Tag Archives: goats

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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Barn Raisin’

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We just finished a new barn on our property.  We needed a sheltered area for the goats and cattle for the winter as well as a predator-proof nighttime roost for our poultry to deter the extremely bold and clever minks.

We had one large barn from the 1940’s already but it leans pretty badly, is elevated off the ground (not predator proof), and doesn’t offer any sheltered areas for livestock that are secure.  We have 2 useful stalls that we use for quarantine purposes, but that old barn is really not useful for anything other than storage.

So with the help of Abe, one of our Amish neighbors, we designed a combination run-in shed and poultry roosting house to serve our purposes.  The completed structure is 20′ wide, 48′ long, and 8′ tall at the lowest point of the roof rising to 12′ tall at the apex.  The poultry roosting area is 16′ x 20′ (320 square feet) and the run-in shelter is 32′ by 20′ (640 square feet).

The poultry roosting section is completely enclosed with poplar boxing harvested from our woods at the top of the hill.  The boxing goes all the way up to the roof and spacers are attached to prevent any critter from climbing over the walls.  We also sunk hardwood boards a foot into the ground below the boxing to prevent digging critters.  As an extra measure of protection chicken wire will be stapled to the baseboards, buried beneath a thick layer of gravel planted with thorny cactus and multiflora rosebushes to form a (hopefully) impenetrable barrier to predators.  If any minks, raccoons, or stray cats can get through this, then we’ll just have to give up on raising chickens.  Inside the roosting house will be a bamboo roost, nesting boxes, and a feed bin with a rodent-deterring latching system all over an auto-composting deep bedding system.

The run-in shed serves as shade and shelter for the ruminants during stormy winter weather.  On the open front we will attach 2 16′ gates to span the open side.  One gate will open outwards and one gate will open into the shelter, allowing us to utilized the gate to help us corral goats for hoof trimmings.  We purposefully placed the shelter connected to the garden area to collect the fertility from the hay and manure for our crops.  Basically, the cows poop, we add some grain and cover it with straw or hay, the cows poop more, we add more grain and cover it with straw or hay, and the cows trample out all of the oxygen.  This binds all of the nutrients together and stores them until we’re ready.  No smell and no shoveling manure!

Once the cows and goats are back out on pasture in early April, we’ll buy a couple feeder pigs and turn them into the shelter and garden area.  The pigs will root through all that hay, straw, and manure in search of the grain we buried in there for them.  In the process, the pigs will inject oxygen into all that organic matter and the whole lot of it will begin to compost.  After a few weeks we will have a garden that has been fertilized and tilled as well as a couple of pigs to eat!

This shelter went up very quickly.  It took 3 men (2 Amish and 1 Geoff), 1 teenager, and 1 kid 5 days to complete it.  Very economical as well.  Abe gets good prices.  I priced out the materials at Lowe’s and the wood alone was only $700 less than we paid for the whole structure and the labor.  Plus, it’s built far more sturdily than I could have hope to build it alone.

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Of Garlic and Goats

Rows of freshly planted garlic.

Today was garlic planting day here at Good Life Ranch.  It feels good knowing that the first crop of 2011 is in the ground!

We ordered seed garlic of several varieties from an organic nursery back in August.  After months of delays caused by the company losing our order and not returning our phone calls, yet being organized enough to put the charges on our debit card, we finally got our garlic in mid-November.  The company we used was Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, and although we eventually got the garlic we ordered, I can’t say that I recommend them based on the customer service the company gave us.  Took the money, lost the order, claimed all of their office computers crashed, did not return phone calls, would not call back when they said they would.  All in all, I hope their garlic does better than their sales and service personnel.

I wanted to plant the garlic in mid-to-late October, but due to the shenanigans with the order and the company that wasn’t able to happen.  Then I thought it might be a good activity for when my family was visiting us over Thanksgiving, but due to the appendectomy, that wasn’t able to happen either.  THEN we had 6 inches of snow that I didn’t want to plant through.  So we finally got the garlic in the ground today.  Old European tradition says to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year – December 21st.  I know that’s not til Tuesday, but we’re supposed to get more snow and I didn’t want to waste the relatively nice weather we had today (a balmy 31°F).

We planted 5 varieties of garlic – large elephant garlic, Spanish roja, German red, Nootka rose, and Inchelium red.  I planted a dozen cloves of the elephant garlic, then almost a pound of each of the other varieties.  Each clove went pointy side up 2 inches into the ground spaced 5-6 inches from any other clove.  I planted the elephant garlic a little further apart since they are so large.  All in all I think I planted 9 rows of garlic this morning.  After planting the rows I raked a thick layer of leaves and straw over them, then watched the chickens proceed to scratch it all up.  Hopefully they won’t disturb the cloves too much.  The garlic should overwinter in the ground and pop up and begin growing early in the spring.  If all goes well we should be able to harvest some green garlic shoots sporadically throughout the spring before we harvest the garlic bulbs in July and August.

The other order of the day was to move the goat herd into a holding area.  We’re going to visit my family in Arkansas next week for the holidays and want caring for the goats to be as simple as possible for our farmsitter.  We hired our young neighbor Darrell to watch after the goats, livestock dogs, rabbits, and poultry for the 3 days we’ll be gone.

Maggie Mae and her protegé Sergeant Pepper survey their new domain.

Eventually we want to build a hayshed for feeding livestock in the winter so that we can collect and compost their manure before respreading it in the spring (when the pasture can actually take up the nutrients).  Manure put on pasture in the winter sees its nutrients vaporize or leach into the water long before the plants begin growing again, so we want to collect and store those nutrients in the winter so we don’t have to import our soil’s fertility in a bag.  However, we’re a little short on hayshed money right now, so this is our next best option.

A view of the entire goat corral.

We got some cattle panels and attached them to T-posts to make a 48′ x 90′ holding area for the goats.  We moved their shelter with hayrack into it.  The plan is to hold the goats in this area and feed them hay when the weather is bad this winter (or when your 13-year-old neighbor is farmsitting), and move them around with the portable fencing when there are a few days of nice weather.  We strategically placed the hay feeding area in a “living barn” of sorts.  The area is shielded from the north wind by the thick stand of bamboo.  Two other sides of the enclosure have pine trees to protect it.  So basically the goats are shielded from the weather on 3 sides and have their portable shelter in with them to boot.

Corral, corral maker, goats, and guard dogs.

To move the goats today we employed our successful strategy from the Great Goat Escape of 2010, which is to say that I caught lead goat Miss Priss and led her into the new corral.  The other goats followed along just like the other day and before we knew it we had the whole herd in the corral.  Piece of cake!

Guess who can fit through a cattle panel? Sergeant Pepper, that's who!

The only glitch in the system is Sergeant Pepper (the new Pyrenees puppy).  He is growing bigger by the day, but he is still small enough to slip through the 6″ x 6″ cattle panels.  So far this afternoon he had squirmed out at least 6 times.  It’ll be nice next week when he’s finally too big to do that and he’ll be forced to stay in that pen and bond with the goats at last.  It’s hard to get mad at him, though.  He’s so cute!

Egg makers. Particularly the one on the right. 🙂

On the poultry front, the chickens are really beginning to lay!  Today I found 13 eggs from our 14 hens.  The only unfortunate part is that I found them under the trailer, next to the mower, under a bush, on the straw bales…  not ONE egg in the milk crate nest boxes.  Hmmm….  Gotta figure out a way to convince them that the milk crates are the place to lay the eggs.  Collecting them will go much faster if we can do that.

BUT, the eggs are fantastic!  Even in winter, when the egg yolks are supposed to be very pale compared to the rest of the year, the color in these eggs just blows away the store bought ones.  I can’t wait to compare the difference in the spring and summer when the grass is growing.  Green plant matter leads to more yolk color.  More yolk color means more beta carotene.  Check out the difference below.

Good Life Ranch egg on the left. Naturally Preferred Organic Cage Free eggs on the right. This is Dec 19. We'll do the comparison again when the grass is green.

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Building a Hay Rack

Fancy, Ebony, and Ivory are thrilled with their new hayrack.

Well, I’m still on “light duty” from my appendectomy.  I’m not supposed to do anything real strenuous yet and since all the things I had planned for this winter were “heavy duty” moving or building I decided to make providing for our goats a little easier on us and a lot less wasteful of hay.  Winter feeding of hay is the number one operating expense in most livestock operations, so we want to minimize the amount of hay we have to feed and utilize the hay we feed as efficiently as possible through good management and decision making.

In the future we hope to be able to graze our ruminants year round without supplemental hay except in the worst years but we have to get our pastures into much better shape before that can happen.  So this year we will have to feed hay to supplement the browsing and grazing of the goats.  I thought we were going to be able to make it until January before we had to feed any hay, but we’ve had such a cold snap here lately that the grass is fading fast.  The temps here have been in the teens this week – no higher than 28°F on any day – and have been in the single digits at night.  So basically we had to start feeding some hay.

Since we’re new at all this we started by placing a hay bale on top of a dog house thinking that LGD Maggie Mae could get some shelter and the hay would stay up off the ground.  That strategy worked for somewhere between three and five minutes.  After that time, the goats had knocked over the doghouse, spread the hay all over the ground, and they and Maggie had made little nests in the hay in which to sleep.  Seeing all of the goats and Maggie sleeping in their nests was very cut, but hay is expensive, and that was going to waste a lot of it.

From the couple of days I spent carrying hay out to the goats I could tell doing that every morning was going to get really old really quickly, so I started thinking about making a portable hay rack.  Lots of companies make hay racks, but I was unable to find one that was designed to be moved around pastures with the animals.  Most people either bring large round bales to central feeding points for non-rotationally-grazed animals or they bring their animals into a hayshed in the winter and feed them there.  We’ll probably opt for the latter strategy eventually, but we need to build a hayshed and small stockyard first.  That way we can store the manure in one place through the winter when the pastures can’t absorb the fertilizer and spread it in the spring when it can be utilized.  But for now we have no hayshed and no stockyard, so we needed another solution.

As I said, I couldn’t find any portable hay racks to model one after, so I tried to think of the solution that would be easiest for us.

I decided that attaching a hay rack to the goats’ portable shelter would be the easiest thing for us to do since doing it that way would create no extra work in moving it.  We already move the shelter with the goats anyway – a task that has gotten much easier thanks to my dad, who put wheels on the goat shelter while I was in the hospital.  Now that thing pulls so easily!  That used to be the worst part of moving the goats, but no more!

Anyway, I attached a remnant 4′ x 4′ piece of plywood to one side of the shelter and then angled two old garden trellises that I found into the bottom of the plywood and through the bottom frame of the goat shelter.  Then I attached a wire to the top frame of the goat shelter, wove it through the trellis for added support, and attached the wire to the top frame of the shelter on the other side of the plywood.  See the video below for a visual.

As you can see, this is a perfectly functional poor-man’s hay rack that moves right along with the goat shelter from paddock to paddock.  I used stuff we had lying around, but if you want to copy this it would only cost you about $22.  A full piece of plywood runs about $8 at Lowe’s and I saw similar trellises at Wal-Mart for $6.97 each.  You’d even have a half sheet of plywood left over at that price.

Hopefully the goats will be kind to it and not break it to pieces, but I think the worst they could do it bend the wire on the trellises.  That shouldn’t be too hard to fix if it becomes necessary.

After 24 hours, the hayrack has seemed very successful at keeping the hay off of the ground and at giving the goats access to the hay.

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Sgt. Pepper

Sgt. Pepper rides home in Lindsey's lap in the truck.

This cute little fluffball is Sgt. Pepper, Good Life Ranch’s newest livestock guardian dog (LGD).  Lindsey’s parents, Ronnie and Jake, had given us some money to buy some young LGD pups for Christmas.  This is pup #1!

No, Maggie is not being replaced.  She is doing a tremendous job!  But she is between 7 and 8 years old and it takes 18-24 months to get a LGD trained and working at full capacity. So now is the time to start training a replacement if we want Maggie to be able to retire before she hits double digits in age.  We wanted to get 2 young puppies (a male and female so that we won’t have to buy a LGD again, as well as hopefully make a little bit of money to pay for their food eventually) and allow Maggie to train them how to be good guardians.  Then, once the younger generation is trustworthy and working at full capacity, Maggie will be able to retire to a smaller area with some geese or pygmy goats or something.

We got Sgt. Pepper from a family near Campbellsville.  The parents of the litter of 9 puppies were on the premises and were guarding a small flock of goats in addition to raising their litter of puppies.  The parents were alert but very friendly, even with strangers.  There were 4 puppies still there – 2 males and 2 females.  We chose the puppy that seemed the most confident and willing to explore the paddock.  He was also a little bit bigger than the others, but that was not as important to us as his personality and self-confidence.  Right now he weighs around 12 pounds and will be 9 weeks old tomorrow.

On the way home we decided that we would call him Sgt. Pepper.  Lindsey also wants a llama named General Fierceness, so apparently she is a fan of military ranks.  The Beatles theme for our LGDs could be fun – Sgt. Pepper and Maggie Mae could have friends named JoJo, Jude, Desmond, Eleanor, Michelle, Maxwell, Mr. Kite, Paperback Writer, Prudence, Lucy, Lady Madonna, Rocky, John, and Yoko.  I’m also pretty sure I’ve missed many of the names in their more obscure songs, but you get the idea!

We also stopped off at one of our Amish neighbor’s and got a well-made doghouse so that Sgt. Pepper could get away from the goats if they try to play too rough while he’s still little.  Before we move the goats next I’ll put some wheels and handles on the doghouse so we can move it around the pasture with the goat shelter and Sgt. Pepper and Maggie will have a place of their own that the goats can’t enter.  We also learned that his parents live just half an hour or so away from my parents in Arkansas.  Small world!

Here are some shots of Sgt. Pepper’s first day at Good Life Ranch.

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Once we got back home, we put some straw in the doghouse so that Sgt. Pepper could make himself a little nest.  Then we put him inside the doghouse and put it inside the next goat paddock.  We then proceeded to build the goat paddock around the doghouse with him in it.  Our thought was that the goats are usually distracted by the fresh grass for a while after a paddock shift and would therefore notice the puppy one at a time over a period of time rather than him being the only new thing in their world.  For the most part, it worked.

After building the new paddock and moving Maggie and the goats into it, we took care that Sgt. Pepper and Maggie had a good first meeting.  Maggie sniffed the entrance of the doghouse and then went around the paddock doing her usual marking and scraping to define her territory.  Coyotes beware!  After she finished that, we took Sgt. Pepper out of his house and let them introduce themselves.  Maggie sniffed him a little but was far more interested in getting attention from us.  Sgt. Pepper followed her around a little and explored the paddock on his own a little.  I took him across the paddock to make sure he could find his way back to his doghouse, and he was successful!  He only needed a little break in the goat shelter at the halfway point.

The only negative was the boss goat, Miss Priss.  She head-butts all the other goats all the time, and she did that with Sgt. Pepper once, too.  He squealed but wasn’t hurt.  I was also encouraged that he didn’t run away from her after that either.  We’ll just have to keep an eye on that situation over the next couple days.  Sgt. Pepper has the doghouse he can retreat too, but if Priss doesn’t leave him be then we’ll put Sgt. Pepper in a smaller area with just Nadine and Roja so he can bond to goats without any danger of getting head-butted.

All in all, Sgt. Pepper had a big day.  He got his shots and de-wormer, had a nice truck ride in Lindsey’s lap, threw up a little from car sickness (luckily not in Lindsey’s lap), got a new house, pooped in the bed of the truck, met Maggie the mentor, stood up to Priss the goat, and fell sound asleep in the house before dark.

He’s very cute!

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The Great Goat Escape of 2010

A visual for helping you picture the Great Goat Escape of 2010. Distance from Escape #1 to Goats Recaptured is over 1/2 a mile.

Goats are sneaky.

They wait until their goat herder has had an appendectomy before pulling their biggest stunt yet.

What follows is a human-centered account of the Great Goat Escape of 2010.  Since this blog is designed to inform new and aspiring farmers, goat reasoning and feelings will not be considered.

As chronicled in a different blog post, I had an appendectomy over Thanksgiving weekend.  My dad helped us out tremendously by taking care of the goats while I was in the hospital with complications following the operation.  He had moved the goats to the highest part of the field that they were in on the hillside behind the house.  On Saturday morning I felt well enough to walk up the hill with him and help him set up the new paddock for the goats so they would have fresh grass for the next day or two.

Everything went fine until we decided that we would move their newly-improved goat shelter (the major improvement being wheels) into the paddock with them.  We opened the electric fence and began to wheel the shelter into the paddock.  The goats waited until the shelter was in the middle of the opening in the fence, and then ran through the shelter and out the gap in the fence.  Clever, clever.  That escape is labeled “Escape #1” on the map.

They then proceeded to run in and out of a small ravine on the hillside, up and down the hill, and round and round in circles.  I was not moving too well post-surgery and couldn’t catch them or even get in front of them to turn them around until they stopped on their own.  The goats refused to go back into the paddock we had made for them, but finally my dad and I did manage to get them headed downhill rather than up into the woods where we never would have been able to catch them.

Once the goats got down near the house we were able to get Lindsey’s attention.  She had been doing some chores with the poultry and heard us call for her as we and the goats got nearer the house.  Lindsey headed off the goats, my dad and I came up from behind them and we trapped them against the fence for the backyard and funneled them through the gate and into the security of the fenced-in area.  Whew! – for now.

As you can see on the map the backyard is labeled as Escape #2, so the tranquility would not last.  But we figured the goats were secure and we could feed them hay in the backyard until I felt well enough to move them around the pastures again.  So, with the goats secured in the yard, we and my dad thought that we could manage all the chores and he could return to his home in Arkansas.  He left on Sunday morning and headed back home after a full week of helping us out in our time of need.

Just after lunchtime on Sunday, when Lindsey had settled down to a much-deserved nap and I was headed that way myself, Scooter started barking in his “Alert, alert!  Something is amiss” tone of voice.  I looked out the window and saw Miss Priss, our self-appointed lead goat, happily munching on the honeysuckle outside the kitchen window – on the opposite side of the house from the backyard.  Thus began Escape #2.

“Lindsey!” I hollered.  “I need help!”

We threw on our shoes and headed out to see all of the goats wandering around the house.  Apparently they now know how to operate the latch on the gate.  We tried to turn them back towards the yard, but of course they headed the opposite direction towards the barn and poultry house.  I hobbledy-ran to try to get in front of them while Lindsey tried to head around the other side of the buildings to try to surround them.  Ever try “surrounding” something with 2 people?  It’s not as easy as Davy Crockett and Georgie Russell make it look in the old Disney TV shows, but we did manage to trap the goats between the barn and the poultry house.

The goats then decided that their best course of action would be to go into the chicken section of the poultry house.  So they went inside and Lindsey and I shut the door.  “Ha!” I thought.  “This only latches from the outside!  The goats are stuck!”  Oh, if we could only have hindsight in the moment.  The poultry house is labeled Escape #3 on the map, so you know what’s coming.

Since we had the goats penned up, Lindsey and I decided to just go ahead and move them into a new paddock in a new field that the goats hadn’t been in yet.  We would have to move them all anyway, so why not take the opportunity the goats had given us and just move them to the new field now rather that back to the backyard and then to the new field in a couple of days?  We felt our logic was impeccable, so we hauled all of the step-in posts, the electric wire, the solar fence energizer, the water bin, and the goat shelter down off the hill and set it all up in the side field closer to the house that has a little more grass than what remained on the hillside.  Taking down the paddock, moving it all to another field, and setting it up again took a little more than an hour.  Then we headed off to the poultry house.  We stopped off at the house to “borrow” the collars and leashes from our dogs.  Our plan was to put the collars on the goats and lead them 2 at a time to the new paddock with the fresh grass.

But the goats had designs on finding their own food.

When we got to the poultry house, we found one of the planks forming the wall had been butted out.  The goats were gone.  Again.

We couldn’t see them anywhere.

We searched the creeks.  We looked in the brush.  We checked all the fields.

Lindsey got in her car to go check the field on the other side of Highway 70 while I walked up Dry Creek looking in the bushes and listening for bleating.  It wasn’t long before I heard Lindsey’s car flying down the driveway with the horn blowing.

“The goats are in the Catholic field!” Lindsey said.  (The field across the highway from us is owned by the Catholic church.)  I got in and we headed up the driveway.

We had a grand ol’ time weaving in and out of the decrepit old fence, beating the bushes, and generally moving way faster than my body wanted me to be moving after the appendectomy trying to get the goats backed into a corner.  Our goal was to catch Miss Priss first, figuring that the rest of the goats would follow her wherever we would lead her.  Nothing else we thought had worked out, so I don’t know why we were so sure about that, but that amounted to our only plan.  Catch Priss and everything would be fine.

We finally managed to corral the goats into a corner of the fence.  Lindsey and I moved in quick, but all of the goats except Priss were able to squirt through the fence before we could catch them.  Miss Priss got through, too, but I managed to grab her hock before she got completely away.  I now had the problem of being on the opposite side of the fence from the animal I had ahold of with barbed wire slicing my hand.  Luckily Lindsey was close by and grabbed Priss’ horns to help secure her.  Then I crawled through the fence (not well enough to hop over) and got control of Miss Priss.  That site is immortalized as “Goats Recaptured” on the map above.

Now came the big test.  Would the rest of the goats follow Priss if I led her back to the paddock?

Actually, they did us one better.  Once we had Miss Priss in hand, the other goats ran back across the highway and all the way up our driveway for 1/4 mile, stopping only when they got to the barn/poultry house area.

Miss Priss was not happy about being manhandled, but she did walk with me up the driveway.  The other goats were waiting by the poultry house, and once Priss and I got there everyone except Nadine formed a line and followed us past the gardens, past the house, past the greenhouse, past the pine trees, and into the paddock Lindsey and I had made.  Everyone went in nicely and we closed up the fence.

Lindsey and I were completely out of breath.  I thought my insides were going to explode.

The goats immediately started grazing like nothing unusual had happened.

But we still weren’t done.  We had to go find Nadine.

Turns out that little Nadine thought the poultry house was the agreed-upon meeting place.  She ran right back in there.  I gathered her up and carried her out to the paddock.  Her horns aren’t big enough to lead her with and her head it too small for the dog collars we have, so Nadine has to be carried.  At least she’s still small.

Nadine gets carried over to the paddock.

Once Nadine was in the paddock we went to retrieve guard dog Maggie Mae and put her in with her charges to officially end the Great Goat Escape of 2010.

I shudder to think what they’re planning for 2011.

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Lindsey’s Fall “Break”

 

The foliage along Dry Creek is beginning to change colors.

 

Lindsey has had the last 11 days off of work, so on her fall “break” she became my willing helper!  I’ve saved up 2 large tasks that needed two people to complete – cleaning out the barn and setting up the greenhouse.  The greenhouse will be covered in its entirety in a separate post once it’s finished, so stay tuned.

I must apologize for not writing as often as I should.  If excuses are necessary, then mine are:
1.  we’ve had visitors, farmsitters, and went to a wedding.
2.  it hasn’t rained in many moons, so my indoor time has been greatly diminished.
3.  it really does take a lot of work to get this place up and running, and sometimes after completing the physical work the last thing I want to do is rehash it.

The wedding was my brother’s.  It took place in Breckenridge, Colorado, which meant vacation time!  Lindsey’s parents were kind enough to farmsit for us while we went to the wedding.  They took care of all of the animals and gardens while Lindsey and I celebrated with Billy and Keri.  Breckenridge was beautiful in the fall and the weekend was almost perfect.  The wedding was perfect.  The Razorbacks blew the lead they had over then-#1 Alabama, and that was the only perfect weekend foil.

 

Lindsey and I keep Billy's dog Maddie company during the rehearsal.

 

 

Ten Mile Station, site of Billy and Keri's wedding. Isn't it gorgeous?

 

 

Aspens in fall colors provide a backdrop for the wedding.

 

Back in Kentucky the trees are changing colors, too.  Some of them, like the maples and pears, are changing colors because it’s October and that’s what they do.  Others of them, like the cypresses and pines, are changing colors because it’s been so dry here that they are starting to yellow and brown.  Needles are drying up and falling off.  Our brainstormed U-Pick-‘Em Christmas tree idea is starting to lose inventory before December even gets close.  The pasture crackles underfoot.  We need rain badly.  Hopefully it will rain before winter.

If we do get winter storms, we now have a place that can shelter the animals!  Lindsey and I spent 3 days clearing out the barn from top to bottom, eliminating many years of junk, debris, and manure.  Now we’ve got some stalls for the goats in case we get wet windy weather in the winter.

I don’t know exactly when our barn was built.  The previous owner of the property said the 1920’s or 1930’s.  I know that it was standing for sure in 1947, because there is a whole family’s worth of initials from the original family to have owned the property carved into one of the planks and it’s dated “1947.”  My father-in-law’s a detective.  I listen and learn.  The barn is 2 stories with a drive-through lane through the middle of the ground floor.  On one side of the drive through lane are 2 stalls, a large storage area, and a staircase to the hayloft on the second floor.  On the other side of the driving lane is a single stall and an even larger storage area.  On that side there is also a small storage area above the stall.

We found all manner of stuff in the barn.  Greenhouse panels (yay!).  Ancient corn cobs and tobacco leaves (expected).  Large piles of rusty barbed wire (boo!).  Manure, hay, tobacco plates, tobacco sticks, trellises, lumber, scrap metal, an antenna, plastic mulching sheets, planters, draft horse collars.  We learned that baling twine never disintegrates and that it’s best not to think about how old that cloud of manure dust may be.

In any case, most of the barn is in good shape.  Two of the three stalls are usable right now if we needed to put the goats in there during a severe winter storm.  The other stall needs a new floor and a new floor beam.  That’s a project for another day, but other than that and some rotted floorboards in the hayloft the barn is in surprisingly good structural shape.

Almost everything we found got saved or recycled.  We did dump one load at the landfill, unfortunately, but that couldn’t be helped.  One load of trash that we couldn’t think of a use of from at least 64 years of inhabitation isn’t too terrible, I guess.  We paid $13 to dump the load of trash and got $37.50 for the aluminum and scrap metal, so all in all we have a clean barn and enough money to see a couple of movies.  That’s right, big city friends, I said a couple of movies.  For both of us.  Life’s cheaper at the Green River Theater.

Enjoy a few pictures of the barn cleanin’:

 

Lindsey sweeps out one of the barn's stalls.

 

 

No, I'm not robbing the barn. The hankerchief was necessary to keep manure dust out of my mouth.

 

 

Shoveling ancient hay and manure from the barn's hayloft.

 

 

The floor in the barn loft could use some work, but at least it's visible now. It was buried under corn cobs and tobacco leaves.

 

 

Any guesses as to what these might be? The one on the left is ceramic. The right one is metallic.

 

 

One of the stalls has a floor that has seen better days. A future project...

 

 

The big pile of junk in the barn. Most will be re-used in Lifestyles Lane, some had to go to the scrap metal place. A little went to the dump, unfortunately.

 

 

The turkeys enjoyed perching on all of the new stuff coming out of the barn and generally getting in the way as much as possible.

 

The turkeys enjoyed sitting on all of the new perches we were providing them as we cleaned the barn.  Being old heritage breeds, they are quite good flyers and are capable of roosting in the trees and on top of the barn when they want to.  Their favorite nighttime roost is the tailgate of the trailer, but I make them go in the poultry house.  We have enough coyotes around here at night without putting sleepy turkey on their menu.

 

Everything's a turkey perch. Fence. Trash. Front porch swing. Truck. Tree. Cold frame. Dog. Chicken tractor....

 

The turkeys are getting pretty big now.  Big enough that they’ve decided that they can chase Scooter, our 45-lb dog, around with impunity.  One hen in particular seems to enjoy tormenting him, but the whole flock will join her.  He will mostly stand his ground with the one hen, but as soon as multiple turkeys enter the fray, he takes off running and the turkeys take off chasing him.  Bailey, our older dog who is roughly twice Scooter’s size, occasionally comes to his rescue and chases the turkeys away.  Mostly she seems to enjoy watching the turkeys do to Scooter what Scooter does to her most of the time.  I’m not sure what brought this on.  Scootie’s new favorite thing is finding the turkey feathers on the ground and running all over the place with the feathers in his mouth.  Maybe the turkeys think he’s stealing them.

 

Scooter's latest fascination is turkey feathers. He loves to collect them and run all over the place with them in his mouth.

 

Besides the barn, our farm is starting to appear more legit.  We’ve made some money lately selling rabbits.  The goats are rotating through the pasture.  The junk, debris, and construction materials have been removed from the fields.  Neighbor David has harvested his corn from the fields he leases from us.  In exchange he’s cut and baled the hay in the front pasture.  All in all, the farm is looking much better than when we arrived in June.

 

Neighbor David's hay bales decorate the front field.

 

In other news on the bird front, the Cornish X White Rock broilers have a date with the processor on Tuesday morning.  This time, in an effort to be as local as possible, we are using the processor 8 minutes away from us for the first time.  We’ll see how he does!  I can tell you that we won’t be having any underweight chickens this time.  Check out these fatties in the video below:

The guineas have also been growing, although we’re just using them for tick management around the house and barn area.  Some of them have fallen prey to a couple of critters, but the remaining ones sure do a great job clearing out ticks and grasshoppers!

Speaking of predators, the coyotes have been coming close at night.  The other night they were right outside the goats’ paddock.  I could hear the coyotes making a racket and I could hear our livestock guardian dog Maggie growling.  Usually she barks a lot at night as she patrols, but this was deep-throated, threatening growling.  The coyotes eventually took off, so Maggie did her job in the first challenge of her authority.  Way to go, girl!

 

Maggie's mug. This is what coyotes see when they sniff around the goats at night.

 

 

Lindsey feeds Maggie while Bailey investigates the possibility of pilfering her food.

 

 

Maggie's goat herd is rotating through the pastures, hopefully focusing on the many weeds that choke out our grasses and legumes at the moment.

 

Our last project over Lindsey’s “break” has been building the greenhouse.  We’ve had our first frosts already, so we need to get our sensitive San Antonio plants inside the shelter of the greenhouse soon.  It should be ready inside of a week now, and we’ll have a post dedicated to it once the structure is completed.

 

We had our first hard frost on October 2nd. The goats didn't seem to mind, but the basil sure did.

 

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♫ How do you solve a problem like diarrhea? ♪

♫ How do you solve a problem like diarrhea? ♪

♪ How do catch a goat and pin it down? ♫

♫ How do you find what causes diarrhea? ♪

♪ A dietal change?  A bacteria?  A worm? ♫

♫ Many a thing the Internet says to give them ♪

♪ Decided upon a medicated pellet ♫

♫ But how do you make her stay? ♪

♪ And eat all the pellets in the tray? ♫

♫ How do you keep a goat away from the herd? ♪

♪ Oh, how do you solve a problem like diarrhea? ♫

♫ How do you clean it all off with your hands? ♪

Nadine, our little Boer goat kid, has a case of diarrhea.  According to my research, it could be caused by a change in diet (check), weaning (check), transport (check), stress of new herdmates (check), bacteria or viruses (unlikely since no other goats have it), and worms (she doesn’t show any other signs of worms).  Hopefully it’s just the new diet and other non-disease related factors, but we went ahead and gave her some medicated deworming pellets to make sure.  We may also have to feed her some unmedicated pellets for a while – she was getting pellet feed at her former home – just to do a more thorough job of transitioning her to a diet of grass and browse.  Meanwhile, we washed her behind and legs where the poo had begun to cake on and separated her from the others until she gets a chance to finish the medicated feed.

She seems fine besides the obvious symptoms.  She’s not dehydrated and still has a good appetite.  She’s also moving around and otherwise behaving normally.  If she’s still got soft stools tomorrow, then we’ll give her a little Pepto to calm all of her tummies down.

Here’s hoping she feels better soon!

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Money, Math, and Movie

Part of the money from our very first sale. Lindsey says we should hang it upside down like Chinese restaurants do so it won't run out of luck.

We made our first two sales this weekend!  On Friday we sold one of our “pet type” lop rabbits to a couple who wanted a bunny for their grandson.  They came by the house around 7 pm and picked out a nice black and white lop rabbit.  We boxed it up and off it went to live with a (hopefully) loving child.  The $5 bill above is part of the $15 from the sale of that rabbit.

Then on Saturday we made another sale.  On Monday a customer from Campbellsville called and placed an order for 2 of our meat rabbits.  She wanted to pick then up on Saturday, which is good because after processing they need to chill (literally) for a couple of days to age the meat.  Since we’ve only raised these rabbits for half of the normally required grow-out period of 12 weeks I did the math and figured out that $2 per pound of liveweight would give us a profit and provide us the hourly wage we’re looking for from our farm endeavors.  Because these rabbits dressed out at 60%, that means that we’d be charging $3.33 per pound dressed.  I think that our price per pound will go up on those rabbits that we raise from birth, however.

The customer bought the live rabbits from us, and I dressed them as a courtesy for them.  So on Wednesday I had to process rabbits for the first time.  The processing went smoothly and the rabbits did not suffer, but it’s still a little graphic for me to describe in writing.  If you want to know how to process rabbits there are lots of good books, internet articles, and videos that you can google.  After processing the rabbits and composting the remains, the meat went into the fridge to age until Saturday when the customer picked it up.  I felt like an actual businessman writing up receipts.

Receipt from the first food we sold!

Now here’s where more patience comes in…  I figure that I work around 11 hours a day for 6 days of the week and for 2 hours on the other.  That means I work roughly 68 hours per week.  We’ve been here 14 weeks so far.  That means I’ve worked about 952 hours so far.  I’ve made $39.  That means my hourly rate is…….  4¢.  And that’s without subtracting the expenses yet.  Ouch.

This week has been really busy, as usual.  I’ve chopped and cleared out our bamboo patch to a more reasonable and aesthetically pleasing arrangement.  Tomorrow I’m going to cut all the leaves off of the chopped bamboo to make poles to dry and use for the garden and building Lifestyles Lane structures.  The leaves will go into the gardens to compost for spring plantings.

Fall plantings are in place and finally sprouting after a small rain this week.  We’ve had several weeks without precipitation, so it took a little while for the seeds to sprout.  The plantings include spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, peas, carrots, onions, and parsnips and are all growing now.  Hopefully they can evade the feet of the turkeys who come by every day to debug the garden.  They’ve really dented the squash bug populations.  The butternut squashes are now curing in the office for a couple of weeks until they go into the basement for storage.  Then into pies and soups!

The turkeys also do lots of other fun things.  See below.

They are doing well and their growth rate really seems to be taking off now.  They are also getting bolder and will explore further from the poultry house every day.  They will go all the way up the hill behind the house and halfway out into the front pasture, so their range is now about a half mile from their “base.”  Now we just have to see what we’re going to do with them.  One has been committed to fill an order (thanks Aunt Sheila!) and one will be our Thanksgiving supper.  We have 1 male and 2 females of the Chocolates and Black Spanish turkeys, so if no one else places any orders we may save them until spring and try to breed our own turkeys for next year instead of ordering them.

On to the caprine kingdom!  The goats seem to be doing great!  They are making short work of the  brush behind the house that was too thick to chop down or bush hog.  The goats have changed that.  Each section that they go through is eaten down to the point that I can now go through there with the machete and clear the rest of it out.  They really enjoy the brush and eat it preferentially over the grass they have available.

Maggie, the goats’ livestock guardian dog, is doing a great job watching over them.  She does take a little getting used to, however, because she watches over them at night by announcing her presence with authority.  That means a lot of barking.  🙂  Unlike the other livestock guardian dogs we’ve been around, Maggie really enjoys human attention.  I went into the goat paddock the other day to fix the shelter that the goats had broken a part of and I could barely accomplish any of the repairs because Maggie kept sticking her basketball-sized noggin in between my arm and my body wanting to be petted.  She really is sweet.

So it’s Sunday.  The dogs are sleeping on the couch, the goats are playing king of the mountain on the gravel pile, the turkeys are catching grasshoppers, and the chicks are cheeping.  Good day!

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The Good Life Goat Herd

"The Herd"

Today I went to see about some Kiko goats to add to the two Boers that I got from my mother- and father-in-law and Lindsey for my birthday.  Both the Boers and the Kikos are supposed to be excellent meat goats.  The Boer breed was developed in the drier climate of southern Africa while the Kikos were developed in the wetter climate of New Zealand.  I’ve read some things that suggest that the Boers do better in the US when they’re west of I-35 and the Kikos do better east of I-35 because of the climate.  West of I-35 is more similar to South Africa while east of I-35 the climate is more similar to New Zealand.  I like characteristics of both breeds and being a scientist at heart, I want to experiment and see which breed is going to work better for us here in central Kentucky.  We’ll determine which breed works best by breeding these does and looking at the weights of the kids they wean, by seeing how often we have to worm them, and by observing how their hooves grow and how often we have to trim them.

As you can probably tell from the intro picture, I did indeed buy some goats today!  Marty and Janet at Red Brush Farms were extremely nice and helpful.  I encourage anyone interested in Kiko goats to give them a call.  They had high quality goats, were very knowledgeable, and incredibly generous.  I went to their place with a very limited amount of money to spend and came home with more than I ever thought I would due to their kindness and desire to see their animals cared for well.

In the picture above, you can see Roja and Nadine (the Boers) on the left and the Kikos on the right.  In between the two groups is Maggie, the Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog that Marty and Janet sent along with the goats.  Here are some closer shots of the individuals and their names (some of which we kept or used the name of the dam of the goat we bought):

"Maggie"

Maggie is 7 years old and an experienced LGD.  She’s already adopted our two Boer kids into “her” herd and is keeping a watchful eye on everything in her new surroundings.  She’s been introduced to Bailey and Scooter through the fence, and seems to be fine with them so far.  We’ll be careful with the introductions, though.  Maggie’s much bigger than Bailey and little Scootie.  I’ve been watching the herd out in the pasture, and Maggie will snooze while the goats graze around her.  If they move off more than about 20 feet from her she gets up and goes over to lie down closer to them.  Everything I’ve read suggests that the LGDs do this during the day and are very active patrollers at night.  That’s good, because this is what we hear at night: click me! So Maggie’s job is to keep those coyotes away.

"Miss Priss"

This is Miss Priss.  She’s 4 years old and 100% New Zealand Kiko.  According to Marty and Janet she had a single kid her first pregnancy and 3 sets of twins.  She’s also had good hooves and very good scores on parasite tests.  She’s now the matriarch of our herd.

"Fancy"

This is Miss Fancy’s #351, which we’ve shortened to Fancy for brevity.  She’s a 100% AP Kiko yearling and her dam has been a consistent top performer at Red Brush Farms.  She seems very alert and watchful.

"Ebony"

This is Ebony’s #76, or now “Ebony.”  She’s a striking solid black doeling who is the offspring of one of Red Brush Farm’s foundation does.  Marty and Janet said that she weighed 51.9 pounds at 90 days old, so good growth rate is hopefully in those genes.  Ebony is initially the friendliest of the new Kikos, or at least the most curious.  She’s the only one who approaches me when I’ve gone in to check on them – which I’ve probably done too much.  I have a habit of just going in with the goats and sitting for a while so they get used to me.  All 6 goats are pretty flighty right now.

"Ivory"

Finally, after Ebony we have Ivory.  Very imaginative, we know.  She is a 100% New Zealand Kiko and like Ebony had a 90-day weight of 51.9 pounds.  Both Ebony and Ivory were twins (but not to each other).  She’s got a piece of wood taped to her horns right now because she kept getting them caught in the fence at Red Brush Farm.  Hopefully we can cure of that and get the wood off of her so she doesn’t look quite so ridiculous.  🙂

Livestock crate for the truck.

Marty and Janet were so kind to me!  They also threw in this livestock carrier for the back of the pickup in the deal.  It’s much nicer and more functional than the dog crates I’ve been using to haul everything around and will come in useful over and over again for us.  The carrier is chain link with a gate on one end.

Very good day all in all after a rough start – we lost 7 broiler chicks in one of the tractors this morning.  We got over 5″ of rain last night (our rain gauge only goes up to 5″, so it could’ve been more), and in one chicken tractor the chicks slept out in the open rather than going underneath the tarp portion.  When I went out this morning there were 10 chicks that were apparently dead, but 3 of them were breathing a little bit and after being dried off with a towel and placed back into the brooder under the heat lamp they recovered and seem to be doing fine right now.

All the other animals weathered the storm well.  The turkeys do seem perturbed about the ankle-deep water in places, though.

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