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!

We’re all sick here with the exception of a lucky few, so this is going to be short and sweet…

Went to a farm on Sunday and picked up fertilized eggs.  A variety of colors for a variety of chickens.  They’ll all be cross bred, but I’m not starting with $8-$12/dozen eggs to see if our incubator works!  The neighbors charged me a whopping $1.50 per dozen 🙂  They even threw in a free cat, lol. 

A variety of eggs!

A variety of eggs!

 The intention had been to  make our own incubator.   We went to Lowe’s and tossed the necessary equipment into our cart.  I was pretty excited.  But then we added up the bill and to make the incubator would have cost us approximately $65.  This incubator (a still air Little Giant) was $40.  That sweet and handy husband of mine has intentions of adding a fan to it.  (Old computers ARE good for something!)  For those of you who would really like to make your own, you can find great instructions at the Backyard Chicken Forum here.

Little Giant Still Air Incubator and Sweetest Pea

Little Giant Still Air Incubator and Sweetest Pea

 

Personally if I were going to recommend one, it would probably be the Hovabator brand and NOT this one, but you know what?  It was local and it was cheap and it was there when I had eggs.  Now, that said, we’ll be curious to see what kind of hatch we get…  If I got 50% I’d be happy.  If I  get 2/3 to hatch, I”ll be thrilled!  Honestly, with as many times as the kids have gotten on the table to “just look” if we get two chickens we should be ecstatic.

Eggs!!  In the Incubator!!

Eggs!! In the Incubator!!

This is pretty exciting for me.  It’s supposed to be for school, for the kids, blah, blah, blah.  We all know this is for Mom and that she’s probably the biggest kid of all.  But it’s pretty exciting!  Now, to just remember to turn them 3 times a day.  

For those of you also doing this, check out the University of Nebraska’s Embryology page.  Links to see candling, developing embryos, and more.  For those of you who don’t think you can do this because you can’t keep the chickens, local farmers are MORE than willing to “loan” out the eggs and then take the hens off your hands.  As a matter of fact, you’re doing all the hard work and they’re getting chickens!

*Do you realize sick children do not interrupt?  In here 15 minutes already and nothing…  Yup, that’s how you can tell they’re sick.  Have a good day.

So, two days ago on another forum we were asked to SHOW what a day was like for us.  Another forum had asked to see what our school rooms / school day looked like in homeschooling families.  So, yesterday,  the camera followed us around all day….

Morning comes around 5:30.  I get up with dh to make the coffee and see him off…  Still dark, and chilly.  No fire. 😦 

No ashes either.

No ashes either.

 But any morning that starts with coffee is a good morning. 🙂

And a favorite cup

And a favorite cup

A little computer time

A little computer time

But then

Sun's Up!

Sun's Up!

Chores will be a little chilly this morning.

Chores will be a little chilly this morning.

But first, a little breakfast of granola

But first, a little breakfast of granola

Or with strawberries :)

Or with strawberries 🙂

Preparing Breakfast for Dogs

Preparing Breakfast for Dogs

Big Brother Juices

Big Brother Juices

Sweetest Pea helps me sterilize for milking

Sweetest Pea helps me sterilize for milking

Girly Girl milks Cinderella

Girly Girl milks Cinderella

She milks Cinderella first, because Cinderella holds still, doesn’t kick, lets milk down easily, and pretty much pours it out into the bucket.   Gypsy… Um, well, not so much ANY of those things.  Old Bat.

I strain, measure, and chill

I strain, measure, and chill

 By this point, all little girls, big girls, and Big Brother have showered and are dressed.  Big Brother watches Shortie Pie while the rest of us go out and do chores.  His turn comes next.

Chicken Chores - Feeding Leftovers from Juicing

Chicken Chores - Feeding Leftovers from Juicing

Feed all the babies.

Feed all the babies.

 

Big Brother gets a bale of alfalfa for the does from the other barn.

Big Brother gets a bale of alfalfa for the does from the other barn.

 

While I milk.  Yes, in my pajamas.

While I milk. Yes, in my pajamas.

Showered and Dressed... Only four hours after waking up.

Showered and Dressed... Only four hours after waking up.

Finally.  We’re ready to start school.  Everyone is dressed, everyone is fed, including beasts.  I WISH we were all organized too.  As this is technically a cross-post because I’m lazy and was supposed to take pictures of my school areas last week. (Different board – school areas in a small house) This is going to double for  both posts. 🙂  Wait!  That’s not lazy.  It’s MULTI-TASKING!  It’s actually uber efficient.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Books, functioning as school books, in general state of disorganization.

Books, functioning as school books, in general state of disorganization.

This was our $14 find at the last farm auction we went to.  It allows me to have the rest of my books on my bookshelves.  I am VERY grateful. 

More coming……

I’ve been making soap for a good while, but this is our first batch from our own goats!  Made from calendula infused olive oil, shea butter, goatmilk, and more!  No synthetic fragrance oils, just lavender essential oil….

Lavender & Goatmilk Soap

Lavender & Goatmilk Soap

 Oh thank you, thank you, thank you Miss Prissy!

Guess what I’m making this weekend?

An egg incubator.  Yes ma’am you heard it here first.  We’ll call it a homeschooling expense, shall we?  (Even though we really know it’s just for mom.)

Link for those interested:
Great Incubator Instructions

 

Chore Boot Snowdrift

Chore Boot Snowdrift

Um, yeah.  A real farmer would know to take his boots in before a snow storm. 

Did I mention it was 8 degrees this morning?  Wow, milking goats was so idyllic in my head.

Clueless.  That’s me.  Absolutely clueless.  As I gleefully milked my goats last week in 50-60 degree weather, who would have ever thought it was going to get cold?  Now, rationally, we live in Iowa.  But, I’m telling you, I really just didn’t see it coming.  It’s three degrees this morning!  THREE.  That’s it.  Why, after twenty below weather, does anything above zero feel nice, but after 50 degree weather, three degrees feels insanely cold?  I’m SO chilled from chores!

Legend, however, didn’t mind the cold this morning.  As a matter of fact, he seemed to love it, jumping around in the snow!

Legend investigates.

Legend investigates.

I’m a lot of things.  The thing I am not is an enthusiastic hobby farmer when it’s cold.  I will say that goats come with certain perks.  I am no longer tempted to sleep in as I have no choice.  But I haven’t yet decided what is better – the fact that I am forced to wake up and stay up at the crack of dawn (okay, before) and get moving, OR the fact that by the time I’m done with our various chores it’s 8:00, all the kids are awake, and I’m full of the knowledge that now I get no shower ’til naptime and will have to smell like goat butt until then.  Sigh.  I still like them though!

Gypsy modeling my new milk stand

Gypsy modeling my new milk stand

This is what my favorite man built me this weekend!  I told you he was handy.  There are a lot of things I like about my husband.  But, my favorite one is how he’ll willingly throw himself under the bus for any new little hobby I pick up.  I can say that he has, with great relish, thrown himself into these goats.   We found the plans courtesy of Fias Co Farm and you can visit their site by clicking on the picture above.  He had it cut and together in no time flat, but that may well be due to talent. 🙂

Above is the PROPER way to use a milkstand.  Below is not so proper.  Is this how you train a doeling to milk?????

Naughty Babies

Naughty Babies

 Please note Lilac, the ringleader, is in the middle.  Lilac is our troublemaker.  She cleared a 3.5′ fence this morning with frighteningly little effort.  I’m worried.  Beside her are her cohorts, Lola and Latte.  Lola is getting the grain out of the bucket.  Latte is just a willing follower to Lilac.  Where one (Lilac) goes, the other two are right behind.  The three stooges – goat style.

As promised, here is a quick picture of our seedling starter.  It has adjustable shelves and then has a multi-cord plug in attached to the side.  The grower lights attach to the bottom of each shelf to shine on the shelf below it.  It would be incredibly simple to build, but wow, how wonderful it will be for our seeds!  We can’t wait.  We have almost no limit to the size of garden here, so this is pretty thrilling.  Heirloom plants would be nearly impossible to find locally, so starting them from seed is our best option.

Seed Starter Shelving

Seed Starter Shelving

 

And, leaving you with a final picture of Mark’s $4 recliner.  I’ll be spending time down there this morning in front of the woodburner, trying to get rid of this chill from chores this morning!  Would it be wrong to have the kids do school in the old cellar?

CJ getting cozy on Dad's recliner

CJ getting cozy on Dad's recliner

Well, I had one DOOZY of a weekend.  So, we decided two weeks ago that we were now prepared to be adoptive goat parents.  We traveled to Guttenberg, Iowa Saturday morning to meet Jan and Paul from Rainbow Gate.  They were about the nicest folks one could hope to meet and their daughter was absolutely fantastic, just the kind of kid that’s out-going, friendly, and sweet.  I could have quite happily taken her home and added her to our bunch.  Such a great girl.   But, I’m getting sidetracked.  They were kind enough to mark a few of their calmest Saanen does for us so that we could pick a nice, laid back milker for our first experience. 

Cinderella

Cinderella

 See her lovely purple collar?  Mark picked it out for her!  Well, after having milked Cinderella three times now, I can honestly say, “ALWAYS let the owner/breeder choose your goat.”  Jan and Paul must have just given us their best goat.  She really is a princess.  She is the calmest goat I’ve ever seen, not that I’ve seen a lot of goats! 😛  She has been incredibly patient with me while I’ve wiggled, twisted, tugged, and attempted to milk her.  Blessedly for BOTH of us, I think I’ve got this milking thing down.  This morning I was incredibly efficient (for me) and she was kind enough to give us 92 ounces yesterday.  The babies greatly appreciate Cinderella’s milk instead of that nasty kid formula.  After picking out Cinderella, we moved to where they keep the kids.  It was the sweetest sight ever… They are breeding to Saanen bucks this year, so their babies are snowy white and just adorable.  We were able to pick out four little girls, including one they had picked for themselves that we fell in love with.  Her name is now Latte because she has a creamy light coffee color to her.  Christian’s little doeling is a Nubian/Saanen mix and she is incredibly precocious- the kind word for obnoxious.  True to her Nubian blood, she is by far the most mischeivious, demanding, and the loudest.  But we love her for it!  She’s been dubbed Lilac.  My favorite baby is a little LaMancha mix.  Her real name is  Lullaby, but we’re calling her Lola.  Lola wants to be loved and cuddled at all times.  The final little doeling is a Saanen and her name is Heidi to commemorate her Swiss heritage.

Shortly after we brought the babies home and fed them for the first time (Cinderella’s milk) we knew we were in trouble.  Kid formula is NOT the greatest choice for them and it became abundantly obvious that feeding them partial formula was going to cost us a small fortune.  It only took us one feeding to decide it was time to “invest” in another goat.  We called up a local couple, John & Barbara Puff of New Foundation (story here) to see if he’d sell us another goat.  He was able to help us that night, inspite of needing to get to his grandson’s wrestling meet.  (Hope he did well John!)  We had gotten to meet John and Barbara a couple of weeks previous when we visited their beautiful operation.  We’d planned to get a bred doe from him in late Spring, but it only seemed prudent to move up the date.   We decided to get a bred doe rather than one already in milk, with the hopes of the children being able to be present at the birth.  We let John pick out the doe which ended up being a VERY good move.  John never let us down.  (And also sent Tim home with a cute little buckling that will soon be a whether.  His name is Captain Blackjack.)  He picked out a beautiful doe that I’m pretty sure is an Alpine/Oberhalsi mix.  She is incredibly beautiful and sweet and has since been named Gypsy.  We wanted one that was fairly close to delivering, but I’m not entirely sure we signed up for what was about to come.  Keep in mind that this was SATURDAY NIGHT!  Sunday was a beautiful day for us.  We were kept busy with babies and mamas and milking.  The children love their goats more than I’ve ever seen any children love any animal ever.  Elizabeth spent over nine hours with the goats yesterday.  Can an animal die from being petted and held too much?  I sure hope not!

Ana with Lilac & Liz with Heidi

Ana with Lilac & Liz with Heidi

Even Abigail learned very quickly to take care of the goats.  By the midday feeding she told me, “I feed the baby goat my own self.”  And so she did!  The whole bottle to Lola. 

Abigail & Lola

Abigail & Lola

Things were going so well.  In the early afternoon, my beautiful little sister (also expecting) came over to visit and see our new family members.  She was completely convinced that our new doe was in labor.  She sure seemed to be to me as well as I thought we sat there and watched her strain through two contractions.  She seemed to be murmuring to herself as well.  But what did I know??  I had owned goats for ALMOST 24 hours at this point… Talk about clueless.  There were no signs of impending labor other than instinct at this point.  I knew her ligaments by her tailbone were very loose, but keep in mind I had no idea what they looked like before yesterday.  Thinking that labor might be coming on, we checked on her periodically.  By 4:50 there was no doubt.  The tell tale “amber goo” was hanging down and by the Fiasco site, labor should progress within the next sixty minutes.  I have to tell you, that hour passed fairly quickly, and all of us were pretty restless, but alas, no babies.  Having grown up on a farm, I understood that these things can take time, but I’ll tell you after having spent some significant time on that site, and knowing they KNEW what they were talking about I was getting worried.  I let my folks talk me into waiting long.  After an hour and a half I was getting really concerned.  She was straining hard and we hadn’t seen any little hooves yet.  Coming up on two hours, I finally called John.  He told me we might just have a little feel and a look around.   And when I did I just thought, “Oh dear.”  There was a tangle of little legs and a spine.  I was having a hard time distinguishing front legs from back legs and didn’t know which legs belonged to which baby.  And I remembered those very calming words on the site, “Just close your eyes and visualize.”  After several prayers because I think God cares about every bit of our lives, we were able to sort out one baby but because of so many little ones crammed into this mama, I couldn’t get a head and foreleg presentation.  I took what I could get and we delivered that first baby breech.  I’ll tell you I was pretty sure that this one would be dead.  It just took me so long to get her turned around.  It was a very hard thing to do this first time, this sorting out of body parts! 

Goat Midwifery

Goat Midwifery

Sorry, it’s  bit visual.  I didn’t even know Mark took pictures until AFTER the delivery.  I was pretty intent on what Gypsy and I were working on.  Blessedly, that first baby was completely alive!  And again, thanks to the Fiasco site, we went to work on her and got her nose clear and under the mama to clean up.  We went back in to see what else we’d find.  It was far easier to turn the next baby and bring her out feet and head first.  Another doeling!  One more time in and we could tell this little kid was bigger than her siblings.  But she was turned correctly so with a tiny bit of guidance, a beautiful little black doeling was delivered with no assistance at all.  Mama was hard at work cleaning up her little ones.  We ended up with three healthy, beautiful little girls. 

Gypsy and the triplets

Gypsy and the triplets

Now, if you don’t know much about goats, let me tell you.  Three healthy little doelings in one birth is kind of like hitting the Goat Lottery Jackpot.  I was thrilled and they have been appropriately named Glory, Praise and Halle for Hallelujah.  One is reddish brown, one blonde, and one black and all have little tiny LaMancha ears from their daddy.  Mama is doing well this morning and we’ve gotten the little ones to nurse several times.  She is an outstanding mother.  Now, we know that the standard thing is to rip mama from her babies and bottlefeed the babies so we can have the milk.  I’m not doing it.  Whoever thought goats were careless mothers have never seen Gypsy.  I just will NOT do it.  Careless my tailfeathers!  I’ve seen a lot of mama animals and I’ve never seen one so loving as Gypsy. 

Got goatmilk?

Got goatmilk?

When the babies are 1-2 weeks old we’ll start putting them with the other kids at night and we’ll milk her in the morning and then leave the babies with her the rest of the day.  But Gypsy is going to get to raise her babies.  It’s just utterly odd and unnatural for a family milker (vs. operational dairy) to take away babies.  Thank you again to the Fiasco Goat Farm for encouraging us to raise our goats in a natural state and not feel pressured to separate them as has been the recently expected norm.  

And so this was one very long weekend and the tale of how we went from no goats to ten goats in two days.  What a serious learning curve!  But, I can honestly say I now understand how people fall in love with goats.  They are as sweet and friendly as puppies!  I had no idea.  I can tell you we are going to thoroughly enjoy all of our girls… And Blackjack!

 

Jack

Jack