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!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting the cream out of goats milk without a cream separator

I love cream and use it regularly in my cooking.  Getting  cream from the goats milk isn't as easy as it is from cow's milk.    You can us a cream separator but they are expensive; upwards of $400.   Much more than I want to spend although I have considered it at times.   Reading further about them though made it seem as if the clean up is probably more trouble than it's worth.

This is what I do.   If you are a purist about your milk you may not want to do this but for me it works.   As I said in an earlier post, I pasteurize my milk for yogurt.  Drinking milk is used raw.   So when I want goats cream I try to combine chores yogurt making and cream separating and pasteurize that milk.   I then let it sit for about 4 or 5 days.   The jar in the picture had been sitting in the fridge for 5 days.  You can see clearly the place where the cream and the milk has separated.  

I then skim it off the top with a spoon that's been bent to fit inside the mouth of my jar.  Of course you can save the milk and skim it 5 days later without pasteurizing it first but most people think by then the milk has acquired a "bucky" flavor not suitable for things like whipped cream.   It will still work in savory recipes though.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

New steps for the front porch

Finally got a picture today of the new landing steps I finished earlier this week.  Nice to strike one thing off the to-do list.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Gratitude List

I'm grateful for all the people in my life.
I'm grateful to have a warm home with a full freezer and cupboards.
I'm grateful I'm able to live the life I have chosen in a country that supports my freedoms and rights.
I'm grateful for the occasional adversity because it makes me stronger and also allows me to see how blessed my life really is and has been.
I'm grateful I no longer feel the need for the trappings that were so alluring when I was younger.
I'm grateful that as I've gotten older I've learned to listen to and trust myself and my decisions.
I am grateful I've had a better life than my parents had and my children can have a better life than I've had.
I'm grateful for this holiday that gives me the opportunity to slow down  from my busy life of homesteading long enough to reflect on how much I truly have to be thankful for each and every day of the year.

I wish all of you the very happiest of Thanksgiving's and thank you for each and all of your visits here.  They keep me coming back.


Poll results for 11/25/10

I am:

Homesteading in the country 5   (55%)
Homesteading in an urban area 1   (11%)
Not homesteading yet but planning on it 3   (33%)
Not planning on homesteading but like to read about others doing it 0   (0%)

Votes:  9


Monday, November 22, 2010

Electric Fencing

  This was from day one of electric fence shopping.  I had started at Southern States as I needed hay and theirs is the best for small quantities.  The sales man, after listening to me tell him what I was trying to accomplish thought a solar unit would fit the bill with 3 8' ground rods and lots of various insulators.  He thought the poly twine rather than wire would be a good choice.  I bought it all.
Next I went to Tractor Supply because I needed to get sweet feed for the goats and pig food and I usually get it there. A sales guy came over as I was looking over their electric fence supplies and as we talked he suggested I get the thin poly tape because it would be more visible.  I, being totally befuddled by all of it at that point, agreed and bought 2 rolls of tape.   I then bought 20 black poly step in posts to use as line posts between t posts.  And I bought a tester,  more insulators, splicing and coupling pieces, parts to make a gate and a spool of wire.

I read the literature that came with th fence charger that night and then got online and talked to more knowledgeable pig people than myself about the charger I had chosen.  I was concerned there would be too much juice for the pigs and not enough for the goats and since I wanted to be able to use the same charger for both I wanted to make sure I had made a good choice.  Mostly the consensus was that solar wasn't reliable enough for what I wanted.  I would lose a lot of charge with tape and poly twine and it may not be strong enough. Evidently solar loses juice fast and would really be better for a simple short fence

The next day I had to go to Richmond so I stopped at Tractor Supply again bought a plug in 6 joule 100 mile model.... for my little 3 acres...Yikes!  

It really sounds like a lot and maybe it is but the more I learn about electric fences the more I think I will like this charger and that it's the right model for what I want.  I learned you can make many small area's of fencing plus do an entire perimeter and also run just one wire or two low wires like at nose level for the pigs or high like at nose level for a goat in hard fenced pens and do it all with one charger if you get the right one and plan it out.   And it's pretty portable compared to woven wire with it's many deeply driven wooden posts. 

I also stopped at Southern States again while in Richmond to get some white step in posts.  I had  looked through the Premier 1 fencing catalog and decided to get some for area's close to the house because I liked the aesthetics's of the white posts with the white tape and white poly twine.   Premier catalog is great with all the pictures in it for helping with design and to see how all the various parts should come together.

This is the charger I'm keeping.  I am going to build it a little box to hang it in made from exterior grade plywood.  I'll then hang the box in the greenhouse which will be right in the area where the fence will start. 

So, since I wanted the charger in the greenhouse I decided I needed  to get the bracing up and the ends on it first.  It was dusk by this time so the pictures aren't great but I got 2  - 2 x 4's screwed together and placed above the door in the front and the back running the whole length of it to brace the top to handle a good snow load in the winter.  It made it very tight and solid.   There is very little shake in it. 

Tomorrow I'll get the rest of the framing on it and then I can cover the ends, make doors and hang my charger.


Art Day - Just for fun

Colored pencil drawing

A few years ago I took Malia to a fiber class at a local farm for homeschooled kids.  They had goats and sheep and taught the kids about animal care as well as how to process wool, card, etc.    While I was waiting for her I took pictures and visited the animals through the fences.    I loved the guy below.  This little class was so enjoyed by both of us we decided to get our first goats. Over the past few years I've occasionally pulled out those pictures and done drawings from them just for fun and relaxation. Thought I'ld  share this one.  I would love to have one of these guys just as a subject to draw.  I find their horns so fascinating.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Got milk?

When we got our first goat, a Nigerian dwarf doe with her 4 day old doeling, I wasn't thinking too much about what to actually do with the milk.  I had dreams of making cheeses and yogurts and having fresh drinking milk of course but I hadn't given too much thought to how to treat the fresh milk right from the animal.  How to strain it, should I pasteurize it, what special equipment did I need, how to cool it etc. I was more concerned with how to get the milk out of her at that point.   She fought me about being milked, she didn't seem to have much and what she had didn't taste good.  In reality, I didn't know what I was doing.  It was a steep learning curve.  I had never had any kind of livestock before and I was learning about fences, hay, grain, shelters, predators, parasites and the list went on.

None the less I loved having a goat.   I did want more milk than the mere cup or two I was getting though so within a month with a little help from some kind person on the Internet dairy goat group I was on I found a French Alpine in milk for sale locally.   I went from a pittance to over a gallon a day.  At that point I got earnest about milk.

So here is what I wish someone had shared with me that first year of milking.  This is all my opinion only.  I'm sure every dairy goat owner has their own list as well as their own opinions but here is mine.

How to take care of fresh goats milk

Don't expect to be able to drink your milk right away when your goat first kids.  It doesn't taste good for a few weeks.  Initially it's the colostrum and then slowly it becomes something more palatable to humans.  We try ours about 3 weeks in and if it's still not great we give it another week. 

How you treat your milk will  be a big factor in taste and how safe your milk is to drink after that first few weeks.  Cleaning off your doe correctly prior to milking is a good start for both your sake.  I use baby wipes both before and after milking. I also use Fight Bac after to help seal up the teat.  

I milk into a stainless steel container.  I pay attention to the first few squirts from each teat, checking for off color or anything else unusual in it.   I used my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl at first but finally broke down and got a real milking bucket with a lid.  The lid is nice for when your done milking but still need to do one or two things before you take the milk in.  That said, the sooner you get your milk in the house the better.   
Next you'll need to strain your milk. Straining your milk will get out any hairs or anything else that may have inadvertently gotten into it outside.  You can buy items from Hoeggers specifically for this or you can use things you may already have on hand.  I store my milk in 1/2 gallon ball jars I get from Ace Hardware (they'll order them for you if they don't have them on hand) so I like to strain right into them.  

I use a wide mouth stainless steel funnel for canning with a small stainless steel strainer with the handle removed inside it to strain my milk right into the ball jars.  I use a coffee filter inside the strainer but some people use clean hankies or pieces of sheet cut up dedicated for this purpose only.  I like the convenience  of coffee filters and they are pretty inexpensive.  When done I use the white plastic lids made by ball to cap the jars.  Because I don't usually pasteurize my milk I date it.  I put a small piece of clear duct tape on my lids to write on with a sharpie.  

To pasteurize or not to pasteurize ....that is the question.

Raw milk is a controversial topic to be sure and there are very strict laws about it.  Because there are  those laws we know there is a reason to be careful about it.  Being careful about our milk is a good thing.  Being paranoid, in my opinion is not.   The one thing I was actually concerned with when I bought my first goat in terms of the milk was if it was safe to drink without it being pasteurized first.  I had a few weeks before she came home, while I was waiting for her to freshen, to mull this over and do a bit of research on the subject. 

Depending on which side of the fence you sat, raw milk was either a gift from the gods or something that would, or at least could,  make you very very sick.   I read as much as I could about the dangers of raw milk and hygiene seem to be a huge factor in whether or not it was safe to drink it raw.  If your clean about your self, about your goats udders, about the utensils you use (hence the reason for so much stainless steel),  about cooling your milk down rapidly after straining etc. then you are probably going to be fine.  The other big factor was whether or not your goats are healthy.  If you bought healthy goats from a reputable breeder, you are probably going to be fine.  My Alpines have been purchased from reputable herds that sell their goat cheese.  Was that a guarantee their milk couldn't make me sick?  No, but the odds are pretty darn good.  I didn't feel as confident about my Nigerian goat but soon after getting her I had her tested for TB which is a free test in Virginia for goats.  She too was clean.  

A bit of common sense went a long way here too.   People drank milk for eons without pasteurization and the majority of them were fine. And of the ones that did get sick poor hygiene was most likely a factor in the majority of those cases.  Sick or diseased animals was on the short list. And even there,  if your buying healthy animals from like minded people that are drinking their own milk raw, the odds are pretty minuscule of you getting sick if your being clean about your milk practices.  And if there is a question about your animals health have them tested.    This was my process for me  in making this decision.   I would say to anyone else pondering this question, do your research and look at all the factors in your situation and in your animals and within yourself.  If your going to be uncomfortable drinking it raw don't do it.  It's too much work to not enjoy the fruits of your labor to the fullest.

So when do I pasteurize?  I do for yogurt making because of the long incubation time at elevated temperatures although I am reading that it is not necessary here either.  Still, I'm not ready to give it a try yet.   I also pasteurize in the summer if I start having problems with my soft goat cheeses.    It rarely happens  now that I have a reliable recipe that works for me consistently.  On the few occasions it has I have problems pasteurizing has helped.  

The other difference pasteurizing makes is your milk will last longer for drinking.   This is why I date my milk.  Although goats milk lasts quite some time in the fridge it does begin to acquire a taste most people describe as "bucky" after just a few days in the fridge.  I just use that older milk for making cheeses and in recipes saving  the freshest for drinking.  Dating it helps me rotate it more efficiently in the fridge in those times milk quantity gets ahead of my time to do something with it.  

So here, milk gets cooled right after straining.   The faster you cool it the longer it will last in the fridge both for drinking and for cheese making.   Initially I would put the container in the freezer for 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour to cool it down but I learned putting the jar into a container of very cold or icy water brings the temperature down faster.   I will give it a stir 1/2 way through to get the warm milk in the center of the jar out to the sides and in contact with the glass to help it cool faster if convenient.   I've also not had time to do that and just put the whole thing in the fridge when done straining.    

Happy milking.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Clicker Training a Goat

I love clicker training.  I use it to train all my dogs and puppies.  It's an amazing tool, but I have to admit I've never considered using it to train my goats.   At least not until I saw this video.  

Hang in there with this video until 2 min.  If you've ever trained a dog you'll appreciate this.

I've had such amazing success with dogs using a  clicker that I don't have to be sold on it's value as a training tool.  It's what they use at places like Sea World to train the marine animals and was introduced to dog trainers by a  former Sea World trainer, Karen Pryor.   She has a number of books out on the subject and I've seen her speak at an Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference.   Most dog trainers are using clicker or some variation of positive reinforcement training  methods these days and I've heard it said a good dog trainer should be able to train another species other than dogs using clicker if their worth their salt.   But it just never entered my mind to try training the goats.

I can see this being a great tool to teach proper milk stand behavior or to teach a young goat to walk on  lead.   With puppies, they get it so quickly.  I would imagine it would be the same with a kid.  They're like little sponges.  I've wanted to do some packing with my goats and this could be a wonderful tool for that as well.  

I can't wait to try it.   So what did you think?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Favorite things - Diffuser

With goats I find I am constantly heating milk.   I heat it to pasteurize for yogurt only but most cheeses require milk to be heated as well.   I have very large stainless steel pots with heavy bottoms for larger batches of cheese but for smaller amounts I love my smaller Pyrex pot but the glass bottom requires me to use very low heat or stir constantly so as not to scorch the milk.   I found a diffuser a couple of years ago that makes heating milk and many other things that easily stick to the bottom of a pan so much easier.   I find I use it for all kinds of things now 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Boy Goats

Meet Dill - the visiting beau for the girls

If you've been reading awhile you'll remember that Dill came last year too.   We nicknamed him Elvis last year because of the patch of curly hair he has just above his eyes.  It's not really visible in this picture though.  This will be Dill's last visit here.  I made the difficult decision to purchase our own buck and after much shopping around and reviewing pedigree's etc. I mailed off my deposit on a buck to be born next spring.   He'll be a purebred French Alpine and now that I've made the leap I'll be anxious to meet him next spring.  The dam is due 3/12  and should she not produce a buck we've chosen another doe in hopes she will have a buck.   It's possible of course neither will have a buck but not likely.   I chose to get a buck from Munchin Hill in West Virgina.   It's where Passion came from too.   

Getting a buck with only a couple of does is not what most people choose to do but for me I think it's the right decision.   Both my does are French Alpines and finding a buck to breed them to in the fall has been difficult.  The first year I had both Nigerian Dwarf goats and Tina, my alpine.   I ended up breeding Tina to a Nigerian which produces kids elegible to be registered as miniature alpines with the The Miniature Goat Association.  But little goats are hard for me to milk so I didn't keep the kids.  Then last year I found Dill and his owner was happy to let him come visit for a month.    He didn't get Passion pregnant but Tina gave us 2 kids in May.  This year he's managed to get both girls pregnant I think.  Time will tell.  I'll watch to see if they cycle into heat again later this month.   Since he's not a purebred but an American Alpine the kids won't  be registered as French which was ok.  At this point I was just grateful to have the girls bred.  

 Full sized does of any breed only come into heat in the fall and if not bred then they will be dry the next year unless you decide to milk them through till the following year. Not all does are able to do this though and even if they can it commits you to milking twice every day rain or shine, hot or cold, sick or well, busy or not. We've dried our girls off in the winter and it's a nice break.

I don't want to have to go through this each year..... the search for a buck.   Even with my veterinarian's help we've not been able to locate a French buck for the girls to breed.    I did find one person on Craigslist but she wasn't willing to test her recently purchased buck for the diseases commonly tested for before purchasing a new goat or breeding goats.   My girls have been tested and are healthy and I'm not willing to chance their health by breeding them to a goat that is untested from a farm I know nothing about.  

So next year will be our first year with a resident buck.   Hmmmm.   I think I need to make a list of all the reasons I am doing this.   Not tonight though. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to get kids to eat turnips

Tell them no, they can not pick them.   They are planted for the goats and the pigs.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pigs, Pigs, Pigs

We've been having a problem for the last month with the pigs escaping.   And it's been getting progressively worse daily.   We are using hog, goat and combination panels to keep them in a wooded area about 75' x 75'.   We've used panels since we got the pigs without a problem until this past month when the piglets realized they could get under them in places.   Then the adults started following suit.   We used logs against the fence at first without much success.  Then we started hanging cinder blocks.  That worked better but only for a while. 

It seemed they really wanted to get to the acorns so we collected them and threw them in.  Then we tried feeding them earlier in the morning.  Then we tried feeding them more.  Finally we decided we just needed to move the whole thing and reinforce it all with rebar attached to the panels to hold them down.  That would make it more work to move it so we would make it small and move it frequently to new ground for them to forage. 

A few days ago we hauled the hog panels up from the other location and my helper here started pounding in rebar.  That bright smile was,  in part,  in anticipation of actually being able to contain the pigs again and  not have to chase and herd pigs twice daily any more.

All settled in their decided smaller digs.   Yaaaa!  There are tons of acorns in there with them.  It's right under a large oak.  And given that it is such a small area they would only be here a few days.

Flash forward to the next morning.  The dogs woke me barking at the pigs that were no longer in their pen but had broken out yet again.   Malia's out in the rain helping to reinforce the pen.  We got them back in and they were out again within a half hour.   OK.... I get it.  We absolutely need electric fencing or at the very least a strand low.   I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building a permanent greenhouse with cattle panels - part 1

The greenhouse today - still a lot to do

Last year I decided I wanted to build a small greenhouse.  I wanted to have a place to start seedlings and be able to pot things in the spring out of the weather and then let them grow on till weather allowed them to go outside.   Since then I've also done a lot of reading about 4 season growing and decided I would like to incorporate an area in the greenhouse to do that too.   I wanted to do it as inexpensively as possible so decided cattle panels would be the way to go.   For anyone that doesn't know what they are, a cattle panel is fencing for livestock you can purchase in sections at Tractor Supply or a feed store.  It's comes in 16' lengths 52" tall.  They run about $20 each.  It's rigid and can be arched to make a structure 8' wide and any length depending on how many you use. I wanted it 8' x 12'.

Last summer I started the base.  It was hard for me to figure out because it was going to be located on a slope and I wanted a dirt floor without having to do ground work to level the area.    I also wanted to make the back end of it to be a place I could put the chickens for the winter so I lined the floor with hardware cloth so it would be predator proof.  

This was what I got done last year.

I added 3 cattle panels

To get the cattle panels on,  I start by clamping a 1" x 4"  board to the base.  I drilled pilot holes along the bottom of the board and then added 2" hex screws.  

I left the hex screws out about a 1/2" to 3/4" so  there was a gap between the base and the board so I could then slide the end of the cattle panel into the space.  The screws kept it from going all the way through to the ground.   When I got all three panels into the boards on both sides I added some  hex screws above so the cattle panels can't be raised.

Then I tightened them all using a socket wrench which makes it fairly fast compared to using a regular wrench.

The cattle panels were older and not as rigid as new ones are so they ended up leaning some.   I cut out a door way and then added a brace to straighten it out till I got permanent bracing in.  Then I added a doorway in front and in the back.

I added the tarp to keep my tools dry in case of rain while I am working on it. When both the front and back doorways are in I can add the bracing to the top by adding 2 - 12'  2 x 4's to the top of the doorways to make it strong enough to handle a snow load.  Right now the back door is only clamped. 

I did the back doorway differently.  You can also see a bit of the hardware cloth that is lining the bottom of the greenhouse.

Hope to get time later this week to finish the front and back but the pigs have been escaping daily so need to redo their situation first.  


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