February 2011


I need some advice from my farmer/homesteader/livestock owning readers. 

Although the move is not 100% guaranteed yet, after another inspection yesterday, the percentage is climbing quickly, and things are looking pretty certain.  That being said, I have been preparing my shopping list and researching items I want and need.  I raised all sorts of livestock in the past, but has been a few years.  I’m not sure about a couple things, though. 

Should I get:

  • for the brooder, a slide top chicken feeder or quart jar attachment base feeder?  FYI, we will likely not have more than about 25 chicks at one time for now.
  • for the grown layer hens, should I invest on one of the large hanging feeders/waters?
  • standard milk pail or pail with crescent moon lid to help prevent spills/contaminants for this newbie?
  • a stripping cup for milking?
  • a goat collar or halter, and if so, which one?  I have used a collar in the past, but never a halter.
  • for milk filtering, which if preferrable–cheese cloth or dairy filters?

I think that’s it for now.  Also, if you have a favorite online farm supply store you use, with really good prices, please pass that on.  My favorites that I used to use carry mostly horse stuff.  Thanks in advance!

Lala’s first litter of kits are doing great.  She has turned out to be a great mommy, and amazingly, has even become extra social and friendly toward us.  Although she still doesn’t like to be picked up, she is suddenly eager for pets, scratches, and if we sit, she will climb all over us.  Considering how she wanted nothing to do with us prior to the birth, it is odd, but the kids are just loving it!  A little too much perhaps…..but more about that later.  First, here are some updates on the baby bunnies…

3 kits in M's lap

They are about 10 days old now, and doing great.  As it turns out, there were 8 kits, and so far, all are growing beautifully.  There seems to be 1 slightly larger than the others, and 1 slightly smaller, and all the rest are identical.  The difficulty is that they are all the same color too, so it is so far impossible to tell one apart from another!  I have always had a fascination with genetics in animals, and was curious what kind of colors I would get out of our purebred California buck and purebred American Chinchilla doe. 

California buck

American Chin doe

So far, though, it looks like all the babies will look similiar to mom.  Right on schedule, we saw today that the kits’ eyes are starting to open.  With their long faces, they really do look their mom!

Because this was Lala’s first litter, I have really been cautious around her and the babies until she showed what kind of a mother she would be.  As a general rule though, I like to handle babies minimally during the first 10 days anyway.  Then, once the eyes open, I start interacting with and handling them a bit more.  JR and M are thrilled that we have finally reached that point.  I don’t think I will have any shortage of volunteers to socialize these babies!

So, earlier I mentioned how the kids were loving Lala’s new friendly nature.  Well, I had this great plan for Lala.  Since she is our only doe right now, I wanted to find a good balance, for her health’s sake, in terms of a breeding and meat harvesting schedule.  I am also very limited on space for the rabbits, as we only have 2 cages (one for buck, one for doe), thus I had planned to leave the kits with mom until harvest–around 3 months, and then re-introduce her to the buck.  While she could be re-bred sooner, I figured with 7 kits (1 has already been promised to a friend), we would have plenty of meat until the next harvest, plus the fact we are scheduled to leave on vacation just before harvest, so I didn’t want to have worry about new litters during that time.  This plan was solidified after the delivery of this current litter, when I realized that, for some reason, Lala had lost too much weight.  As soon as I noticed this, she was put on a weight-gain diet, both for her health, and the health of the kits.  As far as I knew, everything was running along smoothly.  Until….

3 days ago, M was in the garage with the rabbits.  I had given her permission to exercise Moses, so she had let him out to play.  She decided, after a while, to put him away, and let Lala out for some attention.  This is something we do very commonly, and generally the kids are very careful.  Somehow, though, on this particular day, she apparently did not fasten Moses’ cage door properly, and he got back out.  By the time I got out there, Moses and Lala had already, and very obviously, re-introduced themselves!  After ensuring the bunnies were all put away and cages properly closed, I ran for the calendar.  So much for my plan!

I certainly had a delimma.  Lala was definitely bred, and it is highly possible she got pregnant again.  Her kits were only 7 days old at the time, and she is already under-weight.  So, I began researching.  Based on what I found, she was immediately put an even higher-calorie, organic, daily diet of about 2 oz. raw cow’s milk, 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, a small carrot, an organic rabbit blend containing lots of oats, seeds, and vegetables, free-choice alfalfa hay, and her regular pellets.  It sounds like a lot, but I spread it throughout the day, and amazingly, she cleans up the majority of it!  While I am trying to be careful she doesn’t gain too much too fast, I have also noticed that with the increased calories, her milk output has increased tremendously, which can only be good for the kits.  I have to assume she is pregnant at this point, for her sake, so I am feeding her for weight gain, plus milk production for 8 kits, plus the potential kits growing inside her.  Certainly NOT an ideal situation!  I also gave her a couple of tablespoons of diatomaceous earth over several days, in the event the weight loss was due to any intestinal parasites. 

Now that I have had more time to think and research, my new plan is to continue closely monitoring Lala.  If she proves to NOT be pregnant, I will gradually reduce her feed intake as her weight increases, and all plans remain the same.  In the event she proves to BE pregnant, things will be more complicated.  I already went out and got a new cage thanks to a deal off Craigslist, so I am ready.  Starting about 4 1/2 weeks old, I will have to wean the kits off her, taking a few more each day, so her milk dries up more easily, and so all kits are out by 5 weeks.  My goal is to give her 3-4 days minimum to dry up, rest up, prepare her new nest, gain a bit of weight, and refresh a bit prior to the next delivery.  In the mean time, I am going to try to get some raw goat’s milk (kits can’t have cow’s milk, even though the doe can have small amounts) to supplement them for a few more weeks.  I will also switch Lala over to the goat’s milk if I can get it, as it is better for her than cow’s milk.  So that’s my plan.  Oh, yeah, and now, the kits are due just before we head back to the farm, so we may be taking a few baby bunnies with us or paying a lot more than planned to the petsitter!   I can only hope she didn’t get pregnant, but if she did, I am going to have everything prepared, and hope for the best.

….at least, that’s the current plan!

This morning, I had MORE workers in our house.  They were supposed to clean our heating ducts on Monday, but instead, wound up doing it today.  The guy cleaning showed me just a few of the items he had sucked out of the vent system, to include chunks of drywall, large masses of hairy-who-knows-what, and he also discovered large chunks of un-removable glue and sawdust/wood chips.  I have no idea what my family has been breathing!  Just as I was trying to remind myself to be thankful for the home we have to live in (despite its abundant problems), the phone rang.  Our realtor called to report that the bank had accepted our offer on a home!

The home was a foreclosure that we had bid on on Tuesday.  We have praying earnestly about it, since just a week ago, we weren’t even in the market for a house.  This house was just listed the evening before we felt compelled to search.  We went and looked at it the next evening.  Once we discovered it was a bank-owned foreclosure, we were warned several times that it could take months to get any response.  We continued to pray about it, came up with an offer, and left the rest to God.  We hoped to hear something in the next month, so we would know if we should move on in our search.  Now, just 2 days later, we are well on our way to having a place to call OURS!!

Of course, we made it this far once last year, and the whole thing wound up falling through.   So, we still have to go through the paperwork and inspections processes before it’s a done deal.  Hopefully, though, all will go as expected, I pray it will move quickly, and if so, we will be taking a massive leap into self-sufficiency by this time next month!  That’s right, closing is scheduled in just 3 weeks (sooner if the paperwork is done sooner)!  I am so elated right now!  It’s all I can do not to start ordering my chicks, buying my goat supplies, and building our rabbit cages.  We have a lot of plans for this place, and will be very busy for a while! 

In the mean time, though, I thought I would throw a few pics up for those who are interested.  We don’t have many at this point, but they’ll give you an idea….

The front of the house. Not much to look at now, with the dead, wintry brush, but I think it has tons of potential with minimal labor!

One of my favorite features...a ready-made small-animal pen. We will, of course, expand the fencing, but thanks to this fence and shed, I can buy critters the day we close! This is surrounded by almost 5 acres of beautiful woodland. Not a lot of graze, but even if we feed hay for the next 3 years, we will come out ahead than if we stayed here.

One of my favorite indoor things is the gorgeous stone fireplace. It is designed to look like the CO mountains that surround us.

Not sure yet what this room will be used for. School room, maybe? In any case, I LOVE the oversized wood-burning stove!

The kitchen is designed a bit odd, and will need some work. Nonetheless, it has a lot more potential for my bulk-food and canning storage than our current house.

So there you have it.  After our experience last year, I am so scared to get excited, and yet, as you can tell, I already am.  We are all absolutely head-over-heels that we may soon be free of this property management company and problem-filled house!  We are equally thrilled at the very-real possibility of FINALLY starting a mini-farm with dairy goats, meat and egg chickens, meat rabbits, a garden, a compost pile, and the increased outdoor freedom that country living will allow!  OK, I better stop before I start bouncing out of my seat with joy! 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear Heavenly Father!!!!

This evening’s meal included some impromptu, after-dinner entertainment, compliments of the 4 oldest children and Will, the dog.  Had Will been on carpet or grass, I don’t think the kids would have stood a chance!! 

Watch the video here: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wboWAZMhTjg

Over the last couple of years, since I started blogging, I have become friends with a lady half-way across the country named Terri.  We have never met in person, but we have exchanged many e-mails, thoughts, animal and farm advice, and generally gotten to know each other through the cyberspace.  We have even mailed gifts back and forth to each other.  We have proven to have a great deal in common–adoption, faith in God, a large family, homeschooling, and a love for the simple, country life to start with.  She lives not too incredibly far from our farm, so I hope to one day meet her and her family. 

We were very busy this past weekend house-hunting, so I sat down Sunday afternoon to feed the baby and catch up on my favorite blogs.  When I opened her blog, I saw a picture of her 12-yr.-old son, Trent, and a short post saying he was in heaven, dancing before the King.  I had to read and re-read it several times before it sunk in.  On Friday, February 18th, Trent died suddenly in a freak accident.  I was suddenly overcome with emotion for this woman and her family. 

As things happen, we wound up speaking on the phone for a while.  It was absolutely amazing to hear her voice, with that thick Northern accent, and what she had to say.  She actually called me (as if she didn’t have enough to worry about), and I listened as she told me Trent’s story, and how, despite their humanly sorrow, they are rejoicing in what God is doing in their lives.  Instead of having a funeral, they are holding a celebration of life, during which they will be ministering to the many around them who do not know Christ. 

It just “happens” (I don’t believe in coincidence) that I am going through the book of Job during my personal quiet time, and listening to Terri was like the perfect picture of what Job describes–maintaining your faith and trust in God’s ultimate plan as we experience trials.  She and her family have decided that God will call each of them when He is ready, but by calling Trent alone, He was leaving them to continue living.  Therefore, Trent’s death was not an excuse for them to quit living, but rather to live more fully and wholly in Christ!  She actually had me almost laughing at one point!  What an amazing testimony! 

Terri has requested that the story be spread as much as possible.  If you would like to catch up, you can read her blog at Our Crazy Farm.  She has also requested prayer tomorrow, Thursday the 24th, between 2 and 11.  That is when they will be having the viewing and the celebration of life, complete with the gospel message.  Their prayer is that their son’s life will be used to bring as many to a personal relationship with Christ as possible.  As people view his earthly body, they want people to understand that his spirit is alive and well, dancing before his King, while also asking themselves what their final, eternal destination will be.

This pic has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post, but N is quite the clown these days. Here he is presenting his "fish face" as only he can!

Somewhat unexpectedly, we have found ourselves back in the housing market.  As you know, a few months ago, we were offered a possible rental home on some land starting this summer.  Unfortunately, the owner still doesn’t know for sure if he is going to get a new assignment allowing him to move, so we have just been waiting.  After the experience we went through last summer, we had given up the idea of buying a place.  Most financial experts recommend you own a house for at least 3 years before selling in order for it to be a good deal, and, due to our 1 year lease, we are now down to about 2 and a half.  Well, we got to talking about our situation. 

The house we currently live in has proven to be one mess after the next.  First there was continual mis-management of our paperwork and over-charges that lasted for several months before it got straightened out.  Then there was the no-warning re-roof, followed by the rainstorm that flooded our master bedroom.  Then there was an almost 2 week process of everyone blaming everyone else while we just wanted the room fixed so we could use our home again.  Then there were the leaky sprinkler systems, the faulty water regulator, false carbon monoxide alarms, the exposed wiring issues, the non-working phone jacks, the broken garbage disposal that had to be replaced, etc.  We thought everything was finally taken care of, and winter came.  We discovered the boys’ bedrooms had crushed and non-functioning heating ducts, meaning they were freezing at night.  We convinced the office to provide us with a space heater to get through the winter, and were told a repair would be a major process.  They agreed to wait until we moved out to fix it.  Then we discovered that the house has little insulation (apparently), and cold winds continually blow through the phone jacks and electrical outlets located along the outside walls, plus the door and window seals all leak.  My muscles are usually sore from being cold all the time.  Then, we got a call that they had decided to repair the heating issue after all, and they re-did the whole thing, which took 2 afternoons.  Unfortunately, they put the new vent right beside JR’s top bunk, so the air blows out on his head.  There is no way to move the bed at this point, so we have to keep the vent closed anyway, and still use the space heater.  As if that wasn’t enough, I recently realized the kids and I have had respiratory issues for several months now.  Considering we hardly ever get sick in any way, and when we do, it never lasts more than a few days, I got to thinking.  We discovered that our heat ducts had never been cleaned after the re-model, and a neighbor’s had gotten so bad the guy hired to clean them had to wear a respirator and discovered fiberglass insulation in the ducts.  So, we are now scheduled to have ours cleaned tomorrow to see if it will help any.  Now, to add insult to injury, our military housing allowance just increased.  While this is usually a blessing, by regulation, though, every cent of our allowance goes straight to the rental company, so we are paying an exorbitant amount of money every month for the lousiest house we have ever lived in.  I could be thankful for the house itself, as it has a great location, a beautiful view, and a few other things going for it.  The price we are paying and the hassles we have had, though, quite outweigh all the advantages!  Sorry, I digressed severely….

So, we sat down and wrote out the financial aspects of staying in the house we currently have, moving to a rental, or buying a home and some property.  We were absolutely stunned at the total amount of money this house will have cost us over a 3 year period!  Especially when we added in the price we pay for our dairy and egg products, which we know we could supply ourselves.  After some discussion and prayer, we realized it would be well worth any risk to buy a place, thus the search was on.  We knew we had a one year lease, but we pulled out the contract to verify everything.  Amazingly (and somehow I totally missed this fact when I signed), the crooks at the rental office had written into our lease that our “1 year” lease was, in fact 13 months long!  WHAT?!  So, we decided that, if God chose to bless us with a new home in the near future, it would be well worth every cent to pay the early-termination penalty fee and get out of this arrangement as soon as we can, then to keep supporting the unethical principles of this privatization company–and we would still come out ahead financially!

So, we spent a bit of time researching homes this weekend.  We found one that is promising, but it is a bank-owned, which we have no experience with.  The home itself is on 5 acres, and we can raise whatever garden, compost pile, or critter we desire!  Even though it is a foreclosure, it only appears to have minor issues that need some work, but otherwise appears move-in ready.  It seems to be a steal of a deal since it is a bank property, which means, God willing, we would possibly be able to sell it very easily for at least the same price we purchased it for.  S has just left to go for a second, closer inspection, and our realtor is encouraging us to rush a bit as she doesn’t think it will be on the market long.  So, although we are still praying about it, it looks as though we will be getting the paperwork in order as soon as feasibly possible and see what happens.  Even if this doesn’t work out, though, I’m sure we will continue to search and see what we can find. 

I selfishly pray and hope that God will allow us to move.  I was disappointed a home didn’t work out last year anyway, but with all that has happened in this house, I am tired of the hassle.  I am tired of having maintenance workers in and out constantly, and almost always disrupting our nap times when they come.  I want desperately to move into a home, on some land, raise some animals, have a place my kids can romp freely without negative influence from neighboring children, be able to let my dog go play off leash without a neighbor complaining, be warm in the winter, and decorate and “build” our home the way I want without having to worry about getting permission for everything (I can’t even plant a single flower here without filing paperwork with the office!).   I know it seems silly, but in the almost 10 years we have been married, I have never even painted a bedroom in the house we live in!  Part of me feels that, as a homemaker, it is a my duty to “make” our home into a peaceful retreat that helps clarify who we are as a family.  Yet, I have been limited to curtains and wall hangings (limited at that).  I feel like I’ve never been able to “stake our claim” in a home.  I keep reminding myself that it may not be in God’s plan for us to move, I don’t know.  Oh, but I can’t help but hope and dream!  Only time will tell.

Recently, I have been watching the calendar closely.  Our American Chinchilla rabbit doe, La-la, was due to deliver her first litter of kits on Sunday, February 13.  I put the nest box in her cage last week and filled it with shavings and hay, to give her a few days to build a nest.  I gave her base a thorough cleaning so I wouldn’t have to disturb her over the weekend.  I palpated her several times over the course of the weeks we were waiting, and could have sworn she was pregnant.  In the last week, she has begun lying down differently, she felt and looked fuller in the middle, seemed heavier, and on palpation, I was sure I felt babies in there.  Much to my dismay, though, no babies ever came.  There was no doubt, though, that La-la absolutely loved her make-shift nest box.  She laid in it constantly, and several times, I even moved her out of the way to check for babies.  Nothing!

Her due date came and went.  I began talking to S about our next step– harvest the rabbits and start over after we move to a better environment for raising them, or try once more.  He really wanted to try again.  For some reason, though I held off.  I was just convinced La-la was not acting like herself.  Valentine’s day came and went.  Nothing!   Then the 15th came and went, and still NOTHING!  Finally, I resigned myself to the fact we were not having a litter this go around, and I must have grossly mis-read her body.  I went to bed last night after one last check.  She was 3 days over-due, and there wasn’t the first smidgen of pulled hair or sign of a nest made.

This morning, I was lying in bed with my 2 oldest boys on either side of me.  Both had awakened somewhat feverish (it’s been going around lately).  M decided to take over the morning chores of feeding and watering the rabbits.  She came in to let me know our buck, Moses, had escaped during the night and was running around the garage.  I threw my robe on, and went to corral him, and that is when I saw La-la’s nest box full of freshly-plucked hair!

The box was too dark for me to see if the hair was moving from babies under it or not, so after herding Moses back into his cage, I told M to run get me a flashlight.  I was curious if the kits had already been born, or if she was just preparing.  Her belly was visibly leaner, though!  M brought me the flashlight, and I carefully pulled the top layer of hair away–trying to keep my scent and any stress on La-la to a minimum.  Sure enough!  On first inspection, I counted 6 little gray kits.  You can see 2 of them in the center of the hair in this pic (the dark space), but since they are a dark gray color, they blend in quite well. 

I look forward to re-inspecting in a few days and getting a more accurate count.  We are all so excited!  It took 8 months of trying for this to finally get a litter!!  Maybe rabbits really do multiply!  I have no idea what kind of mother La-la will make, so I am hoping everything works out well.  Momma does may only nurse their kits two to three times a day, so I hope to catch her in the box at least once for peace of mind.  If all goes well, we have promised one kit to a friend, and the rest are likely destined for the stew pot in about 12 weeks.  When we see that they are thriving, we also have to come up with a plan for a third cage to put them in between weaning and harvest!  We’ll see!

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