everywhere (I still sometimes squirt it up my sleeve or miss the bucket completely and hit my pants).

Return Pineapple to her babies, throw hay and more grain, let them out.

Take bucket to house, strain milk into clean and waiting jar, then refrigerate.

Needless to say, I then feed all the other animals while still trying to wake up. Typically I've never been the type to wake up fully until AFTER I've showered. Now I'm being forced to be more awake before then, which is truly a trick.

Pineapple gave 3/4 of a quart of milk yesterday! This is really good news, because the more milk that she gives, the more I will have for yummy things, like cheese. Banana has a little bit of diarrhea, I think because he's starting to explore more foods, so I started the babies on the medicated feeds last night. Not sure how that will work out.

We ate the last of the cheese yesterday on lovely sandwiches with the leftover roast chicken from the previous night, and apple slices. I'm actually really happy with how that all turned out. Next up is some neufchatel...we'll see how I do.

Yesterday was the first time that the chickens got to leave the brooder for a little while. I expect that I was decidedly more excited about it than they were, given that chickens think little about the future. We don't have the actual coop ready for them yet, as they are supposed to stay in the brooder for another month, but a little bit of sunshine was perfect for them. They are almost ready to leave the brooder boxes as they are partially feathered, and really quite large. I'm not ready for my babies to leave the boxes yet though, they still look so vulnerable.

We hauled the three brooder boxes out to the fenced in area where last year we had a garden. It will be perfect for them, as it's fenced in with chicken wire and close to the house. We put bird netting over the top to keep the hawks from getting any ideas. Then it was time to release them. So, putting my hand into the squawking, squibbling, flapping box, I grabbed chicken after chicken, and despite their protests, released them into the garden.

At first, they didn't know what to do, and stood in a clustered mess stepping all over each other, scared out of their wits. Then I scattered some of their feed on the ground, and they got busy scratching at that. One enterprising chicken discovered a bug...and then it was all over. They loved being outside, and after a few hours, were scattered all through the garden looking for bugs and other yummies that had been left there. They were SO happy.

RF was working on my new goat shed for Banana when he gets big. Right now he's still very little, but in about a month his...er...equipment is going to start working, and we don't want him to breed his sister. Once that happens, he needs to move out to the buck pen, which isn't constructed yet either. So, RF is constructing it out of pallets. While that initially sounds like a terrible idea, it's really not. RF is making it so that it is virtually indestructible. He took the pallets, ripped out boards from the off side, and put them on the other side to form solid walls. Then he has carriage bolted the whole thing together (so that it's modular and movable) into this totally solid shed thing.

Then we took the long drive to McVeytown to pick up some metal roofing that the guy had who had sold the Johnny boat to my Dad upon his retirement. Since we don't have a truck, we pulled the trailer with a 1994 Honda Civic. While this may not be funny to anyone who can't visualize it, the civic is about 4' in length, and the trailer has a 5' bed...plus the 3' hitch. It looks darned ridiculous, but it works.

We drove over the mountain to Belleville. Belleville is a mostly Amish town in the Kishacoquillas Valley. I've been there to the market before, but had never really driven through as we did yesterday. It is an amazingly gorgeous valley. I don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful place. I couldn't put my finger on what made it so gorgeous until we were on our way back through, until I finally realized that they were all dairy farms, with white-painted fences, traditional red barns...and they were all SO clean. If you ever have a chance to drive through that area in the spring, do, it's absolutely amazing to see.

We had to continue over the mountain to McVeytown, and on the way there is this AMAZING overlook. And I do mean amazing - I think it's higher in elevation than some little puddle jumpers that I've been on. The cows look like itty bitty little specks from up there.

We picked up the metal roofing, which was approximately 12' long. So picture this, a 4' honda civic, pulling a ~8' trailer, with 4' sticking up off of the back of it. I'm not completely sure it was a legal amount to pull. We had it angled so that it didn't catch any wind, but it was still a very scary, and very slow drive back. On the way back through the valleys we found some free windows, which will be nice additions to the chicken coop, so we picked those up as well. I love free stuff. :)

As we were driving home, the temperatures were dropping and I started to get worried about the chickens. They are still young enough that cold weather will make them sick. So once we got home, priority one was to get them back into their brooder boxes. This, however, was easier said and done. The difficulty catching them when they were in the roughly 3' box was amplified by the fact that they were now in a space roughly 8x the length, 8x the width, with additional vertical space.

I managed to catch them all. I am the chicken whisperer, oh yea.

We ate at 8:30 pm, incredibly late for us, but that was the time it took to take the ham out of the oven (slow cooked bbq ham), make some bbq beans, and yams. Usually I would have a fresh salad with that, but I didn't have any lettuce and we were all too exhausted to really think about it. So, it was a very orange meal. After dinner, the kids all went to bed, and RF and I stayed up for about 15 minutes longer before collapsing.

The type of exhaustion that you have on a farm or farmette is such a beautiful type of exhaustion. It's not the headachy nasty type that I get from working full time, where I'm "head-tired". No, it's a satisfying body exhaustion, and when you get into bed, you simply sink down into the pillows and mattress...it's a gorgeous feeling. There isn't a battle for me with my brain, trying to get it to slow down enough to sleep. I fall blissfully into sleep, my body aching but getting to finally rest, my mind at peace.

I love living on a farmette. Without a doubt in my mind, this is what I am happiest doing...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I have cheese!

Well, sort of.

So the curds took a wee bit longer than I expected to firm up. I finally got a clean break, and then I discovered that I hadn't thought through the whole "how the heck am I going to drain the whey off" piece quite enough. Finally figured out that I had cut my cheesecloth too short and had made it too fine, so I salted and seasoned the cheese, then got a new piece of cheesecloth, and figured out that a deep and NARROW container was what I was really looking for (like oh...a pitcher) and hung the cheese in the fridge.

It appears to be cheese, like a nice neufchatel at the moment. We'll see though, when the whey drains off, just what it really is.

Kinda fun, actually...now I wish I had more milk to work with. Mom said I could reuse this cheesecloth, but I have no idea how. The curds that are inside it are pretty well plastered to the sides....right now the whole mess is sitting in my sink, waiting for me to decide to either pitch it, or try to figure out how the heck to reuse it.

Got my onions planted, and my shallots are next.


Finally alive again...Spring!

Still froggy and slightly stuffy, but way better than I've been. Not sure quite what took me so long.

Today, I woke up early, and after taking the dogs out, went down to the barn to milk Pineapple. I was so surprised that she gave about 3/4 of a quart of milk. While this is nothing compared to a fancy milk-goat, that would end up being more than 1/2 gallon a day if the babies weren't taking the rest of it. The good news is, they are a month old on the 5th, so it's just one more month before we wean them and the milk is mine...all mine.

We're struggling a bit with the milking stand. It's made for full size goats, and Pineapple is a Nigerian Dwarf/Alpine cross, so she's not full size. Even with the top bungied tighter (yea, I'm fancy here) she can manage to pull her head down to the bottom and squeeze it out. Luckily she does it when I'm close to the end of milking, so there's just a bit of a hassle with me trying to continue to milk while simultaneously trying to offer her more grain behind my back so that she stays there, happy. Oh, and then I have to fend off the cats who would like to be petted *now* and are wondering why I'm sitting at their level but continuing to ignore them, and also keep Pineapple from sticking her foot in the bucket while the whole thing is going on.

Milking is not yet a zen time for me.

It will be, soon. Pineapple will get used to the routine, the cats will learn to leave me alone (the squirt gun is coming out soon) and the babies will be weaned so they'll stop screaming for mom. And then milking time will be peaceful, and zen-like, and happy. Right now it's kind of frenetic, and aggravating, and difficult.

That's the funny thing that you learn when attempting enterprises like this one. When you start, it's difficult. It's hard, it's a pain, it's not working, it's...

And then, little by little you correct one thing and then the other and learn. Then the whole system starts to move smoothly. At least, that's been my experience thus far.

Today, I'm attempting to make cheese. Which is why I'm sitting here in the house on a beautiful sunny day instead of being outside getting my onion sets in (which will happen today I am convinced). I've never made cheese before, and my last attempt failed miserably, so here we go.

I didn't have quite enough goats milk to make the batch entirely goats milk, but it's 3/4 goats milk, 1/4 whole cows milk from the grocery store. We'll see if that affects the taste or the curd at all. But since today was the day I needed to make cheese and I only had 3/4 gallon of milk saved up...well...such is life.

I've heated the milk up in a stainless pot to 88 degrees, and then added rennet. I then try to keep the milk at 88 degrees (which is proving to be the biggest challenge thus far) until the curds form. This is the stage I'm at right now, waiting for those curds (can I hear a chant? go curds, go curds, go curds). Once the curds form, I need to cut them, and then firm them up by keeping the heat up for another hour.

After that, I pour the curds and whey into some cheesecloth and strain a bit, then add my herbs (which consist of some garlic and onion grass from the back yard), and then put it in the fridge to strain some more. Once it's strained, then we'll have a nice soft cheese to put on our crackers for tonight.

At least, that's my hope.

What could possibly happen is that it won't curd up, and I'll end up with a pot of...stuff. Last time I was able to pour it into some soup that I had made, and it made it really good, but I'm not making soup today. *sigh*

The Reluctant Farmhusband has just made brooder box #3 for me, because my chickens are getting big! My plan is today to take them out to the garden, cover it with some netting, and let them enjoy the sunniest part of the day. I have to keep an eye on them though, and can't do that while I'm making cheese, so maybe they'll have to wait.

26 chickens are a lot of chickens by the way when they get to be this old. They are all still alive. I hadn't really counted on that, I really did think we'd lose some. They are now old enough I think to be called pullets rather than chicks. They are developing these beautiful yellow feathers on top of their black background. They are Purdue colored chickens...oh that's kind of funny now that I think about it...they are Boilermakers (okay, that's really sad pathetic sick humor...sorry).

Okay, checking on the cheese again...will post whether I'm successful or need to make another pot of soup.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feeling terrible tonight...

I was going to go outside today and try to take pictures of all of the lovely spring flowers that are coming up. I was going to take pictures of the lettuce as it pushes up out of the ground, or the strawberries as they start to flower. I was going to take some more video of the goat kids as they play on their jungle gym. And I was going to take some pictures of the chickens as they continue to grow.

Instead, I woke up this morning feeling terrible. My throat sore, my voice gone, aches and fever, yuck. I managed to do the barn chores (and got 3/4 of a quart of milk from Pineapple), but once the dizziness hit I realized that I should not probably go to work.

So, today was a bit of a bust...I hate feeling ill. I think the worst part for me is the feeling of being "not able". I'm big on doing things myself, and I hate feeling like I need others to do things for me. I should be gracious about it, but I hate hate hate it.


So, I didn't get any pictures, or really get to enjoy the day after it ceased to rain and got sunny. Instead I spent it holed up with my laptop and a book, napping and trying to recover. Fun fun.

Is it true that it has been this long?

For some reason some of my images are missing. I suppose that has something to do with the fact that it's been about a year since I posted. If you know me well you'll know hat me saying "it's been about a year since..." is not an unusual thing. Time flies for everyone, I suppose, but for me...well...it just seems to zing by. This is not a GOOD thing, as my children are getting older, I'm also getting older...and people who like to read blogs like to read updates more than once a year.

Well, I'll try to get better...I promise.

The farmette here has expanded. Though the two goats I mentioned earlier were decidedly not pregnant (and we've been feeding them for a year, I might add), about a month ago, while scouring the classifieds (for what, I'm not sure) I noticed some goats that needed homes. For a *really* good price. So, I loaded up the Reluctant Farmhusband, who by now wants to accompany me on any trips that might involve "just looking" at animals, and we went to see these goats. When I spoke to the woman on the phone, she mentioned that she also had some ducks. I've wanted ducks for awhile to control ticks on the property since my middle son seems to be a tick magnet. Ducks and guinea hens are apparently really good for that. At least, that's what they tell me. I'm hoping that they might also make a dent in the horrendous horseflies that plague our property. I know I've spoken of them before.

I'm hoping.

So, we put a small dog crate in the car "just in case" and head out to meet the lady and her animals. We found the property no problem and the nice lady has goats and ponies *everywhere*. But she tells me that "this" goat was the one she was thinking of selling. Her name happens to be Pineapple and she is a 1 year old Alpine.

Pineapple is a small Alpine, possibly a Nigerian Dwarf/Alpine cross, but she's a darling Alpine, so we said that we'd take her, plus two Rouen ducks, who look just like Mallards, which are my favorites (I also want Muscovys, but we'll get there soon enough). Pineapple was NOT supposed to be pregnant. But as we loaded her into the Pilot, we noticed that she was quite bagged up. She's a first freshener (e.g. as a 1 year old, she wouldn't have had kids before), so she wouldn't have had a residual bag, but...yea.

4 days later, Pineapple had her kids, a darling little buckling that we named Banana (because he has these light yellow spots) and a darling little doeling named Apple.

Yea, she was pregnant. That picture is of Banana and Apple at several hours old. They are just the cutest darned things you've ever seen.

This is a video of them at about a week old. Aren't they just the cutest thing you've ever seen?

This excited me greatly because *now* I can milk. And I have been. I'm using Fiasco Farm's technique of milking once a day. So at night, the babies go into the crate, and during the day they drink as much as they want. This little goat is providing us with 3/4 of a quart of milk per day and it's SO sweet - doesn't taste goaty at all.

We also, this year, got chickens. If you've never "gotten chickens", you'll find the process a bit strange, so I'll explain it. There are a few ways to "get chickens". If you already *have* chickens, and you also *have* a rooster, one of your hens will invariably decide to sit on her eggs, and you will have baby chicks.

I did not have chickens previously, so this method was out for me.

You can also get fertilized eggs, put them in an incubator and turn them often until they hatch. This method is time consuming and requires things like an incubator...plus, there's not a very good rate necessarily of hatching (e.g. you get some duds). So...this was out for me as well.

You can buy chicks from a farmer, but the problem with chickens in general is that until maturity it is VERY difficult to tell which ones are male and which are female. Since I didn't want to futz with a rooster (unless I chose him) and wanted all females...this method was out for me. Plus, they wanted WAY too much money locally.

So, the last option is to order chicks from a hatchery. The process goes like this - you decide what type of chicks you want (we picked Black Sexlinks - which are a special hybrid between a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock - the special thing about these is that you can tell by looking at them which ones are hens and which are roos), you specify how many you want, and they hatch them and mail them to you.

That's right, through the post office.

I ordered from Mt. Healthy Hatchery, because I had read really good reviews on their hatchery. This is important, because you want to make sure you get healthy chicks. Plenty of things can go wrong with chickens, you want to start them out right.

The post office called me at 5:30 in the morning once they arrived. I'm not sure what I said to the lady, and I hope I didn't tell her I loved her or anything goofy like that. So, before school I packed up the kids, we ran to the post office, and picked up the chicks.

I ordered 25, because I was a bit worried about attrition. I figured we needed about 15, to supply our families' needs well. So you know, figuring that chickens are delicate creatures...

I got 26.

It's 4 weeks later...I still have 26.

Each hen will lay 1 egg per day, approximately. Which means I'll have more than 2 dozen eggs per day. Which means that I'd better start spreading the word about having eggs for sale. Because I'm going to have a horrible lot of them.

Here are the chicks at 1 day old:

More on all of this later...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Of goats, delayed gratification and procrastination.

Yes, the WannabeFarmwife has been remiss in her duties of blogging. A particularly large project at work, and some other things have occupied my time, and now that some of those priorities have straightened out I am able to concentrate on things that are more enjoyable.

Enjoyable is a funny word, isn't it? There's no common definition to what people find enjoyable. Just like one man's trash is another man's treasure, one man's joy is another's burden. Fascinating really.

I was greatly dismayed and delighted all at the same time to be told about another blog, which I can't believe I missed before...www.thepioneerwoman.com Now, when you go over there, please do come back because though she ALSO has confessions (and had them before I did, dammit, though I didn't know it) she has a slightly different take. Well, different geographic location, different set of circumstances leading her to where she is...you know...okay...well, I found through reading it that we were more alike than not, and she's definitely a more riveting writer than I...so...


We've made great strides on moving towards the farmette. So many, in fact, that I haven't had time to post. At all. What strikes me as somewhat amusing is the fact that though a good 6 months has gone by, I'm still fighting the same things, still dreaming the same things.

For those that know me, that's a long time in my world.

So, yes, I'm still fighting the chickweed/pigweed/weed from hell - whatever that is that is overrunning my garden. This year it totally strangled my herbs, and was doing a number on my tomatoes before I had the epiphany that maybe smothering IT was a practical way of dealing with it. So, off to Lowe's I ran, and picked up landscape fabric, cackling gleefully as I cut it into strips to cover the walkways between the garden rows, and around the areas that are not currently planted.

This is what my garden was looking like pre-smothering:

And this is what my garden was looking like post-smothering:

After declaring victory over the chickweed/pigweed/weed from hell, I decided that if I could tackle THAT I could tackle ANYTHING (both thoughts may be a bit premature, but I digress), and decided that RIGHT NOW was a very good time to bring goats into the family.

Lest I sound a bit impulsive, I do want to point out that I have been thinking about this for at least 6 months, if not years before this, so it's not exactly a *new* thought, but doing it just the other day WAS a rather impulsive thought and one that was not necessarily approved of by extended members of the family.

To them, I stick my tongue out.

Essentially what happened was that I had been researching goats (again) and discovered that there were these goats that were on their way to auction. Several of them dairy goats. They were being offered at a very reasonable price, and you know, if I wanted to get them now before they went to auction it would probably be best before they were with unknown herds and could get sick and...

Okay, well, that was my train of thought anyway. So the lady said, can you be here by 2? Never mind that it was 12:30, and I had to drop my son off, and she lived 2 hours away from me, and I was in my work clothes (and I mean work as in office, not work as in...well...actual work). I called the Reluctant Farmhusband and said "Okay, this is going to sound crazy but..."

And to my surprise...he said "I've been wondering how we would get goats home" - I could get my goats!

Some people transport goats in trailers. But, due to a family history of bringing animals home in odd ways, I decided to honor the tradition and bring them home in my Honda Pilot.

So, away I drove, breaking several land-speed records in the process and met the gal who had the goats. She had several goats, all in the back of a pickuptruck in a cage. I didn't really have a minute to inspect the goats, and I guess by virtue of driving two hours I had pretty much committed to the goats, so...I ended up with two unnamed goats in my car.

An Alpine

And a Mini-Nubian
Heyyyyy Esmeralda

Goats generally travel well in vehicles but there were a few things that I didn't think of. One is that when they traveled in my father's car, they went a rather shorter distance than that which I was traveling. The next is that my father's car was not nearly as spacious as the back of a Honda Pilot with all the seats laid flat. This is not meant to be an endorsement for the Honda Pilot (although I do love the car, and think it is indeed roomy back there) but rather it presented me with an interesting problem.

This is not my Pilot, but it works

See, goats will not soil themselves if they are in a confined space. In general, they are too ladylike for that. However, if the space is less confined, they are free to use the facilities whenever nature intends to. And use the facilities they did. All over the upholstery of my pilot. So, there was much chagrined laughter on my way home about how I was going to get the smells and erm...droppings...out of the upholstery before the Reluctant Farmhusband had a proverbial cow.

I will add, at this moment, the fact that I have not succeeded in doing so yet, and as of now he does not know that his precious Pilot has been defiled in such a way (though it wouldn't surprise me if he expected it).

So, I got the goats home, and plopped them in a stall, and then noticed something. You see, the larger goat, the Alpine, she was supposed to be pregnant. This was expected and I thought it would be a good way to offset her cost as well as milking her to feed our family. But the smaller mini-Nubian was NOT supposed to be pregnant.

Well, at least not *really* pregnant. There was a guess that she might be a little pregnant.

I know, I know.

So, this is the way the NON-Pregnant goat looks
Pregnant? Or fat?

And this is the way the SUPPOSED-TO-BE-PREGNANT goat looks
Pregnant or fat?

Well, from the top anyway.

I wouldn't suspect anything except for the fact that the Mini-Nubian (the supposedly non-pregnant one) bagged up in a big way, and the supposed-to-be-pregnant one has started as well.

This proved to be a rather interesting issue, as you're not supposed to milk a goat if it's going to deliver soon, but if you want milk and you have a goat that's bagged up, well then why not milk it.

So, we built the milking stand.

I say we, but really we gave the project to my oldest son, who...well, he did an admirable job of imitating what the milking stands that he saw on the internet looked like, but kind of missed out on the functionality part, so Grandpa had to help.

Goat Milking Stand

Goat Milking Stand

So I have an almost finished milking stand and possibly pregnant goats. Possibly, I don't know.

Any goat experts out there that can analyze my goat photos?