September 2012

I recently had a request for info on my deworming regimen.  I’m not sure if the questioner wanted a simple brand name, or the whole scoop, so I’ll describe the whole deal for anyone not familiar with it.  I was hoping to take photos of the process, but won’t have time for at least another week, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Since we got into goats, we have been using a pre-mixed herbal powder that can be purchased from Hoegger’s Caprine Supply.  I buy several pounds at a time.  After a good bit of research on the different types available, I began running into many people who had used herbals for some time, and compared the stories.  Other brands and home-made versions always seemed to wind up requiring at least an annual dose of chemicals to combat anything not taken care of by the herbs.  With the Hoegger brand, however, when used correctly,  I encountered story after story of success.  The final straw was when I saw a long-time goat-keeper’s herd, and they were absolutely gorgeous, fit, and healthy.  I asked what she used, and it was the Hoegger’s dewormer.  She explained that they periodically did fecal samples just for the info, and the fecal checks always came back clean.  A year prior, conditions had allowed many of the goats in the area to become severely afflicted with Barber Pole Worm, as well as standard intestinal worms.  Several goats had died from the infestations.  This goat-keeper submitted their fecals to check on their herd’s status, and the vet called and said, “I don’t know what you are doing, but keep it up!  This is the first clean sample we’ve seen this summer!”  Thus, I was sold on the brand.

The key with herbals is that you MUST give it on a regularly scheduled, weekly basis.  After experimenting with giving it–I tried sprinkling it on peanut-butter and bread, letting the goats just eat it plain, sprinkling it over their grain, mixing it in something and drenching the goat with it–I was irritated since it was so difficult and time consuming.  Then, a friend suggested molasses balls.  I tried it, and it worked!

About once every 3 months, I mix up a big batch of herbs into molasses.  You need about 3/4 cup molasses for every cup of herb powder, though it’s no exact science.  Too much molasses will be sticky; too little will be crumbly and more bitter tasting.  You just want it to nicely form into balls that aren’t too sticky.  I always measure my powder, because it allows me to calculate roughly how many teaspoon-sized balls I should get out of the mix.  I try to measure out enough for about 8-12 weeks.  After I mix and form the balls, measuring each out by simply using a teaspoon measuring spoon as my scoop, I roll each ball into a bit of flour, and set it on a cookie sheet.  After the sheet is full, I put it in the freezer and freeze the balls.  Once frozen, I put them all into a clearly labeled ziploc bag, and store them in the freezer.  Otherwise, they tend to get gooey and form into one big ball–especially if I accidentally use too much molasses (ask me how I know!).  Using the flour and freezer method really doesn’t add much more time, and it leaves a larger margin for error in the event of too much molasses.  BE SURE TO LABEL the bag!!  They look just like little kid-sized chocolatey treats, and are surprisingly tempting!!  Since they are just herbs, I doubt it would harm anyone, but I’m not sure a molasses-herb ball would taste all that great if you are expecting chocolate!

Every week, on the same day, I take one teaspoon-sized ball out of the freezer for each goat, and either hand feed, or drop the ball into their grain dish at milking time.  Either way, every goat I have offered these balls to (mine and visitors alike) has loved them!  I did have one new goat that was sick when she arrived, and she turned her nose up at the ball.  I simply rolled the ball in sunflower seeds, and then she took it right away.  I continue this one-ball-a-week regimen for most of the year, with 2 exceptions:

One exception is during the 3rd month of pregnancy.  I have heard mixed reviews on potential risks of the herbs during pregnancy, so based on my limited research, I decided to stop giving it after the third month.  This is typically the late winter months anyway, reducing the risks of parasites significantly.  Then, after kidding, I wait about a week and give the 3-day (6 ball) regimen listed above.  I don’t really have data for that decision to wait a week; it’s just a preference of mine to avoid changing anything I don’t have to for one week after kidding, in order to give their bodies time to overcome all the stresses involved in kidding and freshening.  I wait 7 days (after the last ball) and do the 3-day-regimen again, which covers the 7-10 day window of the parasitic development stages.  After the second round, they go back to the once a week regimen until the next breeding season.  Last year, I only gave one round after kidding, but after further research, I did the two rounds this year, and the does seemed to bounce back faster.  After the 2 month break, and with the stress of kidding and lactating, they are more vulnerable at this point than other times, so I think that the extra dose really helps them out.

The second exception is on an as-needed basis in early fall, as we approach breeding season.  I am trying to make a habit of of doing annual fecal samples of all our goats, and if the sample shows positive for parasites, then they would get another 3-day-dose.  If the samples are negative, then we will just continue with the once a week regimen.  I prefer end of summer, as it will give me an idea how the goats have faired through any extra wet or drought conditions, all of which can affect parasite loads differently.  The timing also gives me an opportunity to ensure the goats overall health is up to par as we go into breeding season.

I start giving the dewormer balls when kids are about 8 weeks old, assuming they are on mother’s milk and healthy.  They don’t really know how to eat it earlier than that.  If they were fed milk replacer or otherwise off in health, I would drench it earlier.  As kids up to around 60 lbs., I break the ball in half, so they only get 1/2 tsp.  Even my April-born kids have hit that weight just before fall so far, and then go on the full-size balls.  When I had my mature buck (around 200 lbs.), I made a few extra large (1.5 tsp. sized) balls for him, but he was on the same time schedule as the does.  Since a buck wouldn’t need the break for pregnancy followed by the double 3-day regimen, he would stay on the once-a-week dose until the fall, and then get the 3-day regimen along with girls if needed based on fecals.  Also, if I purchase a new adult goat, it gets one to two rounds of the three-day regimen, based on overall health, then it will simply fall in line with the rest of the goats and their regimen.

Finally, any dewormer–whether it be herbal or chemical–is only as effective as the goat is healthy.  If you deworm your goat, and they seem to have worms again a short time later, then there is a nutritional imbalance that is not allowing their natural pest-resistance features to work.  As long as the goat is healthy, if I see a few signs of worms here or there, it really doesn’t concern me too much.  That’s how goats in the wild survive.  As long as the goat is looking fit and healthy, has some meat on it’s bones, isn’t “pot-bellied” (classic sign of severe worm infestation), and has normal “goat-berry” poop, then I just stick with the usual once-a-week ball.  Their health will prevent a true infestation.  In the past, when I have purchased a goat whose health is not up to par, I deworm them using the double round of the 3-day regimen, but I also work on getting their nutrition where it needs to be so they can control pests naturally.  I had one goat that fell a bit ill, and I saw some signs of tapeworm I just couldn’t seem to get rid of with the herbal dewormer alone.  I looked for signs of what she might be deficient in, and decided she had a few early signs of copper deficiency.  A goat with proper amounts of copper in its system easily repels worms, as the worms HATE copper!  So, I dosed her with a 1% copper solution for about a week.  On the 3rd day, there was the most disgusting mass-exodus of tapeworms out of her gut!  Just wads of them on her poop! She never had a re-ocurrence while I owned her.  The goat’s fur can be the easiest way to see if there is a deficiency of some sort.  Coarse, dirty, rough fur is the first sign.  Black fur that has a copper- or bronze-colored tint to it is another sign.  “Fish tail,” where the goat is missing fur on the very tip of its tail or a curl on the end of the hair shafts of the body fur are also early signs.  “Ring-barking” of trees in the paddock is a sign that deficiencies may be getting more serious.  (Disclaimer:  Copper sulfate can be deadly if used improperly.  I like to see multiple signs of deficiency before treating for it!)  Get their health and nutrition right first, and a deworming acts as a side-kick.  That should be what a dewormer is, rather than a “fix-it” when there is a problem–because it isn’t.  Although it certainly provides an early and immediate boost if the animal is off and should certainly be given to a sickly animal, a dewormer will only be a short-term solution if the goat’s health isn’t up to par!  For more information on overall goat health, see this post.

As a side note, we recently finished our annual testing.  We did our first fecals, all of which came back completely negative.  I specifically asked if “negative” meant “nothing” or if it meant “less than a certain count,” and was told they found absolutely no signs of parasites at all.  Curious, I asked if that was common for this area, seeing as how we have been in a drought for a year, and droughts can cause some parasites to go dormant.  The response was “NO! A negative fecal is highly unusual!”  In addition, this year, we also decided to test our girls for CAE, CL, Johnes, Q-Fever, and Toxoplasmosis, as recommended for goats in this area, and goats that will be traveling.  It also makes me feel better about my overall herd health and about the safety of serving the milk to my family and visitors, as some of these diseases are spread goat-to-goat through the milk, others through direct contact, and some are contagious to humans.  Granted, all these tests are just a “snapshot” of their health at that moment, but it is nice to see that what we are doing seems to be working.

Now, as we head into this breeding season, I am feeling really good about the health of my girls, and combined with their genetics, which we have carefully selected, I’m also feeling good about using them as our foundation herd back at the farm.

My husband is the most content person you would ever meet — spiritually, physically, socially, you name it. He just makes himself happy with whatever situation life throws at him.  In most cases, this is a good thing and puts me to shame since I am definitely not that content. Believe it or not, though, that can be a downfall.  Just try to buy a gift for someone who wants for nothing.  Therefore, if my beloved ever actually voices that he wants something, you can bet I listen!  The only thing he has really mentioned wanting over the last two years is to be more sustainable in his shaving habits.  Rather than the plastic safety-razor that has replaceable, throw-away blades, or the re-chargeable electric razor that eventually winds up in a landfill, he wanted to try the very old-fashioned, re-usable straight razor.  You know, the kind your great-grandfather used.

After overcoming my fears of my children getting hold of this weapon, or my beloved slicing his own throat open, I finally gave in–mainly because I just didn’t know what else to get him for his recent birthday.  After a bit of research, I bought him a complete kit from my new favorite, sustainable, American-made, catalog, Lehman’s, which, although more expensive, I figured it was the safest way to go since I didn’t have a clue how this stuff was used or how to piece it together.

The Lehman catalog beginner’s kit

He was thrilled.  He spent an afternoon reading shaving articles, and watching shaving lessons on YouTube.  Then, he went into the bathroom to try his hand at it.

He soon realized his first mistake was in how he was holding the razor, and then, after watching another video, he figured out a few other tips to improve his technique.  Nonetheless, he managed to shave his whole face and neck for the first time, and it only took him about 45 minutes.  He never sliced himself, though he did poke himself once.  It didn’t bleed too badly, thankfully!

The next generation of straight-razor users watching closely.

Although not perfect, it did give a close-enough shave that he was able to wait a full 48 hours before he did it again, and the second time, it only took 30 minutes, and he did even better with improved technique.  His research claims it takes about 100 shaves, or a minimum of 30 days to really get decent at it and comfortable doing it.  He has every intention of sticking with it, though.  I was so excited by the baby’s-bottom-smooth face and fact the shave lasted several days, that I begged to use it for my legs.  No matter how much he loves me, though, I think he might love the razor more.  He said, “Not a chance!”  Oh well, it was worth a try.

As with any adventure, I like details, and I like to set the stage.  You’ll just have to deal with it:

Sunday night started out like many others.  We put the kids to bed, and S had to fly the next morning, which means he has to get up around 4:30 in the morning.  Thus, he went to bed early, and I decided to stay up and watch one of my “cop/detective” shows on Netflix (it’s almost as bad a weakness as my craving for Snickers bars!  I actually got through labor by watching a “Cops” marathon on the hospital TV!).  I prepared for bed around 11, and noticed Athena barking unusually fiercely.  As I was climbing into bed around 11:30, her bark intensified to the most ferocious, snarling bark I had ever heard from her.  I was envisioning her literally trying to kill something through the fence, it was that bad!  I knew at that point I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I checked on things outside, but hated to ask S to do it with the early morning he had.  So, I did wake him, but only to let him know what I was doing.  (Of course, he went right back to sleep, so I don’t think it did any good anyway!)  Then, I tried to decide what to take as protection–a gun?  Nah, they say never take a gun unless you are really comfy using it–which I’m not.  A baseball bat?  Hmmm…don’t own one.  A “carrot stick and savvy string” for training horses/donkeys?  Perfect!  Also known as a lunge whip of sorts, it’s something I’m totally comfortable with, and if used with enough force, the fiberglass rod can definitely leave a sting to remember! (Go ahead and laugh at me now…I might as well give you permission since you are doing it anyway….)

Picturing a pack of coyotes, a couple fox, or, at worst, a bear in my woods, I then took a deep breath–not easy to find courage with that barking going on outside–and called my trusty 90 lb. pet, Will.  Now Will is trained to obey voice commands quite well, and has proven over the years that he will only bark if he senses something suspicious “out there.” He will also raise hackles and be alert if he senses something unseen, and I have seen him attack another animal that threatened him once in his life.  So, I tend to use him as my first protection.  I don’t have a clue what he’d do in a real emergency, but he gives me a little courage anyway.  Armed with my trusty pooch and my whip, I grabbed a headlamp-style flashlight, turned it on, and went out into the thick blackness of the forest to account for my critters.

I saw no reaction from Will, so first we headed to the chicken coop, seeing as how the bear has already proven he has a taste for chickens this summer (my neighbors, not mine).  Everything checked out, so we headed deeper into the woods to check the other animals.  I called to Athena.  I had to walk about 100 yards through the woods, to the animal pens, so I shined my light all over as I went.  With my light landing on Athena in the pen, I felt a little better seeing her glowing eyes and tail wagging at me.  When I got to the pens, it was clear something was up, as the goats were restlessly running around the pen, clearly a bit agitated (they would normally be laying down sleeping at that hour), but their hackles weren’t raised.  I also observed the donkeys were happily munching their hay, which I found interesting, as a prey animal would not eat if it felt a predator was nearby.  I walked in, petted everybody, felt better that all creatures were accounted for, scanned the forest once more with my light and saw nothing, and headed back to the house.   All the while, I realized the sheer ridiculousness of my white knuckle grip on my stick should a bear charge, but hey, it was better than nothing.   Right??!!

Ok, sorry about the verbosity…it’s a way I work through my own issues….stay with me, though, as the fun is just beginning!

I went back to bed, and after my little excitement, I quickly fell into a deep sleep.  The sound of a door shutting and Athena barking her ferocious bark again woke me around 3:15.  It was dark, and I instinctively reached for S.  He wasn’t there.  I immediately sensed something was wrong.  I lay there for a moment in my sleepy fog, trying to figure out if I should get up or feign sleep.  I heard someone walking around the house, and saw a light flip on.  I heard the footsteps go downstairs, and then heard S’s voice talking on the phone. Intrigued, but feeling safer, I got up and quietly headed downstairs, soon realizing that S was talking with the sheriff’s office.

After he finished and hung up, he explained to me that Athena’s bark had woken and concerned him.  He, too, realized it was an unusual bark (I don’t think he has EVER gotten up to check on Athena and the animals before–it was that bad!).  He had walked out onto our dark porch, looked around, and saw a strange, small light at the end of our driveway.  He watched it, and realized it was a dome light of a vehicle.  He shined his flashlight onto the vehicle, and saw it was a grey truck, but couldn’t tell if anyone was in it.  He then heard a vehicle door close, and the light went out.  Clearly, someone was near the vehicle, which was located on the opposite side of the house from Athena, where she couldn’t see it, yet she was still going nuts at something.  At that point, he had called the sheriff.

Within a couple minutes, a deputy arrived, and pulled up to the vehicle, which had gone totally silent except for the occasional appearance of the dome light.  We watched out our window as the deputy (who was alone) turned on his spotlight, got out of his car, and cautiously approached the vehicle.  Then, thanks to the spotlight, we saw movement in the truck, and knew someone was still in there.  We couldn’t hear much, but we could tell he was talking, and then the truck alarm sounded, and continued to sound.  The deputy began shining his spotlight into the woods all around, but focusing on my neighbor’s place across our dirt road. We surmised maybe they were trying to alert someone.  Another 10 minutes elapsed, and the alarm was still sounding.  At that point the deputy returned to his vehicle, and called for backup, and another car drove in a couple minutes later.  When the second deputy arrived, they approached the truck, and not one, but two HUGE guys were ordered out, handcuffed, and placed into the patrol vehicle.  Then, after securing the guys, the deputies both grabbed spotlights and shotguns, and went off into my neighbors’ woods, began circling their pasture, went into their barn, and generally began looking in all potential hiding places.  Finally, a deputy walked down to our house, and spoke with S, explaining that the vehicle did not belong to the guys, one of the guys was totally drunk and could hardly even stand, the other was lying through his teeth and not cooperating, other than to tell him there were still 2 people in the woods, it was part of a “ritual” they do every year, and the vehicle belonged to one of the other folks still out there.  Being a livestock owner, S’s first thought was rituals dealing with animal sacrifice, so he requested an inspection of all our critters, and our other neighbor’s house since they were on vacation and we were watching the place. About this time, Athena finally quite barking–almost as though she sensed the situation was OK now (or maybe whoever was out there ran off).  He certainly didn’t want to be running around our woods checking on critters at the same time heavily armed deputies were out there looking for someone!  The deputy allowed it, but went with S to check out the neighbor’s place first, then they returned and looked around our woods, checked on all the animals, and found nothing.   S returned to the house, the deputy met up with his partner, and they returned to their patrol cars to talk with the guys a bit more.  Eventually, a third deputy in an SUV arrived, and began driving up and down our lane spotlighting the woods.  They stuck around out there about 20 minutes, and then we could hear yelling.  It sounded as though someone had emerged from the woods and was getting yelled at about the dangers of trespassing on someone’s land in the middle of the night.  After a bout of yelling, both patrol cars left, and the grey truck remained, sitting empty at the end of our drive.

We never got any explanation, and eventually managed to fall back to sleep.  Not knowing whether the other 2 folks had actually been hauled off or not, Around 5, S woke me, gave me a tutorial of his pistol and how to use it, ensured the house was locked up securely, and left for work.  When I got up later, the night’s adventures seemed to have been a dream until I looked down the driveway, and saw the truck still sitting there.  It was a little eerie.  Later, around 9, I was doing some outdoor chores, and heard an engine start up.  When I went around the house to check, the truck was gone.  There has since been no mention of the event in the news or the sheriff’s blog, so we have no idea how it was resolved.  It has us little more on edge than usual.  Everything makes sense now, too, about my earlier inspection at 11:30.  The donkeys would have no fear of people, and people wouldn’t cause the goats to raise their hackles like a predator would.  Strange people would agitate the goats, though, as they tend to bond to people they know.  So, I am especially creeped out, knowing I was out there alone at 11:30, and with Athena’s bark, I have no doubt I was not alone out there.  Not sure my whip would have done much good with people.  Of course, it never occurred to me it would be people running around in my woods!

So, we have had our excitement for a while.  One bit of comic-relief that came out of the situation was when the deputy was talking to S, and talked about what idiots these folks were.  He explained that near every house in our Forest is well-armed and not afraid to use their guns if need be!  It dawned on us that we are sufficiently armed, our one neighbor has  a shotgun, another neighbor has a 50-cal and an arsenal, and the third neighbor is a retire army arrant officer and armed to the teeth, always with a loaded weapon within easy reach!

Everything is basically back to normal, except for a few hairs on my neck that stand on end every time I walk out to the animal pens.  S, having spent a career in the military, even serving in Kuwait shortly after we met, is quite comfortable with guns, and would have no qualms about using one to protect his family.  My grandfather worked with the GBI, and my father used to take me shooting a lot, so I am familiar with guns, but it’s been a few years since I have dealt with them, and therefore, I am a little uncomfortable.  Therefore, S has also told me he is going to use our weekly date nights to take me out to the shooting range for a while, and help me grow more comfortable with the guns we have.  Since we will be moving next year, and S won’t be with us for part of the time, it is highly possible I would need to shoot a predator at Red Gate some time.  Always better safe than sorry, I guess.

We have been busy around the farm this summer, trying to find the balance between getting things set up for another frigid and long winter, living temporarily, and preparing for our move in the spring.  Unfortunately, my busy-ness has decreased my blog readership by about 60%, so I guess I really need to make blogging a priority again.  Since farm-related topics seem to be the main topic of interest, I will start there this week.

We had to purchase our hay in 3x3x8 foot bales this year.  Thanks to the severe drought, there just wasn’t much to choose from.  In fact, to give you east-coasters some appreciation for real drought, a 55 lb. bale is currently going for around $13.50, while 70 lb. bales are going for $15.  The 800 lb. round bales I used to buy in GA for $30 cost about $200 here.  It is absolutely insane!  Thus, anticipating steeper prices and more shortage as winter arrives, we calculated out how much we would need to get us through the move, with a little left over for weaning onto pasture.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a place to store bales of hay that big, so we built a cheap shelter out of cattle panels, t-posts, a tarp, and bulletin-board tarp.  It’s ugly, but it works, and can be torn down in about 30 minutes. I will probably do an separate post on the shelter for anyone interested.

Between the hay prices and the move, we have cut down on our animals.  So, our farm, which has done a complete turn around from the animals we had this time last year, now consists of 2 milking does and a spring doeling.  I recently submitted bloodwork from all 3 for several different tests, as these particular does had never been tested (just their parents before I got them), and, as expected, they were negative for everything–always a good thing!  I also plan to submit manure samples from them, just to see how our natural deworming regimine is working.

American Alpine, Latte, is a 2-year-old second freshener, producing just under a gallon a day currently. She peaked at 1.5 gallons. She is, coincidentally, a daughter of Stallion, our buck from last year, and a sweetheart to boot!

American Alpine, Faith, is a 1 year old first freshener, producing about 3/4 gallon a day this year.

American Alpine, Joy, is a spring 2012 doeling out of Faith (above) and Stallion, our buck from last year.  She is a very nice and correct doeling, and I am excited to see how she produces next year!

Of course, Athena is a keeper.  I am still toying a bit with improving her training slightly, but we absolutely adore her.  Her instinct to protect her animals and family are just fascinating to witness, just as her instincts to keep the peace are entertaining.  She always happily alerts us to any deer, squirrel, or fox that comes around (yes, that also means she is a bit noisy at times), but we haven’t lost any animals when she is on duty.  If the does start fighting over something, she is quick to break it up, either by grabbing a tail or leg and hauling the offender away to the other side of the pen, or just by getting in the middle and barking a scold at them.

Athena, the livestock guardian dog. She is 3/4 Great Pyrenees, 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd, and 100% sweetheart!

We also have Shiloh, the jenny, and her 3-month-old jenny foal, Asha, who we have decided to keep–seeing as how we do have 5 children that want to ride.  I have been slowly increasing the amount of time I work with Asha, teaching her basic manners, and Shiloh is getting ridden one to two times a week right now.  We are hoping to increase that to 3 or more.  Of course, it is my limited time that slows us down, as I have to bridle her up for the kids to ride.  I trimmed both girls’ hooves today, which I am quite proud of (and quite feeling it tonight–I’ve never done 8 hooves in a single afternoon!)

Shiloh and Asha, the standard donkeys (or burros, depending on which part of the country you’re from).

JR has had quite the rabbit enterprise this year, learning all about advertising, customer service, support-after-sale, dealing with difficult customers, and more.  He has sold about 15 rabbits this summer alone, some live, and some dressed. I have also perfected a couple of rabbit meat recipes that our family really enjoys, so I think the rabbits have earned a permanent place on the farm.  After we sold off all our extra breeders and then JR’s favorite breeding doe developed severe mastitis in one of her teats (I didn’t even know that was possible!) and had to be put down, we are down to just 4 rabbits, 2 does, and 2 bucks.  One of each is currently breeding age, and the other 2 are still growing as replacements.  The youngsters give us a back up in the event we lose a breeder over the winter, but we are hoping to move all 4 to give us a good start at Red Gate Farm.  The breeding doe currently has a litter of 5 week old kits, that will be weaned in the next couple weeks, and harvested after Thanksgiving.  We hope she will keep us supplied until we get settled and start breeding the new girl.

Pelham, our American Chinchilla, and current sire.

Hope, a Harlequin rabbit, and our current breeding doe.

Our up-and-coming buck, Jupiter.

Our still-growing doe, Mars.

Our current litter of kits. All are already reserved for meat.

Then there’s the chickens.  We lost all but 8 of our layers from last year to the fox (who has since been dispatched), then we were gifted 5 more layers early this summer, giving us 13.  Of course, half of them started molting mid-summer, so we have been getting about 6 eggs a day for several months now.  In addition, we were given 12 more chicks in early summer, most of which are pullets we are raising as layers.  Some of them are Americauna’s, meaning we could finally get a few green/blue eggs mixed into the batch.  Depending on how many wind up being roosters, I may sell a few of the pullets this fall.  I was hoping to take a few with us when we moved, to hold us over until we could raise a new batch, but I have discovered several states we will be driving through may require certain tests for poultry.  So, depending on the process and price, we may just sell all the girls next spring and just start over.

Of course, I can’t forget the honey bees.  We have 6 hives now, which we will maintain through the winter.  If all survive, then we will sell 3 hives, mainly to get rid of the larger sized boxes.  S has really spent this year focusing on regressing his bees and using natural, non-chemical methods.  While the process has been very successful in terms of producing healthy hives, due to the regression process, the severe drought (meaning minimal nectar flows), and the fact the previous owner harvested too much honey last year, we aren’t sure we will get to harvest any this year.  It’s kind of borderline at this point.

Finally, just for kicks, we recently had a visitor.  A very smelly, rutty visitor, who reminded me why I sold Stallion last fall.

Meet Marcus, a very well-bred American Alpine buck from Harmody Alpine lines. Notice the incredible bouffant hair do….

You see, this little buck was just born this spring.  Chances are, that hair will keep on growin’, until Marcus resembles his dad, Elvis….

Elvis was quite the king of the herd. Look at that hair!  And he was only a yearling when this pic was taken last year.  I borrowed this pic from a friend’s website. Our black Alpine doe, Onyx, was bred to Elvis last year, but we wound up selling her twin boys. I am rather hoping to keep a little buckling out of him if I can get my hands on one.

Don’t you just love the resemblance?

Well, guess that it’s for now.  Wait until you read tomorrow’s post about a quite unexpected adventure we had in the middle of the night!  Let’s just say it involved a drunk guy, several accomplices, our woods, Athena, and several sheriff’s deputies wielding spotlights and shotguns!

“Sugar and Spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of….”……most of the time, anyway!

I love that little poem.  It’s so cute, and, generally speaking, kids are pretty cute too.  Most of the time, I can even see how it’s relatively true.  Take 19-month-old R for example…so cute, innocent, sweet, and cuddly.  With her love for her puppy and pillow, and her constant desire for giving hugs and kisses and even imitating her siblings (and mommy), there is no doubt she is all girl!

19-month-old R and brother 3-year-old N sitting on the bench together. N was in time-out for misbehaving, and R decided to keep him company.

She’s always good for hugs!

Then again, she has 3 brothers.  I think they have confused her a bit, dampening some of that little girl sweetness, as evidenced by the trouble she seems to get into on a frequent basis. For example, she has a passion for putting everything–and I do mean EVERYTHING–in her mouth.  Her diapers almost always contain bits of crayon that have managed to pass on through.  At least her diapers are easy to change!  She tells us she’s dirty, backs her little bum up so we can check it, runs to her room, waits eagerly to be lifted onto the changing table, and sticks her legs straight up in the air.

Ready and waiting!

Sick of dirty diapers, and seeing as how she displayed most of the signs of being ready for potty-training, I decided to give it a go.  She loved it–as long as I allowed her brothers toys to keep her entertained on the potty, including the harmonica she is playing in this photo.

Potty Training attempt #1–totally failed.

For the record, I totally gave up after one day.  I decided the diapers were a little easier for a few more months (I have always trained around age 2 in the past).

They have also managed to teach her how much fun the outside chores can be–when you don’t necessarily get straight to doing them.  I witnessed this first hand, as she found the egg-collecting basket (I think I was looking for it at the time), and decided it made a perfect hat!

Basket? What basket?

Oh! This basket! Yup, I have it, and you don’t, and I’m not gonna give it to you!! Nah, nah!

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the climbing!  Her trouble-seeking brothers have taught her well!  She can climb on pretty much anything she sets her mind to.  Most of the time it’s fun:

Like when she gets to clean-up snack leftovers on the table…

Or finds JR’s hidden treasures up on his bunk!

Other times, she gets stuck and can’t get down, but knows Mommy wouldn’t be happy if caught, so she doesn’t cry out, but just waits patiently, until Mommy finds her sound asleep where she doesn’t belong:

Like on her dresser at nap time, instead of in her bed.

Oh yeah, she is totally and completely sound asleep!

Despite her antics, though, she is one cute kid!!  She’s also a BIG kid.  At just 19 months, she is now comfortably wearing size 3T !!  She weighs as much as N, if not more.  The girl is a tank, and can out-eat half her siblings at any given meal.  I have already gotten a few “looks” from other people who think my 3 year old should be acting more mature, until I explain she is only 19 months.  Funny how that makes them more understanding.  When folks see S and I, they know those big genes didn’t come from us.  Sometimes we might confess she got them from her birth family, but most of the time, we just blame it on the raw goat milk!!

She is a sweetheart, though, and I am cherishing every moment I have with her!  We have been so blessed with this little girl, and I look forward to watching her grow up over the years–crazy antics, and all!

On Labor Day, we decided to surprise the older children.  The night before, I set warm clothes out for them to wear (it is the high-plains of Colorado, after all), and S woke them bright and early on the big day.  He didn’t tell them why, only to get ready and quickly eat breakfast.  Of course, seeing as how our children are all early risers, and since they all share rooms (boys in one room, girls in another), an early morning for 2 kids means an early morning for mommy and all the other kids too!  In any case, S loaded JR and M into the van, headed out just around sunrise, and arrived at the Hot Air Balloon Festival just as the winds kicked up (a bad thing).  First, they had to find parking, and being the cheapskates frugal people we are, S decided to park in the closest “FREE” parking spot he could find.  That meant they all had to walk about a half mile or so to get to the festival.  The winds delayed the balloon launch for about half an hour, during which time, S, JR, and M got to strike up a conversation with a balloon owner and learn all about hot air balloons.

Warming up the balloon apparatus.

JR and M with a balloon basket behind them.

Finally, the first of 2 launches started, and JR and M absolutely loved it!  First, they sent up a lead balloon, to test the wind speeds, and demonstrate what pilots were supposed to do with their balloons.  The lead balloon is the Red, White, and Blue one in the next photo.

Inflating a balloon.

Colorful balloons

Smokey the Bear balloon

A sky full of balloons

One of the events of the day is for the balloon pilots to compete by taking a very controlled dip-and-drag of their basket through the lake.

After they tired of watching balloons, the “free” festival got a little costly as S splurged to let the kids play some of the activities provided.  It was a date, though, and I think these hard-working, homeschooling farm kids are totally worth a little fun!

M in the hamster ball

You can see M struggling trying her very best to race the ball across the field in this video:

Then, you can see the bouncy house fun.  Note that the bouncy houses were placed in such a way that the kids could use easily-accessible entrances on some, and then just bounce over the tops to get to others.  The funny thing in this video is that M had no problem bouncing over.  JR, on the other hand…..well… can see for yourself.  Poor kid!

Fun Day!  Mommy and the littles just might have to go next time.  Do you think S would race me in the hamster balls?

We had quite the adventure this weekend….our first annual Chicken Harvest!

Roosters caged and ready for harvest.

Back in early spring, before life got as nutty as it has been, we were asked to host an event to both teach people, as well as have the efficiency of an assembly line of folks, to help harvest around 80 chickens.  We agreed, thinking it would be a great experience for us to host and teach, and because we were interested in the help harvesting our own 40 or so birds.  It also allowed us the benefit of ordering a large batch of meat birds as a group to save with a quantity price and shipping.  So it was arranged, and we were committed.

Now, when most folks think of meat birds, they think of the mutant, over-hybridized, massive broiler type chicks you buy, raise for 6-8 weeks, then butcher.  They are considered the most feed-efficient birds around.  After all, you only feed them for 6-8 weeks.  The flavor, however, is not generally as good as the old-fashioned breeds of chickens, because the way these hybrids grow, they literally want to do nothing but sit by a feeder and eat all day.  After the first few weeks, they aren’t even that interested in free-ranging to supplement their diet with the bugs and greens that add so much flavor to the meat.  About the only way to get the benefits of free-range flavor is to pasture them in frequently moved chicken tractors.

Due to our altitude (over 7600 feet), and the lack of oxygen around here, the hybrids don’t seem to do that well over all.  I have one friend who raised a few, but at 6 weeks, they started petering out, and by 8 weeks, they were dying of heart attacks.  So, we chose instead to raise the old-fashioned, hardier meat-bird.  The flavor is incredible and they don’t just up and die on you, but the down side is that they take 4 months to reach an edible weight, and all that free-ranging plus the additional age creates a slightly tougher meat.  Nonetheless, we think the trade off is worth it, at least while we live here.  We may try the hybrid birds when we live at Red Gate.  We’ll see.

Anyway, back to the harvest event….

We spent Friday eve and Saturday morning setting up all the supplies we had gathered.  We were blessed with a poultry plucker, free of charge, in exchange for making some repairs to it.  S made the repairs, and has decided to build his own now that he knows how it all works.  (Thank goodness!!! I officially hate hand-plucking!)

The calm before the storm…all set up and ready to harvest.

About 18 people showed up to help–most of whom were planning to take home packaged, freezer-ready birds.  We had 2 assembly-line tables (or maybe I should say “dis-assembly-line!”), where each person had a specific job they did to prepare the chicken.

S teaching the different “dis-assembly” stations.

One person was basically in charge of getting the chickens and putting them into the killing cones.  We had 2 killing cones, and one guy and one woman were taught to “stick” the chicken in order to relatively painlessly bleed him out and kill him.  Then, some teenage girls were in charge of dunking the dead and bled chickens into the scald tanks, while another lady oversaw the plucker and then passed the chickens to the appropriate dis-assembly tables.

Scalding the birds.

After the chickens were disassembled and the parts and offal all seperated into designated containers, the remaining carcasses were put into chill tanks.

One of the lines, with S assisting as needed.

After chilling, we had  inspectors that looked them over, removed any left-over pin-feathers or unsightly material, and moved them into processing chill tanks.

Inspector looking the bird over.

Finally, the “owner” of the birds would place the birds on our home-made drying rack, give a final once-over, package their birds as desired, and move them to their final cooler, where they could then be set aside to go home later.

An owner giving her birds the final inspection.

It probably took about an hour to process the first 10 chickens, but then we got on a roll, and processed the remaining 60 or so in the next 2.5 hours.  Nothing to really be proud off compared to experienced processors, but for a bunch of total amateurs, I’d say we did quite well!  As an added precaution, we actually divided birds into individual batches (a batch being one person’s group of chickens).  Between each batch, we asked everyone to take a quick break and re-sterilize all their equipment.  We were surprised to find that one person showed up to volunteer his time sharpening everyone’s knives.  Turns out he was quite the knife-sharpening expert after living in the wilds of Alaska for most of his life, hunting wild game, and learning the fine arts of good knives and sharpening skills!  We took advantage of him and had him sharpen a few of our more difficult knives.

So,we had a great first experience, received some very encouraging feedback, were told how the event thoroughly inspired a few “city folks” to get more involved in their food habits, and generally had a wonderful day of fellowship ending with a freezer full of chicken to feed our family for the next year.  As an added bonus, I pre-sold almost 20 of our birds, which helped pay for all the feed involved in raising them.  Because they are free-range meat birds, folks happily paid $15 for the smaller 2-3 lb (dresed weight) birds we were offering.  Plus, we got to keep most of the offal material to feed Athena.

We look forward to offering many more of these in the future!!