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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mud Puppies

We got mud... oh boy do we got mud...

...and so we've got mud puppies too.

What a storm, huh?

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What do we do with all the milk?

Thanks for everyone's questions the other day when I showed how I strain our goat milk for the house. Since there was some interest I'll just give a quick over view of what I said in the comments.

Dahila playing peekaboo with Debbie

Plus I wanted to show off our next milker-in-training. I think we are gonna call her Dahlia. She's a gem for sure.  Debbie is such a good milker...and she was exceptionally well bred this time so this little one is really gonna fill the bucket one day. Welcome to the team, Dahlia!

A couple people asked about putting the milk in the freezer. This is how we chill the milk as quickly as possible to below 40*. This works for us but there are other ways to chill the milk.  Goodwife and Steve C mentioned that you can also put your strained milk in its jar in a container of iced water - which chills it very quickly also. Probably faster.

However... heh heh heh sometimes there isn't a lot of extra ice around here.   The reason you want to chill the milk so quickly is to stop any bacteria or whatnot from spoiling it. However, if you've been around fresh raw milk you probably know that you can let it set for a while and it doesn't go "off" like store milk. But take no chances. Unless of course you are making cheese and then the first step is to ruin it.

 Spot and Stripe being cute

We like the size of the quart jars for chilling the milk. They are the right size to chill quickly but big enough to be useful. When I'm saving up milk for cheese making (sometimes I need a couple gallons) I'll pour the chilled milk into half gallon jars. I haven't had any luck keeping the half gallon jars in the freezer tho but they are prefect for our coldest fridge.

And nope I usually don't forget about it... I'm usually looking for the ice cream so I'll remember to take out that days milk if we need it for drinking. I use the bottom-drawer-type freezer in my kitchen fridge to store the milk. Its really not big enough to hold anything important (other than the ice cream) so that freezer will hold 8 or 10 quarts of milk at a time. When we need more milk I just set it on the counter to thaw a bit then put it in the fridge. If I need it fast I microzap it for a minute or so and give it a good shaking. Or I just keep it frozen for a goat-puccino.

The other question I received a couple times was... what do you DO with all that milk! Debbie and Vita will milk more than a gallon a day. And even Nibbles will produce up to 2 quarts at each milking. That's a lot of milk so what do we do with it?


Fresh raw milk is an incredible source of nutrition. And its delicious. My hubby will easily go thru a quart of milk a day by himself!  We use a lot of milk for drinking, making goat-meal (instead of regular oatmeal use goat milk to cook it in!), and just regular cooking. I love real custards and puddings, a goat-bechamel sauce for baked pasta dishes, for making polenta, mac and cheese, etc.  In our "eat whatcha got" view of life, we use what we have. Sometimes its not about making what you want - but its about making what you have available. Lucky for us we both like dairy products. Speaking of, lets not forget the cheese.

Or the other stuff - like yogurt (goat-gurt) and even buttermilk. I use a lot of buttermilk - for making bread for instance.  And also for frying creepy meat up in a pan..and don't forget the milk gravy of course!  Buttermilk is easily made by culturing fresh goat milk with either a commerical starter or just from buttermilk you can buy in the store. The smallest container of store-bought buttermilk will make almost a gallon of buttermilk using your own fresh milk.

"Hey! Is that MY tail?"

But the biggest money saver and use for our milk is in the barnyard. During the summer when our milkers are at full speed we cut our feed bill by up to 30% across the board. We don't need a lot of fancy layer mix or turkey ration when we've got milk by the bucket. Add a little crushed corn and you've got a cereal that the ducks, clucks, and turks shove each other down for...its a free for all when I come walking in carrying a bucket of milk. You can read more about how we use it for the barnyard here and specifically how we use milk to supplement our pig food.

And we haven't even talked about how we finish our creepy meats on corn and milk! My golly talk about a tender bird...with a glorious layer of fat. Heavenly.  You see, the old timers and even the first commercial chicken operations used this corn + milk to finish their birds. Its only been recently that folks have gone to high protein rations to get the most amount of meat.

So we don't waste a drop. Even if we had extra we'd find a use for it.  I know folks who use whey from cheese making to enliven their compost piles.

Now you see why little Dahlia will be such a valuable member of our team...we need every drop of milk we can get. And so do you! So don't just stand there... go and get your goat!

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oh Baby! There's three!


Oh baby! Just count them - one, two, three!

Two boys and a girl made their big appearance yesterday afternoon.

Everyone is doing great - Debbie is a wonderful momma and is taking care of them all. We were a little worried about the cold nite, but with a snugly momma and a heat lamp there were 3 happy little faces looking at us this morning. The little ones are up and around and trying out their skip-poppin'!

More pix later but wow what a day!  Happy Saturday everyone!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Putting it in the bucket - Goat milking!

Now that Vita's back we are very happy to be milking again. Someone asked me once what I "do" to the milk before I drink it. They wondered how I "clean" it.

There's really no cleaning involved but I do strain our goat's milk. Here's how...

First go and getcha a beautiful bucket of milk from your goat. Notice there is a lot of foam on top of the milk? I just love that - not only does it remind me of a latte - but it acts like a bit of a filter and catches and keeps a lot of the this-n-that out of the milk. Some people milk thru cheesecloth so that no hair or danger or whatever gets into the milk. But if you do a good job of cleaning your goat before milking you shouldn't have a problem.

Then hurry your milk into the house. Don't dilly dally with your fresh milk - you want to get it strained and chilled as soon as possible. Some milk pails have a lid - I just use one from a pot I have in the kitchen.

Next, set up your filter. The filter is just a big stainless bowl thingy, and you use a milk filter (available at any of the goat supply places or at the feed store, secure it with a ring, and pour the milk thru. Don't over flow the jar.

I got 2 and a half quarts from Vita this morning. She'll ramp up to about a gallon soon.

I put our milk into wide mouthed quart jars. They are easy to clean and they seem to be a good size to quickly chill the milk. You want to get the fresh milk under 40* as soon as possible. I put the filled jars in the freezer. Some folks think this changes the texture of the milk, but we haven't noticed any difference.

And you're done. Easy peasy! Where's the cookies?

Fat Deb looking large!

Here's something... Debbie started to act like her babies are ready to make their appearance. We have our 4H Kid on high alert. I keep checking her but for now she's just laying there quietly. But we'll have babies soon! Yay Debbie!

And.. don't forget its Farm Friends Friday! I guess we are getting a headstart this week. Give a click and head on over to Verde Farm!

Happy Farm Friends Friday (almost) everyone!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vita's back!

Guess who's back!
Say baby! Welcome back!
Its our Vita! She's back from the breeder where she spent the winter with her old herd friends - just like last year. She kidded last week and had an enormous buckling. Saturday we went over to pick her up. She was so happy to see The Big Man that she ran right up to him and didn't stop talking until we put her in the back of the truck.
Everyone getting along nicely - no pushing or shoving.
Immediately the fighting between Nibbles and Debbie stopped. Vita is our "herd queen" which is goatspeak for "Boss of the Herd."  Most herd animals have a hierarchy and Queen Vita reigns with dignity, grace, and does not put up with any ne'rdowelling by the plebs.

Lucky was very happy to see Vita and gave her a welcome sniff.

Our little Kai ran right over and woofed at her but Vita didn't have any hoots for some saucy upstart puppy... especially when she was excited to give welcome sniffs to the big dogs. Kai decided she could sniff too - now its her favorite thing.

A little boney but this is our good ol' gal!

Vita had a hard birth so we are working on making her comfortable, getting her settled, and into a routine. Dairy animals are supposed to be boney, but this is a little much so we'll get her back to peak condition soon. Because of the complications during kidding the breeder rightly gave her antibiotics. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to some of them so I need to wait until 30 days pass before I can have any milk. It probably won't work for cheese making either as the drugs may work against the cultures.

And in truth you should wait about a week anyway to make sure all of the birth hormones are out of her system and to make sure her milk doesn't taste funny. No big deal - the hens were lining up to get some of that milk. I was swarmed by the clucks as soon as they saw the bucket.

Vita getting a sip. And yes, lady goats can have beards. Just like dwarfs. That's what Gimli said.

We love Vita for her relaxed and laid back attitude, because she really knows what she's doing on the milkstand, and unlike tiny Nibbles - Vita really puts it in the bucket.

We are glad you are back, Vita!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The tiniest egg ever

How cute is this tiny egg? Adorable!

On the left is a normal sized egg, in the center - the tiniest egg ever - and on the right one of the "normal" small pullet eggs, like what Baby Barnee laid earlier in January.

Unfortunately, shortly after I snapped this pic Nicholas came crashing in and knocked the smallest two eggs off the counter. Nicholas!  The pullet egg (on the right) was a normal egg and in fact I'm using them a lot for cooking. Its fun to have these very small eggs on rancho huevos, for instance, or on a spectacular plate of hash. I couldn't tell if the tiniest egg had a yolk or not because of the way it broke.. but my experience is that they usually do. How fun is that?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cannin' frijoles and takin' names

Editors Note:  Today's title is dedicated to Summersweet Farms because the other day she was talking about "Splitting Wood and Takin' Names" - which I thought was fabulous! And she likes pie.

We've got weather moving thru today so I'm making the best of it and canning beans. That's right, you can can your own beans. Not just any beans, today its all about frijoles. These little beauties will be come refried beans one day.

All y'all know I don't have a vegetarian bone in my body but I do like beans for lots of reasons. Especially since you can slap some bacon on them or cook 'em up with a ham bone for a fabulous supper. Or one of our favorite things is my pal Drew's famous Black Bean and Corn Salsa. Last nite we made several-layer-nachos with some of our canned beans and it was spectacular. Especially as rancho huevos this morning.

Why can beans that you can get at the store for about a buck? Because a whole bag-o-beans is just a buck and today I got just a little over 7 pints of beans for my trouble. I used to think it would be a lot of work for nothing. But wow! Once you have home canned beans you won't go back to the ones you get in the store.

Not only are you avoiding all the who-knows-what with industrial canned goods, but you are making sure you know exactly what is going in the beans. Hold the extra salt and shenanigans, please, and just do it yourself. Now is a great time of year to can beans. You should have a buncha empty jars and what else are you gonna do all day, watch tv? Nah, grab that pressure canner and do something useful - like can some beans.

The best online source for all things canning is Pickyourown.org and specifically here for how to can dried beans.

The steps are easy:

1. Either quick or overnight soak the dried beans of your choice.
2. Drain well, then use new water to simmer them up for 30 minutes.
3. Load up the jars leaving a full inch of headroom, add a little salt if desired.
4. Top off with the still hot water from the beans, or new boiling water. Make sure you still have an inch of headspace.
5. Seal up the jars and process, process, process.

And voila - canned beans!

I made refried beans the old school way. In a hot skillet with a little lard until they where warm, mashed 'em with the back of a spoon, hit 'em with a shot of tabasco...and hur-rah we got us some refried frijoles.

The only downside to canning beans - or any canning for that matter - is that it takes a while to process (75 minutes per my instruction manual) which is a whole lot of standing around watching the pressure-o-meter to make sure I don't blow up the house. Its a little irritating as my pal VeggiePak wrote to me one day - basically you have to keep a close eye on the dial to maintain the desired pressure by futzing around with the stove tmperature. But I make good use of the time and either use the time in the kitchen for blogging or baking.

My timer is about to go off so now I'll move the canner off the burner and just let it all sit overnight so that my jars seal. Then one day soon I'll have me some more holy frijoles. The only way they could be any better is if I grew and dried the beans myself - like what I'll do this summer.

Happy Monday everyone - now go and get your beans on!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coffee. Cake. Coffee Cake!

One of the best things about Germany is that its an entire nation devoted to the idea that coffee and cake is an inalienable right that should be enjoyed everyday. I love coffee. I love cake...Kaffee und Kuchen suits me just fine.

You should enjoy it too. I found this recipe in the latest Martha Stewart magazine - normally not farmy enough for me but the subscription was a gift. And she makes cake. See page 80 of the March 2011 edition. I finally found it re-written out online here if you don't take the magazine.

I modified the Cheese and Sour Cherry version shown in the side bar and used our blackberry jam. And there was no cheese involved, just jam. I thought the drizzle was too much so I left it out. Of course I used lard (not butter) the first time I made this...and butter shaken in a jar the second time. I liked the lard better - as I do for all pastries.

This is the perfect kind of thing to make when you are doing something else because there are a couple separate steps and two rises invoked. A KitchenAid is a great tool to make this easy peasy. I make the dough when I was skyping with my pal, Eliza, and just let it knead for 10 minutes. However, Eliza made me laugh as I reached over to turn off the mixer, and I accidentally shoved it to 'full speed' instead of 'off'...and the whole thing nearly went flying off the counter.


As yeast breads go, this couldn't be easier. I rolled it out and spread it with blackberry jam made last summer, sprinkled on some brown sugar and cinnamon (I don't sugar my jams), twisted it up and shaped it into a "U" or pretzel-y shape, sprinkled on the crumb topping, went and did something else for the final rise, and baked in a moderate oven for about 50 minutes, covered with foil, lowered the oven temp to about 315*, and baked for another 15 minutes.

Unfortunately the first picture (above) didn't show the twisted-up berry filling....and it didn't last long enough to get a better picture. Neither did the next one I made. Yikes!

Speaking of, my stove top espresso maker is done now.. so if you will excuse me, I got some Kaffee und Kuchen coming my way.
Happy Sunday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Farm Friends! Its The Truth About Farming, Chai Chai, now you understand

Hey is everyone participating in Verde Farm's Farm Friends Friday?  Check it out!

I'm actually celebrating two things on this Farm Friends Friday - first this is my first FFF and.... can you believe its been almost a whole year since our 'babe in the barnyard' asked me this question:

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

That's right.. it was about a year about that Chai Chai wondered what this whole farm this was about and what she was launching herself boldly into.. Now would you look at her?! Sheep, goats, and poultry of all kinds. Its only been a year and now she's the old pro sharing her knowledge and working that farm. Chai Chai, I'm really proud of all of your accomplishments. You go and farm it, girl, go and farm!

This is what I told her last year this time....The Truth About Farming.

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

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

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


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

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

Farming is one crazy ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Its not simpler but its better.

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

Happy Farm Friends Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I made cheese. Then I cut it.

And no. I'll never get tired of that stupid joke.

But behold... cheese.

This is one of the goudas I made late last summer. It turned out really gouda... I mean, good. Its kinda like a real provolone... not that that stuff you get at the deli counter. But a real, aged provolone. It melts and browns well, but not as creamily as say a mozzarella. And it shredded really well. The red cheese wax is removed before using. They say you can melt and reuse the wax again.

I used this cheese for cooking and also just to eat, unadorned.

We'll have goats milk soon and I'm gonna make cheese like no body's business all this summer. I'm extremely excited.

Here are a couple links about making your own cheese.

What you need to make cheese

Curds and whey and happy, happy clucks

Steps to make cheese

Come on everybody, its gonna be goat milk season soon. Lets all make cheese!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A tale of two sunrises

The natural lighting here is sometimes really interesting.  Take these two sunrises, just a couple days apart.

I wish I had a better camera but my little happy snap job was able to capture the spectrum - one all pink and purple. And the next blues and greys.

Hope everyone had a fabulous sunrise this morning! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anatomy of a dog fight

Actually, its not a dog fight at all.  Titan and Kai were just playing a couple days ago and I snapped these pix.

She loves to play, roughly, of course with the big dogs. Normally Lucky is in a big tumble with her but Ti gets into the fray also.

The great thing about these shots is that it shows how dogs use their bodies to rough house.  See how Ti uses his body to "intimidate" Kai, pushing her down into a submissive position?

In all this play they are "telling" each other who is the top dog and who is lower in the pecking order.

But in the tumble sometimes the big dogs let Kai be the big cheese. But only for a second...

Our big dogs use their huge paws to box each other. Here you can see how Ti is using paws to give Kai the business.

Even with all this rough and tumble, the big dogs don't ever hurt Kai. If she gets scared she yelps and they back off. But mostly she's the instigator. They are very patient with her constant bouncing around. When they have had enough they just get up and move away from her. She can be The Worlds Most Annoying Little Sister sometimes. But mostly she's just fun.

Watching the dogs play reminds me of how we use similar body language with our dogs. Even when we play we never let the dogs get the "upper hand."  The big dogs know they may never ever "mouth" or play bite on me. Kia is learning this too.

She is also learning that she may not box me or put her paws on me, especially if she is being pushy or wants something.  In fact, we don't teach our dogs to "shake hands" because its too close to this "boxing" which is a dominance behavior.  Good dogs keep their paws on the floor.

I also use my body when I'm working with the big dogs. Its not unusual for me to push and or "hip chuck" them if they are crowding me.  Or just goofing around. Normally, tho, we don't wrestle with the big dogs.

And it would be a very sad day for a dog who jumped up on me. We had to break Lucky of this bad habit. I think he did it twice after he came to live with us. 

When we play with Kai on the floor I mimic how Titan plays with her. I don't let her "get the upper paw" and I also make sure that I stand, kneel, or just lean over her. Then I decide when we are done playing and take her back to the dog area in the kitchen. Its important that your hard workin' farm dogs know that you are top dog and these are ways that teach them who's boss.

Twice recently I heard from other people about how their dogs growl at them. Friend, I'm here to tell you that your dog should never, ever growl at you even if you think its play. You should be able to walk up and take anything from your dog (food, toys, chew bones) without incident and certainly without growling. Because we've always reinforced that we are the Boss Dog we've never had a problem. But if you dog is growling at you, run, don't walk, to get help from a dog trainer.

Its just one more lesson our little Kai is learning about how to be a good dog. Good thing she has a big brothers to teach her the ropes!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Now, who has a good dog?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Miss Blue or Mr. Noodles? ** UPDATE

This is definitely one of the most beautifully colored chicks we've ever had. She was one of Floppy's Five from her fall hatch. But the thing is... I can't tell if she's a pullet or a young roo.

You can click on the picture to enlarge it. Her black feathers have a dark blue tinge.

She/he acts like a roo - running with another roo, sometimes wildly, and is a little flighty. But then Black Jack, our mature roo from early last spring, has been chasing her around giving her the business. This could just be a ..er...ahem...dominance behavior tho. And I've heard of cases where chickens actually change sex!

I caught her mid-shake but you can see her plume developing.

The other oddity is that he/she hasn't crowed, but she/he has the beginnings of this beautiful plumed tail.  His/her comb isn't a great indicator either as its a small rose comb. Our chickens with these kinds of combs tend to mature slowly so there is no way to tell now.

So I just don't know if this chicken will turn out to be Miss Blue or Mr. Noodles. Any body have any guesses?

Feb. 15th - UPDATE

Wouldn't you know it... DRAT! I went out this morning with the dogs and I heard crowing. Since I hadn't opened the hen house door I knew that one of the roos didn't make it in last nite but I figured it was the long legged red roo...Dang. And there was this blue one standing there crowing his fool head off. Well. There you have it.

Great work everyone who said roo. He can now be named Mr. Noodles and will be sent to glory on our next roo day. Drat drat drat. Oh well. Maybe we'll get a similarly colored pullet in this years hatch.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cut Rounds from Edwardian Farm

Does everyone remember when Ruth made those spectacular "cut rounds" for their tourist day on Edwardian Farm? I was so intrigued by the whole thing I just had to figure out how to make them.

My version of cut rounds right out of the oven. And yes those are cookies in the background. 
Don't hate me because I'm carby.

I found a couple websites that featured real Devon style scones and from what I could tell they are pretty much like a sweet biscuit.  Then I really struck gold when I found this exact recipe from the chef that was on the show.  The only problem is...

... I'm a victim of "new math" and I can't convert metrics to standard measurements. But I do know what a scone is and I've made biscuits plenty of times (but I'm guessing Ginny at Gingerbreads House would put us all to shame on that one!).

So while I can't tell you the measurements, I used all the ingredients listed...

...including buttermilk from making butter in a jar, that butter, and a splendid double yolker.  I also learned that one cup "self raising flour" in UK recipes can be substituted with one cup all purpose four plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I cut the butter into the dry ingredients, mixed in the eggs and buttermilk, then rolled them out. Baked in a hot oven for about 12 minutes.

I think they came out pretty good. I'm having them for breakfast with our home made blackberry and honey jam.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baggin' up and hanging low

The goat ladies are starting to show the signs that kidding season is upon us!

Nibbles, aka "Tubbie"... hanging low. She's almost as wide as she is long. As a comparison, this is what Nibble should look like. At any moment her belly might actually drag along the ground. She still has about a month to go!

Debbie, who never gets very round is starting to make an udder in preparation for the babies. This is also called "bagging up" in goat speak. Her body will make the first milk, or colostrum, which is so important for babies.

Its getting to be about time

Debbie is a heavy milker anyway but when she's about to kid (have her babies) she will have a really full udder. Sometimes this can happen all at once - we went out about a week ago and poof! Her previously empty udder was getting full, now its getting really full.  Soon it will look like its about to burst and look shiny. That's when you know to get your bottle of tequila and call the 4H neighbor kid.

When she is getting ready to kid your doe may also start to act funny. While she always ran away from you before, now she might want you to rub her all over. She might be moony and looking around with a funny look in her eye. She will start digging a nest. Or if she is Nibbles she will lay there and moan. For hours. And she may not eat but I'm pretty sure Nibbles was eating while she was kidding so that may not mean anything.

Debbie's beautiful udder - makes me think of cheese...

Because Debbie was acting funny I asked the Good Neighbor Mom and her 4H Kid to come over last nite and evaluate the situation. They laughed at Tubbie and then got to business checking Debbie over. The first thing they did was feel the ligaments around Debbie's tail.

Normally the ligaments at the base of her tail feel very hard - almost like bones. But when kidding is getting close the legaments get all mushy and in fact you might be able to (gently!) pinch your thumb and forefinger around her tail. One of the signs that labor is eminent is that your does tail will be held at a funny angle - like its broken or about to fall off. Don't panic this is normal (but you should panic because labor will begin soon).

The Good Neighbor Mom and the 4H Kid both declared that Debbie's "ligs were gone" and then excitedly looked at the goat's lady bits. As I am the most modest person on earth I put a bucket over my head with embarrassed while they ooohed and aaaaahed.  And no, I'm not putting pictures of that up on this blog. Suffice it to say your doe's hoo-hoo will be swollen and goopy when its time. Debbie isn't to that stage, yet.

My experts said that it will probably be within a week. We agreed that the next big weather change - which will be this weekend - will probably bring it on. Normally we would count on the next full moon but that's a couple weeks away (probably when Nibbles will kid) and there is no way Debbie will last that long.

When you live without a real sense of time, other than the daylight hours and the season, you learn that the phases of the moon and changes in nature really have an effect on not only animals but people. I'm not talking about astrology - but the "farmers almanac" type of how the moon and the earth's gravity affects living things, water tables, tides and such.  So we take these things under consideration. Debbie doesn't care if she's due on Tuesday but the barometric pressure change will probably get things going.

We'll be keeping a close eye on things. With this extreme cold weather we set up a heat lamp, put a lot of fresh bedding down, and made sure everyone was comfortable.  I'll do extra checks on the goats and keep the 4H Kid's phone number close.

Happy Thursday everyone! Now lets hope for 2 beautiful doelings from Debbie!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hoop houses - good for turkeys!

Want turkeys but don't want to build a permanent structure? Have lions, tigers, bears, or wolves so you don't want your birds to run free? Or how about...do you just want a great farm project with a million uses?

Make a hoop house!

Last summer I visited my pal and Farm Master, Bourbon Red, to learn more about how to build a hoop house. You can read the official instructions and get a complete materials list here.

This project was 10x12', used 3 16' panels for the hoop part, a couple of horse fence sections for the end, a tarp for the cover, and a door made of materials on hand. The cost of goods was about $200 and was really pretty easy. You'll need a mitre saw to make a couple of 45* cuts and I'd suggest using deck screws to put the whole thing together (I never nail because I usually rip everything apart at some point). Get a sack of zip ties, some of those heavy duty fence staples, a helper, and you are in business.

If you're short like me the hoop houses are big and roomy enough to walk around in without bonking your head. And you can really fance them up with perches...

and nest boxes.

Five gallon buckets make great nest boxes.

You can use this method to make a hoop house of any size. These big ones can be pulled with a tractor as long as you go slow so you don't run over your birds.

A couple of things I learned about the construction are:

* Use zip ties to secure the hoop panels side by side for additional support.
* Using standard size lumber, the hoop roof will be slightly longer than the base...which is great - you have a slight overhang -- thats the end for your door.
* To make the hoop, secure one end of the panel loosely on the top of one of the rails with those big fence staples, then gently walk toward the base with the other end of the panel (the panel will arch up to make the hoop roof), and have someone hold it in place on that second side rail while you whack in the staples.  Then go back and secure the staples on the first side.

Closed end. Turkeys happily popping all around.

Door end, see the over hang?

For smaller birds you probably want to run chicken wire on the inside of the hoop to keep them in... or to keep predators out. We are pretty cautious so we'd probably lock our birds inside a permanent structure (coop in a house) at night. But I know folks who don't. If you are concerned you could run hot wires/electric mesh around the yard as extra protection.

There are tons of uses for hoop houses - for creepy meat chickens, for instance. And being able to move it around allows them to graze on fresh grass without worrying about their safety. You could also use structures like this for small stock or for storing hay or straw. Or remove the tarp and use plastic and you have a green house.

This is definitely going to be one of our projects this summer. Who's hoopin' with me?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Killer...I mean... silly gooses

I have to tell you, friends, I love our geese. Really. They are absolutely hilarious, especially today. I don't know what it is about these big goofy birds. I'd have a whole field of them if I could.

Here are a few happy snaps of our feathered friends...

The Meeps in the morning sun. Remember when they were so little and cute?  DB (the grey Toulouse) and Little G (the white Embden/Roman Tufted) were the two goslings hatched too late to be accepted by our main flock. They were raised in our front garden and now reside with the goats during the day.

DB and Little G square off with OD and the rest of the main gaggle in their daily rumble at the fence line.  Mostly its just a big honking mess.

But OD, my arch nemesis, caught sight of me and tried to give me the business. Frustrated with having such short little legs and no ability to fly...

...he tried coming thru the fence at me. But his rage was denied and I lived to mock him for another day.

So they all just stood there and gave me funny looks...

...really, really funny looks.  Like I was completely out of my mind. Then they just shuffled away. I love those geese.

Any body else got crazy waterfowl?
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