Saturday, March 30, 2013

To market, to market...

Sometimes, when one lives life "seasonally", those same "seasons" can really whoop your butt! I spent the better part of last week catching up packaging and lotion making LIKE CRAZYYYYY!!!!!  Not much time for typing and chit chat right? Right...

Today I took a boat load of stuff out to the Flea Market in Conroe - stuff, bah! - Soaps and lotions is what I mean.  Went to bed at 2am, woke up at 4am, finished labeling and loading up the truck and away I went :)  Did pretty decent too...

So...I have been quiet, but only because I have been SOOOO crazy busy!  It's a ton of work to get that much inventory prepped and shuffled...and I want to start doing this at least twice a month...I must be loosing my mind right?  But it really is worth it ya'll!

Not only did I get out of the house and get to see NEW PEOPLE woo hoo!  for a change, but I made a little money and had a pleasant day out :)

Next time...the story of how the goat world is a small one and why you really shouldn't be shady....

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I think that I shall never see...

Something as drop dead gorgeous as our BIG OLD OAK TREE! 
You can't really tell how big that monster is I guess, now that I look at it, but it is freakin' HUGE!  Covers almost the entire house with it's branches HUGE!  I am so glad every year to see it spring back into life.  We moved here in the middle of the drought and I watered it and prayed for it...because it is so big and so poised to fall the wrong way if it dies ya know?  And the first spring came and with it tons of bright green leaves and I was happy :)

We are on our second spring with this big tree now and it seems once again to be a happy tree - what more could an oak ask for right?  Here it is back in January - last day of deer season actually - for perspective...
If you ignore the deer in the front there, you can see how much of the porch the tree takes up...They actually built the porch around that tree (I'm pretty sure, no hard evidence per se, but you can tell when you look at it).  It's just my most favorite thing to walk outside and stare at right now :)

I even designed one of our bars of soap after it.  The scent is described as "vanilla oak" even though I call it "Rustic".....  you can see it here at my online store.   The brown color of the soap is all natural from the vanilla fragrance and the shimmery green is from mica...I think it looks much like that oak tree and it smells as yummy and warm as that tree must feel out there in the bright spring sunshine!

Trees do so much for us here - I don't really get why some people clear cut EVERYthing on their place...They give us shade in the heat of the summer, they drop all kinds of tasty crunchy leaves for my goats to eat like potato chips, they give the horses a place to back up to and scratch their rear (heck, I catch my husband scratching his own back on that oak tree sometimes!), and they suck up a ton of that water that pools around the place when it rains, helping to dry it out!  Sure...they also cause a ton of damage when limbs break, and I spend hours picking up and moving said limbs to the burn pile...and even longer trying to get that thing lit!  And the leaves...the goats can only eat so many before they threaten to pop!  Let's not even go into how many leaves must be raked away from the house each winter...

But still - even though that big old oak makes me a lovely bit of work, I still love it and it is an important piece of the heart of this place.  It's what sold my husband on living here I think and I really hope that tree lives another hundred years out on that porch!



Monday, March 25, 2013

Where did My Weekend Go????

And what did I get done???  Oh my goodness!  It feels like a great big bunch of "NOTHING" got done....how sad....

Sometimes life outside the farm happens and WHOA does it mess stuff up!  Friday and Saturday there were major errands to run, and not much time spent at the farm for a change...Then I had to go out in the dark on Saturday night to rescue the hubby because a radiator hose choose to explode and die violently on his way home - an hour from the house - woo fun...NOT!

Sunday was spent changing that hose, changing the oil in the vehicles, and putting in a new starter on the jeep which we have been needing to do pretty desperately - like starting the jeep with a hammer from underneath desperately - but the hubby hasn't been home to fix it.  So that was Sunday, buh-bye Sunday, you were spent on maintenance....

I guess what I am saying is:  It's Spring, don't forget to look over the farm truck once or twice and show it a little lovin' too!  While you're out there giving all the farm critters a good once over do the same for your vehicles so you don't get stranded on a run to the feed store or your way to a goat show...it's not as much fun as going out for a ride with the horses, but it's still pretty crucial...

Guess I best be heading outside today to catch up on the all stuff I didn't get done this weekend....

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fitting Fodder into Your Day...

The first thing to know about fodder and producing it is this:  It WILL require an additional bit of effort on your part!  With fodder, there is no more "scoop the feed, fill the feeders, move on"...you have to be sure it is watered, prepped, and doing well each day.  To a small degree it is a "set it and forget it" thing, but it still adds a bit to my day.

During trials, it was especially hard because nothing was really set up right - I had some trays balanced on the sink and over a few rubber maid tubs and was just making to do.  I wanted to see if the added effort was something I could keep up with and most importantly if the wheat I had found would even grow.  Well, it did :)

From seeds to fodder mat, ain't it pretty???  I was highly excited, but due to the fact that the inside of our house is pretty much all wood I knew we couldn't be growing fodder indoors.  Nope, can't take a chance with this little cabin we call home...so I admit I have tried a few things and so far have settled on one I think will work mostly long term, for now...but that's another post...

Suffice it to say fodder adds about 15-20 minutes to my morning and a few more minutes to my day here and there.  I have chosen NOT to go with recycled water in my system, and I also do not use automated watering (at least not yet).  With the fact that those would require some plumbing and what not, well, I am no plumber even if I did grow up in a hardware store (and I did) so it's me and my hose until I get creative enough or my husband gets tired of having to water it for me when he is home hahaha....

I guess all together, doing it "the hard way" and watering by hand it adds about an hour to my day - but since I am often outside piddling around aimlessly for about that much of the day anyways just checking on the critters and what not, well, it's not that bad and not it is not that aimless either :)

Even if you have the watering automated, plan to spend an extra 15-20 each morning prepping the fodder.  I have chosen to soak the seeds first in a bleach solution, then come back after I feed everything (when I remember to) and spread them on trays and I water it the first time after I feed it...

It's not too bad adding the extra bit of work for the quality of home grown feed we now have - sure a little Clorox goes on it, but no other crazy harsh chemicals once I have it at least and the animals LOVE it!
video
This is Rocket, who is NOT a "grabby, mouthy" horse by any means all but snatching it right from my husbands hands!  No really, honest, Rocket NEVER tries to "take" anything from your hands - forget treats with this horse - but fodder he WILL take! He runs to eat each morning now and is looking good that's for sure! And the goats! Oh my good grief! They fight over it and I have had a jail break where they chose the fodder over the feed room once...naughty greedy things those does!

Speaking of, I am late to milk tonight...but just remember this:  If you don't have a few extra minutes in your day fodder may not be for you and that's okay too :)  But it sure is worth if it you can squeeze it into your chores!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sourcing Seeds for Fodder...

The first thing I did when preparing for my fodder trials was clear out a spot in the mudroom to actually grow the stuff, and then I gathered a few trays that would work.  Seeds however were a bigger challenge....

Here in Texas,. barley is not nearly as common or easy to come by as it is in other regions of the U.S.  This posed a problem - everyone was talking about BARLEY fodder...okay...so I looked and researched some more...It seems people also use a product from Tractor Supply called "Plot Spike" - it is meant to be tossed out in the woods and such on deer leases to get stuff growing that deer will like to nibble on.  Deer and goats being so close in so many ways, I knew that I could, if need be, sprout this stuff...but it was pricey! One major point was to bring down costs right?  Plus, I intended to feed this fodder to our horses and they are very much NOT like deer right? Okay...

So then I discovered that WHEAT would grow as well....okay...still not all that easy to find...but I DID find it!

A tip for those in Texas growing fodder...if your feed store carries Boyce products, ask them to order the Wheat.  It grows BEAUTIFULLY! Now, what if you aren't in Texas or can't get the Boyce products?

Well...call around....Human Health Food Stores - ah ha!  They carry organic and often non GMO as well barley AND wheat for sprouting and grinding into flour and such!  It will cost you a little more, but to me it is worth it.  Plus, the most local to me place will order it in bulk and offers a discount if they do that for me.  Pretty nifty right?

Call local or near as you can find local grain elevators.  They often can help you and point you the right way.  Call the other feed dealers.  Here we have Lone Star, MG, and a few others...the rep at Lone Star actually told me about Boyce...see...they CAN be helpful even if it is not their product!  They aren't out to be jerks, and can point you the right direction.

I actually called around for a friend yesterday.  She lives a few hours away from me, but still here in Texas.  First, I called Boyce and asked who the dealers were nearest to her, and got their number.  Then I ended up on the phone with a very nice, if ill informed as far as fodder goes, gentleman who talked my ear off LOL :)  But he was super helpful, gave me the info I needed to pass along to my friend and SCORE!  She now has a good source for wheat!

It does take a little creative effort sometimes to find what you want.  Often, telling people what you are doing with it helps!  Don't be afraid to say that you are looking for something that you can grow into fodder.  Most people will be glad to help you and even intrigued as to what you are up to.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to stop and explain the basics of fodder itself when I was telling someone on the phone what I was up to and why I wanted whole wheat or barley.

So, lesson here is:  don't be afraid to let your fingers do the walking, pick up the phone, and exhaust all resources before you give up and don't get hung up on growing just one thing like barley!  I almost didn't even attempt this after hitting a few dead ends...but perseverance is the key :)

I had my wheat, I had a few supplies...and the trials began :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Horses, Slaughter, and My Take on Things....

I truly think that people that view the slaughter of ANY animal for food as wrong should be vegetarians, if not vegans, and should hold themselves to very high standards in regards to what they not only eat, but every product in their home as you would be surprised if you really read labels as to what is in stuff....I believe it is hypocritical to say that one animal is fit for food and the next is not based on a humans perception of said animals intelligence, social standing, or for any other reason.  Meat is meat and to be picky about what you eat is one thing, but to be preaching that slaughter of one over the other is okay for any reason is just nonsense. And yes, we eat meat in this house!

There are several articles and tons of outrage circling the internet and places like facebook right over the slaughter of horses here in the U.S.  You can can read one such article at this link to see what I am talking about.  Apparently, as slaughter plants where horses are processed into meat are reopened, people are forgetting what the last few years without these slaughter houses have been like for the horse population. As it exploded due to irresponsible owners and breeders, with no outlet besides Mexico and craigslist, prices dropped, conditions that horses were kept in became worse, and the market was flooded with creatures that should have been euthanized but weren't due to "costs".  It's not right, I do agree with that, that someone should take on a cheap horse and then expect it to be The Black Stallion or Flicka...but at least with slaughter as an option those horses still have a way to make it over the proverbial rainbow bridge and off of their misery on this earth.

As someone who owns and rides 2 fat, happy, healthy, well behaved, well mannered and well cared for horses...I do believe I am entitled to an opinion here.  That's them, that's Rocket and Smokey, my horses....would I ever send them to be slaughtered?  No...when the day comes that they must be put down or euthanized I will see that it happens here in peace at home.  But I made a commitment to them when I brought them home that I take seriously, and not all horse owners are that good...some people just shouldn't ever own a horse.  But you can't be Team America World Police about it, and with slaughter back as an option hopefully now people will be less likely to keep an ill or dangerous horse lingering on this earth in misery.  May not be the best option, but it's there.

Now, my main thing here is this:  Who is anyone to say that it's okay to eat a cow or pig but not a horse?  Have you ever owned a cow or raised a pig from the day it was born?  I have...guess what - pigs and cattle can be very intelligent!  Heck...even chickens are pretty smart, and in my eyes everything here on our little farm is equal.  Everything has a job, and some things are destined to be dinner while others are here to ride the fence lines on.  But no one animal is more intelligent then the next, no one animal is exempt ever from being a meal if the need arose.  I promise you this...if every one on facebook who is crying because the horses are going to slaughter had a starving family, and a fat horse in the yard, and it was a "zombie apocalypse SHTF" type of scenario...well....those same people now in a new situation would feed their hungry kids horse burgers before they'd let their children starve. Sure, last resort kinda thing, but meat is meat when people are hungry. So it seems hypocritical to me to bash the idea of horse slaughter purely because it's a horse we are talking about...

  
Yes, we do all of our own processing except cows because we don't have the facilities to handle something that big.  See that?  It's a pig, one I raised from tiny enough to hold in one hand, and guess what...He was smart as whip, would come right up to me, friendly as could be, and tasted like delicious sausage in the final analysis. Honestly, if I had to place him on the same scale as my horses, he was equally as intelligent as either one of them.  He could open gates, knew when he was in trouble for breaking into the feed room, and came when he was called...yup...just as smart as my mare at least.  When people say you can't eat a horse "because it is smart" it kills me....they've never had a beef calf that mooed when it saw you coming, liked to be rubbed between the ears, and followed simple verbal commands that they had made into hamburgers.  But I bet they eat plenty of hamburgers and never stop to think that beef was once on the hoof alive and intelligent. No, not everyone has it in them to do what we do...but unless you are a very strict vegetarian or vegan how can you say what meat is okay and what is not?

Now, with horses, in general it can be said their job is to be ridden.  Pasture ornament is even an okay title for an older or lame horse I suppose.  But sadly, there exist plenty of people in this world who do not care for animals nearly as well as they should.  Horses are too large to be "pets" for a great portion of the population...this leaves a heavy burden on shelters and rescues with abandoned unwanted animals that can cost hundreds of dollars a month to keep fed. Slaughter is one way to handle this over population.  Is it the right way?  Who am I to say...I can't say it's wrong as I eat meat.  Would I eat horse meat?  I dunno...never had it, can't tell you if I'd like it. But if others want to eat it I don't mind and I'm not going to knock them for it.  As long as they follow at least the standards I set for myself I see no problem with anyone who eats horse meat or slaughtering horses.

Here, things are checked over bare minimum twice daily, and if it's an animal bound for the freezer it always goes that way with calm, quiet, dignity and respect.  I do have a problem with people that don't slaughter, process or butcher as humanely as possible. I do have a problem with people that allow animals to be sick or ill with no treatment prior to being slaughtered.  But, if my neighbor wants to raise and eat dogs - well - that's his business.  Just raise them well and slaughter them with kindness and compassion when the time comes.

Then the cry is raised that slaughter is inhumane - but wait - did you have a chicken sandwich for lunch?  Steak for dinner?  So...it's okay to kill that chicken or that steer because why again?  It's humane for them?  Don't kid yourself...if you aren't producing your own food or very close to those that DO butcher and process your food all packing plants are equal.  Sure, some may be better than others.  But none are warm friendly places full of smiling faces.  Any meat, be it beef, pork, poultry or even horse meat, has to die to get to your plate.  Don't kid yourself that a chicken from the grocery store died a better death than a horse would - not even organic chicken - it's a factory style set up with disgruntled under paid employees.  Things are going to be less than perfect in that setting, be it horse burger or chicken patties they are producing.

There are many other aspects about people getting all preachy over slaughtering horses that really get to me...the fact that the horse market has been flooded with half wild, crazy, ill mannered beasts for years now that would have been sent to the packing house in decades prior...yeah...makes it hard to find a good one.  Also, having too much of something drives the prices down and it makes it even harder to get a good price for and sell a good one if the need arises.  And, let's be honest now, we never stopped sending horses to slaughter.  It just got harder to do...

You see, what all these people who cry over how terrible it is forget is that Mexico never closed the doors of the packing houses.  Plenty of horses were shipped over there while we were busy being self righteous about it here.  It was, to me, worse for the horses.  A farther journey first of all, one that ended in a place with no regulations like we have here in the U.S.  Sure, yes, there are cases of packing plants doing awful things here too.  But at least we have some sort of checks and balances in place to make it slightly better...slightly more humane...and people the nation over armed with camera phones and youtube to spread the word when a facility is not doing right.  Mexico...hmm....not so much....it's further away and not under the thumb of our regulatory agencies as far as how they work and what happens to those animals.  SO if I absolutely had to pick, I'd send my horses to a place in the U.S. over Mexico if it was the only option.

So, trying to keep my opinion short and sweet here, when I see these posts on facebook about horse slaughter returning and how it's the devil I can only hope those same people get the chance one day to see how smart their bacon was or their KFC fried chicken that would willingly follow a human around looking for treats...and if horse meat is still wrong, they better start thinking all meat is wrong.  Because the hypocrisy of someone chewing on a piece of bacon while they post about the evil behind eating horses is the worst part of all it.
 




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bio What????

Bio - Available:    the extent to which a nutrient or medication can be used by the body.

In this case the "nutrient" in mind is fodder in general.  Barley, wheat, doesn't matter what you sprout.  Just know that by sprouting it you change it's "bio-availability" and make it easier to digest for your livestock and that fact was a big part of the switch for us.  The way I picture this concept in my mind, though a bit gross, is to think of corn and do some comparing...

All fodder starts as a seed...let's use wheat fodder because that is what I grow...Now, wheat berries and kernels of corn are both seeds and are both edible.  I've never chewed on "wheat on the cob" because it doesn't exist.  But I HAVE eaten corn on the cob.  Guess what...if it goes in it has to come back out and kernels of corn often return as those same kernels don't they?  Yuck, yes, but the blatant honest truth isn't it? I imagine if I were to go boil some wheat and choke it down I'd get wheat back on down the line too...I don't know for sure...but I'm guessing this is what would happen.

Clearly, whole seeds are not the most bio-available form of what they contain if they return as seeds still right?  Okay...so we grind them up and make flour out of them.  Whole wheat bread AND corn bread both go in as bread and come back out as...well...you can't tell it was ever bread!  But you would think that since it is more bio-available in that form it's the best one for us right?  And thusly, if whole seeds are hard to digest, then we should grind them up and make them into pellets for our livestock just as we make breads out of these ground seeds for ourselves right?  WRONG!!!!

See, here's the thing....when any seed sprouts, it turns into a plant.  Livestock, in general, are plant eaters.  Horses, goats, cattle...they eat grass and green things not breads and muffins (they shouldn't at least). Their bodies are meant to chew, grind, and in the case of ruminants they ruminate that green stuff into nutrients their body can use.  Sure, they can survive and thrive on pelleted feed (which is like the livestock version of humans bread I guess).  But it isn't what they are meant to be eating.  Even ground up, it's harder for their bodies to get at the proteins and vitamins in there...now, turn it into greenery which they ARE designed for and you get a different result.  It is easy for them to break down into the vital bits and pieces they need to thrive and grow and produce. 

Heck, if you think about, breads in high amounts aren't really all that great for humans either.  If I eat a diet heavy in bread I gain unhealthy pounds of chub-a-dub-iness that's for sure...so when I finally grasped the fact that sprouting wheat into grass made the stuff in it my critters needed to be healthy available to them it made even more sense to switch to fodder.  Then I realized I myself needed to eat more veggies and less bagels, but that's another story isn't it? Basically, by growing fodder I am providing a diet with fresh veggies for my livestock instead of dingdongs and pretzels...hmmm....which way of eating is healthier?  The veggies I believe...

Needless to say once I had pondered this, I knew I wanted to give fodder a go.  I wasn't sure if it would fit in with our farm, and I was having a heck of a time finding the so highly revered barley seeds everyone speaks of using in their fodder systems...so the next step was locating something to sprout and seeing if I could handle it...plants tend to get forgotten around here.  They just don't cry for help when they need a drink of water like the pig does when he tips his bucket over ya know? But I was armed with some basic knowledge and ready to give it a try...once I found that dang barley!

Ahhh....fodder...the saga continues....tomorrow....:)


 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ok...so WHY Fodder???

Well...I choose fodder for a few reasons.  First and foremost it is more natural to what my livestock would eat if they had their own choice in things.  Sometimes, they do get a choice - we are on 10 acres after all - but at night they are stuck in their pens close to the house for safety and some days they are stuck there as well.  When it rains the back of the property turns to a bog I prefer them not to play in...plus they won't leave their shelter anyways in the rain, so they stay there. Also, the front is not yet fenced for the horses and NONE of it is properly fenced for goats (besides their pen areas)...so I try to get out there an hour or 2 a day and let them "free range" if you will - that's another blog post though...let's just say that no matter what after a few years of crummy drought conditions anyways I am always prepared to feed my animals plus dairy goats need to eat more than just browse if you want the best, highest yields on your milk...

Anyways, horses, goats, cattle - none of these things go out on the hunt for corn or soybeans in their pastures.  Sure, if they find it they will eat it - heck, they'll eat your garden if they get the chance!  But naturally the bulk of their diet is fresh GREEN stuff!  Grasses, weeds, shrubs...Pelleted feeds make a decent supplement to this (particularly if you are in a drought and there is nothing green left!), but it's not natural at all.  Especially for the goats...goats can get acidosis, or bloat, from things like a corn heavy diet. This article explains it a little better...  Let's be really honest here - go check a bag of pelleted goat or horse feed - a good portion of it is corn or soy.  It's certainly not fresh green stuff at all! So, if by chance an accident occurs and you over feed (like the day I fed and then my husband fed thinking I hadn't yet...that was a doozy) or if you just are over feeding and not realizing it...you are setting yourself up for failure in a way...We actually took the corn out of the goats diets a few years back now and have not had a case of "bloat" or acidosis since then, but it was not uncommon to run up against it from time to time before when we fed traditional goat feeds...

Then, there are our horses...over feeding pelleted feeds can lead to colic.  Too much bagged type feed and not enough roughage and you set yourself up for it - ask our friend who lost her beloved mare after making that mistake...plus it's much harder on their teeth and such to eat those pellets than it is to grind up some grass.  Sure, horses teeth are meant to grind and pulverize - GRASS - which is actually fairly soft, stringy but soft, compared to pelleted stuff - not hard like the pellets in bags are.  Since switching to fodder our middle aged gelding (17 years old - not ancient, but getting up there) has had a much easier time staying the right weight. (And yes, he has been properly wormed, had his teeth floated, etc...but you can tell his body processes fodder better).

That's the other thing - fodder is much more bio-available to the animals to digest...we'll save that talk for tomorrow though...

Then there are all the horror stories and recalls and what not in regards to processed feeds...This article hits very close to home and then there was my own mysteriously dropping poultry...these are just 2 examples of why you have to be careful what you feed your animals.

You also have the whole "non-GMO/organic" vs not side of the debate...it's still pretty easy to find and source organic type barley and wheat to sprout compared to finding organic feed (at least where I live).  Also, even though it may be more expensive to go the non-GMO route, it still is a money saver to sprout it into fodder...

Oh yes - one 50lb bag of seed turns into 250lbs of feed!  You still feed by weight, just as you should with pelleted type feeds, and you actually feed pretty closely to the same amounts.  You just get far more bang for your buck with fodder!  So, it's a money saver that's for sure...They also seem to go through less hay when you feed fodder.  YES, EVERYTHING still needs hay!  Those long, dry, fiber filled grassy bits help their digestion just as humans need the right amount of fiber in their diets.  But we are using less of it that's for sure! Here, during the winter, we were going through close to 2 square bales a day pre-fodder - now that I have made the switch, we are down to about one square bale a day and that will certainly be less as it greens up out there with spring coming on...but knowing next winter I will need less hay to get through is NICE!

 PRE-fodder, I was bringing home 8 to 10 50lb bags of feed every 2 weeks - even after I thinned the herd! Now, I bring home maybe 5.  My goats still get their alfalfa pellets for the calcium (we are a dairy herd after all and calcium out in the form of milk = needing calcium in to make more) and I need the pelleted stuff for the pig some days so I can soak it with whey and milk for him...otherwise he tips the bucket and spills it...messy thing!  I've basically cut my feed bill easily in half even including the hay!

So, without going all scientific on you just yet, that was my initial take on why we were going to switch.  It was more natural to what they would eat, FAR less processed and meddled with by humans, a way to cut back on the feed bill when I ran the numbers in theory (though now I know for sure), and a power packed form of feed that was easy to digest!  The next thing I had to do was look at it more in depth - it seemed like a good idea...but I had to do some more research..

If you go to the following blogs and websites, you will see some of the info I found and can read through it for yourself - these people have put TONS of time and effort into this and have some great material!

Paca Pride Guest Ranch has an awesome blog and videos!
Half Pint Homestead has tons of info and sells kits geared towards smaller producers (like us :) )
The facebook Fodder Group is full of people with tons of knowledge ready to answer any questions you may have!
Here and here are 2 more sites more geared towards the larger producers with their set ups...

Also...remember fodder works for pretty much everything, not just horses and goats....take a look and watch for more to come from me...you'll be amazed when you read through it all...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Speaking of feet and eyelids...

Today is the day - I'm actually behind on this, I try to hit it at the first of the month.  But with everything I have had going on with the kitchen and such I let March get away from me...

Today I have been outside trimming hooves and checking eyelids...woo fun right?  Doing a little worming inbetween too...trying to get the goats who are due to kid in May all set and the others just caught up in general...


The FAMACHA test is a good place to start with your goats to determine if they need to be wormed - but it is NOT the end all be all guide!!! It only helps detect a few of the little blood suckers...so be sure to either get a fecal done by your vet at least occasionally...OR...learn to do them yourself.

I need a microscope...I keep saying I am going to get one...but it hasn't happened yet...

Until then, I either run a few samples to the vet OR I use  this lab which is SUPER cheap to mail my samples in to.  They do all sorts of critters from goats to horses to cattle, it's cheap I said, and the post office IS closer than the vet for me at least! I try to send in a sample in the spring (i.e. NOW) and one in the fall to be sure what I am doing is working and keeping everyone parasite free.  Well, at least they have less parasites than some others I suppose...nothing that lives outside in hot, humid, muggy, damp East Texas id EVER really "parasite free" ya know???

I know some people do the whole organic all natural thing with their herds.  For us, where we live, it does NOT work!  Nope, no can do....maybe it's the fact that this place used to be an ucky mucky hog farm...or the climate...or the fact that we live in soggy river bottom...who knows?  It's probably a combo of things.  But natural herbal stuff is merely a minor way to keep things down between times when I pull out the "big guns" so to speak.  Today, my go to is cydectin - yes, it is stinky harsh stuff - but it WORKS!  I bring it out 3 or 4 times a year if that and everyone is fine.  The worms here laugh at other products.  No really, I can hear them chuckling if they see me with SafeGuard.  That ones a big waste of my money...totally useless per fecal testing at the vet...

So...if you have critters and the weather permits, take a minute to get out there and give them a good once over.  It's what I am up to today.  The fodder saga shall continue tomorrow perhaps...until then I am off to go spend the afternoon with the herd :)


Friday, March 15, 2013

Thinning the Herd Part 2...and laying the Fodder Foundations...

So...Just before Christmas - actually just before the goats started kidding - I had found FODDER!!!  Oh yes...a miracle of sorts.  It would take nearly all of my need for bagged, processed, pelleted feeds out of the equation. BUT...it would also require some time and effort...and I was still running low on that...

I sat down, and I looked at things long and hard.  I had spent the prior year building my herd of goats up.  We had saanens, nubians, mini-nubians, and a small group of boers who had been painstakingly searched out and located to be CAE negative (which is hard to do around here with boer goats)....I also have a close friend and neighbor down the road half a mile whose herd seriously came from mine...and it was about to grow...



She had a good portion of our original dwarf goats, she also became headquarters for the mini-nubians.  Shuffle shuffle, goats to her place...that way we keep our husbands guessing as to how many goats we each really and truly have right? But what that did in reality was put the herd into groups by size.  Big goats here, littler goats there.  So much easier than dealing with the size difference daily here...adjusting stuff like the milk stand and what not...plus she already had the mini-buck...cool deal...a little easier...

Next came the boer goats...I had bottle raised all three, driven to El Campo for 2, patiently waited the birth of one, and I REALLY had to think about this...I had gotten them under the pretense of raising kids for meat.  Nothing else right?  But really...it's harder to do, they aren't as meaty that's for sure...but really I say...why was I raising a separate breed for meat again when I knew good and well my dairy goats would give me edible buck kids?  UGH!  It was my heart...I have a hard time contemplating eating a dairy kid...

We put the cross bred bucks in the freezer - notice the fellow with the horns?  Yup, I had left them on purpose because I KNEW it would drive me nuts having one with horns around and it did...so the decision was made.  All goat bound for Camp Kenmore would keep their horns...now, see the other fellow?  Yup...Jack, Chrissy, and Janet (the Three's Company Boer Trio) were listed and sold....

It was hard - but now I had the extra time I was looking for.  I spend a good few hours each day doing health checks and such.  The old routine was one breed a day each day of the week - saanen, nubian, mini-nubian, boer, horses, other stuff....eyelids checked for bright red healthy color, hoofs checked for funky issues and picked clean, pens mucked and so on...Now I had 3 full days of no health checks I could devote to research!

I started reading on line, found a group on facebook devoted to fodder and found another few places I hope to share tomorrow where I gathered a wealth of info as well.  Now that we are 2 full months into the fodder program, it doesn't add as much time to my day as it did at first.  Remember, in the beginning, there is research to be done and questions to be asked in a much greater volume than as time goes on.  That takes up a huge portion of your day!  Then you have the initial trials and test runs and system set up and such...I can't tell you how many hours I spent just staring at it willing it to grow LOL....Lots of hours go into staring at it to see what it's doing...LOTS! 

To have a good foundation under you when switching to fodder you need to know what it is, how to produce it, how to feed it, be ready for the challenges that come with it (and there are challenges that will come your way) and how to make it work for YOU!  The last part is the most important - fodder is not for everyone.  It takes a certain amount of human involvement beyond scooping feed from a bag each day.  Plan to spend at least an hour extra a day, each day, for the first few weeks tweaking things.  Maybe even more - if you are like me and have the constant need to go pet it and encourage plan to spend several hours a day watching it grow...

So, stay tuned once again...tomorrow we will begin the fodder journey for real!



Thursday, March 14, 2013

The thining of the herd....Part 1

Back around the holidays between money being tight and the weather being so cold I was stuck inside...I found myself researching different ways to lower our feed bill.  With 2 horses and at that time 15 goats and 4 pigs and a half a dozen older chickens and another dozen meat rabbits of varying ages we had a pretty hefty feed bill.  Not to mention the fact that I had brought home some chicken starter crumbles a few months before as I HAD (had being the key word) some replacement laying hens which were about a month old still in the brooder....after serving them that bag of feed they literally half dropped dead in an hour and the other half wilted and wasted away over the course of a week...the dealer claimed up and down it wasn't them...I doubt it though...

I made a resolution well before the New Year arrived that I would do 2 things.  One - I would find a better way of feeding my animals, something healthier and sustainable for us.  Two - I needed to thin things out a bit.  It was just too time consuming to be caring for a yard full of critters AND try to make this place better than it already was...feeding and watering and such sucks up a LOT of time! That was time I could be spending improving things around here...so I began to thin the herd...
 
First I went through the easy stuff - small animals.  The rabbits were either getting up there in age or young fryer sized and to be honest we already had (and still have) quite a bit of rabbit meat in the freezer.  I sold some of the younger ones, stock that would be suitable for breeding as just that, and then I culled the rest for freezer camp.  I knew I had several does due to kid, projects a plenty to tackle, and I wouldn't have the time for rabbits for a while.  It was tough to do, as I enjoyed them and all of the fresh meat they brought to our table raised in a healthy fashion...but with the rabbits out the feed bill dropped a bit...


Then  came the pigs...we had a freezer full of pork products, and these were just pot belly pigs....not like I was loosing whole hams here.  So I sold all except one.  He was retained to do my garden tilling in the spring.  The others got the boot.  That wasn't so hard to do, except by the time the family that bought them found the house is was well after dark and took a little creativity in parking to shine headlight just so as to be able to find them...but that was another way to massively lower the bills...

Next came the chickens...and that was much harder than either the rabbits or the pigs!  Some of these birds were my original chickens and some were not.  I had a strange emotional attachment to poultry that I didn't have with the pigs or rabbits...but still, the job had to be done.  The younger group was sold to a friend and the older birds were quietly culled.  In all seriousness now, the older birds weren't hardly laying any longer and had not been for some time - the egg factory had dried up so to speak.  The younger ones were okay layers...but they had been given to me by another lady who was just hatching and raising backyard type birds.  They were nothing fancy and not overly productive anyways. I had already decided months prior that for my flock I wanted productive, strong layers.  I will admit, I miss my fresh eggs.  But it's been a nice break not having to mess with poultry these last few months and when I jump back in I will hopefully have everything set up just right and perfectly for them versus the half baked deal we were working with after our move....

So now I was down to just one pig, the horses and the goats...I debated for a while letting my mare go.  I love her, but to be honest the horses have become the red headed step children of the farm.  There was a time pre-goat where the horses were bathed once a week, ridden at least 3 times a week, and in general they were overly spoiled.  Now they are lucky to be ridden once a week, bathed 3 times a year, and they a get a fraction of the attention that the goats receive. I decided against it though - Smokey is my love and even if I don't give her the attention I used to she is still a one person type of horse and very attached to me and me alone.  And let's not even go their with Rocket.  First of all he is older and when I took him on it was decided this would be his permanent forever family - he had been through enough changing of hands in his life.  Not to mention that he is my husbands horse and I really do think Mr Homesteader would have a fit if I got rid of HIS horse...That left the goats...a story we shall save for tomorrow or the next day, but needless to say we dropped down to 10 goats as well....

So, anyways, back to the point being that I had time on my hands now that there were less critters to deal with, research to do, and a problem to solve.  I was tired of feeding overly processed mostly gmo corn based molasses filled pelleted feeds to everything with the added factor of the mysteriously dropping dead baby chicks...yeah, I'm still bitter about that (but that's another blog post entirely). Anyways...Dr. Google solved it for me in the form of FODDER!!!


Stay tuned...the saga continues tomorrow....




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The mystery of the dead baby chicks...

This post is a look back in time, as the next one will be a fast forward to the future...it provides a bit of history and why to what I am up to.....I'll try to make a long story short for ya'll here...

Back in October I ordered 25 each of Golden Comet pullets and a mix of ducks.  The time had come to revamp and cull our existing small flock and look forward to having some serious eggs again.  We had about a dozen chickens all of which were getting older - like close to 3 which for a hen is old - and I wanted to add some ducks to the mix.  Duck is tasty and duck eggs are great for baking! When I saw that Ideal Poultry had a sale going on I went for it...(Ideal is close to us and they do a great job!)


Not the best pic, but there's my ducks...

They came, everyone except one was thriving and a month into it I had to go pick up a new bag of starter crumbles for them.  So, I did, I brought it home and into the dining room where I brood them and the next morning it went seriously down hill...

I got up as usual, cleaned out the brooders and refreshed their food and water the same as always - the only thing different was a new bag of feed.  The one I had just bought the day before.  Not a new type of feed - same brand they had been getting - just a fresh bag of it. Same feed mill, same feed store...so anyways, out I went to feed and milk the big critters.

An hour later I came back in the house to literally find almost half each of the ducks and chicks BELLY UP! Legs flailing in the air, kicking, struggling to survive...some already dead...I was devastated...I didn't know what to do for a minute.

As I pulled dead birds from brooder boxes I also pulled the water and food - water which everything else including the humans here had been drinking and nothing else was sick - and then it hit me.  NEW BAG OF FOOD!  I called the feed store, and at their insistence I brought back the bag of feed...I shouldn't have, I should have saved it and had it tested.  But I was too emotional to think about all that at the time. How could you not be when you see such vibrant young life literally snuffed out in an hour?

I also called the feed mill that afternoon once I was calmer from where the feed was made and do you know their comment?  And I quote "Let me know how that goes" the nutritionist tells me on the phone after I explain what had been happening and asked if they had made any changes to the formula or had any other calls...Not "I'm sorry for your loss"...just let him know how it goes...gee thanks, guess who will never ever over her dead body buy that brand again! (Also, I did let him know how it went, I packaged up a few dead birds and mailed them overnight to his office...was I mad?  Bitter?  Oh yeah baby, you bet..."That's how it went you baffoon, THEY DIED!!!" read the note I had written and placed in the box - what a moron...)

I got no apology, no I'm sorry, no money back on the feed which I tossed to be safe, and no refund on my poultry (which eventually except for one - yes just ONE - bird within a week they all died, even after switching to a different brand of feed) and get this:
Long story short the claim was there was nothing wrong with their product...yeah right...if your freshly bought bag of feed was the only difference in their little feathered day, how am I to truly believe it was not your product? Of course they claimed to have it tested for everything blah blah blah...great, because I unwittingly took it back for them to do that without reserving any for myself.  I was blind and naive to think I would get an honest answer as to what ever happened.  I do know I will never make that make again because the entire incident eventually led to another path for me to follow, a journey of sorts into fodder...

Stay tuned to see and hear more about our venture into a new method of feeding.  I made the switch because I was over producers and their attitudes.  Sure, you work there, you may own the company, and you THINK you have a great product - but clearly it was killing stuff here...I'll take my chances growing my own feed thank you!  And don't worry folks...I'll be getting more chickens soon...one day at a time right?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Boo to daylight savings time!

Yeah, that's right, you heard me.  I said BOO!  UGH! YUCK! But we get an extra hour of daylight you say, why do you hate the time change you say....Because in reality we do NOT get an extra hour of daylight - it's all a scam meant to mess up my schedule!

Yup...a scam, a sham, a flim flam floosy way of messing with my head.  The sun still rises and sets as it pleases.  Heck, in Arizona and Hawaii they don't even recognize daylight savings or have to change their clocks...why should I change mine?  Really, stop and think about it ya'll...

Yesterday, my critters were all ready half an hour before sunset to be fed.  It's the way we roll around here.  I wait until the last possible minute to get out there and feed since I am not an early riser anyways.  I promise you, the horses did not care about the time change.  Their internal clocks know when I will be out with dinner by the position of the sun.  However, when it comes to people stuff this is a pain!

I had a load of hay delivered yesterday - and I woke up all in a tizzy at 10a.m. (the old 9a.m.) thinking I had missed it! Thank you daylight savings time for giving me a minor heart attack.  Thankfully, I did not miss my hay guy calling and heading over.  But still...can you see how it affects my dealings with people? Never mind that I was seriously up all night until 3a.m. because I couldn't sleep which would only have been 2a.m. a few nights before...yup...daylight savings sucks in my opinion...

Now, while you're all excited about that extra hour of daylight, I want you to find a farmers almanac or google this. Actually, here's the link to the farmers almanac website:   sunrise and sunset times by city   Look up sunset and sunrise for Saturday (before the time change) and count how many hours of daylight there were.  Now look it up for Sunday (after the time change)....hmmmm....where's the extra hour now?  Can't find it can you? See...it's all a sham I say! There is no extra hour of daylight, just an unnecessary need to readjust our own clocks as well as our own biological clocks!  Crazy madness for no dang reason...

 Now I am finally headed out to make the rounds and get stuff settled for the day - it should only be 11:30 but it's after noon now...and nothing anyone can say will make me appreciate the falseness of an imagined extra hour of daylight today...I'm all backwards and running later than usual.  Thanks a bunch daylight savings time...NOT!!!!
 Yup, what he said....

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shoulda gone for it....

This morning, I woke up to this outside my bedroom window:

That is not OUR bull...and I'm still not really sure who he belongs too or if he found his way home yet.  I made a few calls, couldn't get any of the neighbors on the phone and the one guy I talked to swore they weren't his cattle...

They all wandered off to the back of the property and a few hours later here they come again! They circled around and came back through and my first thought was: "Beef, it's what's for dinner"  But I didn't do it, I couldn't.  They aren't mine and I would be mad as hell if someone did that to me....so I didn't...but i REALLY wanted to put just one tasty cow in the freezer.  Course all three freezers are pretty full right now anyways...so like I said I didn't...

See...there they go...no one would miss just one right?

I don't know what it is with the jail breaks lately...maybe it's something in the air perhaps? But if I see these guys tomorrow I might change my mind. ...beef may be on the menu if they return uninvited!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Midnight MilkMaid....

I admit it, I am NOT a morning person!  I function best like a vampire, after dark :P  I think part of the problem is that I spent so many years working nights and crazy hours and the other part of it is that I was born and raised two whole time zones away.  My body never adjusted to central time, I am perpetually on Pacific time.  Luckily though, my goats don't hold it against me!

Other farmers rise with the sun, get a move on their day, and are ready for bed about the time that I am getting productive with myself for the day.  It always makes me laugh a little bit when I have something for sale and people call me at oh...8 or 9 in the morning...because I am half awake searching for the phone! I always try to play it off all cool, but usually I haven't even brushed my teeth yet, let alone fed anything or milked.  I guess it's an assumption people make that if you have a goat for sale, then you farm and if you farm you are up at the crack of dawn.  Well, it doesn't work that way here lol :)

I milk at noon and midnight and feed the other critters just slightly ahead of that.  I get out of bed if I am lucky at 9 or ten and I go to bed usually between midnight and 2a.m. What can I say, I am the Midnight MilkMaid! Sadly though, when summer gets here that may change just a bit...I'll at least try to get up earlier to get everything fed before it gets hot for the day.

I sometimes wonder who else is out there milking at crazy hours, dashing through the dark to feed the horses before the rustling in the brush nearby jumps out to get them...and I think I SHOULD change my ways, but I know I never really will. No really - when I hear things moving in the dark, and the coyotes closer than they usually are, and I see the horses even looking towards those sounds, it makes me boogey to be done just a little faster than I usually do and in those moments I WISH I could reset my internal clock to Texas time.  But I just can't do it!

To any other Midnight MilkMaids out there, know you are not alone :)  There is one more crazy lady out there at midnight milking her goats and checking on things one last time before she crashes for the night, moving in a hurry before something jumps out to eat her alive :) Now I best be off to go milk...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spiders - my frenemies...

It seems that on a farm or living "out in the country" one is bound to have more issues with pests and bugs than the average "city slicker".  Or maybe it's just me, who knows for sure.  But I will say this much, since moving to the country we absolutely have more spiders than ever before! I know part of this is the fly factor - farm animals make poo, poo is breeding grounds for flies, and flies are a fine feast for any spider! Even with all the good they do by eating flies, I think I am over trying to protect the spiders....

I have spent the better part of my afternoon sweeping up their icky sticky webs and evicting a few and even squashing particularly unlucky fellow who happened to be as big around as a nickle or bigger and crawling my way! I HATE spiders!  I LOATHE them!  I don't run away in fear, I grab a shoe or a broom or some spray and dispense with them! Thank goodness they don't leave me terrified and shaking while I search for someone else to handle it...because if that were the case I think I'd need to move!

For real, I am pretty sure our home was the place where they filmed that move "Arachnophobia"...not positive..just pretty sure about it.  We have a spider for every corner, nook, and cranny of this house and outside too!

The picture is in the living room...that IS as big as it looks, I PROMISE it is!  That one's lucky...being 12 feet up he MAY survive the massacre! 


Now, I know everyone says they naturally control the population of many other things - flies, mosquitoes, what have you...I dunno...I may have to go on a killing spree pretty soon population control be damned!  I just can't handle all the ucky webs when I'm trying to clean...or stuff as big as my thumb jumping out at me.  I hate to be the one to break the news, but the spiders don't pay the rent and therefor are NOT allowed to act like they own the place.  I feel as though a mass murder may be coming on....even for all the good they do, I just cannot share my humble abode with them any longer.

So I say to the organic type, those who don't mind a few spiders this:  "Come on down with a jar, poke some holes in the lid, and take home as many spiders as you please!" But do it before I find the bug spray...because at least a few of them have got to go!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jail breaks and phone calls slowing my roll.....

Let me start this off by saying I am first a milkmaid, then a soaper, a cook, a house cleaner...if there is anything NOT on the list or at least near the very very very bottom of it, the answer there is "fence builder".  Sure, I can build something strong and sturdy enough to keep a sick kitten in...but that's about it.  It takes MONTHS of redoing, re-stapling and nailing, propping up other sturdy heavy bits of stuff, for me to get a secure fence.  Ask the horses, who often have my truck parked in front of something that needs repair to keep them out of my feed room and in their enclosure! So....

I start my day off with a phone call from a fellow goat herder...she has an emergency at 5am!  She needs colostrum for new born kids and somehow found me...at 5am I said....so out I go to dig in the freezer and wrench my neck JUST RIGHT so it hurts horribly to move my head, woo fun yeah? So...she finally gets here and we get that settled...off she goes crisis evaded and I just want some coffee, but something tells me to head outside first right?

At this point it is about 9 am I head out to feed and milk my gang...only to discover JAILBREAK!!! Here comes Champagne, airplane ears bobbing as she darts my way all excited to see me - a look she only has when she has been bad.  Charyzma is next...also WAY too happy to be running my way. I march over to their pen and TC is MISSING!  Then, I look to my left, slowly, so as not to mess up my neck anymore...oh no!  I have all of my yearlings just destroying the fodder area, going to town on it...really?  Seriously?  They couldn't wait for breakfast, I may just one day out of the blue decide not to feed them, so they handled it themselves I guess...Because I already wrenched my neck this morning and have been up WAY too long and still have NOT had any coffee...what I needed was a jail break right?


 This means that I finally end up doing the shuffle of the herd I have been meaning to get around to - girls go where boys are and vice versa - like I have been meaning to do I say, like I should have done a month ago really...now I am at the point where I have to do it.  I don't know why, but my bucks are EXCEPTIONALLY well behaved when it comes to fences and crappy gates!  I even once left their gate unlocked for a few days (or maybe longer) and they never once pushed out of it and went on walkabout and they were in RUT!!!  The does however, view my attempts at carpentry and fence work as a joke - a puzzle to be worked on and figured out - and if there is a weakness then they simply MUST show me where it is...they have to...it would be unkind of them not to be anything less then 100% honest in their ability to foil my plans to keep them out of things right? Gotta love the smart ones....

So, now, goats shuffled and on lock down, everyone fed except the milkers who are CRYING for me to come relieve them of last nights milk, this farmer is plum worn out from all this AND with a crummy spazzing neck issue...off I go to tackle the rest of my day...Jail breaks and phone calls are slowing my roll today ya'll...and I haven't even had any coffee yet!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The FarmHouse Kitchen Take Over...I mean "make over"...

The kitchen is nearly done and I am officially at that point where I want to walk away and never go back...I keep making myself drag back in there and tackle ONE LAST THING...but it's beyond old now.  It has been well into 2 weeks since I really started this project, with a good 7 - 8 days of all day hard work and I am just ready to be done.

I will say this - if you have a farm and intend to take on ANY sort of home improvement project be ready to be worn out!  Non-farming types don't quite realize this, but my day starts with work and ends with work already.  This severely cuts down on the amount of time I can actually apply to other projects each day! So things like painting a bathroom that would take anyone else on the plant all of an afternoon to do take me a full 2 days.  I don't get up, have a cup of coffee and then get' er done with my little home improvement job...I get up...have a POT of coffee, feed, milk, prep and water my fodder stop for lunch and THEN I can go to work on my other projects!  HECK - I didn't realize I was going to need so much time to work on this!

Here are the before photos - notice it is cluttered, dingy, the peel and stick tiles are slowly unpeeling themselves in places, and the spider webs...oh yes, did I mention, I think they filmed arachnophobia here... who ever invented peel and stick tiles need to be drug out and shot....anyways...total lack of storage, but much potential right?

And yes, lucky me, the recipient of not one but TWO different kinds of peel and stick tile! I'm guessing they ran out when they built the place...not really sure....

I had already finished the cabinets last winter, so I started this time by finishing the doors...yes, FINISH not REfinish...they never put a lick of varnish or paint on any wood when they built this place...maybe because it was on a slow boat somewhere with the other matching half of vinyl tiles?  I dunno...but I started there...

Oh ceiling of doom...so far away from the ground...how I dread painting thee....


Can you say cluttered much?  There's just not much cabinet space to work with...so I have become very clever in stacking things like the Tower of Pisa.  Very rarely did anything fall.....but not never...so this must be remedied! I have rearranged things, added some storage pieces, and cleaned out a very hefty bit of clutter and trash and junk that had built up somehow. That helped enormously!

Anyways, it looks nothing like this today - these are just the before pics...it may actually be worse at the moment in it's semi-finished state. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day I will have after pics to post with a smile...a very tired smile....

I guess I should head back in to battle once again.  I am really looking forward to being able to hold soap classes soon and to actually get to make a batch of soap no less! Plus I have all sorts of supplies on their way for lotions and sugar scrubs and several very exciting new recipes to try. On that, away I go :)