Fall Homestead Update

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While its been quiet here on the blog for sometime, we’ve been keeping ourselves plenty busy around the homestead with late summer and fall project such as…..

*Canned applesauce, green beans, dilly beans, zucchini relish and chicken.

*Froze applesauce and corn

*Prepared the big garden for winter

*Planted fall greens in the raised bed garden

*Built a milking stand and started milking one of our Nubian does

*Built a new pig building and added 4 residents

*Added 16 new layer chicks and 28 broilers

*Survived the county fair

*Completed our first 8 weeks of homeschooling of the year

We were lucky enough to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA in September.  We had a wonderful relaxing time away together and came home encouraged, challenged and full of new questions and opportunities to explore.

The weather has definitely started to turn cooler and as always there is plenty to be done outside yet before the first freeze. As the craziness of life around us goes on, I am reminded daily of how truly blessed we are to have own little piece of land to love and care for.

Goats, goats everywhere

School is finally over here and I have been busy tending the children, the garden and the baby goats. 4H projects are underway, including one which involves teaching our oldest to sew. There’s plenty to do outside if it ever quits raining. I’m pretty sure it’s rained everyday for at least the past 2 weeks.

These little cuties were unfortunately orphaned when they were 2 days old. If you’ve ever had bottle fed goats you know they tend to get confused about their species and where they belong. (In the barn with the other goats not on the back porch)

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We have one kid who is a champion high jumper. We have had some trouble keeping her penned in. The other day she decided to play king of the mountain on top of the goat barn that’s about 9 feet high.

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This week our first Nubian doe delivered 2 beautiful doelings. She is doing a great job as a first time momma.

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This weekend we were lucky enough to have a friend come and do chores and feed baby goats for us so we could go camping with family. We are having a wonderful time relaxing, exploring Beavercreek State Park, visiting with family, enjoying good food and conversation.

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This little piggy went to market…..

We recently added 2 new critters to the zoo.  We have been talking for sometime about raising a couple of pigs but thought we would wait until spring to get  them started.  Unfortunately the Handyman has a habit of spending a lot of time on Craigslist and he came across these little  ladies for 30.00 for the pair.  They have been selling for about 40.00-50.00 a piece.  They are healthy and have adjusted well to their new home.  They are currently in the barn with the goats but we would like to move them because they are making a horrible mess with the water.  Luckily I have an uncle who is a small dairy farmer and has raised in the past, so we have been able to ask him some questions.   I am hoping they do okay, we don’t know a darn thing about raising pigs. 

I have been doing some research on Guinea Hogs.  From what I can see they aren’t cheap to buy.  I do feel  there is value in raising the heritage breeds and helping to keep  genetic  diversity alive as much as possible.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website has a ton of information if you are interested in learning more.  But from what I have read, if we found somewhere to get them they seem  to be a good fit for a homestead.  They are supposed to be really good foragers and they finish at less than 200 pounds which would make them ideal for home butchering.  I guess if we are going to even think about that, we need to start looking into getting some more equipment.  I don’t think a  knife, kitchen shears and meat grinder on the Kitchen aid is going to do it.  These 2 will definitely be going to a butcher.  I guess we will see how they do and then decide if we want to go for round 2.  There is always so much to do  and so much to learn.  Never a dull moment for sure!

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4 New Babies

Last weekend we had the joy of welcoming 4 new little bundles of joy within 3 hours.  At 1:00 we went to check on the expecting mommas.  We knew they were close but figured we had time to go next door for Sunday lunch with mom and my sisters who were in town.  After lunch we decided to go back home to check on them.  Sure enough within 40 minutes Butter had delivered 2 beautiful kids.  They were cleaned off and up nursing.  Yeah!

It didnt take long for the troops next door to make their way over to witness the new arrivals.  It was especially exciting for 2 of my sisters friends from Chicago who came along to visit for the weekend. Welcome to the country ladies!

Before the afternoon was out Brownie also delivered a healthy set of twins. Both Megan and Makayla got quite a Biology lesson.

It is on days like this that I love having animals. They are just so darn cute!  With Hurricane Sandy expected to make landfall within 24 hours of their arrival.   We are considering the names, Hurricane, Sandy, Pumpkin and Spice.

The babies are now a little over a week old.  Now that the wind and rain has finally past for the most part, the babies are having a ball bouncing around the pasture exploring their new home, and Im having a ball watching them.

Getting ready for fall

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind around here.  Here are some of the fun and not so fun things that have been keeping us busy.

* A 3 day trip to the Mother Earth News Fair at the beautiful Seven Springs Mountain Resort in PA…….So much fun!

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*Picked lots of peppers!  Some peppers we hung to dry, some we sliced and put in the freezer, and some became hot pepper jelly.

*Of course, there is always plenty of firewood to be cut, split and stacked this time of year.

*This stinky big guy has come for a visit with some of our older does.  Given his pungent presence, I am more than ready for him to finish his visit and be on this way.

Also on the completed list of tasks this past week were…

* Weeded the grapes, blueberries and raspberries in preparation for fall mulching.

* Picked and froze the remainder of the corn

*Tilled most of the garden – planted cover crop

*Pulled summer annuals out of flower beds  and started decorating for fall.

Now that fall is offically here, there is so much to be done to get ready for winter but we are certainly making great progress.  I have to admit that I am really enjoying the cool, crisp air and am looking forward to seeing the flakes fly!

Farm animal or Fair animal?

     
This year Sunshine showed her Boer goat, Junior, at the Ohio State Fair Boer Goat Show. This was her 1st show and she did such a great job.

We almost didn’t go because we knew her goat wasn’t going to win any awards, since he had been sick a few weeks before the fair.  We decided to go anyway just for the experience.  She spent so much time with her goats this summer; she had been looking forward to the show all summer.  She had quite a showing of support with our family, my mom, hubby’s dad, both of my sisters, and several other friends.  She was so gracious and thanked them all for coming.

In her first class, she finished dead last. Poor Junior just hadn’t had time to get back in shape.  Sunshine kept her smile on and when she came out of the ring just shrugged her shoulders even though I could tell she was disappointed.  I gave her a big hug and told her how proud of her I was for getting out there and overcoming her fears. I hate to admit I was a little disappointed; I didn’t want her first show experience to be a bad one.

  When the time for the showmanship class rolled around it was a completely different ball game.  In the wether class, they judge the goat.  In showmanship they judge…the showman. She went in the ring smooth and confident…and she WON!  I was so proud, as she came out the ring; she took the time to congratulate the girl next to her on a good show.  Then when she got back to her pen she thanked her dad and Chuck, her “coach” for his help. We were both beaming!  Sunshine because she won, me because I was so darn proud of her for pushing through her nerves and showing such maturityboth  inside and outside of the ring.

      Now that our first goat show has come and past, a few thoughts have occurred to me.  First I love our goats so much more in the pasture than in a show ring. 
     Secondly, there seem to be a lot of people with questionable (at best) techiques for improving the “performance” of their show animals.  Imagine my suprise when my child asks, “Mom, why are they spraying Windex on that goats butt?”  I honestly had no idea until I asked my hubby and he explained some people spray a menthol like spray on the animals to make them tense their muscles, and hopefully impress the judge.  Needless to say, I was  shocked and quite frankly disgusted. I think now would be a good time to sit down and talk as a family about animal welfare and what we consider to be appropriate, and what is not.   I wonder do these people consciously start using these “tricks”  or do they just gradually start turning a blind eye, reasoning that they have alot of money tied up in these animals and this justifies using any and all tricks to give them an advantage in the ring? If they had a written management plan that established their goals for their herd, would they think twice about putting their “tricks” in writing?
     When I suggested we get goats, I had no intention of raising “show” goats, and Im still not sure how I feel about the idea.  I do however recognize the opportunity it offers for the kids for personal development. 

    I wonder what others have done in this situation?  Where is the line between farm animals and fair animals?  I guess I aways thought they were the same, a fair animal was a farm animal you loaded up and took to the fair.  As I have found out, if you want your kids to “win” at the fair your fair animals are going to need to live and eat much differently than your farm animals. Is it worth it?  What are your thoughts?

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Financing homestead improvements

One of the biggest challenges for us on our little homestead has been financing our new ventures and improvements.  With only one income funds are limited and are a consideration for most every project.  I would absolutely love to build a brand new polebarn, but it will likely be some time before we have enough saved to do so.  We recognize that if we choose to wait to grow our homestead until we have perfect facilites, it may never happen.  And because we choose not to incur any additional debt one good option is often to reuse materials we already have laying about.

When the Handy man built this Beautiful coop several years ago it was a wonderful home for our chickens.  However, now it is much too small for our 40+ laying hens. We are in the process of deconstructing a  13 X 12 foot  greenhouse that was once used to overwinter plant material.  We will move this structure into place and cover it with steel to be the new house for our hens.   I am hoping to repaint the old hen cottage and sell it to help offset some of the cost of the metal.  We will also be using lumber from a swing set we had that was damaged in a storm some time back.

This structure has also had multiple lives.  It is 17 X 32 and is curently housing a large wood pile, prior to that it housed pheasants.  We will be reinforcing this structure and covering it with metal as well as it will soon be a new winter home for our growing goat herd.
Some of the places that we have found building materals at a discount or even free are-
*Our families farms  (Thanks!  We love you so much)
*Craigslist
*Garage sales
*Habitat ReStore
*Materials we can reuse from other projects.
I would encourage anyone who is considering starting a new homesteading venture or expanding one to not be discouraged by lack of funds but rather to consider what resources you do have available and think “outside of the box.”  If you can make it work…..go for it, Im guessing our hens wont care if their home used to be a greenhouse as long as they are warm and dry, and Im sure yours wouldn’t either.

The heat wave continues..

At 630 this morning I was laying in bed trying to figure out what appliance was running.  As it turns out it was the air conditoner.  The air conditioner is outside our bedroom and Im not accustomed to hearing it run while Im in there, typically the coolest part of the day. But with temperatures reaching 100 degrees yesterday, at 7am it was already 87.  As it seems the heat wave here in Ohio is supposed to continue for the next 10 days.  It looks like we will be doing morning chores EARLY this week and will be watering the gardens and berry patch since we havent gotten much rain.  Its funny how the heat doesnt seem to bother the kids at all. Yesterday I had to keep reminding them to come in to cool off and get a drink. I have to tell you Im very grateful for the AC.  We never had AC growing up and it never seemed too bad, I guess to some extent its just what you’re used to.  On a positive note, laundry dries really quickly when it 100 degrees with a strong breeze 🙂

I am so grateful we were able to get the larger pasture fenced before this heat started. Now the ladies have a larger pasture and more importantly in this heat a place to get our of the sun.  Our little goat herd has grown quite a bit since we got the first 2 in April.  As of today, we have 3 Nubian does, 4 Boer does and 2 4-H market wethers. We have 3 more Boer does that will be joining our little farm in July.

The Ladies
All of our does were born this spring.  We are planning to breed the ladies later this year and early next year.  Looks like we are in for a busy first kidding season. 

A busy fence building weekend

It was a busy weekend of fence building and welcoming new critters to the homestead.  We have been working on the new fence for the chickens for a few weeks and its finally finished with the exception of the gate and a few extra T posts we need to add.  Yeah! 

Friday night  hubby went to TSC to pick up fence staples and came out with 18 more chicks and another heat lamp.  (We already have a dozen  2 year old layer and 16 chick in the basement) I have more eggs now than I know what to do with.   Looks likes its time to get a sign put out front.  This is really funny because we are not really  inside pet people.  The only inside pets are 6 goldfish.  So to have 34 chicks in my house makes me giggle.  But by far the most exciting part of the weekend was going to pick up Titus, the 4-H goat.  I would love to have a few goats but we decided to wait on the the does and just get Sunshines 2 market goats for 4-H this year.  When we went to pick up Titus they had the cutest does! I was super surprised and excited when Handy man said, okay we can take her home.  She is a beautiful Nubian named Miss Daisy.  She was born 2/10, the same day as Titus.  But since Titus will be going to the fair as a market goat in September, Miss Daisy will need a new companion before that. So now I’m on hunt for another doe!  Can I just say…I have the most fabulous hubby ever! Cant wait to breed her next year and have our own babies.

This week on the farm..

This past week has been one of transition in the garden. 
This week we actually did –
* Get the first egg from our one remaining spring check – Yeah!
* Called the hatchery about ordering started pullets in October. (Some Black Star)
* Freeze 1st batch of crushed tomatoes
* Harvested the remaining summer broccoli and cauliflower
*Planted fall broccoli and cauliflower
*Marked out new herb garden with raised beds
* Started Strawberry Patch Overhaul
We didn’t get hardly any berries this year, partly because of the weather, partly because we have neglected to maintain it. So this year we decided it needed a major overhaul. They say berry plants should be rotated out at least every 3 years for optimal production, our have been there for 4 . We moved the patch to a new location, laid landscape cloth and planted our new starts. Id show you our progress so far but I seem to have misplaced the memory card already…jeesh!

Black Star  – At first I thought he said they had “Rockstar” Pullets…I’m new to this chicken thing what can I say?

This week we discussed-
(There is always lots of discussion before anything actually happens)  🙂
* Where to plant new blueberry and raspberry bushes
* Shifting the main garden to make room for the fence to access the back pasture for the sheep.
(You know the ones you don’t yet have but are so looking forward to that you talk about them all the time)

Looking forward to-
Finishing the strawberry patch, figuring out how to make kraut out of all the cabbage I have finishing, canning tomatoes and freezing some peppers and pimentos.