All before 8am on a farm…

Most mornings I’ve got Nathan to help me with a portion of the homestead chores but harvest season is upon us so he’s been off working occasional early mornings and even right through the weekends around Tanglefoot Ranch. This means I’ll fly solo for the chores here on the homestead.

Here is a glimpse of what flying solo for our early morning chores looks like:

The alarm sounds for me at 6am. I’ve got to feed Miss Everly and oversee her dressing and getting off to school. Grayson wakes shortly after I rouse Everly at 6:20am.

Everly had a rough day at school with a friend the day before so we special have plans for Everly to write the friend a feelings note this morning. Everly eats, dresses, works on her note and we head out the door by 7:15am to wait for the school bus.

While we wait, we release the chickens from their locked up chicken coop, visit with the chicks a bit, swing on the tree swing and then the bus rolls up and she climbs aboard.

Once Everly is on the bus, Grayson helps me to feed the adult chickens, 15 of them. Then I set him of the deck to watch the chickens eat while I head over to the turkey tractor to feed them. This job requires two hands and lot of bending over.

I also have to release Snowball, Everly’s cattle dog puppy, from her kennel and put her on her tether, also not a good job with a baby in your arms. Snowball likes to try to eat the poultry or chase & jump on the kids and we don’t even know what she’d try doing to the goats… She’s still got lots of obedience training to master and she’s still very young, so she’s not free to roam the homestead just yet-Her drama is a post for another day ;P

Once I get snowball on her tether and manage to get out of her “tether tangling range”-(cause she will wrap your legs in the tether and hurt you very badly), then I can move on to my next task.

photo (54)

Next I take chick feed out to the baby chicks in their enclosure. They are eager to eat, super cute little fluff balls, 19 of them, that currently swarm my feet when I climb in their enclosure with food, see how they swarm Grayson? While I’m looking down at them and taking care to NOT step on one I ram my eyebrow on a pointy tree branch. It drew blood and bruised. Perfect.

The goat enclosure is near the baby chicks so I head on down to say good morning to them and bring Poptart up to the garage for her morning milking. Poptart always tries to eat the chicken food so I’ve got to lead her directly to the milking stand without becoming distracted along the way.

It’s close to 7:35 am now, Grayson is still sitting, watching chickens eat. After the chickens eat they take turns queuing up to lay eggs in the garage. You see they made this little nest underneath a chair with some lose/ discarded hay near the goat’s hay stacks. They refuse every nesting box we make for them. We just let them continue using their makeshift nest because their permanent coop/ nesting boxes aren’t finished yet. Plus it is sure convenient to collect eggs without having to go beyond the garage.

I begin milking Poptart while the egg laying procession continues. Once milking is complete and I’ve ushered Poptart out of the garage and off the deck it’s close to 8 am. Grayson is now leaking through his cloth diaper and wants to nurse and go back to bed. Adalyn is still asleep. Once I get Grayson dry, fed and sleeping I might have some quiet time with my coffee before Adalyn wakes and I’ve got to feed and occupy her.

All I’ve got left to do morning chore wise is to water and move the turkeys, clean and refill goat waterers, fill hay feeders and release Clay, our goat buck, from his pen so he can free range for the day. Oh and I better collect all the laid eggs so our other dog, Dixie doesn’t come in and eat them.

What does your morning routine look like?    

It came back positive… We’re pregnant!

We got the blood test results back, we are seriously expecting babies this fall…
goat kids- you thought I was pregnant again didn’t you? Sheesh!

Anyway, On labor day a vet friend came out to draw some of our doe, Poptart’s blood for us. We wanted a pregnancy test for her because lots of things depend on a pregnancy… and we really suspected a pregnancy.

Like people, a goat pregnancy brings on an increase in appetite and fluctuations in milk supply. We noticed those changes right away. We’d also been tracking Poptart’s cycles, they cycle about every 21 days and when I hadn’t seen her showing signs of being in heat when Clay (our buckling) has been in and out of rut (the male goat’s horny time) I knew something was up.

We weren’t intentionally breeding them but it was inevitable. Poptart has a younger breeding buddy, Clay. He was born this spring, she is a few years older. We bought them at the same time and planned to house them in separate pens. We knew our buckling would become sexually mature this summer but time and available resources haven’t permitted us to split them up, yet. We’ve been drinking “bucky” flavored milk and knew we Poptart would likely end up pregnant. We just didn’t think it would happen so fast and without much trial and error!

We did witness Clay trying to breed Poptart, it was the first display noted and it has apparently gotten the job done. Poptart is over a month bred now, blood test confirmed.

Now we’ve got a fire under us to tie up our kidding loose ends (kidding = goat’s having babies). We’ve been planning to build a “kidding barn” from pallets. We have the pallets and the plans… just need to make time to construct it… So far it’s about a third of the way done.

Next we’ve got to dry up Poptart. You see, milk goats like a milking rest before having babies. Lots of growth happens in the last two months of gestation and a pregnant doe needs all the nutrition she can get to help those kids (baby goats) grow. Did you know a single goat doe can have anywhere from 1-5 babies at a time? Our goats were both twins themselves so we are planning for multiple kids just to be safe.

Exciting stuff huh?

Clay isn’ so excited, he just wants to put the moves on something and Poptart is SOOOOO not interested. He’s even taken to trying to mount us among many other mischievous things- like sleeping on the picnic table & swinging with Adalyn…

You never can predict or control things on a farm…

Things haven’t been dull or slow here. Sure we bought a clearance hammock to hang in a tree and the change of season is nearing but…

We’ve had a wet few weeks and our turkey tractor (aka the rolling poultry pen) has been flooded out twice. Last week a turkey became sick and died. I spent half a day quarantining and then nursing the thing. Later that evening, when Nathan got home to greet it, it died. The following day I buried it – can’t eat a possibly ill bird. Man, an almost full grown turkey needs a BIG burial hole! After digging a grave I had to administer apple cider vinegar to all the poultry but first old waterers needed to be dumped, sanitized and refilled. If dead turkey had a contagious bug we can’t let it spread to the rest of the flock… We currently have a flock of 15 adult chickens, 19 chicks (3 were hatched on the farm!) and 5 turkeys so the sanitizing and dosing took a bit of time.

After the poultry nursing, sanitizing, monitoring and reconfiguring we had about 24 hrs before Adalyn’s birthday weekend (which also consisted of farm market selling, an ash spreading party (a celebration not a mourning) and Labor Day. We were supposed to attend a labor day picnic but the “managers special” salmon I made the day before landed us with food poisoning. Luckily, we are swimming in probiotics and fermented food goodness so it wasn’t debilitating or long lived.

Then we had more rain, lots more!  This time part of the goat pen flooded. Water isn’t good for their hooves so we let the goats free range. Lately they’ve been confined per warnings from the locals… deer hunting time is near and our milk goat REALLY looks like a deer from afar, we need a bright ribbon and cow bell for her to wear! Anyway, while the goats were out free ranging, they only seem to want to be where we want to keep them out of. Today it was the deck. Our buckling, Clay, put his head through a gate and essentially ripped his horn off trying to remove his head from the gate. Everly came in to report, Mom, it’s an emergency. Come see!” There was blood everywhere! We dumped cornstarch on the snapped horn to slow and clot the bleeding while we gave Clay treats.

It was fitting that a vet friend (who unfortunately doesn’t treat large animals) was stopping by to draw blood for our doe’s pregnancy testing. After the blood draw on Poptart we determined Clays bleeding was clotting so we left him to recuperate overnight. She was going to tie off the vein that was in the horn to stop the bleeding.

The next day, wind, chewing and walking was irritating Clay’s almost knocked off horn. It was now bent forward and hanging on by what seemed like a thread. We felt it needed removal, he was clearly suffering. The thing is, horns aren’t like fingernails. There is blood supply and sinus cavity in them. Removal can be quite bloody, unpleasant and could lead to infection. We wanted someone with a steadier hand and more experience than we had for this important job.

We were thankful that farmer Grover stopped by with blood clotting powder and his cattle horn snippers. Cattle horns and goat horns are different but the tools and skills are similar. After just 10 minutes or so one knocked lose horn and one intact horn were gone, for now. They’ll probably grow back though. It’s always something around here, different song and dance from time to time… but the music never seems to stop playing.

Since moving to the farm I’ve learned that its really not about managing or controlling, its all about adapting. The animals don’t obey or stay out of mischief (especially goats!), the weather isn’t predictable, the crops don’t always flourish (or they do and you have 300 lbs of massive tomatoes to move)… we certainly aren’t in control of anything. But knowing that fact sure helps us find more success because it makes us quicker on our feet and more clued in to subtle variations of the norm.

For now, while we are between fiascos, we’ll be to hanging the hammock and sipping some coffee while the kids giggle on Adalyn’s birthday tree swing!

By the way, have you seen us on the Land Connection newsletter this week? You can check it out here.

If you are curious about how poor Clay’s horn looked the morning after the horn break, before we removed them, here are some pics… They are graphic, beware.

It’s oddly quiet…

Things are in transition again. It’s very quite here in the mornings and oddly, I’m feeling a touch of calmness.

Could it be that we are forging a new yearlong routine? Is it just that I’m down to juggling two kids during this time? Is it because needs are being better met in our new arrangement?

It’s probably a combination of everything.

My oldest, Miss Everly, is a Kindergartener. Her first day of school was Friday, today was her first day on the school bus.

All summer I’ve been back and forth about school. For the preschool years she was in a Montessori coop type setting with a 3 hr class in a fellow mom’s home several days a week. We also pull from the Montessori method where home education is concerned and have several spaces throughout the house for Montessori materials and work time. The Montessori method works for our home in many ways, hands on education us our style but after moving out here we had to reevaluate things.

Have I mentioned there is only one other family that lives on our street? There aren’t many kids nearby for Everly to hang out with and as it turns out, she really grew accustomed to the community of children she saw during the week in her Montessori class outside the home. Since, moving out here, she’s been cagey and annoyed with her sister. She’s been stifled and probably bored. We wont be abandoning our homeschool/ Montessori ways but…

We went ahead and enrolled her in the local public school. She needs the time with other kids her age, she needs the sense of community, she needs her time to shine, her independence…

She had a great first day! It was nerve wracking for her when I dropped her off and was trying to leave. Her tears made me a bit teary… but we got through it and she had a fun-filled day. Today, her second day of school she rode the bus to and from the school. My baby is growing up… Time sure flies.

We have hatching…

Over the last three weeks we’ve been monitoring the humidity and temperature of our homemade “Coolerbator” egg incubator. My last post was about counting our chickens before they’d hatched..

So far, our 15 mail order chicks have arrived and are thriving. Today our incubated eggs are cheeping & beginning to hatch!

The eggs have been on lockdown since friday because hatch day was supposed to be nearing but secretly in the back of our mind we hadn’t been counting on much to result… Mainly because this is our first attempt, also because four of the seven eggs (the blue & green ones) in the incubator were stored for about 2 weeks prior to incubating (which can really decrease hatch rate).

Plus, our homemade incubator isn’t the most air-tight temperature regulated thing right now. When I heard this faint “cheep, cheep!” coming from the dining area I was kind of amazed and pleasantly surprised. We weren’t in very high sprits this morning after someone dropped by to see us but the surprise cheeping turned moods around.

Things got going just a few hours ago… and between energy bursts the chick rests so it’s difficult to capture all the action but it seems we’ll probably have a new hatchling, possibly two if nothing has gone wrong between my day 18 candling and now.

8/10 6:50 p Update: We now have two eggs chirping! One is almost out, the other has yet to pip a hole but it’s talking!

8/11 Nothing exciting happen overnight, little chick just rested. The resting continued most of the morning, with small cheeping bursts in between.


Noon Update: The chick is pressing it’s self on the ends of the shell from the inside… It’s emerging from the shell now (and we got it on video!)

I’m waiting for the videos to upload so I can share them. Stay tuned :)


Swimming in chicks this fall… or not?

I’m trying to not count my eggs before they hatch but we might be swimming in chicks soon! Let’s see, where was the beginning of this chicken saga? I believe it all started when we found our beloved Bernice, an Americauna hen, dead near the stock trailer. She was from the first batch of chicks we bought back when Everly was a newborn. She laid us greenish blue eggs. Here is a photo of her trying to hatch eggs in our compost bin this last spring:

We recently found her dead in the yard, no signs of trauma. I thought her neck might have been broken from our too aggressive roosters, we had five roosters and they were all competing and sometimes gang raping hens. After Bernice I tried to separate all but one rooster from my hens. In the process Snowball, Everly’s new cattle dog, was asked to help catch a leghorn rooster for us. She didn’t succeed and we ended up giving up on catching him. He didn’t go in the coop to be locked up overnight either.

The next morning Snowball took care of business, a bit too well. We found feathers all over the yard and Snowball was missing. Later that morning we found her down the road in a cow pasture unsure how to navigate the ditch that was separating her from the road and our house. Nathan found her and nearby there was a dead, half eaten leghorn rooster. Snowball remembered the command she was given and the rooster she was supposed to get… and she got the job done a good 18 hrs later. Unfortunately, we didn’t want her to kill him, just to help us round him up. We still have some cattle dog training to do. She wont be helping us “get” anymore animals… for now.

The day Bernice died she laid one last egg. I saved it and four other blue & blue green eggs from the week for future incubation. About a week later Nathan built us an incubator (a coolerbator, it’s really from a Styrofoam ice chest!). We are trying to hatch 7 eegs in there right now. One is a double yolk that we’ve candled!

A few days later our other cattle dog, Dixie, sniffed out something odd in the bushes near the goat pen. It’s one of our new hens from this spring’s chicks… she’s broody in the brush out there. She’s been sitting 5 days that we’ve counted, day and night, rain or shine… with just an afternoon break each day as the sun shines down through the tress on her clutch of eggs. We take her some food and check the eggs now and then, I counted 9 eggs. We tried candling about 5 of them over the weekend. They aren’t as developed as our eggs in the incubator, so they seem younger. Here they are:

clutch of 9 eggs in a nest
I should also mention that we just placed a baby chick order too… 15 chicks of preferred breeds for egg laying and breeding, to arrive next week.

So let’s do the math- 7 eggs in the incubator + 9 or more eggs under our broody hen + 15 chicks on the way. We might have close to 31 new chicks next month. Crap!  

It’s unfortunate when you “golden shower” yourself… Right?

Someone has popped two top teeth through and is getting quite active, so active that the worn out velcro closures on my five year old cloth diapers aren’t doing the job anymore. Must make time to covert the velcro to snaps, ASAP!

Last night when I heard a tiny baby cough coming from the bedroom I went in all concerned. Has he been sleeping so long because he is getting a cold? I peek in on him and see exposed penis…

I find golden beads of urine, on his belly, his arms, his face and his hair…that sprayed every which way. He’s coughing because he’s just gotten a golden shower.  

His bed was soaked, his body was drenched. Poor guy thought he was drowning in his bed I bet.

After a nice warm bath he was good as new again.

It’s hard to control a limp teat!

We are almost a week into goat ownership right now and we are loving it. We got our milker, Poptart, on a slightly later milking schedule so we aren’t quiet as tired as initially in the first few days. Yay!

As newbie goat owners, we’ve had a few scares. The first one was when Clay, our buck, knocked his scur off on the fence… Okay I better back up and explain the goat terminology first…

A “Buck” is a male goat and a “Scur” is a janky type horn that has grown after the real horns have been removed, disbudding is the removal of the horns.

The scur bled and was alarming to us. I worried about flies and maggots getting in there and had to quickly learn when and how to treat the injury. Luckly, Clay’s bleeding wasn’t really that severe and it clotted and stopped on it’s own. All I had to do was make up my “go to” sealing paste for the wound to keep maggots and flies out of it.

Meet Clay:

Our second scare has been the rapid decline of milk supply in Poptart since brining her home. She was giving about a gallon per day, over the span of two milkings. So that is basically 2 quarts of milk per milking. Below you’ll see what we got the morning after we brought her home. This was from her first milking post-move. It’s just shy of 2 quarts.

Of course stress can cause milk supply to decline, so we knew the bringing her to our home would be supply impacting.

We took great care to buy the feed that she was already getting as to not disrupt her diet too much but the food we had was pretty much being rejected by her. Heck, she even stopped drinking water in the beginning.

We went from almost 2 quarts per milking to something like 1/2 a quart per milking. It was worrisome.

It seems like the type of alfalfa makes the difference in milk supply. We initially bought a bale of alfalfa from the store. She’s not a fan… but the alfalfa pellets we grabbed (with the highest protein content we could find) are more interesting to her.

Now that she’s less stressed, eating pellets in addition to her bale of alfalfa and being left to graze around the yard most of the day, she is back up to giving us closer to 2 quarts a milking.

While her supply was low it sure was different to milk her though. Teats aren’t as firm/ full when the supply is lower and… It is sure harder to control a limp teat. I can see that now that her teats are filling more again ;P
I never in my life imagined I’d be remarking about limp teats in a blog post! LOL.


Newbie goat milking at the butt crack of dawn…

It is 5 am and I’m up. Yesterday we brought home our milking goat, Poptart, a 2 yr old Alpine goat. She’s had a certain type of feed and a certain milking schedule… and since we’ve uprooted her living arrangement and shuttled her to our home, in a thunderstorm… we figured the least we could do was keep her milking schedule the same for a while.

So, it’s 5 am and I’m up to milk my goat.

I was surprisingly okay at milking. When we showed up to buy the goats I got a milking lesson and did a trial milking. Amazingly, I milked her completely and it didn’t take an eternity. Side note: I’d only milked a cow once before at a friends house and I didn’t get the job finished that time :/

We coaxed Poptart to walk herself to our milking stand with a bucket of grain, once she was secured on the stand (yes they really do jump up there on their own!) the milking went well. This morning I was finished milking by 5:30 am so I feel like that is a good beginners time for hand milking 1/2 gallon. I definitely don’t have a rhythm going yet but I’ve got time for that to develop.

After milking, as the sun rose and the fog began to lift, Poptart happily walked herself back to the temporary goat enclosure alongside me. You can see Poptart’s future mating partner, Clay, in the distance.

Oh, and I’m totally going to gradually shift the milking schedule over the next week or so that I’m not waking at the butt crack of dawn each day to milk ;P

To Celebrate our one month anniversary with farm life…

A month ago today we crammed all our things, our animals and our kids into vehicles and we drove two hours to our new country home in southern Illinois. We’ve been here a month now and things are becoming more routine. Farm life is going well and we’ve been making adjustments to better fit our new life. One of the major adjustments has been stocking the house with food.

I’ve always stocked up on foods because I’m lazy and I dread shopping trips, so stocking up and avoiding multiple grocery trips is always my goal- finances permitting. Plus, stocking up has it preparedness advantages too! Now that Nathan is home for lunch every day, we are having a formal lunch and eating more food over the course of the week than we normally did. I’ve had to adjust my shopping for this. 

The other thing needing adjusting has been sourcing our foods. We’ve switched grocery stores, changed our bulk food drop location and the biggie has been sourcing our raw milk. Every source we’ve come across for milk has required much driving, that we’d rather not be doing.

Then fate landed these goats that were for sale in our path…

I’ve been reading everything I can about goats and goat milking, been talking with dairying friends. A milking stand has been constructed in just two days time (go Nathan!), we’ve scavenged a shelter from here on the farm, we’re scavenging fencing now, I bought a months worth of goat feed, hay & minerals. Got some lead ropes, a brush and some udder balm. This afternoon, if all goes well, we’ll be goat owners and I’ll be goat milking tonight.

We’ve been joking that it’s our farmy way of celebrating our one month anniversary with country life. LOL! Actually, we didn’t plan it at all, it just kind of happen- part of fate’s plan I suppose. 

We head out this afternoon to possibly buy a 2 yr old Apline milking goat, if milking her goes well and things feel right, we’ll come home with her and an unrelated buck (male goat) for future breeding and milk production inducing. 

I’m not looking forward to adding more farm chores to the mix but I’m also not opposed to working hard for a bit more convenience and self sufficiency so we are giving this a go. I’ve been told goats are easier than cows to sell off if you change your mind ;P

Here we go…


Want to know how I did milking my goat for the first time? Read this.