Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Winter poultry pix

Happy Saturday everyone!

We got a bit of a relief from the snow today ... but another system is just about to pound us. Here's what the last week or so looked like from the poultry's eye view.

Sun chicks:


See the rooster in the front? That's not who you think it is....introducing Little Pansy, Son Of Big Pansy. LP has actually come into a flock-leadership role with the 'power vacuum' now that Fred The Rooster is gone. Actually I'm pretty disappointed with Big Pansy FredKiller.... he just hasn't stepped up. So the ladies seem to follow Little Pansy and I'm guessing he will be the flock sire.  We actually like his conformation (body shape) a little better - he is more evenly proportioned and a bit smaller. We like his small comb and easy going personality.  We think he'll throw lovely chicks.  However, I'm worried that he isn't as protective of the flock as Fred was.. but I think he'll learn. He has huge shoes to fill.

Snow herd o' turks:


Snow ducks:


Winter over the barnyard:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Corner feeder

Apologies if you saw this before I finished it! Yikes! Technology... its something.

Anyway, I received a couple of comments and questions about corner feeders. So lets take another look.

This is, hands down, the best 'make at home' feeder I've seen. Honestly I saw one of those metal ones at the feed store today and I'm still shaking my head - why not just do this? We all have the tools you need just sitting in the barn, and who doesn't have hog panels everywhere?


This was in a breeder's barn and we snapped a few pix. His barn is extraordinary. He has set up everything so its easy to work in, requires the least amount of work for him, and is the best for his goats. See that he put garden hose over the bottom rung so no one gets scratched up.

This is our corner feeder - see that we just tacked up part of a hog panel with those big staples you hammer in. Originally we had a wooden top. However, we had that ridiculous situation with Debbie so we will be making changes.




More on goats coming soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Goat-a-palooza...More on goats for the homestead & is it worth it?

So it has been a ridiculous last couple of days. The dreaded Snow Of Doom has returned and we've had more antics in the barnyard. We had to band our turkeys so we could identify who was from which hatch, and then we clipped their wings to keep them from flying up into the trees. Then, of all things, one of our chickens pretty near laid an egg on me. And that's just the half of it.

So before this week gets too far along, lets get to more on those goats. Thanks for all the questions and comments. How about if I answer some of the Q's and then give some bits and bobs of information..... and a look at the math behind dairy goats for the farm?

As always, to start off, I only know what I know and so please run right over to the fiascofarm.com site and read all of her information. She has a great approach and we (mostly) follow her lead. I say mostly because we'll have meat goats a some point which will be used for.. well.. meat.

A couple things about dairy goats and their milk:

The number one question I get over and over again is.... goat milk? Are you KIDDING? And then they recoil..... to be fair, as in the first goat post there was a lot of "I double dog dare you" before either The Big Man or myself actually took a swig. But I'm telling you, its delicious. Never goaty, not stinky...the only thing we had to get used to was that its whole milk and previously we usually only bought 2%.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Truth About Farming

I loved this comment from Chai Chai so much that I'm interrupting this goat series to give some insights into The Truth About Farming.

Here is what she said:
“I can't help but read this and try to picture in my mind all the chaos going on around you (smartalec goats, mean chickens, crazed geese, wayward ducks, evil pigs, cats and dogs living together!) and wonder what I'm getting myself into.”

It reminded me of when my friend Eliza said once that “evenings on your farm must be so relaxing” and I could tell that she had a perfect picture in her mind's eye of the sun gently setting over a tranquil barnyard....

HA!

As I was standing there talking to her I had chicken poop in my hair, I had a bruise on my leg where I smacked into something while chasing the hens into the coop, I was stinky and sweaty, and my hands hurt so much from milking that I could barely hold the phone. Sun setting over a peaceful barnyard!?!?! Not on your life.

So lean in close, friends, and I'll tell you The Truth About Farming.  They won't say any of this in Hobby Farms or on any of those lovely farm blogs with beautiful pictures of sheep. No siree... There is the 'cover of Vogue' farming...and then the real dirt.

Farming is one crazy ride.

Everyday is exactly the same – and radically different. You'll do the exact same thing everyday. Get up (early), get out there and feed those critters, work that land, feed those critters again, herd everyone up, and go to bed (early). Oh, but what happens in between? You can't make some of this stuff up.  Its all go, all the time.... and success is measured in who didn't die that day.  Step lively now, there is no day off and there is always some kind of skulduggery going on.

Think you won't have a boss if you work for yourself? Wrong. Nature is your boss and the Weather is your CEO – and they won't ever let you forget it.  Your every day is ruled entirely by these two and sometimes its seems like they are out to get you. Think you can get some early spring planting done? Not if you get an unexpected frost ...and then you'll have to start all over. Think those lovely pumpkin plants will win you first prize at the Pumpkin Show? Not if the squash bugs get them first.  Don't even get me started on tornadoes, torrential rain, blazing heat, and this cursed snow...

Then there is the maniacal barnyard where everything and anything can and will happen. You'll never know if you'll go out there and find your best laying hen dead - the victim of some ridiculous barnyard mishap. Or remember our goat Debbie hanging from the feeder?  Don't expect Backyard Poultry to tell you what to do if your turkeys suddenly scatter and you spend 2 hours trying to round them up, just in time to see one of your prized males flying (like an eagle!) over the house, across the ravine, and into your trigger happy, huntin' obsessed, rednecked, neighbor's tree.

Think you are a tough guy? Even the biggest and baddest will shed at least one tear when you find the best chick of the clutch floating lifeless in a water bucket. There is nothing sadder than a dead baby bird, friends.  And while you stand there cursing yourself for letting it happen you'll start to calculate the true cost – not just of one small chick, but of all the eggs she would have laid, and all the layers she would have raised, of all the bugs they would have eaten, and all the compost they would have created,  and...... You see, even the smallest loss has an impact that increases exponentially.

Then there is the mocking by your so-called-friends and family who think you are completely out of your mind. Why would you give up your city life for THAT? Or if you tell a friend that you are so tired that your hair hurts, more than likely you'll hear “All you do is garden all day. Why are you complaining – its not like you work?" Or, part of a real conversation I heard about the other day “Why don't you just get a job so you don't have to grow your own food?”

Its enough to make you want to go out and lay in the compost heap. 

But.

The upside is tremendous. You don't HAVE to grow your own food, you GET to..and that makes all the difference.

You'll learn to work effectively and efficiently, to follow the weather and anticipate her moves, to plan, plan, and plan some more. Gym membership? Nah.. you won't need it.  Need a mental challenge? Its all challenging and the learning never stops. You'll learn you can build a duck garage, pip a turkey poult out of its shell, figure out how to fence in those stupid pigs, and discover a whole world of folks who live their lives by the turning of the seasons and not by the passing of the financial quarters.

Its not simpler but its better.

What are you getting yourself into? Its one crazy ride, baby. So hold on tight, pull on those barn boots, and get out there and make that land work for you. And when you're so tired your hair hurts?  Come and talk to me - we're all in this together.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How (not) To Milk A Goat

If I've said it once, I'll say it again... I can add nothing to the expert advice from Molly over at fiascofarm.com. So when people ask me for instructions on how to milk goats that's where I send them. But if you want to hear about my experience.. just pull up a chair and picture this...

First, I am not an expert in any sense of the word, but I think I caught on pretty fast with the whole milking thing. If I were to give you advice in bullet points it would like kinda like this:

1.  Get a good bucket – it must be stainless and it must have be seamless. http://www.lehmans.com/ has got a great one – and they have excellent customer service. If you have small goats I've heard people use stainless steel dog food bowls.
2. Take the time to build a milk stand...or buy one. We built the one from plans off the fiascofarm.com site and it took an afternoon and materials on hand. The only thing we bought was the feed holder and a carriage bolt.
3. Be The Boss Goat.

Vita on the stand and ready for action

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Got my goats..or "What's the big deal about goats?"

Ah... goats. The 'poor man's cow.' Some people love goats. I do not. I don't hate them like I hates them pigs... but I'm more of a 'goat liker' and not a goat lover. To be sure the only reasons I have diary goats are because:

1. I can't afford a cow (no pasture for them to graze)
2. of poison ivy.
These are mini-manchas
When we arrived at this new property it was late fall and we had no idea the entire place was invested with poison ivy. I got it about 67 times the first summer we were here. Honestly the evil weed was everywhere and I was one big scratchy mess. One day I literally threw down my garden tools, got in my truck, and drove up to meet a woman who advertised "mini manchas" on craigslist. I didn't know what a "mini mancha" was and at the time the only thing I knew about goats was that they eat poison ivy. This was good enough for me.  So I handed over all my foldin' money and drove home with two ridiculous looking, bleating goaties. The first thing they did was run over to the poison ivy and ate it. I loved them.

Then the shine kinda wore off.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hey honey - what time is it?

Hey honey, what time is it?



Oh, its a little before Mo O'Clock

and... coming soon.. what's so great about goats. Have a great day everyone!

p.s. I think I have these comments fixed.....yay technology!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not snow funny anymore...

This snow-pacolpse sucks. I'll just say it. It's not snow funny anymore and if ONE more flake falls from the sky I might just start shrieking uncontrollably.

Here's what global warming looks like:

Turkeys in the snow

 
OD and the crew hanging out in the bucket. Mostly OD comes out long enough for me to tell him how much I love him... then he screams at me and goes back in. That's him in front, Penny is the grey toulouse on the right, Junior is in front of the bucket, and Cindy is in the very back.


Before the current Ice Age this was the garden.


Here are Nanook of the North and his sidekick, Eskimo Pie.  In fact, the only ones who like the snow are the dogs. See how much fun they are having?




Self portrait: Abominable Snow Dork

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Best Fred Story Ever Told

Today as I was slogging thru The White Death as even more flakes fell from the sky, I started thinking about the dearly departed Fred the Rooster and all the adventures and misadventures we'd been thru together. Those tales of glory will be sung around campfires long after we've all gone to be with the ancestors.

There was the time Fred and I first tangoed, much to the delight of The Big Man and Titan who stood there and watched, slack jawed and buggy eyed. Or when we both charged the dread gander.... me, swinging my shepherd hook like a pole axe and Fred flying like a Romulan Warbird on a collision course while OD held his ground.  We eventually won the day but many feathers were shed that day.

So I dug around and I found The Best Fred Story Ever Told.

This was from several years ago – shortly after I arrived at The Good Land and we lived at the old farm. My sister, The Mommy, had sent her two youngest children down for a visit. At the time they were 10 and 11 years old. Honestly I couldn't believe it when The Mommy drove away. But before she left she told me sternly not to let anything happen to her girls. What could happen? Right? Right.

And so our tale begins.  As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent - or guilty in this case.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fred is Dead.

WOW what a week - I can't believe its been so long.

So, here's what happened in bullet points:

1. Went to civilization, drank an inhuman amount of coffee, always had a French pastry in my hand.
2. Decided civilization wasn't too bad - until I realized I was paying $13 for a cup of coffee and a roll. So I silently calculated the cost of goods to make it myself. Decided it was a huge waste of money. Then got another coffee anyway. Don't get me started on the $17 plate of eggs.
3. So I came home to about 97 inches of The White Death from The Big Snow. This was vexing. I was very vexed.
4. Spent the next day supplying the homestead for Snow-pocalypse 2010.
5. It came. The White Death was relentless... so was the virus I got from being in civilization. Or maybe I just had food poisoning from getting fast food for the first time in 6 months... which was the last time I had food poisoning.
6. Spent the next several days holding down the couch.
7. Woke up today out of the fever to realize hey... the olympics started! So, after watching the opening videos on the wonders of Canada, I want to move there and become newfoundlandfarmgirl

But The Big Man did a great job of managing everyone while I was gone and while I was too sick to help. The good news is that the goat did NOT have her goat baby while I was gone.

The bad news is.... Fred the Rooster died.

How sad is that? Actually I'm so mad that he left me I can barely talk about it. He never really recovered from his injuries from the brawl... altho we thought he was on the mend. We put him to bed the other nite with a snugly hen and the next morning we found his sad remains.

The worst part is with this stupid snow we cant even give him a decent burial...or to best suit him... we cant even give him the big funeral pyre to send him off to Valhalla. He was a worthy adversary, an able foe, and he will be sorely missed. I'm still too mad to properly eulogize him..more on that later. But for now I feel like Richard without Saladin.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Three projects that made a difference last year

I still can't shake my 'goals and objectives' thinking from my corporate life. So as I'm doing my planning for this year I was thinking about what we accomplished last year.  And I gave myself a review.

Here are three projects that really made a difference last year:

1. Added dairy goats to the barnyard. The goats totally rocked. Altho I'm not a goat lover.. I am a goat liker.  Not having to buy dairy products all summer was great.  Grade: A+

2. Expanded our use of electric fence. Whoever invented electric fence should get a raise. Seriously. Keeps predators out, keeps pigs and goats in, doesn't require a lot of heavy lifting. Only downside was when The Big Man was out of town one time and I had to fix it myself .....while them pigs were eyeing me suspiciously. And poor Lucky got zapped pretty good and wouldn't go into the goat yard anymore.  Grade: B

3. Built and framed in the fourth side of the previously three-sided shed that now houses our turkeys and guineas. We have 3 internal coops plus 2 small areas inside the doors for storage. Grade: Solid A, if I do say so myself.

Now, on to this year's planning...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Barnyard Bad Boys

It has been suggested, ahem, that in spite of all my complaining.... I might actually LIKE all these wild Barnyard Bad Boys -- Fred the Rooster, OD the Gander, and a few others.

I would like to clarify this.

IT'S TOTALLY TRUE!!!!

The other day someone was asking why I even bother having roosters - especially with the fisticuffs between Big Pansy and Fred. Many people believe that having roosters is more trouble than its worth - that they make the hens nervous, they are too hard to control, etc. But I think thats bad 'old school' thinking. Even tho I don't like Fred, I sure do love him. He takes care of the hens in ways other than 'romantic.'  Which means less work for me. And he's kind of a knight in shining armor for the hens.

Roosters can be great protectors of the flock. They keep an eye to the sky for hawks, act as referees between squabbling hens, lets the clucks know when to go in for the nite, and will challenge intruders. I love to see Fred find some tasty treats out in the barnyard and then call the hens to him. Most of the time he will call the hens but then he won't eat what he found.  Hens need more nutrition with all the egg layin' and what not....and roosters just need to maintain their body weight. He hunts for them and protects them to ensure the flock survives.

Sure he does his 'duty' so we get several clutches of chicks a year... but for all the trouble I sure appreciate everything he does. I know that Fred will sound the alarm if there is trouble so I can come running.  We are an unlikely team - like Turner and Hooch.

Do I have a crush on this bad boy - yep I sure do!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nicholas's hard day

We received a complaint from Nicholas that we were working him too hard. So we investigated and have this proof that he is a slacker.  Union rules clearly state that all cats have to be up and on the job by 11am.



No one is buying your hard day story, pal. Get up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ground hog day - No kidding.

No seriously - thats my update so far so good, no kidding!  Meaning my little goatie friend who tried to die by hanging herself from the feeder (yikes!) really looks like she is getting close to having her goatie babies (kids)... the process called "kidding."

So I went out this morning all chipper and happy and....there she was. Her udder is getting HUGE. This is called 'bagging up' and is a sign that soon the babies will be here.. Oh. My. Gosh.

I thought that I'd have until the end of February... but if its true, like someone just told me, that La Manchas kid a week early, and if we were all wrong about when the neighbor's buck gave her 'the business'.... and if there is any chance that her hanging from the feeder may have moved things along.....

Gulp.

She might be havin' them babies sooner than we expected.

And here's the kicker. Tomorrow morning I'm going 'off farm' for a couple days!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Too many eggs...

The only problem with having all these chickens is..... too many eggs.

I've been averaging about a dozen eggs a day. During the summer we feed them to the pigs -- cooked eggs are a great source of protein and an easy way to avoid the high priced hog feeds.  But seein' as how the pigs are... ahem... comfortably settled in my freezer, now what?

Seriously, I'm running out of people to give them too. The neighbors won't answer the door anymore, and even the old timers at church are starting to avoid eye contact.

So today I figured I'd make an angel food cake, which calls for a dozen egg whites. It was going great until the cake collapsed in a heap. For heaven's sakes. I've tried to make an angel food cake since I could hold a spoon and... nothing. It never works for me. I come from a long a glorious line of cooks and I just can't do it. Failure. F-. Do not collect $100.

I threw the awful remains into the hen yard. But I guess on the upside... that is a dozen less eggs that I have to find homes for.... and I made a divine chocolate custard from all those yolks. Say, wonder when we're getting the next round of pigs.....
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