I had fed and watered the goats and was now collecting eggs from the chickens when I heard a rattle. It sounded like the doorknob to the back door of the barn. Suddenly, the door was flung wide open and in came eight goats. Before I could get out of the chicken pen, the goats everywhere in the barn. Belle flipped open the grain bin and was merrily munching on sweet feed. The rest of the goats were stationed along the hay bale stacks and were pulling mouthfuls of hay out of the hay bales.
When faced with so many goats being naughty the only thing you can do is take a deep breath and start moving goats out of the barn one at a time. They’re not like sheep where if you tell them to go someplace and drive them, they’ll generally go. So wrangling goats can be a bit crazy. I pulled the closest goats off the hay and pushed them out the back door. I went down the line, pulling determined goats off the hay and out of the feed until they were all back in the goat pen. Then, I closed my eyes and took several calming breaths.
I had caught them before any real damage had been done. Besides eating up all the food for the winter, (you don’t think a goat wouldn’t do that?) a goat can literally die from eating too much food. After overeating, a goat can get bloat, which can kill her. The rumen is the part of the goat’s digestive system that can bloat. Goats with bloat look huge on their left side where the rumen is and are obviously in pain. They kick at their rumen and grind their teeth (not to be confused with the natural act of ruminating).
The trick is to feed them baking soda along with vegetable oil and anti-gas medicine. Dosing goats are oh so joyful because inevitably the goat doesn’t want to be dosed, and you end up in a tussle. Wear your ratty clothes and have a handler present. You can give pills via the mouth (called boluses, for those who were curious) and you can feed liquids (drench) through either a drenching gun or use a big syringe and squirt it in their mouths. Expect to be covered in whatever you drench with. Yuck.
The better way is to prevent your goats from getting into the feed, so you don’t have this problem. That means not only goat feed, but chicken feed, horse feed, or whatever else. No matter how clever you think you are at containing their feed, go the extra mile and really keep them from it. Lock doors and look for ways to get in or out. Goats are clever and can climb. Boy, can they climb! There are photos of feral goats on literal toe-holds on cliffs and on tops of trees. I’ve heard of one person whose goats actual climbed scaffolding to get out of the barn from the open top window. They analyze your defenses and take advantage of them.
In my first blog post I talked about Annie, one of my first goats, whom the owner traded for 4 chickens because she was a bit of an escape artist. The truth is all goats are capable of being escape artists, and if you’re not willing to give them a good solid barrier, you’ll have goat mayhem.
I suspect it was Annie who opened the barn door with her horns.
My solution was simple. I locked the back door. When I told my husband about the goat escape the next day, he suggested we put a bar on the door to prevent any further openings.
Yep, that'll probably work.
Have you ever had a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share? If you have, you can relate to our situation in fall 2012.
We had just gotten our first CSA share in years, and, well, let’s just say that the pumpkins were booming. We had pumpkin coming out our ears. And we still have pumpkin in our freezer from that time, and the pumpkins are rolling in again.
In other words, we need to use up some major pumpkin. There are, of course, plenty of ways we can do that. The most obvious usage is in food, like my pumpkin lasagna, but I can come up with something more creative than that. Which is how I came to paint my face orange with pumpkin and honey.
Pumpkin, you see, can also be used in skincare. In fact, according to the website I found this pumpkin/honey recipe on, it does wonders for your skin. We needed to use our pumpkin up, and this recipe, unlike so many others, only had two ingredients. It could also be made entirely locally: the other recipes I found all involved sugar, cinnamon, coconut milk, etc.
I used last year’s pumpkin and this year’s honey to make a pumpkin face mask, then used my fingers to paint it on. It was slippery and c-c-cold due to the fact that the frozen pumpkin hadn’t thawed as much as I’d thought it had. When I smeared it on my lips, it tasted like the honey in it.
Then, as the recipe required, I set the timer on the oven to twenty minutes and went to wait with orange slime drying on my face. Twenty minutes passed. Gobbets of pumpkin slid down to my chin. The mask began to dry, so that every movement of my face felt like it stretched my skin tighter over my fles. Finally the timer went off. When I tried to wash my face the mask didn’t come off so much as liquefy, but I got most of it. (I found some in my hair later.) Then it was time to test the results. Pressing my fingers against my cheeks found that they felt firmer and, I don’t know, somehow more structured than they had before. They continued to be so some twenty-six hours later. And I still have at least one more evening’s worth of pumpkin in the fridge, just waiting to be used.
Pumpkin Honey Face Mask
We found this recipe here.
¼ cup pumpkin
1 Tbs honey
Combine in small bowl. Apply liberally to face during the evening. Wait 20 minutes, then wash off.
I was thrilled by the turnout for our comfrey giveaway, so we're giving away another outside-the-box chicken feed on our blog this week. Click here for a chance to win 100+ peace silkworm eggs, which can turn into tasty caterpillars for your flock.
While I'm on the topic of alternative chicken feeds, I thought I'd toss out a few other ideas you may not have heard of. Chances are you've considered growing plants like corn and sunflowers for your flock, but how about ... worms? Or black soldier flies? Or Japanese beetles?
Back in the vegetable kingdom, many books sing the praises of raising duckweed for your flock, but our spoiled chickens turned up their noses (or should that be beaks?). We're in the early stages of experimenting with tree fruits, and so far persimmons and mulberries both seem to have potential in the chicken pasture.
And then there are the crazy ideas I want to research in more depth this winter. Like trapping or raising crawdads for our chickens. Or maybe growing snails, slugs, or grasshoppers. I'd be curious to hear your suggestions on the topic.
After two semi comatose days unpacking, laundering, cleaning and Christmas decorating this morning I was faced with the cold slap of what my friend Claudia termed 'post India stress disorder.' While in the duck yard of all places, perhaps in this moment my overloaded senses allowed a gap for entry, I realized I don't know what to do with my India experience.
My last few nights have been a slow motion nocturnal slideshow of hallowed eyes, babies in miniature, petite mothers sculpted down to the size of middle school children and roving forgotten animals. The nightmares aren't really, as the reality is so much more foul smelling, hopeless, and unjust than any manifestation of my brain.
The sweetness of home, joyous nature of children and feelings of time well spent are a tentative thread holding me above the precipice of abject pain and neglect. I am moving through my home and conversations thoroughly disbelieving of my own worthiness, yet secretly profoundly thankful. I feel as if I somehow cheated and walked away with a lotto win.
The gifts of food and personal security, self worth in the greater world, hope for my child, career and family choices, and the safety nets that have given me freedom from true fear and loss are like luxurious fat enveloping and cushioning me from reality. The seemingly random nature of the universe, never so obvious as when looking into the dull eyes of a child on the brink of death, does not make me feel lucky. Instead I am home to my loving and healthy family, on our dream homestead and left feeling that I didn't earn this, do not deserve this in the narcissistic way I had formerly thought. By accident of birth I was afforded confidence in my place and opportunity in the world. For me it was a case of get up and go fishing, where for many there is no pond in which to cast a line.
With a clarity born under an equally clear Idaho sky I realized my road had only two possible routes at this time. Like the encapsulated droplets on the backs of our ducks on this 8 degree F morning; I can protect myself. I can pull into my warm dry center, letting the sorrow and injustice roll off and take the joy and beauty with. The path that demands jumping off over the edge and committing is less clear. To drink it in, pathogens, neglect, hope and scarred beauty all becoming one with my cells invites the sadness in. But with it, a bit of the God that is in each of us.
This morning I choose to drink of life, and feel myself to my very soul become a child of this world.
Paper seemed scarcer when I was a kid; at least it was at our house. At the start of each school year, my sister and I each got one new Red Chief tablet. We were not to use a single sheet for paper dolls or other fun stuff until summer vacation.
Now, paper is everywhere – reams of copy paper in every home, books, maps, shopping guides and all manner of free notepads from advertisers. Rarely a day goes by without at least one piece of junk mail arriving here. Perhaps it’s a carryover from childhood, but it bothers me tremendously to just chuck it all in the trash.
For years, I’ve used junk mail envelopes to organize photos, sewing supplies, receipts, small nails and seeds. (See-through window envelopes are great for this.) But, there are so many other uses I have only recently discovered.
For instance, before throwing out junk mail, cut out your name and address to reuse on your own correspondence. And, if you don’t need an envelope for anything else, cut off the adhesive flap to use as a label. They’re easy to write on and stick well to many surfaces. And clip off the corners to use as page markers.
Junk mail also makes wonderful mulch around non-edible plants. Cut it to pieces, run it through a shredder, or use it whole. I don’t trust the adhesives and dyes to be free of toxins, however, so I don’t spread junk mail mulch in the vegetable garden. Plus, it looks funny. But, under the lilac bushes, now we’re talking.
When I was in fifth grade, my best friend, Marcia, showed me how to make a secret compartment in a book by cutting out the center. We thought we were so smart sneaking lemon drops into math class until Marcia accidentally bumped the book and our candy bounced all over the floor.
I’ve thought about making such a hiding spot again, but first I would need some valuables. I do have the perfect book already, though – a 1986 hardcover by Andy Rooney that’s a whopping 2 1/2” thick. I could stuff a whole bag of lemon drops in there if I wanted.
Since adulthood, I had not mustered the nerve until recently to deface a book, not even a bug-eaten, water-damaged 1971 dud. But, then I volunteered in the library sorting boxes of donations last week and realized some books just might be more beneficial in another form.
So, with a pounding heart, I got out a discarded art book that I bought for a quarter years ago. For my first project, I thought I’d try making a few pages into envelopes to go with some mismatched note cards (another thrift store bargain).
I flipped first to the paintings I didn’t like so much, and then (thump, thump) tore out a page. I paused for a moment, and when lightning bolts did not strike me down, I proceeded to cut and fold the page into a colorful envelope. That was fun, so I made another, and another. I did the same with old tourist maps for places I will never visit again. I now have a complete set of one-of-a-kind stationery. Yay.
It sounds trivial, reusing paper, but not until considering Americans receive more than 40 pounds of unsolicited paper a year per household – just in the mailbox. Think of all the other unnecessary paper we encounter, and it begins to make more sense. Never buy another envelope or note pad again.
Mother Earth News printed a thorough do-it-yourself guide some years ago for recycling junk mail into paper, which is fun for calligraphers and crafters. Here are more thrifty ideas for keeping junk mail from the landfill:
- Shred for packing materials
- Line pet cages
- Cut in strips, roll around a toothpick and make curtain beads
- Keep the whole sheets to reuse in your printer
- Staple pages blank side up for a scratch pad near the phone
- Make ornaments, gift tags, gift wrap and crafts of the shiny, colorful stuff
For more photos and ideas, see our blog.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.
Photos by Linda Holliday
After a 2-day workshop in the fall of 2011, I became a “Tennessee Master Meat Goat Producer.” And although I had the paperwork to prove that fact, I still had never even seen a goat up close. Telling the difference between a goat and a sheep was an untested skill!
To further my education, I began attending the sheep and goat auction at our local sale barn a couple of times a month. The main thing I learned was that goats don’t go for much money at the local sale barn, but they do “go”--everyone of them was bought. Most were shipped for slaughter to the Northeast US. I also learned that If I were going to raise meat goats, I would have to consider some basics:
1. With limited resources, I needed to know how to raise them without putting more into them than I could sell them for.
2. What would I do with all those extra bucklings that were sure to come? Considering their rumored smell and disposition, did I even want to keep bucks?
3. I would have to come to terms with how they would be slaughtered. My goal was a quick, humane death after a good life of pasture grazing and brush browsing--and not after a long, crowded, death march across the country to a far-off slaughterhouse.
I had several goals for keeping goats. I wanted them to control brush and to browse my pastures, thus preventing the pastures from having to be bush hogged and from going back to forest. I also wanted the challenge of learning something new and of having a new activity here on the homestead to keep me productively occupied in “my golden years.” Finally, I wanted to eventually supplement and maybe one day replace my beekeeping income. When I reached capacity for my acreage, I would sell the extra goats for breeding stock, pets, or meat.
After reading about all the different breeds, I chose myotonic (fainting) goats for several reasons. They are hardy, love weeds and brush, are native to my area, kid easily, are more easily fenced in than other types of goats, and are unusual enough that I thought I might be able to sell them as breeding stock to keep the breed alive. For their size, they are quite meaty--from all that seizing up and muscle flexing they do when they are startled.
My plan was to raise them only on pasture or hay--no goat chow or sweet feed - and not to use antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary) and no wormers. I had backup for this approach from a vet who gave one of the lectures in the goat workshop. She said the goal in raising meat goats was to breed animals that could carry a normal parasite load, culling those who couldn’t was more cost effective than spending money on medicines and vet bills. I would not let them get overcrowded, which would limit their exposure to parasites and other diseases. I kept this plan of action to myself at the time--I still don’t know any other breeders who aren’t adamant about routinely worming their goats.
Next I had to find a breeder. I wanted healthy goats to start with and was willing to pay for my breeding stock. I also wanted them to be registered with the Myotonic Goat Registry so I could one day sell my own breeding stock. I found a farm about an hour and a half away and went to visit. There I met a woman truly in love with her goats! They appeared healthy and well cared for and had plenty of room. She’d advertised that she did yearly testing for Johne’s disease, CAE (caprine arthritic encephalitis), and brucellosis. It was late winter and many of her does had just kidded and she had a riot of frisky young kids to choose from. She was concerned that they stay with their mothers until they were weaned. I made a down payment on five little doelings. The girls were only a week or two old when I picked them out, but they would stay with their mommas another 3 to 4 months. I spent $250 each for them. Each would come with registration papers and I was satisfied that they would be a healthy starter herd. I drove away grinning from ear to ear.
Meanwhile back at the homestead, I had to get ready for them.
I had a 3-acre pasture behind the house that I planned to start them in. I hired someone to fence that first 3 acres, and that to date has been my biggest expense in this project. Since then I have learned to do my own fencing but I spent $5,000 for that first tight, sturdy farm fence that was 48 inches high with twisted wire at the top. Goats need 4x4-inch wire fencing to keep them from getting their horns caught in the fencing. My first mistake was paying for 2x4-inch--overkill and more costly. To date a goat has never got out of this enclosure unless I let it out!
For housing all I really needed was a shed-type structure so they could get out of the rain and wind. I had all the old barn wood and used tin I needed to build this structure, which I’d salvaged after the restoration of an old tobacco barn. All I had to buy were the five 2x4s that I used for the roofing. As you can see from the picture on the left, it was very crude. But the unsightly monstrosity is still VERY sturdy and continues to serve its purpose well. The picture on the right is of a shed I built this summer--see, I’m improving!
Finally I bought a new water trough for about $80 at the time. So with the fence, the goats, housing, and water tank, my bank account was now $6,330 lighter. How many years would it take me to recoup that investment?! I guess I could have spent the money on a luxury vacation, but then the adventure would have been over instead of just beginning!
Stay tuned for the next installment “Bringing Them Home.”
Deer Isle has gotten cold. It's not so much the temperature, but the stiff western wind blowing down the Penobscot river and right down into our clearing. We were poorly prepared, as usual when a long mild fall turns to winter overnight. The wind blew right through an open window in the attic, our vegetable storage nearly froze and the Golden Russet apple tree we were going to pick sometime soon, well, that will be for an other year. We've spent the weekend catching up and here are some of the things we do to prepare for winter.
Make sure we can stay warm. This really began last winter, when I cut the wood that will warm us now. In spring/early summer I stacked it in our woodshed and now we use it to cook and heat with, using our small Jotul cook stove. Only a few rare nights every winter do we crank up our slightly bigger heating stove. Regardless of which kind of fuel, a small space to heat is a key factor to fuel efficient warmth. Once the nights get cold enough to require a heated space to sleep in, we move a double bed into the main room of our cabin and close off the attic, the mudroom and the backroom that in the summer is our bedroom. That leaves an 12x20 ft space with the bed about 2 steps away from the stove. We cover our windows with insulating plastic and in the deepest winter, we can sit here and safely watch the draft flutter in under the glass panes.
Put the gardens to bed. We cover our entire vegetable garden with seaweed for the winter. Leaves, straw, cuttings from day lilies or irises or even leaves and stalks from the summers corn patch will work. I cut my perennial beds back once they are all bloomed by, weed them and feed the plants and shrubs with compost.
Winterize our orchard. I use hardware cloth to wrap around the bottom foot of our fruit trees, as a way to keep rodents from eating the bark under the snow. It's also good practice to clean up all dropped fruit and leaves since that provides a place for bugs to overwinter.
Winterize our farm. We put the tools away, coil up hoses and make sure we can find the snow shovel. I like to be ahead of the curve and rake up as many leaves and branches as possible now, instead of waiting until spring. We do our best to keep squirrels and mice away from the outbuildings and set traps in the root cellar. I make sure I remember to get soil and compost from the garden before it freezes and keep it in a shed for my indoor spring planting.
Cull the livestock. The chickens that are too old to be productive layers end up in the pot, to save money on feed grain and make the chicken house less crowded. It's also time to butcher our pigs – it's hard to keep them warm outdoors, we're running out of apples and acorns feed them and it's cold enough to process the meat in a safe way.
Find a hobby. On such a northern latitude as Maine, the dark evenings are almost as long as the bright days. With the dinner being wrapped up while it's still technically afternoon and even though I go to bed so early even my Mum makes fun of me, there are still many hours to fill with something. A hobby is not only a way to learn something new and keep those evening interesting, but to me it's the splurge I otherwise rarely allow myself. Like making an advent calendar, for example, or putting together a photo album or painting Christmas cards for distant relatives. It starts to sound on the weather forecasts that the winter is here to stay, now. Not only are we ready for it, it's a welcome relief after a long fall and even longer year. Next week is when we'll kill our pigs and after that, well, after that it's winter for real.