Monday, December 9, 2013


As usual, I'm putting together a blog post when I have a rare moment of downtime.  This one brought to you by the two hour weather delay and the baking bread in the oven that I have to wait to finish up.  

I planted a lot of new things this fall- more trees, shrubs, etc.  It's all of the edible sort in an effort to gain parent plants that will eventually make up our food forest.  I had thought when I ordered them that I would simply put these plants in the designated food forest area but was glad I didn't when I saw that my neighbor's small apple trees were eaten by deer.  We have too much invested to have that happen.  I have a number of plum, cherry, nectarine seeds that I'll stratify and plant in the spring.  We already moved a bunch of wild blackberries into the area where the goats had cleared out space.  I thought those had died off but scratching the canes reveals a different story.

There's a little bit of winter pruning to do.  I started with the pre-existing trees, still need to do all of the others though.  

The baby goat, Dawn, has grown really fast.  We plan to breed her as soon as she hits 90lbs.  I think that even with her extra teat she could be a good milker, but we have to find out sooner than later since feeding extra goats cost money.  As much fun as pet goats sound, around here they need to earn their feed.  

New mama drama.

The farm has a lot of new, first time mamas.  It's been interesting.  I'm just going to split this by type for clarity.

Chickens: Most of my chickens are naturals.....not all though.  I have an old hen who usually does great, this year though she managed to get the eggs so dirty they suffocated....that was a first.  I don't know that we even had a good hen hatch this year on chicken eggs....most of them were incubator babies adopted back out the the hens to raise....and the adoptions went all.  Except one.  Of course it was the mama with the suffocated eggs.  Oh well.

Ducks: I had lots of ducks eggs this year, ALL very fertile, but only one broody duck.  The broody duck was a Rouen and I'd read when we bought the Rouens that they were decent mothers.  Yeah, right!  So this mama duck hides her nest and we didn't even find it until hatching time.  Where would be the best possible place for a nest????  Our burn pile of course! (We had an inkling she might be in there so we didn't start a fire) She had a lot of eggs in there too.  The problem with uncontrolled nesting (this applies to the goose and turkey I'll tell you about further down too) is that they lay eggs daily and by the time they get the nest they want, they have a lot of older eggs that get buried or they might have some that will hatch days before the rest.  So with mama duck, her eggs hatched over a couple of days.  We saw the first duckling strayed from the nest and was hiding in the grass, so we tried to put it with the incubator hatched ducklings.  The problem is that it was imprinted to mama duck, so it kept getting away.  It died by drowning in the duck pool.  The next duckling died by chilling, as did the one after that.  So by that time we found the nest and she'd left it because she had one duckling.  I debating a good deal to take that duckling from her but they really wanted to be together, so I let them.  It disappeared.  She lost it the very next day.  All the while since she'd abandoned her nest, she had several babies in shell that were hatchable that died in the shell.  Needless to say, we aren't letting ducks hatch their own duckling again.  The only ducklings we have are the incubator ones....which are doing great!  I just set up a broody chicken with 4 ducks eggs so we'll have more ducklings coming (not that we need more ducklings, but she was a really stubborn broody- may as well put her to work).

Turkeys: Both turkey hens were broody and apparently 8-10 eggs each.  Turkey mama #1 had a similar problem to duck mama, in that she had too many eggs of different ages.  So first baby hatched too soon, wandered off and chilled.  Second baby, didn't make it out of the shell.  Third and Fourth were healthy.  The three remaining eggs I put in the incubator since they were so far behind, they would have died in the shell.  They hatched in the incubator 1-2 weeks later- yes, the last was about 2 weeks after the first one.  Crazy!  Turkey hen #2 had a much better hatch.  10 eggs, all but 2 hatched with healthy babies.  So the tally is Turkey #1 with 2 babies, Turkey #2 with 8 babies, incubator 5 babies + 3 delayed hatchlings from mama #1.  18 babies.  Now we are down to 12.  Mama 1 still has her two.  Mama 2 has 5 babies now.  We have 5 former incubator babies, 1 from turkey 1's hatch, 4 from the original incubator batch.

Geese:  Geese.  You know how it's widely known you shouldn't mess with a goose on a nest, well thats exactly what I had to do tonight.  So similar problem- nest full of eggs, hatching on different days and babies try to explore, only this mama put her nest in the hay shed.  So 4 babies hatch and were trapped between the wall and  the hay.  I ran Lucy out of the shed, rescued babies, put them in a brooder.  Two days later Lucy reclaimed them.  Strong mama instinct there, even if she didn't have any common sense.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Strawberries and poults

Strawberries are coming in now along with all of our lettuces, chard, bok choi and radishes.  I'm struggling a little to come up with new ways to use so many fresh greens so I'm going to have to preserve some of them....which is a good thing but I've never tried to preserve bok choi.  I think eggroll wrappers might be part of the deal.

Strawberries started turning full on red on Monday, since then we've harvested about 6-7lbs.  I'm hoping they'll give me the low end of the expected yield for 80 plants...right around 40lbs or 1/2lb per plant.  Right now it's hard to say if the patch will put that much out....hope so.  I'm counting on a good harvest.

I'm challenged this pay period to utilize all of our resources and not the grocery store for this two weeks. At least this is well timed with a productive garden, hens laying well and a goat giving lots of milk.  We have a mean turkey to cull and he'll give us at least 10lbs of good meat.  I have a few musts from the store....sugar, bananas, coffee, granola bars (which I could make but I'd be lucky to find the time), butter and lard.  I still have lots of animal feed to buy- 200# chick starter, 40-50# sunflower seeds (goats) and dog food (I think).

This tight budget also means that the Farmer's market that begins later this month, I'll be attending- but not as a least not at the start.  I still need to get my LLC registered, state business registration and EIN plus my space rental.....all that cost money I don't have right now.  That's ok though, I don't really have my inventory as complete as I'd like and this gives me more time to concentrate on getting my inventory together.  I hope I'll be a late-comer at the market, but it's not the worst thing ever if I don't.  Another year to get it all together might be just what I need.

We've had a couple really good hatches lately- 7 ducklings and 6 poults (turkey)from the incubator.  Mama turkey #1 hatched 2 poults and they are doing great, on all forages no less.  She hasn't taken them to the barn at all so they aren't eating feed.  Mama turkey #2 hatched 8 poults, so far so good but they are brand new to the world.  I had her adopt the most recently hatched poult from the incubator, one that is the same age as her babies.  Again, she's not taking them into the barn so they are growing on just weeds and whatever else they find.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Things to do with goat milk, #2 Mozzarella

Probably the second most common cheese I make is mozzarella, mozz for short.  I use the 30 minute method and it usually turns out nice for me.  My only complaint is that with goat milk you have to take some consideration for where in the lactation cycle your goat is and adjust the citric acid content accordingly.  I think some pH strips would remove some of the guesswork, but I haven't tried that yet.

Goat milk mozzarella isn't quite like store bought mozzarella.  For starters, I've yet to make a mozz ball (with either cow or goat milks) that shredded worth a darn.  Usually, I don't even try and we slice it instead.  The slices actually work better for me when it comes to lasagna assembly.

The uses for it are pretty much the same as the store bought version.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things to do with goat milk. #1 chevre

I think I'm going to do a series of what to do with goat milk.  This isn't my first go at having abundant amounts of fresh milk to play with so I'll try to keep these short and sweet.  

One of my favorites is Chevre.  Chevre can be savory or sweet, it can be converted into a cheesecake or even mock-velveeta.  The yield per gallon is about 2lbs. One of the more common things I do if I'm invited to a pitch in is make a batch, split it into two and season one with ranch dressing mix (I use Penzeys) and the other is a sweet- sometimes blueberry and vanilla, sometimes honey, lemon and vanilla.  Then I grab a couple sleeves of crackers, one buttery ritz type and the other a graham cracker type.  

Turning chevre into velveeta is pretty simple.  I use this recipe.  I don't add the cream, just the soda and butter.  It comes out pretty close to the taste of velveeta and it's faster than making a cheddar for a bechamel style cheese sauce when you want to make mac and cheese.   

Turning chevre into a cheesecake is nice, usually 24 oz of it with 4 eggs, a tsp of vanilla, a couple tablespoons of flour, a dash of milk and a little lemon peel.  Sometimes I don't even bother with a crust.  It's not as nice a cheesecake as you get out of cream cheese and it gets a little ricotta like but usually I don't care because it's pretty tasty anyhow.  

Recently I used it sweetened with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to make an apple pizza....left over pizza crust with chevre smeared all over it, layer thin apple slices and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar.  It made a yummy breakfast.

I also have used it for lasagna layers, ravioli filling, topping's a good versatile cheese once you get over the idea that it's supposed to be fancy.  It can be fancy but it doesn't have to be.  I've never had it turn out "goaty" like the store bought brands and I think if it did, I wouldn't have so many uses for it.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Getting back into dairying mode

If you haven't seen already, we FINALLY have a new goat.  Her name is Siren and she, my friends, comes with milk.  It's fabulous and I'm so happy to have a chance to make cheese again.  Tonight, it's chevre.  Chevre is one of those soft, fresh cheeses that really is a cinch to make.  A gently warmed milk, a little culture and rennet, allowed to set and drained into delicious cheese.

I'm not going to tell you how to make chevre, there's only about 100 blogs that already do that.  If I come up with some creative uses for it I'll post about it though.  We usually mix it with some ranch seasoning for salty crackers or honey and vanilla to use on grahams.  I like to top pasta with it sometimes and it subs nicely for cream cheese.

A lot has happened in the last month or so.  We've been hatching out babies: goslings, ducklings, and chicks.  I had to buy a few chicks to add more blue egg layers.  I have lots of white, brown and olive layers but I was down to just 1 blue layer named Eagle.  The thing about blue egg genetics is that you have to have two blue gene copies to get blue eggs.  So had brown + blue = green all day long but I couldn't hatch out more blues and I really don't want an Amercauna rooster.  They just don't make great meat birds and part of my goal is to only hatch out babies we have a plan for- either meat use or eggs layer use.

I'm counting on one of my goslings to be a gander, as it turns out (no surprise), African geese are monogamous so as I was trying to hatch eggs, all of Lucy's eggs were infertile and all of Bertha's eggs were fertile.  So I was throwing out half the eggs.  Now we have 6 goslings hatched and I think we are stopping there.  We still have never had goose to eat so hopefully we'll love the meat and it will be a new staple for us.  

I'm still not a big fan of duck but I do eat it and we are hatching lots of duck this year.  My husband and son really like roast duck, so I'll learn to like it in time I'm sure.  I think I want to make some sausage out of it this year.  It's such a strong flavored meat I think it will stand up so some spices well.  The thing is about free range duck is that they reach adult size in about 8 weeks and that's our fastest meat source right there.  They also do it with a pretty small amount of feed when they can range.  Since everyone eats from the same feeder , I can't say what percentage of what they eat is forage but since spring through fall I'm adding animals and my feed costs drop when the grass gets to growing well, I'd say they are getting a pretty high percentage from our land.

The turkeys just started laying.  I was starting to think they were duds.  They still might be, I've yet to witness a successful mating so they could be just laying infertile eggs.  I hope not, that tom turkey's days are numbered.  He attacks everyone.  If it was just us adults I probably wouldn't care so much but he really goes after my son and that's where I draw a line.  I have one of my broody hens, who happens to be evil, testing one of the eggs so I can candle it for fertility.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Maple Syrup Experiment

Maple syrup is one of those things that seem like a big lofty idea.  Of course you need all those fancy taps and buckets and a boiler and the sugar shack.  So, huge overhead for something that takes 40 gallons (or more) to make a gallon of syrup, right?  Well, that's probably how you are supposed to do it.  You are probably supposed to have a maple grove too.

I'm bad at listening.  I thought it'd be fun to tap the 4 maples around our house and just see what happened.  I figured I might be 4 gallons of sap, which would be about a cup of syrup.  A one time adventure where we can have homemade maple syrup with our homemade pancakes.  

I love a good surprise too.  We are getting about 2-3 gallons of sap out of those 3 of the 4 trees that are actually the right kind of maple.  (good experiments have a margin of error, apparently one of our trees was the wrong kind).  I've been boiling down most of it on the stove in my kitchen in my big stainless steel canner.  Boy, that thing was a great investment!  Most of it, I'm boiling on the stove, then overnight I put it in my oval crock pot to slowly evaporate off  overnight so I don't have to babysit the pot and we still make progress.  Also the slower evaporation lets my house dehumidify some, because when  you are boiling off gallons of water it really creates a lot of humidity.  

This has been a fun experiment.  The first 4 gallons we boiled down and we got just under a pint of maple syrup/sugar/whatever.  I think we over boiled it.  It was still great on pancakes.  I've still got sap coming and it's boiling now.  The first batch came out kind of light, this one I think will be darker and hopefully I'll get the consistency right.  Any way you look at it, I think it's been a great experiment so far.   Our 9 acre lot has a lot of "untapped" resources, including lots of maple trees so we've decided to head out there if we haven't sold the place and mark the maples for tapping next spring.  There are a lot of maples out there, hopefully a good number of right ones at the right diameter to make it worth our trouble.  

The kit I ordered was on Amazon.  I'm not an Amazon affiliate so I get nothing out of this link.  It's just the cheapest set up I've found.  We used empty milk jugs and hair ponytail holders to hold them up.  This is really easy stuff.  There's a good chance we'll order better quality components for next year's tapping, but these plastic ones worked great.  This seems to me like one of those things that would be a good learning lesson for know, this is where maple syrup comes from.  I'm always looking for ways to teach my son new things, but he's not even 4 yet so who knows how much of what I do now will stick.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gained a goat.

I bought a dry yearling doe.  She's gorgeous (at least to me)!  I don't show goats so I don't know everything I should look for but she's very level on top and her face is very feminine.  Her dam has a lovely udder and she shares a great grandfather with my buck so they are distantly related.  She appeared to get bred the second day after she arrived with Sonny, so here's hoping come late July we have cute babies!  Oh and milk....lovely goat milk!

Meet Zada :)
In bringing home the lovely Zada, my buck Sonny is a changed goat.  He was extremely well bonded with my wethered goat, York, now he shoos York away.  He's so protective of Zada.  That's HIS girl.  I've never seen anything like it, but I would suspect in wild goat herds, males are driven out of the herd once they are of reproductive age.  York, obviously won't ever reproduce but Sonny doesn't know that.  Sonny is truly infatuated with Zada.  He follows her, protects her from York, lets her eat first.  It's cute.  He also picked up a whole new language.  I've heard him blubber before while he's in rut, but this is much more structured.  You can almost figure out what he's trying to convey.

Well, that's pretty much what's new.  I'm putting goose eggs in an incubator tomorrow that a friend was kind enough to lend to me.  The dog kept stealing the eggs so if I want goslings this year, it looks like this is how it's going to be.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Shopping for the farm, that is.  I get way too excited over this stuff.  So here's what I've got on order:

Viking Aronia Berry
Ben Lear Cranberries
Chicago hardy Figs
Montmorency Sour Cherries,
Gold Rush Apples

I still need to order blueberries, maybe grapes, definitely raspberries and blackberries.  Some of those will depend on how my propagation efforts go.  So far my attempt to propagate raspberry has not worked, mostly because I did it wrong and tried to snip it now...I guess you are supposed to wait until summer.  I did snip some grape cuttings, they've leafed out and even put out blossom buds (which I pinched off) but still no roots.  I don't even know what type of grape they are.  It's whatever the prior owner planted and we still haven't seen any fruit on.

If you haven't seen my facebook page for the farm lately, you'll see that we have a name.  A real farm name! Even better is we have a herd name for our future Nubian herd.  Obviously we have nothing to name right now.  I'm hoping I'll get to start that change tomorrow.  I'm checking out a goat, hopefully she'll be a good fit and I'll bring her home.  I'm so hopeful of this that I have a stall prepped and the trailer readied.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stalking breeders.

This is one of the more fun parts of building a farm, choosing and adding new stock.  Our search is on for a couple of good dairy goat does and in just a few days of looking I have a line on a couple.  One's a 5 year old who should freshen very soon, the other will be a yearling who is dry and could be bred to our boy, Sonny.  The hard choice will be whether to jump on what I find now or to hold off until March when there will be a much broader selection.  It might be a split decision, one now and one later.

So what do you look for when you buy a goat?  I know what I look for: good feet, strong legs, level back, roman nose (nubian only), good mouth, long ears (again, nubian), wide in the rear with a nice udder, easy to milk teats, milk with good flavor and good quantity.  I'm only looking at breeders who test for CAE and in general I look for well bred, show herds.  I don't know that we'll ever show our own goats other than with 4H for our kids. There's a saying that it costs just as much to feed a well bred goat as it does a poorly bred one, so we'll make the initial investment in quality and hope it means healthier goats in the long run. Obviously, after our experience with Kissee, we know that even with the best quality, stuff happens.

Of course, I say I look for all these things and I do....but once I'm there at the breeder a lot flies out the window.  I fall in love easily. Knowing this, I do as much homework as I can ahead of time.  I look up pedigrees on ADGAgenetics, photos of sires and dams, appraisal data, DHIR results (milk testing)....anything I can find.

I cannot wait to have real, fresh milk again.  I'm ready to start making some cheese again.  I'll keep y'alls posted as to what we find.  I still want to get some rabbits too.  It's going to be a very busy spring.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Years Inventory and Statistics

Our 2012 tallies

We have: 
23-24 hens, 2 roosters
3 female ducks, 2 drake ducks
1 African gander, 2 African geese 
1 Slate turkey tom, 2 slate hens
1 nubian buck, 1 saanen wether

Culls (for meat):
12 roosters
2 turkeys (hens)
3 ducks

1 nubian doe + babies
2 cockerels, 1 hen
2 turkey poults
1 duckling, 1 female duck

Yearly totals:
26 bags of corn = 1300 lbs = $304
78 bags chicks starter= 3900 lbs = $1325
12 boxes baking soda= $7.08
1 bag of goat minerals= $15
1 bag of oyster shell 
1 bag of chick grit (when we brood babies, they get grit and greens)
hay $100 (our field, we pay for cutting)

What's the point of all this?  Reflection.  Reflecting on the year, using that information to make decisions, hopefully wise ones.  I'm blown away by the sheer quantities of feed we use.  I was telling my husband we should consider buying by the ton, as you see, we use about 2.5 tons of feed to raise all those birds.  It also forces me to think of ways to get those birds to offset their feed costs more. 

This also is the reality of keeping animals.  This doesn't include medications or wormers.  I think I spent somewhere around $150 to build up my vet box after Kissee died so we would be more prepared when we brought on more goats and some things for the birds too.  

I haven't been tracking how many eggs we get but we averaged last year about 10 a day for hen's eggs and 1 a day for duck.  So approximately 3600-3700 eggs.  Since we use the same feed for all of our birds it's hard to get a real cost for a carton of eggs but when we had those first 7 hens, we yielded around 9 dozen/per 50lbs of feed.  Right now, our feed mix is about $14.50 for 50lbs.  So our cost before considering any physical efforts is around $1.60 - 1.80 a dozen.  That's not bad really. 

One of the problems with a mixed flock that free ranges is that I can't tell how much it cost to raise these heritage turkeys.  No idea.  I don't have a clue how much they eat.  I can only estimate.

If you have any questions, just ask in the comments or email me.