Saturday, October 14, 2017

What Does Self-Sufficiency Mean?

I assume besides entertainment over what is this crazy lady is doing now, you have some yearning for self-sufficiency or you would not be reading this blog. My question to you is can someone be truly self-sufficient? The answer I feel relies on what you define as self-sufficient. Television programs, like the one on Netflix about the trappers in Alaska, define it as living with a finite amount of products manufactured by others for a period of time in isolation. Others in magazines and on the news define it as growing a garden, and raising some livestock. Still others think emergency preparedness makes them self-sufficient.

But what does self-sufficient truly mean – “able to provide for or support oneself without the help of others”. That is what the dictionary’s defines. Note the part where it says supports oneself without the help of others. So is it really possible to support oneself completely? Does anyone really provide their own food, clothing, transportation, housing, warmth, and tools all on their own? Some say no… others yes. I say yes, and no. Yes, if one is in the perfect location, with the perfect amount of skills and talents, and exceptional cooperation from Mother Nature to provide your needs when you need them. 

Does that ever really happen? For short periods of time but definitely not going to happen for long periods of time or where we live. Mother Nature is rarely predictable. The weatherman sometimes changes his mind three times in one day. It is going to snow. It’s not. No, I think it is. 10 out of 10 of the most destructive hurricanes on record occurred in the last 10 years and weather is predicted to become more and more unstable. I've heard everything under the sun from we are getting hotter to we are on the edge of a mini ice age. They all look at limited data. Climate Change many experts say is blown out of the water by present data. I believe it is political and financially based. The mini ice age is a debate over what will become the most influential on our weather, sun flares or pollution? Me, I say Mother Nature has always changed and cycled and the Lord  has said that she will become more unpredictable in these last days. Let's see... scientist or the guy who created the universe? For me the answer is easy. And on every website I looked at for threats to our power grid, weather came up number one.

This places emergency preparedness way up on the list of self-sufficient needs. A disaster could leave an area in need for a short period of time or for months  with financial devastation lasting for years after.  Hurricane Sandy left some without power for months afterwards. Numerous disasters all during a short period of time, like this fall with the fires out West and the hurricanes down south, have left resources and money spread thin. The government who was in part responsible for the fires out west, because of poor management, has decided to ignore the devastation all together in favor of the hurricanes which they had no part in creating. It is political as other than California, those hit hardest have little political clout.  We learn from this that help is fickle and unreliable. FEMA came to the small town we used to live in when a tornado hit only because nothing else was going on. From them I learned that help is available beyond shelters to those who are best prepared financially through insurance and being out of debt etc.  I interviewed the director at the sight and he told me they were not there to bale out those who had not prepared. They were there to provide immediate shelter and low interest loans to qualifying applicants much like those applying for any bank loan. For a short period of time, usually a year, they would provide some with low cost trailers as temporary housing.  Shocker, yeah, many thought they would help them replace their home and belongings out of the goodness of their hearts. Government has no heart, it is a bureaucracy.

Lesson learned - take care of yourself and prepare. When I look at our own situation, I see much need for improvement. We are precarious in a number of areas. We are no longer out of debt since we moved to a place that over time would provide us with far greater opportunity for independence. We have far more individuals that rely on us financially and physically. We have no backup as a power source beyond electricity. If we had propane and a propane kitchen cooking stove with a battery lighter for the oven then cooking and the wood stoves would take care of us pretty nicely for we have a source of light with candles and lamps.  The water well is a big issue as it is run electrically. It needs a backup power source. If we don't travel and have supplies on hand, we could sit pretty good. Paying the bills on the other hand is a problem. I'm working on that.  We need far more of a financial reserve. Ours has been exhausted.  

Big risks for us is a wild fire, we  sit at the foot of a mountain range; and a heavy snow that lasts for weeks on end.  Tornadoes don't plague us like the area we were in but their is a slight chance of an earthquake. Riots are  hardly a problem since we have so few living near us and they tend to be the older generation, along with ranchers.  Our threats are not necessarily the same as yours and so you need to evaluate where you sit. 

We live where Red Cloud once roamed and so I’ve questioned how did the Native American tribes in America before the Nina, the Pinta, and the Sana Maria exist? We think of them as being very nomadic and simply living off the land. They became those two things but originally most were farmers. They stayed in one place year round. Most lived near the coasts. A few in the more interior areas were more nomadic due to Mother Nature. You know, summer pastures and winter sheltered area. When the Native American societies were in their decline due to outside pressure from pioneers, they became more nomadic, war-like, and raiding parties were more common thing where they stole what they desired. Trading of course was common. In the truest sense of the definition, they were not self-reliant. 
Is this the course of civilizations? Our daughter and I looked into groups of people during WWII who were displaced and groups earlier in history which lived in small societies. What we found is that groups with fewer skills, like those during WWII who by this time relied more and more on others, created part of their needs, traded for some, and then stole the rest. See a pattern? Those who had a broader work ethic and a greater number of skills, create as much as they could themselves and then traded for the rest. Preparedness gave them the ability to live a higher moral standard. The key being they were capable of fulfilling a large portion of their own needs. The reason for each group remaining in close proximity to one another was safety in numbers - a larger defense group. The day to day survival was up to the individual families. If you think it will go back to a butcher, a baker, and a candle stick maker, look again. We basically already have that. Of course others will help those in need. First they have to have something to give. Personal survival will more often than not trump serving others. Look at what has happened recently in Puerto Rico. Many of the skilled such as rescue workers, physicians, etc. stayed with their families. Part I'm sure was due to safety issues. When their own survival needs and those of their families is met, then many will reach out.  In dire circumstances it has always been the nuclear family group that determined the level of their existence or their extinction. 

Look at yourself and think what you have and need to survive in a wide spread disaster or war. Evaluate your skills, supplies, financial situation? How vulnerable are you? Look around you. What shape are your neighbors in? I think most of you know how they will react. Will they be looting and committing crimes or banning together to solve problems? In an EMP outage they figure 9 out of 10 will die. No electricity was what our great grandparents knew and yet, most of us will not survive. It seems kind of crazy. They don't expect an EMP anytime soon but it is a good example of how different we are from our ancestors. To me we look pretty helpless as a nation. Sad isn't it?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rabbitry and Lessons Five Through Eleven

 Research taught me that in a commercial operation they loose about 40 percent of the offspring, mainly due to intestinal issues. That seems really high. There has to be a way around that and I began researching the causes of death in kittens. I'm still researching the subject but my efforts so far have resulted in an awesome success rate on the last two batches. Tweaking a day or two here and there on the plan is needed but I feel the formula is sound.

But let me back track to my story from the last post. I wrote down the day I bred Betty Boo but then couldn't find out where that was. The result was she gave birth to ten kittens on the bare wires. Oops!, caught her shortly after though and saved nine. Those went into the nesting box. (Keep in mind this is during the time we are dealing with four grandkids and trying to help a daughter struggling to work full time and fly to Tulsa to do chemotherapy which resulted in severe neuropothy challenges.

Lesson number five - Keep a record book just for rabbits with lessons learned and things tried along with dates. Also order those nifty metal cardholders that attach to the cages where you can keep how much to feed each rabbit in each cage and information like breeding dates and expected kindling dates. 

Lesson number six -- Make sure and gentle your mother rabbit to the point that you can cuddle her long before she kindles. That way she won't be upset if you handle her kittens. 

Lesson number seven -- Mother rabbits may not feed their young for the first day and even two until their milk comes in. 

Lesson number eight -- Put water in a bowl instead of the hanging waterers as the doe will drink far more aiding to bring in her milk.  They seem to prefer nice soft grass hay instead of pellets. The doe's tummy is tender and how can it not having given birth to so many?

Lesson number nine -- Rabbits nurse their young early morning and evening or night time. Betty Boo's favorite hour is seven a.m. and seven p.m.

Lesson number ten -- Handle the babies and check tummies morning and night. Especially on a first time mom. Move kittens with slimmer tummies to the middle of the pile. They get cold easier and this helps to ensure they receive adequate amount of milk the next feeding. In this fashion even the runt did well though he was not always the one who was the skinniest after he was in the middle position. He was just the least aggressive and therefore smaller. I even got to where I knew when Betty Boo was going to feed and I'd get in there just before so I could shift the little ones about.

The second time Betty Boo kindled nine. She is an awesome mamma. On the other hand she majorly questions my mothering skills. In early September, I'd cover the babies, afraid they might get cold, and she'd give me a disgusted look and run over and uncover them declaring them too hot. She of course knew best but I had to do it on occasion because it was just too funny!! No need the second time to shift babies around. She did the job of making sure each was fed just fine. I still check tummies. One can not be too careful and I want them use to being handled from the very beginning.

Lesson number eleven -- Comb fur on the other bunnies so you will have enough to give to the kittens if mom does not pull much of her own fur. This tidbit off the internet makes sense since Betty Boo barely pulled any hair with her first kindling since the weather was warm but in September that can change in a hurry. I set to work on the shedding bucks to cushion the nest and add warmth.

Lesson number twelve -- Soft grass hay or wood shavings makes great bedding. Just be aware that the doe may eat up part of the grass hay. I've bedded with both and done well. I just have to remember to add more hay if she gets the munchies.

 Now the nine bundles of fur from the second batch are twenty-seven days old and the first thing the kiddos run to after school. Yes, they have all made it so far. My kitten feeding plan is working and both batches of Betty Boo's have done extremely well but I see it needs tweaking by a day or two here and there. The record book has proven critical to my success. My kitten feeding program deserves a blog of its own but I need just a little more time to perfect it.  
They recommend for New Zealand or California Whites to be bred at five months for good fertility performance and Betty Boo's, Anna gave birth on October 3. She has five and I'm pleased since I only left her in with the buck for half a day. The babies are very active  but I'm still waiting for Anna's milk to fully come in. I can tell when it does because the amount of water she drinks goes way up. As long as the little ones are popping up like popcorn when touched I know they are getting some milk. As I thought about the five months of age breeding age it made sense to me since kidding a dairy goat for the first time is best when done as a yearling since  it increases the estrogen levels developing her physically and helps milk capacity in the future. Of course both the rabbit doe and the dairy goat doe need to be fed properly to reach their full size. I've never had a problem. Anna is no different as she is quite large like her mama.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Rabbitry Lessons Learned

 Rabbits have been a very difficult area for me to master. Three years later and I'm still in the beginning level of the rabbit self-sufficiency class. The teacher has been the Internet and the academy, the school of hard knocks.The longer I am in this project, the more I realize I don't have a clue what I'm doing. It doesn't help that the teacher has differing opinions and sometimes refuses to tell me the intimate details I need. But just as our ancestors saw great benefit in this area of husbandry, we see it also. Why not when a male and three females can produce the meat equivalent of a beef in one year if you have the right set up, which we don't. But I do know that a rabbit in just a few months is ready for the dinner table and that means a steady supply. A beef needs eighteen months to two years before it is ready to process. That is a long wait and then a glutton amount of meat all at once. Not that we plan on not having a beef now and then but I'm wanting to lower the number of freezers we have and change what's in them.

We are finally realizing some success with our rabbits and we have learned a number of lessons. I'd like to pass them along. Maybe you won't have to spend so much time in the school of hard knocks like we have. Since our first rabbits, Oreo and Whitey had been inherited and they had produced kittens before we figured it would be smooth sailing. She had not been bred for quite some time but I was not in the market for pets so I figured they might as well earn their keep. The first mating wasn't bad, she had eight and six survived. I wasn't pleased with the mortality rate but read that wasn't bad. Then the next kindling she had a single and it died. Then she refused to drink water for days on the next batch and refused to feed them so we tried bottle feeding. They slowly died as they do if not at least two weeks old when orphaned. The following batch died with no interest in them from mom.

Lesson number one  - Obey the professionals when they say don't give a doe more than two chances to get it right.

We should have quit two batches ago. The question became just how old should a rabbit be to kindle and how old before a doe is retired or becomes table fare? That is a debatable answer I found.  Part of the answer I found lies in rabbits longevity. Rabbits in the wild live from a year to three years depending on the number of predators so it stands to reason that a commercial operation would not keep their rabbits very long. In fact many don't keep them past eighteen months old as after two the production rate drops. They of course are kindled frequently. Not what I have in mind but I'm thinking three batches of bunnies a year would probably be the limit to our possibilities because of housing and cage availability. That is when we get everything all built. What we will need when everything gets up and rolling full time is an answer not yet solidified. Then you include our weather and that we don't want a heated or air conditioned building just too much money.

The longevity story changes when the rabbit is for pet use. Then with proper feeding - mostly high quality grass hay - then they can live seven to twelves years of age. The larger rabbits living a shorter lifespan. 
Lesson number two -- Age is a factor in fertility, live births, and birth to adult size success rates. With age it goes down just like in chickens. We plan on removing does from the operation when they turn three.

With Oreo gone, we were looking for does. Our neighbor, who had just gotten back into rabbits, offered us two rabbits he claimed were does. That was handy. I bred them to Whitey,--- and I bred them to Whitey--- and I bred them again to him --- no babies. First I thought something must be wrong with Whitey but low and behold, they were bucks too. Wasted 3/4's of a year on that one. But I learned a great lesson, you need to sex your own animals. Cockily I thought this was a no-brainer task. I used the kitten formula of one hole, one slit is a girl and one hole a boy. Found out the hard way that that doesn't work. Off to the internet I went. The best source of information I found is on this site -  . I learned that they both have a hole and a slit but the males slit is smaller and it has a tube that will protrude if pinched correctly. This tube has a hole also. You could say the female has two holes and the male three.
  Lesson number three - learn to sex your own rabbits.

The neighbor gave me more babies as he lacked enough cages for  all of his and I sexed them keeping two girls and processed the boys which included the boys he gave me the last time that were suppose to be girls. One of the two young does, Sheila, I kindled last spring about a week before our daughter and I left to go to the cancer center in Tulsa for her first time. We were gone a week when I received a phone call from my distraught daughter who was home taking care of the grandlittles and animals to tell me she had done her best but the kittens were all dead. She could not figure out why. In part I realized we needed nesting boxes.

Lesson number four - Build a nesting box.

I built two and things have gone far better.

Sheila was bred again and they were all stillborn. Immediately after the nest batch was born she began eating the legs off them. Yup, she joined Oreo in the freezer. Too bad I did not listen to lesson number one sooner. 

Betty Boo, Sheila's sister, seems to like the box and stays to nurse longer. It keeps the babies warm as you can pile up a deep layer of bedding for them to snuggle under. I've only had one baby be dragged out of the box into the open area because it was still hanging on nursing. That was with Betty Boo's first batch. I caught it in time and put it back. I fluff the bedding twice a day at least and this helps it to keep from getting packed down as my two does love to check on babies hopping into the nesting box and compacting it.

Before Betty Boo kindled, my husband begged me to give up and quit spending money and time on raising rabbits. You can't blame him as no success in two years is a bit much. I hadn't put a lot of effort into it and I knew it. That changed and I began researching in earnest. I spent a lot of time in thought. Then when Betty Boo had ten kittens and only one died at birth being left on the wire section of the cage and died from cold, I was armed with information and a plan. What a good mama she is. With this second batch she is even more of an amazing mom. She is sticking around and Ive kept two of her offspring.

Lessons five through eleven will be in the next blog coming soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Broccoli, Make Mine Dried.

While I'm waiting on the last batch of beets to process, I thought I'd show you what's new. I'm drying broccoli. Don't ask me what has gotten into me but I was tired of freezing it and there wasn't any freezer room left anyway. There would be if the freezers weren't such a muddled mess. BUT...,. knew that was coming didn't you, there are two big boxes of apples on the floor awaiting juicing and the last load of hay is still sitting on the trailer. The hay yard fence is down and I see the deer have discovered the goodies we've hauled in this last week so rain or no rain, this Saturday we've got fence to put back up. 

Freezers will just have to wait. That is until I'm processing rabbits and then I'm back in the mess of where oh where do I put them? I've got seven to get done as two does from that batch are due to kindle the first of Oct. If you are counting then yes, that is nine. Betty Boo is such a good mama. No pen room for the new mothers to be as they are all full and these two presently share living quarters. I know their siblings are a bit over sized but how does one keep up? Thought things would slow down but no, something new to throw a curve ball all the time. This week it is lice. The black creepy crawly kind that evade your hair or rather our eight year old  granddaughters. Our kids got lice once from the neighbor girl. It was white lice though this is black. Good thing her mama is an expert. She deals with it at work on a regular basis and says it seems the black ones don't seem to spread as bad. 

Learned a trick on the internet though I hope not to have to use it. If you soak the hair in vinegar it breaks down the glue like substance that holds the eggs to the hair shaft making them easier to comb out. It does not kill them. So far the lice seems to be all gone after one treatment of Vamoose. Need my hair checked again as I'm sleeping with Creepy Crawly Haired Cutey. Waiting on the twin bed mattresses to arrive which had an order mix up. Then my bed partner can return to her room in a separate bed from her sister who has taken up beating people up in her sleep. The full bed which once spelled comfort for our two youngest grandlittles is now the torture chamber. Such is life with growing children.

But we were talking about rabbits or was it broccoli? Maybe I'd better tell you about the rabbits another day.  I've got a batch of nine -- 21 day old babies. They are the cutest things. I promise pictures are coming. It would have been today but the camera's battery was dead. Don't you just hate that? I don't have one of those newer I- phone. It it one of the areas we have cut the budget. Our $50 dollar phones have lasted a good 7 years each and are the only phone service we have.  Service is cheap too because we have the oldies but goodies. I don't need all the gadgetry but those cameras on the newer things would be nice. Ours has a camera option but the screen is a little over an inch in size. Pretty hard to make out anything so why bother snapping a shot? It can't do what my Cannon camera can anyway. If someone sends me a phone picture I have to send it to our daughter, who sends it via e-mail back to us and I check the computer. Most of the time I just don't bother to look at phone pictures so don't send me one just use e-mail.

Oh yeah, I was suppose to be talking about broccoli. It's good stuff dried and I don't hardly notice the taste. I'm not real fond of broccoli. I just eat some because its good for me. Everyone else in the family calls it trees and loves it. So tomorrow I'll cut some side shoots, and dry them. No blanching as this stuff is not going to be around long enough to worry about lost nutrients. I've found I prefer my broccoli dried. The addition in cream sauces and soups enhances the flavor but is not pronounced like when you bite into steamed broccoli. You might just want to give it a try before Jack Frost takes away your opportunity for this fall. Let me know what you use it in.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dragon's Tongue

 They look like Easter or some women's tea party bean don't they? Pretty in pink I'd say and yes, not every one of these beauty's in the photo is a Dragon Tongue for you bean connoisseurs can see one imposter in there but hey, I'm in a rush to get things done. Looks like the weatherman has changed his mind again and we are forecast today to get not .06 inches of rain but .93 and those temperatures he was warming up must have been wishful thinking because we are back down to freezing for tomorrow night and the next with just 40's in the daytime. Plus that snow forecast they took away is back in a greater measure. He hasn't a clue. 

I was watching our youngest granddaughter all day yesterday, 'she is a cutey paooty', and then of course church activities in the evening for the kiddos who stay here. That means putting the pedal to the medal today on getting the garden stripped, in the rain if necessary.  I figured when I picked these Dragon's Tongue that I had better make shell beans of them. There is no way they will make dried bean stage and they were past the fresh eating phase.
Dragon's Tongue is our children's favorite bean for fresh eating especially just picked from the garden to munch on. When canned it looks kind washed out, blah and not as appetizing as the traditional bean of that is my opinion anyway. I've grown these beans many times but never have I been able to get them to reach the dried bean stage.

So as a last hurrah, I used up the last of my seed and our kids can grow them if they wish since they are all grown up now.

We ate some fresh and then I let the rest of the Dragon's tongue beans go develop to the shell stage. I had three other fresh beans going with two kinds on a trial basis so I wasn't in great need of fresh beans. 

The bean in the photo on the right is fresh stage and the one on the left is shell. 

As a shell bean when blanched, they are gorgeous in looks but how will they taste? We shall see as I chose to blanch for 3 minutes and then freeze this time instead of can because there were so few. I've never frozen shell beans. I've never done much of anything with the shell stage. In fact, I'd never even heard of shelled beans until a few years ago. There apparently is a whole different taste to them. Since the dried bean varieties I have chosen can be eaten fresh, shelled, or dried; I may just have to try each variety at all of those stages. You never know what the weather will bring. The Weather Channel said we are going to experience temperatures to 25 degrees lower than normal this week. 

Many believe the weather will become more unpredictable in the years to come. The scriptures foretell of it and it is a no brainer that the earth has weather cycles. We had far more snow in my grandmothers childhood than in mine or my children's. A mini ice age may be around the corner. It has happened before why would it not happen again? Or on the flip side, the earth may experience a global drought. Change is inevitable. I just figure we had better change with it and not get stuck thinking beans can only be eaten dry and green. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tis the Season

Snow was in the forecast but they decided it might rain instead. I'm questioning the weatherman but when don't I? Along the coastlines I hear he can do a pretty good job but here out in Wyoming his mind is as clean as the driven snow -- he changes it so often. Yup, just wait a few minutes and he'll tell you something new. Then maybe he will be right or maybe we'll get 18 inches of snow like we did the first year we moved in. That was our first snow of the year and he said a skiff if I recall.  Then there was the year we had a killing hard frost on August 23. Did not expect it to be so dramatic .. but it was.

Wyoming is famous but we're infamous. Did I use that right. Anyway, where we live in Wyoming, our weather is note worthy. If the Interstate is closed, it's most like because of us. Well, not us personally but us as in us'es weather. So the best thing is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We are not prepared for the worst since that requires more funds than are currently available. It appears we are the only ones without a propane tank in this valley and a generator that runs the whole house? Didn't know that when we bought the place. Not that there wasn't a generator but that we needed to have one. It's a bit better now but the power use to go out several times a month. Usually when the weather was nice. It is better now but I'm still leery. The neighbors tell a tale of being without power for 6 days because of a series of snowstorms. We have a lot more preparation to do because Murphy hasn't forgotten us and I'm not stupid enough to think that won't happen again someday.

 Even though it has been in the 90's F. lately, the calendar says we are approaching the 15th and that means erratic temperatures which includes cold and a killing freeze. The wishy washy weatherman says a high in the low forties during the day for Friday and Saturday with 34 F at night. 34 is awful close to 32 and you know  how accurate our weatherman is. In fact while I am writing this, he changed the forecast once more from supper time when he said we'd get .83 inches of rain one day and I think it was .60 something the day before. Now I feel cheated because he says only .06 inches of rain. No wonder we have so little faith in him. He gets our hopes up and then dashes them. He had better be wrong.  We need that rain.

 We hauled three loads of wood in from the sawmill last weekend in preparation for the cold temps we've come to expect this time of year. No, not the super cold temps but the need a fire in the stove kind to stay comfy weather.  The nice chilly weather that invigorates me.
One of these days we will haul in logs but for now this is pretty cheap stuff. This is the outer sides of logs they are making into boards.

Time consuming to cut but cheap is floating our boat right now. Early next week we will hopefully get two loads of hay and then we need to haul in sawdust for bedding, and fill the trash cans up with livestock feed. Not before we glean from the garden first. Don't know how we'll get er all done but.... we have to. 

Then when all is gathered in we can relax and do all the fix it jobs for winter. You know, finish the rabbitry Kirk began. Amazing how motivated he is since I  moved the rabbits to the barn. The place he does his forging of knives in. Then we have to replace some windows, seal up some sheds tighter, ......... The list doesn't end just the weather ends our progress. It just gets taken up again when the weather improves. So if this blog is a bit silent, know when I can, I'll write. 

Things have been crazy with the grandkids in school. I'm running like a yoyo between towns trying to keep up with them. Tomorrow I babysit our youngest who turns 1 the middle of October in one town but only after I get four other grandkids on the bus headed in the opposite direction. 

Know I'm thinking of you and that I haven't shown you our nine baby rabbits yet. Oh my are they cute. The eyes just started to open today and all nine of them jumped out of the nesting box. Two more does are due at the end of the month. How will I ever keep up?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Handling The New Milker

You got her on the milk stand, HURRAY! She's eating her grain, great! You reach for her teats to milk and she squats down. Her udder tucked inside the milk bucket. Surely she can't hold this position for long? She can't so she uses the bucket as a prop and there she remains eating her grain. You stare, wondering how in the world you are going to fit your hands inside and milk her. Actually you won't but then you might have figured that out by now. Been there? Me too, more times than I can count. In my experience of 32 years of milking goats, a few horses, pigs, sheep, and yes - cows, I've learned a few lessons and have some tricks up my sleeve. 

I'll share some of those with you in regards to milking goats. The other species have tricks unique to them but that won't be discussed today. The first tip is to breed your doeling at around 60 or 70 pounds. You want them to kid when after they turn 1. You might think dairy goat yearlings milking for the first time is way too young. Actually for you and for them it is better. It will require a good feed program yes. But having kids at one does not stunt their growth when fed properly. Speak to any National Dairy Show herd owner and they all breed to kid after they turn one - not two. A linear appraisal judge, I believe it was Whiteside (He was awesome and very matter of fact.) ended a debate I had with a couple friends of mine on the subject. The increase in hormones helps physically and mammary wise in their development. The guy should know, he was raised on a goat dairy and has had goats for probably his whole life. Keep in mind I am speaking of dairy goats. I can not speak for the smaller breeds or meat breeds. 

I prefer the smaller size as they are easier to handle. If need be, you can physically lift them on the milking stand. Don't think because they have been on the stand since they were a month old that they will automatically jump up. Their udder fills and all of a sudden it is, 'Oh my, can I really jump up on that stand. It looks so high?' You think I'm being dramatic - oh just wait, you haven't seen drama until you've met a yearling Nubian who's milking for the first time. Be sympathetic, they are like a hormonal teenager, their body has changed and that makes everything so much more emotional and difficult. You WILL have to be patient and yes, you may have to at least lift that now so..... heavy back end up for them. Usually you can get them to put their front feet up and then of course they will want to work there front legs over to where they can eat the grain but not resort to putting the back end up too. Simply stand where they can't reach the grain unless they jump up. It usually works best if you position yourself so they have to mount from the back end of the milking stand. Don't pressure any more than absolutely necessary. It just impedes progress.

You've physically lifted them on the stand, yes!! They are eating their favorite grain, good. Now how do you get around the newby squat. Simple - you don't use a bucket. Instead get a baby bottle or anything similar that you can grip nicely. You grab hold of the baby bottle in one hand and the teat in the other. Then squirt the milk into the bottle. Yes, that means a larger mouth on the bottle is needed. It takes longer but then you can milk almost the whole herd before you get that first time milker done so plan on it. Think ahead of something the girl can eat that isn't all grain like pelleted hay. It could take a while and you don't want to cause tummy scours from an over load of COB. Word of caution milk makes the bottle slippery and you will get some milk on the outside so frequently empty the milk into your milk bucket which is preferably not on the milk stand that she is tap dancing on. With the baby bottle you can still milk to a degree while the tap dance is going on, very important because you have to teach her that the show must go on. Now if it a high stepping  Riverdance leap kind of stepping then a bit of preparatory work is in order first.

Put the milking supplies to the side and simply put your hand on her udder -- firmly. No tickling! Sometimes I run my hand down the hip because they are use to that and then stop on the udder. When she begins to become more comfortable with that, then move your hand a short distance (remember firmly) and then stop with your hand still on her udder. Do NOT take your hand off. If she holds relatively still for a  millisecond then remove your hand. Begin again and when that area is good, move your hand further and further until you are feeling the whole udder. If she can remove your hand by kicking and thrashing then she will do it because it works. Teach her that what works is to hold relatively still and your hand will leave. Slowly keep your hand on her udder longer and longer as she tolerates the touch better. 
Pudge is hardly a Newby but she liked my to lean into her slightly. One could hardly help but not to she was always so pudgy. 
Some newbies like you to lean gently into them as it gives them reassurance. 

For safety sake, so the newby does not fall off the other side while their neck is locked into the stanchion, we have a side on our stand. I lean on the doe gently and she leans into the side. This often calms them down. Goats cluster in the corner pressed up against each other and the wall or fence when frightened. I just take a page out of their own play book and use it. When they are relatively calm with this, then move to the next step.

Don't milk, just hold your hand (just one) in the position of milking with your fingers around one teat. Less stimulus for the newby. Then I release my hand when the behavior is positive or in other words they hold still even a short, short time. See a pattern? When the goat begins to tap dance less and hold still more, then I hold my hand a little longer and a little longer as the behavior grows more positive. Speak sweetly to her. Not, "You little piece of ......!" Unless you can say it in the kindest of ways. This is all suppose to be positive. 

You want the milk stand to represent good things like grain, a more comfortable udder, and gentle hands. This reward system does take skill to develop but it works incredibly well. When one hand is excepted reasonably well then move on to using two hands. Be aware that it might be a one hand at a time milking method for a few weeks. My well prepared yearlings are almost all milked one hand at a time for the first week and sometimes two.

Now let's say you can milk her but she still has the occasional kick. Most newbies do for a while. Just put the bucket in back of her legs and squirt to the south end because 99 percent of goats will kick forward with the leg or legs. Occasionally I've had one try and kick with both legs. Yeah, it ends up with an upset heap on the milking stand. Normally they don't do that twice. The whole getting comfortable having you handle intimate parts of their anatomy takes time, weeks of time if preparatory work was not done. If the newby was worked with far in advance of kidding then all this newby behavior is usually over in a week or a little longer with intermittent forgetfulness.
I start training my doelings at this age. Handle the doeling everywhere. Pick up her feet and especially rub in the area of her udder. You aren't milking at this stage just preparing to so don't tug on the teats. 

I sold a yearling this spring with her two male offspring and the buyer is thrilled. He says his grandson is milking her while she stands un-tethered in the middle of the pen. He just thinks she is the most laid back goat he has ever seen. My husband failed to tell him that I trained her to do that. I train ALL my yearlings to do so. If the preparatory work is done, it is quite simple to do. I get the newly kidded doeling up against the fence and press against her. Keep her from moving forward by putting a knee in her way if need be, then shift backwards a bit toward the udder. On rare does I have to tie them to the fence to stop the forward motion. Then I press and milk one baby bottle at a time, milking one side and then the other going back and forth to encourage the let down.  A nice udder massage works wonders to help her let down. I use it on the milk stand also when needed for the young and older does. 

 I searched and searched for pictures of newbies being milked and realized I didn't have any pictures 
and now even this last little doe who kidded this year is gone. I have only a buck and one doe left, both Saanens and the beginning of a new herd.
I fill bottles with colostrum and make sure the newborn kids get plenty within the first hour of birth. I don't worry about their nursing until they get on their feet strong. Just takes a few hours. Then either work I teach the kids to suckle or simply leave the kids with the mother and milk her in this un-tethered position multiple times a day. For me it is much easier than keeping milk in the refrigerator and heating it up four times a day.  When newborn I also milk and feed in the middle of the night for 2 to 3 nights initially. Frequent demand stimulates the mother's milk production increasing her supply.

From the time the kids are small, I have them getting on the milking stand with a reward of a small treat. It does not have to be every day but at least a couple times a week. The last few weeks of a yearling does pregnancy, I do not ask her to get on the milking stand. It is hard with the weight of twins or triplets. Yes, most of mine have twins and even the occasional set of triplets.  I do not ask the doe to get on the milking stand for the first three or four days after kidding. They are sore. I milk squatting or kneeling on the ground.  Even though they have been on the stand for a year and their udder handled frequently in the pen and on the stand, they will do some dancing. It is uncomfortable. You nursing and past nursing moms know what I'm talking about. 

Even with all this preparing of the doeling, they will might do the newby squat and dance. This will last for a short while and in comparison very mild to what you would have dealt with had you not prepared her.The last yearling I worked with this year held one leg up the whole time when milked. At least she couldn't dance in that position. It worked for her. It worked for me.By next year I'm sure both feet will be on the ground. I think anyway since I sold her.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A New Spice Container Set Up

 This is what my spice cupboard looked like - plastic containers. Yes, all but the lone powdered mushroom glass jar. Loved those plastic spice containers but of course they did not love us. I felt pretty guilty after I did the blog about BPA and BPS in plastic so I decided to start practicing more seriously what I preach. Realistically I know I won't be avoiding plastic all together, It is everywhere and face it, it is super handy. But especially where our food is concerned I need to steer further away from it. That will take time. The plastic spice containers, though they were not originally manufactures for such, are now delegated to the garage where they hold small bolts and such.
To change out my containers that housed the spices seemed a good place to start since I already had glass jars that would work great. As you can see I started out with the plastic tops since they screw on and off easier than the metal ones and the food rarely touched the tops. BUT they are slicker than well...., you know as they slip sliding around on the tops of the bottom jars. A few near accidents and I went to using standard metal canning lids.

What I discovered is that the metal jar lids stack really nice and the lip helps keep them in place. 
Alphabetical order seems like a pretty good idea in order to find them BUT..., when do I ever use chili powder and garlic with cloves, allspice and cinnamon? It meant a lot of moving jars around to find the spices I needed. And with so many jars on one shelf they still slip slided away. Solution - I rearranged things so that the spices were in three smaller cupboard shelves.  Yes, smarty pants, I know the spices are not in exact alphabetical order. I'm taking a realistic shot. In the general area of alphabetical is what occurs  with four young children underfoot; and cows and goats mooing for attention in the pasture. 

This may not be the end result but something that is working far better is to put cooking spices like garlic, chili powder etc. on one side of one shelf with Italian spices like Oregano, Basil, Winter Savory, Garlic, and such on the other side. I use those combinations together a great deal. Still another shelf has Parsley, Lovage, Cutting Celery, [powdered Mustard, celery salt(I want to be doing my own someday)], and bouillons plus some spices from the store like garlic salt, and Lawry's seasoning salt. 

Did you know that celery salt comes from the Lovage plant, not the tall celery we crunch on? I've got a Lovage plant growing in the front flower bed but being that it is its first year, it has not gone to seed. Alas, an experiment for another year and all part of my move toward self-sufficiency because I LOVE Celery salt. 

Baking spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger etc. are on another small shelf and of course various kinds of oils, vinegars and balsamics on another. Do I have a lot of spices. Oh my YES! And I need to make room for flavorful things like jars of powdered green beans, zucchini, beets, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, onion tops, and spinach. I like lots and lots of flavor in my foods but then that also means a lot more vitamins too.

Are the jars a perfect solution? Maybe not but a much safer health wise than plastic containers.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Herb Garden Goals

     How long would a pound of oregano last you? Even with as many herbs as I use - a long time. So why did I do it? Herbs bought in bulk saves a lot of money and trips to the store. But I want independence -- as much a possible. I want the intense green color that freshly dried herbs give to a dish. Years of cooking for the very young and old including Dementia parents has taught me that appearances matter. Appearance invokes pleasure and appeal. 'Hmm.... that looks good.' does a lot to get them to eat. Aged herb's color fades and a lack luster brownish cast is what takes over. The flavor wanes also but can be compensated in part by adding more.

    I want to grow and dry more herbs of my own. I want a measure of self-sufficiency in my herbal world and avoid all those preservatives. I had not really given preservatives in my herbs a thought until I was redoing my herb shelves and pulled out a jar of home dried herbs that had gotten tucked in the back for quite some time - maybe a year. Wow, I could not believe how much the once deep green had dimmed. I took out some bulk spices of the same type I had bought years back and was amazed. Yes, they were paler with age but one whiff of my old bottle and one of the old store products told me that a ton of preservatives had been used because the store's product had a more intense smell. 

    In the last few months home dried herbs have begun to take over my spice cupboard. I open a jar, sniff and I'm inspired. 'Wouldn't this be good in ......' It isn't just me that this sensory pleasure effects for the intense smells effects the whole household. The family comes home and smiles appear, ' What smells so.. good?' Good food has gone a long way in helping our grand daughters adjust to staying the bulk of their time with us while their mother battles cancer. I've discovered the best way to get a kid up in the morning for school is to tantalize their nose which leads them to investigate what's for breakfast especially at 5:45 a.m. 
    So in the name of always reaching for greater heights I've set some goals for myself.

    1. Tweak my cooking to use mainly use herbs I can grow myself in the yard, in the house windows, and under grow lights. 

    Powdered Zucchini
    2.  Expand the things I use to spice up dishes to decrease the amount of herbs I need. Last year I learned to use homemade bone broth. It is wonderful and now it is really rare for me to use beef bullion. My usage of bone broth just keeps expanding and now I want to play more intensely with home dried vegetable powders.  Potato soup  with the addition of home dried herbs, and zucchini is awesome! The zucchini helped thicken the soup, added vitamins, and increase flavor. The preparation was simple. I cooked potatoes, carrots and onions in a small amount of chicken bone broth until firm but done and then added chopped ham, fresh milk, herbs, salt and black pepper, and powdered zucchini. 

    When our twelve year old granddaughter took a spoonful to test the broth for me, her eyes closed and a moan of intense pleasure escaped. If that is any indication of how much dried, powdered vegetables can do, this could be a very flavorful year indeed. Now I'm wondering why I did not add a bit of my homemade potato flour? It would have thickened the soup even more. When the other choice is flour or corn starch which add no great amount of flavor then hands down, vegetable powder wins.

    3.  Switch my herbs from plastic containers to glass jars to avoid contamination of BPA or BPS. Just did that.

    4. Keep a continual supply of fresh herbs growing and dry the surplus.There is something about combining fresh and dried herbs that reaches the perfect balance in a cooked dish that most of the time just using dried or just using fresh does not accomplish.  
    This is an area that is harder than I thought. For instance - basil seems to do really well potted in the house through two cuttings and then tries to die on me. It did this three different times. I've since read that it needs re-potted often. I'm trying that next. I also read that with time the flavor of the leaves diminishes but at what point is that? With what I've done so far, I've discovered that my needs are greater than my supply of basil, so next summer I will include basil in my front flower bed and oregano too.

    5. Goal number four has led me to goal number five. Keep a continual supply of herbs growing indoors. After all the four seasons in Wyoming are almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction. Fresh herbs in the garden is brief indeed.

    6. Grow herbs outdoors for drying purposes in order to keep the indoor herb garden small. This includes experimenting to see which ones we can grow in our zone 3 1/2. Presently we have only four varieties growing outside in a very limited number.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    Feeding Egg Shells to Chickens

    There is a bit of a debate whether or not if you feed egg shells to chickens.Will it cause them whether to begin to eat their freshly laid eggs? In my experience I have to say no, they do not. Not mine anyway. I have no problem with hens breaking and eating their own eggs but it is probably what they are eating which is whatever they can scrounge up in the yard plus a layer feed along with a grain assortment. So pretty much a smorgasbord to choose from which I think makes a huge difference.

    There is no science behind that opinion but then 'Why do kids eat dirt?' The doctors say it is a deficiency in their diet so I guess that is my research on the subject. LOL! I would not be surprised if boredom would not cause some to do so and emotional stress too. There there is the occasional ornery ole bitty who just is a pain in the _____ well, you know what. It would not matter how well you fed her for she would just go on breaking and eating eggs. In doing so she would teaches the others to do so also. If you have a bad behavioral animal it is best to send it down the road or to a much colder climate like the freezer.Most of the habits are learned.

    Since I've had a couple egg eaters in my time, I have been reluctant to feed egg shells to chickens. Probably silly since I've had chickens for over thirty years and two or three is hardly worth mentioning. What tipped the scales for me to get over my insane phobia was our financial crunch and lots and lots of chickens roaming the yard that I could donate to science. Surely not all of them would gain a taste for raw scrambled eggs I figured and at least thirty or so will become icebergs occupying the freezers until I have time to can them this fall. So the experiment began a couple months ago.

    First I baked the shells at 200 F. like I saw on the internet and crushed them only I used a blender when I found out how sharp dried, baked shells are on work worn hands. The result was not so impressed chickens. The army wasn't impressed with powdered eggs either. But wait, they didn't eat the outsides did they? Maybe that would have been an improvement or have I been watching too many M.A.S.H. shows?

    Next, I simply baked the shells, broke them into chunks, and served them up, which was more desirable, says the chickens, but still too time consuming. Time being something I have so little of made me rethink the whole thing. That and the eggs shells would begin to stink before I had enough to bake up. My solution for that was to occasionally rinse the shells but that seemed ridiculous. So, I decided to do like I now do with my mulch piles. Pretty much nothing but that is another blog. I simply put the cracked egg shells right in with the vegetable scraps in my scrap bucket in the kitchen. It goes out each day and I toss it all into a mulch pile - only there is no pile. Between the chickens and deer, only a few citrus shell rinds remain. 

    It is a very coveted pile and when the girls see me headed to the mulch local, they all come a running. What they don't eat, the deer who come through at dusk do. Pretty neat no waste system. To say I have completely eliminated using oyster shells would not be the truth. I put some in now and them more as a comfort thing. It makes me feel like I'm doing a good job. One day I might get over that. Meanwhile it has save me quite a bit of money and I really do like that.

    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    Tested PVC Pipe Chicken Feeders

     Use Pinterest? Then you have probably seen these feeders in abundance. The appeal to me was the space saving concept. My coop was crowded. Too crowded with things not chicken related so I've decided that all those rabbit cages have got to go. The chicken coop will be just that, a chicken coop. The rabbits will have their own housing facilities this fall but for now they are residing in the barn. This has made room for some brooder boxes and a nesting box that is for now just hen scratches on a piece of paper. I can tell you so far, the coop sure smells better. As for those pearly white feeders all standing like shoulders at attention snug up against the chickens coop wall on Pinterest, well, that is what this blog is about? Not how to make them as Pinterest can do that but on whether or not you should make them. I grew suspicious perusing Pinterest as picture after picture showed the feeders brand spanking new. Where was the beloved and used? Nothing but pearly white showed up so a few months ago I set out to discover whether or not these PVC feeders were a fad, or a fantastic innovation?

    We had some old PVC pipe lying around in the barn and with a joint and some aluminum strap purchased, I was in business. As far as assembly, they are easy peasy. We did not bother to glue the one feeder together but just pushed the pieces tight. Caution dictated that I start with one feeder first even though those smart rows of white were sure appealing. My first discovery was that the feeders don't really need to be very tall unless you want to fill them up with a whole 50 pound bag of feed. I made mine far too tall.

    My feed store friend said she babysat chickens and had to put fifty pounds of scratch into a PVC pipe feeder. She does not recommend it. It isn't about muscles after all I get big waves from strange men at the town dump and it isn't because of my beauty. Some guys appreciate a working woman willing to unload 600 pounds of barbwire in her floppy hat and shorts. I'm sure I was quite the sight on my last visit but that is not the only time I've drawn attention. It is the fact that feed sacks are floppy and the weight has a tendency to shift as it pours. There are ways around lifting the whole sack but in my experience, a smorgasbord approach computes to waste. I've learned that chickens are drawn to an easy meal and forget home on the range hitting the pocket book hard.

    My goal is to cut costs and for health reasons. I want the flock to be eating natural freebies, grass, bugs, annoying Magpies, oh wait, that's just one hen that hates them - well, her and I that is. Unfortunately, she's never caught one yet despite her determined efforts. All those calisthenics running around the yard dodging, diving and yes, even leaping into the air after bugs is so much better for their health. Healthy hen, healthy eggs. Besides it is great entertainment for us human beans.

    Another plus, I don't ever remember having such a low bug population. Then I have more chickens than ever before, DUH! And I can't help thinking it has got to be great on the garden. You know the one buried in weeds? So smorgasbord it will not be. But the potential for a large capacity feeder isn't such a bad idea. If the need arose and we had to have someone take over for a week or more it could be handy. My babysitters ... the fam, aren't impressed with my current four hour a day chore lists. I'm not either and as soon as the 12 boxes of fruit I just picked up is canned, we are lowering the livestock numbers. 
    My first go with the feeders, I put in a couple days ration and observed. My feed mixture at the moment is chicken scratch and pelleted lay mash. Some girls like corn, and some, like my pet chicken Vivian, likes millet best. Well actually she likes the ducks feed best but that's another story. Some of you know what's coming next. They do indeed flick the feed this way and that sorting through to get to their favorite grains. The bigger the pipe, the greater the head swing and the further the feed flies. Pretty soon the the floor has as much feed on it as in the feeder or maybe it is more. 

    My solution - just put a short rubber feed pan underneath to catch the spills. It worked but the pan gets some poo in it so the feed is not as clean as I'd like. Then again these girls dig through goat and beef poop so what am I complaining about - the waste issue of course. Chicken poo isn't quite so appealing as goat, and beef so they don't clean it up as well.

    How do I fix this problem? Would putting just one type of grain in a pipe work better and having multiple feeders like in the Pinterest pictures. Vivian loves millet. I'm wondering, maybe there are some local farmers who raise millet or wheat. Not many raise crops beyond hay here but there might be something I can find. If the girls have nothing to sort, we....ll. What do you think?

    Problem number two - it appears that the girls can't reach the back of the feeders and so don't completely empty them. I'm not positive on this as I've not withheld feed to make sure but they don't slick it all up. So I wonder, is it the exact same feed in the back of the feeder and new feed rolling over the top? Hmmm... will it eventually rot? For now I just scoop it out with my hands once in a while into the rubber feed pan below.

    Problem number three - You have to unscrew the band that hold the feeder to the wall to remove the feeders to clean them. You can only do that a few times and then the screw holes aren't going to hold. Still thinking on that one for a solution. Handy man I am not. I do like the way the slick PVC stays relatively clean though.

    Still all in all I kind of like these feeders if for nothing else but the space saving and the fact that the girls can't tip them over when they get in one of their tit for tat huffs and go screaming after each other. Doesn't happen often, but girls will be girls.

    You may think I stopped the experiment with feed rations. Oh no, I tried feeding in the morning and feeding at night before bedtime. Definitely at night was the better option. With it being warmer at night, the girls like to stay outside. The fox and coyotes really like that. The feed entices the girls in and I can then close up without having to round up whoever is missing. Catching chickens is not a favorite task though yes, I am quite good at it. I should be.

    So despite the draw backs, I think I'll keep my PVC pipe feeder and add a few more. What have you discovered with yours? I'm guessing I'm not the only one of my readers that has one. I'd love to know your experiences. I'm always looking for better ways to do things.