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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cut off from civilization today

The Big Man is standing over me insisting that I get off the intertube this instant. Apparently I'm being cut off from civilization today.

Unrelated adorable picture of Bitty

The flux capacitor is broken or something and he's stalking out of the house with some kind of "box" that needs to be replaced.

He's taking my freedom and in 3....2... 1... I'll be cut off from civilization. A great opportunity then to get the hen house cleaned out.

Talk to you tomorrow everyone!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What are goats REALLY like?

I really want to thank whoever posted my story, Goat on a Rope. I'm not sure where it is out there in the interweb but I've absolutely loved the response.  Thank you so much!

Really, Dahli?

One of the great things that happened was that I received a terrific email asking me, "So.... what are goats really like?" After hearing nothing but hard tales of horrific troubles the sender really wanted to know if it's just one awful experience after another of medical maladies and fence jumping... or what?

I thought I'd share my response..... The answer is kind of tricky. Mostly it's about what you are willing to put up with and what you think is adorable.

As far as I can tell there are two types of people:

1. Goat lovers
2. Goat likers

I'm more of a goat liker. Sure, I like them just fine... but oh man.. they are ridiculous. I mean, I like order and discipline and having goats is like having a kindergarten full of flying monkeys. The people who love goats really really adore there cutesy-putsey little faces. Me? Mostly I have my eyes rolled so far in the back of my head at their shenanigans that I have a headache. These are the five things I do not like about goats.

So what do I have them?

Because they are good workers and are productive. We don't have farm animals as pets - we actually have a working farm. Dollar for dollar and pound for pound goats are incredibly hard working and their - if you'll have to pardon my corporate speak - return on investment is tremendous. Once you are set up they are a great value for what they produce. We use the gallons and gallons of milk for the entire barnyard - especially to grow out our pigz that we butcher for our table.

 Would you LOOK at all that milk... yeah baby... that's the stuff.

We have the perfect cycle... we put most of our feed dollars toward the goats who produce milk for the chickens.... who produce eggs for the pigz. The pigz also get goat milk and then get nice and fat....and that makes bacon.....Bacon makes the world go around. We believe we are saving about 30% in our feed costs by using goat milk and eggs for the pigz.

We also use the goat milk to feed out poultry. We don't bother with high protein feed when our turkeys and meat chickens get past the cute stage - we mix corn and goat milk. That makes the nice and plump - then we turn those birds to get out there and free range... and that is how you raise a good and cheap, excellent quality table bird.

 Goats doing proper goat things. Not fooling around.

So goats make sense for our farm. Especially since I can't have a diary cow - for tons of reasons including that we don't have any pasture. But we can take those silly goat out into the woods and they will eat the bramble which gets turned into lovely milk.

As for their personalities?


Goats make me insane. I have 4 huge working dogs - each over 100 pounds and they all snap to attention and do as ordered which is just the way I like it. The goats? The goats are out there screwing around doing stupid stuff all day. Some people think this is adorable. I do not. Goat do not like order or discipline. They have no honor. They are just goofy.

As for their troublesome health issues... well. There are a million things that could go wrong - but most likely won't. We've never had any dead babies - a few hard births but nothing horrific.

The goats just require "futzing." Unlike chickens you can't just open the door and let them out. You gotta make sure goats don't eat anything stupid, or break into the barn and get the bloat from eating all the corn, or don't get some kind of weird imbalance in their gut (they have a rumen-based digestive system), and you have to keep up with the parasite management. We don't mind using the chemical wormers but some people have a break down over it.

So far we've only had 2 goats flop over dead - both young males. Both, we believe, were the result of some weird parasite - or poisoning. We did all the treatments that were required but .... as we say around here not every body makes it. But we think our record is pretty good.

One of our goats gets a gut imbalance every year - so we make sure that we can fix her up (it's the goat polio). The fix is cheap and easy but if we don't get it in time she could die quickly. Luckily it's easy to spot.

As for fencing, yep. They are hard to keep in the fence. So you have to have really really good fencing. I suggest field fence with a hotwire on the inside. Remember you aren't just fencing the goats IN you are fencing the predators OUT. Don't have predators? Get goats and you will. Mostly it's the neighbor's stupid dog. Or your dog. Goats are the perfect prey - they smell like poop and run when chased. They are no match for one large dog or a couple medium sized dogs working together.

So I think it all boils down to what you can put up with. If you have a good set up then might as well give it a try. Some people just love their smoochie little goats. They are even becoming popular city pets if you can believe that. People keep them in their house and think they are hilarious. People love their interactive nature and their hijinks. This is the only time a little goatie has been in our house and it was only for the picture with Nicholas.

If the lovey-doveyness and cute factors are high enough for you to overlook the initial cost of getting set up (fencing, housing, some routine health costs) then I'd totally say go for it. Especially if you have any interest in home dairy and cheesemaking.

One thing you could look into are smaller variety goats. You could also check out a breeder who is willing to let you visit their farm or who provides "goat keeping lessons" as part of the sales price.

Many folks would rather take a little goatie back from a home that isn't a good fit then have it dumped at a shelter. So don't be afraid to ask about this - goat people like to help new folks get set up. By the way, we don't offer refunds. I just take the money and drive away fast yelling, "No take backs!" But many people are eager to help.

That's what I know about goats. Mostly it's a personality thing. Some people love goats and the rest of us tolerate them. But if you just want something to snuggle then get a cat because they are awesome and don't need any futzing. *Looks lovingly at Nicholas who isn't any trouble at all.*

Happy Sunday everyone! Why did you get your goat?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nicholas and all his hard days

Can you believe we are having another inside day? Sure it's sunny out there ...but it was 24* when I got up. This whole spring thing has gotten off to a slow start. So I did some spring cleaning. So by popular demand, you know who you are, someone has been asking for pix of our beloved Nicholas. So I'm presenting to you his most epic picture ever.

The most epic picture of Nicholas. Ever. Thanks for helping me with that side of pork.

I also went looking for all of the posts about his hard days...and they were a little tough to find. So I decided to create a tab for him at the top of this page. Peep your eyes up just above the "about me" and find it on the top right side. There you will find all of Nicholas's adventures.

Back when Nicholas was bigger than Bubby.

I'm anticipating that he will be having more hard days soon. This morning he had to ensure the tragedy that was me getting up after 7 in the am. He very nearly starved.

That's right, Nicholas, life is hard. Every single day.

Happy Friday everyone and enjoy some hilarity by clicking thru Nicholas's Hard Days - #1 - #10.

ps... If I haven't said it lately... thanks to everyone who has been using my Amazon links! I never know who purchases what so I can't think you personally, but I really really appreciated it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Begining of storm season.

Our severe weather and storm season started with a bang last nite. A bright flash of lightning and a loud thunderclap..... followed by so many dogs coming into the bedroom.  And so it starts.

Number of dogs freaked out by the storm: 4
Number of cats displaced by dogs freaked out by the storm: 2... well... 3... at least.
Number of cute dog faces looking at me on the edge of the bed: Many.
Number of stinks given off by freaked out dogs: So.... sooo many...
Number of husbands who slept thru the whole thing: 1

 The Dread Commander Zander. Where he is supposed to sleep...

I got all the dogs settled down the storm passed...and then the dogs got the wiggles so I gave them the boot and sent them back to their normal places... until the storm started up again about an hour later. Then they all came back.


There has got to be a German word for being cranky as the result of being kept awake by thunderstorms and their effects... Someone told me it was Nichtschlafenwegendonnarbitchikeit. If that is a thing then I have it. In spades. I need a lot of coffee today.

...unless The Black Death needs his mommy. Then he comes and finds me.

Happy Thursday everyone! It seems like we might be late to the severe weather game this year. Are you ready for whatever blows your way? Do your dogs get nervous in storms?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A cheese making list - all the tools you need.

We are barreling down the road toward Goat Season 2015 and by that I mean the goats are due in about a month. Goat baby season? Who cares - all I can dream about is cheese glorious cheese! I need to make a cheese making list so I'm absolutely ready for cheese action - you know how I love to cut the cheese....and the stupid jokes that come along with it.

 Can you believe I made this cheese? So can you!

I started with the standard issue getting started with cheese but I have to say that I love that I love 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes much better. This book is not for experienced cheese makers - it's great for beginners also.


Starters and kits

  • Ultimate Cheese Kit You know that I love Leeners and wow they have an incredible kit. This has everything you need and more. Depending on what kind of cheese you'd like to make this could work for you. I normally stick to buying tools by the piece but if you know someone who wants to go all out this is amazing.
  • Rennet - I like the tabs and not the liquid. The tablets can be stored in the freezer for a long time. I just take one out at a time to use and break into pieces. It's not as exact as using the drops but it's easier for me.
  • Mesophilic starter. This is the starter for many fresh cheeses. It's a great starting er...starter.
  • Cheese salt. Cheese needs a remarkable amount of salt. This cheese is flaky which makes it better for cheesemaking than normal table or kosher salt.
You can make this cheese too.

And that is what will get you started. Of course, once you are off and running you might want to get Moldsand molds....and other starters.. Most folks start with a fresh cheese like chevre and then work their way up.

Happy Tuesday everyone - are excited about making cheese?

Editors note: Hey look out! There are affiliate links in this page. How does it work? Easy peasy. I get a tiny portion of the sale when you click on one of the links, go to the Amazon page, and purchase something. It can be anything - this book, movies, or something you need from Amazon anyway.  Do you need anything Amazon? You can support this blog by just clicking one of these links. Or using the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It doesn't cost you once cent more but 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. Thanks!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Don't think this can't happen to you - West Wind Acres

Has everyone been following the story of West Wind Acres? They are a farm in New York who sell pasture raised meat products. Or at least they did. The owner was arrested and now they are facing charges in court - for having farm animals outside and for having frozen water buckets. Think that sounds crazy? So do I.

Nibbles believes she is being abused. She wants someone to rescue her. Not going to happen.

I don't know those folks and I've never been to their farm.  But I saw the news footage and I looked at the pictures and I have to tell you - this seems ridiculous. I also know folks who are friends with the farmer and say this is totally uncalled for.  You can read more about the situation on their blog and also here, and here, and here is a newspaper article, and here (scroll down to the March 19th post called Something Wicked West Wind Comes).

The other bloggers listed above laid out the situation and why the charges of abuse are ridiculous. Do I think that having farm animals outside is abuse? Nope. Even if it's really cold? Nope. Honestly, if he has a pasture operation and the worst thing that has happened over this brutal winter is a little frostbite, I think he is doing OK. Winters are hard. Farming is hard. Not everything is ideal.

Conventional farmers get criticized for raising animals inside. This guy has been arrested for having his animals outside. What on earth is happening?

What concerns me is the basis for these charges - that they had frozen waterers, there was poop in the water, and the animals were outside. Friend, I have news for you - we ALL have had frozen waterers. It wouldn't matter if I hung the buckets two inches from the ceiling, I guarantee that the goats would poop in in. And yes, farm animals live outside just fine.

They didn't have a heated barn? Who the hell has a heated barn? That is insane. The very last thing you want to do is heat a barn. Livestock bedding is entirely flammable, animals create dust, an enclosed space without fresh air causes respiratory problems. Why on earth would you heat your barn?

Lest this spiral into an argument about what is and is not abuse let's instead focus on why this matters to you. 

Don't think for a second this can't happen to you.

Go thru and read the comments on West Wind's blog, check out their facebook page, and see the comments on the other blog sites. Everyone has some ridiculous story about a busy body who calls the cops on their farm.

My favorite one was the gal who had the cops come out because her ducks were outside. In the rain.

Are you shaking your head? You should be.

As far as I can tell this started with an anonymous tip. Some busy body got a bee in their bonnet about these guys and I can pretty much bet it's someone who doesn't know about farming. There's one in every crowd and that crowd is getting bigger. Not every do-gooder is doing good.

Everyone who has animals has a story.

My favorite story of "abuse" that I personally witnessed was when I was in town one day. One of my Amish neighbors was also there and I was watching him park his buggy behind one of the businesses. About the same time this guy walks up with his family - I guarantee you he'd never been to a farm nor had he ever done a day's hard work in his life.

"What's THAT!" He exclaimed to no one in particular, least of all me. He was pointing to the horse and buggy.

"Well, that's a horse, Fred." Said someone else.

"THAT'S a horse?" Said Fred scratching his head and looking amazed. Then he stood there for a second.

"That horse doesn't have any water! That's abuse!" Said Fred.

I had to walk away. If that guy could not even identify an animal as a horse then he certainly is not qualified to determine if it is abused or not.

You hear about this all the time. I knew a cattle guy in B.C who had the cops called on him every summer because the city folks would go out driving around and see his dairy cows. They'd panic because these newly-appointed-experts didn't know that seeing the hip bones on dairy cows is normal.

Or the uproar I saw online one time about some baby cows who were penned in a barn and they didn't even have any water!!!! Lean in friend, imma put some learning on you.... baby cows drink milk. Maybe these horrified onlookers thought that the calves were older then they were because a newborn calf can weigh up to 100lbs...but that "little" baby needs milk not an open bucket of water.

There was a case a while ago about some folks who had all their small livestock seized. Their crime was that they had an ugly property. One of the charges was that they didn't have enough feed on hand. How much feed are you supposed to have one hand? Do you know where we store our feed? At the feed store. It's three miles away and open 6 out of 7 days of the week. They are much better equipped to store feed than we are so we only keep about a weeks worth at a time. Is that a crime?

As for that guy's livestock guardian dogs being outside, I can't speak to why they didn't have their dog tags but that does not seem like a hanging offense - that sounds like a ticket and a fine. Dogs outside in the winter? Talk to someone who actually has LGDs (Livestock Guardian Dogs) and just see if they can keep the dogs inside and away from their flocks. As odd as it may seem to you not every dog is a pampered pet. Some of them are working dogs and some of them live outside just fine.

There is a world of difference between a heavy bodied, double coated Nordic-style dog like Kai who loves to be out in the snow and doesn't want to come inside....and the no-good-nick neighbor who puts his 30 pounds or less short coated poodley mix outside for the day when he goes to work in the winter.

The worst part about this story was that the farmer had his own vet come out and check the condition on the animals. She said they were fine but not even her assessment could keep the sheriff from coming back and seizing some of the animals. It's pretty frightening to think your own vet can't protect you. I tell you the truth, there is a world of difference between a vet who works primarily with small companion animals and one who has experience with livestock.

So what can you do?

Be careful who you trust. This poor farmer honestly thought he was doing the right thing by inviting anyone who wanted to come out to see his farm. He allowed the police to walk around his property to check things out.

To tell you the truth, I don't believe in transparency in all matters. Most people are so far removed from farming, farms, and food production they don't have any concept of what animals do and do not need. There was an article in one of those online newspapers not too long ago about a commercial butchering operation. The comments were filled with gasps and horrified folks...and I was all, "Wow! Look at their great tools! Check out their set up!"

City mouse, country mouse both looking at the same thing and seeing it entirely with different eyes.

I know a goat guy who's barn is nicer than some people's homes. But every year... every stinkin' year here come the rescue people to come and buy up his goat babies and take them away for the horror that is the best barn in 3 counties. Rescue them from what? Every day Nibbles asks me if she can go and live with that guy's herd.

Be careful about who you let on your property.

You may not just show up at our place. I've had folks who don't even know me by name want to come out and look around. Nope. You never know what someone' intentions are or why they are really there.

As it is it took us 3 years, a locking gate, and 4 dogs each over 100 lbs to keep people from just driving up on our property. There was a business here before we bought this place and it was very tough to keep the lookyloos from just making themselves at home.

Get a gate and lock it.

Keep your animals in the back of the property.

You might also want to find an attorney who is experienced in agricultural issues - just to have in your back pocket in case you need it.

You might want to get a game cam set up to keep an eye on the coming's and going's at your place. Just in case. 

Know your rights. What if the authorities show up and want to look around? You don't have to let them on your property without a warrant. What does the warrant do? Well, for one it makes sure that someone else (the judge) provide some oversight...but more than that it gives you time to call your Ag experienced attorney and have them get over to your place to be present if the situation arises.

As West Wind found out the hard way - most people talk to much and are too helpful when the authorities show up. There is a fine line between cooperating and talking your self into being arrested.

This family now has to defend themselves in court. Justice is expensive, as they are finding out. You can check out their gofundme page here.

Now before anyone starts hopping around. Yes, animal abuse exists. There are bad people everywhere. There are hard working folks doing rescue work that really matters. But there is a world of difference between a dog fighting ring and pigs on pasture. Robust Livestock Guardian Dogs living out with their herds are a world away from some poor dog tied to a tree and being left to starve to death.

You know how I feel about argumentative comments so let's not finger point or "oh yeah" each other on this - let's focus on why this case is important to all of us. Don't think for a minute that this can't happen to you.

Happy Monday everyone. There is a lot to think about.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Little buddies... A different kind.

Nicholas and Little Mo are the best of buddies.....

Nicholas's ham-sized paw make Little Mo's paw look like a small fry.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Little buddies. Comparing Creepy Meats and regular chicks growth.

We've had the little buddies - the creepy meats and the regular chicks for about 10 days. You can already see how the creepy meats our outdistancing the normal chickens in growth....

Creepy vs regular. See how big the meat chickens are? Wow!

A couple days ago they hit their stride where they really start putting away the food and water. We'll have to move to a larger waterer soon. Right now we make sure they have chick starter (20% feed) around the clock but we'll be cutting them off at night soon. You want the creepy meats to grow fast... but not that fast.

Soon we'll have to move the meats to another pen and keep the regular chicks in this brooder box for a while. In fact, we'll probably get around round of meats (probably 10) in the next couple days. This way we'll have a total of 20 meat chickens ready for butchering in May or June. So soon!?! Yep.

Technically you can butcher meats at 7 weeks. We normally wait a little longer but you know that I'm very very hungry for chicken. Also if we have another round coming on we can do some of the first batch early, then as we normally do.... butcher a few at a time.

Passed out meats and a cat food can for scale. Check out how little they were just 10 days ago.

We really need to get on the ball and do a better job of managing our meat. If we aren't careful we are going to be upside down again with either all poultry or all pork and never having an overlap. So our next step is to get another group of meat chicks.

Why don't we just buy meat from the store? Well. We did a couple times but it's not really our bag, baby. We like our own better.

The regular chickens are barred rocks and hopefully they are all layers. But you know that we have a plan for the roosters so we are good.

That's the meat progress update!

Happy Friday everyone - how are your chickens coming along? Are you getting more?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On being falsely accused of buying magic beans.

So there I was. I had to go somewhere last weekend and it was kind of a long drive. I was running around trying to get my act together when I remembered that someone ran all the gas out of our zippy little, new-to-us car.

"Honey!" I yelled, "Quick! Gimme some gas money!"

He looked at my dubiously, wise to my ways,  and handed me a crisp, new $20 bill. "For gas." He said, "Gas. Use it for gas. G-A-S."

I snatched it out of his hand and ran off with a, "Yeah, whateve's." And then I drove off fast. I went and did what I had to do.

Much later in the day we both piled into the car to go somewhere entirely different...

"Bah!" He yelled, "Why isn't there any gas in the car! What did you do with all that money I gave you?"

I looked innocent and shrugged. He wasn't buying it and he continued his tirade.

"What did you do with that money? Buy magic beans?"

I just continued to look innocent and wide eyed like I had no idea what he was talking about. I honestly didn't know how to respond. It wasn't like it was ALL that money.. it was only $20. Plus I had other expenses. I mighta bought gas... or something else entirely.

In my defense, there are in fact, two perfect places in the state of Ohio to get the chicken buffet. The gold standard being, of course, Mrs. Yoders. The second is Ben & Joy's out in Mount Sterling. They don't even have a link or anything. Just show up hungry and wearing your fat pants. Make sure you get the pie.

But the third.... the third most perfect place to get the chicken buffet is Goodwin's in Circleville. And there I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. Sure the car needed gas, but I needed chicken more.

I went in prepared for battle. I see the chicken buffet as some kind of personal test. All you can eat? Challenge accepted.

I destroyed that buffet. I took no prisoners. They had to bring more chicken out from the kitchen. I don't make rookie mistakes like filling up on stupid salad or bread... oh no... when I go for chicken - I go for chicken. That buffet didn't stand a chance.

After a while the waitresses started standing back in wonderment. They they started taking bets. Then they started hoping I would leave. But I wasn't done yet.

There was a guy there who was also working his way thru the buffet. He looked like the kind of guy who could eat a lot of chicken. He turned out to be some kind of casual. I lapped him. Twice. I was not messing around.

Then at last I sat with the bones of mine enemy piled high in front of me on an extra plate. I nodded my victory... and then I went back for apple cobbler with ice cream. Cuz, you know, you gotta get your money's worth, right?

That is how I found myself being falsely accused of buying magic beans. Magic beans my patootie, I ate every chicken in that room.

The Big Man harrumphed his discontent. 

It got worse.

So much, much later I wasn't hungry at all. I mean, who could be? My husband that's who. I struggled for a dinner idea that required the least amount of effort due to me being still a little chicken drunk. Nachos. That's easy, right? I went to find the ingredients.

Wouldn't you know it. Not one can of beans. Not one - magic or otherwise.

The Big Man glared at me over his beanless nachos. It was very sad.

I wasn't sad tho. I didn't have to eat for the next two days either. I know someone who is lucky enough to go to Mrs. Yoders this weekend. I can't go but soon.... very soon I will find a reason to drive up there. And that buffet won't stand a chance either.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Have you been falsely accused of buying magic beans? Did you instead eat every chicken in that room?

note: Game of Thrones nerds click here for that scene. Descent folks should not click on it..and if you do, for heavens sakes, turn your sound down so you don't get in trouble.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do you do with the roosters?

I thought it was a legitimate question so I sent an email to the hatchery where we got our first ever batch of laying hens. When some of the "girls" started crowing I wanted to know, "What do you do with the roosters?"

Fred, I loved him. I hated him. I loved to hate him. I hated to love him. RIP, good sir.

I really didn't know and I also never really thought about it. If you are new to chickens, have you thought about it?

I'm sure the folks at the hatchery had a good laugh at my question and no, I never heard back from them. So if you hadn't thought about it yet let's talk about it.

To be sure no one was more surprised when I actually got a few roosters in that order of laying hens. But it happens - sexing chicks is not an exact science and sometimes mistakes happen. And, of course, you also get roosters if your own hens hatch their clutches. But what do you do with them? You should have a plan so you won't be surprised when you first hear that horrible, wretched, strangling, struggling first-crow that your little should-be-a-hen first belts out.

As we say around here, "When you start to crow you got to go!"  And by "go" I mean directly into a pot of noodles. Do we butcher our extra roosters? Yes, we do.

Having too many roosters just annoys your hens and makes for a dangerous barnyard. About this time of year they all start fighting so if you think you can keep as many roosters that life gives you - you might be surprised when you go out to find a sad heap of feathers and the new top roo strutting his stuff.

We've found that too many roos just creates gangs of goons who terrorize everyone. We had a gang of three one time.. geez. They were really something. So we sent those tree amigos to the block and all of the hens stood around cheering as that last one got the axe. 

The Big Man was defeated by this little rooster. Until the tables turned. 

And sometimes little roosters are just plain mean.

If butchering chickens isn't your thing then you can always send extra laying breed roos with your meat birds to the processor. You won't get the big meaty grocery store carcasses when they are dressed... but good is good and you can always make stew.

Or you can try and pawn them off on suckers. However, I should warn you that most folks are wise to that game. We have had luck giving or selling roosters to folks for $5. But most times it's more hassle then it's worth. 

Some folks try and sell roosters with "not to be butchered" conditions. That sounds like a risky proposition. I've heard of crazy people showing up at people's farms demanding to see their previously owned stock. That is just weird. I would urge you not to show up here demanding to see the duck you sold me 4 years ago.

And some naive folks are happy to answer ads asking for extra roos thinking that maybe they will go and live on a farm for the rest their natural lives.... when maybe they are being used for fighting. Or to feed someone's snakes or what not.

Nope. There is just too much opportunity for weirdness. We just prefer to solve our own rooster problems.

And least you think you are safely up on your moral high horse - horrified by backyard butchering - and will only ever have laying hens because you only ever order female-only chicks. You might want to think about what happens to those extra male chicks. I say no more on this. Other than we usually order straight runs and are glad for the valuable lesson that you should take the hand that life gives you and make the best of it. While a laying hen is more valuable to us over the long run, a nice chicken stew is just fine also.

Happy Monday everyone! What do you do with your extra roos?

Friday, March 13, 2015

S'more reasons why cooking the M outside is so much fun

In addition to being out in the fresh air, cleaning up the yard, and having a fun time outside.... let's be honest. This is the real reason I like to cook our sap outside over a campfire....

S'mores, baby! Yeah!

Of course we made s'mores!!!! It's the best part! But the fire was so hot I had to use our longest skewer and my Ove-Glove!

And then we did some chops too because why not.

Today is going to be an inside day - right after I take up all the buckets. Early yesterday the sap was pouring off the trees. I took up another 2.5 gallons at mid day - that was in addition to what I got in the morning! And then the dripping really stopped. We did not freeze last nite so the trees won't run today.

And if they did it wouldn't matter because there is nothing but rain rain rain and more rain followed by additional rain on the side starting in a few hours.

What do you do if it rains while you are trying to tap your trees?

Depends. You can try and cover the bucket but we haven't had a great deal of success. Or you can use the bags - but we kind of gave them an F-. Or you can use the extra thin spiles and hose system and run the hoses into covered buckets.

But for us we'll just shrug and hope for a better sap day over the weekend.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Boiling the sap

Today I'm boiling down all the sap we tapped from our trees.  I needed to build a new sap cooking set up because someone *points to Kai and Zander* thought there was a rat living under the old one and completely ripped it apart.

The new set up - it's a little bigger than last year.

So we ran right out and got $20 worth of cinder blocks. Then I dry stacked them to make a sort of fire pit. This morning I went around and got a bunch of firewood from the woods...and I pulled a few good pieces from the firewood pile. Then I built up a big fire. Whoot!

This is such a fun project!

The Bacon Wagon of Doom serves as a filtering station.

Here you can see I'm using the Bacon Wagon of Doom as a staging area for the sap. We went around and poured all the sap from the trees into those big 5 gallon buckets and hauled them up to the house. Then I filtered out the bugs n stuff before putting the sap into my big, totally-OK-with-being-ruined boiling pots.

They are now set on the fire to boil away. When the sap cooks down I'll add more filtered sap to the boiling pots. It's easier for me to filter into a smaller bucket, then add to the pots on the fire.

You can see that I used racks from an old stove at my cooking surface.

To filter the raw sap I just use a big colander lined with cheap, grocery-store quality cheese cloth.

At this point someone always shrieks, "But it is WORTH it!?!?"  Yeah. Yeah it's totally worth it. This is a terrific late winter/early summer project. I'm out there walking around with the chickens, enjoying the sunshine, and I'm picking up all the stick and broken branches that came down over the winter. It's a yard clean up, shake off the winter-mopes workout, make real syrup, extra fun project. So yep it's totally "worth it."

Next the purists will shriek, "BUT YOU CAN ONLY USE HARDWOOD FOR YOUR FIRE! YOU'LL MAKE YOUR SYRUP SMOKEY!" They are extra loud. That's fine. Our reply is to shrug and say, "So?"  That just means that every plate of pancakes takes like they were made over a campfire... if we can even taste the difference. We just aren't that picky.

I'll finish the syrup in the house but that probably won't be until tomorrow.

And if I get my act together I can get a pot of extra smokey baked beans going out there on the fire also. What a great day!

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you got your boil on?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Really, Nicholas?

Because this happens at my house:

Really, Nicholas?

They are making me old, a little bit, every day......

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Note: No dogs were harmed in the making of this film. Lucky was just annoyed by Nicholas and his shenanigans. Nicholas, however, got a time out for naughtiness.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Back in the meat business! Finally!

Yesterday I ran right down to the Tractor Supply and got me a heaping box of peepin' fun - finally! We are back in the meat business!

The chicks are put in little boxes. They rode home in the truck like this.

Mercifully, our weather really has broken - for at least the last 10 days - so mine eye was fixed on meat. Chickens that is... I need some creepy meats!

I spent the day cleaning out the garage so I could get the new peeps set up. Don't we usually start them in the house? Yep. But I just couldn't handle it this time and... we have a cat shuffling issue during the winter when we have the wood stove going.  So we needed to get the chicks set up in the garage.

It really worked out before to have them grow out in the garage. We set up a pen made out of hog panels. It's easy to scoot them outside to free range and it was mostly easy to get them herded up for the nite. Plus we didn't stink up the house...and they weren't tormented by the "real" chickens. So the garage is a good spot.

However, we've never started baby chicks out there. I figured with at least 10 days without snow we had a good chance to get them sturdy enough for if and when the cold weather comes back. So I sprang to action.

They cautiously explored their new world.

First step - the brooder. Last fall we were lucky enough to score one of those huge boxes that grocery stores get the pumpkins in - it's the perfect brooder. It is extremely sturdy, big and roomy, and it's not too deep so it's easy for me to reach into.

Why didn't we just order chicks? A couple reasons:
  1. Normally you have to order at least 25 chicks or they charge you a "small order fee"
  2. TSC is super close so even all the gas my big work truck sucked up was less than paying for shipping.
  3.  I could get them yesterday as soon as I was set up.
  4. They were a bargain at just $1.99!
The pricing thing was weird tho. We were at a different TSC over the weekend and the price was $2.29... but at this store it was $1.99. We can't figure out why. Be that as it may - the price for 10 chicks the Meyer Hatchery is $2.25 so we totally scored.

Why did we only get 10? We are calling it a good start. We'll get another batch before Chick Days are over and that should get us thru the summer. Next fall we will do a much better job of managing our meat. As you know, we had a freezer fail and we lost the chicken we had for the winter. Then we had to buy chicken from the store... so we are extremely excited to be back in the meat business.

In addition to the creepy meats I also got 5 barred rocks. We need to get some new layers and these ladies (we hope) will start laying at the end of the summer.

So how do you buy chicks at the feed store?

First, you should have your set up ready. Don't get the chicks THEN get your set up ready. It's kind of stressful for them to be moved so have everything ready.

A good dispersal pattern. 

Remember that chicks can't regulate their body temperatures and they don't have real feathers to keep themselves warm. You want your brooder to be about 99*. So get a big box, Rubbermaid tub, stock tank, or kiddie pool set up with a heat lamp. Put your brooder so it's out of a draft.

Be sure to get a red heat lamp and not a clear/white one - all little creatures need a rest period at nite when you turn off the lights. But you need to have the heat lamp on them all the time. The red heat lamp let's them sleep. If you need it you can have a regular light on during the day. For instance we will have the overhead shop lights on during the day but then we will turn these off at nite so the chicks have darkness/the red light from the heat lamp. Some people also believe that the red light keeps them from picking at each other.

You also need some bedding. We like the "fine" type pine shavings. We know that TSC starts their chicks on this. So while we would initially put our mail order babies on paper towels for the first couple days - we know that this group is already used to the shavings. Never start your chicks on newspaper - it's too slippery and they might end up leg problems. The paper towels provide better traction.

Next, get your feed (20% chick starter) and your waterer set up. We always add a little sugar to the water the first day or so to give them a boost. You can get packets of additional additives but we knew these guys were probably in the store for a couple days and if they made it that long they were good to go. We also knew they were used to eating out of a feeder and we had a similar one ready. But we also like just using an empty cat food can for a feeder.

Heat? Water? Food? OK I was ready!  So I drove right down to TSC. It used to be that you could just pick out your own chicks but now they have the babies gated off and one of the employees has to get them for you. I laughed that they are required to us gloves to pick up the baby chicks... um.. I had been shoveling poo all day... so. You know. I guess it's all relative.

But it brings up a good point. Don't over handle your chicks, wash your hands after touching, them and for heaven sakes.... DO NOT SMOOCH THEM. Last year there was an outbreak of salmonella transmitted from poultry to people - probably from chick smoochers. And don't let your kids play with them either. 

All of us out there shoveling poop know very well to wash your dang hands but I guess other folks don't. So now you know - wash your hands. A lot.

Anyway. The employee had a bit of a rodeo getting the peeps into the boxes but soon I had loaded up my cart with the boxes and proceeded to the chick... I mean... check out.

And that is all there is to it. The biggest problem is deciding how many and what kind you want to get. I talked to the gal manning the desk and asked her what the delivery schedule was? As with other years they just randomly get chicks delivered in the mail. There is no rhyme or reason - and they get all kinds.

Be on the looking out for the "special" breeds - you can find just about anything. I was glad to get these barred rocks - which are a favorite of ours - but I was really looking for some Buff Orpingtons...or maybe a Silkie or two. She said I could call anytime and that she'd be happy to tell me what she had in stock.

The only catch is that, in this state, they are required to sell at least six total chicks. You can mix and match them but there has to be six. Ducks and geese need to be sold in lots of six per variety. Why? Because that is  the fewest number that will likely survive. Remember chickens need to be in groups and baby chicks survive by snuggling together. Six together will generate enough heat to survive the drive home and such. Also they kind of learn from each other. One peep alone is a misery so they need to have little buddies so they can flock together. So the fewest that are likely to make it are..about six. You also have to assume some amount of attrition.

Do not be overly alarmed if you have some losses. It's sad - but normal. Depending on who you believe there could be about 15% losses or more - especially with creepy meats. Why? Because chickens randomly flop over dead in the best of circumstances. And then there is always disease, stupid mishaps, being too hot, being too cold, predation - a million reasons why you would have losses.

Your job is to limit these reasons, accept that there will be some losses, and do your best to get them grown out.

I checked on the little buddies this morning and they are doing great. I can tell they are good because when I went out to check on them they were popping around. They had an "equal dispersion pattern" meaning they were not in a heap, not over in one corner, not hiding directly under the heat lamp, or as far away from it as possible... but the chicks were equally spread out in the brooder doing little chicken things.

Some of them were eating, some were drinking, some were goofing around, and some of them were sleeping. The sounds they were making could be best described as "musically peeping" - they were not silent and they were not screaming. But happily peeping along. You'll know that pleasant sound when you hear it - happy peeping.

Today I'll be checking on them to make sure they have food and water and water at all times, adjusting the height of the heat lamp to make sure they are not too hot (hiding in corners), not too cold (all huddled together in a heap), and happily peepin' around.

And I will be dreaming of chicken dinners....

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, March 9, 2015

We tapped our trees!

Finally! I feels late but if I check my notes we are right on time.

The sap just runs right out. Can you believe it? It TOTALLY works!

Our stupid Winter Without End finally ended and we ran right out yesterday and had a great time. I even took off my big stupid winter jacket when we were doing chores! It was a miracle!

What wasn't a miracle was spending a lot of time trying to get the driveway to drain during The Big Melt - we were out there with shovels and hoes trying to get the water to run in the correct direction and not into the garage. We finally got it all cleared off.

Then we ran right down and tapped our trees.

One of my pals was asking where to get supplies... and you guessed it! You can get maple taps from Tap My Trees from Amazon. We like these taps - they are super easy to use. You just need a 7/16 drill bit and a bucket. We figured out that flat sided bucket works the best. However, you can kind of rig up a $1/each or free food quality bucket from Walmart's bakery department also.

To be sure there are all kinds of fancy set ups but we go for easy and cheap. We always need buckets so we don't mind buying more...and we get more taps every year. If you are new and want to go all out check out this deluxe Maple Sap Tapping starter kit.

At that point people always ask, is it worth it?


Yeah, sure it is! But we don't spend a lot of money so yes absolutely. This is a super fun project that you can enjoy all year. After you make your own you'll go to your favorite pancake house and turn up your nose at their lame, fake syrups. Plus.... making your own bacon with your own syrup is kind of fun.

You can learn more about how we make our maple syrup here:

And of course, this story never gets old.

Happy Monday everyone! Get out there and get your trees tapped!

Editors note: Do you know what you can buy from Amazon? Almost anything! Yay! And if you use one of these links to go to Amazon and buy something I get a tiny portion of the sale. It can be anything - a book, movies, or something you need from Amazon anyway.  Do you need anything Amazon? You can support this blog by just clicking one of these links. Or using the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It doesn't cost you once cent more but 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. Thanks!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ultimate Snow Derp and the last cold day

This could be it! I think we had the last cold day of the season - the next 10 days will be mostly in the 40's and there could be a 60* day!  We are thrilled. Of course, that means we'll be deep in the heart of mud season but at this point that is just fine. Melt, snow, melt!

There are a couple folks I know who will miss the snow...

Ah yes... the majestic Curly Tailed Bear Killers in their natural habitat...

Derpin' it up... Bubby!


Nothing but shenanigans around here...

That is one sad dog.  He has a cut on his paw pad and we need him to heal up.

And my sad dog is still sad due to the Sock O' Shame... He's doing much better but is mad that he can't be out there running around. The house is boring. The sock is humiliating. I think the cats are making fun of him. It's ok, My Good Sir, you'll be tip top soon.

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope your snow is melting!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

TBT: How to become famous in a small town. Part Two.

Wow did we get a snow! A big one. There are Snow Level Emergencies as far as the eye can see. Last nite on the news the weather guy said that there is a real possibility that it will be 60* in the next 10 days. I do not believe him. I think he said that just so's snow-rage-zombies don't all show up at the airport, take possession of a plane, and head to somewhere sunny. I assure you that I have not had any thoughts like that or planned anything to that effect. At all. Just sayin'.

So here we are all stuck in the house - again. How about a 'Throw Back Thusday' and we'll have some hilarity. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you.... "How to becomes famous in a small town. Part Two."

A girl and her goat. Me and Vita in the good ol' days.

I'm not the biggest Miranda Lambert fan, but I did believe her when she sang,

"...Whether you're late for church or you're stuck in jail 
Hey words gonna get around 
Everybody dies famous in a small town..."

Around here you don't actually have to die to become famous in a small town. You can just do something stupid. Like scream like a banshee at your Bad Neighbors, or get your 4x4 truck stuck in town on pavement, or even something more ridiculous.

When we first moved to this property from the Old Farm we were warned by several people not to tell anyone our business lest "everyone" in town started talking about us. Well. From where I stood that just sounded like some kind of challenge. I resolved to make up wild stories to really get the tongues wagging.

It's not like I hadn't done it before. Once in my corporate life I got tired of everyone asking me why I was taking a medical leave. I finally just got fed up and told someone I was getting a boob job. For months after I returned to work random people would just stare at my top half. A "frenemy" finally came up and said that "it didn't work." In truth I had gotten my tonsils taken out. It worked just fine and I laughed that my own rumor got back to me.


As luck would have it, we have had plenty of ridiculous things happen that sent the townfolk into a flutter. I don't even need to make any of this foolishness up. Most times all's I had to do was walk into the local feedstore and start talking about whatever happened that day. But one lovely late summer day I actually achieved the kind of fame I'd hoped for in this small town.

We were getting ready to take Vita, our big ol' Saanen back to her home herd for the winter. It was one of those weirdly hot fall days and we were little nervous about driving her all the way back in the heat. But we opened the windows on the cap of the truck and figured she'd be just fine. What could happen, right? Right.

We set off and everything was going just fine until we were about about a quarter mile outside of our town. All of a sudden The Big Man's completely unreliable, much hated, hunk of junk, craptastic little truck started to fail. And not like it usually fails where you have to get out and whack it with a heavy duty flashlight to get it to start - I mean to tell you it died right there driving down the road. We made it to the side of the road and were half hanging in the field - but we got stopped safely.

Well this was bad. The problem with living so far out from civilization is that there isn't anyone around to just come and get you... and its not like you can call a taxi. So I did the only thing I could think of.... I called the Good Neighbors.

Since I have a history of leaving garbled and misunderstood messages on their answering machine I was careful not to scream obscenities or anything else inappropriate...just a mild call for assistance. I did that the first couple times I called. Then my messages started to get desperate. Eventually it became clear weren't home. We were really in a pickle.

We needed a plan. Fast. The sun was getting hotter and Vita was starting to pant. We determined the only thing we could do was get her out of the back of the truck and The Big Man should walk home to get the good truck. It was about 3 miles up hill but I figured he could do it so off he went.

That's when the fun, and fame, started. People started wondering what exactly was going on just outside of town. There had been rumors that some gal was standing by the side of the road with a goat. The townsfolk elected representatives and they started driving out to see what was going on.

I tell you the the truth, no fewer than four separate people got in their cars and drove out from town to ask me what I was doing. Satisfied with the answer "Oh.. you know.. just standing here with my goat," that I provided they got back in their cars and drove back into town to spread the word.

Mind you, they weren't driving by where we were stranded. They all turned around and went back the way they came. They were just curious to see what was happening.

It was just me. And Vita. Standing there by Old Man Shaylor's field. A girl and her goat. And a broke down truck.

Nervously I watched The Big Man disappear out of sight. Frankly I started to panic a little. Me. The goat. Alone. Well, except for the onlookers.

I wasn't convinced that anything really bad would happen. I mean, if alligators or grizzly bears or what not attacked I'd sure as heck leave Vita standing there as bait while I ran off. But then I realized she's pretty fast for a goat so maybe I'd be the one "buying her time" while she got away.

Then the panic really set in.

I turned to prayer.

"Oh Lord, please don't let me die here by the side of the road, in Old Man Shaylor's field, with this stupid goat!" I pleaded. I needed a miracle.

And then... and then..... not two minutes later a shiny blue minivan pulled up.

"Say neighbor, whatcha doin'?" Asked Bob Good Neighbor.

I was agog. "Um.. well.. you know.. standing here by the side of the road with my goat." I managed to stammer.  I was so happy to see our Good Neighbors that I almost burst into tears right there. I couldn't believe that they appeared...miraculously.

"Well, why don't you hop in and we'll take you home." He said.

I was starting to crack. I was actually going to cry right there in front of them. But I come from a family that doesn't believe in crying so I sucked in it.  We strategized instead. It was decided that the Good Neighbors would go and find The Big Man and take him to get the good truck....and then he'd come and get me. And the goat. They drove off waving.

And that's when I finally broke down and cried with joy that we had such Good Neighbors. And I cried that they "just happened" to drive home on that road - the way they never, ever drive home. I buried my face in dear Vita and wept with gladness. And that's when I realized that even tears of joy smell bad on a goat and so I pulled myself together.

In a few minutes The Big Man showed up, we reloaded Vita, and away we went.

Of course, we left a note on the dashboard of the dead truck saying we'd come and get it the next day. But chances are the sheriff already knew what happened. Heck, he probably knew we were late to church the previous weekend.

News about me standing by the side of the road spread pretty fast. When I walked into the feed store a few days later they all just started laughing and asked me if I rode my goat into town. Hilarious.

So you see, Miranda, you don't need to get the first buck of the season or even die in a small down to get 'em to point and stare in disbelief...all's you really got to do is stand by the side of the road. With your goat.

Happy Thursday everyone - Anybody else famous in their small town?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More on bottle feeding baby goats.

While I'm not entirely sure this winter will ever end, the one thing I am sure about is that baby goat season is going to be in full swing. Soon.

What is the best way to feed a baby goat? Let someone else do it. Thanks, Deb!

We are glad, again, that we waited until later to breed our goats. I'm really glad not to have to milk in this bad weather and I'm really glad not to have to worry about cold little baby goats. Or bottle feeding. Sure some people love it. I don't. I usually don't hate it but it takes up a lot of time.

There are a some reasons why you would bottle feed baby goats:

1. The momma won't take care of them. Nibbles is a prime example. I do not know why she is such a bad mother but she gets an F-.

2. Some people feel that bottle raised goats are more snugly. Bein' as how we are not goat snuggler this argument does not hold water. Eventually we train the goats to do as ordered. It can be a hard road but strength and honor always work.

3. Some diseases are passed from the momma to the baby goats in their milk.

4. You are the purchaser of a baby goat and intend to raise it yourself instead of waiting for the baby to be weaned by the momma.

If you are stuck in this baby-goat-bottle-raising dilemma there is a good way around having to do it yourself. Mostly it involves a willing - or unwilling- participant and a hard working farm dog. We are also lucky that Debbie will nurse anything. Dahli will not nurse anything... she just doesn't have a choice.

What kind of cold hearted people are we that we don't delight in bottle feeding baby goats? Cold. We are ice cold. But mostly we don't have time for shenanigas and we have a whole barnyard full of people who need our attention. So having one of the other goats let the babies nurse is just easier for us.
They are pretty stinkin' cute....

When we sell the babies we switch them over from momma-fed to bottle-fed for the buyers. We have never had a problem with this. Ever. There has never been any crying. It is not hard. No one starves to death. Honestly I do not know what the big deal is about it - but wow I hear a lot of sad stories. Not us. We just march out there and get 'er done.

If you are moved to tears by trying to bottle feed a baby goat I would suggest that you set your jaw, steal your heart, and fix your eye on the task at hand.

Here are some links to teach you what works for us:

Don't let this little cutie get your goat - just get that bottle feeding done!

It looks like we have one more winter storm to get thru. Yesterday just about everything melted and now it's a big slushy, icy mess. We are expecting more snow later today and tonite and then maybe... just maybe we will start getting out from under this stupid winter.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Now, is everyone ready to march out there and give that baby goat a bottle?

ps. If you didn't see this be sure to tune into the new and improved 'the facebook' page. I'm not entirely sure what I think about it... this change. But I'm working on making the best of it.

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