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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

They're here. Finally!


They are here... let the picking begin! 

Oh... did you think I was talking about Debbie's babies? Nah.... she's still holding them in. I've decided to just ignore her and see if that works. But I had the Neighbor Gal come and take a look at her just in case and her verdict was the babies will get here when they are ready.

Happy Friday everyone! Are you picking berries or waiting on baby goats?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dahli Babies!

The words,"DAHLI! Those aren't your babies!" Will probably live in infamy around here for a while.

Oh Dahli..... what a goof.

So there I was, yesterday, walking along. It was hot. Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take that kind of hot. But I was out there working in it all day. By the goat house. From time to time I'd walk by to see if poor Debbie was in active labor yet. Nope. Nothing.

On one of my passes I saw little ones trying to nurse on Dahli and I thought, "That's cute... Daisy's babies couldn't resist Grandma Dahli's big ol' udder.... That Dahli tho, what a goof."  And then I yelled over my shoulder, "DAHLI! Those aren't your babies!"

And I just kept walking.

But then I turned around and ran back. Fast. I did a head count of little goatlings.... Then I did a butt count of little goatlings and I kept getting the same answer: Six. SIX!?!

Ohmigosh, Dahi - those ARE your babies!

So Sneaky Pete Dahli pulls off surprise babies - again.

Signs of impending labor = zero
Peeps heard = zero
Not having a front row seat = priceless

However I think this makes me The Worst Goatherd EVER.  Sheesh!

Dahli Baby #1

Believe me I was very surprised. I carried the new babies - who, I might say in my defense look just like Daisy's babies - and drug Dahli over to the Turkey House. Once again...the unused luxury birthing suite.

Dahli Baby #2

Dahli immediately shoved her face in the feeder and acted like nothing happened. The babies are huge. One boy, one girl.... and seriously they are huge!

I stood agog and, as it often happens, Dahli looked at my blankly.

Just so's ya know... new babies sleep like this. But look at Dahli's huge udder! Whoot!

So there you have it.

Seriously. How much bigger could it get?

Meanwhile, Debbie's big ol' udder just keeps getting bigger. Come on, Deb, we're all waiting for you....

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you have a sneaky goat?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Boop! Wiggle wiggle wiggle

This happened the other day. Honestly, they are so stinkin' cute...

Still nothing from Debbie... she's had it. Yesterday was so hot all she could do was drag her big ol' udder over to the goat yard and lean against a tree.

On the upside, both Darla and Daisy are doing great with the milking. Daisy is going to be a mega milker and a total superstar.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are there boops and wiggles going on in your goat yard?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Goats vs the Apple Tree

This is what happens when you don't fence off the one apple tree in the goat grazing area. Ugh!


We had been watching the goats like a hawk in this yard - they never even turned their head toward this apple tree that we dug out of the underbrush. The one day.... the only day we weren't around... and those goats stripped the bark right off this poor tree.

It's bad. Real bad.

Yeah we moved the fence but I'm not sure if there is anything we can do for this tree. Anybody have any ideas?

All I can think about is all that cheese I'll be able to make.

In the meantime... poor Debbie. She is really tired of being pregnant. This has to be over soon for her. The last time her udder was this big was when she had triplets. Yikes!  Hopefully today will be her lucky day. She can barely walk and is so miserable. It was so bad that she came over and leaned against ME! So you know she is hurting. Come on, Debbie! Let's get those babies on the ground!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Is your best milker draggin' her teats on the ground?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Crazy Daisy Babies!

Look what happened yesterday!  Daisy had her babies.... they weren't a total surprise but of course we weren't ready.

 Hey look at this baby! She's huge!

We went out for chores and Daisy came skipping out like normal. Then when I went to get the food she went back into the goat house. Dang. We couldn't even get her moved into the luxurious birthing suite in the Turkey House.

It was taking a long time. We pulled up a chair. We went into the house to get something to eat. I went and mowed the yard. After a while we just had to "do" something.

Of course you know the only thing I was gonna "do" was march over to the neighbors house. I went over under the guise of bringing them some extra tomato plants but that was a complete sham. I wanted our Neighbor Gal.

Gosh, she is terrific. She had to go to work in minutes but still came over to evaluate Slow-As-Cold-Tar-Daisy. Before I knew it, I was holding Daisy's head and the Neighbor Gal was doing something horrible with Daisy's business end.

Then in a flash a HUGE doeling was on the ground. No wonder Daisy couldn't get that baby out! She was bigger than Darla's babies are now and they have been out and about for a while.

The Neighbor Gal had to go to work - not a drop of ick on her shirt - so she put on her shades and walked back home. I was agog. Seriously. She's one of my favorite people.

We agreed that I would let her know what happened - there was clearly another baby in there.

I nervously went back to the goat house and peeped in. A few minutes later a hoof appear. Um. Yeah that's not entirely right... so I went and got the Big Man and said he had to "DO" something. He informed me that he had just taken a shower. Yeah well. Whatever. We marched out to the goat house and peeped in.

There we stood. Two brave folks. Looking.

"Well. DO something." I said.

"No.. you. Just pull it out." He said.

"Oh hell no."

This went on for a while.

Finally the braver of us gently pulled that little hoof, followed by a nose, a shoulder and out popped the second baby. He was huge too!

Daisy immediately knew exactly what to do. The babies nursed without any help from us. Later when we went out to check on them they were running around like they owned the place. We were agog. Seriously. They look like they are old enough to take the truck, drive on down to town, and buy some beer. These bruisers are already ready for action.

And Daisy's udder is divine. I might have declared yesterday that, "I can't WAIT to get my hands on those teats." Which, even in the best context, still sounds kind of weird.

So thanks, Daisy, for these terrific two babies! A doeling and a buckling which seems to be the trend this year.

Next up - Dahli and Debbie. Debbie is huge and her teats are basically dragging the ground. I'm sure it's going to happen soon.

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Don't forget this day isn't just about barbequing and picnics. I love this story. If you know a veteran get them in one of these programs. These dogs aren't just a family pet - they are highly trained service animals who help folks recover from wounds visible...and not seen. We pray God's hand on our active duty military personnel, we ask for peace and healing for our veterans, and we remember those who were lost. Amen and amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sneaking. Kidding.

So this happened on Tuesday...  Oh Darla you are just like your momma aren't you?

Say "hello" to the new kid, designation, "Darla Baby One."

I went out to do chores and I heard tiny little goatling cries. So I ran faster, threw opened the door of the goat house... and there were two little cream puffs looking at me. The only one more surprised than me was Darla. She had no idea what was going on.

I had no idea what was going on because she was supposed to be due next week.

She really wasn't getting the hang of the momma thing at all and apparently all those experienced goat mommas just let her figure it out herself. Darla wasn't getting it. Seeing as no one else was around - I sprung to action. And by "sprung to action" I mean I turned around and ran into the house.

Don't worry - this has a happy ending.

Eventually I summoned up some courage, found some towels, and marched back out there. One of the babies was up and around and completely dry. The other.... wasn't doing so well. She was shaking and obviously in distress - and still wet.

I wrapped her in a towel and rubbed her vigorously. That didn't do the trick so I tried to give her back to Darla who just looked at me blankly. I tried to get the little one to latch on the tap... and that didn't work either. So you just know what happened next. Yep. I shoved her in my shirt.

She was too big to actually fit in my bra... I mean.. my personal mobile incubator... so I made due by sticking her in my shirt. I was aiming for between my tshirt and sweatshirt and missed. Luckily for her she hit bare skin and instantly warmed up and calmed down. I however did not calm down because I then had sticky goat yuck on my bare skin. I very nearly barfed and I'm sure that I have some kind of skin disease now.

Unhindered, and taking one for the team, I grabbed the least likely hero - Nibbles - and ran her directly to the milk stand. Nibs is no angel - I knew she'd do anything for a handful of corn. So I gave her a half a shake of the forbidden golden snack... and stuck the now-warm baby on Nibbles' teat. She latched on and drank her fill. Nibs couldn't have cared less if an alligator was nursing - she just wanted more corn. I gave it to her and soon the baby was milk drunk, warm, and drowsily looking around. Everyone was happy but me because I knew I'd have to shower in bleach to get the goat yuck off of me.

Zander thought me running around with a fresh baby in my shirt was amazing.

The dogs thought this was the most amazing thing they'd ever seen and Kai immediately volunteered to "keep the baby warm." No dice, but nice try, Princess.

Darla took the baby back without question... altho she still had no idea what was going.

And there I was on the horns of a big problem. You see, she wasn't due until next week. I even used Dahli's early kidding date to calculate when the Goat Avalanche of 2014 would start. But alas my plans fell to ruin.

Everything ended with happy babies.

So I had absolutely no supplies, nowhere to put her, and to top it all off... they were working on the road right by our driveway. Not that I could have gone anywhere because my truck was not available. And no, there was no way my husband could come home early for work. Stuck. I was stuck.

And then I checked the rest of the goats and Debbie was acting funny. Oh superDUPER.

I quickly formulated a plan and got to work. In no time I had found as much fresh straw as possible, set up one side of the Turkey House, and was dragging an uncooperative Darla across the yard. I got her and the babies installed and.... somewhat predictably she just looked confused. And then she didn't really seem that interested in the babies.


So guess what I did? Yep. I got the dog. It's an old trick and can be risky. But if you introduce a predator sometimes the mommy-instincts come rushing back and she'll move to protect the babies. Or she'll totally freak out and if you have her in a too-small space she might trample the little ones. So know your dog and your goat. But Darla took the babies back and has been doing a great job.

Wednesday morning I drug a still uncooperative Darla to the milkstand. I figured this was going to be a disaster. But I also knew the power of a handful of cracked corn. She reluctantly climbed up in the stand and started eating while I went to get the babies.

I stuck the little ones on the tap and acted like nothing very interesting was going on while I sneakily snuck a little dish under Darla. Then I milked her. Oh yes I did and she stood there like a champ.

Easy. Peasy.

I figured it would be a fight but she either has this momma and milking thing down or she was just so confused she didn't know what to do.

She was still uncooperative on the way back to the Turkey House so I just picked up one of the little ones and put it ahead of Darla on the path back. She hurried along then without any problem.

So that's what happened. But nothing happened with Debbie. Yet. At this writing she is giving me googly eyes and talking to her belly so I'm guessing things will get interesting soon.

Happy Thursday everyone! Did anyone sneak some goats into your yard?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We Butchered a Goat

So... we butchered a goat on Sunday.  Not Nibbles. It was great. The meat is terrific. This could be our best project ever. There is a reason that goat meat is the most popular meat, worldwide. The only reason I can think of that it's not more popular here in the States is because we have plenty of room for cows. People, we need to start a goat meat revolution here!

 Look at Pepper if you think you will be upset. Isn't she beautiful?

At this point I'll allow tender folks and goat snugglers to opt out and provide ample warning that we are gonna talk about butchering a goat. Yes a goat. That soft eyed little lovekins you have in your yard. We butchered one and we don't even feel bad. If you feel bad then don't read on. This is not a step by step but just an account of what happened. There is only one picture of meat on a table, a couple stupid jokes, and a fair amount of insensitivity. If you feel the need to tell me you are a vegetarian and blah blah blah I will not publish your comment. I am clear on your position. If you are going to cry then please look at beautiful little Pepper and then look away. Come back tomorrow, I'm sure we'll talk about tomatoes. 

First, I'll say that guy had it coming. Yes I'm talking about Tommy Boy. After Nibbles had her babies I think she went back into heat because he was on a mission to get to her. He might have actually gotten her which is a problem because I don't know what I'd do with babies in October. He was also wildly in rut and becoming not only a pain but a little dangerous. Sure he was not a full sized Boer, but I need to work in the barnyard and not worry about bending over to pick up a feed dish and him conking me on the noggin.

The final straw was when he destroyed the door of the turkey house. So I went out there, chased him down, drug him back and relocked the door. Then Kai started barking and again there he was... he had jumped thru the glass window!  Unfortunately his zeal cost him is position a this farm. I do not have time for that kind of foolishness.

So we boldly marched out there on Sunday morning. The problem was that there is not a ton of information on how to effectively butcher a goat. I supposed it was much like processing a deer. I read what I could and all I could surmise was that everyone is different and there is no "right" way. So as always we did what works best for us.

Before we let any of the barnyard inhabitants out we went and got our volunteer. We walked him to a spot near a tree with a sturdy branch, secured the trotters so there would be no running away, I ran away to the deck to stand with the dogs, and my husband provided the kill shot. It worked. It was not dramatic. Easy peasy. We would suggest a downward shot to the back of the head with a bigger-than-a-.22-slug.

Then hubs used a sharp, boning knife to cut the throat just behind the jaw (to preserve as much of the neck as possible) to allow the bleed out. This worked really well. Then the dogs and I looked at each other and shrugged. That was it.

We used a 'come-along' to hoist the carcass as to hang it from the sturdy branch. This worked great. Then I got the dogs and let them sniff all around. They thought it was terrific.

Then we went and did chores. The chickens showed up and they thought it was terrific.

The goats were all peeping out from under the goat house door when I went to let them out. Mostly they wanted to be fed but Nibbles walked down the hill and gave me a questioning look. But she forgot all about it when I brought out the feed scoop. I don't think they thought it was terrific but they they didn't seem overly concerned.

Look how much meat we got! This was a small, "mini" type goat. But tons of meat.

Then we had to get down to business. To be sure this was a first for us and a trial run. We figured if the meat was bad, it was too hard to butcher, or we were just creeped out then we'd just toss the carcass on a huge burn pile and be done with it. But we sure wanted to give it a go.

The first thing I learned was that this whole thing about how you skin and gut a carcass while it's hanging is for the birds. There was way to much flopping around and I was exactly at eye height with his.. um.. that is... uh.. "coin purse" which was freakin' me out, man. So we went and got my table, lowered the carcass, and got to work.

The skinning wasn't going smoothly so I asked my hubs to go and get my small, hooked paring knife. Instead he brought me my 12" cimeter and I skinned that carcass like a boss. It was awesome.

Because we had laid out the carcass on my worktable we just proceeded to gut and skin like we process pigs. I had a little trouble with the hip/pelvic bones but I think next time it will make more sense. Once again we used the sawsall to take off the trotters and to split the halves. This worked much faster but my meat saw worked just fine.

Then we just needed to quarter up the sides and shove the whole thing in the fridge to cool down.

We had heard so many stories of how the meat from a buck would be stanky, gross, tough, etc that we had no idea what to expect. So I took off the hocks - the lower leg bones - and we fired up the grill eager to see what we got ourselves into. Soon the outside smelled like BBQ heaven....

After double dog daring each other several times, calling each other's courage into question, and some chest beating... we took a small piece of cooked meat.. and ate it.

It was marvelous. Not lamby, not beefy, not porky... but something between lamb and pork. It was tender and mild and not stanky.

As there wasn't much meat on the hocks I gave one to each dog, thusly securing their love for me. They thought it was terrific.

We also couldn't find any consistent information about if or how long we should chill or age the meat. My trusty friend, J, provided the most sensible advice which was if we were gonna cook it then fire it up... and if we were gonna freeze it then let it rest in the fridge for a day or two. So that's what we did.

One thing that made the most sense, tho, was the idea that much of the goat meat is consumed in hot climates.. so there is no refrigeration. I'm guessing they just proceed with the cooking. As I understand it, goat meat is pretty lean so you need to use lower heat so it doesn't get tough.

Our first goat meat experiment was last nite - I made a stir-ish fry. I love meat fried up in a pan so I got out my favorite cast iron pan, heated it up, added some chicken fat then tossed in some meat pieces. With zero spices and no salt the first piece tasted like... meat. Yep. There you have it. It was not stanky or bucky or gross. Just meat.

So then I spiced up the rest of the pieces, tossed with flour and corn starch, fried it up, added some peppers and green beans and voila.... General Tsao's Goat Meat. It was terrific. I'm just about to go and make fried rice with the left overs. Today I'm going to marinate some meat in yogurt, make pita's and we'll have kebabs. It will be terrific.

How about some Q and A with typical questions that I normally receive when we do this kind of thing....

Q. EEEWWWWEEEEEEEE how could you DO that!?!? *gasps* But... but... wasn't that goat your FRIEND and did you LOVE him?
A. No. Calm down. It was not horrible. We'll just file this under "everyone had their own limit" so do what is best for you. Remember that we won't do meat rabbits - for no good reason. But this was very easy and we are not emotionally damaged. And it's now exceptionally peaceful and quiet in the barnyard which are the perfect conditions for me to go and fix the turkey house from all that damage.

Q. But... but wasn't there crying?
A. Only when the dogs saw that I was bringing them a tray of meat... then there were real tears of love in their eyes.

Q. What tools did you use?
A. A gun, a boning knife, my bad assed cimeter, a paring knife, my meat saw, and the sawsall (because it was faster). We worked on an outside table, had the hose nearby, and a big garbage can so we could just dump all the guts right in there. Easy peasy. You can also check out my Amazon store for all our butcher day tools, with links to my knives and such.

Q. Are you sure the meat isn't gross, gamey, stanky?
A. Seriously. It's not. And I was a little surprised. That guy was stanky in life but as meat it's just mild and delicious. We took care not to contaminate the meat from any ...um... spillage. I was worried that the hair would make the meat stanky... which is why we mostly skinned the carcass before we got to the gutting.

Q. What are you going to do with the meat?
A: Eat it. We'll use it like we use all the meat we grow - fried up in a pan, I might grind some, but I'll cut most of it up into chunks so we can grill it as kebabs or use in General Tsao's Goat Meat. And curry... I gotta make a curry. 

Q. Will you do this again?
A: Oh yes. This was such a raging success that we are thrilled with the results. In fact we are hoping for a slew of bucklings so we can load up the freezer. This has revolutionized everything. Our only regret is that we waited so long.

Q. But now you don't have a buck for breeding this fall.
A. We'll get another - around here they are a dime a dozen. We just won't wait so long this time.

So that's what happened. We are completely sold on goat meat and are absolutely excited that we have learned a new skill.

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Is anyone freaked out too bad? Do you think you can butcher a goat? I know you can, come on now... lets get this goat meat revolution underway!

Editor's note: How could I possibly be so insensitive as to include affiliate links to my Amazon store in a post about butchering a goat!?!? Well because folks always ask what tools - exactly - we use. I've tried to say "a boning knife" but then people ask, "which one." So that's why. It's not predatory marketing I'm just trying to answer the questions. And that cimeter is totally bad ass so you should get one. Just don't cut your hand off, seriously it's for professionals. Remember, anything you buy from Amazon by clicking on these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. 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. You can buy anything - hopefully something you need anyway. Thanks!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Moving the fenceline. Again.

We are always moving our fences. The other day we moved the goat fencing. Again. I had this dream that I'd already have this lower field all mowed and planted... but you know. Farming. You can't ever get ahead.
New fenceline and my chair where I had to watch goats goof around. 

So we broke down and moved the fence so the goats could graze it down for me. They are doing great. Nibs likes to get up on some of the wood piles.


Of course, those silly goats wouldn't just walk down the hill themselves. I think they are afraid there are wild pumas in the woods or something. So for the last several days I've been walking them down the hill and cooling my heels while the goats nibbled on this or that. And then this happened.

Really, Shine? Really? You aren't helping me. Dahli just wants to be your friend.

However, yesterday I couldn't see the goats in their yard and after a mild minute of panic and asking my Dog#1, "Where's the nannies!?!?".... he pointed out that the goats were in the new field. So everyone was happy. Good work, goats!

We finally have some clearing.

I have to remind myself that progress is being made - even tho I never feel like it. This is the same fence line as the fourth picture in this post. The Impenetrable Forest is slowly becoming grassland.

Now that the goats have figured out to just walk down there themselves I have high hopes that they will take care of all the blackberry, wild rose, and poison ivy. But they'd better hurry up. I really want to get this tilled and planted.

Goats in the field.

I have a couple of tutorials on how to put up or move fence - even if you don't know what you are doing. The push in posts and having a roll of wire at the ready makes this project super easy. Just make sure you unplug the fence before you do anything!

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

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

The story of Nibs' life.... "Hey guys! Wait for me!"  They didn't.

Happy Sunday everyone! Are you moving fences?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Four Grey Paws

Bitty and Nicholas napping in the sun.....

 Four Grey Paws

Bitty is our smallest and Nicholas is our biggest cat. Bitty is just a handful but Nicholas can easily reach the counter tops if he stands up on his back feet. He's got at least 10 pounds on her... but somehow they make it work. I love their four grey paws all in a heap.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 16, 2014

What to Know Before You Get a Goat

We are looking down the barrel of Goat-a-palooza 2014 sometime in the next 10 days. Due to poor planning and lack of foresight all four of our full sized goats (Debbie, Dahli, Daisy, and Darla) will be due on about the same day. Soon.

Two of four pregnant girls. Zoikes!

It's finally sinking in that one day I will have 4 big goats... and the next day I'll have at the least 8 goats. Or 12. Or 16. Or worse.

So I'll need to sharpen up on my marketing skills to sell all those moneymakers... I mean, doelings. There is a strong possibility that we will keep the buckings for the first annual Goat BBQ this fall. But we'll see how that goes.

Selling animals on Craigslist is easy enough. But sometimes you want to be a little more careful. I've had two livestock sales that I deeply regretted and one that still makes me mad. So to make it easier on buyers and sellers here are a few things that newbie and wannabe goat owners should know:

1. Know what you are getting into. Do your research first. If your first question to me is, "What should I feed the goat?" I'll thank you for your time and no, I'm not selling this little goatie to you. There are some great resources online and  you should buy and read this book. The fact is, I don't know if I would have sold me Nibs and her sister... I'm not sure I was entirely ready but at least we knew were to look for answer and we knew who to talk to if we had questions.

2. I am not arranging any financial transactions with your kid. I don't care if your 12 year old is mature - you as the adult need to contact me and be responsible for any livestock I sell to you. YOU need to manage the bottle feeding of a 3 day old goat, not your child.

3. Your fencing isn't good enough. Nope, I don't even need to see it. But I assure you that it needs some work. Ask anyone who owns goats that this will be your toughest problem.

4. The initial cost to buy this goatie is not going to be your biggest expense. Due to some changes in Ohio's livestock care laws I am not longer taking responsibility for shots or any other young goat vet care. You will need to find a vet, get your new goat vaccinated, decide immediately if you want to get your newly acquired goat disbudded or dehorned, and when or if appropriate get your buckling neutered.

5. You need more than one goat. I don't care if you are going to carry this little goatie around in your purse and she's going to be your BFF. Goats are herd creatures and it will go badly if you only have just one. If you have just one, that little goatie will become a problem... a loud, destructive problem... and you will just dump it at the shelter - or worse.

6. There is no way on this green Earth I am selling you a doeling if you are a single man, living in city, with zero farm or livestock experience . No way. Now how. Nope. Creeper.

7. No take backs. This isn't Nordstroms and you aren't buying a Mercedes. There is no return policy so you'd better be sure about your purchase. I had someone who wanted me to take back some ducks because "they weren't emotionally bonded to them." No. Just... no. Aside from those folks having unreasonable expectations - and being weirdos - there are real bio-security issues with having livestock returned to your property. So... no. I'm not taking back your $5 duck because he won't snuggle you.

8. If you don't show up to the arranged meeting place you will not get a second chance. Sure I'll sit there and wait for you. As long as you keep me updated on your progress I'll wait for a good long time. But if you just don't show up then I"ll assume that you aren't responsible enough for livestock.

Mostly I've had good experiences with folks I've met thru livestock sales. But the bad ones... well. That regret stays with you for a while. There are never any guarantees so once that critter leaves your hands all you can really do is try to screen out the weirdos.... and hope it goes well for your livestock once they leave your possession.

As for now, I need to do a whole lot of shoveling out and cleaning up as we get ready for Goat Avalanche 2014. It's going to be a wild ride!  Who wants to buy a goatie?  No weirdos, no creepers, and no take backs.

Happy Friday everyone!

Editor's note:  Yikes! I snuck in an affiliate link to my Amazon store. But really this is a great book and if you have goats you should get it. Remember, anything you buy from Amazon by clicking on these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. 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. You can buy anything - hopefully something you need anyway. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How Good Is He?

I had an entirely different post planned for today but we had some sporty weather come thru last nite. Fortunately we were not in the tornado touch down area but the rotation from one of the storms was very close. So let's do a Throw Back Thursday and I'll get that other post up another day.

 Commander Zander FoeHammer Hannibal BoneCrusher.

Yesterday on 'the facebook' I mentioned that we were working with Zander on our command "Watch the Gate." He did fantastic. But then, if a huge wolf-like creature with the head the size of a steer is standing in the doorway - not many barnyard critters have the courage to try and run past. For his part, Zander stood in the doorway and did not try to charge in. Good dog.

Our "Watch the Gate" command originated when I needed a way to walk thru a door, or gate, with my hands full. Having my #1 Dog stand right at the gate and stop sneaky goats or chickens from running out makes is really easy to do my work. It's also good for keeping adorable little goats in their pens as seen in this video. I should note this is an extremely advanced working dog task and your mileage may vary.

My pal, L, asked why didn't I just close the door to the pen? Well, a couple reasons - first Titan was in with me because I was feeding baby goats. I was using him to control Dahli while someone else's babies nursed from her. Then I had him lick the babies clean - just like a momma goat would do. Dahli wasn't going to clean someone else's babies... and I'll do a lot of things but lick goats is not one of them. So Titan was doing a lot of things to help me.

Also because it's good for him to keep working. When I say he's with me all day I mean to tell you that he is always with me. He is always working even if that "work" is laying in the shade while I till the garden. At any second I can tell him, "Go scoot those chickens out of my garden" - then I can keep doing what I'm doing and he'll run the hens out. I can't tell you how much this helps me.

Is it always easy to have your dog with you? No. It's like having a monkey wearing socks on their hands follow you around all day - sure they are interested in what you are doing and are eager to help... but they are a little nutty and they are limited by the lack of opposable thumbs.

With younger dogs it's tough because you are always telling them, "leave it," "don't touch that," "go and sit down over there" and "WE DO NOT CHASE THOSE DUCKS GET BACK HERE!" It can be very frustrating but once they figure out what they should and should not be doing it really pays off.

My Exceptional Good Sir.

So how good is Titan?

First, I'm always amazed at how he remembers the different animals from year to year. He knew exactly what I was talking about the other day when I asked him "Where's the pigz" - even tho we didn't have pigz last summer. He also knew exactly what I meant when I asked him "Find the babies" - right after Nibbles had her babies earlier this spring.

But even better than that - he makes good choices. Last summer we were working in the Turkey House - actually we were cleaning it out and hunting rats. When we lifted up a board a huge rat jumped up and made a break for it.

"GET IT!" I commanded and Titan was on the job. But the rat darted under the wall between the two coops. Ti and I had to run out of the coop, outside the turkey house and into to the next door to get to the other coop. I flung open the coop door where the rat went and yelled "GET IT!"  He dove in.

No sooner had I opened the coop I realized that Nibbles and her babies were in that coop! That's right! Little rat sized goats right there and I just sent my #1 Dog in to "GET IT!"

In mid-leap and before I could scream NO!!!!  Titan had already stopped himself and turned around and was giving me a goofy look. It was like he was saying, "Momma... these are babies not rats!" The rat got away that day .. but at least the whole affair ended well.

We all had a good laugh except for Nibbles who didn't think it was funny at all.

Will Zander ever be that good? I don't think so - his prey drive is just too strong. But as we've seen he has really good instincts. His main job will be guarding me and keeping the malcontents in line so I'll be keeping him with me more and more. For a while it will be nothing but "put that down" and "don't touch that!"  But he'll get the hang of it.

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you working with your dog?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What's in your pig food?

We made a mistake when we went and got hog chow the other day. We were so overjoyed with our little oinkers that we rushed down to our local feedstore and asked for the "hog grower" appropriate for 50 pound porkers.

Little pig in the morning sun.

They threw two bags of it in the back of our truck, we raced home, ripped open a bag.... and.....Wait. This isn't the regular stuff.  So I ripped off the label so I could read it.... Oh no!

Medicated food.

Dang. Yep. Right there. Medicated, chock full of antibiotics just in the case them piglets get sick. Not that they ARE sick.. but you know... just in case. Everyone knows that most of the antibiotics used in this country are for livestock feed, right? The doctor will accuse you of drug seeking if you go in to get fixed up if you are sick....but then you can turn around and get tons of doctored up meat right in your grocery cold case. This doesn't make sense to me.

You'd think it doesn't make sense to anybody.

But then I took the unopened bag back to the feedstore the next day. Turns out they changed their hog feeds. So I told them we did not want medicated, we talked about it, reviewed the options... and I got their milled-on-location 18% hog feed.  All it has in it is corn, soy, and some lysine.

Sure they are used to my antics so the folks at the counter didn't say much when I said I didn't want the medicated chow but what struck me is how "obvious" it is that everyone else wants it. Folks just assume everyone wants the medicated feed.

In fact, when I went out to get loaded up with the new chow one of the loading boys couldn't believe that I didn't want the medicated chow.

"But it's good for them." He said in utter disbelief.

"It's not good for me, son" I said back... in utter disbelief.

Thusly the great divide..... traditional farming vs traditional farming. The difference is how back the tradition goes. We go a far piece further than most.... we go back before you didn't have to prop up your livestock with unneeded medicine to get them to grow.

And the fact is, I'm allergic so some of the antibiotics and - for reasons I'll explain at a later date - there's no guarantee that we can keep the poultry or the goats for that matter out of the wrong feed. So I'd never know if the medicated feed got into the milk or the eggs. Sure it's just a little bit - but every little bit makes it worse.

Plus, I'm not so interested in rushing headlong into the post-antibiotic world. If I wanted meat fed out with drugs then I'd just buy it from the store.

So there you have it, friends. Don't be so excited about your porklets that you rush in and buy the wrong hog chow.

That's all I have to say about that today. We've been out since early - someone put a rush order on summer and so me and the dogs are already over heated and it's not even noon. Bubby was so hot he just laid himself down and refused to move until I told him to go inside and lay on the air conditioning vent.

Happy Tuesday everyone. Be sure to check your feed labels.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Garden Update and Planning

Depending on who you ask we either are or we aren't really at the "last frost date." The weather guy said that it will be 86* tomorrow but there is a chance for patchy frost on Friday morning. Of course, I've already thrown caution to the wind and have been planting like mad.

I was lucky to find flats of veggies on sale for just $8 this weekend. This is one of the weird things about Ohio - they seem to want to rush the season and then all of the gardening seeds, plants, and supplies just .... disappear. It's kind of like no one wants to do mid-season or fall planting. I'm not sure why this is - but it's why I grab up all the seeds I can while they are available.  Last year there was not one Blue Lake green bean seed to be found when it was actually time to plant.

This year I'm much more wise to the limited seed availability game and I'm much more organized. In fact, I've turned to my favorite gardening book. It's by John Jeavonsand it's really helping me with planning.

One of the thing he offers in the book is a garden map of what to plant where (taking advantage of companion planting and crop rotations)... but even better it provides a week by week guide to what seeds to get started and when to plant the seedlings. He provides tasks and a seed starting schedule by weeks before the last frost... what to plant after the last frost... and then what to do before the first frost in the fall. It's really terrific.

Jeavons' planis really helping me get organized. He provides a worksheet in the book that was super easy to put into a spreadsheet so I know exactly what to do on which day.

Even better than having a plan this book is teaching me that, now that I have my greenhouse, starting seeds in trays is really helping. Previously I've just tried to direct sow seeds but I'm really learning that starting them in trays is a better strategy especially with my bad soil.

The greenhouse keeps everything warmer and I can control the amount of moisture so even with the extra step of transplanting the seedlings... I think I'm further ahead.

We got a good soaking rain last nite and this morning so I won't be able to work in the garden. But today is a perfect opportunity to work in the green house. I'll be starting more trays of veggies including carrots, spinach, and more lettuce.

Thanks John Jeavons for such a terrific gardening book!

Happy Monday everyone! Are you starting seeds in trays? How is your garden growing?

Editor's note:  Check it out - these are affiliate links to my Amazon store. Thank you for all your purchases! Remember, anything you buy from Amazon by clicking on these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. 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. You can buy anything - hopefully something you need anyway. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pig Installation - 100% Complete!

Yesterday I promised to give the full scoop on how we got the oinkers home and into their new digs. Transporting livestock can be tricky - even if you have a truck. Sure you might be able to get them loaded... but the real fun begins when you get home.

Pigz love mud.

We got the pig fencing and most of the basics set up before we left on the Bacon Express the other morning. This was easy because we just used to lower goat yard - which is where most of our bacon seeds are initially planted. We use this yard because it's easy to see from the house, it has great perimeter fencing, it has electric hotwire already set up, and the Hog Hut 2010 still stands in all its slap-dashed-together, magnificent glory.

Pretty much the only real prep we needed to do was recheck the fence, add a small piece of field fence in one corner, move the empty bee hive (so sad), and go around and find the feeder and waters. Then we put some straw in the back of my husbands crappy little truck with a cap on the back...and away we went.

How did I find these pigz? I asked. They were not advertised and frankly I was starting to get worried. So when I saw a guy advertise a boar.... I sent an email and asked if he had feeders and was he willing to sell? He did and he was. So we exchanged particulars and headed right over with cash.

Truck full of hot pork.

After a short tour of his operation the guy pulled The Three Little Pigz out of his mob of smallish pigs, we put them in the back of the truck, secured the cap door so they wouldn't try to get out, and drove home as fast as we could.

Seeing as it was a hot day our biggest concern was getting them home before they croaked. Pigz are sensitive to heat and since they don't sweat they are hard to cool off. That's why they like the mud so much. But having hot pork in the back of a truck for a pretty good drive was tricky business. This is also why we were ready to get them installed as soon as we drove in.

The first thing I did when we got home and got out of the truck was.... I got the dog.


Yep. I got the dog. The first very thing. Technically I got all of them but I really wanted my Dog#1. I asked him, "Where's the pigz?"

Titan could smell the pigz about 3 miles out so he purposefully trotted directly over to the truck and stood there looking at them, breathing in all their blissful, stinky aroma.

Why did I get the dog first? Because if the pig installation went bad that those squealers made a run for it I knew that I could have Dog#1 "Find the pigz."

Dogs on alert - check.

Next we got the trash can.


Yep. The trash can. A big rolling trash can is a good way to transport over heated, freaked out meat.

Ham in a can

While I guarded the tail gate the Big Man reached in and grabbed one of the pigz by the back leg.


Yep. That's how you carry them. No, it doesn't hurt them and their back legs are convenient handles. If you don't believe me just try to pick one up like a snugly kitten and let me know how that goes for you.

The first pig was deposited into the trash can and we trundled across the yard, thru the gate, down the goat yard, and then plopped that pig right out onto the ground. He laid there dazed for a while. We went to get the rest of them.

Goats in "udder" disbelief.

By this time the goats were stomping and snorting and doing that weird alarm-sneeze thing.  They were outraged. The dogs were lined up on the deck thinking this was the best show in town.

The other two pigz were trolleyed across the yard in similar fashion. There were no escape attempts.

Next we got a cool wallow going for them. We ran the hoses down the hill and filled a low spot near the still terrified pigz with water. They instantly flopped over to it and dramatically threw themselves down into the mud. They they figured out that mud was fun to root around in. They were in hog heaven.

Mostly they laid in a heap in abject terror for most of the afternoon. One by one we brought the dogs down to check out the fresh meat. One by one the goats came down to scare themselves and register their formal complaints. Debbie nervously leaned against me and I comforted her by saying things like, "Tough too bads, Goat, get over it." She got mad and stomped away.

We gleefully watched the meat for a while - making sure they weren't dead. When they got a little more active we got them some food then they really thought they hit the jack pot. We didn't bother trying to overwhelm them by introducing their luxurious accomodations.... as expected they just found a spot in the yard, lined up like hot dogs in a package, and went to sleep. They were still there when I checked on them the next morning.

My Dog Horde. Well trained for pork battle.

Every time we go outside I say to the dogs, "Where's the pigz?" and they all thunder down the hill and look for the oinkers. Dog#1 is all business, Dog#2 noodles around, and Kai and Zander get that prey-look in their eyes. It's glorious. If the pigz ever get out The Dog Horde will be upon them in seconds. Kai and Zander are already "Guarding Momma" while we are near the pigz so I'm as safe as kittens.

So now our Pig Installation is 100% complete and all we need to do is stand around, feed them out on the cheap, and dream of bacon.

Click here for a list of all of my posts on How to Raise Backyard Pigz for Meat instructions. This page shows everything from what to feed them pigz to how to part up a side of pork to feed yourself and everything in between.

We'll have more as we go along but now I need to get outside. As soon as we walk out I'll ask the dogs, "Where's the pigz?"

Happy Friday everyone! Do you have you pigz installed?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Three Little Pigz

It has begun. They are here.

The incursion has begun. We plan for battle at the first snowfall.

Yesterday we drove several towns over and picked up a load of porkers. We raced home and threw the pigz in the lower goat yard, much to the horror of the goats. At first the three little pigz laid there in a heap. Then they began to mill around doing pig stuff.

The pigz loved the mud. 

The dogs were amazed.

Nibbles was not. 

The face of pure evil.

I believe these pigz are plotting my doom. But I shall have the last laugh. We are naming them "This one," "That one," and "Soon."  Two of them will live a delightful life in our back woods until early winter... but Soon will be coming to dinner...er... soon. He'll be lucky if he makes it to mid summer. All I can do is dream of chops.

That's all I can say about it for now. Today promises to be the hottest day for a while and I need to get right out there before it gets too hot to work.  More tomorrow including the complete details of Pig Installation 2014.

...Altho I will say that, in a fit of hilarious irony, we found a terrific BBQ joint on our way to get our pigz. SE Ohio folks, if you are not already a fan then you should run and now walk to 7 Miles Smokehouse. They have an absolutely abysmal online presence but I assure you their brisket cannot be beat. If you can find them, be sure to order up a big plate of meat. It's not a swanky place and I'm pretty sure they are a mostly catering operation. Looks like they are expanding tho. Grab a table if you can, get it to go if you can't.

Happy Thursday everyone! Have you installed your bacon?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MI - What Is the Matter With You?

Seriously, Michigan? What is the matter with you?

Has everyone seen this? I hate to sound like one of those crazy conspiracy people but seriously, Michigan, why can't you get this right? It's not like there isn't plenty of free space up there. Why the farm hatin'? 

You'd think with as much economic strife that state has had they would have better things to do then run backyard beekeepers and folks with a few hens out of production. Don't you think they'd want their folks to invest in food production? I got news for you Michigan, the only property value you should be concerned with is that big city of yours.

As for the folks who are just trying to farm - maybe what you need is better marketing. I guess old ideas about how farming is "dirty" just won't die. Maybe we can come up with some catchy slogans like, "Backyard farming - our sh!t don't stink!" or maybe "Come on now, everybody compost!" or "Chickens and bunnies -  cute and snugly until they come to dinner!"  Well. Maybe that last one needs some work...

But my point is - what are you so afraid of, Michigan? That your citizens use some of that abandon property to grow some food and help themselves? That you might tackle that problem of food deserts in your cities?

You would think that Michigan would want to encourage small farm-based businesses and self reliance so why they are so concerned about "nuisance" animals encroaching on their neighbors is beyond me.

But who knows. As weird as it is for folks like us to try and understand why someone would be mad at a front yard garden.... that's how weird the complainers think we are. The difference, I guess, is in priorities.

When I lived in my West Coast in-city home one of my neighbors had a breakdown over my compost pile. To be clear - I didn't compost food or any kind of manure - just some leaves. Seriously they had a break down over it and built a fence to block out that small pile of leaves in the back corner of my property... then promptly set up an above ground pool directly outside my living room window, trolleyed their TV outside, and I spent the entire stinkin' summer listening to them watch Jeopardy while they were splashing around in the water. I ask you - who was more annoying? Silent leaves composting or the cocktail hour wading pool?

I dunno. I asked this over on the facebook, am I really just getting to be an old fuddy duddy or are things getting worse? Some of us think it's getting worse. As for Michigan -  good luck, suckers. You are only making your problems worse.

What about you - are you an old fuddy duddy? Or do you have a slogan that Michigan farmers could use to improve their situation?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Potatoes Popping and More Blooms

We've got rain moving in so I'm typing fast - I'm going to try and get somethings done outside before it gets here. So between the sun just about to come up and the rain not too far away I've got to get this garden party started.

Two perfect apple blossoms.

The good news is that we've got some blooms coming on. A friend reported that another orchard told him that peaches will definitely be off the menu for our area. I haven't seen one bloom on our trees - the cold was just too much for them.

But the apple trees are starting to pop. And the pears are about to set fruit so they will be plentiful.

Come on, potatoes! I have plans for you.

The best news is that the pre-sprouted potatoes that I planted are already starting to grow! We are officially out of canned and frozen potatoes so I'm really looking forward to getting some fresh ones. In fact, I can't wait for some fresh produce of any kind. I don't know about you but I just can't get myself to buy store produce.

Alfalfa is coming up. Free food for goats.

Around here the store produce is horrible - the quality is very low and it's very expensive. When I lived on the West Coast we got fresh and lovely produce from California. But the stuff in the stores here looks like it's been on the truck for a long long time. This always surprises me because we have such good growing conditions - but there is not a lot of food grown here. It's very odd.

These little guys will soon be fulfilling my Mortgage Lifter tomato dreams.

That's one of the reasons I'm so excited about my greenhouse. I'm hoping to extend the growing seasons. For now it's packed.

I'm not sure if the neighbors will be happy about my rototilling at 6:30 in the AM so I'll have to wait before I can do that... but I am going to sneak out and see if I can get a few things planted.

Happy Monday everyone! Are you gardening by flashlight?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sorting out my strawberries...

Nothing but work work work here. We haven't had the best weather but yesterday was great "working" day - not too hot and a few passing showers. We are still drying out from all the rain but I managed to get a little work done.

We already have strawberry blossoms!

The other day I started sorting out my strawberries. The patch was a mess - last year was bad enough and it's worse now. Last spring when the berries were ripe I had to crawl around in tick infested tall grass to find all that red gold.. That's not going to happen this year. Plus I wanted to capitalize on the "daughter" plants and really expand the strawberry field.

Tick infested weed field.

The rows will allow me to more effectively weed the bed and also help me to continue my efforts to improve the soil. So having nice neat rows will help me stack up the compost and straw between the rows.

I've also heard that beans are a great companion plant for strawberries. So later in the fall when I mow down the strawberry plants I can put in a few rows of green beans.

Much better. Mulch is on the way.

The bed was such a mess that some of the local rabbits took up residence..... but with The Dog Horde helping me... well. It's rabbit free now. Ewwwee..  However Zander and Kai both agree that helping me move around strawberry plants is extremely boring.

As the soil continues to dry out today I'll have putting more and more plants into the garden and out of the stuffed and stacked greenhouse. This greenhouse project has really been terrific. Now I just need either a bigger green house... or another one.

Happy Sunday everyone! How is your strawberry concern going?

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