September 2011


We have had non-stop crowing since these new roos arrived.  At this rate, it will be very easy to harvest them, just so I can have some peace and quiet around here.  A handful of them are around 8 months old, and they are the worst culprits when it comes to crowing.  Especially this one, who happens to be a Turken–which, in my opinion is the absolute ugliest chicken to ever walk the face of the earth:

The kids have nick-named it “Ugly Chicken,” after the original naming of “Elmo.”  He’s big, though.  I would estimate around 6-7 pounds, so he will hopefully provide a couple of yummy meals for the family and/or pets.

This guy is just the opposite, and is quite pretty.  He is a cross, I suspect between an Americauna (the lady had a bunch of those) and who knows what else.  He does closely resemble my Light Brahma roo, though, which makes me wonder if he has those genes in there somewhere.  He also happens to be quite noisy, so his days are numbered. 

Then there is this guy, who I THINK is a Rhode Island Red roo (please correct me if I’m wrong).  He is quite pretty, and, I must admit I am considering allowing him to move in to the layer coop to be spare roo, since my other spare got nabbed by the fox.  Seeing as how my smaller RIR hens are not willingly allowing much breeding by the massive Lt. Brahma roo, I might even stand a chance of getting some purebred RIR if they take to this guy more willingly. 

Most of the other roos are not really noteworthy, and all are destined for the freezer…with the exception of 1, which may have a postponement of harvest since I’m not convinced it’s a rooster.   We’ll see. 

I just cannot express to you how much I am LOVING this life!  The adventure, the mystery, the anticipation….it’s better than a great novel!  And certainly better at controlling the waste-line than sitting and reading a novel–especially with all the home-cookin around here!  I feel so blessed that God has granted us this opportunity.

Ok, in case you weren’t positive we had lost our minds, we got more animals. 

Oh, but don’t worry, this is totally different!  It’s all in the name of SAVING money, being frugal, and going natural.  See?  Totally different. 

In all seriousness, when we decided to go for the BARF diet for the animals, we started with what was in our freezers.  However, we only had a very limited supply available in regards to meats I wouldn’t use (mostly offal, rabbit ribs, etc.)  When feeding an 80 pound dog and a growing pup, that won’t last long, and that fact rapidly became apparent.  So, I found a few stores I could buy waste meat from, but still, that involved spending money.  (OK fine, call me cheap!  I just have issues paying a retail price for what would otherwise be thrown in the trash bin!)  Therefore, I went to my trusty Craigslist.  I placed an honest ad, which explained how we house, feed, and treat our animals.  I essentially offered to accept unwanted chickens, goats, and rabbits.  I said I wouldn’t pay, but promised that if we chose to use them for meat, the animal would be treated humanely and there would be absolutely no suffering. 

I didn’t think anything would actually come of it, but hey, why not try, right?  S was totally game to slaughter free meat and get the practice.  I figured I have a perfect quarantine pen in the form of my multi-purp brooder pen, so the new animals are never exposed to our normal animals.  That pen is easy to clean out.  It is a perfect place to “detox” any incoming arrivals, get them going on organic, and go from there.  Of course, I wouldn’t take any obviously sick or downer animals anyway if the reason isn’t perfectly clear.  And, who knows, I could wind up with some type of really cool keeper-critter (like easter egg layers or alpine goats!) 

Well, as it turned out, by the end of the day, I had two responses!  One lady had 9 roosters she had no use for and was sick of feeding them.  I told her we use roosters for meat around here, and she said that was fine.  She just apparently couldn’t kill them herself and would rather someone else do it.  So, I agreed to pick them up. 

Then, another lady who raises Boer meat goats for 4-H and show, had a 6-month old doeling she needed to cull.  This doeling, although perfectly healthy, just didn’t make the cut for her ideal breeder.  She had some personal attachment to the goat, and said we could do whatever we wanted with her, but she just couldn’t slaughter the goat herself.  Works for me. 

So, it looks like we will soon have about 70 lbs. of free meat, offal, and bones in the freezer–the better cuts of which we may well eat, and the rest will go to the carnivores around this place.

…to have a 7 year old?!

I know, I know, most of you with teenagers are not feeling sorry for me in the least.  Fact is, I never felt sorry for you either, as your children aged and you wondered the same thing.  But I do now.  It finally hit me. 

A few days ago, my firstborn child hit the mandatory-school age.  He is Mr. independent.  And he is a true joy to have around.  Alas, this post isn’t about me, it’s about him, so…

… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JR!

As is becoming our tradition, it started off with breakfast in bead.  Nothing fancy, but he enjoyed the attention, and I suspect silently reveled in the jealousy of his siblings. 

We had a busy day planned, so we gave him the choice of presents right away, or with cake after dinner.  Even the best 7 year old can’t resist presents, so of course it was right away!

My little cowboy has been wanting real boots and a hat for a couple years now.  Now that we have the donkey, it seemed justified.  In some twisted kind of way.

We told him he had to try it all on.  Prepare yourself.  This is not going to be pretty….

Yes, he is in his underwear.  I have no clue why his shirt is tucked into his underwear, and he seemed to think his new boot socks were knee-highs.  I do believe this is THE photo I will preserve to embarrass him with in the future. 

Then, it was off to our busy day.  He did, of course, get to wear his boots and hat (and more appropriate clothing), which totally thrilled him.  Once dinner rolled around, we were back to his birthday celebration.  

It has become our tradition that the birthday person chooses what kind of dinner we have, and what type of cake I make.  In terms of dinner, all our normal rules go out the window.  If they want a restaurant, we go.  If they want me to cook something, I cook.  We do our best to serve.  JR wanted to order pizza from a little mom-and-pop shop we treat ourselves to on rare occasion.  So, we ordered pizza with JR’s specified toppings.  

JR’s favorite cake for several years now is carrot cake, so I set to work making it.  Unfortunately, due to our schedule that day, I was running a little behind.  His only request was that I make a carrot to go on top of it.  I knew this was far beyond any practiced skill I had, and wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off.  I was also too tired to do the clean up that would be involved in mixing food color into the frosting, putting the frosting in those squeeze baggies, and so on.  So, I totally cheated. 

You see, the best deal from this little mom and pop operation is one of their continued “specials”, which involves pizza, breadsticks, soda, and desert.  I know, it’s totally against our normal diet.  They don’t substitute, so we have been collecting the sodas for several months.  I figure we’ll have a party eventually where we can offer the sodas to others.  The food we manage to eat over several days.  It isn’t too bad since they make it all from scratch and use far less grease and oil than most pizza joints.  Still, it’s a rare treat. 

Anyway, I had requested their sampler desert, which includes a little slice of carrot cake, among others.  Well, wouldn’t you know that their little slice just happens to have a perfect little cream cheese carrot on top!  So, I stole it and put it on JR’s cake.

 

It was a perfect solution!  Then it was time to sing, “Happy Birthday!”

I’d say it was a great day, all in all.  He only takes his boots and hat off when we make him, but they seem to be a staple part of his outfit now.  JR also got a gift from his Nana, but she made him open it several days early (she can’t keep secrets very well!)  It was the game “Operation”, with which the kids have found no end to the fun of creating buzzing bodily noises. 

Happy 7th Birthday, Little Buddy!

With our increasingly natural, self-sufficient/God-dependent lifestyle, I guess it only makes sense that we would begin seeking a more natural lifestyle for our animals as well.  The goats and chickens have been quite an education this summer, as we watched Sara, in particular, heal in so many ways using simple, natural remedies. 

OK, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Since Will was bred by and born at Guide Dogs for the Blind, they chose his original diet of Science Diet dog food.  It only seemed natural all those years ago to keep him on that.  A couple months ago, however, I noticed he had some seemingly benign cysts/growths popping up in different areas of his body.  Granted, he is almost 9 years old, but still, it got me thinking.  So, we switched him to a natural dog kibble I get through my co-op.  Callie, on the other hand, is almost 11.  Over the years, I have experimented with all sorts of foods, but all but one resulted in her vomiting.  So, much to my dismay, she has been on Purina cat chow for most of her life. 

The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder how good these diets really were.  After all, if the USDA and FDA are preaching that grain-fed, CAFO meat is “prime” while natural, grass-fed meats are overpriced jokes, then who’s to say the veterinary industry is much better?  I started researching, just to discover that most kibble foods are over 50% grains and by-products–hardly the ideal diet for carnivores like dogs and cats.  The remaining 50% was often animal by-products (which can include ground feathers and other undigestible items).  In fact, I looked at some very popular dog kibble labels, and saw that true meat was not listed AT ALL in the ingredients!  It was quite shocking.  Then, this livestock guardian dog thing came up, and it made us question if we really wanted to invest over $100 in dog kibble alone every month.  Obviously, the answer would be “NO.”  So I started researching other, more natural, less expensive options.  I discovered the RAW diet and the BARF diet for pets. 

The RAW diet is just that–feeding the animals raw, uncooked meat, organs, and bones, just as they would get in nature.  That’s it.  No supplements, no kibble, no veggies, grains, or rice.  Just carcasses, essentially, sometimes cut up in portions, sometimes not.  The BARF diet, on the other hand, is “Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods,” which includes around 60-80% raw, uncooked meat, organs, and bones, and the remaining % a mix of vegetables, carbohydrates, eggs, dairy, and supplements. 

So, after some research into where I could acquire a steady supply of raw meats, a lot of research on the COUNTLESS ways these diets are done, and some calculations regarding how much money we could save, we have decided to give it a try.  Because of the surplus of meat in our freezers, we decided to start there. 

Then we learned lesson #1…

When an animal has been on commercial kibble for 9-11 years, they (and their digestive systems) are completely clueless about how to handle raw meat!  I had offered Will small amounts of chopped up beef liver on several occasions.  Each time, he threw up.  A LOT.  The only thing worse than raw liver is puked raw liver mixed with who knows what else.  BLEGH!  So, I decided to try a “white” meat–something known to be a little easier on the tummy (less rich).   I chopped up some small chunks of bone-in goat meat.  Knowing it was Will’s dinner time, I offered it to him and put it in his food bowl.  He sniffed it and walked away.  I spent 10 minutes encouraging him before he finally decided to eat it.  I then proceeded to offer some to Callie.  She, too, took one sniff and walked away.  I went and put it in her food bowl downstairs, and she just looked at me like “Where is my food, and why is THAT in my bowl?!” (See photo above).  I finally sprinkled a bit of kibble over the meat, and left her alone.  Callie eventually ate it all. 

It’s been several days now, and so far, neither pet has vomited, so I take that as a good sign.  The new puppy took right too it, but she was used to a diet that consisted of whatever was on sale at Big R.  The plan (for now), based on my research, current meat availability, and our personal situation, is to go half-way, with a BARF diet, supplemented by kibble.  I will feed their normal kibble once a day, and gradually wean them off their evening kibble meal.  That will be replaced, over the course of a couple weeks, with raw meat, bones, and offal from our goat, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and beef.  In addition, we will supplement with some small amounts of table scraps (vegetables, potatoes, rice, etc.), raw fish, eggs, kefir, yogurt, and milk.  The hope at this point is to increase their health, hopefully increase Will’s energy level, give our new pup a great start as a working dog, and cut our feed bill by at least 30-50%. 

I have no idea how this is going to work, but I guess time will tell.  After only a week, I can now give Will small amounts of liver and he doesn’t vomit, and I have noticed he’s had no “scooting” issues since we started this diet (heads-up:  TMI about to follow: Scooting was a common occurence for him in the past, as his anal sacks frequently get somewhat impacted and inflamed.  Apparently a natural diet creates more natural, harder, stools that allow the sacks to express the way they were created to).  The most difficult part so far is remembering to take some frozen meat out of the freezer each night, to thaw in the fridge.  I love the fact that I am finally using cuts of meat that I really had no other use for, which means they won’t be wasted….things like gizzards, kidneys, hearts, tough cuts, bone meats and bones not needed for stocks, etc.  are PERFECT for feeding as part of this diet!

 Assuming that the results are good, then we may consider going full BARF once we get to Red Gate Farm permanently and have a more reliable and continual meat supply.  I will keep you posted as we learn more.

Stinky Stallion got a special visitor last week! 

The owner of this beautiful Alpine doe had pre-arranged with me to use the services of Stallion for her new Alpine doe at some point in the next few weeks.  Well, she called me this morning, surprised to find her doe in raging heat, and to ask what needed to be done.  Because she is a good friend, we had previously agreed to a “driveway breeding”, where the doe and buck are both on a leash, and literally have a little “date” in the driveway.  This helps protect my herd from any unknowns (though I had already checked out the health history and disease testing of this doe, and had no concerns).  We agreed to go ahead with that plan, for the experience if nothing else. 

Well, like us, this family has 5 young children, all in car-seats.  Remember one of the main reasons we bought our buck was to avoid the hassle of hauling a doe in a minivan, along with 5 children in car seats?  Yeah, well, that’s exactly what my friend had to do today.  She is also a homeschool mom, so we agreed to aim for mid-afternoon.  She loaded up a very large and stubborn doe into the back of her minivan, loaded up all her children, and headed to our place.  Upon arrival, she took her doe out to get her used to the driveway area.  In the mean time, she and I had a quick discussion about the fact that neither of our children had any clue about how breeding worked, and how that could very well cause a few questions during this process.  We finally agreed it was now or never!  After the doe seemed calm enough, I went and leashed up Stallion for their big meeting. 

With 7 children watching (my 3 littles were napping), we introduced the 2 goats.  Stallion was more than happy to oblige.  Much to his disappointment, the doe wasn’t quite so agreeable.  There was also no sign that she was still in standing heat.   After courting her for about 15 solid minutes, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t any factor such as leashes crushing her mood, so we put them in my brooder pen just around the corner, removed the leashes, and gave them some space.  After another 15 minutes or so, we got nothing except an irritated doe and a perfect gentlemen of a buck with somewhat of a blow to his ego.  They eventually parted ways and pretended to ignore each other, while Stallion went off to the side and proceeded to thoroughly spray himself in his “Odor-de’-buck” cologne.  I am convinced that gives him an ego boost, though it certainly serves to repel ME!  So disgusting!  Finally, I returned Stallion to his pen, and helped my friend load her goat and children back into the minivan–this time, with the slight stench of buck to keep them company on the way home. 

So, my first attempt at a driveway breeding to an outside doe was a total, complete, miserable failure.  We both learned from it though (and have to assume we just missed the window of opportunity), and I gained a lot of confidence in handling a 200-pound, very excited, buck-in-rut on a leash.  I have to admit, however, that we were both somewhat relieved that the “birds-and-bees” talk with the kids gets to wait for another day.  They saw nothing other than a couple of goats sniffing and walking around, so there were no questions to answer (WHEW!).  While I totally sympathized with my friend, I have to admit, I was sooooo incredibly thankful for our decision to go ahead and acquire our buck to save me the exact trouble–and disappointment– I had just witnessed her go through.

Nonetheless, we are looking ahead to about 3 weeks from now.  Since we both know a little more about what to expect, we will just try harder to ensure we catch that “window of opportunity” to breed.  If all goes well, then she will be able to start planning for a kidding next spring!  We’ll know more in a few weeks.

I got an award!

A big Thanks! to a relatively new reader of several months, TikkTok.  You can read her blog here:  http://tikktok.wordpress.com/

There are some conditions to receiving my award, however.  First, I have to tell you 7 things about myself that you may not know, and probably couldn’t give a care about.  So here goes…

1.  I am a COMPLETE and total introvert.  Thanks to my dear hubby, who has spent the last 9 1/2 years forcing me to do things I didn’t want, I have gotten better.  Pretty much anytime you see me attending a social function, it is highly likely he has used threats and physical force to shove me out the door.  I would still much rather hang out at home, with my family and critters, than go to any social event, but, thankfully, he will not allow me to be a hermit. 

2.  I have a college degree I have never used.  I actually majored in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biology, but due to the military, it became increasingly difficult to finish my bachelors.  I swore nothing would get in the way, and that I WOULD finish.  I just forgot to ask God before saying that.  He obviously had other plans.  I married the best man on earth, started a new path in life, and eventually got an associates degree in Equine Management.  As soon as I got the degree, another move forced me to sell off the horses and most of my gear, and until I got my donkey recently, the skills I learned have all but been set aside (thanks only to the privilege of training for others on occasion).

3. I have been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 4 years old.  You may know that one, but the fact is, I am very blessed by the fact that God has allowed me to break every single statistic out there, as, after 27 years, I have absolutely no complications, and am perfectly healthy.  I actually HAVE gone into mild renal failure (kidney) twice in past years, but as I learned to better control my diabetes and diet, God healed me completely both times.  I still laugh about the student doc that reviewed my labs a couple years ago, and told me that, based on one of my lab results, I may be at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.  I laughed and asked if he had looked at my other records.  He said “No” and I proceeded to tell him I had been a Type 1 most of my life.  He looked at my labs again, and looked at me, and said “NO WAY!”  Thank you Lord for the blessing of health!!  I don’t take it for granted!

4.  I wrote a book.  Long time readers and friends know that one already, but hey, I might as well get a little publicity after #3. It’s called “Diabetes: Overcome Your Fears,” and is very reasonably priced on Amazon.com.  It is an easy read, and chock full of all the info I have learned about controlling diabetes and health over the years.  In fact, since I know you are now jumping at the chance to own your very own copy, here is the direct link: http://www.amazon.com/Diabetes-Overcome-D-R-Londrigan/dp/0615326145/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1316884594&sr=8-12  After you read it, please be kind enough to leave a feedback comment on Amazon.com.  Very few people have so far.  If you want a signed, personalized copy, message me here.  It’s the same price plus a couple bucks shipping.

5.  I used to be a Storm Chaser affiliated with the Tallahassee National Weather Service.  That was my rebellious years, and man, oh man, did we have some adventures!  Sometimes I think it was a miracle our team survived, as we had a couple of too-close calls!

6.  I once said I would never have children, and I would certainly never homeschool!  Then God got hold of me and told me otherwise.  You know the rest of the story.

7.  I boycott Carl’s Jr.  It’s the fast-food chain cousin to Hardee’s back East, and this is basically the western version.  OK, I admit I boycott most fast-food joints, but that’s because I don’t like the food.  Carl’s Jr. is for a different reason, and if my choice was McDonalds or Carl’s Jr., then I would take McDonalds any day.  Why?  Well, I don’t know how things are nowadays, as I don’t have a TV, but back when we did have a TV, all Carl’s Jr. commercials were full of immoral, sexual, degrading, unbiblical content (remember the Paris Hilton in the leather teddy one?).  They broadcast these commercials around the clock, and it infuriated me. 

So, now you know my 7 little-known facts.  My next assignment is to nominate 15 other blogs.  OK, this one is going to be a problem, so I will just have to ask forgiveness now.  The simple fact is, I don’t even read 10 other blogs on a regular basis, and many of them hardly ever update their posts.  So, if I read your blog, feel very privileged!  If it still counts, however, then I will keep it in mind, and nominate them in the future as I gather more readers and more regularly-updated blogs to read.

Thanks again, Tikktok!  I will display it proudly!  Since it is time to update my blog’s side panel anyway, I will add it to my very first award, when my blog was over at blogspot.  I totally forgot to import it over here.

Today was baby R’s big day!  We FINALLY finalized her adoption!!

It was a great experience.  Since our previous 2 adoptions were finalized out of state, this our first time actually in the courtroom.  We had a great, down-to-earth and friendly, magistrate presiding, and all our children sat behind us and watched the proceedings.  S and I each had to go up to the stand, take an oath, answer some questions, and then sit back down.  Finally, he declared R as our legal daughter, hammered his gavel, and congratulated us.  As a special treat, his clerk then entered the courtroom and we were invited behind his desk to take photos.  Another first for us!  So, we now have the moment recorded in photographic history!  As you can imagine, we are truly praising God tonight!

Well, I am thrilled to announce that we have a new addition to the farm, in the form of a livestock guardian dog.  Wouldn’t you be terrified of this:

Meet “Athena.”  Ok, ok, I guess she needs to grow into her protector role a bit before she plans to scare off any fox or coyotes around here.  Based on the size of those paws, I’m sure she’ll grow fairly quickly!

As it turns out, Athena is a 10-week old lgd pup, 3/4 Great Pyrenees and 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd.  While she is not registered, both of her parents are proven guardian dogs, and both come from working dog lines.  The pups were the right price for us, and I was willing to accept risks of buying an average, backyard-bred, farm pup due to my many years of animal/vet tech experience, but also because we felt we should go the lgd route and there were none others to be found in this area.  There were 6 pups to choose from, and S and I weren’t particular to male or female, so I decided to try to pick best dog for the job. 

I must admit, lgd-bred pups are sooooo incredibly different than other pups I have worked with.  Granted, they are still cute and cuddly.  However, they are also so much more independent, aware of their surroundings, and calmer than similiarly-aged pups of other breeds.  They were laid back, easy-going, like to investigate, but then went on about their business.  I had the hardest time trying to choose which one to take, finally narrowing it down to two that just had personalities I liked a bit more.  I was trying to decide between 1 particular male and this little girl.  I handled them both all over, and gave an overall examination.  The final determining factors was that the little male had a slight overbite and seemed, perhaps TOO independent, whereas her teeth lined up very nicely and her level of independence seemed to balance well with her desire to be sociable.  So, I paid up and we headed home. 

Of course, the adventure started right away!  This calm, easy going pup was perfectly content to sit in the kids’s laps on the way home, but once she started vomiting, they decided she would be better off laying on a seat by herself (on a blanket to catch the vomit).  Other than the unexpected car-sickness though, she made a great, calm, traveler. 

Once we got home, we gave her a tour of our little farm and animals.  Unfortunately, Lilac managed to head-butt her once, so she is a little nervous around the bigger goats for now.  I set up a temporary pen in the goat shed for her, giving her about 1/3 of the shed, and the goats the other 2/3.

I set her up with a toy, straw bedding, and water, and we put her in there to rest.  As we walked away, we heard her whine a bit as she realized she was alone for the first time in her life, growl as Lilac approached her fence, then she settled down for a nap.  After an hour or two of sleep, she was refreshed and slightly more energetic and courageous when we went out to check on her a little later.  I gave her a thorough brushing to get the grass seeds and such from her last farm out of her fur, and I must say, I think she rather liked the attention. 

I will feed her dinner tonight, but otherwise, she will be in her little pen when I am not there to supervise, until she and the goats get used to each other.  I plan to introduce a couple chickens in a few days, and let her get used to those as well.  Then, the plan is to gradually get her out in the big pasture with the chickens and the does, alongside Will, who will hopefully discourage too much puppy behavior and maybe even teach her some desirable behaviors.  

Seeing as how I know only what I have researched in regards to lgd’s, I have no doubt this will be a new adventure we travel and learn together.  It has given me hope, though, that perhaps our chickens and goats may actually stand a chance at surviving this winter.  Once again, time will tell how it all turns out.

I am beginning to have visions of what it will be like to not be completely depended on 24/7.  JR is reaching an age where he is becoming increasingly dependent, but also with a desire to mimic S and I in our roles and responsibilities.  This is proving a true blessing to us!

This evening at dinner, JR set the table as usual.  I normally sit at the end of the table, opposite S, and beside R so I can feed her while I eat.  Tonight, however, I noticed that JR switched places with me.  I explained that I needed to feed R, and he said, “I’ll take care of her, Mom.  You sit by Dad.”  I can’t argue with that.  And he did.  Throughout the entire dinner, he carefully cut up soft veggies for her, spoon fed her potatoes, and got other items as we made suggestions.  It was strange for me to sit there in a reverse role, doing very little, while I watched my 6 year old so willingly and whole-heartedly filling a role that required so much maturity and responsibility.

Just last week, I was feeling quite tired as I had been pulling some late nights.  JR got up one morning and told me I could sleep in and he would handle breakfast.  Now, he often serves up porridge, but on this particular morning he requested that I let him cook up some scrambled eggs.  Wow.  I considered my options.  My bedroom door was located just a few feet from the stove top.  He had assisted me in making eggs on MANY occasions, I knew he had the know-how, and he had proven himself very responsible around the kitchen.  I figured I might as well let him try.  So, I gave the go-ahead and feigned sleep as I monitored his every move.  He expertly cracked and scrambled the eggs in a bowl, heated a skillet, sprayed it with oil, and cooked the eggs.  Then, he proceeded to serve everyone up a plate and set the table.  The next thing I knew, he was bringing a plate of perfectly scrambled eggs to me in bed.  He said I needed to eat too! 

My children have proven to be such a blessing on so many occasions.  Now, however, we are entering a new realm of child-raising and training.  I love seeing their hearts developing with a passion and true joy in serving others.  M is beginning to show signs of following in those same footsteps, often noticing things that need to be done and just doing them unprompted.  A and N are attempting the same at their own maturity levels.

Of course, we still have our constant messy areas and daily struggles to accomplish chores.  We still have our moments of sibling rivalry and selfish competitions.  It is those little moments though, that are so priceless and treasured.  And I thank God for each and every one of those moments, as well as each of my little human blessings.

Our little farm is experiencing some big changes.  We have been really looking at our future, our budget, farm income (almost none) and expenses (plenty of those!), and current and future needs.  It has resulted in some big decisions.

First, there’s the issue of Lilly, the doeling.  Notice anything funny about this pic?

Yeah, Lilly is missing.  After calculating her feed expenses for the winter, we decided to offer her for sale.  It was one of those things where, if I could get enough $$ for her, it would be worth selling early.  If not, I would keep her, breed her, and sell everything next year, in hopes of covering all expenses.  Well, a really nice family found her, really liked her, felt she was worth our asking price, and were aiming to go the natural route like us.  It seemed to be a good match, and she has a couple of other little goats and a donkey to keep her company.  This morning, we said our final goodbyes.  It was surprisingly bittersweet, and we will miss her, but I have to admit, it will be nice to have a little extra milk from Sara again and to get a break from half-grown kid antics!

Then there’s Stallion, our buck.  Of course, he was going to help pay himself by breeding our does and the convenience in having our own.  Now that Lilly was sold, he wasn’t paying for himself quite as much.  S and I decided it was worth the risk to offer him for stud service to approved does meeting some criteria I came up with through my research.  Because of his genetics and our location, it looks like I already have 5 reservations, with the possibility of 2-3 more.  One of those reservations will be paid via a purebred, high quality Alpine doeling next spring, to help start my pure Alpine herd.  Another is a barter for storing my winter hay supply.  I would like to find 2-3 more to really help cover his actual expenses.  It is early in the breeding season yet, so we’ll see.

Then there’s the free-range chickens.  Oh, those chickens.  They provide wonderful meat, delicious eggs (most of the time), and are, quite frankly, a complete hassle to keep them alive and free-ranging!  After the loss of one of our layers early this summer, we made a few changes that have worked for a while.  We knew it would only last so long, so we built our pasture and put the coop inside.  Of course, field fence isn’t fox proof, but we hoped it would deter at least.  It did.  For 2 weeks.  Now, our fox is back, and he got one of my 2 roosters (good thing I kept 2 so I could have a spare!).  Of all the birds he could have grabbed, he got one of the biggest and more aggressive!  Go figure!  I think he was taunting me.  So, with winter quickly approaching (we actually had snow flurries last week), and the wild food supply dwindling, we feared our peaceful free-ranging days were numbered.  So, we talked, and I started more research.  We also started praying that God would show us an answer and help us protect our chickens, while still being the natural, bibilical stewards we feel He has called us to be.  We knew about livestock guardian dogs, but really didn’t want one until we got the farm.  We considered all our options:

  • hotwiring the acre-and-a-half at fox level (more $$, and worthless once the snow buries it),
  • back-filling all holes and ditches under the fence (a complete pain and some $$ for fill),
  • limiting the free-ranging of our girls (not ideal),
  • putting the donkey in there full-time (definitely helps, but not a perfect solution, as she will gain weight and can’t see or chase sly fox through part of the brush anyway),
  • enclosing a fenced chicken yard like most folks (totally not an option, as we are committed to free-ranging and letting our girls be natural.  I would rather sell the chickens),
  • selling the chickens and going back to a co-op until we move (we like the eggs too much),
  • using electric fence netting and moving the hens around a bit (more $$ and quite inconvenient for us at this time)
  • keep up what we are doing and hope the fox doesn’t get them too quickly (just plain don’t like that idea)
  • using our dog, Will, who doesn’t earn his keep around here much anyway

After a lot of research on guardian dogs, we started heading back in that direction.  We still need an immediate, short term solution though, so today, Will was added to the pasture.  Isn’t this a beautiful picture?  The ever-loyal dog standing guard over his flock.  Yeah….only, it isn’t quite as it appears.  You see, for some unknown reason, Will is terrified of the animals, so he stays as far from the chickens and goats as he can.  Thus explains the photo, where he has positioned himself such that he is in the shade, can see this scary animals he is now in charge of, but can quickly run if need be.  The good thing, however, is that as the animals move around the pasture, so does Will.  So, he is quite effectively covering the majority of the pen, effectively spreading his own scent, making himself visible, and hopefully detering any visits from our sly fox.  Needless to say, however, it is only a very short term solution.  Fact is, Will is a people-dog and a completely spoiled, old, house pet.  I think it will work for now, as long as we visit him frequently, but he would never be able to stand the cold weather or the long-term separation from his people. 

Thus, we have returned to the idea of a livestock guardian dog (lgd).  There were a lot of advantages to the idea, particularly as a long-term solution to protecting our stock.  Especially when we get to Red Gate Farm, it would be nice to already have a trained lgd, as we have already lost a sheep there due to an unknown predator (possibly bobcat) chasing it into the fence. 

Just as we (aka, S) warmed up to the idea a bit, the biggest factors, of course, were finding an affordable animal from proven lgd stock, the intitial expense of purchasing such a dog, and the additional upkeep and maintenance expense of feeding such a large dog.  Well, you know how God seems to line everything up at times like these?  It just so “happens” that when I bought Stallion, I noticed the breeder’s goat herd was protected by a couple of Great Pyrenees lgds (exactly the breed we felt was most appropriate for our situation), AND, they “happened” to have recently had a litter of pups.  So I wrote the guy yesterday to find out if he had sold them all.  Turns out, he hasn’t advertised yet, so I can have pick of the litter, AND at an affordable price.  Then, after almost a month of advertising Lilly and getting no responses, we sold her today, at a price that will pay for this pup. 

So, as usual when we turn things over to God, it seems He is putting everything in place for us to have a purebred Great Pyrenees lgd.  S has given the go-ahead, I have the money, and now I am waiting on a few more answers from the breeder before we commit.  It is going to be a little bit more work added to my plate, but I think it will be minimal.  The kids can handle a lot of a pup’s care, and he will be strictly outdoors, which means I don’t have to worry about potty-training.  I have also been on the phone with another Great Pyrenees lgd breeder and user of MANY years, who has given me some ideas for how I can use Will’s good behavior to help train this pup, which will save me even more time.

We should know in the next couple of days if this is the route we are going to go.  There are still things to consider.  Boy, oh, boy, this farm life stuff is a never-ending adventure–at least, when you are knew and trying to get everything figured out and set in place.  Just when we think we will be able to slow down and rest, something else comes up.  I keep telling myself that it will be so much fun to look back a year from now, and compare to all we are doing now. 

OK, I have to start posting more often so these aren’t so long.  But, if you are still reading, thanks for your support and encouragement!!  Feel free to leave a comment with any tips relating to these items!

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