Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Meet the New Girls

Well, we've finally brought home the mini's. They were waiting to be bred before we brought them home. We have a mini-LaMancha, Shaasta, and a mini-Nubian, Staar. They are both super sweet. Staar is pretty much attached to my leg when I'm out with her. Shaasta just loves a good head scratch and giving goat kisses.

They're getting along pretty well with the other girls. Esmerelda of course is the herd queen and doesn't let the new girls forget it. She came from the same farm. She doesn't bother Shaasta too much but rams poor Staar every time she's in her sights. It's settling down a little bit. Gaabby likes to ride the new girls and give them a jab with her horns if they try to eat 'her' food. Taabitha is her usual non-troublemaking self. She just wants to eat and play and get along with everyone.

The new girls should be bred for February/March kids. Esmerelda should also kid in February. I can't wait!!! The breeder had an 8 week old mini-Mancha. I swear she was less than a foot high and as round as a basketball. I wanted to stick her in my pocket and run. She almost would have fit. Shaasta has Nigerian Dwarf ears, but was bred to a gopher-eared (no ears, just earholes) mini-Mancha buck which means all of her kids will have elf ears(tiny, pointed ears).

Without further ado, let's meet the new girls:

Shaasta reminds me of a sheep.

She has beautiful blue eyes.
She has wattles too.
Staar is beautiful and has ginormous ears. I'll have to watch her in strong winds.

She has kind of frosty polkadots and frosted ears and muzzle. Nubians have always been my favorite goats based on looks(but all of my girls are beautiful).
Here's a nice pic of the herd grazing peacefully.

Taabitha trying to climb the electric pole to get the nettles that clearly taste better than the ones at ground level.

Gaabby grazing. I just love her 'zebra' stripes on her face.
Shaasta's baby daddy, Tinker Toy. Notice the lack of ears. If Shaasta has a girl, I think I"m obligated to name her Tinkerbell aren't I?

Staar's baby daddy, Firecracker. He's from a good lineage.
Don't you think these matings will make some adorable kids? Are there really any kids that aren't adorable? This is going to be a long 155 days. I am soooo anxious. Stay tuned for more goat stories.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bittersweet Farm Rite of Passage

For those of you who don't want to hear about the realities of farming/homesteading stop reading now. If you're still with me, I'm not going to put any pictures in this post.  This evening, I harvested my first chicken. It was a youngish rooster I purchased at the livestock auction in a lot. We have way too many rooster. They pester our hens so much that we keep the hens in their own coop and have a separate area where we let them out.

Something needed done to reduce the rooster population. We've gone into this knowing that we were going to eat some of our livestock. We're not vegetarians. The thought of knowing everything that happened to the animal you eat is comforting. We make sure our animals have the best life that we can give them while they are in our care.

I've read somewhere that usually the first time you butcher a chicken, everything that can go wrong does. I sadly was not able to disprove this theory. The rooster escaped and took off running. He followed the ducks who started running because a chicken was running. The rooster flew right into the middle of the pond. Luckily, he could swim and I collected him when he reached the shore. I thanked him for the nourishment he was going to give us and set about the business again.

I'm not going to go into all of the grisly details, but the actual deed was quicker than I expected which I was thankful for. I was also thankful that I felt sad that the rooster had to lose his life to feed us. I think many of us have become detached from the realities of our food and that is turning into a very bad thing. Some say ignorance is bliss, but I think ignorance is shameful.

I'm very glad that I was able to do this. I also hope that it never becomes easy....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Garden

I hope you are sitting down, but this is the second post in a week! Can you believe it?

My fall garden is actually good enough to post pictures of. My summer garden was best forgotten. Right now, I just have row cover ready for frosty nights. I want to build a hoop house that I saw in the latest issue of Mother Earth News magazine. I may have to modify it some, because the pvc needed to make it is kinda pricey. Their method has the plants covered by row cover and then a hoophouse made of pvc hoops covered in greenhouse plastic. Elliot Coleman claims it's the equivalent of moving your garden 1,000 miles to the south using this method and grows year round in New England.

Now, you can't grow tomatoes or cucumbers in the winter with this method. It works for mainly root vegetables and greens. Here's what I'm growing (and yes, I know I'm behind on weeding...this weekend, I promise)...
Python spinach. I planted another variety and two plants sprouted. This one is growing great!

Radishes and lettuce

Red Beets

Red Swiss Chard

Rocket (arugula) This is my favorite green. It grows like weeds and has a wonderful nutty flavor.

Snow Peas

Super Snappy Peas

Tatsoi. It's an Asian green. This is the first time I've grown it. It has a grassy taste with just a tiny kick. It's still very young so we'll see how it matures.

Mustard Greens. I love these when they're small on sandwiches and in salads. They have a horseradish kick.

Purple top turnip

Purple top rutabaga



Mixed beets

Green onions. They're not growing great.



Short Sweet Carrots

Bright lights chard
I'm probably going to plant a few more things. I'll also reseed some things as I pick them. It's still not too late to get some fall stuff in the ground if you can build a hoophouse. You'd probably even be ok for a month or two with row cover. Hopefully, you'll be seeing pictures of all this bounty on our table at Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Glorious fall

Fall has started to wrap its arms around the farm. The nights are getting chilly, the trees have put on all of their best finery for the farewell to summer celebration. It's a glorious time that is a little bittersweet. There's still so much that I wanted to get done before winter, but I'll focus on the things I did accomplish and make a list of all the things I want to get done in winter. It's so much fun experiencing the seasons for the first time on the farm. It's just gorgeous.

This weekend is supposed to be the peak weekend for fall colors. So much has happened around the farm since the last post. Of course, that may be because it has been so long since the last post. I'll hit the highlights.

My mom and step-dad came up for my brother's wedding and stayed with us. My step-dad and I really accomplished a lot. There were sitting in the kitchen having coffee one morning while I went out to let all of the animals out and feed and water them. I walked in the barn and all was well. I opened the door to the pasture and didn't see the fence. We use electric netting for the poultry and goats (for now). I thought part of it had fallen down. I couldn't imagine how that would happen. I walked out to do a little checking and over 100 feet of the fence was just gone. I walked to the section where the fence was still there. I saw fence dragged around the corner of the barn. I walked around the corner of the barn and saw this:

An eight point buck was tangled in the electric netting and had pulled the fence clear around the barn. It was only attached to the barn at one end. I ran into the house to get my step-dad, huffing and puffing. He followed me to the field in disbelief. We assessed the situation and decided to run the deer around the tree:

Cover his eyes to calm him down (which worked like a charm):
And then hogtie him so he wouldn't do us a mischief:

I worked on untangling the fence from his antlers. We only had to cut one strand to get it loose! And the deer had only broken one strand! I think I should send my story to the fence company and do a testimonial for some free fence. When the fence was off, my step-dad loosened the rope and I held the blanket. We counted to We both ran away from the deer. The deer leaped to his feet in a flash and was aimed straight at me. We both paused about a second and ran in opposite directions. I bet that deer is still running. Nothing like wrestling a deer to the ground to get the heart pumping.

The next big story is that we are officially goat owners. I went to the livestock auction just to check things out. I wasn't planning on buying a goat and then this little black and white beauty came out. I'm a sucker for black and white animals. Good thing they don't sell zebras. My auction card flew in the air and the next thing you know, I was a goat owner. My 13 year old niece was with me. I have a Jeep SUV. She was going to hold it in the back for the 30 minute ride home. I went to put her in the back and just as the hatch was about to close, out she came. The chase was on. The farm that belongs to the Amish gentleman who owns the auction house is very close....and he has many goats. They all started cheering on the goat on the lamb (pun intended). Some other auction-goers saw our dilemna and helped us capture the little fugitive.

I put her back in the Jeep and went on our merry way. About halfway home, I called Chad to let him know to get the pen ready. I didn't tell him what I was bringing home and acted like I was getting bad reception. He didn't fall for it. Hey, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I swear I didn't plan on buying her, but could you resist this?

Here is Gaabby trip-tropping over the bridge. Luckily, the troll wasn't home.
 This leads right into the story of how we got goat number 2, Taabitha. Chad makes me put two A's in their name when it's in the middle. I figure I owed him that for springing a goat on him out of the blue. I went back to the auction with my step-dad. He is one of those people who has never met a stranger and LOVES telling jokes. I notice this guy walk past me wearing an eyepatch. I hear my step-dad behind me, "Don't get mad at me when I say this." I start looking for a place to hide. "Do you ever tell your friends you'll keep an eye out for them?" Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Luckily, the guy thought it was hilarious and they hit it off.

This guy is a homesteader who raises goats. He ended up sitting with us for the auction. We're half watching the auction and chatting about all things goat. He's talking about something and I'm nodding agreement and kind of watching the current goat on the block. We continue talking and the auctioneer bangs his gavel, "SOLD to the guy in the second row." I look up and he's looking right at me. "Number please?" I look over to my newfound friend, "Did I just buy that goat?". "I think you did", he said with a smile. "How much did I pay for that goat?" I asked. It eneded up it was only $65 and was a grade Alpine with papers. I felt like I was in a sitcom. I didn't think those situations really happened in the real world. I think the next time I go to the auction, I'm going to try to find one of those contraptions they put on you when you break your neck and also sit on my hands. Of course, I now have carte blanche to bring home anything and say, "I wasn't bidding on it. I was just nodding and bought a __________!"

Here is our accidental goat, Taabitha.
 Just a couple more updates. We have two more goats (that I bought on purpose) that are getting bred before we pick them up. Babies in February if everything goes right. We're getting a mini-Nubian(Staar) and mini-LaMancha(Shaasta). Shaasta has Nigerian ears. She's being bred to a gopher-eared buck which means she will have all elf-eared kids. The names are subject to change. They're both beautiful and very sweet.
Staar and Shaasta. The two faces by my hand. Shaasta has blue eyes!
The woman we're getting the girls from had a Nigerian doe that has horns. All of her other goats are disbudded or polled. Gaabby has horns. She gave us Snickers (who became Esmerelda) since she has horns and is unregistered. She's a beautiful Nigerian, just a little people-skittish. She was with a Nigerian buck for the last month so chances are... What do you think? Isn't she pretty?

Esmerelda fka Snickers
 My step-dad and I built this luxurious pen for the new goats:
I think we're going to have to build another because Esmerelda is a grumpy herd queen and the little ones are constantly cowering in the corner.

Oh, oh. I probably should have put this story first. We went to the Country Living Fair in Columbus, OH, stood in line for about 2 hours, and MET THE FABULOUS BEEKMAN BOYS. They really have inspired us in our farm endeavors. Their reality show on Planet Green was what finally helped me talk Chad into moving to the country. I owed them a HUGE thank you (and probably Chad a smack in the head, but we all have to do things in our own time). We bought their heirloom cookbook which is chock full of great recipes and has places to add your own to become heirlooms for future generations.

My last update is my fall garden. The summer garden was a complete bust. It got in late from all the spring rains and it was just too much for me to take on right when I'm moving into a new place. I think the fall garden is going to redeem my green thumb. I have all kinds of root vegetables ( beets, turnips, kohlrabi, carrots, rutabagas), onions, greens (turnips, mustard, lettuces, tatsoi, mache, arrugula, chicory) among a few other things. It is growing GREAT. I have row cover over it now. I plan on building a hoop house out of PVC pipe and greenhouse plastic to put over the row cover. This is the equivalent of moving your garden about 1000 miles south. We're hoping to provide most of the food for our Thanksgiving this year (already have the turkeys fattening).

How is fall treating you?