May 2013


We’ve arrived!  After many years of waiting, wondering, studying homesteading, preparing the farm, we finally made it!  I cannot express to you how wonderful it feels.  As you read, we had a few unwelcome adventures along the way.  There’s nothing like a leaking fuel line, an unexpected layover at a small-town repair shop, on a hot day with a trailer full of overheating livestock from a cold climate, and a loose and stubborn chicken running around a parking lot , being chased down by 2 kids and 2 helpful truckers, to get the blood pressure up a bit!  I drove the truck and trailer, and a girl-friend drove my minivan with the kiddos.  She was such a God-send through the whole ordeal, and for the whole week after!  What should have been about a 15-18 hour trip turned into a 22 hour trip.   We arrived at almost 2 in the morning, got the kids in bed and began unloading animals.  We had to walk each of the goats, dogs, and donkeys about 200 feet from the trailer to the barn, through the tall hay field.  The tall grass was so foreign to them, not a single animal attempted to take a bite!  They didn’t know what to think of this stuff brushing against their bellies!  Oh, what an adventure that day was!!

While Will, our resident house pet knows and seems to enjoy the place, he doesn’t leave the front porch much.

IMG_0645

The other animals, to the contrary, are still trying to figure out this place.  Some seem to think they have died and gone to a heaven far beyond anything they could have dreamed of, while others are still trying to figure out whether they are in heaven or some kind of purgatory.

Honey bees:  definitely think they've died and gone to heaven!  I've never seen such full pollen sacs on the workers' legs, and when we checked today, the queen has gone crazy laying eggs.  The workers are building up honey and pollen stores, and are so content foraging, they showed no signs of aggression as we inspected the hive today.

Honey bees: definitely think they’ve died and gone to heaven! I’ve never seen such full pollen sacs on the workers’ legs, and when we checked today, the queen has gone crazy laying eggs. The workers are building up honey and pollen stores, and are so content foraging, they showed no signs of aggression as we inspected the hive today.

When we first arrived, the chickens weren’t quite sure what to think.  Until today, they were living in the stock trailer, using it as a makeshift coop until we could get theirs’ finished.  Notice the rabbit cages are also still in there, until we get a permanent area set up.

IMG_0604

It took a couple of days for the hens to learn to go INTO the trailer at night, rather than hide out UNDER it.  It also meant that M has stayed busy hunting eggs when they decide to lay in the grass or under the trailer, rather than in the makeshift nestboxes we put in the trailer.

Look closely, they're under there, enjoying the shade.

Look closely, they’re under there, enjoying the shade.

Hens foraging the hay field.  They have definitely decided they are in hen heaven!  Their feed consumption has dropped by half I think, and their crops are always stuffed with bugs, seeds, and whatever other treats they are finding out there.  Our egg yolks have already turned a bold orange color from all the greens they are consuming.

Hens foraging the hay field. They have definitely decided they are in hen heaven! Their feed consumption has dropped by half I think, and their crops are always stuffed with bugs, seeds, and whatever other treats they are finding out there. Our egg yolks have already turned a bold orange color from all the greens they are consuming.

The donkeys aren’t sure what to think.  Probably depends on what time of day you ask them.  Most of the day, they hang out in their spacious stall together.  I added a few toys to keep them entertained.  In the late afternoon, they get to go out to the trimmed pasture as we wean them on to the rich grass here.  As long as the grass is short, they enjoy it, but if you ask them to go into the longer field grass, they get pretty nervous.  They don’t seem to realize it is food as well.  In addition, the bugs are driving them batty.  I have had to start using a bug repellent ointment in their long ears due to all the bites they were receiving.  After a few hours in the buggy, humid outdoors, they are usually standing at the barn doors waiting eagerly for me to let them back in to their cool, bug free stall.

Donkeys:  Too short to see over the rails!

Donkeys: Too short to see over the rails!

 

Dogs:  Totally in heaven here!  As soon as I let them out every morning, they run and romp and chase each other until they are almost overheated.  The fighting has decreased significantly, and even then, it is typically only when I put them back into the stall together at night.

Dogs: Totally in heaven here! As soon as I let them out every morning, they run and romp and chase each other until they are almost overheated. The fighting has decreased significantly, and even then, it is typically only when I put them back into the stall together at night.  The only problem so far is that my white dogs have turned a clay-orange color since we are in the midst of a very wet, muddy spell here. 

Like the donkeys, the goats’ thoughts seem to vary with the time of day.  At night, or when the donkeys are out, the goats are stuck inside a stall/alley area.  They have plenty of room, but get very bored.  Latte tends to bully Joy to no end during those times (hence the reason I allow them 2 areas to roam).

IMG_0621

Mocha and Caramel, growing as fast as IL weeds, and drinking almost a gallon a day of Latte's milk!

Mocha and Caramel, growing as fast as IL weeds free-choice nursing on almost a gallon a day of Latte’s milk!

The girls are definitely in caprine heaven when we turn them out.  They run and leap and romp almost as much as the dogs at first.  They have also worked up to staying out for about 8 hours a day now, and seem to be thriving.

The girls are definitely in caprine heaven when we turn them out. They run and leap and romp almost as much as the dogs at first. They have also worked up to staying out for about 8 hours a day now, and seem to be thriving.

The only issue the goats have had is that the stress of the move combined with the heavy milking from Joy and Latte caused them both to drop a lot of weight.  To make matters worse, none of the goats were eating their portions of grain like they used to.  As a result, I was forced to purchase my first non-organic feed in the form of Calf-Manna.  This is a product that contains a load of B vitamins that work to stimulate the appetite, as well as high carbs to help with weight gain.  Despite the non-organic nature, it is a pretty good product for such issues.  It works.  Faith is due to deliver next week, so I am eager to see how that goes.  She also shrunk in size SIGNIFICANTLY, but I can’t tell if she has lost weight, if the baby shifted, or what happened there.

We also have 3 new faces around the farm.  Two days after our arrival, my friend and I were working on cleaning out the barn when we saw several mice run out of their hiding spaces. The next morning, I called the local small-town animal shelter and told him I was in need of some barn cats.  I told him I would take ferals or otherwise unadoptables, but couldn’t pay a lot of money in adoption fees since they were destined to be barn cats and I had no idea if they would stick around.  He told me to come on over for a visit.  M and I went over, and came home with 3 new kitties.  The added bonus is that all 3 are SOOOO sweet and lovable!  It’s a bit hard to milk with a kitty intent on helping, but we are getting by.

Sarah

Sarah

Shadow, testing out the new hen nesting boxes we were working on.

Shadow, testing out the new hen nesting boxes we were working on.

Katie

Katie

A few other random Red Gate Farm happenings, and some of the projects that have kept us busy this week (in addition to the normal unpacking associated with a move):

My first hay!  My friend and I cut it with a scythe, raked it and fluffed it for 3 days while it dried, and then S helped me get it into the barn for storage.  It isn't much at around 150 pounds, but I'm pretty proud of it, and the animals seem to approve.

My first hay! My friend and I cut it with a scythe, raked it and fluffed it for 3 days while it dried, and then S helped me get it into the barn for storage. It isn’t much at around 150 pounds, but I’m pretty proud of it, and the animals seem to approve.

S and JR working on the chicken coop.

S and JR working on the chicken coop.

The hay field, desperately needing cut, but the weather won't cooperate.

The hay field, desperately needing cut, but the weather won’t cooperate.

My garden!  I built the square foot garden boxes and planted the seed while I was here in March.  Many of the seeds sprouted!  We are already eating radishes, and looking forward to harvests of sunflowers, spinach, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, kohlrabi, corn, and more!  There are plenty of squares that didn't grow, so I have ordered plant starts from Azure Standard to fill the gaps.

My garden! I built the square foot garden boxes and planted the seed while I was here in March. Many of the seeds sprouted! We are already eating radishes, and looking forward to harvests of sunflowers, spinach, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, kohlrabi, corn, and more! There are plenty of squares that didn’t grow, so I have ordered plant starts from Azure Standard to fill the gaps.  We also plan to expand on these beds quite a bit. 

Chicken coop got finished today!  I will have better photos later.

Chicken coop got finished today! I will have better photos later.

Fruit in the orchard.  Some of the trees seem to be having a problem -- blight maybe?--so I treated with some copper sulfate.  Oh, how we would all love to eat our own fruit this year!!

Fruit in the orchard. Some of the trees seem to be having a problem — blight or leaf curl maybe?–so I treated with some copper sulfate. Oh, how we would all love to eat our own fruit this year!!

Iris, peaking over the gate into the front of the barn.  She likes to know what's going on at all times.

Iris, peaking over the gate into the front of the barn. She likes to know what’s going on at all times.

That’s it for now!  I’ll post more as I have time.  Tons of work to do around here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Momma and the kids made it to Illinois but not without a little adventure. Heading into Kansas they were making good time and stopped to milk the goats and get some gas. About an hour later, D got the low fuel light.  Assuming 4 miles per gallon was a little low on the gas mileage chart she pulled over at the next truck stop. You guessed it, diesel fuel all over the bottom of the vehicle and the front of the trailer.  Two and a half hours later, she’s back on the road with a new fuel line connector that effectively puts diesel INTO the engine vice ON the engine (improves gas mileage that way). Our friend who was following D in the minivan with the kids was also pleased to discover why her windshield kept getting cloudy and smeared. Apparently vaporized diesel fuel from the truck in front of you is a very effective deicer but tends to leave a streaky residue. Needless to say, the 15 hour trip turned into an 19 hour trip with that and a few goat milking stops along the way.

Back at the farm the animals are now in heaven. They’re slowly learning what the green fuzzy stuff all over the ground is. Apparently it tastes a little like hay but has more water in it. The bees woke up to a 3 acre field of blooming alfalfa. Although gluttony is a sin for humans, It’s a survival tool for bees. I’m sure their behive is a vomitorium now as they gather and regurgitate 50 times a day to fill up their honey stores. The garden is growing, the fruit trees are fruiting, and the kids are all sweating (we don’t do that in Colorado). D was so excited about the garden that she had fresh radishes for breakfast the first morning. Mmmmm, nothing better than scramble eggs and radishes. I’m writing this because although the phone works fine back at the farm, the internet is on the fritz. Once she gets up and running I’m sure she’ll have pictures, more stories, and possibley a husband. My brother is flying out as I type to help me load the house and head east.

I know you’re all concerned about me too. Don’t worry, I’m getting along just fine. D left me one spoon, one bowl, one glass and a refrigerator full of leftovers. I sometimes can’t identify the leftovers but the sniff test usually tells me if it’s purposely fermented or dying a slow death. Packing is going well too but last night after a long day of outside dirty work, I decided to shower. Unfortunately I packed all the towels, soaps, and shampoos. Never fear though, I left a dish towel and dish soap out to clean my 3 dishes. It reminded me of the old Palmolive commercial “…you’re soaking in it…”. By the way, they really should make dish towels bigger. I’ll leave you with a warning; dish soap on a fiberglass shower floor has a friction coefficient of zero (sorry, I’m an engineer).

As a military brat who married military, I am well-versed in cross-country moves.  Packing, loading up a bunch of kids, and even living in a “TLF” (Air Force acronoym for “Temporary Living Facility,” which is really just a souped-up hotel room) until we find a home doesn’t scare me in the least.  I’ve never lived in the same house more than 5 years in my life.  I’ve slept at interstate rest stops, exercised my horse and dogs in gas station parking lots, and had more adventures than I can count.  Despite my past experiences, however, I am learning that moving a farm is a whole different ball game!

R holding Caramel.

R holding Caramel.

We had to trim down the number of animals we had, so we kept our favorites as foundation breeding stock to get Red Gate up and running.  Due to unexpected events with the goats, we wound up with more milk than we can drink now, so we wound up not buying the 4th doe I was wanting so badly.  All in all, we are moving 30 animals, including the house dog and cat.

Mocha, 2 weeks.

Mocha, 2 weeks.

In order to move, we bought a truck and trailer and had to begin planning our breeding and baby-delivery dates for all critters back in early fall, based on the moving schedule.  That turned out to be easier planned than accomplished.  I think the rabbit doe is the only one who cooperated.  I had to arrange for a ridiculous amount of veterinary and state transport permits for traveling with livestock.  Here in CO, equines and cattle must have “brand inspections” to prove ownership before you travel or sell an animal.  All goats must be registered, either through ear tags or ear tattoos, and there is NO exception for 5 lb., 2-week old kids.  Caramel’s ear was so tiny when we tattoo’ed that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future.  But it was that, or an ear tag almost as big as her head.  The poultry all had to have blood work done, the rabbits had to have their temperatures taken, the dogs had to have their rabies licenses inspected, blah, blah, blah…. Several hundred dollars later, the states and federal government have decided our animals are safe to travel.

Caramel, 2 weeks

Caramel, 2 weeks

Just as things were coming together, last Wednesday, the truck’s radiator spontaneously sprung 2 leaks.  On Thursday, it spent the day in the shop getting fixed.  On Friday, we walked out to find a truck tire going flat and the spare was totally dry-rotted.  On Saturday, we discovered the tire was unrepairable and had to buy 2 new tires.  On Sunday, the radiator sprung another leak, so it spent all day Monday in the shop again.  With just over 2 days before I am supposed to be driving this truck, loaded down with a 20 foot gooseneck trailer hauling 28 of my 30 animals, we are praying it is fixed once and for all.  I’m just so thankful it happened now instead of half-way through remote Kansas!

As if that wasn’t enough adventure, we had a bought of a stomach virus that bounced around the family, landing me in the E.R.  My blood sugars had plummeted, and because of the virus, the glucose I ate wasn’t working.  As my sugars approached the 30’s, I knew it was time for S to get me to the hospital for some intervention.  A bit of Zofran to calm my stomach did the trick, and my sugars were on the rise.  They went ahead and gave me an IV of saline and magnesium though, to replenish what I had lost.  It all worked out, but I wound up missing my going-away party at church the next day.  😦

One of the most frequent questions I have received lately is regarding how we are going to accomodate so many animals of so many different species in one trailer.  So, now that the trailer is almost set up and ready, I took a few photos to show you.

Our trailer, custom made with this trip as well as our future plans in mind.

Our trailer, custom made with this trip as well as our future plans in mind.

First, I built new, large rabbit cages, which will be our bunnies’ home for at least the first few months while we figure out what our long term rabbit plans are.  I bought the wire for several cages, but only built 2 for the trip.  Each cage measures 18 inches tall x 48 inches long x 30 inches deep.  It has 2 swing-in doors for easier access, a hay feeder, and plenty of space for feeders, waterers, salt licks, nest box, etc.

Rabbit cage

Rabbit cage

One of the cages will house our mature doe and her 2, 3 month old doe kits.  In the other cage, I inserted a section of wire to divide it in half, and it will hold both our bucks.  The divider is simply held with zip-ties so we can easily cut them off when I get the other cage built, and the dividing wire is cut to a size I can use on another cage.

The same cage, showing divider section.

The same cage, showing divider section.

I filled the gooseneck of the trailer, an area roughly 8 feet deep x 6.5 feet wide x 4 feet tall, with pine shavings.  This is where the hens and rabbits will travel.

There will be a cage on each side, though I left the other one out for the photo so you can see behind it.

There will be a cage on each side, though I left the other one out for the photo so you can see behind it.

Behind the cage are, in the very front of the gooseneck, we put a chunk of hay to keep the girls busy and a hay-filled nest box for any hens who decide to lay in-route.

Behind the cage, in the very front of the gooseneck, we put a chunk of hay to keep the girls busy and a hay-filled nest box for any hens who decide to lay in-route.

There will be just enough space on each side and in between the cages for a hen to squeeze through, which will hopefully prevent any dangerous corners where the hens could pile up and suffocate each other.  There is a “calf-gate,” or gate type panel that folds up to seperate this area from the rest of the trailer.  I forgot to take a photo of it up, but you can see it hanging down in the top photo of the gooseneck.

The next, front section of the trailer has access through the man door on the side of the trailer.  The goats and dogs will ride there.  First, I wrapped a week’s worth of hay in a tarp and tied it to the center gate.  The goats can jump on it if they desire, which is why I covered it with a tarp–to protect it from being eaten or peed and pooped on.  The rest of the area was filled with shavings and some straw for the babies and Faith, who is very pregnant.  They will have a hay bag to keep them busy, and a small bucket of water.

IMG_0501

The hay inside the tarp in the goat area.

 The rear of the trailer was simply bedded with lots of shavings for the donkeys.  They, too, will have a hay-bag and a bucket of water.  Because the donkeys are fairly small, I don’t plan to tie them in the stall.  They will be able to freely stand, lay down, turn around, and move a bit, which will hopefully reduce their stress load a little.

The donkey area.

The donkey area.

That’s the tour of the trailer.  Pretty simple and basic, but hopefully comfy, cozy, and stress-reducing for the critters.

Now if I could just reduce my stress!  I have packed about 80% of the house, and will try to finish the rest tomorrow.  We have another therapy appointment with the boys and I have to start loading the vehicles.  Another major challenge I discovered in regards to moving a farm is the fruitless efforts involved in trying to use up things that keep being produced!  For example, in an attempt to empty the fridge, we have been eating lots of eggs and drinking milk at every meal.  Just this morning, we ate 16 eggs and drank 1/2 gallon milk at breakfast.  30 minutes later, I went out to milk Joy and Latte.  I tried to use up some of the milk by feeding a pint back to each doe, and another pint each to the two dogs.  I still wound up filtering almost 1/2 gallon and putting it the fridge.  By day’s end, I will have at least another 1/2 gallon and 12-14 more eggs!  I never considered the fact that these high-production animals don’t come with an “OFF” switch to temporarily shut them down.  It’s all or nothing, and it’s up to me to find creative ways to use the bounty.  Eggs or milk, anyone?

Latte, Caramel, and Mocha….I now have 3 goats named after coffee, and I don’t even drink coffee.  Oh well.

IMG_0471

Latte, in labor

Our doe Latte went into very early labor on Tuesday last week, isolating herself from the herd, and wanting nothing to do with me or anyone else.  This was highly unusual for Latte, who is a total people-lover and herd queen under normal circumstances.  I have caught her being pushed around by Faith at one point, and Faith is our lowest in the dominance chain.  We monitored her for the next 2 days, and finally, on Thursday, she started active labor.  Now, remember, Latte is the doe that had the interesting breeding to both an Alpine and a Boar buck, all in a 30-minute span, so I had no idea what to expect.  I am thrilled to report that Latte and Blue blessed us with 2 gorgeous, full Alpine doelings!

IMG_0479

The delivery actually took an interesting turn, though.  Just as Latte was pushing the first doeling’s head out, a friend showed up with another doe who was in labor and having a problem.  She brought her doe into Latte’s pen so I could help her while still monitoring Latte’s progress.  JR and M were present as well, so they mostly monitored Latte while I assisted my friend.  At first, I held the doe while my friend went in to figure out the problem.  As it turned out, the baby’s head was tucked down and it’s front legs were back, which was preventing progress.  Because I have tiny hands, she asked me to go in and fix it.  Just as I got the kid’s head through, I then discovered that a twin was trying to come through the canal at the same time.  Sadly, we determined that the first kid was already dead, which is probably why there were problems to begin with.  I was finally able to push the second kid back enough and force the first kid through, then I pulled the second out.  It, thankfully, was a little doeling, alive and well.

While all this was going on, my kiddos were reporting Latte’s progress….”Uh, mom, the baby’s out!”  “Mom, there’s another set of hooves coming!”  “Mom, another baby is on the ground!”  “Mom, this baby isn’t moving!”  So I left the doe I had just delivered, and ran to tend to my own doe.  Turns out the baby was alive and well, but very tiny, and her nose had gotten buried under the hay.  I just brushed her off and got mom licking her and she was fine.

Mocha Latte, 9.5 lbs

Mocha Latte, 9.5 lbs

Caramel Latte, 5 lbs.

Caramel Latte, 5 lbs.

As far as our goats are concerned, this is our first labor that did not require assistance, and everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.  We were truly blessed.  The big girl, Mocha, is doing fine and nursing by herself.  The little one, Caramel, is still requiring some assistance with nursing.  She is just so incredibly tiny, and Latte’s teats are so massive, she has a lot of trouble latching on.  I go out about 3-4 times a day, and help her out.  It is a rather interesting bond she has developed, as she knows the milk comes from Latte, but she  has associated me with feeding time.  As soon as she hears my voice, she runs to me, then follows me over to Latte, and waits for me to reduce the swelling of the teat, and lift the teat for her.  I’m hoping she will be able to do it on her own soon, but I don’t know how long it will take.  She is quickly becoming a favorite around here, because she is soooo incredibly sweet and cute.

I will try to get some updated photos soon, now that the babies are more active and able to go out to pasture with mom.  They just get cuter every day.