Keeping an eye on things!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Goat milking 101

We have excellent milk goats. Until recently, I did not fully grasp the blessing of that statement. As a still budding farm-girl, everything I have learned on this farm has been through trial and error, and a few tips from the dozens of forums and blogs I follow. Watching with dread the videos of goat milking gone wrong, and observing the consequential jump in "goats for sale", I came to realize that through a little work and determination...we have excellent milk goats.

This face says it all. 

Until we purchased Lily, Petunia was in our minds, our only good milker. Rowdy, being half Boer, is a poor milker when in milk, (and her milk is less than palatable), but she still produces enough to keep the pigs and all the barn cats happy. 
Then came Lily.

Her giant udder and ridiculously easy temperament makes milking a joy. She can give a half gallon of milk in just under two minutes. As long as the grain hold out, she stands unflinching while she is being tugged and squeezed, massaged and nudged. Her milk is sweet, rich and the perfect fat ratio to produce a lovely chevre (soft cheese).  

Each of our goats have been taught to exit their barn stalls and beeline straight to the milking stanchion. They hop up on the platform, turn 180, and stick their heads through the holding gate to enjoy their morning grain. There was no trick to teaching them this accomplishment; As the saying goes "Build it and they will come". In this case, feed them and they will come! Learning to milk goats with proficiency...let's just say that took a little longer!  Now I am happy to say I can perform that feat with my eyes closed, or when the battery light in the barn dies and a flashlight has to suffice. So I figured why not share that knowledge? 

The three videos below are my version of goat milking 101. Lily was only too happy to volunteer for the lead role in this production, and you will see in the second video, Sparky the barn cat felt left out. So much so that he basically steals the show.  OK, Hollywood producer I am not, but if you can envision what is going on behind the cat, you will get the gist of it. Also, product placement was NOT part of the plan, but alas, every dairy product container becomes a food scoop in our re-purposed farm world. Therefore, the background is what it is. Enjoy!

The scabby goat knees in this next video cracks me up. Goats are adaptable, so where there is a fence, there is a way to crawl under it. Hence, scabby knees. Obviously she is so proud of her knees that she wants you to focus only on those while I am trying to vye for your attention in the background. I cannot even imagine how many outtakes the Discovery Channel must have on file. Creating video with animals involved is ridiculous.

That's a wrap!
Happy farming everyone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

C.S.I. Missouri


The verdict has been handed down, and the case is now closed. 
Without a fair trial you ask?  Let's work through the timeline so you can see the evidence for yourselves. 

The accused
Do not let that innocent face fool you, she is a full-fledged, veggie eating machine. You all know the song "There's no Mountain High Enough...", that's her theme song.  Just substitute the word fence for mountain, and sing right along.

The crime.
The complete destruction of a flourishing vegetable garden. After fighting Japanese beetles for four months, the green beans were finally producing. The cucumbers were fully in bloom again and the tomatoes were turning a lovely shade of pink. The broccoli had perfect little heads forming, and the okra was almost the same height as the gorgeous white corn stalks abundant with fat ears. Spaghetti squash and cantaloupe were in full spread out mode, and a dozen sweet watermelons were ripening on the vine.

The evidence.
One does not get an hourglass frame like this from simply grazing on ivy and leaves. 

These are not dark stones, beetles, or lost grapes. No sirree, these are in fact a pile of pebbly poops. (See earlier blog for full description)

There are exactly two types of creatures on this farm that leave behind these little piles; sheep and goats. The sheep are now housed in this fantastic solar electric mesh fence (Thank you so much Premier One Supplies, you guys rock!), meaning they cannot get out and nothing can get in. Their alibi is solid.

That leaves goats. There are three goats on this farm: Rowdy (the accused), Petunia the ditzy milk goat with horns, and Lily the milk goat extraordinaire. Lily cannot jump, her udder is too big. She just sort of ambles along happily foraging in the forest. Petunia, while capable of jumping, is not capable of breaking her tie out rope.  She is, however, capable of wrapping herself 14 times around a tree because going the opposite way to unwind is beyond her comprehension. 

These other crime photos are shocking and unedited, so viewers beware.


 The bare vines of the once prolific green beans, the sad stubs that used to be broccoli heads, and the bare stalks of what promised to be a banner corn yield. I could not bring myself to show the crushed skulls of the watermelons, it was just too much to bear. 
Now, a good detective will have noticed the obvious breach in the fence structure just behind the corn, visible in photos 1 and 3. 

The eye-witness.

So there you have it, the evidence has been presented and the proof is infallible. Not to mention the adorable eye-witness testimony. 
That darned goat is guilty, guilty, guilty!

The sentencing.
A thicker, shorter, stronger tie-out rope with larger clasp and swivels. No grain, no horse cookies, no alfalfa treats until those saddle-bags start shrinking! And of course, daily love and brushing because after all, she is my best grazer. What can ya do?

Blessings to you all, and happy farming!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot

Sounds like a title to a fairy tale doesn't it? "The Adventures of Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot!". These two words however, are not character names, rather names of two phenomenons that occur when you raise chickens as long as I have.

Let's start with "Fairy Eggs". These tiny wonders are rare in appearance and occur when something has disturbed the reproductive cycle of a hen. They simply indicate she did not have time to produce a yolk before her body deposited the egg, so voila! An egg the size of a playing marble. It has been several years since I found a fairy egg so this was a special surprise yesterday. Notice the calcium deposits on the large blue egg next to it? That is another anomaly that occurs when a chicken does not absorb all of the calcium she is getting, so it is deposited in tiny bumps on her eggs. This generally occurs in older hens and can be a sign of slow reproduction, over eating or water shortage. In this hen's case, it is probably water. She tends to hang out in the coop even when there is a pond within 20' of her front door. Silly girl.

Now onto Bumblefoot. Technically the name is ulcerative pododermatitis, but 99.9% of chicken people call it Bumblefoot. This term can strike fear in even the most seasoned chicken herder, and is a condition that can prove fatal if not treated immediately. In 20+ years of chicken raising we have had exactly TWO hens with Bumblefoot. If you figure we have seen over 400 birds grow to maturity on this farm, that's pretty good odds. The first case was found before the wound became serious and was easily soaked out. (More on that in a minute). This my peeps is a picture of what the newest case looked like. Warning, it's a little bit gross.

The picture on the left is the wound after it had been cleaned and the "corns" removed. Sorry for not getting a before picture, (I was holding a chicken) but imagine a sliver in your finger that becomes infected. A giant pus pocket forms around it, swelling your finger up until the only relief is to dig that bugger out of there. You now have a visual idea of what this hen was suffering with. Most commonly, Bumblefoot occurs when a scratch or puncture on a bird's foot becomes infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  This bacteria is found frequently in the environment, and seldom is it something you can determine and eliminate from the coop (although good sanitation is always a good idea!). However, this bacteria can even cause Bumblefoot in birds when there has been no particular injury, if their skin gets irritated enough to let the infection take hold. For instance if a bird roosts on a wire or rough-hewn log, the resulting abrasion could cause the bacteria to grow

As I mentioned earlier, the first hen to show signs of Bumblefoot was limping slightly and when I tipped her upside down to check her feet I noticed the bottom of one was swelling and red in appearance, with a small white dot in the center of the "pocket". It was a lucky catch and after a good epsom salt soaking the dot, redness and swelling went away. This 2nd hen was not so lucky. While you generally see Bumblefoot on the bottom of a chicken's foot, in Goose-Goose's case it was found on the side of her toe.  The "corns" that you see on the paper towel are hard deposits that form under the skin and cause great discomfort to the bird as she walks on it.   

Chickens have amazing pain receptors and healing abilities. Unless you spend countless hours with your birds and know their sounds and mannerisms, you will probably not know if they are injured, sick or hurting until it is too late. They show no outward signs of minor pain. This girl was limping a little so I scooped her up to see if she had a thorn or a rock wedged between her toes. Good thing I did. The picture on the left was just before I performed her surgery and as you see her eyes are bright, she is alert, her comb is deep red and she appears totally healthy. If she had been perched on her log or sitting on a nest I would not have given her health a second thought. The picture on the right was 5 minutes after surgery. Still no signs of pain, just hunger. The toe is bandaged and thoroughly coated with Vetericyn the "don't even think about raising chickens without it wonder spray". Goose-Goose is enjoying some feed mixed with home-made yogurt for probiotics to help her heal.  Aren't chickens wonderful funny creatures?

That's all folks! Hope you enjoyed this little science lesson. I have found it very helpful to keep literature handy on chicken keeping just for such emergencies and if what I have shared helps you help your chickens then hooray! Until next time...

Happy farming everyone!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On the other hand...

   People often comment to me that I am "too busy".  Perhaps, but in what sense?  Too busy to volunteer? Too busy to go to the movies? Too busy to properly comb my hair? I think this hat looks good, for the second day in a row. 

   Every person I know has a difficult time juggling all of the time consuming tasks that life throws at them each and every day.  It does not matter if you are a stay at home parent with two toddlers, a road warrior who travels place to place and job to job, a retired couple who happily toddles in the garden (yeah, right, like retired people EVER have time to toddle), or a hobby farm mom who has a to-do list longer than her refrigerator door...we are all too busy. It is WHY we are too busy that matters.  Are you happy? Definitely.  Do you take pleasure in what makes you busy? Every day.  Do you still make time for you? Sometimes, but I am working on it. My priorities are in order (most of the time), and really, isn't that what counts the most?

 I do not have gorgeous model hands.  They have short-clipped nails embedded with dirt, and their dark tan color and deep lines from countless hours of summer sun ages them. That's OK.  There is an old adage that states "busy hands keeps the devil at bay", meaning stay busy and you will be less tempted to do things not so favorable with your time!  When I am not too busy working in my garden, trimming horses hooves, brush-hogging pastures, snuggling chickens, or milking goats, I find myself spending idle time on my home computer sucked into the world of Facebook and Pinterest.  Afterwards, the wave of guilt that I have just wasted two hours staring at a monitor washes over me and I have to reprimand myself for not getting things done.  Those sites are terrific, and I thoroughly enjoy browsing them, but I am too easily distracted into sitting until my hips hurt.

   Here's another, "have you hands full", meaning to be busy.  Four months ago I took on a part-time job as our church secretary.  I also opened a booth at our local farmer's market once a week.  With Heeby-Jeeby Dad often away at his day job for 12 hours or more, my time is spent alone, or more specifically in the company of dozens of non-English speaking critters.  This gives me time to explore new ways of making a living on our farm.  After the disastrous shearing of our new sheep (Next time will be better, I promise), I knew the wool was "worthless" at market, so I had to get creative.  Voila!  Pinterest to the rescue. (Don't judge me). 

   Now I have these wool combs I fashioned all by myself, also known as husband bonkers, that I spend a few minutes each day creating roving for various projects.  Wet felting, dry felting, spinning, stuffing, batting...the possibilities are wonderful! When my "hands are full", the creative juices start flowing and there are things to look forward to.  When idle, I get fidgety and eat cookies.  

   We also purchased a new milk goat knowing that our other girl could not keep up with the demand of milk and cheese we are experiencing.  Since I am a "hands on" kind of girl, I settled into my seat at the nearby animal auction and with bidding card "in hand" I waited. Without further ado, may I introduce Lily. 

It was love at first sight!  She was destined for the slaughter house and I was determined she would go home with me instead.  Poor thing had not been milked for a couple of days and her udder was nearly touching the ground. Her hooves were overgrown and curling under her feet, and she was skin and bones, but she had the sweetest face and a calm disposition so she HAD to be saved.  We are still having a hard time getting her to fatten up, even with free choice grain and supplements, but her hair is shiny, her feet are trimmed, and her milk production is udderly fantastic.  Sorry, couldn't help myself. 


   The ewes did their jobs well and produced five gorgeous lambs this year, three ram lambs and two ewe lambs.  We were hoping for more ewes since we would hold those back for our own flock, but this is a good beginning. As usual, the names we come up with make no sense to anyone but us.  There was Hamlet, Cornelius, and Philip; all three went to auction after they were weaned.  The girls are Marigold and Gizmo.  We tried to stick with flowery names but obviously failed.  All five sheep will need sheared soon, so we will " try our hand" at it again. Maybe this time I can beat my record of 5 hours and 15 minutes?!  No, not for all of them, for one of them.  You read that correctly. They hated me for days afterwards.

Any professional looking at this photo just passed out. Yes, that is a line of wool that I missed on one of the passes with the clippers. Yes, she is laying on her side.  (These sheep are TINY!!!) And yes, I am thinking it will require Valium for both the shearer and the victim next time. 

   The Heeby-Jeeby Hatchery did great this year with a record number of specific breed chicks sold, and a few laying hens and ducks too.  The new incubator Alexa brought me was invaluable and not having to turn eggs by hand three times a day was a nice time-saver.  It also allowed us to transfer the eggs to our homemade incubator during the hatch so they could be warm and cozy away from the other eggs.  We will be expanding even more during the fall months and creating an area in the new garage for a brooding pen and two more brooding tubs to keep our weekly hatches rotated.  I am really proud of our accomplishments this year in keeping the death toll to a minimum by having a secure pen, egg house, and foliage cover.  While never a fun topic to discuss, it is the sad truth of chicken farming; some chickens will die every year, unexpectedly, by either illness, injury, or attack.  So far we have had only two! Out of 40 adult birds and 60 new chicks, having only two expire is a blessing.  We did have two others try to commit suicide under our tires on the tractor, but both luckily came out with only broken legs and a much wiser focus, which I guess goes "hand in hand!".  Silly birds.

   That's a wrap, folks. Is anyone else sick of the "handy" way I threw in all those hand words? C'mon, seriously, let me see a "show of hands". Sorry, sometimes my left hand does not know what my right hand is doing.  Ok, I'm done now. I really need to get busy.

Happy farming everyone!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April showers...

Those April showers better get a move on if we are to get May flowers! It seems when you don't want the rain, there it is.  When you do, it is no where in sight. Spring is a fickle time.

Knowing that, we try to do everything possible in a few weeks time to beat the impending Spring rains and completely wear ourselves out before Summer even begins to show itself. Stalls to deep clean, rocks to remove, garden soil to till under, and trees to fertilize are just a sprinkling of the chores we tackle here each day. Then comes babies. Tiny fluffy butts abound!

Fuzzy, squeaky, precious little babies that fill our home with the sound of chirping and peeping from dusk 'til dawn. The living room becomes the brooder until a sufficient set up is permanently established in the new garage currently under construction. Heeby Jeeby Dad has generously agreed to set aside 4' x 14' just for babies. Hooray!!
Baby Naked Neck is very impressed.

So is Cisco.

Perhaps he is more interested in the newest additions to the Heeby Jeeby family...Sheep!
These beauties are Shetlands, prized for their exceptional wool quality and small easy going statures. I am pleased to introduce Buttercup (L) and Miss Daisy (R).

And who could forget their handsome fella? This is Coffee. a.k.a. Coffee Cup, Coffee Bean, Coffee Boy, Coffee Coffee Coffee...the list goes on.  As long as he gets ample love and scratches he doesn't care what you call him.

As you can see, keeping their wool clean is going to be a full time job! Actually, right after these pictures were taken 2 of the 3 were sheared.  Now THAT is a story for another time!  Their wool is incredibly long and thick and it was imperative that the girls get theirs off before lambing which could be any time now. More babies coming soon! Yippee!

Which way did they go? 

Mystery appreciates everyone stopping by this month and enjoying our fresh milk and eggs at the farm stand. The cheese is a big hit and we are having fun discovering new flavors and techniques. Next week we will have garden seedlings to offer as well as wool roving! Who knew farming could be so much fun?!

 Until next time, Happy farming friends!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Forgetfulness and Farm Chores

   It's official, I've gone senile.  February went by in a whirlwind and obviously took with it my ability to blog.  The 2nd month of the year was a blur of ice storms, balmy 70 degree days, rain, no rain, sun, no sun, and wind.  When the sun comes out I feel that energy spike and want to do every chore that needs done for the week in one day.  Then the forecast changes and I get in "prepare" mode where fruit trees are covered, straw is spread for bedding and feed for the poultry is doubled.  Sun comes out again and it's either a day on the tractor or a day with the chain saw.  Thank goodness I have had some down time lately and can share some wonderful moments with you.  Like these pictures of our precious Charlie. Love this face!

I learned the art of cheese making last month and have tried my hand at several different types. So far, Neufchatel and Mozzarella are the easiest and frankly, the most tasty. The hard cheeses take a lot of time and work so when ambition strikes and I have extra time for a week I will try that too.

With the abundance of goat's milk and eggs lately cheese just seemed like a great idea!

   Then of course, there are babies. Yay! Heeby Jeeby Hatchery is officially in full swing again and we have some awesome little breeds ready for new homes soon.

We are hatching approximately a dozen chicks and 8-10 ducks each week.  This is the first year we had the opportunity to separate our breeds to have true breed hatches. Here are some of our proud parents and their lovely feathered friends.




So with all the eggs and milk, there is only one thing left to do.  Plant the garden seeds, make a couple of adorable signs and set up the farm stand!

March brings Spring flowers, new babies, and the chores now start in earnest so we are off once again to keep on top of things! Good thing I have Flare to keep an eye on us. 

Happy farming friends!