Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And, Sometimes, You Win...

Sometimes, you win.

This post is a loooong time in the writing, but I can say that today.

Let's look back a bit. Last September, Ellie began scouring severely. We tried probiotics, yogurt, and pepto-bismal. We sent a fecal sample to be tested. Ellie was diagnosed with a heavy worm load. The Ridge Runner Vets were helpful. They told us what we needed to use and where to find it. We thought we were out of the woods until nearly a month later, Ellie collapsed outside the barn. Unwilling to have her put down, we set to work to help her to recover, if she could. Our course involved changing her diet, moving her to the basement where we could watch her better, and trying every reasonable suggestion we could find to help her to gain the strength she would need to fight this. It was touch and go through the fall until Ellie was well enough to return to the pasture.

Winter hit with exceptionally long stretches of cold weather. One of these December snaps found Ellie down at the far end of her field- freezing. Back to the basement she went and we continued to try to help her to put on weight and gain back her strength.

By the time Spring arrived and Ruby, Rachel and Leah were ready to kid, Ellie was finally well enough to return to the barn. Still thinner than we liked and walking slower than previously, Ellie was beginning to make some noticeable improvements. Ellie started reasserting herself. She began vocalizing and warning the other does away from what she considered her personal hay manger. It escalated to the point that if the does ignored her warning, a head push was deployed to physically move the offending doe from Ellie's hay. Day after day, Ellie gained ground in putting on some much needed weight. As she did, her personality emerged. She began running to greet us and eat her morning and afternoon grain.

And, then, she did this:

It is not normally allowed behavior, but I could not have been more pleased when it happened. Finally, finally strong enough to use those muscles. I could have cried for the joy of it.

We have nearly 7 months before the warm weather is gone, again. 7 months for Ellie to continue to heal and make a full recovery. And, you know what? If I were a betting woman, I would put my money all on Ellie and let it ride. ♥

Thanks for visiting today, friends. I am very glad to have your company.
Sonja ♥

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bad Horse

After Sean spent several hours repairing posts that had come loose in Maine's annual spring mud, we thought they might last intact a week, at least. Little did we know that the Evil League of Evil had called Miss Jasmine into their confidence. (Dr. Horrible fans understand what I am saying.)

This video is a satire and is meant to be in jest. I hope you enjoy watching it. We need to repair some posts (again!)

Sean & Sonja ♥

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recycled Plastic Bottle Greenhouses

About 6 months ago, while scrolling through Pinterest, I saw an interesting picture of a small tomato plant growing inside a plastic bottle and thought, "Neat! We could do that. We should do that!" and filed the thought into the recesses of my mind. All winter long, we collected and rinsed out all the clear plastic 2 liter bottles our family used in preparation. I wanted to link to the original image yesterday. After searching (in vain) for the original inspiration of our recycling 2 liter bottles into mini greenhouses for our veggies this year, I decided that I would snap some pictures of ours and write a little about our experience.

We began with Sean carefully cutting each bottle nearly in half leaving a 2-2.5 inch tab using a sharp knife. (That is the hardest part of the entire project.)

Then, I added some damp sterile potting soil to the bottom of the bottle. After carefully removing the seedling from the 6 pack cells, I set the root ball onto the soil inside the bottle. If it is necessary, loosen the roots carefully to encourage them to grow. I did not need to. Once the plant was centered, I spooned more soil around the stem until it was properly covered. Since I was using tomatoes, I covered a good portion of the stem. If you look closely, the stem of tomato plants are loaded with fuzzy, spikey "hairs" and it changes color near the point where the true leaves begin. These "hairs" will become roots if they are buried and allowed to grow. We have had good success using this method of planting. Basically, you cover up to where the stem changes color. Once the seedling is planted, it is a simple matter to replace the top of the bottle to cover it. We leave the caps on to increase humidity and moisture levels or remove them to allow more ventilation.

These tomatoes were sown in plastic 6 packs at the end of March. They were transplanted into the plastic bottle mini-greenhouses about 2 weeks ago. They have grown so well, that it is very nearly time to transplant them again! We are hoping to plant them in their permanent homes in some raised beds outside within the next 2 weeks. But, we live in zone 5 and we still awaken to frost most mornings, so that may not be viable just now. If the seedlings continue growing this well, we'll simply transplant them into large pots until the weather is more cooperative.

We have very limited space to start seedlings. To use what we have to the best advantage, as each mini greenhouse seedling matures, we move it in it's bottle to a sunny window to harden off and get ready for moving into cold frames outside. Another seedling is begun in 6 or 12 pack cells to germinate. Once they sprout their true leaves, if it is appropriate, they are transplanted into a bottle mini-greenhouse. And the cycle continues. It is perhaps a little more time consuming, all this planting and transplanting and moving about, but there are benefits to growing seedlings in this manner. One of the most important benefits is that the plants will mature in a staggered way providing ripe fruit over a secession of weeks. Another benefit is that should an insect or unwelcome garden guest eat the ripe fruits of one planting, there should be other plants still to ripen.

Our portable greenhouse is at full capacity with broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes. We use a little more electricity keeping 2 lights on to further encourage their growth, but the results prove that it is a worth-while expense.

So far, I am very pleased with how our recycled plastic bottle mini-greenhouses are growing. Even though we recycle bottles, glass, and metals, it feels good to give new purpose to something.

What about you? Have you tried this before? Have you tried something similar? How did it work out for you?

Thanks for stopping by for a visit today. I am glad for your company.
Sonja ♥

Also shared with: Backyard Farming Connection

Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yard Time for Goat Kids

Our second show went well. We are so encouraged by these first shows- even though it means that we are working around the clock most days. Today was no exception. This morning's show began at 7am, so we needed to be up and milking goat's early. As in 5 am early. It was just after dawn when we began our chores, but we got everything done on time. And, as an added bonus, we glimpsed a young, moose cow on the way to our event, no more than 10 feet from the edge of the road. It stood there for a little bit while we searched for my camera. As soon as we found it, Miss Moose turned and walked back into the brush. Still, it was a neat sighting and a pleasant way to begin our day.

After the show, we returned home to complete our chores. Sean spent time fixing Jasmine's fencing. The ground is so wet that the posts are easily pushed over by Jasmine's insistence at eating what little shoots of green are growing on the back side of her pasture. It will be time to open the pasture for her soon, but we are holding off until there is some growth for her to eat. Until then, she is making due with a very muddy field to roam and fresh hay supplied daily. Sean did not really need me for this, so I spent my time making a fresh batch of chevre from 2 gallons of goat's milk. It will be ready to strain in the morning and by the time I get home from work tomorrow night, it will be ready to season. Yummy!

The recipe I am using is so simple. I warm 2 gallons of milk to approximately 90 degrees on the stove top in a large pot. While the milk is warming, I mix 2 drops of liquid vegetable rennet in 5 tablespoons of water and set it aside. Once the heating milk is the proper temperature, I open and sprinkle 2 packets of Chevre culture over the surface. I let it dissolve for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes, I stir 4 tablespoons of the rennet/water into the warm milk/culture mixture for 2 additional minutes. Then, I cover the pot and place it into the cold oven to sit overnight. If I inoculate the milk at 3pm, it is ready to strain first thing in the morning in cheese cloth. I hang the cheese to drip until the cheese is the consistency I want. Then, it is time to salt, pepper, season to taste with fresh herbs and EAT! Oooooh yeah. I truly love how this cheese tastes.

Just as the cheese was finishing, a stray dog wandered down our road. Concerned about the unknown canine, Sean called me outside to watch the goat does and their kids while he finished repairing the fencing. Sean thought the does and kids would enjoy some time stretching their legs and playing in the front yard. Really, they enjoyed munching on what little fresh green grass was growing. Either way, I was very happy to oblige. Watching the goats play was a nice break from the work I still had yet to finish.

Fence repaired for the minute, it was time to check on all the pens and critters. Ellie is making fine progress back to health. She has a good appetite and loads of energy. Asher is still returning to the main doe stall whenever the mood strikes him to do so. This will have to be fixed sooner than later. I added it to my mental list. Abigail and Asher look great and have grown into sizeable yearlings. It is hard to believe that only a year ago they were the little kids on the homestead. Caitlin is sitting on her nest and makes a big fuss whenever I have to enter the yard to check grain and water dishes. Her calls bring Justin over to investigate. Today, he investigated the taste of my boot, hissing all the while for me to get away from his woman and potential offspring. I can see that something is going to need to be done here, too.

After collecting the afternoon's eggs for sorting and storing, we began some "inside" chores. First, we spent some time transplanting the rest of some fifty 5 inch tall tomato plants and a dozen 4 inch broccoli plants into new containers. I came across an interesting idea of re-using clear plastic soda bottles as mini greenhouses a while ago. (I looked for the original post that inspired me to make ours to link, but couldn't find it or anything close to what I wanted.) To the sound of Star Trek Voyager, Sean cut the bottles for me and I planted and marked them. An hour and a half later, we were finished and both our little portable greenhouse shelving unit and living room window shelf were filled with mini greenhouses. I liked this project so much that I am going to try to write a post on it later this week detailing how we did it and the results.

Finally, at 7:30pm, it was time for some dinner! It is too easy to forget to eat when you are so busy. And, honestly, there was so much more that needed attention. We wanted to pick up the fencing for Fenn-dog, but that did not get done. Also on the list of things still "to do" is more mucking of stalls. Both Jasmine and Jedi's stalls need it. Perhaps tomorrow.

That is what is going on in our world. What have you been up to this weekend?

Thanks for visiting today.
Sean and Sonja ♥

Also shared at: The Backyard Farming Connection

Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest

Friday, April 19, 2013

We have MILK again!

It has been 10 days since the goat kids and their Mommas have been situated to their new home in the barn. This new arrangement is proving suitable for all the farm inhabitants, animal and human alike. I admit it was difficult to hear the kids calling for their Mommas that first night, but eventually everyone fell asleep and passed the night uneventfully. Now, everyone is settling into their new schedule. Each evening, we throw more hay to the herd and move the does into the main doe stall to spend the night. The kids sleep together in a pile in their stall, next door. In the morning, Sean brings out Leah first, then Rachel, and finally, Ruby. The does eagerly jump onto the milk stand and call for their morning grain. While they are busy having their breakfast, I feed the kids their morning grain; they nibble at it, but don't actually eat much at this point. Sean milks each doe in turn.

I help by providing a sterile milk bucket and coaxing the does to tolerate being handled with nice words, head rubs, and most importantly, GRAIN. Sometimes this works better than others; some days we are able to empty the does' udders and some days they begin to fidget and kick up. Three mornings ago, Rachel stepped into the milk bucket which meant her entire milking had to be discarded. Thankfully, we collect each doe's milk separately, so only her milk was ruined. In time, with practice, milking will be less stressful for all of us. After each doe is milked, they are let into the kids' stall to pass the day with their kids, separated from the rest of the herd. As the kids get bigger, they will be integrated with the the other does. For now, this system works.

Milking adds an additional 30 minutes to our morning chores, but the quarts of milk we receive far outweighs the additional expenditure of time involved in collecting it. So far, Leah has not been a very productive doe, but her production is increasing a little each day. She began with 9.5 oz of milk and gave us 15.4 oz this morning. Rachel began at 12.3 oz, but she has increased steadily to give us approximately 24.4 oz of fresh milk each morning. She has been our highest producer so far! Ruby has been our most steady milk producer. She began at 17.8 oz and remains around 19 oz of milk each morning.

Zoe was very interested in the milking.
These are fairly low amounts, I know. I attribute that to a couple of factors. 1. We are still learning and Sean is milking by hand. As we get into the rhythm of milking faster, we may be able to collect more milk before the grain runs out and the does demand release via the very effective threat of repeated attempts to step in the milk pail. 2. This was Rachel and Leah' first kidding and they both have single kids. Leah only allows Judah to nurse. Rachel often supplies milk to 3 kids who aren't hers in addition to Keren. This may be why Leah is producing less (because the demand has been less) and Rachel has been producing so much more. 3. We have only just begun milking them. Now that they are getting milked each morning, they should begin to make more to compensate for the additional demand for it.

I think.

Adding to all those thoughts, Ruby is limping a bit on her left rear hoof. Sean accidentally cut too deeply when he trimmed hooves over the weekend and it looks like it may be a little infected, despite the disinfectant we used at the time. We cleaned it out well yesterday and this morning, but we are keeping a close eye on it and her. We are using hydrogen peroxide topically in conjunction with AUREOMYCIN (chlortetracycline hydrochloride),  an oral antibiotic, to kick this quickly. (Update: Ruby's limping has subsided and she is doing much, much better today. We are still washing the foot out with a disinfectant daily and watching as the infection is resolved.)

In accordance with the law that nature abhors a vacuum and there was nothing else amiss around here, Rachel began scouring Wednesday morning. She had no interest in her grain. We cleaned her up, gave her a booster shot of Ivomec (which was due), laced her drinking water with probiotic powder and molasses, offered her some pepto-bismal tablet (she declined to eat them.), and gave her a dose of CMPK drench. If this is from a high worm load, she should be better with the Ivomec on board. If it is because we increased her grain ration too quickly, the reduction of grain offered should help with that. She definitely seems to be feeling not herself. We went ahead and milked her some this morning on schedule because she was full of milk and uncomfortable. Sadly, we had to waste the milk we got from her today and will need to continue to until she is done being treated. (Update: the scouring stopped and Rachel is acting herself again.)

I had an epiphany this morning mid-chore: it is entirely ironic that we can keep an animal for YEARS, pouring money into feed, housing, and supplies and have no need for any kind of medical interference. The minute a critter begins to pay "rent" for their space at our home, we can expect major worm infestations, scouring, split hooves, infections and random cysts or growths to appear. With this being the case, the 10 roosters living in luxury in (what should be) the tack room, eating our grain and making messes for us to clean, will out-live us all.

In other news, we collected nearly 3 dozen eggs this morning from the coop to sell. Lacey Wyandotte seems to be broody and is sitting on a nest of 10 eggs in one of the nesting boxes. Maybe we'll have some assorted chicks to sell at the swap in May??? We hope to! The pullet chicks living in their brooders in our living room are all healthy and active. The 5 Rhode Island Reds we purchased a couple weeks ago have all gotten their feathers and no longer use a light. The 12 new chicks are beginning to get their feathers. I am hopeful that they will all be ready to move outside by May. I confess, I am rather ready for that NOW.

Justin and Caitlin have gotten quite serious about nesting. Caitlin laid 6 eggs in the nest Harlequin created and was using to incubate 8 of her own eggs. For a few days, goose and duck took turns sitting on the nest until Caitlin ruthlessly removed both Harle and her eggs. Rude, but effective. If the incubating goes well, we'll have some goslings come early May, too. There is another nest of duck eggs being created inside the chicken coop, but I have not seen anyone sitting regularly on them- so far.

Our tomatoes and broccoli are growing by leaps and bounds! We already transplanted them into larger containers and will perhaps need to do so again before they finally can be planted in the raised beds. No sign of the peppers as of yet, but it is still early days. And, we checked the garlic planted with hope last fall to discover 42 bulbs growing strong and happy in their bed. This was a cheery discovery that went a long way towards brightening the day.

Sean was gifted a chain link run for Fenn-dog. It measures 8 feet x 24 feet, but since we only need it to be 3 sided, it will give him 16 feet x 24 feet of additional room to run. We are going to see about picking it up on Sunday afternoon after our 2nd craft event. If you all are near the Searsport area, we'll be at the Lion's Club from 7am-2pm on Sunday and we will have our goat's milk soaps, scent shots, mosaic eggshell pendants and new earrings, fresh chevre and eggs, farm chic scarves and necklaces aaaaaaaand tiny tulle tu-tus (Meaghan's new project) for sale.

There is always something to be done around here. I guess it is time I get back to it. Thanks for checking in with us this morning. I hope you have a satisfying day, friends.

Sean and Sonja ♥

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More Hiking with Goats

I hope you are not already bored with footage and videos of the new goat kids and our hiking with them because I am certain that they are going to be a long and frequent feature here. I am so smitten with them! With visions of weekend camping trips using the goats as pack animals for long hikes, we have started the beginnings of training them already. That's right. We have every intention of taking our goats camping with us.

Stay tuned to see how that turns out!

The first step towards reaching our goal is to teach our kids to walk with us. Without their Momma's milk supply to distract them, the kids are more inclined to prefer to stay with us- once we get going, that is. Initially, often their first reaction is to turn around and go whichever way they want. Our patient, persistent calling of them helps to guide them to follow us and when that invariably fails, we resort to carrying them a bit until they get the point. I suppose we could use leashes to train them, but I have yet to see a shepherd with their goats all tethered on a line. Somehow he/she manages to convince them to walk with him/her. We shall do the same. Basically, as herd animals, we use their natural inclination to want to be with the herd. We call to them and walk the
direction we want to go. If we walk away far enough, they panic and run to catch up with us. At least, that is what happens sometimes. Other times, they panic and decide to run back towards the parked car. With repeated practice, we are hopeful that the "sometimes" will become "all the time". I think a pocket full of grain will do wonders in assisting us in teaching the kids to come with us. Additionally, we are teaching them their names. By repeating their names as we feed them, play, and pet them, we are hopeful that they will soon learn to recognize their individual call and respond as we would like them to.

The next step will involve my sewing grain sacks into light weight packs. I know these are available to purchase already, but being frugal (and having an unending supply of empty grain bags to use) I plan to sew my own. In time, our goat kids will get used to wearing their packs empty and then we can add a small amount of weight to them.

Itchy horns to scratch!
This is all new ground to us, but we are looking forward to learning along with our kids. If Sean gets home from work early enough and the rain stays away, Hadassah and Keren will go for a short hike up Mount Waldo with us. We had been taking Jane, too, but now that we have a truck instead of an SUV, Jane's walks will have to wait until a safe crate can be built for her to ride in. The kids ride on my lap. Another project to add to our growing "to do" list.

Daddy Dale, Sean and I, Krissy, Meaghan and their Dad hiked a short trail on Mount Waldo on Monday evening. This is some of the footage from that outing:

After our hike, Sean has plans to transplant our 50 tomato seedlings into larger containers. They all have their true leaves and are 3-4 inches tall and thriving. We'll be using empty soda bottles to create mini greenhouses for them to continue to grow inside, until we finally transplant them into the raised beds once the fear of frost has passed. Our broccoli is also coming just fine. Five, 6-packs of peppers have been begun, but they have not germinated as of yet. It is past time to start our watermelons and we can begin our kale and lettuces, too.


While Sean is busy gardening, I intend to make a few batches of goat's milk soap using the first fruits of our milking for the year. We separated the does from their kids for the past 2 nights and this morning, we milked them for the first time. Rachel and Leah, having never been milked before and kidding singletons each did not do too badly for their first time. We collected 9.5 oz from Leah, 12.3 oz from Rachel, and 17.8 oz from Ruby. This was encouraging, but will definitely need to increase if we are going to have enough milk for making the amount of soaps and cheeses we hope to this year. We are confident that the amounts will increase and are very much looking forward to tracking that. For now, Sean collected enough milk for me to make three full batches of soaps. I am planning on creating more lavender and Maine woods. And, I am going to make our first batch of Peppermint scented soap. Since I was sent a sample size of "Powder Fresh" essential oil, I am going to make a half batch of it to sample. Perhaps it will become part of our line up?

So much to do around the farm these days. How exciting!

Thanks for visiting tonight, friends. Your company is appreciated.
Sonja ♥

Monday, April 8, 2013

Our Goats Move into Their New Home

I wanted to have great news to report of sales, Sales, SALES from the event at Tractor Supply Company last Saturday, but nature had other plans. Sean and I got ourselves up and at it early. By 7 am our fantastic new, green truck was packed full to bursting with a crate of seven annoyed roosters, the portable pen Sean constructed to show them in, an inventory of Scent Shots, our home-made soaps, our Farm Chick Chic Rope Scarves and Necklaces with their adorable clips, my mosaic Eggshell Pendants and banners, tables, displays... all the things I thought I would need for this- our very first event. The event which should have run until 2 pm, lasted until 11 am. We lasted slightly less than that. With the wind whipping at 20 miles an hour and the temperatures hovering in the 30's, our spot on the shady side of TSC's parking area was unsheltered and unbearable. Visions of my newly designed and freshly purchased banner and canopy tent flying away to land in a broken, tangled mess mingled with the fear of our jewelry, scent tarts, and other products suffering the same fate. Vendors with trucks and trailers loaded with chickens, turkeys, pigs and more, sold their items from still-packed vehicles until it was clear that Mother Nature had won this round. I consoled myself with the purchase of a dozen new day-old pullet chicks; six White Leghorns and six additional Rhode Island Reds. That gives us a total of 17 new hens for this year, all of whom should begin laying eggs in August.

Undaunted, we view this as a trial run for packing our wares, which all traveled beautifully and returned home safely. We have a craft show to participate in this coming Saturday. This one takes place inside, so we are much more confident that the weather and wind will be far less worrisome.

Saturday was not a complete loss. Being home earlier than anticipated meant more time to get much needed work completed around the farm. Sean and Daddy Dale installed new rails to the pig yard and I coaxed Ebony and Patches back down over the hill to their regular home. They did not appreciate the work we put into making it comfy for them until their grain was eaten and they had a chance to look around. I think they recognized it well enough. It took no time for them to bury themselves under a fresh bale of hay in the back corner of their shelter and settle in for a nice, long snooze.

Piggies moved, Sean cleaned out their stall in the barn. Our pigs are such clean animals. Despite what you might have read about foul smells and the like, pigs are really easy to keep and like to be clean. Sean had only one load of refuse to remove, all piled neatly by the pigs themselves into one corner. It took just a few minutes to have the stall completely cleaned and ready for some of the goats to occupy it. I know I will get some well meaning comments and concerned emails about immediately moving in animals after moving out different ones. Those comments and concerns can be well-founded because of the potential of contracting a disease or worms and parasites. But, several factors led to our choosing to do this move anyway. First, the does are already being treated for worms and parasites. Having just kidded, it is our practice to routinely worm our does after they do. Besides the several reputable sources in books, online articles, and the advice of our trusted vet, our personal experience has led us to choose to worm our does after they kid. Secondly, as much as I enjoy my little bundles of fur, I could not abide one more day of living with seven of our goats inside our house, basement or not! They had to go to the barn. Since that was the case, they needed a safe place to be in the barn. The former pig stall was it.

It was no easy task to move the goat mommas to the outdoors. They had become fully accustomed to their cushy digs and were reluctant to move back into the barn. We thought the easiest way to coax them to follow us up the stairs and outside was to simply carry their kids away. They noticed us taking their young away with us, but beyond a bevy of frantic, repeated callings of "meeeeh!", they were unwilling to follow. We settled the four confused kids in the stall, closed the door and tried plan B. This consisted of grain in a bucket. That got Rachel and Leah's attention. They followed Sean with little hassle to get to the grain he had to offer. However, Ruby had grown so fond of being pampered, even grain would not convince her it was time to move out. Sean ended up carrying her upstairs and outside.

I am happy to report that all of the animal inhabitants of Lally Broch Farm are now safely and happily living where they will for the rest of the year. Eventually, the does and their kids will join the main herd and come winter, for our convenience, the piggies will once again live in the barn.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit.
Sean and Sonja ♥