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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life Without Pigs

So you might have noticed that, aside from the Pig Week we've got going here, that I haven't talked too much about our porcine friends. That's because.......  we didn't get any pigz this summer. Can you believe it?

Pig free and lovin' it!

I've had several folks ask me about this year's pigz and I guess I have been remiss in saying that this has been a joyous, pig free summer. Gone is the stank, the mud, the cursing and swearing, the bucket hauling, and that twitch in my eye that I normally have about this time of year. Gone. None. Pig yard = empty.

Hands down this has got to be our best summer ever - not one stinky pig to ruin my day. It's been heaven.

What happened? Well. These fellas. Which resulted in many, many a Meat Day and glorious bacon. And some hilarity. My favorite part of the whole event was when Zander peed in the general direction of The Biggest Pig We Ever Raised.

So we have been loaded up on pork this entire time. Truth be told if we were looking down the barrel of 2 more pigs we'd be needing another freezer.(Not that there is anything wrong with that!)

Didn't miss pigz at all.

Figuring in the still shockingly high price of feed, the abundance of pork in the freezer, and my general irritation with pigz.... we figured we'd focus on turkeys this summer. It's worked out pretty well. For the most part. Turkey feed is expensive..and they were reluctant to free range at first but now the turks have the hang of it. We will get a good haul of meat as we roll along thru our butcher days. But I can assure you there is no bacon on a turkey. I've looked.

Someone asked me if turkeys were easier than pigz? Nope. Not really. But they are entirely less irritating. While they are fragrant in a different way - turkeys can't hold a candle to pigz for stankyness. 

Pigz are easy in that you can just toss them out on pasture with minimal shelter... and still have very little risk of being carried off by weasels, hawks, or raccoons. After a certain point pigz aren't really even targets for coyotes. Turkeys need more protection, better accommodations, and for best practices need to be inside for a while.

Turkeys are easier to handle. I can be (mostly) sure that if I fall down in the turkey yard they (probably) wouldn't pick my bones clean by the time my husband get home from work.  This was important earlier in the summer when we weren't sure what his schedule would be like.

There is always a point in the pig grow out schedule where I just will not get in the pen with them. I'd hate to be the star of this news story. I know that some of you don't believe me but pigs can be big, mean, and dangerous. So we figured that a yard of turkeys would be easier for me to deal with if I had most of the chores alone.

Turkeys are a breeze to handle and can be easily be moved around, herded, and put up for the night. No running required and you don't even have to get the dog. Plus, turkeys are kinda funny to have around.

So this summer, our life without pigs has been superfabulous. Rest assured, we'll start up again in the spring with new porkers. But for now we are enjoying the happy gobbling turkeyliciousness.

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you pig free and loving it?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fencing for Pigs

The first thing we say when asked how to raise pigs is that you need good fencing. I mean real, good fencing... not something slap-dashed together. Those pigs will find a way out and when they do you will either be running around trying to catch them or they will be happily destroying your property... or your neighbors. So do yourself a favor and start with good fencing.

 Not really a fencing picture but I love this shot.

We strongly recommend field fencing with electric hotwire. Sure there are other options but they either don't work... or are just too darn expensive. Remember that pigs can move 3 times their body weight with their nose.... so if you are foolish enough to think your second rate fence is going to work... well. You'll spend a lot of time chasing those pigs or apologizing to your neighbors.

We don't think pigs are smart - but they are persistent. So they will find every weakness in your fence. Electric fence with the biggest, most powerful charger you can afford is the only way to go. We've had pigs try to get under, thru, and just climb over (they climbed like monkeys!) regular fence. A couple stiff charges from a big, knock-you-on-your-tail feathers charger cures them of this. But be advised, pigs will test that fence. A lot. So don't fool yourself that you only have to run it part of the time.

You will learn to love fence. Yes you will.

You'll also have to keep up with your fence maintenance. Meaning, you'll need to go around and knock the weeds down, remove sticks, and make sure nothing is grounding out the hotwire to make sure it stays running. If it's not working either go and make sure the chickens haven't unplugged it (I'm not kidding), or if its particularly hot - make sure the metal pole that grounds the system is not dry. Last summer it was so dry that we had to pour buckets and buckets of water on the ground around the pole to keep it working. It's one of those odd things that no one talks about but now you know.

We talk a lot about fencing around here. It's not difficult but I think some folks are either too nervous to try something new, or don't have the right tools, or someone told them it was too hard. It's not too hard, you can get the right tools relatively inexpensively, and if I can do it then so can you. Remember, we are regular people - I had NO experience when we started this adventure. Get yourself a tpost pounder, a fence tool, some pliers, bolt cutters and a "can-do" attitude and get out there.

Here is my quick primer about fencing - remember I did these projects myself. My husband can do these projects faster due to his cave-troll-like strength... but little ol' me does just fine on my own.

How to Put Up Field Fence

How to Put Up Electric Fence

Fence Tools You Need

A great example of a fencing project that really paid off - so worth the effort.

Another example of a fencing project. This one was kind of an advanced project because we used a railroad tie for the end post....and it was near the property line. And there is a clip of our Bubby barking and I just love that.

Remember I've been moving electric fence all summer - so easy. 

Bonus material:  If you missed it over on 'the facebook' a couple weeks ago - here is the absolute best electric fencing story EVER. It's a little naughty (language) and I have no idea where it came from. I kinda want to be this guy's friend tho.

You now know everything you need to run right out and get pigs - and keep them fenced. If you are thinking that, "Nah.. you'll just use some old fence you have laying around"... then go right on ahead. We'll nod and say, "OK, I hope that works out." But then we'll go and make popcorn and watch you run around trying to catch those pigs. When you come back and ask for fence advice we won't make fun of you... we won't even say, "I told you so." We'll just help you get your fencing done.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Now stop waiting around - get out there and get some fencing done!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Feed Out Pigs... on the cheap

I thought I'd declare this Pig Week and re-run a series of posts about how to grow out pigs. Why? Mostly because folks are interested....I get questions all the time if it really works. It does. So let's get started this with this post - by far the most popular post on the blog originally published here, How to grow out feeder pigs: Part 2 Feed 'em on the cheap.

The only thing to note is that this was originally written several years ago. Feed prices have gone up significantly which is why supplementing lower protein (cheaper) feed with your farm produced milk, eggs, and produce makes even more cents.... and sense.

........As I mentioned yesterday in How to grow out feeder pigs - on the cheap. Part One there are lots of ways to feed out hogs. And my pal JHM, a real farmer, as well as FarmerChick who grows out hogs to 500 lbs to sell as whole hog sausage, will just tell ya to feed 'em hog chow and quick monkeying around. And many 4H programs have a right and prescribed method of feeding exact amounts to keep growth rates steady by using bagged food.

We thought we'd probably do the same until we happily marched down to our local feed store and asked for a bag of starter hog food for our shiny new pigs that Bourbon Red suckered me into buying. To tell the truth he called me a varity of unseemly names doubting I was man enough to get pigs. Of course that spurred me to action and 2 pigs were delivered a couple days later, much to the surprise of The Big Man ("WHAT is coming? TODAY?"). Anyway.

"That will be $17." Said our able feed store guy. I balked, "How much? Is that in US dollars?" He nodded. The Big Man glared at me. Now $17 is a lot for a bag of feed. Heck - that's alot for a bag of cat food and we love the cats, unlike the hated pigs.

We bought it and fed it to the not-so-shiny-anymore pigs. They ate it. All of it. In a week. I called up Bourbon Red and asked him what he got me into. Luckily he had a great solution. Later that day The Big Man and I were standing in the feed aisle of Tractor Supply arguing and trying to do math in our heads.

BR's solution was to buy a bag of Calf Manna and use this to supplement the regular hog chow. The problem is... Calf Manna is about $20 a bag. We balked and asked "Is that in US dollars!?" It was. Hence the arguing - we did not think this would work.

The theory is that you could feed the lower protein, lower priced, regular "hog grower" and add Calf Manna while the pigs are young instead of the usual (and much more expensive) "hog starter." Our young pigs normally go thru a 50 pound bag of feed a week. $17 a week would quickly double to $34 a week and heck at that point it would be some expensive pork.

We finally figured out the math and it looks like this:

So if:
One bag of Calf Manna = $20
Hog starter (high protein feed) = $17/bag
Hog grower (11 - 14% protein feed) = $7/bag

We only need one bag of Calf Manna for 2 pigs for the season.  Of course, if your pigs are big enough to go directly to hog grower then it isnt worth it, but even if you need grower for a month it makes sense (for us).

Hog starter only: $17 * 4 weeks = $68
Calf Manna + hog grower: $20 (one time purchase) +  $7 * 4 weeks = $48

So by the 3rd week then you've pretty much got your money back. But then a bag of Calf Manna lasts us more than a month - it lasts the whole season.  And we can use it for other things as well as to supplement the "corn only" feeding segment until the bag is gone.

As with most animals, pigs need more protein when they are younger (up to 18%) but then need less the bigger they get (14% to finish). The trick with this method is to use Calf Manna to make up the difference if using a lower protein feed (the grower or just corn). And then supplement with milk and eggs and whatever else you have to provide a balanced diet.

Does everyone have this?

Now the magnificent Kelly Klober who wrote the Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs: Care, Facilities, Management, Breed Selection (which everyone should run right out and get if you are considering pigs) will quote you chapter and verse about what to feed pigs at what age. We base our feed schedule by closely observing our pigs and feeding for a continuous growth rate.

You can feed a hog regular grower until "market weight" or until its big enough to butcher... but that's not really in line with our "raise 'em naturally" thing. We prefer to use whats available because we are cheap...and as it turns out, this works with what is seasonally available in the barn yard. Also high soy meal (hog chow) really doesn't seem all that natural to us and for lots of reasons we prefer to finish them on corn (mostly because I like a lot of lard and we feel the meat is better quality).

Our seasonal feeding schedule goes like this:

New/young pigs (8 to 12 weeks): hog chow + Calf Manna + goat milk + hard cooked eggs

Middle of summer (pigs are about 100 - 150 or so pounds): gradually mix half and half cracked corn and hog chow + Calf Manna + goat milk + hard cooked eggs.... and by this time we should have some fruit available.

Two weeks or so later: switch entirely to corn + goat milk + hard cooked eggs and by this time we should have some fruit available.  And finish up the remainder of the bag of Calf Manna

For the rest of the season we pour on the corn, hard cooked eggs, whatever weeds and leftover garden stuff we have, and we start hitting up our friends who have farm market stands. Pumpkins, apples, whatever they have that is "too ugly to sell" and especially we like to mix corn + the apple pulp/pressings from cider making. Pigs think this is great and if you let it ferment for a couple days, they love it.

A couple things I know you are about to ask...

Why should I monkey around with all this extra work?
If its not your thing, then don't. There is a whole industry based on raising pigs on commercial hog chow. But then... you're kinda raising a commercially grown pig.

How much Calf Manna?
Depends. I know that's vague but it depends on the protein level of your feed and how big the pigs are. Roughly if we provide a scoop of hog chow, about a cup of it is Calf Manna. And it depends on if we have eggs for that feeding, and how much milk we have. Less eggs and milks = more Calf Manna.

But they won't get the right, nutritionally balanced diet!
We don't worry about nutrition too much because they are "one season" pigs. We strive for a constant growth rate and adjust as needed.  And because we spend so much time with our pigs we feel like we have a good handle on their health. We take time to observe them daily and constantly evaluate their conformation and overall health.  And since we raise them on pasture - and provide a varied diet - we feel they get great nutrition. And this method is in line with the old timey way of doing things. Chances are your great-grandpa raised his hogs the exact same way.

How much to feed?
Depends. The old timers say to feed as much as they will eat in 20 minutes, two or three times a day.  So feed them appropriate for their age. Start small and watch to see how much and how fast they eat. If there is still food in their feeders when you go out the next time - feed less. If they push each other down and fight over the food, give them more. And better yet, at some point feed them in separate feeders. Also, the "two or three times" depends on the weather and their age. We feed 3x a day in extreme cold weather or when they are young (young animals of all kinds do better with smaller meals, more often).  Twice a day is fine for the summer. Some folks use those self feeders. We don't. Not only are we already out there in the barnyard... but it gives us  an opportunity to spend time observing them. Never underestimate the value of spending time with your livestock. Develop the ability to note changes in behavior or body conformation.

 Practically indestructable.. perfect for feeding pigz.

Whatcha feed them in?
We like those rubber, black, bendy tub things - we have a couple different sizes to accommodate their growth.  They quickly grow out of the smaller ones, so we then use those feeders for the poultry.

How much goat milk?
Pretty much they will drink as much as you have. Almost all of the goats milk goes to the pigs -  easily a gallon or more a day. If you don't have goats, please consider a dairy cow. Or ask around. Chances are there is a goat breeder somewhere who is dumping perfectly good milk - especially in states where the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal.

How many eggs?
They will eat as many as you have. But try and provide consistency - for instance, don't feed them 2 dozen eggs one day and then one egg the next. Strive for a consistent level of protein from day to day.  By the end of summer I have 8 or 10 extra eggs several times a week. The most important thing is to feed them HARD COOKED eggs - never raw. Sure they will eat raw eggs... but raw eggs have a protein an inhibitor and the whole point is to feed them nutrient rich food, not something that will slow their growth. And you don't need any of that fancy stuff for cooking the eggs, just toss them in a pan of cold water, boil/simmer for 15 minutes, and let them cool. No need for exact timing or cooling them immediately. Just throw the eggs at the pigs... I mean to the pigs shell and all.

What about dumpster diving?
You want to be careful with this. While its OK to feed "ugly" fruit you don't want to feed your pigs garbage. In some states this is actually illegal and there are regulations about cooking "waste food" to a certain temperature before feeding it to hogs. We pretty much avoid giving them leftovers, anything that is destined for the garbage, any meat, fat, or weird stuff. Remember the pigs are what you're gonna eat, so you want to feed them quality food. That being said, some folks I know get "day old bread" from bakeries or can convince local grocery stores to give them 'old' produce. But you don't really want to feed your food junk. If whatcha got is headed for the compost pile then send it there. But got a bucket of tomatoes that you just can't use? Toss 'em to the pigs.

But if pigs will eat anything why not feed meat?
Because this freaks me out, man. But really, you don't want to encourage cannibalism or for them to go after your chickens. And while I take my hat off the to the old timer who routinely threw dead raccoons to his hogs... I ain't eatin' that bacon, if you know what I mean.

So pretty much, except for the one bag of Calf Manna and a couple of bags of regular hog chow... everything else is free (but the cracked corn but we use this for almost everyone so it folds into our budget). By the end of the season we were easily feeding 2 (or slightly more) bags of cracked corn per week which is $10 or less. Our eggs, our goat milk, our fruit, and free stuff from our farm market friends provide the bulk of what we feed the hogs. Free is a great price.

And if you get out and hustle you can find lots of free stuff. Ask the local farmers if you can glean in their fields after they take up the corn.  Or does your neighbor have an oak tree dropping acorns or black walnuts?  Got a lead on someone who is overrun with zucchinis or tomatoes? Is there someone who has an apple tree who doens't use the fruit? Folks love to help out - and if you can take their stuff so they don't have to compost it, rake it up, or throw it out - they will call you again next year. Take time to stick our your hand and say hello... and tell stories about your barnyard. Pretty soon you'll develop a network of folks who are very happy to fill up your truck. 

Or look closer to home - do you have some clearing to do on your property and have a buncha brambles, leaves, or branches? Toss them all over the fence.  If you have your hogs on pasture not only will they eat everything green - including poison ivy and that stupid wild rose and blackberries - they will also root up the place. Have stumps you need to dig out? Start throwing whole corn in that area - or use the old farmers trick and drill holes in the stumps and fill them with corn.

There's all kinds of creative things you can do. One guy I know got into hogs because he worked for a trucking company who had a dog food producer for a customer. One day they had a load of bagged dog food that could not be sold in retail because of a labeling mistake. He asked, and got, the entire truckload for free. And he used it to start a hog growing operation. It worked out great for him.

And it can work out great for you too. Take a look around at what you have and what you can use. Do you have extra garden space to grow extra produce? Have friends who have too many eggs from their hens? Can you get a few extra laying hens while you have pigs? Do you grow your own lush, legume hay? Have an orchard?

For our money, raising pigs on the cheap is the way to go. For less than half a year of work we get a whole year's worth of meat for us. And the leavin's for the dogs. And lard. And the cracklin's from the lard for the pigs. And not to mention the awesome burn pile we have whenever I find where I put those hogs heads...

Anyway. That's the way of it. Use the perfect circle of life in your barnyard to make your life better. The chickens and goats feed the pigs who feed us.

Now get out there and come up with a plan to feed your hogs!

Friday, October 25, 2013

First Snow

So. It snowed. A lot. As in it snowed all stinkin' morning on Wednesday (Oct 23rd for my records) and on and off all day on Thursday.

What could possibly be sadder than so much snow falling on these apples?

Yep. Snow. Thankfully it didn't stick - and I'm even more grateful that I got the last of the garden covered up. At this writing we have a pretty frosty freeze going on out there - it's about 29* - so I don't know if the last of the veggies made it or not.

Nicholas. Hard at work holding down the couch.

The good news is that we spent the day in front of the wood burning stove on Wednesday - me and Nicholas did a bang up job of holding down the couch. Yesterday I had a super productive day - it was all peppers all the time. Got the last batch of salsa canned up, some other peps into the freezer, and I made a batch of sriracha.

Remember that zinnia from the other day? Now with snow.

Some kind of frozen precipitation should not be falling out of the sky today. But just in case the cats and I are going to be on patrol down by the wood stove.

Happy Friday everyone! Are you being pelted by some kind of snow-rain-ice mix?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Summer Regrets

I can't pretend that winter is far away - it's feeling mighty close right now. While the idea of a big, toasty fire and a day of sloth seems like heaven.... I'm not sure I got all the summer I needed. I have some summer regrets.

I do not regret this broccoli.

Mostly this summer went really fast and I didn't get everything done. It seemed like I didn't get things planted as soon and I'd liked - and in some cases my plantings didn't work at all. But we had the right amount of rain - and the right amount of heat. It wasn't too horribly hot and we didn't have any/many tornadic storms around us.

But it just all went so fast!

Mostly I concentrated on some clearing projects. They went incredibly slow but I can see the progress and next year is when it will really pay off. But I neglected some things.

I wish I would have had that magical day where I just sat in my chair and read magazines...but that just never really happens. Even if I did find a chair I would end up being swarmed by dogs or chickens... or goats. It's just not very relaxing when the goats are eating the magazine you are trying to read.

I wish I would have enjoyed the long summer days. But we were on an insane schedule for some of the summer - and many times we ended up going to bed when it was still light out.

I wish I would have gotten my front garden cleaned up so I could have enjoyed it. It's the only garden that is largely ornamental and it's always the last to be taken care of... so mostly it's just a dumping ground for my tools and buckets of things I don't want the geese to get into.

I really wish I could have caught that slinky mink who terrorized the gooselings....I would have loved to see it's nasty little head on a pike in the yard. And I would have made a hat for Nicholas with it's tiny little hide.

I wish for once I'd be able to stay up late enough - or just get up - and see the Perseid meteor showers. But I never have - not even once in my life. Mostly because most of the time I lived in the city and couldn't see them - but now you'd think I'd just walk out on the back deck to check it out. Nope.

I wish I could have gone blueberry picking like I planned - but the few days that it would have worked out were mercilessly hot. I think I just need to grow more of my own.

I wish I could have grown more than one - that's right just one - cucumber.

I wish I would have done a better job of keeping up with the weeding.

I wish I would have planted more beans.


So summer is over and I'm left with a box of regrets. But I think I'm just going to pack up that box, turn it into a plan, and label it "Stuff To Do Next Summer."

Smell ya later, summer. See you soon. I'll be the girl who is sitting in a chair with a magazine in a perfectly weeded garden with a bucket of home grown blueberries (or beans) who is a little tired from staying up so late watching falling stars. Next summer is going to be great.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Last of the Peppers

Yesterday I got the last of the peppers taken in - several baskets! After a cold start to the day it was beautiful and a lovely day to be outside.

Pimento, Mole, and Garden Salsa peppers.

However I did not get the pears. I had planned "Operation Shake It, Baby" perfectly. My big idea was go to and give that big pear tree a shove or two, the pears would fall gently to the ground, and then I'd scoop 'em up.

Yeah. That didn't happen. Aside from the obvious flaws in my design plan - including but not limited to me getting thumped in the head by a rock hard pear falling about 30 feet..... I was thwarted by my arch nemesis - yellow jackets.

I do hate mean beez.

You may not know that I've gotten stung up a couple times this summer. Pretty bad. Or I should say my reaction has been pretty bad. The first time I was sick for about a week. The next time I was in a benedryl induced coma for two days. Both times I ended up with big hand-sized welts when I got stung.

So I was not about to walk thru the death swarm that was surrounding the few pears that were on the ground. Honestly, there were about 90,000 of those stupid yellow jackets!

At one point me and the dog had to run. He kicked over one of the mean-bee-filled-pears and they were really mad. He and I got away just fine but somehow Kai got the worst of it - and a fat lip. She was stung bad but not as bad as earlier this summer when a wasp stung all in the inside of her mouth!  By the way, if that ever happens to your dog then call your vet immediately. They can give you the right dosage for a quick drugs store fix.

Anyway, all's well that ends in a glut of peppers. I'll head out early when it's still cold and try shaking that pear tree. If you don't hear from me then it may have gone badly. What could go wrong? Right?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, October 21, 2013

First Frost

Yesterday (Sunday) we woke up to the first frost of the season. Granted it was a light frost - but I couldn't pretend it didn't happen. Later this week we might even have a "wintery mix!"

Drat. It was real.

This little sunflower was the last man standing. It finally gave up the frosty ghost. 

The cosmos reaches for the sun, eager to get out of the cold shade. 

I think this little zinnia may have made it.

In the next couple days I need to make sure I take up the last of the peppers, apples, and pears. If we really get a rain/snow mix... or actual snowflakes... we also need to make sure we bring up all the firewood from the woods. It's going to be a busy couple days.

Happy Monday everyone - have you had a frost yet?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Had to move the fence again... good job, goats!

Check it out - the goats did such a great job of eating down that bramble spot... that I had to move the fence again. Good job, goats!

They at the whole (almost) thing!

They ate their way thru the whole thing in just a few days. I can't believe it. So today I moved the fence again.

The good news is that the goats ate nearly ever single leaf off all that bramble...but the bad news is that I'll have to get in there and clip off the stems. Also, there was not as much hardwood under that brush as I'd hoped. So there wasn't any fire wood to pull out for our wood burning stove...but it will still be an impressive burn pile.

The new area. We'll see how well the goats take care of all this.

Moving the electric fence was as easy as in this tutorial. Fortunately I had plenty of posts and only had to add about 15 feet of wire to connect the existing and new sections.

Unfortunately I had to do all this fence fixing in the rain. Yes, I made sure the fence was completely off. Several times. After it stopped raining I walked the goats down so they could check out the new area. Dahli and Nibbles got straight to business. Debbie and the little girls got nervous and walked back up the hill with me. But they will figure it out.

Here's hoping for their hard work to continue. Come on, goats! Get the new section cleared!

Happy Thursday everyone! Are your goats hard at work?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting Started with Homestead Dairy - My Interview on Eight Acres!

Hey look! My pal, Farmer Liz is continuing her series on "Getting Started" and she interviewed me!  I really love this series she is doing. The Homestead Dairy section is especially great - you can learn how folks got started with cows or goats.

Her interview with me is here - and it's how we entered the wonderful world of dairy goats. Ah goats.... the poor man's cow. Learn how it all began, what we learned, and there are funny pix of goats too.

Be sure to check out the other interviews -there is really a lot to learn. Thanks, Farmer Liz!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Here's Lookin' at YOU, Turkey

We've kind of been in a whirl the last several days. One of the biggest projects was to move the turkeys out of the garage and into the official turkey house. They took to their new digs really well - lots of pippin' and looking around.

 I like how that big one gives me the stink eye at the end. Ha!

Now I need to work on getting them a bigger yard set up. They turned out to be pretty good at free ranging so we are excited about getting them a larger pasture.

Some of the turks are getting really big. One of the biggest toms did a stretch-n-flap move where he kind of got up on his tippy toes and I swear he looked me in the eye. Some of them have feet as big as mine! So we need to get the turkey train moving, if you know what I mean. Last stop, noodles!

Unfortunately we've been distracted with some off farm things. We'll get back on track soon - and then get some of these big guys into a pot pie.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Bring Home Day, Zander!

I can't believe it's the happy anniversary of when we brought Zander home two years ago! Sure his birthday is in September but we didn't get him until Oct 14, 2011. What a happy day!

Wow has he ever grown. We can't believe this big, strong, handsome guy was just a little lumpkins smaller than Nicholas. Back then he was so little that he slept between us on our bed - we were always afraid he would fall out and hurt himself. Now he's bigger than me.

And look at his big fat mouth! Remember when it was this small? Then this big?

Besides everything, one thing we love most about Zander is that he is such good natured. He's really taking "the terrible two's" in stride. About this time dogs like our Zander start to fill out and come into their maturity. Some of them get hard to handle - but not our Bubby. We had a stretch where The Hammer Of Discipline came down and we really watched his every move. But now he's just our big Bub and we love him very much.

Now that he's learning to control himself I'm teaching him my favorite command, "guard Momma." We use this when the barnyard gets too aggressive with me. He's very excited about learning how to stand his ground with ne'erdowellers and to back off when I tell him. Of course this could go badly so we keep him on a short leash....as it were.

The one thing that will change, however, is the balance of power between he and Kai. There has really only been one small scuffle between them... but we've noticed small changes that show her deference to him.

For instance, Zander has started to take the "best" spot in the dog area. He also pushes his way out of the door in front of her. Even tho he still rough houses with Kai we've seen some changes in this play. When he get tired of her pinning him - he'll just get up and walk away. This is the way it should be. Even tho he is younger he is bigger and more powerful so will be "above" her in the pack order.

We knew when we got Zander that he would eventually be our pack leader. He already stands a head taller than the rest of the dogs and it's the way of things that he will use his size and strength to be in the lead spot. But for now, as he's making his way thru this stage, we are just going to enjoy every second of his smiling face, his big Bub kisses, and charming personality.

Happy Bring Home Day, Zander! We are so glad you are here!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Still Digging Potatoes

I'm not done yet.... I'm still digging potatoes.

So many taters...

As I'm cleaning up the garden I'm still finding rows and rows of potatoes. That $17 bag of 50lbs of seed potatoes had really paid off! We've boiled 'em, mashed 'em, and stuck 'em in a stew.

But one thing is for sure. We are going to need a lot of mashed potatoes for all those turkeys out there. Wow! Our turkey project has really exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately, due to bad timing, we haven't started to butcher yet. We'd better hurry tho....um. Some of them turks are nearly as big as me! This could be an interesting fall.

Happy Sunday everyone! Are you closing down your garden - found any surprise taters?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fencing Tools

Since there was so much interest in the electric fencing post from yesterday I thought I'd give a quick list. Once you get the charger set up this really is a quick project.

Respect the fence. No foolin'.

This is the charger we have - it's the 50 mile charger. Oh yeah. It's a big one. We have no where near 50 miles of fence. That charger will leave a burn on your arm and a twitch in your eye for 3 days. In fact, I'm pretty sure I gave myself some kind of cardiac event the day I stepped in a puddle, holding a metal tpost in each hand - and I put one of the tposts down ON the hot wire. My life flashed before my eyes and my jaw ached for 2 days. So be careful this this charger - it means business.

Why did we get such a big charger? Pigs. Pigs are the reason. Because pigs are big, mean, and dangerous, and we had some who were climbing the field fence like monkeys.  We tried everything but could not keep them behind field fence alone. By the end of the day we were exhausted and mad.

 Get about a dozen of these on account of how someone always leaves them laying out in the yard.

The only reason those pigs weren't dead before the sun went down that day was because the local butcher had closed and we didn't have anywhere to hang the carcasses.  But the next morning we got this charger and that fixed their wagons alright. This charger put the hurt on 'em real good and so ended their days of terrorizing the countryside.

This is about what we have. Go for 17 gauge.

Another benefit of having a superduper charger is that it will keep the varmints out. For sure. Remember that fencing is not only to keep your animals IN it's to keep predators OUT. Also this charger does well if you have a lot of brambles. It won't ground out if a piece of grass is touching it.

What about those poor widdle-nosey-whooses of the piggly-wigglies? Won't it hurt them? Yep. But not grievously. You probably won't have anyone laid low by an electric fence but it will definitely get their attention. Your barnyard will figure out the fence right quick and then they will avoid it. However, be warned - your animals can either hear or smell the electric fence so they can tell if it's on or not. So don't think that you can run it for a while and then turn it off. Nope. It's always has to be  on.

 Get a tester also so you don't have to guess if the hotwire is working or not.

Word to the wise. Buy the biggest, baddest charger that you can afford.  You'll be tempted to buy a cheaper one. Don't. Take all your foldin' money and just buy the strongest charger you can afford.

 These step in posts are really easy to use. Just step!

Does this seem like a pretty big financial hit? Yep. But what you are really buying is peace of mind...and protection for your flocks, of course. Every time we hear of someone who has lost some or all of their flocks we keep pinching ourselves. To date we have not had extraordinary losses.

Maybe we are just lucky but mostly we think that because we have good fencing we've been able to keep most of the varmints at bay. Not that one scoundrel tho. We still haven't been able to shake the weasel. I'll get him tho, don't you worry. Maybe one night I'll hear his tiny little shrieks as our superduper charger shocks the tarnation right out of him.

Happy Fencing everyone! Do you have all the tools you need?

Editor's note: Are these affiliate links to Amazon? You betcha! Anything you buy from Amazon from these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It can be anything - one of my recommendations, books, movies, or whatever. Every little bit helps. Thanks!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to put up electric fence.... even if you don't know what you are doing

You might remember my post a while back about "How to put up fence.... even if you don't know what you are doing." Today is Part Two - The Hot Wire Version. 

Setting up new electric fence is as easy as pushing in posts!

Once you have your charger installed moving and adding electric fence is extremely easy. The most important things to know are:

1. Make sure the fence is turned off before you work on it.

2. Go back and double check that the fence is is turned off before you work on it. I'm not kidding.

Someone needs to clear this. Someone who is not me.

The goats did a great job of grazing down the previous area we fenced for them... as well as the area down by the pond. They've been doing such a great job we decided to put them to work on a new area. We have a smallish bramble pile that we are sure is chalk full of downed hardwood trees from last year. But the Impenetrable Jungle grew up before we could get to it. I figure them goats are the perfect men for the job of getting rid of the bramble. Especially since yours truly is once again covered in poison ivy and scratches from the wild rose.

Dahli, loves to clear stuff. She is the right man for the job.

So today I stopped by the Tractor Supply and got 10 push in posts. This entire project cost me about $26 plus supplies on hand. It took about 45 minutes and it only took that long because Zander was giving me cute looks and I had to stop work and keep giving him smooches.

 The only tricky thing was going around this tree. I don't want the goats to kill it.

The only tools I needed were my bare hands and a wire cutters. I used these needle nosed pliers. The steps were very easy.
Only used the pliers. But everyone should have a fence tool like this orange handled one.

First, I determined and cleared a path thru the bramble to run the hotwire fence. I used clippers and then mowed down a little bit of it. The only tricky thing about this project was that I needed to run the fence around an apple tree. I don't want the goats to get to it and eat it.

I cleared a small path. Hey! That's me talking a picture! 

After eyeballing the distance I went along and pushed in the plastic posts. I wanted them about 10 feet apart and closer together to go around the tree. Face the hooks on the posts inside - that's the side where you want your wires to be. 

Just push in the posts with your foot.

After I checked twice so make sure the fence was unplugged, I unhooked the existing hotwires. As luck would have it, the existing fence was connected right were I needed to un-connect it. So I did. I just twisted the existing wires apart. I would have just cut the existing wires if they weren't already twisted together. The great thing about hotwire is that you can just piece sections together. You don't need a single, unbroken line of wire. You just need to make sure your connections are strong.

The old fenceline.

Then I got the hotwire on my fancy wire-unroller (a stick.). I connected the new wire to the old one and strung up the new wire along the new fenceline.

This is the hotwire we use. Note the fancy stick that we use as a spool to unroll the wire.

When I got to the end I cut the new wire and just twisted the old and new wires together and voila! How easy was that?

Easy peasy! Just twist it together and you've made a connection.

After I checked all my connections and made sure there wasn't any bramble or anything touching the hot wires I gathered up my tools and went and plugged the fence back in.

Then the real test. I went and got the goats. If you walk with determination your goats will pretty much follow you anywhere. So I headed down the hill like I was going somewhere great. Pretty soon all those girls were walking right behind me.

Goats at work in the new area.

The goats were a little skeptical when they got to the old fenceline. All of them had gotten zapped a couple times so they were wondering where, exactly, I was leading them. But I called their names and they figured out the old fence was gone...so they came right up to me.

Before you know it - goats at work! It was great! I love it when a plan comes together. I was just about to get some video of the goats happily munching away on the bramble when Dahli started stomping her feet. I turned my head just in time to see...... GROUND BEEZ SWARMING!!!

"GO! GO! GO!" I shouted and ran off doing a Kermit the Frog-like run. I ran. Fast. The goats ran. Fast. Well. Come to think of it. Most of them ran. About half way up the hill I did a head count and we were missing someone.


She ran faster and made it up the hill. Thankfully no one was stung. But I'm going to have to go out there and get rid of that nest.

Anyway. That's how you quickly and easily set up a new section of electric fence. If you don't have the charger set up there are a few more steps. However it's not terribly hard. If you are nervous about working with a charger you can always have someone help you or hire in a pro. But once you have the charger set up creating a new space is very easy.

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you working on electric fencing?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Yesterday Looked Like

This is what yesterday looked like...  First, the dogs and I went down to the woods....

We looked at some tiny apples.... they are almost ready. 

The lighting was stunning all day.

The golden morning light made everything look magical.... even these sunflower seeds.

Then we had pepper day. Pepper day will last thru tomorrow. When I'm done all my pepper needs will be met. For the year. How great is that?

Happy Wednesday everyone! Did you have a magical morning? What was your yesterday like?

Monday, October 7, 2013

This Could Be It

Our hot and weird weather finally broke last nite... this could be it. Our first frost is usually within a couple weeks and altho there is not a frost/freeze warning for this next week... I'm pretty sure we are at the end of summer.

Our dahlias are enjoying the last of the good weather. But everything else is about winding down.

I have to say, I'm about ready for a break in the action.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Seed Head

Oh Dahli...... you are a pip.

For heavens sakes, Dahli!

Talk about a derpy goat.... wait it gets better....

Derp, derp, derp...

There now. You've seen Dahli at her finest.

She got those seeds all over her from free ranging in the tall weeds. But don't worry. I didn't spend hours with a comb getting them out of her coat. The little goaties did it! They picked out every single seed. It was like watching chimps groom each other.

There is never a dull moment and I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"It's the Italian Way"

Earlier this week the Grande Dame of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan, died at the age of 89. Never has anyone I didn't actually know influenced me so much. I love her book and her cooking.

This is THE standard for Italian cooking. Worth every penny. 

I think what I like most about her is that she is unflinchingly old school. She'll tell you how to make pasta or bread with a food processor... but she'll also tell you it won't be as good. I love her cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - it's really the only one that I use for Italian food. Sometimes I'll check out Mario Batali's recipes.. but I know like him, most of the new Italian masters learned from Marcella. 

This is a great article here and also David Lebovitz had a some funny memories on his facebook page.

What did I learn from her cooking?  Don't be afraid to do it the old way. You don't need garlic in everything. Fresh is best. Layer your flavors.

Thanks, Marcella, for everything.

Editor's note: The link to Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is an affiliate link to my Amazon store....  So yes if you order by clicking on these links - or anything else thru my Amazon store or from the Amazon search box on the right side of this page - I get a small percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one more cent and it helps support this blog.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Darla, MIT

Here's little Darla, Milker in Training.

For all those haters and that'll-never-workers... this style of milk stand training works just fine. Yesterday I called Daisy, she looked at me funny, stood there for a second, then did a little hip hop, and then ran right down to the gate. I put the leash on her and she walked calmly to the milk stand. Good girl, Daisy!

Darla here still needs a little convincing - but she's doing a great job.

Working on more clearing today - wow we are really making progress!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are your milkers in training on the stand?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lookin' bad, Raspberry.... Looking real bad.....

My most beautiful hen, Raspberry, has got one ugly molt going on.....

She looks like someone ran her over with a mower.... poor girl. Many of my hennies are in this ugly phase. I'm kind of glad it's now and not in the colder weather.

No time to talk. We've been working on a ton of clearing and getting a lot done. Had an epic burn pile and lots of chain sawing yesterday. Need to finish up today.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

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