Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mini homestead dairy goats

I was happy to read another blog that said their Nigerian Dwarf goats gave about a cup of milk a day in one milking. Not happy at the low amount, but in the knowledge that my milking doe is actually on target since she gives close to a pint a day in two milkings. Some days are better than others, and I don't really know why but it averages out to enough to put into my morning coffee plus have some extra for cooking or occasionally drinking.

In another week or so, we'll be pulling the new doeling off the mama goat during the daytime and milking the mama goat in the evenings. Then, we'll let the doeling back in with her mama overnight. We're just waiting for her to have a real good start, so figured around 2 weeks old she'll be ready for that extended away time. I already know they will cry a LOT during those hours. The mama goat is very devoted.

Enjoy the video and don't forget to rate, like, and subscribe!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Small permaculture beginnings

In my efforts to become more self-sufficient, or as much as is possible on such a small place, planting perennial fruits and vegetables plays a big part. I've planted 2 apple trees, 2 plum trees, 2 peach trees, 4 tame blackberry bushes (two different kinds), 3 grape vines, 2 blueberry bushes, and 2 strawberry beds with a total of 25 strawberry plants. I also have a few asparagus crowns planted that have produced a little, but it's plain to see I need to move them this fall and create a larger asparagus bed, adding more crowns. To my way of thinking, perennials are the backbone of our mini homestead, providing us with annual fruits and vegetables.

The second year the peach trees were planted, we got a whopping 7 peaches from them...LOL. Not much, I know, but they were so sweet, juicy and delicious that numbers didn't really mean anything at the time. Last year, we got one single solitary apple. That's it.

Also last year, we got no peaches at all. I blame that on 2 late, heavy frosts. Though we did do our best to cover all the flowering trees and bushes, it didn't help much. Such is the risk with homesteading, I suppose.

This year, the apple trees haven't bloomed but the peach and plum trees did, and the peach trees look like they're going to give us a lot of fruit. I haven't seen any fruit on the plum trees yet, and the grape vines don't look like they're going to bloom at all, but I'll give them some time. They are growing and are getting lots of big leaves on them.

I took a little tour of the yard, filming the highlights of what's growing in the raised beds and on the fruiting plants. Enjoy!

Middle of the night Molly alarm

We've been outside twice in the middle of the night on this chilly Sunday night through Monday morning. We went out once to just check on the new doeling. I'm a worry wart and since we lost the other doeling overnight, I am tending to hover a bit over this one.

Then, our dog Molly was out there barking wildly, so we took the shotgun out with us this time to check on things. While we didn't see any threats, we did hear coyotes in the surrounding area, yipping and howling. That's creepy! I'm glad Molly is out there to at least warn us of varmints and scare off threats.

We know that Molly is part Airedale, but we aren't sure what the other part is. She has some black spots on her tongue, so maybe chow? Anyway, she's a high energy dog and has pretty much lived with the livestock for a long time now. It was cold weather when we got her last year, so we kept her inside with us. When the temperatures improved, we put her on a tether next to the livestock and chicken yards so she'd get used to them all.

We then put her in the goat pen, but at first she could fit through the field fencing and came right back out. We tried this every week until she grew big enough that she could no longer go through the fencing.

Molly when she was about 6 months old.

Molly now at a little over a year old. Isn't she gorgeous?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another new baby goat

Well, one of our does kidded this morning. Our dog, who lives out there, was barking and yipping oddly so I went out to see what was going on. Discovered the doe in labor.

She is an especially small doe and we have been worried whether she could have this kid (or kids) without help. It turns out she did just fine. When she was done, though, she acted like she didn't want to get up so we got some feed and helped her to her feet. After she ate, she was okay for the rest of the day.

Her baby, a doeling, is solid white and very pretty. We will keep her as part of our herd. The doeling is 3/4 Nigerian Dwarf and 1/3 Kiko.

As soon as the larger doe is bred back, in another month or so, we will sell the buck and replace him with an unrelated buck. He's done his duty here so it's time for him to move on to another farm.

Here is a short video of the new mama goat, the doeling, our male pig (potbelly), and the dog that looks after everybody out there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hail storm

The other night we experienced strong storms along with high wind and hail. Thank goodness we weren't damaged here. My solar panels are all just fine, as well as my garden beds and fruit trees. A handful of immature peaches bit the dust, but there are lots left on the trees.

My biggest fear was a tornado warning. One did hit near a lake about 30 miles from us, but there was no significant damage from the EF1 storm. Strong straight-line winds hit a brand new farm-to-table market not far from us and tore up their greenhouse plastic and damaged some new plant starts, but for the most part they are ok, too.

Here's the only picture I got of pea to marble size hail on my front porch. It wasn't late enough to be dark yet, but due to the storm is was really dark outside and I just barely opened the door to get this shot. I manipulated it to brighten it some. You can also see leaves from the trees around my house.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy 4-20

Ok, so we don't celebrate 4-20 in the "traditional" sense, but we did have some fun today.

One thing we did was start setting up our solar electric fence. We got the insulators nailed into handy trees and added step-in fiberglass posts in places where more support was needed. We also ran two strands of electric fence wire and put one safety handle on the bottom strand. I still need to get another safety handle for the top strand.

Awhile back, I purchased a 10 watt solar panel and a 12 volt low impedance fence charger. I already have a charge controller on hand and a battery I can use for the fence. The reason for using two strands of wire is so that we can put either a pig or a goat in the enclosure and not be concerned with a pig going under or a goat going over. When it's all set up and operational, I'll share pictures and a story with them.

We also added a section of field fence from the back corner of our house over to an older existing fence so that chickens or goats that are in the side yard area can't get out into the garden. We had to put up other fencing close to the front of the house and near the pen where the does live on account of chickens tearing up the gardens.

The biggest thing we did today, though, was cut down an old, dead double-trunk tree that could have fallen on our house during a recent severe storm. It's been dead a couple of years, but that storm was bad enough that I was afraid the tree would wind up in my kitchen! I took a short video of the felling of the second trunk of the tree. You can see straps tied to it leading down the hill to another tree where they were wrapped around that second tree and tied to a 4-wheeler. My son was on the 4-wheeler keeping the straps pulled tight and my son-in-law manned the chainsaw to cut the tree down. Without those straps, the old tree would probably have landed on the house since it was leaning in that way and all the limbs were on that side.

On to the video!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Goat update and stanchion build

One of our latest projects. 

The baby goat was rejected by it's mother and died the next day after it was born. We just hated it. I suppose that's life on a homestead, but it's still so sad.

However, the mother goat is in milk now, so after I milked the colostrum from her for a couple of days and put it in the freezer for emergencies, we set about to build a milking stanchion. We followed the directions we found at the Fiasco Farm website. While the directions were very clearly written for the most part, we learned after we were done that it called for more screws and nails than we actually needed. Still, we got it built plus bought parts to turn our rechargeable food saver appliance into a goat milking machine.

Below are pictures of the finished stanchion and one with the milking machine being used. 

Our goats are not pets and so it took some work and training to get the mama goat used to jumping up on the stanchion and being handled for milking. It's been about a week now and she's really doing great. I have a brush that I also brush her with while she's on the stanchion. Brushing goats helps to tame them down somewhat and it's good for their skin and hair. When we milk, we also let the other doe join the milking doe on the stanchion for a few minutes so she can get used to eating there, being brushed, and being handled. I massage her udder while she's up there since she'll be kidding very soon as well.

We do have a baby goat nipple to put on a soda bottle if we encounter problems with the second doe so we're in better shape now to fully adopt a baby goat. We mainly need to build a holding pen for the baby so that we can pull him/her off the doe overnight and milk her in the mornings for ourselves. Of course, we won't do that until the baby is well established and doing ok.

Finished milk stanchion before we added the feed tray to the front.

Finished stanchion from another angle with the two does in the background.

Milking the doe with the milking machine we made. She is eating from the feed tray we added to the front.

Stripping out the udder by hand. 

Here is the price list and what we spent on building the stanchion and the parts for the milking machine. We purchased it from a local hardware/lumber store and you may find these things for less money at a big box hardware/lumber store.

  • 1x8x12 yellow pine -- 9.30
  • 2x2x8 furring strip --2.39
  • 2x4x8 spruce --2.69
  • 1x4x8 yellow pine (4) -- (2.39) 9.56
  • 1 box 2" exterior screws -- 6.19 (shouldn't have bought these at all)
  • 1 box 2" exterior screws (these turned out to be all I really needed for the whole project) --3.99
  • 1 box 3D finish nails --1.29
  • 1 2-pak screen door hooks/eyes --2.98
  • 2 angle brackets -- (1.49) 3.98
Various bolts, washers, screws, and other fasteners (some of which we wound up not needing after all)
  • --.40
  • --.64
  • --.27
  • --.30
  • --1.36
Milk machine parts:
  • 1/4" coupling barbs (3) --(.49) 1.47
  • vinyl tubing -- 11 feet --.66

Total before tax = 45.98
Tax = 4.14
Total = 50.12
We did wind up going back to get rubber washers and nuts to go onto the coupling barbs to help seal the tubes to the jar lid. You can find instructions for building this at My Little Homestead. We didn't put the "T" in the lines, so that's basically the only difference between what we did and what's on the website indicated above.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New baby goat

We are so excited! We went out to feed and discovered one of our nanny goats had given birth to a sweet, cute baby girl! This is just the beginning of many more wonderful surprises to come on our mini homestead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring storms on the homestead

Right now, about one or two days a week is all I have to get out and do my gardening. I try to make the most of those days because 5 or 6 days a week, we'll have storms and rain. Of course, I'm glad for the rain. It refills the aquifer that feeds my well. We had hail last night but it was small, thank goodness. No harm came to the solar panels. Some folks just a few miles away got hail so large that cars were dented and car windows broken out,.

So far on my mini homestead, I've planted strawberry plants, onion plants, cabbage plants, broccoli plants, and sugar snap peas. The cabbage and broccoli plants were given to me by the lady at the feed store up the road. She said her uncle had grown all the starts but our weather had been so crazy, including snow, that no one was buying them. So she gave me 2 kinds of broccoli and 2 kinds of cabbage plants -- 12 plants in all of each. I found places to plant them and got them in the ground as soon as I could.

I prepared a grow bed for 6 of the cabbages and all of the onion plants. I'm really hoping for good results on all of them.

Then I soaked the strawberry plants in water for a couple of days, since they were bare root plants. In the meantime, I prepared two permanent round beds to plant them in. Got them in the ground and after only 2 days you can tell the difference in them. Already putting on big, new leaves.

I prepared a narrow bed for the peas. I had made the bed last year for kakai pumpkins. It has a large piece of lattice tied to the side of the hoop house. The hoop house doesn't have plastic on it. I planted the peas and hope to train them up the lattice and further, over the hoops.

My aquaponics is inside the hoop house and I'll be planting strictly tomatoes and eggplant in the grow bed, when it's time. I got more tomatoes last year from the aquaponics setup than I did from those planted in soil. The only exception might be the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, and that was in the soil and as always, produced like mad.

I got the weed whacker out yesterday and trimmed the foot paths in between the raised beds, got weeds trimmed down to dirt in the beds, and did a little more trimming here and there around the yard. Still more to be done. Due to circumstances last summer and fall, I couldn't get the beds cleaned out properly so I am having to do all that now, and they are in a great mess so I needed to take drastic measures to be able to continue planting.

Both chicken houses have been cleaned out now. We do the deep litter method, which means we keep piling bedding on the chicken house floors then once a year dig it all out and start over again. That litter becomes part of the compost that's used on the garden beds. We still need to clean out the goat house. It's supposed to continue raining and storming until next Sunday, and this is only Wednesday, so that chore will have to wait.

In the meantime, here's a happy pair of chickens for your viewing pleasure!