Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a different kind of life

Sweet Potato Pie's with Streusel Topping

I've been busy baking the past few days.    So far I've made and frozen dough for 18 pizza's, baked  and frozen 8 loaves of  bread, a cake, a few pies, and  frosting enough for a few more cakes or  many many cupcakes.  That was all there was room for in the freezer.   While all that dough was rising and things were baking in the oven I was spring cleaning.  I cleaned every closet, cupboard and shelf in this house.  I got rid of much and reorganized and cleaned what was left.     All the while thinking it had to be done now because if it was put off until spring when everyone else does theirs,  it wouldn't get done.  Spring is about outdoors, gardens and baby animals here.   No time to be inside cleaning a house.   And this whole exercise got me to thinking about how different our lives and calendars are as homesteaders, from those around us that still do spring cleaning in the spring.

A few weeks ago, someone in my family asked me why it's been so long since I visited them 1500 miles away and I realized how different our lifestyles and schedules are from many of those around us including our families.  In many cases it's even different from what we, ourselves have lived  before getting into homesteading.  For many years, I had a job in a large city with a 3 week vacation each and every year, 2 days off a week in the fall and winter and at least one day off in spring and summer...being a horticulturist had it's own set of demands.  When I didn't have to be at my job I could go out in the evening shopping,  to dinner and a movie or on weekends I could go off camping or skiing, spend the night and think nothing of it as long as I was back in time for work on Monday.   Now I'm lucky to fit a trip to town for necessities into my schedule a few times a month and the place I visit the most frequently is the feed store with a quick stop at Lowe's on the way back only because I go right by it.   

When I lived my other, more conventional life,  I too probably would have had difficulty understanding the complexities of a homesteading lifestyle.   And perhaps if I had understood how different everything would be I wouldn't have jumped into it with both feet the way I did.   I may have decided the price was too high; no time for idleness anymore, no time for things that used to be important to me, no time period.   Now, every moment demanding attention in one way or another.   Homesteaders, right after mothers, must have been the original multitaskers, long before it was a trendy word with the mantra being "so much to do and so little time.

Still,  most days I love it and wouldn't consider going back to the other way of life.   I love how the busyness seems so purposeful.   I love the animals that tie me here every day.  I love that it's all connected, nature, the land, the food we eat, the animals we raise.   I love the values it's teaching the 10 year old that shares this life with me.   And I hope when she is older she will look back and love that she got the opportunity to experience this life, whether she decides  to stay on this path or move to another more conventional one.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

First snow

Weatherman  says 2 - 5 " expected.

Last night got down to 14 degree's here.  They weren't sure if the snow would start late last night or this morning so I dutifully got up a few times in the night to be sure it wasn't snowing yet.   The barn doesn't have a center support in it yet and isn't able to handle a snow load so if it had been snowing I would have to go out occasionally and give it shake to get the snow off before it bent the cattle panels.   At 5 am I looked out and all the lights were out... no glow.  I wasn't sure what had gone wrong with the lights and really didn't feel like going out to check it out  but bundled up to go check anyway.   I checked the thermometer on the front porch first and it was indeed still 14 degrees.  The outlet from Premier is suppose to come on at 35 and turn off at 45 so at 14 degrees outside my mind said it certainly should have been on still inside their little barn.  Just as I was heading out the door all unhappily bundled up the heat lamps came back on.  The outlet was working fine.  It was just that warm in there.    I really love those Premier heat lamps.   Needless to say no one comes out much.  Just a head now and again to see if it's still snowing.   And as a bonus, no frozen waters.   Still no baby pigs though.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cattle panel barn

As promised, more on building a cattle panel barn.
After deciding where I wanted it I had to cut down some small caliper tree's to clear a place.   My entire property is on a slope and this postage stamp sized piece is no different.  You just learn to compensate. 
I wanted it 16' long and 10' wide.  This would mean 6 cattle panels; 1 for each side and then 4 for the top. Notice the watering can in the picture?  If your ground is dry when pounding in T posts take a watering can with you.  Start your hole.  Pull the post out and fill the hole with water a few times.  It will go in much easier after that.

With the two sides in place I put a board in front to see how off level it really was.  Over a foot.  

Next you attach the 4 top pieces.  It's pretty easy if there are 2 of you but because it's just me and a 10 yr old here I have to be creative sometimes.  I'm going to show you in detail how I did it so if any of you want to build one but think you can't because you don't have help, now you will know how. 
First I put 2 -  2 x 4's across resting in the first square of each side to hold the cattle panel as I feed it across.   Then I use a T I made to raise it.

Once it's standing up like this go to the first side and using a double end snap or some other similar type clip and clip the top cattle panel  to the side panel in  a couple of places.  Then go to the other side and do the same thing.  It doesn't matter if it's even or not at this point.  You just want it attached on both sides somewhere.  After that you can start going from side to side raising it to the desired height.   Mine is overlapping two squares on each side.   This means it's 22' from the ground on one side to the ground on the other and it's approximately 8' high.  Remember I'm on a slope.    Then do the same thing for the next 3 panels.

Next using zip ties attach the panels to each other and to the sides.  I use a bunch...their cheap and worth it.  I did also use end caps on the T posts.  When you have all on you want, cut off the ends.   Next I started to level up the front with 4" x 4" ties.  

About this time it was getting late and the forcast was for rain so I stopped working on the outside and cut the plastic for the top.  I used 6 mil clear plastic from Lowes.  I buy the rolls that are 20' wide by 100' so I just cut 2 pieces 24' long to go over it making the top 12 mil.   Once the two pieces were over it I took a 2" x 6" x 16' board and put it up against each side to hold the plastic in place on the ground.  I added 2 pieces of  4' x 8'  1/2" styrofoam floor inlay between the panel and the plastic with the reflective side to the animals and then hammered 5 or 6 pieces of 24" rebar into the ground tightly against the board to hold the board in place on both sides against the cattle panel.

Next I started on the inside.  I cut some panels up to make a divider in the center to separate the pigs and goats with a gate in the middle.  I did the same for the front and the back so they could be locked in.  I laid a bunch of hay with the majority going on the low side so I will eventually have a really deep bed there for them.   I added animals and declared myself done for that night.

The rain started just as I finished up and everyone got tucked into their new home.  I didn't even have the fencing around it yet so I just locked them in.  With the rain, they didn't mind that at all.

Later I added plastic to the front and back for warmth and wind protection.  I still need to finish the ties in the front and back and I will also add some to the middle so the divider is level.  If your doing this on level ground you won't have to do that although I like the look of the ties.   I will add a proper doorway like in the greenhouse just wider and a few shelves and a milk stand.   This structure would also be great for hay storage.  I will probably do a smaller one for that when I get this one done.   In the summer the ends can come back off and it's a run in.   In fall and spring you can have them partially open. 

I have also done these in smaller versions with just 3 arched cattle panels.  If you do it that way and you have goats, unless you add the styrofoam to the sides the goats, especially kids, will climb them.  The one I have now with the extra panels on the sides makes that impossible for them to do.

You can see he's already bending this one.  

Here's a bad picture of an older goat hut I had made of cattle panels.  It was small and the dark tarps made it cold even when the sun was out.  I used alligator clips to hold a tarp folded in half on the front.   I used two tarps for the back with a piece of foam sandwiched between them for warmth and wind protection.  I only had the foam go up the back 1/2 way so I could fold the top of the back down 1/2 way on good days to air it out more and let sun in.

All in all I like the big one I just put up best so far.  I will really like it when I'm done.  The two other ones are too small for a milk stand so we just clipped them to the fence or a cattle panel on the inside to milk but I really want to have a milk stand in there.  The extra height is good.  The good part about  all of these cattle panel structures is that they are so easy to put up you can try many versions over the years till you have just exactly what you want. For me, I also like being able to move them around so no one area gets too over grazed.

Keeping everyone warm

It's rather surreal looking out at night to see this golden dome in the yard.    I purchased 4 heat lamps from Premier 1 this year.  There are 2 inside there being used now with 250 watt bulbs.   We have piglets due and it's been so cold I hooked them up for the first time.  I keep them on the pigs side so the ever so curious goats can't get a hold of them.  Many of you have seen these heat lamps, I am sure,  in the Premier catalog but I have to say until you've seen them in person the catalog just doesn't do them justice.   I was taken aback when they arrived by the sheer size of them.  Very substantial and well made.  It took me a bit of time to figure out how to open them to put the bulb in.  They seem to have thought of everything when making them and they are about as animal proof as any heat lamp could be.   I would never put a regular heat lamp out like this but these seem pretty safe.

I have been using them with a thermostatically controlled plug that turns them on when the temperature drops to 35 degree's and off when it gets up to 45 degree's.   It works wonderfully.  With the reflective insulation on the sides of the structure too it stays fairly warm inside considering how cold it's been. 

Although it's been in the 20's a night the goats spend part of the night outside and if they are inside one of them usually is in the doorway with her head out.   The pigs rarely leave the little cattle panel barn these days. 

I also borrow the high / low thermometer I use in my incubutor at this time of year just to get an idea of how cold it is in their little home at night.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Barn

This is what we have been working on this weekend.   It's really quite spacious for a cattle panel structure.  It's 10' wide, 9'high and 16' deep.  It's divided in 2 on the inside and can be closed up to keep the animals inside if need be.  The sides are insulated mostly for protection from wind chill but it also helps hold temperatures up too.  It stays about 10 degree's warmer than outside at this point.  Sometimes cattle panel structures covered with plastic can have a condensation problem but were not having a problem with this.

I'm making clips to replace all the alligator clips. 

I've taken a bunch of pictures of it as it went up and of the inside and will post completely how we did it when I finish it.  There is much more I want to do to it  but it could stay as is for the winter and be a fine shelter with no additions to it.  It's nice having the pigs in the back which opens to their own fenced area in the back and the goats in the front opening into their own area but they are sharing body heat and it's one location for us to care for all rather than 2.    We already have a base of 8 -18" of hay in there.   The variance is due to the slope it's on.  I want to add a small raised area in there for the chickens too.

More later about it.  I do love those cattle panels!


Friday, December 3, 2010

This & That

Yesterday I went to look at a little French Alpine buck that a friend has visiting her girls.  His owner is selling him and I may buy him.   I love his markings but couldn't tell too much about his structure with him scrunched up between the feeder and the fence.   It was mealtime when we arrived and there was much butting and pushing going on and I didn't have time to stay too long to get a better look or picture.  He was holding his own with the full sized does at the feeder though.

Before Dill came back to breed my two does this fall I had brought another little buck of my friends over to see if he was up to the task and my two girls were so mean to him I took him back a day later. I was truly afraid they would hurt him butting him.   He was so sweet and so very passive.   Therefor  I really appreciated this little guys ability to stand up for himself.   

All you goat folks.....  We knicknamed Dill - Elvis because he had this bunch of curly hair on his forehead just like this little goat has.   I've not seen that on other goats and Dill and this little goat aren't related.  Has anyone else seen this?  Is this common for goats / bucks? Dill's owner and I just scratch our heads about it.   Maybe it's more common than I realize but because most goats on the Internet are shown shaved I don't see it????  Anyone???

                                        Dill   aka Elvis                                   New little buck

After leaving my friends house I spent the rest of yesterday returning electric fence pieces and parts I had purchased and didn't need.    After all the fencing issues I had a month ago or so, even though the electric fence still isn't up we seem to have gotten the existing fence issue straightened out and there have been no more wandering pigs.    I also realized that now isn't the time to give them the run of the place by extending their fencing.   Many people confine their pigs somewhat for the winter when there isn't any grow going on so they don't tear up pasture or land looking for food.   They just get hay and feed in a smaller area till spring growth starts again.   Since I'm so behind with projects this was a good and timely revelation.

With the fencing issue not looming over my head and my outside chores done yesterday, I had a day to spend in the kitchen.   This is something I've not had time for lately and very much missed.  First on the list -   a Devils Food layer cake with Buttercream frosting.

I didn't have much to decorate with so threw a few semi sweet chocolate pieces in the blender and sprinkled the processed bits on.  I then toasted a bit of coconut and added that as well. 
Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup margarine
4 - 6 tablespoons cream, half and half or milk
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp of almond extract
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups of confectioners sugar sifted

In a large bowl using an electric mixer at medium speed beat together the shortening, margarine, cream or milk, salt, almond and vanilla extract until smooth  ( about 2 - 3 minutes).

Add in sifted confectioners sugar starting with  4-1/2 cups beat well until smooth and fluffy, adding more sugar or cream/milk until you achieve desired consistency. 

I used a double recipe of this to frost the cake above. 

I also made a carrot cake but didn't get the frosting done. I started some chicken soup as well and have some jalapeno corn bread in the oven to go with it. Tomorrow I plan to make enough bread to last a couple of months and the same with pizza dough.

Stay warm everyone!


Poll results for 12/3/10

We have:

Horses                     3    (23%)
Donkeys                  0    (0%)
Llamas / Alpacas     2    (15%)
Goats                     12   (92%)
Sheep                      5    (38%)
Pigs                         2    (15%)
Chickens               12    (92%)
Turkeys                   2    (15%)
Ducks                      1   (7%)
Geese                      0    (0%)
Dogs                      11   (84%)
Cats                       13   (100%)

Votes 13


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A visitor comes a calling


If you've ever...

had to bring a sick hen in the house to nurse it...

they keep coming back!

Related Posts with Thumbnails