OMGoodness, it was a long weekend.  I’m completely, thoroughly EXHAUSTED.  Did we get it all done?  Nope.  But, wow, we got quite a lot done.  The barn was gutted and we started over….  We now have three separate chicken pens, so far, with more to come.  The bunnies have an approx. 15′ x 12′ foot area for their little colony.  DH promises me toys for the rabbits.  I’m thinking a tiered platform, a place to crawl under, and a few little wire bottom nest boxes.  This with a few cardboard boxes to chew on should make them very happy.   The hens have their coop back and they seem appropriately grateful.  We’ll see how many eggs we get today. 🙂

Ana made Sarah’s birthday cake and did a lovely job.

Let me tell you, the Amish Division of Duties has a purpose!  On Saturday I worked inside all day long.  DH worked outside all day long.  At the end of the day we’d had three square meals, a clean house, crisp laundry, and an altogether pleasant day.  We had supervised children, good naps, and at the end of the day we rested, feeling accomplished.  Did I mention the rhubarb pie?  Hands down, THE best pie I’ve ever made.  And it had the flakiest crust… I used lard instead, as a good cook should. 🙂  I didn’t know you could make pie with ONLY rhubarb and still have it as sweet and delicious as a rhubarb mutt pie.  But I had nothing to mix it with, and was forced to use only rhubarb.  I think I’m making it again today.  So wonderful!

Fast forward to yesterday, day four of our long weekend.  We got moving fairly early on and headed out to the barn for the reconstruction.  I came in at lunch time and made lunch, but other than that we were flying by the seat of our pants.  Oh, and I admit it, we took a one hour nap.  😛  We deserved it.  We didn’t come in for supper last night until almost 9:30 in a last frantic effort to get it all done.  It didn’t happen.

We were expecting a homeschool group today and so that was our motivation to get it all done.  It didn’t happen.  But, as it rained all day yesterday and it’s expected to rain all day today, the visit by the group has been cancelled.  And that’s for the best.  Because everything is MUD.  And on a farm, mud isn’t wet dirt, it’s wet… Well, you get the picture and the picture isn’t pretty.  I’m a little sad as I really wanted to meet everyone!  However, we had planned on a great little picnic lunch, and as DH is only in the planning stages of our big table, we currently only have four chairs, the computer chair, and one very small dining room table.  At meals, two children sit at the island and two more sit at the Step 2 plastic table.  It works well enough, and I’m really excited about the Amish style trestle table we’ve been planning.  We are using reclaimed barn wood and we’ll have big, long benches.  Imagine it – ALL of us sitting around the same table.  Very exciting.  Even better, DH will have made it.  Honestly, I don’t even care if it turns out ugly…  I just think it will be neat to sit around a table my DH made with his own hands. 

What else was on my list?  Oh yes!  Stake the goats.   LOL!  Well, you can’t say we didn’t try.  And try.  And try.  And the only thing it resulted in was putting Heidi up for sale.  This is Heidi:

buddies

She’s a pretty little Saanen, but what we’re going to spend in aspirin really isn’t going to make her worth it.
She uses the window sill of the barn to vault her over a five foot fence.  No, really, she does.  She can crawl through cattle gate and under a gate that the mini doesn’t get through.  She’s exhausting.  So we staked her.  She managed to somehow get the collar to unclip.  How does a goat pull that off?  Sigh.

Stormy & Sunny

Stormy & Sunny

This is Stormy & Sunny.  They’re CJ’s pigs.  Aren’t they, um, well, lovely?  We cleaned their pen yesterday and MY they are naughty…   And yes, daring.  Yes, they escaped too.  Tim was supposed to keep them away while I did poop removal.  Never trust your four year old to hold back the vicious pigs. 🙂  Who KNEW pigs could run that fast?  I sure didn’t.  I tell you I am going to stay in such good shape, lean and trim, this pregnancy.  Stormy and Sunny have learned to tip their trough and roll it through the poop.  Now, that’s FUN.  And they can also jump in their water tub and splash all the water out until it’s light enough to roll around through poop too.  Smart pigs, hm?  Ha Ha.  I outsmarted them.  And, pathetically, I was pretty proud that I *could* outsmart them.  I think the more I work with livestock, the more easily I take pride in being able to outsmart them.  I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or just really sad.   I took my handy dandy drill and attached BOTH to the wall with really long screws.  And they were still there this morning.  Always a good sign.

A Boy & His Boat

A Boy & His Boat

And because rain has ruined my day, here’s the gratuitious rainy day photo.  Nope, not our farm.  It was our house in town last year.  But isn’t it fun? The cardboard box is his boat.  Our neighbor, Jim, (I miss him!) said he was going to put bluegills in there the next time it rained because Tim was so excited about having his very own pond.  Blessedly, shortly after this, DH and another neighbor dug up backyard and fixed the tile.  Poor Tim, no more pond.  But, let be said, the only thing I miss about moving here is that we couldn’t take all of our neighbors with us.  They were so awesome.

Camping

Camping

I REALLY wanted to take the kids to my Uncle John’s timber this weekend camping.  It truly is “roughing” it as there is NO escape from the outdoors – you couldn’t get a camper, or a PortaJohn for that matter, down there if you tried.  But you could never, ever duplicate the experience.  Yes, it’s never fun getting poison ivy on your more delicate parts from visiting Mrs. Murphy (you’d have to read Cheaper by the Dozen to understand), but at the same time, we hunt, gather, and find more herbs and edibles there than you can imagine. 

Rebecca & Jewelweed

Rebecca & Jewelweed

Thankfully, in that very poison ivy filled timber, there is also jewelweed – a.k.a. Touch-Me-Not.  Rebecca is with pale Touch-Me-Nots, but we were also able to find the more potent orange  spotted Touch-Me-Nots.  This was last year.  I have the frozen syrup in my freezer as the dried herb doesn’t work effectively.  Only fresh or frozen… I’ve been storing it all year long, just hoping to get poison ivy to try it out. 

 

Elderberries

Elderberries

A rather nice haul of elderberries wouldn’t you say?  Now, the only thing I’ve wanted to make this year is Clover jam and Dandelion blossom jam.  I was hoping for a trip to the timber yesterday and a batch, but alas, it did not happen.  Now, if only we can stay motivated to finish the barn today and tomorrow, then MAYBE this weekend will be for fun and playing.  Ya think?
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How is it that we keep accumulating more animals?  I’m a little confused.  Nothing else has given birth and yet…..  More animals.

I’ll be adding pictures this morning of our newest acquisitions – Stormy and Sunny.  Thanks Grandpa.  Just what we needed. 😛

So, it was time for the little ones to get disbudded.  And, me, being a gutless coward, headed off to a semi-local goat dairy.   Their son was ever so kind enough to do the dirty deed for me so that I wouldn’t have to be the bad guy to Latte and Heidi, who are now, for their own good, hornless goats.  Sigh.  It was pretty awful.

In the meantime, Miss Elizabeth went with me for moral support for Heidi.  They’re pretty close.  But at the last minute, Lizzie decided she couldn’t bear to watch.  So, she went off with the daughter in law to look at something….

Um, yes, pygmy goats.  Do they have a purpose?  Um, no.  I don’t think so.  Are we getting one?  Why yes, yes we are.  Why?  Couldn’t tell you.  BUT, Princess fell in love and Daddy said okay, and it’s a done deal.  Angel, our new little pygmy will be joining us in two weeks.  She’s really cute.  And about the size of our cat.  Yeah, not kidding.  TINY!

Now, that said, it, of course, led to a discussion on what are miniatures good for?  My thoughts, nothing.  But I was SO wrong!!

Turns out pygmies are the miniature version of a meat goat.  And Nigerian Dwarves are the miniature of a dairy goat.  See here?

Nigerian Dwarf Goat

Nigerian Dwarf Goat

So, a doe should be 17″-19″ in height.   Whereas if you take your average Saanen, they’re going to be about 32″ high.  So, you can see there’s a pretty significant difference.  And the same in milk supply…  Your average Saanen is going to give you about a gallon per day, or 8 pounds of milk.  The Nigerian is going to give you 3-4 pounds of milk per day, with 4 pounds maxing it out, or in other words, a 1/2 gallon at peak production.

Now, you combine the two and you have a mini Saanen!  The best of both worlds – you can feed your goats half what a normal goat would eat, due to their tiny stature and plan on getting about a 6 pounds of milk per day from your doe on average.  The Nigerian Dwarf in the genetics will also help drive up that butterfat content.  And let’s face it… Minis are NOT perfect for the average dairy farmer.  But, how fantastic are they for a suburban homesteader?  They’re slightly smaller than your average boxer dog, and since you really need to own two goats rather than one, the 1.5 gallons you get per day is just about perfect for any family, with a little leftover.   For us, we really wanted to own a buck.  With a half dozen does around, it’s going to be very inconvenient to not own our own buck.  However, with our space limitations and the need to keep the buck separate from the does, we just couldn’t see a way to make it happen.  Add to that the fact that I just can’t see myself dealing with a large, amorous, obnoxious buck and we have a problem.  When the buck is smaller than my dog, it makes it a little more convenient.  We can actually keep him in a large indoor/outdoor kennel attached to the barn.  Mini Saanens and Mini LaManchas…. for the homesteading family.  I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited!

Goat books know nothing about goats.

I take everything back I said about it being WRONG to wean the kids from their mama.  The little theives (the triplets) along with help from Little Lola, have robbed me blind of my milk.

Yesterday morning was a banner day.  We locked the little ones in their dog kennel (5′ sq. chain link kennel in the loafing barn) overnight.  Milked mamas in the AM.

Cinderella – 4lbs even
Gypsy – a whopping 5lbs. 10 oz.

This is a fabulous amount of milk for us!  We were thrilled. 

The children told me yesterday, “The triplets nurse off of Cinderella and Gypsy.”  “Oh no,” I told them, “Cinderella won’t feed any of the babies.  She isn’t their mama.”  Elizabeth pipes up, “And she nurses Lola!”  Now, I’ve caught Lola sneaking milk, so I know this to be true.

Sure enough.  Milk time rolled around last night and Cinderella gave me…

What?  Four pounds?  No.  Three pounds?  Nope.  Not even TWO pounds of milk.  That’s right.  The little milk stealers took almost all of it.  Now, I had some set aside (for my REAL children, not the kids) that I got to feed the other four starving goats.  Do you think I gave Lola her full bottle?  No I did not! 

And so it’s official.  All babies are all weaned as of today.  They’re getting bottles and I’m not letting them back in with the big does until they know milk doesn’t come from UDDERS, it comes from a BOTTLE.  Maybe this way we’ll end up with a little milk too.

Heartless?  Maybe.  But I tell you I’m figuring out this goat raisin’ learning curve.

Ooh, I want these so badly!

Ooh, I want these so badly!

The point of this post -to prove that making yogurt can be quick, painless, and easy.  Did I buy a gadget?  Yes, yes, I did.  I’m, as a rule, opposed to a ton of clutter.  But, I am trying hard to distinguist between Fantasy World and Real World in my life.  In my fantasy world, I would save each bit of yogurt to make more starter.  I would slowly prepare it at the hearth each morning and leave it undisturbed until I had perfect, creamy yogurt.

Okay, REAL WORLD now.  We’re busy, life is hectic, and I’m always using my oven.  There is very little chance that it will remain undisturbed and I’m not throwing out milk or yogurt.  No way!  Yogurt was costing us a small fortune.  I knew it was important for the kiddos to get probiotics WITHOUT all the sugars that most commercial yogurts contain.  So, we bought a gadget.  The gadget is the EuroCuisine.  Three things sold me on it.  The first is that it makes yogurt in glass, not plastic.  The second is each glass jar is a single serve container.  The final selling point is that you can buy an extra set of jars.  One set for the fridge, one to be making yogurt – no down time needed.   For us it has meant we can break a few and not freak out.   The selling price was a serious perk.  It’s $29.00.  I can save that yogurt alone.   Onto the demonstration!

Warming Milk

Warming Milk

First we warm the milk ’til bubbles appear around the edges.  Then allow it to cool.  This is a multi-tasking step, meaning it doesn’t require great concentration.  But, don’t scald your milk.  It is very important you allow it to cool before adding yogurt or you’ll kill all the good little bugs.

Add a dollop of yogurt.

Add a dollop of yogurt.

I add about a tablespoon of “LAC” yogurt to each jar.  This simply means the yogurt you buy should have the LAC symbol on the back.  I have heard / read that Stoneybrook has the highest amount of probiotic cultures in it.  It also has the added benefit of being organic.  I happen to know that Stoneybrook does work beautifully as a starter.  Plus, you don’t have to spend all the $$ on expensive yogurt starter.  About a tablespoon works just fine in each jar.  I’ve not experimented with this.

Add cooled milk.

Add cooled milk.

Just what it says… add the cooled milk!  Give it a little stir and pop on the lid and push go.  I set the timer, generally, for about nine hours.  What’s that cute little catch phrase?  Set it and forget it!

 

Breakfast

Breakfast

The finished product!  Some have said, add honey, it’s a great sweetener.  I always wonder if they’ve EVER made yogurt!  I’d love to figure out how they get warm, pourable honey to not coagulate into the cold yogurt.  I’d love to use honey, but it simply does NOT work for me.  So, we use 100% fruit spread instead and assorted fruit!  With the little cups you have the added bonus of being able to make seven assorted flavors.  Yeah, cool, I know!