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!

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

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

It’s 56 degrees here today with the sun shining.  Wild horses could not have dragged the children inside today.  It’s days like this that I simply adore homeschooling.  We have the freedom to take today off and ENJOY it.  I have no doubt we’ll have plenty of cold days ahead to make up the work!  I thought I’d share a few pictures of the little ones enjoying the day!

Abigail and Latte

Abigail and Latte

Rebecca also did some bonding with our little babies.  Unfortunately for her that blonde hair sure reminds  Lilac of something yummy.

Rebecca, Latte, and Lilac

Rebecca, Latte, and Lilac

 

Elizabeth didn’t want The Little Red Hen (yes, we really call her all of that) to be lonely and so spent some time with the chickens as well.

The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen

We tried to get the chickens to leave their little Chicken Shack, but alas, these chickies are not used to being outside yet!  See?  What chickens!

The Cowardly Chickens

The Cowardly Chickens

And, because I utterly blew off ALL housework today, we were able to go get big wooden spools from the energy company here.  They gave them to us for free and the babies are loving the new toy!  So is Tim!

A boy and his….. Goat?

Our Two Little Boys

Our Two Little Boys

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