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.

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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 :)

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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.

proper-milking-procedure

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…


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

Herding instincts, birthday joy and milking goats…

It’s been 25 days since me and Nathan have watched TV. The one thing about farm life that differs from what we were doing before is, we are working LESS hours but we are working HARDER… Not so hard that you want to fall over and die, just hard as in each part of the body actually gets utilized. That means at the end of the day we can both lay down and fall asleep right away. We don’t need to unwind in front of the TV each night, our mental exhaustion is greatly reduced with the job and life change. Though, I’m still kind of mentally exhausted when it comes to trying to wrangle the kids :P Oh, and my sciatica hip & back issues are improved now that I’m being more active. 

Next week we are planning to bring a dairy goat home, plus her mating partner! The ordeal of trekking back to Evansville for house upkeep and to pickup our milk has been taking it’s toll, big time. The kids don’t enjoy being cooped up in a car all day and we lose too much time during the travel that we could be putting to good use around the house and farm. The number of leaving-the-farm-errands MUST be reduced… So I’m taking up goat milking next week. Wish me luck.

I’m intimidated and anxious about the mater of fencing for the goat. I know they can be difficult and sometimes a downright headache. I’m hoping we get lucky or can manage it because we NEED the milking to take place here on the farm for the sake of simplicity. This weekend, better known as Goat Prep 2014 will be our last shot at getting ready before the goats arrive.

We also processed the first of the 40 Red Ranger chickens this week. I’ve been caring for to 40 Red Rangers here on Tanglefoot Ranch, they are meat birds for a farm project. One of them got a hurt leg in a chicken tractor moving ordeal and was just too far gone to mend. To be humane, Nathan ended the suffering and surprisingly Everly was his helper. Eventually the girls will see slaughter from start to finish but we haven’t been pushing them, rather I’ve been trying to shield them, Adalyn specifically.

The other night when Nathan went out to start the slaughter process Everly noticed he had left right away and wanted to go out with him. I warned her about what she might see and she was eager to go and watch “cause I’ve never seen it done before” she commented. Then she went out and took part in it ALL. Her favorite part was when the organs came out and we got to identify and discuss the workings of the digestive system. I cringed a little when she came back inside to ask me if I’ve ever seen “a chicken’s face cut off”. She was referring to it being bled out and then beheaded for plucking. LOL. She took it like a champ, it’s a good thing too because slaughter day is on the horizon for all the other meat birds. Our plucker and kill cones are being engineered right now by the men of Tanglefoot Ranch. Baby EverlyFive year old Everly

Oh, speaking of Everly… She just had her fifth birthday! A few friends made the trip out to Tanglefoot to help us celebrate. She had a Hello Kitty cake, got her own puppy (a working dog. Red Heeler/ Border Collie breed named Snowball) had friends over to play with, it was a great day for her. So great that she zonked out in the middle of our nightly story time. Look how big she is!

We’ve been working on herding dog training for her new puppy. Snowball has strong herding instincts and has already taken to rounding up the turkeys, chickens and even the girls. This scares them and can result in unwanted bites or scratches when puppy enthusiasm combines with herding needs not being met. We have lots of work ahead of us with her but I think she’ll also be a great addition to the family. She’s already bringing out the best in our existing dog, Dixie. Dixie seems to love being a leader and she loves the freedom and space she now has to roam here on the farm. 

I bet when the goats arrive Snowball will get enough herding work to keep her busy ;P

On crashing and lessons learned during the first week of farm life.

We’ve officially completed our first week on Tanglefoot Ranch. Its been a major whirlwind of activity but its been really great. Speaking of Tanglefoot, are you on our mailing list yet?

Seeds have been sowed, our future chicken/ garden space is being readied. I’ve taken over care of the 40 meat birds. Nathan learned to drive a riding mower, he helped repair electric cattle fencing, he has helped with tractor mowing. A dining room is being constructed near the farm’s big kitchen garden. There has been weeding, snake killing, tomato trellising and raspberry picking. We’ve learned the weighing of juvenile shrimp, Nathan and Everly have moved LOTS of juvenile shrimp from the nursery pools to their permanent ponds while a crew from RFD – TV shot some footage of the process. 

We’ve learned of a cherry tree off our back deck and also spotted some tiny apples beginning to form on another tree off the deck. We also believe we have several maple trees that are tappable come spring. Time to gather tapping supplies!

We had a long day of moving over the weekend… again. We didn’t get all our stuff moved on the first round and we’d done zero cleaning of the old place so we made another trip over the weekend.

We succeeded at arriving in Evansville at a reasonable hour but we failed at leaving at one. When pulled out of town with a loaded truck the Evansville sun was setting. That should have landed us home at 10:30 pm. Not ideal but we decided we were just rolling with the punches.

Once we turned on our new home’s street, we were driving along the gravel road, thinking of arriving at home when things went very wrong. At first I thought Nathan had slowed the trailer or that the trailer was struggling to climb the hill we were on… then I realized the trailer wasn’t’ slowing, it was rolling backwards! 

I hit the break, braced myself and the trailer slammed into the front of the Prius so hard it woke the kids and sloshed my water (that was in a cup holder) all over my lap. After the impact I engaged the emergency break and tried to make sense of what had happen.

Picture a seriously loaded up stock trailer, hillbilly style. Now pretend you are looking at it from behind – that was me. Now visualize it rolling backwards and slamming against your car causing your car to roll back a bit… Then it stops. 

Once I was sure the momentum and motion had ceased I reassured my backseat full of panicked kids that we were okay. There was all sorts of crying and question asking. Then I call out my window to Nathan. “Hello? Is every thing okay up there because I think we are holding the trailer with our car.” 

It turns out the truck that was towing the trailer ran out of gas despite the reassurances we were given that we should have enough gas… oh and the gas gague is wonky and doesn’t provide an accurate read. Now we know. LOL.

The two lessons we learned are:

  1. Always make sure, even if someone reassures you.
  2. Never follow a heavy trailer up a hill. Always lead the trailer.

Word is that many poor unsuspecting souls have lost loads of things or control of their vehicles while on the hill we were navigating. And now we know better for next time ;P

 

We’ve made it to Tanglefoot Ranch.

It was a steamy, stormy day but we we loaded a trailer, a stock trailer, a van and two cars with our stuff and drove two hours away to make a new life in the country. The Tanglefoot crew came out and helped us load our lives up and make the trek. They are a thoughtful and welcoming bunch of people. We are uber blessed to have crossed paths with them. They’ve even made us food (including fresh baked gluten free brownies) while we’ve been busting butt to get moved in. How thoughtful and surprising is that? 

The girls woke us this morning at the butt crack of dawn saying “we need to get an early start to the day guys, there is cherry picking to do!” Here is them out picking cherries out in their PJ’s ——->

Earlier in the week we got word about a long forgotten cherry tree that was uncovered on the property we would be living at. The girls were stoked to hear this and have visited the tree often today to load up on sweet treats.

Today we also unpacked the trailer and got the chickens & turkeys set up with a temporary house. This morning poor Adalyn was farm initiated as we fed and watered the poultry, she was tromping the fields behind us and stepped in a juicy cow pie and promptly slid right through it…on her side. She was NOT pleased and had to ride back to our house in just her undies since she was coated head to toe in cow dung.

It has been a looooong 48 hrs but we are here with the animals and kids partially settled in. We have a permanent chicken coop to build for these birds so they can move out of the stock trailer and get more permanently settled. Can you see how stoked they are to have all this green to munch and lounge around in? 

 

Tomorrow we go to work. We are moving the shrimp from the shrimp nursery to the shrimp ponds with a TV reporter in tow it seems. And I need to plant a huge kitchen garden, and plant our own personal garden, and remove poison ivy/ oak from some places. And I might want a milking goat. Lots to do, so much possibility and only so many hours in the day…