Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doing it ourselves.....

It really doesn’t matter how you word it - being self-sufficient, self-reliant, a homesteader or a prepper – it all means the same thing to me.  In general it means doing what we can as an individual or a family unit to support ourselves now and in the future.  

Will I ever be what I would consider 100% self-sufficient?  Nope.  My goal is to do the best I can.  If tomorrow was TEOTWAWKI (a prepper acronym for The End Of The World As We Know It) would I survive? Sure, but probably not my full life span.  Would I live comfortably?  Yes, for a while. 

Where to begin in deciding what level of self-sustainability I have or can attain?  First I want to take a quick look back 20 years ago when I was in my child bearing years.  I never would have been ready back then.  Then I may have known what a midwife was, but never thought “real” people would use one!!  Now, 20 years later, I actually have FB friends who are a Midwife and a studied Doula.  Okay would using a midwife or a doula be considered self-sufficiency?  I guess here (as in MANY areas of back to basics living) is where lines blur.  I don’t think there is nor has there ever really been an era where individuals had to do absolutely everything alone.  Oh sure towns may have been days apart, but there was a system of bartering and money even in the Wild West days.  So with all that rambling said I will move on to how I feel we are doing on our journey into self-sufficiency and living a back to basics lifestyle. 

I’m not sure when to begin so this won’t be in any special order.

Clothing:  I can sew with a machine and by hand.  I can make a quilt and repair clothing.  I can crochet, but not knit.  I am learning to spin processed animal fibers.   I need to learn to process animal fibers from “scratch” and would like to learn how to process a few plant fibers.  I want to learn to felt.  I will probably never learn to weave, but would like to if I ever have the money, room and time!

Household:  I don’t do many back to basic things in my house at the moment.  I do have plans to begin goat milk soap making.  Maybe someday I will move on to lotions, creams and balms.  Homemade shampoos? Probably not.  Homemade laundry products?  Yeah, I’ll try that.   I love essential oils and although I will never begin distilling my own I have begun using them for pest repellants, air fresheners and a myriad of other things.   I can cook on a woodstove, or better yet over an open fire.  I prefer the use of our cast iron pans, griddles and pots and know they will live on long past my natural lifetime. 

Entertainment (and knowledge):  I love the internet with the almost endless choices of things to study, learn and explore.  And of course don’t get me started on social media…. Yeah Facebook!!  With that said, can I live without it all? Of course.  I own a large cache of informational books and books for entertainment purposes. I have many decks of cards, board games and I can only dream of the day I might be able to force my husband to play cribbage with me because there is nothing else to do!  There can be much more to entertainment than games or books, wood working with hand tools in one.  I don’t have experience in that, but own the tools and may one day dabble some in it.

Pets:  Not much back to basics to go into here.  I will however say that by-products of our food (meat specifically) production fills a great niche in allowing us to feed our dogs and cats a raw diet on a small scale.  Flea prevention can be accomplished with just a few essential oils or even diatomaceous earth.

Transportation:  We have cars; we can maintain our cars….end of story? Not quite.  We own horses and are knowledgeable in the care and training of them.  We even own some horse drawn equipment that we could use with some training on our horses.  If however in the event of TEOTWAWKI eventually we would have to find a way to replace our horses since we have never bred horses and we don’t own breeding stock.  Oh, and of course we have our feet, snowshoes and skis.

Food (and the medicine cabinet): This is a huge category so I will try and break it down just a bit.  Meats are pretty much covered by livestock and vegetables I will cover under the gardening header.   I have books upon books about wild foraging.  I would like to try cattail tubers and flour someday.  I have tried some things such as milkweed (fried and pickled) that in a dire emergency I could choke down but won’t bother again for any other reason.  I’ve eaten fiddleheads and they are not a bad early spring treat.  Now leeks, morels and wild berries are high on my list of good eats to gather and preserve.  Speaking of preserving, I have much to learn about canning and preserving meats, but have been canning pickles, jams and jellies for many years.  Drying foods and herbs is newer to me, but has been easy to pick up.  Eventually I would like to build a solar dehydrator and get a nice big fancy Excalibur electric dehydrator.  Herbs fill a huge hole in the overall picture of self- sustainability.  Herbs can be used to flavor foods of course, but did you know they can be used for healing too?   I grow a couple of very large comfrey patches.  These don’t necessarily fit into the food category for humans, but fit very well into the medications section.  We use comfrey here for all types of skin ailments, bumps, bruises and cuts.  It has even been used on the goats, dogs and cats.  We aren’t really drinkers, but I LOVE to make homemade blackberry wine.  We have never added yeast to wines made from wild blackberries.  There is natural wild yeast on the blackberries so all you really need is sugar, berries and water.  It does lend a bit of a surprise to each batch due to the differences in yeasts in different areas.   I have to admit one thing though; I am still a boxed food junkie….. I like the ease of boxed potatoes and boxed macaroni and cheese.  But I AM learning to wean myself off of these conveniences, I no longer buy boxed brownies and I’m starting to make my own soup mixes.

Livestock:  We are traversing along our knowledge journey of breeding and raising livestock.   We are working on breeding pigs, rabbits, chickens and goats.  Could we maintain our breeding programs without outside stock?  For a period of a few years easily, but eventually we would end up with severe inbreeding of our pigs and rabbits.  The goats and chickens would last a few more years past the pigs and rabbits as we have a slightly larger gene pool to dip our bucket into.  We can care for many of our animals using mainly organic methods.  I have never tried herbal wormers, opting instead for the infrequent use of chemical wormers as needed.  We try and determine need by doing our own fecals and using the Famacha scale.  The livestock provide us with meat, eggs, dairy and fiber.  Learning to make cheese has been fun, but learning to make yogurt has been frustrating.  I’m sure I’ll get better someday.  (I hope so anyway.)  My husband is a long time hunter and is very handy when it comes to the butchering of our livestock.  Both hunting and butchering are skills worth knowing.   I don’t fish, but I love to EAT fish.  My husband has also found a love of ice fishing and brought home a dozen or so delicious meals (some of which are in the freezer for a later date.)  We have also begun working on curing our own meats.  Can we make a bacon as good as Thornapple Valley?  Nope, not even close.  But we will get there I’m hoping with a bit more practice.  Our hams are different than a Smithfield for sure, but they are tasty and we made them ourselves!!  I do plan on learning more about preserving and working with animal hides.  I would just love to have a handmade hat lined with some soft warm bunny fur…OH and a pair of mittens to match!  Now to go backwards just a little bit, from what we get from our animals to what we give to our animals. We make our own hay, although not all comes from our land.  Our animals are also grained and although I have grown corn and I can grow both oats and soybeans if I try, I seriously don’t have the place to do so on the scale that I currently need to support our animals.  As mentioned earlier, I raise some large patches of comfrey and I use lots of it as feed for the animals.  It is a great winter fodder (once dried) for the chickens, rabbits and pigs.  I don’t know if these count as livestock, but someday we WILL be adding honeybees to the farmstead.  An on the farm source of sweetener and antibiotic salve what could be better?

Gardening:  Compost, compost, compost!! That is just the place to start for sure.  All that livestock mentioned above gives us lots and lots of compost fodder.   Heck we usually even have manure to spare.  The comfrey is even a wonderful addition to the compost pile (Do you see a pattern here with the comfrey?  It is a VERY useful plant on the homestead.) We make manure tea for our plants and seedlings.   We have gotten away from buying commercial seedlings and instead have opted to grow as many heirloom varieties as we can.  We also maintain seeds from these heirloom varieties and have had great success there.  It would be nice to envision us being able to save seeds entirely from our own garden, but we haven’t the room to separate varieties that aren’t self –pollinated.  We have had good luck with tomatoes, beans, peas and peppers.  Seeds were saved from the bird house gourds last season so we will see how those turn out.  It’s kind of fun seeing what comes out of gourd seeds anyway as they seem to cross-pollinate readily and give have some odd “offspring”.  We collect rain water in rain barrels to water our garden with. Currently we have (3) 55 gallon barrels, but hope to double that this summer.  We can, freeze and dry many of our vegetables.  Another method of preserving our harvest?  Fermentation!!  I made a small test crock of Kimchi with our cabbage last year and I found it to superb.  Definitely a try-again recipe! 

Other:  Here I will list a myriad of things that I just don’t know how to categorize.  Bartering can play a key role for back to basics living and although it seems a paradox – self-sufficient living as well.  Barter a dozen chickens for a pound of fresh organic butter or a trailer load of manure for a few loaves of homemade bread or a raw mohair fleece for a well- made drop spindle.  The possibilities are really endless.  Recycling (or up-cycling) can be a lifesaver.  As mentioned earlier, we currently buy all our grain.  With the amount of animals we have – that really leaves us with a plethora of grain bags.  We use them for garbage bags in the barns, to seal out cold winter drafts and as door flaps in the animal sheds, and as tea-bags for our manure tea.   We recycle pallets as barn dividers and gates.  We have bartered other used building materials for around the farm.  I have heard that many items make great soap molds.  I save old peanut butter and mayonnaise containers to safely haul shots and other medication doses to the animal barns (full syringes fit beautifully in them without worry that the plunger will accidently get depressed).   Milk jugs work great for hauling water to the critters in the winter.   Buy the good stuff:  Okay I wasn’t sure how to title this little section but there is one thing that I would like to emphasize for when there are items you just HAVE to purchase because you can’t make them yourself (i.e. tractors, boots, etc.).  Buy the best you can possibly afford.  In many things you do get what you pay for.  For instance, I LOVE my Muck chore boots, they are priceless in the spring, summer, fall and winter.   My first set of boots lasted me around 12 years.  I tried a “knock-off” pair and they ended up costing me about triple (on a per year average) than the more expensive Muck.  I now have another pair of Mucks going strong. 

Some of the skills we are pretty good at:  Sewing, crocheting, cooking, canning, dehydrating, animal husbandry, herbal lore, butchering, meat curing, gardening, composting, hunting, fishing,  haymaking,  recycling, bartering, construction,  wild foraging, animal training, metal working, seed saving, water collection,

Some of the skills we are working on (or will be working on soon):  Spinning fibers, harvesting fibers, tanning pelts, wood working, soap making, cheese making, bee keeping, candle making,

Skills we should learn or get better at (and someday really hope to): first aid, knot – tying, how to start a fire (the “hard way”), trapping, gunsmithing, weather forecasting.  I own books on all the previous “skills” in this section and while they may come in handy someday there is nothing better than actually putting things into practice BEFORE you need them. 

Okay so just a quick summary.  Could we survive indefinitely if the rest of the world ceased to exist?   Probably not.  No man is an island and we are no exception, we couldn’t maintain every aspect that we would need to survive without being able to interact with at least a few other individuals (or groups) with skills complimentary to our own.  Do we have skills to sustain ourselves if we needed to long term? Yes we would most likely stay warm, fed, clothed, entertained and healthy for a good long time.   

Thanks for reading to the end of this one!!! 

Until next time……

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whammy....Whammy...NO Whammy......

For the most part around here, those destined to fill the freezer have personality to spare.  They are almost perhaps clairvoyant in their trying to deter me from carrying through with their fates.  While it usually (and that means some HAVE worked their wiles quite well on me) doesn't work, it probably does allow them the absolutely best life while they are in my care....lots of petting, treats and special attention.  That may make it harder most times to "do the deed" but I would probably feel worse longer if they were neglected during their short lives.

Of course then there are a few that make it SOOO much easier when the time comes.  Tomorrow will be the day for butchering our checkered giant cross rabbit that we bought solely for the purpose of the freezer.  Her sister, Oreo Flurry, is an absolute doll, docile and quiet, exactly what I want in a breeder that may also make pets someday.  The Black One (since she was given no actual name) has a nasty rabbit personality!! I don't take butchering any livestock  "lightly", but I AM looking forward to eating this one. 

Kidding season is coming soon.  We have already had our Whammy as far as that goes and are hoping for NO MORE WHAMMIES!! (Do you remember that game show?  The Whammy was a nasty little creature.)  Snapdragon, who gave us two lovely paint and dappled doelings last year, had a miscarriage early in her pregnancy this year.  While the cause is unknown, we believe it was due to bullying by another goat.   Her mother (Ruby) is getting close to kidding - she's HUGE, but doesn't have much of an udder yet.  Snapdragon's daughter, Ivy, will not be bred until this fall as I feel she is just a bit too petite to be bred at this age.  I think for her health waiting until she is at least one year old will be much better. All the other does are bred and I just can't wait to see all the babies!!  That's NINE sets of kids!!  It's going to be like a sweetness/cuteness overdose soon.

Add to that the piglets that are soon to arrive.....I might need some insulin!! I have separated Avidor (who now spends his time in an old hay-stuffed dogloo located in the garden area) from Abra.  Poor sow may have frost bitten teats if she doesn't farrow on time.....she practically drags the ground now!  She has a toasty 8'deep X 3' wide X 3' high "coop" to farrow and raise little piglets in.  I have a heat light in there.  Right now I am just testing her (it isn't plugged in yet) to see if she will be able to tear it down or otherwise destroy it and possibly cause a fire or some other horrible catastrophe.  After about a week she is still leaving it alone.  All the nooks and crannies have been filled with hay  to help avoid drafts. On one drafty end of the coop, we have lined it with feed bags to eliminate the large amount of incoming air from there, thankfully she is also leaving those alone. 

Greg has rekindled an old flame  -  ice fishing.  After the purchase of a one man shanty and  license he has spent a few hours now catching a few nice batches of fish.  To top it off he cleaned and cooked up a mess of those fish......oh, YUMMY.  And one thing about fried up pan fish is that it tastes just as yummy the next day!!  I'll have to vote for this hobby anyday over say....woodworking or stamp collecting!!

This year I have started a better record keeping system.  Well, maybe not better - it's still a spreadsheet - but most definately more detailed.  We will be keeping tabs on the lucrativeness of each and every outside animal here on the farm (excluding the horses and barn cats).  Once we figure if certain ones are financially worth keeping we will re-evaluate the ones that may come up short and see if they are still worth keeping when weighing in the intangibles (like taste, healthiness of the product and joy of keeping them around). 

Untill next time.....

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.......

Well, it's a bit after Christmas, but I hope you and yours had a wonderful time.  We had a very nice Christmas here but as always it sure is nice to wind down after the hustle and bustle of the season. 

I got a new camera to replace the one that I dropped into a bucket of water LAST winter.  My husband is awesome as usual.  I also got my very first drop spindle.  I haven't had a ton of time yet, but have done a bit of playing with it and I find it MUCH easier than the Great Wheel.  Maybe once I get the hang of getting the right draft and other nuances down I'll be having even more fun!!   I can say with confidence that as soon as I start washing fiber in the sink, Greg is NOT going to be that amused.

Making Christmas baskets is over for one more year.  I thnk in 2013 I should really start much earlier!! I did sugar scrubs, soup mixes, hot cocoa mixes and infused honey.  I need to make some more of the sugar scrubs just for ME now. 

The ground is quite white out there and the snowmobilers have descended in droves.  I'm glad we don't live one road over since THAT is the actual snowmobile trail.  Our road however gets it share of snowmobilers.  I generally don't mind, but hate being woken up at 2am by the ones that rev their engine and drive through OUR fields!!

We finally butchered the two American Heirloom Hogs we saved from the last litter.  They were only about  7 months old and I think we should have waited another two or three months.  I know they did give us some of the best tasting pork I have ever had, but just not enough of it.  We ground most of it, got a nice bunch of ribs, 4 little hams and a few pounds of bacon.  On top of that I got lots of lard!! I'm pretty happy that I got to render my own lard.  I've only done a few pounds so far, but I have two nice jars of pure white shortening.  I can't wait to try it in a pie crust and perhaps to fry up some chicken.  The bacon AND the hams both turned out a bit too salty for us.  However after brining the hams I don't think we gave them a long enough soak in a clean water solution.  The flavor is awesome though (underneath the saltiness).  Greg got a new smoker and it worked out very well for smoking the ham and bacon.  I was able to take care of some of the bacon saltiness by blanching it for a minute before frying it up.  We did the bacon in a dry cure which included brown sugar, salt and some applewood seasoning. We did the hams in a wet brine that included salt, sugar, saltpeter and a few other spices.  As some by-products of the butchering process we got around 4 days of dog food and a few days of supplemental chicken feed.  Although Greg thinks that maybe going with just purchasing a feeder pig each year, I'm pretty much against that for a few reasons.
 1) I really do like having Abra and Avidor here.  They aren't the friendliest piggies but they add another dimension to the farm. 
2)They are the garbage disposals of the farm.  I don't mean to make it sound as if we feed them nothing but garbage, but if there are cuttings and such - they get it. If there are bruised or bug-gotten veggies in the garden - they get it.  They get lots of the "wasted" hay from the goats and they take care of the goat's barn cleanings each spring by mulching it up into some VERY fine soil.
3) As a rototiller, they are hard to beat.  In the fall and the spring they work wonders in the garden and save me lots of work.
4) Baby pigs are SO cute so I like to have baby pigs and there is NO way I want a breeding pair of pigs with a combined weight of around 1200# that I have to contend with and feed year round!!
I have done a bit of research into perhaps adding another sow into our breeding program.  I was wondering about adding an American Guinea Hog sow, but after researching I don't think I'd have much different than what I have now.  A somewhat slow growing lard-type pig.  I found a farm somewhat near us that used to raise Guinea Hogs but since they are selling pork, they moved "up" to some AGH crosses. Most of their crosses I believe include about 1/4 AGH, however they have a Tamworth/AGH cross that they may sell after she farrows and raises her piglets.  "Food" for thought I suppose, I have some time to think on it.

Our two batches of hatched chickens are growing bigger, but I have to say, I won't be hatching chickens in the winter again!! What a mess keeping three sets of chickens (the older layers, the first brood hatched and the second brood hatched) separate in our small coop through the winter.  I think spring, summer and early fall will work much better.  If we were just raising one batch of chickens it would be no problem, but we have a limited space to try and keep everybody separate.

After having some issues with stomach worms in one of our goats, I have decided I am going to find a Famacha class to take.  We do our own fecals here and I've gotten much better at it over the last few months after continually testing, testing and re-testing one goat's poo.  I was even able to get a picture of one of the worm eggs.  I did take a sample to the vets to get a professional opinion and his conclusion was "stomach worms" (same as what I was seeing).  I am, as of yet, still unaware of exactly what kind of worm it is. 

 We are heading into kidding season here.  (See the previous CONTEST post "Pregnant or Not Pregnant?")   I was originally thinking that most of our girls were bred by the bucks later during their exposure, but after an inspection on the milk stand of most of the girls this evening I now think our "little men" got busy sooner than I thought.  We have 9 girls (hopefully)  bred.  A 10th doe miscarried earlier in her pregnancy and we have one doeling that won't be bred until next season.   It's going to be a BUSY few months here.  On my next few days off in a row, I'll be juggling goats and getting everybody assigned their kidding pens.  I think we will move the dogs out for kidding - I think the buck pen is going to look pretty crowded for awhile. 

While I had the some of the girls on the stand doing their routine "maintenence" I was extremely impressed with the hooves on most of my girls.  It's been 6 months since most of them have been trimmed and they didn't get much more than a quick cleaning out with a hoof pick.  For two this is there first trim in over a year and there hooves look like a newborn kid's.  Also, (although I have NO Famacha training) they all have nice bright pink lower lids and have not needed to be wormed in a good amount of time.  These girls are most certainly keepers!!

Well this post has gotten long and drawn out and it's really late so......Until next time.....

Pregnant or Not Pregnant?

Here we go Ladies and Gentlemen, another contest!! 
Big prizes and lots of fun....
I have posted pictures of our goats (mostly belly shots) on our Facebook page.  We would love for you to try your hand at guessing their due dates.  With the use of three very young new bucks this year we have quite a large window of time that our girls were with our boys.   Kidding can be anywhere from January 8th to the middle of May.  Of all the goats pictured only ONE are we certain of pregnancy status. 

1) You may only have one qualifying guess per goat. I will post updated pictures periodically, if you change your guess when looking at updated photos, ONLY the most recent guess will count.  Goats are listed by number.  There are 10 goats total to guess on.  There are multiple pictures of each goat. 
2) Only EXACT dates will count
3) If two contestants guess the same date, ONLY the first guess counts (there can not be two winners per goat so if somebody has already guessed a date before you, please try again)
4)You may only win once (if you guess correctly on more than one goat I can not "double" your prize)
5) I reserve the right to "close" guessing at anytime. Tentatively at this time I will close the guessing around mid January.
6) Please remember I really have no idea if any of the goats are actually bred (except one) and have no idea of expected kidding dates except as noted above.

(your choice of one, dependant on availability)
1) a 25% discount on any ONE goat I list for sale
2) an assortment of laying hens (and a rooster or two if you choose)
3) a Satin rabbit OR a Satin/Checkered Giant/New Zealand cross rabbit (gender depends on availability)
4) an assortment of heirloom tomato, pepper and bean seeds (and a bad full of rabbit poo if you want it)

 (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE submit your guesses on our FB album instead of here, thank you!!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just some farm babbling (and one awesome recipe)

Here is another fall update….

The little piglets have been moved into the garden to forage and rototill.  I am keeping Abra and Avidor in their summer digs for a bit longer to allow the babies to grow a bit faster without the competition of their parents for food.   We figure we will be butchering at least one in December and perhaps the other in February.

We had our first hatching success and have 12 little Light Brahma chicks.   Our success rate was about 50%.  I don’t think that was too bad for our first clutch.  These baby chicks are so friendly compared to the ones I have purchased via mail or at TSC.   I have another 30 eggs going into the incubator this weekend.

The Guinea fowl have been banned into the horse barn for the duration of the winter.  They don’t like the chickens so they can’t stay in the chicken coop and they can’t free range because they like Greg’s truck as a daytime perch.   They were doing well up there until they found the cat door……sigh, they are NOT the smartest birds, but they sure do know how to get into trouble.

I finally found something at which I can rival an Amish woman.  I found a superb recipe for a pumpkin log that tastes JUST like one made by the Amish (and maybe better).  A few notes:  1) I did not use any nuts. 2) My jelly roll pan was larger than the required size so the cake batter didn’t cover it; I had to make an additional ½ batch to fill out the pan (but didn’t use ALL the batter). 3) I’m pretty sure they are wrong on the amount of servings; there were a few less than 8.  J 

Pumpkin Log


3 eggs

¾ cups granulated sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup oil

1 cup chopped pecans


Grease and flour a 10” x 15” jelly roll pan; line with wax paper or parchment paper and grease again.  Preheat oven to 360 deg F. 

Mix ingredients together in order listed, excepting nuts.  Spread into prepared pan; sprinkle with nuts.  Bake 15 minutes.  Turn out onto dampened towel. Roll up lengthwise in jellyroll fashion (including towel and paper).  Cool



2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 package cream cheese, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup confectioners’ sugar


Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth.  Unroll cooked cake and remove paper and towel.  Spread with filling, re-roll, and refrigerate. 

Makes 8 servings


My dearest hubby hooked up our dishwasher – what a wonderful help.  I had (sort of) forgotten how nice it is to have one. 

My dearest hubby has been such a busy man, since he also finished up the new goat barn and his farm equipment storage shed.  After we had a week of heavy rainfall, they were happy to have this extra space during the next rain.   This barn actually has height enough for me to very comfortably stand in it.  With an additional 200 square feet of floor space I know I’M going to be happy with it.  I’m now storing quite a bit of hay in the goat feed room adjacent to this new living space; this makes it even easier this winter as I won’t have to trudge through the snow nearly as much to put hay into the feeders!! 

Powder, our Satin doe, has finally come of age and we attempted our first breeding.   Not quite enough proper action from our buck, Fudge, the first couple of tries.  We put her in with him and the third time was the charm.  We are due for our first babies around November 20th, 2012!!

Speaking of bunnies, I picked up two more rabbits yesterday.  They are two young Checkered Giant/ New Zealand cross does.  One will be heading to the dinner table while the other will be a kept as a breeder.   I am seriously on the lookout for some nice size angora does.   I’m doing some research into them and found I can use them for fiber (when not bred or rearing young) and for meat.

The goats are growing wider and wider and wider.   Got the baby monitor fixed and set up ready to alert me to babies (in a few months). 


As I get deeper into this world of quality goat breeding, I find more things that are hard for a softie like me.  While I believe that my stock is of pretty darn good quality I concern myself with the small (or maybe not so small) things.  For instance, if I have stock that is of very nice confirmation, good feet, decent worm resistance, good meat to bone ratio, fast growing, has large litter sizes, friendly and  of amazing color but for some reason seems to be more prone to unknown illnesses and/or nutritional deficiencies.   Are those the first I should cull? Or would it be better to cull a family line that is slower growing but that is NOT prone to any illness or deficiencies?  Or perhaps the family line that has EVERYTHING but only gives me single births?  Currently I haven’t had these specific issues or choices to make but I tend to make mountains out of molehills sometimes.  I don’t want to cull anybody to be honest, but I’ve been thinking more and more about currently having 9 does bred and only space to keep 3 more goats!!  I know I would like to keep one Myotonic doeling and two are most likely already sold.  I am hoping I get at least one SUPER colorful and built doe from Nitro and would like to keep that one.  I’m not sure however if I want to keep any offspring from Demon.  He is growing wonderfully and I’ve bred him to Berry and Fiona, but I don’t like his scrotal conformation.  If he throws that trait to his male offspring he will be culled.  I do know that before closing our herd I need at least three bucks that I am extremely happy with or my herd won’t be that constant improvement that all (okay hopefully at least most) new breeders strive for. 

I will be getting gift baskets together soon for this year.  However I wish they could be as full as last year, but unfortunately I didn’t do the canning this year that I did the previous year, so my cupboard is almost “bare”.  However without as many home canned goods, I hope to add a few craft projects, maybe some homemade soap or body scrubs and maybe a few homemade mixes!! 

I’ve put Icee and Reign back together to guard the girls pen as a team.  Icee finished her first “season” at 11-1/2 months of age.  If all goes well, she won’t be coming into heat again until spring; at which point I will either separate them again or allow them to produce their first litter.  I have been extremely impressed with the guarding ability, temperament and intelligence of these two.  When kidding season hits this spring however I think I will keep both Reign and Icee with the boys until the dams and their kids settle in.  I’m just not sure I want to trust ANY dog with my newborns at this time until they prove themselves (supervised) with little ones first!!

There has been one sad departure since our last blog entry.   Monte (aka Monkey) has moved to live with children.  I think the change was most likely sadder for me than it was for Monte.  I’m sure he will be very happy with a couple of kids to dote on him!!

There have been two additions since our last entry.  Jasmine (aka Jazz) is a gorgeous 10HH pony mare.  She will need a lot of work on trust issues, being a bit head shy.  We have had her here about three weeks now and she has come a long way, if the weather would cooperate I’m sure I could work her more often.  She is my new cart prospect and hopefully by spring we will have a harness on her.

The second addition to our homestead is 10 acres surrounding our current 2 acres.  We have put in the fencing for a two acre horse pasture and will be planting pasture grasses and a few trees in the spring.  The remaining acreage will be planted for haying.  Hopefully in the spring I will be also doubling the size of the both the buck pen and the girls pasture. 

Well, until next time…..

Another contest - FINALLY!!

Make that fudge!! 
Here are the goats milk fudge flavors I made last year:

Plain chocolate
Habanero dark chocolate fudge
Gingerbread chocolate fudge
Maple walnut chocolate fudge
Cherry dark chocolate fudge
Chocolate spearmint fudge
Chocolate peppermint fudge
Chocolate peanutbutter fudge

This year I will be adding another flavor:
Chocolate cranberry

What I would like to see is  YOU help me with is come up with a few more flavors!! 

Your mission:
Give me a flavor name and what you think it should have in it.  For instance my gingerbread fudge includes a bit of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and molasses.  My maple walnut has maple flavoring as well as crushed walnuts inside and one nicely formed walnut on top.
Be creative, be unusual and have fun.  Even better if you have made it yourself!!

Your reward:
If I add your idea to my Christmas fudge line up I will send you a jar of one of my homemade mixes (hot cocoa, soups, cookies, etc) or jams!! It's a surprise and I will certainly try and have it to you before Christmas.  In this contest there will certainly be more than one winner!! If I choose more than one of your submissions I will send you more than one gift jar, but reserve the right to limit the number of jars I send one individual.

Make sure I have a way to contact you if you post on the blog.  If there are duplicate posts of the same flavor that is chosen, the prize will be awarded to the person who posted first. 

Contest begins today:  11/12/12
Contest ends:  11/21/12
Winner announced:  11/25/12

PLEASE if you would like to submit a suggestion, post on the facebook page so I can keep them all together.  Thanks. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It all comes down to portion control…….

While eating healthier and more organic foods is a wonderful thing, you might need to remind yourself how much of it to eat.   Just because the pork is more flavorful and raised “better” than store bought, doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much!!    Oh, and by the way – when I say you I mean me!!  I am writing this blog during another one of my self-imposed Facebook boycotts and this also happens to coincide with my new diet plan.  I use diet loosely as there is no real diet foods included this time, however there IS a plan.  I have started increasing the amount of exercise I’m getting as well as exercising significant portion control.  I have to face the fact that I’ve always been a big eater.  I love 2nd’s (and 3rd’s are great too if we are having spaghetti or homemade wet burritos).  Until I quit smoking (and somewhere along the lines started getting OLD) this really wasn’t a problem.  My weight had remained quite constant at just about 10 - 15# over my high school weight.   I enjoyed implementing part of  my plan for the first time yesterday, beginning with a brisk two mile walk/jog with Reign (the Pyrenees) and ending with another brisk two mile walk/ride with Monte (the pony formally known as Monkey).   I did not however enjoy the implementation of the other half of my plan – the portion control!!  It did work out okay though, I just need some low calorie/high fill snacks to add in to alleviate the in between meal munchies.  I will be off to the store today to pick up baby carrots and some celery (next year’s garden MUST include more carrots and perhaps some celery).  I have at least 30# to loose, but 50# would be my ideal.   (But 50# is more of a pipedream as that would put me back at my high school weight.)  We have all the workout equipment (Total Gym, Bike, Treadmill, weights, Wii)  in our spacious basement, so although winter is approaching there will be NO EXCUSES.  Besides if my 80 year old neighbor can ride his bike daily all winter long (and rollerblade until the snow begins to fly), I certainly should be able to get my 40ish butt out to walk daily.   You may ask yourselves why I am airing this fairly private bit of information, after all women don’t generally say much about their weight or diet plans in public.  I’ll admit, I hesitated a bit but then thought it might be a bit like quitting smoking.  The more people you tell, the more embarrassing it will be if you give up!!  If people ask how is the quitting (smoking or eating LOL) is going it’s a much better feeling to say “It’s going good” than to have to say “I gave up”.  So to any of you actually reading this…..feel free to ask me how it’s going from time to time, just to keep me on my toes.

Portion control isn’t just for diets either.  If you ask my husband he’ll tell you, I need to learn better portion control when it comes to owning animals.  Our totals are currently at the following:  3 horses, 1 pony, 13 doe goats, 3 buck goats, 1 wether goat, 2 Pyrenees guard dogs, 2 breeding pigs, 2 freezer pigs, 2 guinea fowl, 2 bantam roosters, 1 bantam hen, 1 New Hampshire Red rooster, 8 assorted laying hens,  22 eggs incubating, 2 rabbits, 2 barn cats, 3 house cats and 2 house dogs!!   I think my plate is quite full, however I have allotted space to add 3 more goats, a honey bee hive, a litter of rabbits destined for the freezer/canner, a box of baby chickens to eventually be stew meat or flock replacements and I’d like our actual laying flock to stay around 15-20 birds.   However keep in mind my original goat limit I had set was 7 and rabbits were never even on the original list!  Exercising control is so HARD.  I still would like a cow someday (maybe) and a smaller pony and a llama or alpaca just for kicks…….

Another area of my life lacking in portion control?  Facebook.  Geez is that stuff addicting.  It is so easy to join more groups, add more “friends” and play more games.  I could literally spend a day just catching up on the games, reading new posts on my home page and reading posts in all the groups I belong to.  Here is what I have decided:  NO MORE shall I be part of these mindless masses.  I may need to pare down my friends list and most certainly will remove many game apps.  I will continue to use FB in the future, but if I’m not looking for horses, tack, livestock, pets, etc.  I will STAY OFF those groups, just because somebody posts something doesn’t mean I have to read it….why bother -  I’m NOT going to purchase anything!!  So basically don’t peruse the for sale groups unless there is something I need. This my friends, is my Final Answer…..

Here’s an area where I have reverse portion control issues - housework.  My barns might be organized and (sometimes) spotless – but my house usually has dishes to be done, laundry to be put away and more hay on the floor than my barn has!!  With all the time I cut out of FB I should have plenty of time to increase the housework portions of my day.  Or not…..I’d hate to be biting off more than I can chew.

Until next time……