Category Archives: Goats

Another Growing Season in the Books

It’s been a ridiculous amount of time since I’ve blogged.  I probably should apologize, but I’m not sure if anyone reads this anyway.  But with a 160-acre farm, a full-time teaching job, a wife, and a young son (oh yeah, that is new, too) I feel like blogging definitely falls on the low end of my priority scale.  You understand.

Good Life Ranch has grown and changed a great deal since December 2012, which is the next blog post down the page.

I’ll try to go through the most exciting (for me) changes and improvements we’ve made, in no particular order.

#1 – We traded our goat herd for hair sheep.

 

St. Croix sheep at sunset

 

Not everyone made it into the picture, but you get the idea.

The goats were great, and did their job of clearing brush well.  So well, in fact, that they ate themselves out of a job.  We were actually able to sell the entire herd to one farm so they all got to stay together as a unit and keep their herd structure intact.

Now that our pastures have been improved a bit through our management-intensive rotational grazing, we decided that hair sheep would be a good choice.  They don’t compete much with cattle in terms of the species of plants they graze, they don’t share parasites with cattle so each becomes a dead-end host for the other species’ worms, and the meat is a lot easier to market than goat.   They are also a dream to shepherd around the property, unlike the goats.  They also stay where you put them, unlike goats.   Want to test a maximum security prison?  Put a herd of goats in there and they will find the potential escape routes for you.

 

Our sheep are a bit friendly, as a bonus.

 

#2 – We chose a breed of hog to stick with.

Back in 2012, we were trying out all manner of heritage hog breeds and crosses – we had Gloucester Old Spots, Red Wattles, Mulefoots, Durocs, Tamworths, Hampshires, Berkshires, Herefords…. all have their strengths and weaknesses.

We settled on Large Black hogs.  I trust I don’t need to describes their physical appearance.

Large blacks are good grazers, docile, fertile, good mothers, and very intelligent.  They also have delicious marbled meat that can only be described as “phenomenal.”

They have thrived here for us.  We had a new litter just the other day and the piglets are already roaming all over the pasture following mom on her quest for falling nuts.

 

Piglets! Not large yet, but definitely black.

 

#3 – Our cow herd is growing and thriving.

We have grown from our initial 2 cow-calf pairs into a herd of 17.  We have had a few more animals go through our farm.  Some have graced plates and some have gone to join other herds.

Red poll beef is just awesome.  We raise them for 30 months on nothing but grass of course, and the meat is flavorful and so tender that you really don’t even need a knife on the steaks if you cook them right.  I’ve never had such tender beef before.  I was very nervous before trying it.  Our other meats were very good, but beef on grass only really reflects the character of the grass that the animals are raised on, and I was worried that our still-too-acidic soil would produce off-flavors in the meat.  Not the case at all with our beef.  I’m either lucky or good.  Probably door #1 on that one. 

 

Our herd of cattle and flock of sheep. Our “flerd.”

 

 

A bottle calf. That was a learning curve for everyone.

 

 

Red Poll bull Shuter’s Last Chance aka “Russell”

 

#4 – Back to dogs as livestock guardians.

Even though there is the added chore of feeding them because they don’t eat the same things as the stock they are guarding like llamas and donkeys do, dogs have the advantages of mobility, intelligence, and aggressiveness.  Our new dog, Bubba, is a rescue from a colleague at work, and you don’t mess with his charges.  The first time I picked up a newborn goat kid with Bubba around, he tried to kill my ass.  In front of my grandmother, no less.  Had me down on the ground, big holes in my best jeans.  So now Bubba gets tied to a fence post or tree whenever I have to work with an animal.  But if he’ll do that to me, I now a coyote or a livestock rustler (yes, those exist and strike often around here) doesn’t stand a chance.  Our neighbors have lost animals to both and so far we have not. Bubba did chase a utility company lineman out of the field and the lineman was yelling to his buddies to “shoot the polar bear!”  Bubba is 140 pounds, but still a bit shy of polar bear status.

 

Bubba

 

 

The bane of Bubba’s existence.

 

#5 – Our infrastructure is improving.

We have 4 fields fenced in now, and water access in all 4 with no lugging of 5-gallon buckets for hundreds of yards, which is good becaause I’m getting old.  All told we have around 45-acres of grazeable land now where even if an electric fence is knocked over by wind or a rogue animal the herd still can’t wander off.  

We’ve installed a water tower to gravity feed water to 2 pastures, a solar pump to supply water to the 3rd, and a couple of ponds to collect water for the animals’ use.

 

2 ponds collect water on the hillside

 

I’ve built Eggmobile 2.0 so that the laying chickens can follow the sheep and cattle around the pasture, filling their ecological niche as nature’s sanitation crew.  This version is much sturdier and more maneuverable than its predecessor.  I’ve also built the pigs a Love Shack to keep them warm in the winter and give them a place to make a nest for their litters.  It can be pulled around the farm as needed to keep the pigs moving around the pastures and woodlots as well.

 

Eggmobile 2.0

 

 

The Love Shack for the large black hogs.

 

#6 – I took a Permaculture Design Course and am now a certified permaculture designer and consultant.

This was one of the best courses I have ever taken, and I have been to a LOT of school!  I took the course from a man named Geoff Lawton, who is well-known in the permaculture world, and I can’t say enough about his teaching ability.

If you are unfamiliar with it, permaculture is a discipline that uses ecological principles to benefit humanity and the environment.  Basically learning how to accentuate and accelerate natural processes in order to create security and an abundance of food, energy, and health.  I highly recommend looking into permaculture.  If you’re reading this blog and not a blood relative of mine, you’ll be interested in it.  If you are a blood relative, you may still be interested.  Because it is interesting.  🙂

I am now able to use my knowledge to create and design properties for people who would like to create a little slice of food-producing, energy-producing, waste-reducing, health-increasing, happiness-inducing oasis on their property.  If you are interested in doing something like that, get in contact with me.  I’d love to help you make your dream come true!  

Geoff Lawton doing his thing.

 

#7 – Lifestyles Lane is ready.

Thanks to the help of our intrepid interns, we now have quite the impressive array of structures back in the village.  I believe I have posted about Haiti, Cambodia, and the urban slum.  We also have India, China, a refugee camp, Moldova, and a Maasai round house.

I am indebted to all of our interns who gave so generously of their time and energy to help us build all of this, so I feel the need to credit their effort by listing them here.  They are:  Cameron Day, Alexa Zanikos, Grayson Middleton, Catherine Alvarez-McCurdy, Katie Black, Annalise Carington, Julian Cross, Dana Eardley, Meredith Prentice, Sam Abney, Jacob Klein, Riley Francis, Allison Vigil, Rachel Seidner, Trevor Antrim (twice!), Bianca Lopez, Mariana Vazquez-Walter, Alex Cohen, Sarah Elizabeth McLaughlin, Emma (King) Fife, Tyler Swank, Hannah Kavy, Laura Prentice, Gabriela Castanon, Jake Weeth, Joy Rathman (twice!), Mackenzie Despain (twice!), Judah Oechsle, Grace Herndon, Abigail Land, Brianna Vitt, Sarah Gonzalez (twice!), Savannah Gonzalez, Liam Day, Caitee Nigro, Nicholas Ochoa, Avery Riester, and Isabella de la Rosa.  Muchas gracias a todos!

It’s been a great couple years.  I will put more effort into keeping this blog more active.  Please ask questions and give feedback in the comments section.

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Early Winter

It’s been raining for 4 days straight, so I’ve finally found some time to blog.  I may have to cut this short if it keeps raining and try to teach the chickens how to swim.  Sorry for the long absence, but I’ve been teaching Spanish at the high school lately (yikes!) and with the daylight getting shorter each day I just haven’t found the time to put pencil to paper.  Er, fingers to keyboard.

Since the last blog, we’ve mostly put the gardens to bed.  There are still some greens and peas hanging on, but everything else has been chopped and mulched with leaves from the surrounding trees.  I’ve been working really hard on the gardens this summer and fall.  Next year should be our most ambitious gardens yet!  Lindsey’s dad Ronnie wants to help out with the gardens and essentially combine our labor on the gardens here to produce veggies for both of our families.  I’ve prepped the 2 raised bed gardens that we’ve used the whole time we’ve been here, the 3 Sisters garden that we made two years ago, and the new “straw garden” I made last fall and put to its first use this year.  I’ve also “broken ground” on two new gardens that we’ll use for the first time this coming spring.  One will be another standard garden and the other will be a trellis garden for growing vertically-oriented crops like cucumbers, Malabar spinach, peas and beans, and small squashes.  All of our gardens are created by first closely mowing all of the vegetation.  Then we lay down cardboard sheet mulch to block any regrowth (thanks to Jake and Ronnie’s move we’ve had access to a lot of cardboard).  After that I throw on layers of manure and old hay and straw and let that mix compost in place all winter.  Then in the spring, the garden is ready to go!  Plant, mulch, harvest!  All told, next year we should have almost 12,000 ft² of garden space in production next year!

The Food Forest in the backyard is moving along nicely as well.  This year we managed to get almost of the trees planted!  Our ultimate goal here is to teach people that a phenomenal amount of food can be produced in a regular suburban-sized back yard.  When we moved here there were a few raspberries planted in the backyard, but that was it.  Last year we planted grapevines and built an herb spiral with our interns Cameron and Alexa.  This year we got 5 apple trees in the ground (Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, MacIntosh, and Arkansas Black), 2 plums, 2 sweet cherries, several blueberry bushes, 3 pawpaws, a mulberry, 2 hardy almonds, 2 brown turkey figs, 2 mayhaws, and 2 golden chain trees.  Most of the trees look like sticks right now, although the ones we planted in the spring put on some good growth.  These will be the canopy layer of our Food Forest and we wanted to get them growing as soon as possible since it will take several years for us to begin to see the literal fruits of our labor.  Next year the goal for the Food Forest will be to begin the establishment of the understory plants to grow underneath the trees.  These shorter plants will provide some food, but will also accumulate nutrients, block the grass, and generate mulching material on site.  Right now all the mulch comes from old chicken and rabbit bedding.  These plants will include comfrey, horseradish, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, sea buckthorns, nasturtiums, daffodils, and other shorter plants.  Once the trees get larger, we’ll add some more vining plants for another layer in the forest.

We also got a corral built around the winter quarters for the cattle and goats.  Now the animals should be secure behind a solid physical barrier.  We’ve been using just electric fencing and that isn’t a great winter solution because it doesn’t work very well in the winter.  We can’t keep the batteries charged well in the cold and snow shorts the fence out on occasion.  But now we shouldn’t have to worry about escapes due to faulty fencing.  We’ll be down to just human error now.  No place else for me to hide!

We are continuing to learn about pigs.  I really like them!  They eat a lot, but they are very useful and I can see them improving our woodlots paddock by paddock.  Now if their jaws could just get strong enough to actually crack all of the black walnuts they have access to we could cut the feed bill down significantly!

Finally, we’ve adopted a cow for the short term.  One of our Amish neighbors needed his cow bred, so we traded out our bull Russell’s stud services for some hay.  I didn’t ask Russell for his permission, but I can attest to the fact that he did not mind a bit.  I like this deal a lot.  Our bull knocks up someone else’s heifer and we get a half a winter’s worth of hay from it.  Only with cows…

 

Breeding Season has Arrived

The bull went in with the cows and heifers back in July, so the Red Poll cattle on our ranch should have been bred a while back.  The cattle this year are relatively uncomplicated.  The bull isn’t related to any of the cows or heifers, so this year we can just keep the whole group together.

That is not the case with the goats.  Our best buck is related to our best doe (it’s his mother) and all of this year’s crop of doelings.  Since he’s such an outstanding young buck, however, we do want him to contribute his genes into our herd.  This means that today Lindsey and I had to split our goat herd in two.

The 5 doelings (Meg, Hotlips, Winnie, Gumby, and Cher) from this year’s kidding season plus Miss Priss are now in the newly-fenced South Field with all of the cattle.  We’ve put in the 2 Boer bucklings (Desmond and Tutu) to breed that group.  From those pairings we should get a nice group of 50% Boer/50% Kiko kids plus one set of 75% Boer/25% Kiko kids.

The 5 older does remain in the Front Field with Jack the alpaca and Jack the Kiko buckling (son of Miss Priss/sibling of Meg).  These pairings should yield 3 sets of 100% Kiko kids and 2 sets of 50% Boer/50% Kiko kids.

Our first due date is officially April 3, 2013!

South Field Fenced

Google Earth image overlay of the area we just fenced. About 8 acres south of the greenhouse and bird barn.

Hooray!

Last week my neighbor Elden and I finished fencing in the south field.  This is important because we now have 2 securely fenced areas in which we can graze our animals.  That’s good because next year we will have to separate the bulls and bucks from the cows and does during the time from calving/kidding until rebreeding.  Without this fence we would have been solely reliant on electric fencing to contain them.  Our animals are well-trained to the electric fencing and do respect it, but I don’t like it as the sole containment for the animals because sometimes storms or high winds can knock it over and then your prized animals are loose in the woods somewhere…

This fence job went far more smoothly than when we fenced in the front field last year.  We bought a hydraulic post pounder and used a skidsteer to set the posts in the ground.  So much faster than digging all the holes and setting each post by hand (which means hauling in gravel, shoveling it into each hole, and then tamping the gravel down with the throw bars – exhausting), as well as heart-pounding, ear-splitting, and dangerous.  But it only took us 3 days to get all of the posts into the ground, as opposed to 4 weeks last time.

This field formerly had a fence along the eastern side just below the old logging access road you can see in the Google Earth image.  This fence row had grown up over the years and was covered in cedars, honeysuckles, brambles, poison ivy, and all manner of other nasties that would make clearing the fence row difficult.  So in the month prior to starting the project, we ran our goats and pigs (separately, of course – no goat suppers for the pigs!) through the fence row.  Those guys happily ate, trampled, and otherwise demolished the vast majority of the nasty stuff.  By the time they were through with it, Elden and I only had to spend a morning with a couple of chainsaws to clear out the remnants.  Aren’t livestock wonderful when you can use them to do your dirty work?  And you’ve never seen happier pigs!

After setting all of the posts and braces we stretched 4″ x 4″ goat and sheep fencing and hammered and hammered and hammered and hammered staples to secure the fencing to the posts.  I think this type of fence will do much better for us than the standard field fencing we used in the front field.  It doesn’t matter for the cattle, but the young goats get the heads stuck in the field fence constantly and the 4″ x 4″ fence should keep them from being able to stick their heads through and getting caught.

All that’s left to do is stick the gates on for access and the field is ready for grazing!  It’s first action will be the cattle and half of the goat herd.  The other half of the goat herd will remain in the front field.  This separation is to prevent inbreeding and so we can control which buck had access to which does.

Next project: corral panels and gutters for the new barn to provide a more secure and drier winter environment for the cattle and goats.  Should be done by the first week of November!

Beginning our Forage Forest

So I don’t know how many readers have actually been able to visit GLR yet, but for those who haven’t gotten the chance…

… It’s a bit hilly, hillbilly.

We have 3 fields/pastures totaling around 40 acres that are relatively flat, but the aren’t all connected.  Plus, we’d like to be able to utilized more of the property for food production.  So here’s the plan, which is now underway.  Barely.

The green highlighted area above the pasture and below the old-growth forest is the area that will become the forage forest.

In the Google Earth snapshot above, the green area represents what will become the forage forest.  It’s an area that was once clear-cut and turned into pasture but over the last 15 years or so has grown up with all manner of brush – young cedars, oaks, poplars, hickories, and some brambles and berries.  When we first moved here I thought we would clear out all of that secondary growth and turn that portion of the hillside below the old-growth forest at the top of the ridge back into pasture for our ruminants.

The problem with that idea is the slope of the land:

Here’s a view of the typical slope we are talking about. It seems much steeper when you’re on site.

I understand that the previous farmers on this property had turned this portion of the farm into pasture, but I also have eyes and can see that all of the topsoil on this slope is not there anymore.  It’s probably been washed down into the creek and off to the Green River.  That slope is just not conducive to short grass.  It needs things with deep roots to hold the topsoil in place.

Those of you who know me know that I like to think about things for long periods of time before taking action.  I’ve been pondering that steep hillside for 3 years now.  I’ve thought… pasture, orchard, grapes(!), water slide into the creek, leave it alone, etc.  Then I came across a book that I think all landowners should read – J Russell Smith’s Tree Crops.  It was written in 1929 and it’s still revolutionary and ahead of its time today.  It has inspired what our hillside will become – a forage forest using native trees to hold the topsoil, provide forage and shelter for our livestock, and provide a microclimate under the canopy into which we can sow annual and perennial ground-level crops.

Here’s the idea:

  1. We utilize the pigs and goats this fall to eat down some of the brush (especially the briars and brambles) and root up the thin soil a bit to help loosen the grip the bunchgrass has on the hillside.  This part is starting to happen as we speak.
  2. This winter, when there’s more room to move around after the leaves are off and the goats and pigs have thinned things out a bit, I will go in there and selectively remove trees.  Most of the cedars will go away to be used as fence posts or be turned into other useful things.  Lindsey likes them to keep moths out of her sweaters.  The best oaks, hickories, and berry patches will stay and the rest of them thinned to give the best trees room and light to grow even better.
  3. After the thinning, we will plant some native forage-producing trees in the gaps created by the thinning process and (for the shade-loving trees) under the canopies of the existing nut trees.  These forage trees will include things like honey locusts, mayhaws, pawpaws, persimmons, crabapples, and mulberries to complement the oaks and hickories.
  4. Underneath the canopy (after the pigs have tilled the soil a little for us) we’ll plant a mix of perennials and annuals that we hope will become a permanent feature of the forest.  We’ll have to manage it carefully for the first five years, but we hope to establish clovers, orchardgrass, alfalfa, Jerusalem artichokes, squashes, berry bushes, turnips, rape, peas, sunflowers, and other little treats in the understory of the forest.
  5. Over time, these planted trees and the existing trees will begin to produce forage that the goats and pigs can self-harvest.  Our plan is to combine the understory plants and the fruit- and nut-fall from the trees and actually not have to feed anything other than what the livestock can gather in the forage forest.

The hard work will come in when we plant the trees.  Kentucky’s Dept of Forestry at least makes it easy to acquire them.  You can order bundles of 100 bare root trees for around $40 from them.  Anybody wanna come help dig this winter?  The hardest part (for me anyway) will be the patience needed to wait for the trees to grow.

So when this forage forest kicks into full production (in like 10 years, *sigh*) our pigs’ year will look like this:

January-February: piglets born, everybody’s in the warm barn, adult pigs eating walnuts saved from October harvest and our extra corn
March:  pigs go into the cattle/goat hayfeeding area to churn compost for us, pigs feeding on the compost and our extra corn
April-May: pigs go onto pasture and start heading towards the forage forest, feeding on grasses & clovers on spring pasture
May-June: pigs go into the forage forest where mayhaws and mulberries are ripe and falling to the ground for them
July-August: mulberries continue to fall, blackberries ripen, ground cover crops plentiful
September: ground cover crops are still going, nut fall is starting, crabapples and pawpaws are dropping off the trees
October: nut fall is in full swing, pigs feast and fatten on hickories, acorns, and hazelnuts
November-December: persimmons and honey locusts drop their bounties, pigs are finished.  Pork is harvested, breeders return to barn.

So that’s the plan – to create a forage forest that produces our pork without any off-farm feed inputs.  With good management, I believe we can also harvest extra fruits and nuts from the forest and run our goats and poultry through the forage forest occasionally as well.  The best part of all of this is that, in addition to producing all of those wonderful products, this plan will actually stabilize that hillside, prevent erosion, shelter our animals, create a corridor to move the cattle through to the back pasture, and provide valuable timber towards retirement time for Lindsey and I.

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2012’s First Internship Session

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For the last 3 weeks we’ve had the pleasure of having 5 interns from the International School of the Americas helping us out on the farm.  Allison Vigil, Jacob Klein, Rachel Seidner, Riley Francis, and Sam Abney have been absolutely wonderful.  They accomplished more than any other group of interns so far – and every group we’ve had has been outstanding!

Some of the things they accomplished while they were here:

  • completed the halfway done Haitian dwelling (separate post coming soon)
  • started and finished an urban slum for Lifestyles Lane (separate post coming soon)
  • planted our 3 Sisters Garden
  • planted our popcorn and sweet potato garden
  • worked with our pigs and got them loaded up to go to the processor’s
  • put the broilers and replacement layers out to pasture
  • raised the rabbits
  • taught the turkeys how to free-range boomerang (come back to roost at night)
  • caught all the goats, weighed the kids, trimmed all the hooves, and herbally wormed the adults
  • rotationally grazed the cattle (and goats)
  • hauled tons and tons of water
  • moved all the rabbit hutches into the shelter of the barn

These guys and girls were absolutely tremendous.  Their major accomplishments will be detailed in subsequent posts, but their presence will be greatly missed.

For more pictures, check out the whole album on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.374729892592146.88189.102369686494836&type=1 

 

Goat Preschool

Goat Preschool

Most of the goat kids are 1 month old now and growing quickly.  We are taking their 30-day weights and most of the kids have made it to 20 pounds in their first month of life.  That’s great – it means that they are healthy and their does are producing plenty of milk for them.

Generally the kids are together in a big group that Lindsey has taken to calling Goat Preschool.

The kids are full of antics.  Every dusk they do this bouncing-around-the-paddock routine that is a combination of hide-and-seek, freeze tag, high jumping, and interpretive dance.  Sometimes the 2 Red Poll calves join in as well but they are shunned.  I can almost hear the goats saying “Too big!  Too big!”

One of the kids’ favorite activities is Cow Surfing.  The kids love to climb on everything – the wheelbarrow I leave for them to play on, the mineral tub and stand, the shade shack, each other – and they will climb on the cows when they lie down as well.  Every once in a while a kid will manage to hang on through the process of the cow standing up and will ride along on the cow’s back for a bit – Cow Surfing!

 

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Desmond & Tutu

On Sunday we traded Apollo, our wonderful Kiko herdsire, for 2 young up-and-coming Boer bucklings.  I really liked the Boer/Kiko cross (called Bokis) kids that we goat out of Apollo and Nadine.  They are heavy, stocky, and vigorous.  I am hoping that, since most of our does are Kikos, we can have a whole bunch of these great looking kids next year if we use a Boer buck over our Kiko does.  I’m hoping that the kids will inherit the good hooves and parasite resistance of the Kiko breed and the stockiness and meatiness of the Boers.

Meet the new boys:

Desmond

Tutu

These little boys are six weeks old, pure Boer, and growing really fast!  From a birth weight of 5 pounds each, they now weigh 33 and 34 pounds.  That’s a gain of almost 2/3 of a pound per day.  I really hope that they will help impart that rate of growth into their future kids.

They are virtually identical.  The ear tags will be essential to telling them apart.  Tutu, of course, got tag 22.

We will miss you Apollo, and we greatly appreciate the 10 healthy kids (with a couple more possible in the fall) and 2 new bucks you brought us during your 6-month sojourn at Good Life Ranch.

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Sales and Availability Update

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Gloucester Old Spot/Duroc hybrid barrow. 

Just wanted to let everyone know about our sales and available meat products for the 2012 season.

Pork
Our first run of hogs have all been sold.  Thank you to Melane, Doug, Chastity, Rob, Kelly, and Bryan!  We have some interest in hogs ready for slaughter in the fall.  If you are interested, please shoot me an email or comment on this post and I will add your name to the list.

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This little Kiko buck is growing fast!

Chevon
We have sold our first goats – thanks Jennifer, Rachel, and Nick! – and we have two more available for 2012.  They are available for both breeding and eating.  Again, send me an email or comment below if you would like a goat so that we can work with you on the size you would like for eating or the characteristics you are looking for in a breeding buck.  If you are looking for a breeding buck, please contact us quickly, as the bucklings will be wethered when they reach 2 months of age.

Turkeys
The hens have hatched out 17 poults so far with 3 more hens still sitting on their eggs.  They will be ready for Thanksgiving and are really excellent!  Supermarket birds aren’t even close!  A $25 deposit will reserve a bird for your holiday meal and the first people to reserve get the first choice as to the size of bird they would like.  Please contact us to reserve your turkey.

Rabbit
Our first two litters have sold, but we definitely have more on the way.  Rabbits are $5 each if you would like to process them yourself and $10 each if you would like us to do it for you.

Chicken
Chicken can be ready for you from 6 to 12 weeks after you order it, depending upon whether you would like the Cornish x White Rock hybrids or the older, tastier heritage breed birds.  Contact us and we can have a custom-sized order ready for you!

Eggs
Eggs are pretty much always available.  They are $3.25 per dozen – $3.00 if you bring us an egg carton. Our chickens are completely free-ranging during the day and return to a predator-proof coop at night for protection.

Thanks to all of our great customers and we would love to welcome some new ones!

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Fancy’s Kids

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Kidding season officially closed tonight with the birth of Fancy’s twins.  All told, we got 12 kids.  One premature and stillborn, one premature and now deceased, and 10 healthy strapping kids – 5 bucks and 5 does.

Fancy has been our lowest-maintenance goat throughout the time we’ve had them.  No hoof trims needed, no worming, no nothing.  Which is good because she’s also the most standoffish and hardest to catch.  So I was hoping that if any of the goats needed help, it wouldn’t be Fancy.

BUT….

She had the longest labor of anyone.  She started when I got home from school around 3:30 and finally finished giving birth around 9:30 at night.  In the rain.  In the cold.  But the kids were strong and vibrant.  One dark 8-lb buck and one light 7-lb doe, so she “bucked” the trend I talked about yesterday of the dark does and light bucks that all the other does had.  In fact, her little doeling looks almost exactly like her.

Fancy cleaned her kids off well and then….

SHE WOULDN’T LET THEM NURSE!

Oh no!  Every time one of the kids got near her udder they received a swift kick to the head.  She would let them suck at her knees, her chest, her sides, but not her udder.

I sat in the rain and watched this go on for way too long wondering if I should intervene.  The kids were holding up their end of the bargain.  They were tenacious about sucking and trying to find the udder and nipples.  They searched, they sucked, they bleated, but she wouldn’t let them on.

So finally I decided that we’d have to help her get the hang of it.  I went to get Lindsey and we both trekked out in the rain.  The plan was to hold Fancy and let the kids latch on with the hope that Fancy would figure it out.  When we got out to the paddock we decided to wait 5 or 10 minutes longer and she finally did let the kids nurse.

HALLELUJAH!

After they had both gotten a good drink we carried them underneath the portable shelter to help them stay as dry as possible before we went back in for the night.

One calf to go, then only small stuff for the rest of the year.  Rabbits and chickens are much less stressful!

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