Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Cultivate Winter Coziness on the Farm (with Peppermint Sugar Scrub Recipe)

Vintage Christmas Country Decor

There’s a cold wind whistling around the old farmhouse today, crows are feeding in the field to the east, and birds are flocking around the feeder. Mornings here on the farm start early with the alarm going off at 5:30am; however, stepping outside there’s no feeling of drowsiness. With heads bowed down against the icy blast of December air, we feel very much alive. Errands are done quickly: chickens have a breakfast of warm mash, goats get extra hay and apple slices, barn cats and our faithful guard dog get goodies as well. Christmas cheer for all!

The holiday season is here, and this year, I’ve felt more determined than ever to enjoy the simple pleasures of getting ready for the days to come. The year has been like no other. Each day we eagerly anticipate the coming holidays, while at the same time, closely watching the news. As a mom, I’m filled with complicated emotions, but I also realize there is much to be grateful for and a need to count our blessings.

Slowing Life and Cultivating Coziness on the Winter Farm

Most of us find that December can be a month of intense activity; however, even with all that busyness, we seem to have a need slow down and enjoy the days. Each of us have our own special way of doing that. For me, it means decorating simply, in old-fashioned ways with swags of evergreens and berries, enjoying homemade marshmallows floating in mugs of chocolaty cocoa, sitting by a crackling fire, filling the kitchen with home-baked cookies, and hiding secret surprises.

And just when we needed a little something extra to get us into the holiday spirit, this week we woke up to a beautiful snowfall. The kind of snow that falls gently all day long, blanketing everything in sight (and gave the kids their first snow day from school). Soon, windows were frosted over and pine needles were tipped with an icy glaze, making them look like prisms on a sparkling chandelier — it was the perfect magic for the December.

Ways to Create Holiday Cheer on the Farm During Stressful Times

As our family began to look forward to the holidays in this “not-normal” year, I started jotting down ideas, small and simple things, to help keep the spirit in our hearts. What could we do, not only for ourselves, but for others (socially distancing, of course!).

Be an elf. Surprise friends & neighbors with home-baked goodies left on their doorstep, tie a wreath to our car, sing songs (who cares if we’re off key?), hang mistletoe, laugh, dance, take photos, call those we love and catch up.

Cozy up to read a favorite story. Something sentimental or silly.

Snuggle under a blanket and watch classic holiday movies with popcorn. A way to make sweet memories that will last a lifetime. Or dust off the projector and show a holiday movie on the side of our barn (if you live in town, use your garage door. All the neighbors will love it!).

Take a drive around your hometown. Enjoy the twinkling lights on the farms, in the big city, or on the town square.

Sip eggnog. Put your feet up by the fire. Relax.

Play Christmas music. Our family loves the old classics, but then mix them up with new favorites, too.

Build a snowman. Or make snow ice cream, play board games or charades.

Shovel snow for a neighbor.

Make a midnight wish. Take time to reflect on our blessings and slow down to enjoy the spirit of the season.

Homemade Candy Cane (Peppermint) Sugar Scrub Recipe

Sharing a gift doesn’t need to be complicated. One of my favorite quick and easy gifts to give is sugar scrub.


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil


Stir all ingredients together; spoon into jars. Secure the lid, and then tie on a ribbon and gift card. You could even tie on a vintage spoon or small scoop.

As it’s been said, we’re never too young or too old to store up memories. Let’s enjoy every minute this year, and keep the spirit of the season in our hearts.

Mary Murray is a goat wrangler, chicken whisperer, bee maven, and farmers market baker at Windy Meadows Farm. She rehabilitated her 1864 Ohio farm property and is ready to share the many stories that come with farm living. Read all of Mary’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Evaluating Homestead Dog Behavior by Breed


There are certain natural characteristics in animals that don't change much. For example: coyotes run with their tails down, dogs run with their tails up and wolves run with their tails straight out. Some dog breeds have certain characteristics that differ between breeds. If we are aware of these characteristics it will enable us to better understand our canine family members. 

Breed Preference for Homesteaders

We personally prefer the German Shepherd breed; however we have had in the past a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix and a Basset Hound/Golden Retriever mix. The former is on a par with the intelligence of the German Shepherd. With highly intelligent breeds like the German shepherd, training needs to be positive and carefully done. A harsh word to a German shepherd can be detrimental  as they try so hard to please. We train our dogs with a gentle voice. Harsh treatment or a loud angry voice can cause the dog to be aggressive or neurotic. 

Not All Breeds Have Same Characteristics

It is best to know the breed or mix that you have adopted into your family to effectively train them. Highly intelligent breeds pick up what you desire quickly and have good focus. Therefore, short intense training sessions may work best for them. Some other breeds may take short sessions over a longer period of time. We limit our training sessions to a few minutes and only one subject. We reward success with a small treat and much praise. There are several ways to train that can be found online or a professional trainer can be used.  

Watch for Past Training Mistakes

We adopt rescues and therefore don’t have experience with puppy training. By adopting we have found many times that the new family member has already had some training. We carefully observe our new family member for signs or traits that may have happened before we adopted him/her. Signs of maltreatment, abuse, sharp criticism, etc. which a previous owner may have employed may need to be addressed. No training leads to out-of-control dogs that lack structure in their lives; dogs need structure and routine. 

Be Consistent But Flexible

Our training techniques over the years have been slightly different depending on the dog. For example we adopted one dog that had serious fear issues. Another one was deaf. We had to adjust the training to each dog according to its situation. With fear issues we had to be careful to keep a calm voice, and be patient and gentle. Her self-confidence was so damaged that it took us two years to restore her self-confidence. What a delightful family member she turned out to be. We had to work out hand signals with the deaf girl. 

Gender Aggressiveness

When I was a volunteer for a German shepherd rescue they would not adopt a female German shepherd to a household which already had a female German shepherd. There is a reason for that because a dog with gender issues won’t usually get along with another dog of the same sex. When two females fight for dominance it can be very bloody. Males will usually stop fighting when one dog surrenders. Knowing your dog and how they react around other dogs will facilitate bringing another dog into the household. If you understand breeds and pay close attention to their behavior especially around other dogs, like neighbors dogs or on walks, you should know if your dog is gender aggressive or not. 

One Size Does Not Always Fit All

We currently have two female German shepherds and they get along well.  One is senior and deaf; the other is young and full of energy. The senior dog relies heavily on the young dog to stay abreast of what is happening within our cabin. The young dog lets the senior dog know when it is mealtime, potty time or time for a walk. See the photo where they are laying together near the wood stove. The young dog has a job to do and the older dog has a dependence on the younger dog. They in turn look out for each other. 

Meeting Needs Equally

Dogs have specific basic needs and it is up to us to meet those needs. They expect to be fed timely, kept safe, exercised and loved. It is important that we give both our girls equal attention so they don't develop any jealousy. All family members need to take an active and equal part in training and feeding.

Adopting Shelter Dogs

Bringing an additional dog into the family should be done purposefully if it is to be successful. If adopting at a shelter the dogs should meet there for the first time on leash. If that goes well then the new dog should be transported at home separately and the dogs reintroduced on neutral land. We do introductions down the road from the cabin with both dogs on leash for control. If someone is surrendering a dog to you it is helpful if the leash is passed openly so the dog knows it has a new family. We have done this twice and both dogs knew they were with a new family; when the surrender was over and the other person left both dogs never looked back.

Introducing a New Dog to Your Pack

If the introduction goes well again on neutral ground we take the dogs for a short walk together and then bring them home. We have a fenced in backyard so with leashes still on we allow more socialization to take place with us close at hand. Then we accompany the new member into the cabin first and allow them to explore. Next we bring the rest of the canine family inside with leashes dragging for possible control. We never show any special attention to the new arrival to prevent jealousy and we resume our normal activity.

These techniques have worked consistently well for us over the years. These techniques may sound like a lot of work but they consistently work for us. We want to give the new family member every chance for success. I am not a professional dog trainer but have had dogs most of my nearly eight decades, so my observations come from having dogs as part of our family and personal experience.

Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

We Finally Install Proper Goat Fencing after 5 Years of Headaches (Video)

We are coming up on year five of homesteading. One of the first things we did on our homestead was also one of the biggest (and most costly) mistakes we’ve made. We got goats. What’s more we sorely underestimated our goat fencing. In today’s post we are going to show you what’s turned into our most expensive mistake ever and how after several years of upgrades and patches we are now doing what we should have done on day one, and that is to install proper, quality livestock fencing. 

Install Goat Fencing

Five years ago we built our goats a goat house and a huge pen. We used large wooden posts for the fencing and we bought welded wire fencing which we stapled into the wood posts and we’ve had nothing but problems ever since. Being homesteaders who are also YouTubers, we have a ton of footage of our successes and this failure. If we scanned all of that footage we would hear one phrase over and over again, I’d say the words have been spoken on our homestead well over a thousand time: “The goats are OUT AGAIN!”

A farmer once said the best way to test your goat fencing to ensure it will secure your goats is to grab a 5 gallon bucket of water, fill it to the rim and splash the entire bucket through your goat fencing, if a single drop of water makes it through, your goats will surely escape!.

Our first fence looked great but it was rife with issues. At 5 feet high, it seemed tall enough, wrong. Minutes after locking them in our young goat simply jumped over the top of it. Thankfully as they fattened up they couldn’t jump that high anymore. After a while they started tearing up the welded wire fence with their horns. This and they also used the fencing to scratch their worst itches! The bottom of the fencing bowed out. And then they’d horn the bottom of it and escape underneath it. 

A few years in we bought heavy duty chain link fencing. It was thicker gauge fencing that we thought would hold them in for sure.We were wrong, amazingly they’ve managed to tear this thick fencing up and get under it- they’ve even made holes right through it. We’ve run heavy stakes into the ground to prevent them from going under, we’ve patched the holes, we’ve run pressure treated boards along the bottom to hold them back, we’ve stapled, patched even stitched but the goats are still getting out and the fencing looks horrible.  

Broken Goat Fence

Broken goat fence

We finally decided to upgrade to a proper option, but one that we should’ve done from day one. Had we done this years ago when we first started, it would have saved us so much time, effort, voices, and money.

This isn’t a sales pitch for fencing, rather a cautionary tale for would-be homesteaders to never underestimate fencing when it comes to goats!  Goats require quality, heavy duty fencing.  After a lot of research we found a company that sells steel, continuous livestock fencing.  We were lucky enough to speak to the owner of the company Doug. His company is family owned and everything they make is made in the USA, in his hometown of Nebraska.

Some of the other things we liked about the company is that we spoke directly to Doug and he assured us the goats would not escape his fencing and he provided several reasons why (mainly because it's made of heavy 14 gauge steel and (unlike chain link fencing or welded fencing) the bottom rail will not be bent up so the goats could get under it, this continuous fencing is too strong for that. After delivery and installation and a few weeks later our goats haven’t even come close to escaping. 

We went with continuous fencing which comes in 20-foot lengths and connects together. The fencing is made from 14-gauge steel which is much thicker versus most fences. We did some research here because we bought a fence gate from a farm supply store and it rusted through in short order.  We found out that the steel tube gates you can buy from your local farm supply store are usually only 18-gauge. The welds on these fences are impressive as well- each weld fully encircles the cross member. Their website says each weld is two or more inches around.

Here is a video of our new fence install. After several weeks of usage, we couldn’t be more happy with the fencing, and when we account for all of the headaches, troubles, patches and our lost garden, we really wish we invested more in our fencing from the beginning. 

new Goat Fencing

Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest,  Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Pygmy Goats: A Perfect Goat Breed for Small Farms


A great general-purpose goat for small farms, a pygmy goat is a small, friendly breed that can be a great pet — and only a few of them are needed for a constant supply of fresh milk to the table. Despite their small size, pygmies can give 1 or 2 quarts of milk per day. Their milk is of exceptional quality and value. Being not bigger than a small dog, these goats require minimum shelter and care.

Their small size and good nature make them attractive dairy goats; and they require less space and feed than ordinary goats, and are suitable for smaller farms in urban and suburban settings. They are also often kept as pets just for the pleasure of companionship. They are good foragers which makes their milk very nutritious and tasty. Their milk has a very high butterfat content, which makes them preferred for the production of soaps, creams and other high-fat goat milk products.

Pygmy goats are quite tame and very friendly so they can be let out of their pen for eating: grass, shrubs, weeds, herbs, and leaves. They are an easy goat to raise and have a tame and pleasant character. Pygmy goats are active and entertaining and if they are constructed some obstacles in their pen, they could provide hours of entertainment.

History and Origin of Pygmy Goats

The pygmy goats are an American breed of achondroplastic goats. It is small, compact and stockily built. Like the Nigerian dwarf, it comes from the West African dwarf group of West Africa. Around 1930 to 1960, this type of animals was imported into the United States for zoos and researches; some were later kept as companion animals and established as a breed in 1975. It can also be known as a pygmy or an African pygmy. This is a completely different and separate breed from the British Pygmy breed.


If you're looking for pets for your garden or want more animals for your farm, pygmy goats are a good idea. Of course, they need special care, but once you know what they need, it's not difficult to look after them. If you provide a suitable shelter, they can actually live in most climatic conditions.

How many pygmy goats to keep. Like all goats, pygmies are herd animals and will not be happy if kept alone. If you keep a pygmy goat as a pet, they will be very bored. So, I very recommend to buy at least two goats. Keeping them with other goats or even with dogs will help to satisfy social needs.

Determine how big the shelter you need. To do this, you need to consider the weather in your area. If you live in an area with a moderate climate, your goats will not need as permanent shelter as in other areas. If you live in an area with severe winters, you need a proper barn to protect your animals, but it doesn't have to be very large. You just have to protect your animals from the elements.

The size of your plot depends on how many goats you have. First of all, you must provide 15 to 20 square feet for each goat and preferably more if you have the opportunity because pygmy goats love running and jumping. However, the best fence for pygmies is a wire fence. To keep your pygmy goats from jumping over, the fence needs to be at least 5 feet high since pygmy goats can't jump higher than that. Remember that fences not only keep goats, but also prevent harmful predators, and pygmies are especially prone to predation, depending on the local wildlife.

Provide them with climbing areas. Pygmy goats are active and entertaining and if they are constructed with some obstacles in their pen, they could provide hours of entertainment. Any picnic table is suitable for this, for example. You can also just make mounds out of soil. Goats have fun with that too. They also like to jump on and off such spots. Old tires are also great toys for your goats.


Pygmies are agile and prepared jumpers, and they need enough space for wandering and exercise to avoid unnecessary wear on fencing. However, their small size limits how high they can jump and reduces the chance of damage to your fences. Pygmy goats will bend, stand, and rub, on the fence, especially if there seems to be attractive food on the other side, so the braided wire should be strong enough to withstand. So, it is desirable that the posts should be no more than 8 feet apart. To secure your dwarf goats, this is a wire fence with 2-by-4-inch holes that should be small for the goats to lay their heads.

As all goat owners know, goats are professors at escaping. Goats can, get through holes, open latches, climb, jump, or crawl under fences. And pygmy goats are not the exception, moreover they are even more active and sometimes require higher fences.

Goat fences should be at least 4 feet for most goats and 5 feet for pygmy goats. A wire run as tightly as possible on the top of the fence between the posts at eye level can prevent jumping and climbing. Some prefer to have it barbed or electrified but ordinary wire also works great. Goats are more likely to crawl than climb or jump a fence so the bottom wire should be kept close to the ground. Despite the difficulty in fencing goats there are many fence options to choose.

Woven wire fences are an effective and commonly used fencing option. But it is important to pay attention to the openings. Horned goats can easily get caught in woven wire fences with 6 by 6-inch openings. A good idea is to put an electrified wire about a foot from the ground and 9 inches from the fence but it will only reduce the number of goats caught in the fence. Woven wire fences with 6-by-9-inch and 6-by-12-inch spaces are cheaper and the goats can free themselves if caught.

A safer but more expensive option that many recommend is woven wire with 4-by-4-inch openings this is also a better option if there are predators in the area. A general tip is to have the wire face the interior of the pen or the goats so that if they will push or rub against the wire the force would be directed to the posts rather than the staples.

Electric fencing is cheaper and also effective but only if the goats are trained to respect the fence. This could be done by enclosing them in small paddock with an electric fence so that they would try to test it but won't have the space to charge it at full speed. Electric fences for goats should have a high electric charge, 4,500 to 9,000 volts.

It is not recommended in using electric plastic net fencing as goats can get entangled in the fencing. Barbed wire, rail, and panel, fences are also good options. But generally, with any types of fencing for goats remember the saying "what doesn't hold water won't hold a goat".

Food and Water

Everyone has probably heard that goats can eat everything. But unfortunately, this is not so. Though they can eat almost everything, but it’s harmful for them, and it spoils the quality of their milk. A variety of human foods are good to feed your Pygmy goats. More than that, fruits and vegetables should be added to their diet.

Allow your goats to graze. Grass, shrubs, herbs, leaves, and weeds such as dandelions and clovers, are the natural food of the goat and will be welcomed as a great treat. Giving them freedom of pasture also gives them the exercises necessary to maintain health and prevent health problems. In summer, goats can feed themselves by grazing in pastures, but of course if you have enough land. If you have a herd of pygmy goats, you will need multiple pastures to accommodate your goats' needs. In addition, the place where your goats graze should be changed so that the grass and plants can grow back.

Try alfalfa hay. If you don't have enough space for your pygmy goats, you can feed them alfalfa hay when they can't graze. Alfalfa is the best that can and should be offered for free feeding. Buy very high-quality hay for the healthiest goats and the highest quality milk. High calcium alfalfa hay, which is important when goats produce milk. Every goat needs 0.5 to 1 kilo of hay a day. But if they get additional grain, they need less.

Supplement their food with cereals. Goats need more feed in winter. In addition, goats that give a lot of milk and young goats need cereal additives even in summer. Suitable grains are corn, barley, and oats.

Provide them with plenty of water. Like all animals, goats need water to survive. But water is especially important for goats because they are ruminants and need more water than other animals to process their feed. Make sure they always have access to fresh, cool, clean water. Especially in hot summers. Remember to clean the water tank regularly and change the water often.

Maintaining the Goats' Health

Brush your goats. I recommend brushing your pygmy goats once every several days. I use a simple brush for that, carefully clean the obvious dirt on your goats. Then use the soft brush to brush your goat's fur. Note: watch for bumps on your goat as this could indicate an infection, cut, or scratch.

Bathe your goats. Generally, bathe your goats is not necessary, it is mostly done if one of your goats have parasites. Most of the time, brushing is enough for your goats. To bathe your goat, you need to warm the water slightly so that it is not so cold. Soap the goat with an animal or goat shampoo. Use a wash mitt for this. Then, rinse the soap off. It will be easier if your goat is wearing a collar as it will make it easier for you to hold onto it.

Give them vitamin A. Pygmy goats need vitamin A to keep them healthy. Most of the time, they get this vitamin from green hay or from grazing. If you don't give them any of this, you should give them corn.

Give them vitamin D. Like we humans, vitamin D helps goats absorb calcium, which is important for bone health. If your goats are outside most of the time, they will take in vitamin D from the sun. However, if they don't spend a lot of time in the sun, you will need to give them sun-dried hay.

Give minerals to goats that graze in pastures. If your goats are only grazing in pastures (and not getting any alfalfa or grain), you should give them a mixture of iodized salt, limestone (grated), and animal bones (steamed and grated). You can provide this mixture in a bucket and the goats will eat it when they want.

Inject selenium. Selenium is an essential nutrient, but it is especially important if your area has white muscle disease as selenium protects against it. When kids are born, you should inject this nutrient with a needle. The disease causes the bones to calcify, making them whitish. Hence the name of the disease.

Give vaccinations annually. Your goat must at least be vaccinated against enterotoxemia and tetanus. You can usually buy the vaccines from a feed store and give them yourself. You should also talk to your veterinarian about getting a rabies vaccine. You should also consider vaccinating against Clostridium DC.

Have them checked out every year. To keep your goats healthy, you should have them checked once a year. This is how you know that your goat has the necessary vaccinations and is healthy.

Take care of your goats' hooves. Your goats' hooves will grow over time and if you don't trim them, the goats will not be able to walk properly. Use gloves, hoof shears, and a hoof knife to trim them. Tie up or have the goat restrained. You need to have someone hold the goat while you trim the hooves. Notice the growth rings. You should be able to see where the hooves grew. Trim the hooves until they are level with the last growth ring.

By following and remembering this short guide which mentioned various important goat care topics and explain its good qualities and characteristics, you can easily be able to care for your pygmy goats, choose the perfect shelter, build a safe and secure fence, feed and water properly, take care of your goats' health and finally have fun with your goats.

Michael Feldmann is a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Considerations for Setting Up A Goat-Rental Business

   goats laying around     

The goat rental business is one of the most flexible businesses in agriculture one can find as it can be set up in different ways as far as the type of animals the business utilizes. For many businesses, they use their breeding does, others will purchase animals each spring, feed them all summer, then sell them at the end of the season, so there isn’t as large of a feed bill over the winter. Some businesses lease goats from other producers to fill their need per job and some businesses may join two separate herds to fill a job site. Then there are businesses that just rent the goats and let the renter manage the animals.

There are advantages and disadvantages for these options and each operation is different, so it is up to the individual business to make those decisions and since the industry is still growing, other ideas may come up with the creativity of a new business owner. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Doe-Only Herds

Advantages: You own the goats, know their animals and their personalities, making it easy to spot any physical or herd issues.

Disadvantages: You need to kid out in January, February and March to be able to wean kids off before the season starts or you will have to consider hauling kids with their mothers.  Some businesses do haul kids and does but special care when loading onto trailers and ensuring the kids are all accounted for and they need to be trained to the electric netting. And kidding on job site has its own issues; keeping track of newborns and their mothers can be a nightmare.

Purchasing Goats Annually

Advantages: Purchasing the goats prior to the season, you can select animals that are on the thin side and fatten them up so you will have not only an income from the weed and brush control but also from selling a fattened animal. Also, you don’t have that expensive winter or off season feed bill.  If you are wanting to build a herd of does, this is a way to purchase animals, watch them grow and develop before you decide which animals you want to keep or sell. The animals earn their keep by working for you. In addition, if you purchase all wethers, you don’t have to worry about heat cycles disturbing the herd when they should be grazing.

Disadvantages: You need to find quality animals to purchase and you won’t find that at a sale barn. You will need to find herds that are liquidating wethers, young does that are culled from the herd or older animals that have aged out of a breeding program. You also need to train the animals to the electric netting and loading and unloading from your transport. You may need to retain some animals over the winter as ‘trainer goats.’ Other considerations are the worm load these animals may or may not have. They will all need to be pre-conditioned prior to the grazing season. Some animals may die in accidents or illness, which cuts into the re-sale profits.

Leasing Goats

Advantages: Like purchasing goats every year, leasing goats can be a way to keep initial costs down, by leasing a herd from a producer means you don’t have to feed animals over the winter.

Disadvantages: This is a legal agreement, and you are responsible for animals lost or injured. The goat owner can become difficult to deal with or may require certain guarantees or a fee for leasing the animals. You may have to deal with mismanagement issues of the owner, such as heavy worm loads, lack of veterinarian care or you may have to vaccinate the animals.

Joining Two Herds

Advantages: When you need extra animals for larger jobs, you have a partner who can share some of their animals. You work with someone you know and can rely on.

Disadvantage: Biosecurity measures will have to be taken to ensure cross contamination does not occur. You may have to keep animals in separated paddocks on the same job site if you don’t have easy identification tags or collars.

There is a lot of flexibility setting up a goat rental business.  You can try the various ways to manage your goats and find the one that works for you.  For the past five seasons, I have used a herd of goats that was co-owned with my landlord.  After changing some management strategies, the 2021 grazing season, I will purchase part of my work crew and lease the rest of the crew from a friend for a small fee.  This may add to my expenses, but it will give me the freedom to work with my friend who has some great breeding plan ideas as well a more modern-day approach to managing goats.

If you have questions about setting up a goat rental business, please do not hesitate to email me. I would be more than happy to advise you and share my experiences. Here is my email address.

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with 30 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

The Khaki Campbell Breed: An Ideal Duck for Small Farms

Several Khaki Campbell Breed Ducks With Child Pool

The Khaki Campbell is a great general-purpose duck for small farms as only a few of them are needed for a constant supply of eggs and meat to the table. They are excellent layers, providing an average of 300 eggs a year, more than the average chicken, and having reliably great-tasting meat.

This breed is known for being a good forager, which makes its eggs very nutritious and tasty. Despite their wild ancestry, Khaki Campbells are quite tame and can be let out of their pen to forage on slugs, worms, ticks, and snails in the garden or pond. Khaki Campbells are an attractive breed, resembling one of its close ancestors the wild mallard. They are an easy duck to raise and have a tame and pleasant character. And, unlike chickens that lay eggs at any time of the day or night, ducks lay eggs at the morning time (my experience is usually around 9:00 in the morning). The reliability makes collecting eggs easier.

Like all ducks, Khaki Campbells love and need to have access to water, so it is best to build a small pond. A little plastic baby pool or a used bathtub also works well to make a swimming place for them. They are energetic ducks and need plenty of space to move around and to forage.

History of the Khaki Campbell

The Khaki Campbell was bred in England in the 1800s by Mrs. Adele Campbell, who wanted an attractive duck breed to supply both eggs and meat for her small farm. They were bred by crossing an Indian Runner that was an exceptional layer with a Rouen of good size. The resulting duck was then bred with a wild Mallard to develop hardiness and a good foraging and brooding instinct for her breed.

The resulting breed was presented to the public in 1898 and proved to be an excellent duck for both eggs and meat. And probably the best duck for small farms.

Khaki Campbell Duckling Fuzzy

Caring for Ducklings

When you first bring your new Khaki Campbell ducklings from the store, your house is full of happiness. The Khaki Campbell duckling is a small, good-natured animal; a gentle and responsive pet. Be prepared to purchase a few; Khaki Campbell ducklings need the company of their own kind and should not be kept alone.

Find a suitable incubator. After you get acquainted with your new ducklings, you should find a suitable incubator for them. Plastic containers, cardboard boxes or a large glass aquarium are suitable for this purpose. The box should have good insulation as the ducklings need to be kept warm. Don't choose a box with too many holes in the sides or bottom. Line the bottom of your incubator with wood shavings or clean towels. Avoid newspapers or slippery materials. The chicks are still very unsteady on their feet in the first few weeks and can easily slip and injure themselves quickly on surfaces such as plastic or even newspaper.

Heat source. Ducklings need to be kept very warm for the first few weeks of life. So, you need to buy an incubator lamp from a pet store and clip it over your incubator. Use a 100-watt lightbulb to start with. For very young ducklings, this should generate the right amount of heat. Make sure that part of the incubator is further away from the heat so the ducklings can retreat and cool off. Make sure the light bulb isn't too close to your ducklings. Otherwise, you could suffer from the high temperatures or even burn yourself if you touch the light bulb. If your incubator is very shallow, you should use a piece of wood or other sturdy support to hang the lamp a little higher.

Water. Make sure you have plenty of water. Place a drinking bowl in your incubator. Choose a very shallow bowl in which your ducklings can hold their beaks but not their entire head. Ducks prefer to be able to keep their nostrils free while drinking. If you give them access to deep water, they could climb in and drown. Change the water every day so your ducklings don't get sick from contaminated water.

Feed. Feed your ducklings with duck starter. The ducklings will not eat anything for the first 24 hours after hatching as they are still absorbing nutrients from the egg yolk. Then they eat duck starter, a food made up of tiny grains specially designed for rearing chicks; you can buy it at the pet store. Buy a plastic food bowl, fill it, and place it in your incubator. If the ducklings eat very slowly, add some water to the food to make it easier for them to swallow. You can add a small amount of sugar to their water for the first few days to get them off to a good start with lots of energy.

It is also recommended to feed weak ducklings with egg yolks. Very weak ducklings may need a few extra egg yolk nutrients before they are ready for a duck starter feeding. Feed them the egg yolks made from mashed duck eggs until they're more interested in grain foods.

Diagram Of A Small Duck Coop

Housing Khaki Campbell Ducks 

The space required per duck in the barn is between half a square meter and one square meter. A duck coop must be light and dry. In addition, the coop should be protected from drafts and at a comfortable temperature.

To prevent predators such as racoons from breaking in, you have to make the ducks' coop safe. The best way to defend ducks from predators is to lock the duck coop at night. An eye hook is a good choice for it. You can also build a wire fence around the duck coop. And it's also a good idea to build a duck coop off the ground on stilts. This both will greatly prevent predators from entering.

The duck coop must include the following:

Size. The duck coop should be 4 square feet of floorspace per duck. Since ducks usually sleep on piles of bedding on the floor, they need enough space to be able to get comfortable. The coop should also be at least 3 feet tall, with vents along the top near the roof to allow for good air flow.

Flooring. A piece of inexpensive vinyl covering above the floor will make cleaning easier and also prevent water from spilling onto the floor. So, you can leave water in the coop overnight.

Entrance and exit. The opening door of your duck coop should be enough for two ducks to enter and exit at the same time. Because ducks often like to be pushed and shoved, and can get stuck if the door is too small.

Sleeping area. Ducks, unlike chickens, do not need roosting to sleep and rarely use nesting boxes, they preferring instead to nest in the corner on the floor. So, you need to put bedding on the floor of the duck coop. Pine shavings work fine for bedding, but I very recommend using straw instead. Straw has excellent insulation properties during the cold winters, warming ducks; it also holds its shape better so they don't go to sleep on cold floor. The straw also does not get wet like wood shavings when wet, and does not contain mold like hay.

Food and water area. The ducks must be provided with food and water at all times. It is best to offer the ducks fresh food and water every day in a certain area of the duck coop. You should always clean the containers daily to keep pathogens away.

Duck Egg From Khaki Campbell Breed

Water and Feed for Ducks on a Small Farm

Ducklings can be fed regular chick feed. (Make sure this is not a drug, because the ducklings eat more than the chickens and there is a risk that they may overuse the drug.) However, ducklings have higher niacin needs than chickens, so add some brewer's yeast to the feed. to help them digest food. building strong bones.

Raw oats can also be slowly added to their feed for added protein and nutrients until a 25% oats to 75% feed ratio is achieved. You should also use grit in the form of commercial chick grit or coarse dirt to help the ducklings digest their food.

Treats. Healthy treats like dandelion greens, chopped grass and weeds, worms, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, peas, and moistened oatmeal are all favorite for ducks. Ducks don't like to eat wilted or trampled greens, so I treat them directly to their bowl of water, where they happily scoop them up with their bills.

When they eat, the ducklings grab a pile of food, then dip it in water to moisten and swallow. Their food will get wet and should be replaced away daily. Wet and moist food can contain mold and bacteria, especially in a warm brooder environment.

I use and very recommend using simple chicken feeder that can be bought at pet store or tractor supply. Chicken feeders ensure less spillage, regulate feeding and they restrict food fights. Now, if you have a bully in your duck coop then we suggest you get more than one chicken feeder so that everyone gets their share. It's also a good idea to place their food under a heating lamp, where the heat will dry them out a bit.

A very small duckling will drink about half a gallon of water a week. By seven weeks, ducklings are drinking half a gallon of water a day, so make sure their water is always full. Handle your ducks as often as often as possible. Bring them treats and soon they will literally be eating out of your hands! 

Water is Essential for Our Ducks

Ducks and water are inseparable friends. One of the most important things you can do to keep your ducks healthy is to provide them with an unlimited supply of clean fresh water. They need water to digest their food, to dip their head in water to clear their nostrils and keep their eyes clean, and they need to be able to preen in the water.

Each duck will drink about 4 cups of water every day. So, if you have a just four ducks, that's one gallon of water to drink every day.

If you have space to give them for swimming, they will absolutely very love it. You don’t have to dig a huge pond; a little plastic baby pool or a used bathtub also works great to make a swimming place for your ducks. They will dirty this water, and they will do it faster than you think! When holding the ducks, they cannot be prevented from getting into a pool of water and swimming. They toss sand and dirt into the water and drop food into it while eating. The small pool works great because it is easy to drain and quickly filled with a hose.

About once a week, I prefer to clean the pool with a dishwashing brush and a little vinegar to keep algae out.

Health Issues

Ducks generally are susceptible to fewer diseases than any other poultry. And this is a great advantage when raising Khaki Campbell ducks, although the health of ducks largely depends on the proper care and management system. If you manage a healthy rearing method and provide them nutritious food and fresh water, they don't get sick at all.

Keeping these various points in mind, you can easily be able to care for your small ducklings, build a safe and secure duck coop, feed and water properly, and finally have fun with your ducks.

Michael Feldmann is a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Find Hygge on the Homestead

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Do you hygge on your homestead? See how embracing just a few aspects of this simple way of life can bring more contentment to your days.

Homesteading is a way of life and, as such, it elicits its own set of pressures, stresses, and well, work! It’s easy to forget that it’s a labor of love and that you’ve chosen this lifestyle for a reason — and some very rewarding reasons at that. Those reasons, those choices, that led to what is often a sense of overwhelming un-accomplishment are exactly what can bring you back to a less-stressed, more contented homestead existence. All you need is a little hygge on your homestead.

Hygge: It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an adjective! It’s a…

…it’s a thing that is felt; a way of life; a way to describe that feeling or way of life; an active way of living. (Not really unlike another “H” word we know and love, eh, Homesteaders?)

Hygge is considered a concept that hails from the happiest places in the world, namely Denmark and the Scandinavian countries. (Forbes, 2020) defines hygge (pronounced hoo-ga or hew-gah, depending who you ask) as: (noun) “the feeling of coziness and contentment evoked by simple comforts, as being wrapped in a blanket, having good conversations, enjoying food, etc.”

It also defines it as an adjective, as something “cozy and comforting.” It is also defined and described in many other similar, but different, ways. Google it. You’ll see.

Vintage Butter Churn With Yellow Butter

Finding Your Brand of Homestead Hygge

Hygge defies definition because it is a concept, a lifestyle, a way of being. The beauty of hygge is that there are no hard and fast rules; and if there were to be one rule, it would be that no one can tell you what your hygge should be.

When we talk of hygge, we can suggest a mindfulness of living, a mindset mingled with activities or pastimes that might get you there. But no one person can tell another exactly what to do in order to “achieve” hygge. You just can’t “do” hygge wrong.

Examples of Hygge on the Homestead

Who has time for hygge? The simple answer: We all do. Because hygge-ing doesn’t have to mean that you drop everything to sit there with your lighted candle, concentrating on how great your hygge is, or that you accomplish nothing while you hygge (though certainly it could, if you want it to). There are many ways and opportunities to hygge on the homestead, if you just put your mind to it. Here are a few examples (some of them are even quite productive):

  • Add music or an audiobook to any task or chore.
  • Enjoy a quiet evening of bean snapping or vegetable prep for preserving on the porch. Maybe with your audiobook.
  • Take note of a good job done; large or small ,they’re all progress and if we take just a few moments to smile and breathe at the end of our accomplishments, they have a way of feeling more like accomplishments than tedious tasks.
  • Invite in the pretty parts and pieces. What does that mean? It means treat yourself to a handmade dishtowel, or a quality wooden set of salad tongs that feel great in the hand and dress up your table setting.
  • Crochet a set of new holiday ornaments, or everyday pretty little wash cloths.
  • Use your scents: Add your favorite scented candles, potpourri, or flowers to your home office, kitchen workspace, or farm table.
  • Read that overdue stack of trade magazines, “how-to” books, or your favorite back-to-basics blog (ahem) by the fire…inside or out.
  • Find moments (take moments) to enjoy the simple gratitude of appreciating your gifts and abundance.
  • Share your meals and abundance with friends and family in low-stress, informal get togethers.
  • Be mindful in the moments. Even the moments spent weeding, raking, or hoeing have hygge in them, if you make a point to find it. Smell the air. Feel the sun. Drink in the quiet or sounds of nature (because if there is one place you’re almost guaranteed to be left to your own, it’s in the weeds!).
  • Take comfort in your foods. Hygge is very inclusive of good, wholesome, soul-filling foods. We probably all know what it means when a fellow homesteader or gardener talks about how fulfilling it is to see a spread of homegrown foods and favorite dishes spread before them. In fact, that level of understanding and appreciation is one probably limited to those of us who grow and produce our own. That feeling? It’s hygge.
  • Be purely impractical. Play with your (still living) food. Pet the beef. Plant the cut flower row in the middle of the harvest garden, and harvest at will to bring hygge into your home. Plan and be practical but plan to be less-than-practical, too — to get just that much more enjoyment from your efforts.

Finding hygge on the homestead is a way of controlling stress and getting a little more out of life — that homesteading life that you love, but that (let’s admit it) can sometimes feel like one big ball of overwhelm.

You don’t have to change your life drastically to accomplish hygge or to rekindle the enjoyment in the life that you love(d). You just have to look for the little ways to bring yourself back into your present and to work spoiling yourself just a little bit, back into the equation.

Hand Picked Dahlia Flowers

Mary Ellen Ward is a how-to author, New England homesteader, and family dairy farmer. Connect with her at The Homemade Homestead, Elderberry Tea Co. on her author website, her Amazon author page, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Read all of Mary Ellen’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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