Saturday, June 29, 2013

Conquering the Jungle - Part 1

I know, no one has to tell me, I let stuff get away from me at times. Take for example the Jungle right outside of the front door:
This little patch of my own personal hell started out with good intentions - and was actually useful for the purposes it was intended for, for a short while.  The very first year here it held a SMALL and barely successful "winter garden". I got ONE SMALL "crop" of turnip greens out of it. Then, being the bad gardener I am, I gave up on that. But there was already a bit of (weak) fencing in place. At that point it became a holding area for poultry soon bound on a voyage to Camp Kenmore. Turkeys, chickens, ducks - anything meant to live a short (but full life) was housed there until it was large enough to roam a bit, then allowed to sleep there and be out in the day time. Often times, I have a few friends who send me extra birds after their kids are done showing them. They would be brought home, placed in lock down right there, and then the next day taken off to camp....freezer camp....but still..

You can see the last of the fence still standing here:
I never intended for it to be "long term" as far as the fence goes - it was just cheap plastic stuff put up with the intent to keep rabbits (and that freaking armadillo!) out when I had my tiny garden there.  Being as it was just zip tied on u-posts, it sagged over time, then the rains came....and being less than vigilant, with an ever present meaning to clean it up but lacking the get up and go I needed, it grew over into the mess in the first picture.  And the farmer was sad :(

I knew last year it was going to be a pain to clean it up. I DOUBLE knew this year I had to get it out of there and looking good if only because I was going nuts looking at it! THEN I saw a little snake crawl into it and I had enough! I seriously was well over having a wild life sanctuary right by the front door! There's enough woods around this place - they need to stay in the damn woods I said! So I woke up yesterday not sure what I wanted to get done, until I walked outside and saw my own little piece of hell waiting on me....

The porch swing, relocated since that is where the hay now goes, was not relocated to a spot to swing in, but hurriedly tossed aside one day. Many a string from a bale of hay found it's way down there. Before I located a trash can for the hay strings, let's just say many a string found it's way ANYWHERE it wanted to go - BUT where it belonged (in the trash!). There was even the tarp, which once protected poultry from sun and rain, buried under all that green weedy bits! No seriously, look VERY closely in both pics above, and tell me: DO YOU see a TARP??? No, really? Well was there:
Note all the dirt and weeds still stuck to it....I'm still shaking my head about it, I had almost forgotten that was there too!

So, yesterday afternoon, I tackled it SLOWLY - it's hot you know! I pulled all of the old fencing, dug out a MILLION hay strings, found a few toys left over by the previous owners (I SWEAR that wasn't my Spiderman  action figure in there!), raked out the hay which had fallen off of the porch, and mowed it down!

It took all afternoon, and a short little bit of effort this morning even, but, drum roll please...

IT IS DONE!!!!!!!!!!! I had 2 giant spiders come flying up at me - they got squished, a mouse tried to escape my pile of raked up hay - by flying out at me! But Snowball II got it and saved it for me:
And some small snake, no positive ID but I am fairly certain it was nothing major, got brave enough to slither out to see what was happening. I did threaten to introduce him to the sharp end of a shovel, and he headed back under the house!

So, with that all done, off I go to finish mowing. Trying to keep the place looking good this summer - I let it get away too many times last year and I am fairly determined not to allow it this year... It just looks so much nicer when it is all manicured and pretty!

Don't worry...I have a few more jungle spots to tackle up around the house before I feel like I am done....a few more spots where I am sure mother nature will send her minions to try my nerves. UGH! I can't stand bugs tot ouch me, I don't appreciate freaked out mice and snakes headed my way at faster than light speed, and I really don't like not being able to see in the jungle while I am watching for all that stuff! I go to complete my mowing. Stay tuned as always...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Easiest Apple Jelly EVER!

From those three things pictured (and a little spice) you can get the EASIEST cinnamon apple jelly ever, I SWEAR IT! (Spice is optional of course :) ) No fruit to mess around with peeling and coring and dicing and washing and squishing, etc....Just need a little juice and sugar and pectin :)

Okay - a note on the ingredients here. The juice is KEY! It can be frozen, it can be in a bottle ready to drink BUT - IT NEEDS TO BE 100% APPLE JUICE NO SUGAR ADDED JUST THE JUICE! I dunno if other juices work, I can't tell you - I just know in this recipe what does work. I have heard, but never tried, grape juice, pomegranate juice, and a host of other juices will work...maybe I will experiment sometime...but for now, let's stick with apple juice.

Go ahead and get your jars and lids prepped and all (wash, heat up the water bath, etc...) This goes together FAST so before you even drag out the sugar and juice, get those jars prepped! You will need about 5 pint jars OR twice as many half pints.

Gather together: 1 can (12 oz usually) of frozen 100% apple juice
                          1 box (1.75 oz) of pectin
                          1 4lb bag of sugar
                          cinnamon (1/4 tsp) and nutmeg (1/8 tsp) OPTIONAL

A note here as well - the pectin I use is always just plain jane original pectin - I don't use the no sugar/low sugar stuff and I can't give any help with them. Sorry, I'm not that good, I LOVE my sugar LOL :)

Take your apple juice and add water like the can says - I usually buy store brand/generic and mind almost always ends up making 48 oz of juice. If going with the bottled ready to drink juice, shoot for 48 oz...

Once your juice is juice again, add your pectin and mix it up, add spices if you are going that route ( I love them, makes it taste like pie in a jar haha!), then bring to a rolling boil.  At that point, add your sugar, mix it up, and bring back up to a rolling boil and hold there for a minute (I usually let mine boil for closer to 5 minutes, but that's just me - I forget how long it's been as I am stirring)'s where it gets a tad bit tricky...Don't forget! You CAN, if you want to, add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter if you want to cut down on foam...I usually do and I add it when I add the sugar....

Some people can use various methods of testing (plate in the freezer, cold spoon, etc) to test to see if it is "setting" - while all of these things are peachy great and gotta keep something in mind here...I am more confident in my jams when I test the temperature they have reached.  See, the sugar makes them kind of like candy. Sure, when making candy at home you have all sorts of nifty tests you can do (usually involving cold water). BUT you can also take a temp a things and be fairly sure you will get the right end product. Jelly and jam are the same way.

I always check that mine have reached a temperature of 220 - 225 degrees...usually they go to the 225* mark...because, like I said, I forget how long I have been there most times. You want this to get that hot so the jelly and pectin and all "act right" later when they cool down. Trust me, you will see :)

Now, let it rest just a bit off of the heat - go ahead and pull your sterile, clean jars out of the water (if you are like me and boil them in the canner) or dishwasher or oven (wherever you stash them) and have your jar tongs, funnel, lid lifter and ladle ready.  Take a moment to skim off the foam IF you want to....let's be honest, the foam isn't the prettiest thing to look at on the top of the jelly in the jar, but leaving it there won't hurt anything either! Since this is just for us, and not a gift, the foam stays where the foam is :P But if you want, skim it off and ladle everything into your clean jars, I usually leave about 1/4 inch head space, wipe the rims, slap those lids and rings on and process at a full rolling boil for 15 minutes (I think some people do half pints for 10 minutes, but I usually do both size jars when doing jams and jellies and I time UP to the biggest jar).

Take it out and wait for the blessed "PINGS"!!!!
See...before I put the lids on, there really wasn't any ugly old foam that much anyways :P

A note - this jelly sets up BEST once it is opened and refridgerated! It will look a bit loose in the jars after a day - don't worry! Once it gets nice and cool a day or 2 later it looks even thicker and once you go to use it and pop it in the fridge it is about the consistency of jell-o. Nice and thick :) See....

That glob is the last of it from the pot I cooked it in....yes, I licked the spoon when I was done LOL...But it stuck very well just at room temp even to my finger for the photo shoot!

So...easy peasy! AND CHEAP! I paid $2 for sugar, $1.18 for the juice, $1.99 for the pectin and I'm not splitting hairs on the spices....that's $5.17 for 5 pints of jelly....or $1.03 per jar! Home made, ingredients I can pronounce, so corn products (like high fructose corn syrup....hmmmm...just saying) and freaking DELICIOUS! Unless were are talking questionable tasting 99cent store can NOT beat the savings there! YUMMY too!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Piggy Weigh in Day!!!!

Okay...not the best picture of her, I know...but let's just say the pig is coming along GREAT! She is SUPER active, a good healthy little eater, LOVES her quart of fresh goat milk at each meal (is a total pain in the butt until she gets it too!) and she is getting THICK! For real, she is one solid girl! I went out there this morning, armed with my measuring tape, to do her first weigh in....

I had wanted to weigh her once a month, and didn't get an actual weight on her when she arrived either (wasp stung me that day...I think I mentioned it...In a post titled "Meet Breakfast"

She couldn't have been more than 20 lbs and was in all honesty probably closer to about 10 or 15 pounds when she arrived.  She was maybe 4 - 6 weeks old...I'm betting closer to 4 weeks and TINY! I forget how little BIG pigs actually start out LOL. She was perfect though, and still is, she's just much bigger! They start so small, they grow SO fast, and they taste like bacon :)

So...anyways...out I headed with my soft measuring tape (like quilters and sewers use).

I know - you're like "WHAT???" How do inches convert to POUNDS???? But, they do....not perfectly, not 100% accurately, but VERY close! It is described pretty well, complete with a few pictures here at The Pig Site

You first measure from the base of the tail to right between the base of the ears - down the spine basically.  I got 26 inches (or there abouts...she was nose deep in her milk pan, so I was trying to work quick before she got done and was squirmy). She sure is Loooonnnngggg and has a nice loin on her!

THEN you must measure their "heart girth" - basically you measure just behind their front legs, around where their heart is inside of them...often times easier said then done...thankfully she was still sucking on her milk....I got 24 inches...which may be off a tad...but close enough, I just want a guess of how much she has gained right? NOW here comes the math part...grab your calculator (or cell phone or whatever does your math for you unless you are super bright and can do it in your head)....

________________________      ===    WEIGHT OF PIG


So, for me it was 24 x 24 x 26 = 14976 / 400 =37.44

 ALMOST FOURTY ONE POUNDS!!! I KNEW IT! I knew she was at least that much :)  It's been extra hot here lately = so she isn't eating as much or growing quite as fast as she could be, but overall I think she is doing good.

There's the porky update for the month .....And that is how you weigh a pig :)

Jalapenos and Onions...Mmmmm YUMMY!

So, seriously, like the NEXT DAY after I wrote about wanting to can something, I stopped at the feed store and was GIFTED a giant bag of jalapenos! 2 1/2 pounds of them! He just had an abundance from his garden, so the owner (Mr. Stubbs) let me have a big bag for myself :) I also ended up with 4 1/5 pounds of yellow squash I traded another lady for (she wanted milk, was low on cash, and it worked for me...but the squash is another post lol)

I came home and got them washed and sliced....

DON'T FORGET YOUR GLOVES FOR THIS STEP! No really - you will thank me for reminding you!

While you are working on the slicing and's a good idea to get your jars ready. Some people run them through the dishwasher...I'm not running the dishwasher for a half a rack of I wash mine well, then plop them into the canning pot to boil while I work. LIDS TOO! Don't forget your lids and rings :) Of course, I set those simmering in a smaller pot - that way they are easier to fish out when I am ready for them.

(The water isn't really ucky - that's my poor lighting and photography at play).

Now that your jars are ready, and your jalapenos are ready, you will need a brine to pickle them! This part is easy peasy. Takes a few minutes, and just basic cooking skills.  Okay, here goes:

Pickled Jalapeno Brine
one whole onion, quartered and sliced
(leave them kind of on the big side...for fishing out of the jar and eating later :) )
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, diced chunky 
1 tbsp oil (any kind, it's just enough to saute the onions and garlic)
7 cups 5% vinegar (can be white, or ACV or a blend)
1 cup water
4 tsp pickling salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin

Saute your onions and garlic (use just enough oil so they don't stick to the pan - but not too much! You don't want a bunch of oil in this!) - now, this part is up to you, but I like mine to be about medium cooked. Not really carmelized, but not hard...I like the flavor it adds to the brine and jalapenos, but you can even skip all the seasonings if you want.  
Add the rest of the ingredients - ALL of them - and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for one minute, just enough to get the flavors to start infusing together.

Okay - so now your brine is ready.  Let it cool just a bit, get your handy dandy jar funnel ready, pull your jars from their warm toast water bath (or oven, or dishwasher - however you keep them warm once sterile).  You are gonna start by packing them fairly full of jalapenos - not so tight you are squishing stuff in there, but tight enough....the peppers are gonna shrink up and wilt a bit when you add the hot brine!

Using your funnel, and a clean ladle, fill the jars about 2/3 full of brine - Now, I personally LIKE the bigger chunks of onions, so I make sure each jar gets a healthy dose of them :)  With this many jalapenos I start with about 5 pint jars....there will be peppers left over in your bowl! Now, when I get to the last jar, I go back to the first one, take a spoon, and kind of mash things down in there...adding more jalapenos to the top just about.  Repeat on down the line, then add more brine to each jar....repeat again....

With this batch I had 6 jars pretty well full of peppers and brine! You want about 1/4 inch of head space, wipe your rims clean, and place lids and rings on there just "finger tight". Then it's time to place in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes, remove, let cool and wait for the "precious pings"!

***NOTE*** When making any brine, jelly, salsa, or high acid food be SURE to use a "non reactive" pot! Stainless steel, glass - NOT aluminum! Other wise the acid contents of the food will eat the metal off of the pot, deposit it in your food, and leave you with a ucky nasty flavor! Just saying....that's what I was always taught....

There they are...ready for their "water bath" :) Don't forget to take them out and allow them to rest undisturbed for about 24 hours, then check the lids to make sure everything sealed! Label those puppies...I mean peppers :) and get them put up!

Now we long as we can...but just a couple weeks really.  This allows them to "stew in their juices" as it were...once they have had time to set a bit, these will be AWESOME in fresh chevre, on omelets, on everything! I think we might make it one or 2 days more before we dive into a jar....I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In the Mood...For Canned Food.....

No, NOT spaghettio's! I'm thinking I want to start catching the veggies and fruits as they come on sale this summer and can some of them - jams, jellies, salsas, pickles...THAT kind of canned food!

I know, what about the garden??? date, the "garden" is 2 questionable may be a pumpkin, may be a squash is HUGE with lots of flowers, the other trails behind it in size and grandeur....neither do a real garden make. I warned you, gardening is just not my thing...maybe next season ok?

In the meantime, I am left with whatever comes on sale in the produce's not so much about saving a ton of money...but about having healthier and better tasting options in my own pantry. With any luck, I will save some money too....not a ton, but enough to make it worth the effort...

So the question of the day is...what kind of jams and jellies and pickles do I want to make????

I'll think on it...and get back to you....

Pimp Juice - an update!

So, for those who are following along, earlier in the month we talked about breeding the goats, CIDRs and PG600 (aka "Pimp Juice").  Pimp Juice is the little miracle here I had mentioned - I had also mentioned that I would update on the frozen pimp juice.....

See, as you may recall, once you reconstitute PG600 you have to use it right away - that day - you aren't supposed to leave it out room temp OR lingering in the fridge for weeks and months....however....

You may also recall that there was rumor of being able to freeze it and thaw THEN use it....well.... IT WORKS!!!!!! Happy dance, happy dance IT WORKS!!!!!!!!!!

Oh yes, see my partner in crime this time - the one who found out that CIDRs alone do NOT work - well, I went to visit her yesterday and saw with my own eyes a doe who had been given the frozen and then thawed Pimp Juice - oh yes, she was in heat! Screaming for some lovin', tail flaggin', glad to see the buck HEAT! Estrus, breeding, ready to go in heat - all with frozen Pimp Juice!

So...update as promised, fozen pimp juice (PG 600 to be exact) DOES work! This is good to know, once again, as you may recall, the bottle is enough for almost 15 goats! But you don't always want to breed 15 goats at once, yet you can't just save it in the what to do?? FREEZE THE PIMP JUICE!  Portion it out by dose, freeze it, and thaw when ready and BAM! She'll only want the buck with her pimp good to know :)

Guess next time I get a bottle I will be keeping it frozen in portions until I am ready to use them...makes perfect sense to me :) I'm a controlling mother I know...but we need a little order around here for things to work right...and frozen or fresh, "Pimp Juice" makes that happen!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dirty Dozen...

That's them - I had a few in there I needed to wash off still, but there's our first dozen eggs from "starting over" - pretty neat ain't it? All of them are brown - I get one very light egg and another darker one each day.

Never knew that raising your own hens could be so freaking entertaining huh? Seriously, seeing eggs from my own yard again has been a true delight each day. I actually run over to feed the pig first - who is growing in a rapid fashion herself on her gallon of milk each day and pig feed - and then I go STRAIGHT to the hens to see what we have haha!

Meet the "Dirty Dozen" - first of many to come this year :)

Cotton Patch Geese - a New Chapter :)

OH YES! We are now the proud parents of a pair of RARE Cotton Patch Geese! You may read more about them here: Cotton Patch Geese  They are basically a breed native to the south, well adapted to our climate, and they LOVE to eat weeds! PERFECT! Also, a fairly docile breed that is good at parenting - PERFECT again! The best part in so many ways is that they are easily sexed just by looking! Sure, I have learned and conquered how to vent sex ducks and geese (it's pretty easy actually) - but if you are gonna be letting mama's hatch their own eggs it's SO much easier to be able to tell boys from girls by looking then it is to have to catch them up and sex them individually!  And did I mention how well behaved they are??? Perfect birds!

Tonight, for now, they have no names yet - still trying to decide - but here they are on lockdown close to the house:
Tomorrow or the next day they will be shuffled to the "goose hut" and allowed to acclimate to it.  Expect babies next spring - geese aren't like chickens, they don't lay an egg everyday all year long and especially not these geese!

Thanks to our friends at Nonesuch Farm - the Parker family has some really beautiful stock on beautiful property and just a very few left right now!

This is a heritage breed - not hatchery stock, heck I don't even know a hatchery that has them yet - and being rare we would like to source one more unrelated pair to bring in so babies can be mixed from hatches to make pairs for other farms. So far, they have settled down, and are pretty friendly. The whole ride home, when we would talk and laugh THEY would make noises and chatter back! Pretty cool birds right there!

I expected them to be freaked out and hissy - but nope, none of that. REALLY calm for geese! These little babies are actually a few months old now (geese grow FAST) but they are still really just that - BABIES! So sweet and the best part, though it is hard to see, the male (or GANDER to be correct) has BLUE EYES! Yup, like I said, in pictures, not easy to spot - but pinkish feet and bill with blue eyes - just so good looking!

True highlite of my day right here....the most perfect geese ever :) But why do I call this a new chapter? Well, because I made a promise to myself back on the first of January that the ONLY breeds of birds I would be bringing in from here on out would be heritage birds! I will admit, that has been hard to do! Ideal Hatchery is ALWAYS advertising specials and those little fluffy brand new babies sure are cute! But I have won the battle NOT to buy them so far and I will continue to fight :P Yup, sure, I have THREE none heritage hens FOR EGGS ONLY....I won't be breeding or hatching anything from them, they are production for the household and nothing more. But from now on I will only keep heritage stock bought from other breeders with fine stock - sure hatcheries like Metzer can have some pretty nice fowl themselves - but I want birds that are true to the standards, birds that need a little help getting the population built back up.

The other promise I made to myself was to stick to JUST ONE breed for every type of bird. I had to REALLY think about it and narrow it down to just one breed of goose - they say most small farms drown in craziness and flop because they have way too much going on. Sure I would like to have a million of them roaming the property - but I can't, I am only one person and that kind of time keeping on eye on everything would drive me nuts! So I narrowed it down and stuck with one breed I could work with to keep, improve (not that these 2 really need it  LOL) and have to offer each spring. I picked these for so many reasons - they basically feed themselves when allowed to free range, they SHOULD basically brood and hatch their own eggs, and all I need to do is keep an eye on them to stay healthy and safe from predators - total can do. Geese really are low maintenance fowl compared to other things like chickens....a good place to start when you are really trying to get something nice and unique going with your poultry!

Now, we wait for spring to get here! It's going to be a LONG hard wait LOL! But worth it...I can't wait to see her first hatch following her around the property! AND NAMES! These two need many good ones...hmmm....what shall we call them.....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Egg Production...we have arrived!

Oh yes...I'm gonna have to get pictures! I am proud of my girls! We are FINALLY up to TWO eggs a day! Now...that's kinda what I was planning on with 3 hens anyways, but I was excited. Every day for the last 5 days I have gotten 2 eggs - before that for a week I was getting one egg a day.

After months of a "dry spell" having to get eggs from other friends with hens, we are FINALLY able to make breakfast without leaving the farm! It's a NICE feeling to have eggs again!

If you have never had just don't know what you are missing. No, seriously, they bring a certain joy to my day that no other bird can! They move about pecking and scratching, take off as a single unit to chase a bug, and the EGGS! Oh how we love our eggs here! It's so nice to have eggs again I said!

Just had to share...took less than a month and we are now at the "2 egg a day" mark...hmmm....wonder when I will get a 3 egg day????

Plus...look at this!

Notice the HUGE dent in the side of their hoop? Oh yes folks...the oak tree dropped a giant limb on them and tried to squish them last week! Like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz....the coop and hens were like the witch...the limb like the house....

It was bigger than it looks there - clearly, because it squashed in the side of their hoop! But you know what, even if the stuff I build is less than square and true, even if it is a little crooked and not perfect, that stuff is STURDY! It stood up to a limb that had to have weighed 200lbs of better! Just guessing, I would honestly say closer to 300 or 400 pounds worth of oak came crashing down and STILL my little hoop was standing and EVERY hen was fine! Oh me Bob the stuff is strong even if it is ugly sometimes!

So, we have eggs again for real now AND the strongest little hoop coop ever! I tell you, I am blessed by living on a small farm every day when I get up!

Checking Calibration before You Begin....

All scales must be checked for calibration before going on test - even brand new scales - and then once a year after that. Where in the heck are you gonna get that done right? How far do you have to go? What do you need to get after that? Okay - this sounds REALLY hard right? Not so, it can be VERY easy.....but the simple fact is no matter what, if you are on milk test, your scale will need to be calibrated once a year. THEN proof of that will have to be on file with your's pretty simple I tell you.

ALLEGEDLY some post offices will do this for you. I called the nearest 4 within an hour or so from me - they all thought I was a loon.  BUT...if you can find somewhere to do it for you, they will need to write you a note saying who they are, what company they are with, what kind of scales you have, what poundage they checked it at, the date they checked it, and your name. Pretty simple.

Now, what if you can't find somewhere? NO FEAR - at least for my herd, since we are using Langston University, THEY will do this for me! BEAUTIFUL! They check the calibration on my scale, and handle the records for it.

Now...what does this cost? $15 - THAT IS IT! have to ship it to them...that cost me like $12 for priority shipping with the post office (plus insurance...because it is a brand new scale after all right?).  But, that's not bad - for less then $30 my scale is checked for calibration and the post office picked it up from the door for shipping so I didn't even have to put on shoes LOL! The best part is my DRPC is handling it so I KNOW I will have the right paperwork in place with them :)

You want to send it to: Langston University, ATTN: EVA, PO BOX 730, Langston, OK, 73050 Don't forget your $15 check or money order! That pays for it to be shipped back to you insured! we scale was sent today to be checked for it's calibration, my supervisors have all submitted their tests, my application has been mailed off to ADGA, my dipper came :)
Isn't that the biggest joke as far as packaging goes??? ALL that for one TINY little dipper! HA! Cracked me up! Also, my "sample kit" has arrived:
I have enough vials for 20 goats....this should last me a while haha! Look inside, I find this part super fascinating:
See that teeny tiny little pill?  THAT is the magic pill that keeps the milk from spoiling for about 7 days - REALLY tiny! I was expecting something the size of a Tylenol at least in there, but nope, just that itty bitty little red dot...that's the magic that allows milk to be shipped! we REALLY wait to "go on test"...I'm excited, just have to get the last of everything finalized and we are all set for our first test day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Filling out the ADGA Application for milk testing...

Okay, fresh off the phone with Penny at ADGA, I figured I would share this info with anyone who stumbles across it :P  When you go to fill out your application for Official DHIR Testing, you may have some questions...I here are the answers I have so far...walk through the app with me....

Name of Herd Owner - pretty basic, that's you (remember to put it on there just like it is with ADGA....)
Mailing Address and Date...duh right? Pretty easy....
Date of First Expected Test - here's where you can kind of guess a little.  Depending on when your does freshen, or in my case if they already have freshened, you can just put in the month you hope to begin.  It is now June, I REALLY want to get our first test in before July, but just in case I put "July"...if I test close to that the first time we will still be okay, no worries :) Just remember it doesn't have to be an exact date!
There is a box below that where you pick the type of test and which test you are going on....for me, it is Standard and DHIR 20- Standard  that I have checked off.  Pick the one that fits your herd and situation best...but keep in mind from here on out I will be referring to the test plan I am on, as that will be the one I am familiar with over time :)

Tester - When you get here, if you are on test for the first time, it can be confusing.  What if you don't have your testers' ID# yet? NO WORRIES! Just put "Pending" - as long as you have their name and phone number in there, it will be okay!  Remember, this is your second, nonrelated, not you test supervisor they want info on! Now...for the type of test I am goiug on, I will require a verification test by ANOTHER tester...I called, I asked, should I put the second tester on there? The answer to that is NO...just the one who will be coming regularly to do your testing! That's all you need there!
Name of DHIA - Depending on where you are in the nation, I suppose other states will use other labs...there is a list from ADGA on their website, which will also be printed out and come in your DHIR packet (when you ask them to send you one) that has all of them on there.  This is there FAQ Page for DHIR testing.....this is the list of Regional Affiliates where you will be sending your milk samples and barn sheets each month.  For me, I have gone with Langston University...can't tell you about any of the others as I lack experience with them...but I can and will say again Eva at Langston is AWESOME! Point Being...I just wrote Langston University in that box :)
DRPC:  that is the Dairy Records Processing Center (remember that?) For me, once again, I can check off Langston....and also once again I am not sure what other regions/areas use...but here in Texas, that's what I am doing :)
Members of Testing Group - this is only if you are on group test, if you are on standard test, just leave it blank....

Next, the $$$....check off the right box for how many does will be on test (doe kids still on bottles, bucks, wethers, they don't count....just the does in milk or coming into milk for the year and going on test). So, stop, count your does, and fork it over lol :)  NOW....I had read on one of the sheets in the packet there was an additional fee for new herds...I called, and I was told NO there is not! So...perhaps the literature in the packet is a bit outdated, perhaps not and I got the wrong answer...BUT...feel free to double check with ADGA before you write the check :) I did, took about 30 seconds, and I felt better having the correct amount for sure! Don't forget your payment info if using a card!

Okay....DHI Herd Code # - for new herds, like me, just write in "Pending"...that will come shortly for you - pending is perfect for now :)

Don't forget to sign and put your ADGA member # on there at the bottom! you print it off online, it's another sheet...but if you get the packet, on the back, it wants a list of your does....Being an ADGA member, and doing things online has it's advantages here! Instead of dragging out my binder of registration papers...all I had to do was log on to my ADGA account, pull my "Currently Owned List", print it off and staple it on! SUPER EASY PEASY! If you want to go "old school" and write everything in by hand, that's okay too :)

Now....while you are waiting on your scale to come back from being calibrated, and waiting on your supervisor tests to be verified...go stick that sucker in an envelope with a stamp and ship it out to ADGA! Don't forget to always make and keep a copy of everything, along with notes on when it was mailed so you can track stuff and refer back to it...JUST IN CASE! I actually keep everything important in sheet protectors, in a 3 ring binder - each goats registration papers, my CAE test results, all that is in one nice binder for reference. I have a tab for "Tests/Vet", Bucks, Does, and now DHIR :) I keep sold goat papers in a separate binder really...I have a thing about this paper work :P But, like I mentioned, start keeping up with it so if you ever need it, you have it at hand! Shame to do all this work and loose a sheet or 2 and not get credit if you can't reproduce them right?

Okay....go fill out and send off your ADGA application and start waiting with me :) I have a few things I need to get back and THEN we go "on test"!!!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking the Test to go "On Test"

Langston University shall be overseeing all of my milk test info - weights, samples, records - all that will be sent to them and they will report to ADGA.  In order to do that, you are gonna need a supervisor - 2 is always better than one! First of all, you need them to come do your tests monthly. Second, there will have to be (on my plan it seems at least) one "verification test" and THAT must be done by a SECOND supervisor! So - if one gets sick or can't make it - you have a second in "your pocket" and then you have your verification test covered.

IN TEXAS - I don't know about anywhere else - but here, in my little region of the world - it can be ANYONE...almost....They can't be related to you OR your herd! Meaning they can't have bought goats from you, or be a family member! Thankfully, I have non-goat owning friends who have stepped up to the plate!

Now...that test you sounds a little scary right?  No, not so AT ALL! SUPER easy! Like watch about 40 minutes of youtube video and take a simple 15 question test EASY!

Part one of the video can be seen here - there are 4 parts to be watched! Be warned - it's not that interesting! I had to pause and go back a few times and call with questions to get everything cemented in my mind correctly before I did the test! But really - super easy I said!

Eva Vasquez
Langston DHI Lab for Goats
100 Success Ave.
Res. & Ext. Complex
Langston University
Langston, OK 73050
Phone 405-466-6207
Fax 405-466-6180

THAT is all of the contact info for Langston University - if you choose or can use them as your DRPC (DRPC means Dairy Records Processing Center) - anyways, if you go through them that is how to reach Eva who will always take a minute to walk you through everything - SHE IS AWESOME! Another awesome person is Penny at ADGA who has answered everything for me with great care!

Point being - if you want to get started, email her for the test, watch the short videos, print off and fill out the test then mail in it to her - it really is that easy to be a certified supervisor!

So...if you want to go on milk test (here in Texas at least - some states have different requirements) - double check with Eva at Langston and get your supervisors in line. It only takes about an hour or 2 of your day this once and you are done for the year and good to go :)

P.S. - Take note here - when you finish your test, you will need to mail it in to Langston University...the address for that is: P.O. Box 730, Langston, OK, 73050....good to know info for those of you doing the test :)

Choosing a test plan....

ADGA has SO MANY test plans it accepts for milk test! AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! It's hard to pick one! Actually, if you call or email them, they will send you a "DHIR Packet" with a lot of this info in there - they have it online as well, and in your handbook you get each year (if you are a member).  I like to have everything they deem necessary in one place, and thus I had the packet sent to me...I can review it all at one glance, highlight stuff, take it in one sheet at a time. VERY nice to have it in one place!

At first, I was going to go "owner sampler" as that sounded pretty basic and simple...THEN I started looking into what I could achieve with my herd...and I THINK I am going to go with their "DHIR 20 Standard" test plan....

On that plan you can (if you are so blessed and have the right does) earn top ten status.  On the owner sampler plans you while at this time I have no top ten does (I can tell by weights alone I think) I do have some does who can earn their stars. BUT you never know! In the future I may have a top ten producer...and I want her to be recognized for it if we get that far! I want to stick with one thing, learn it, and learn it I might as well go with the one I will be on as long as possible right? Since the owner sampler plan does not offer top ten status...well...I am going to go with the one that does. I can always change it in the future, but for now it is what finally makes the most sense and seems easiest - DHIR 20 Standard. That's me :) need a scale that weighs in TENTHS of pounds! I choose the Pelouze 7800 from - they had a decent price (the best I found) and the scale itself was recommended by Eva at Langston University. It was about $45 after shipping - not bad to have a nice scale for my milking :) you THEN have to get your scale "calibrated" - sounds hard right? Where in the heck do you go for all that?  Well, easy peasy, you can send it off to Langston University (if you are using them as your DRPC) and they will do it for $15 (which pays to get it sent back to you).  NOT BAD! Saves me time, money, and gas from driving around all over the world to get it calibrated PLUS they keep the certificate on file that it was done and it is all in one spot - VERY nice! need the right dipper....Hoegger Supply has the right DHIA sample ladle.  For about $15 after shipping (all I got was the dipper - if I had spent $200 shipping was free...but I didn't need that much stuff lol, just the ladle)....anyways pretty cheaply you can get an approved sample ladle to get your milk samples into their little vials...NOT BAD!

I suggest if you are thinking about going on milk test to research the options, CALL WITH YOUR QUESTIONS! EVERYONE is SUPER nice and walks you through it and answers even the most odd, random questions very well! Then, pick a plan to be on, and get your equipment in line....after this we will be tackling the paperwork!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hooray For Fencing!

Actually....building fencing kinda sucks.  No matter what, the weather will be NOT in my favor, there's all sorts of biting, stinging, angry bugs looking to accost me the minute I walk out the door with a project in mind, and many a time a hammer will miss a nail and find, instead, my tender fingers.....Yes, the act of fencing is NOT one of my favorite jobs!

I will admit, cheerfully no less, that I DO enjoy seeing it completed! I haven't built anything outside in a LONG time plus I really wanted to be able to be gone on the weekends and not feel bad about not walking the goats those days! I enjoy seeing my less than perfect little fence job - remember, city girl here :P I'm not a master fence builder by any means - I'm just capable of building things strong enough (once the goats show me where they are weak) to keep the goats in!

Fifty feet long by 25 feet wide - no, it's not the most amazing biggest longest fence built ever - BUT IT FEELS LIKE IT haha! Eventually I will expand - slowly - to include more of the "yard" for them....maybe one day I will be brave enough to run them an adjoining pasture through those woods in the background. The girls would REALLY love that! Goats are browsers - not grazers - and they prefer to eat weeds, brushy things, and trees nor grass.  But they get plenty of hay and feed - so the grassy area is really more for them to be able to run and move around in.

Yes, we will still go on grazing walks - or "property grooming excursions" so they can eat all the poison oak, ivy and sumac they want around here (and we have a TON of it out here!) but at least now I can leave them on lock down and not feel bad about it.  When I have to leave, when company comes and we need to keep their cars safe, any time they should be on lockdown I don't feel bad any more :)

I don't know what I want my next project to be....I have several in I want to relocate the pig housing and build her a nice little spot right up here by the house? Do I want to renovate the chicken coop? I keep saying we are going to fence in the front of the property and get that done so the horses can be loose I want to tackle that? I dunno....I think I want to get all of the little stuff out of the way first and that last one is a BIG job that will involve more than just myself! Oh yes....I got the neighbors son to help me unroll the fence along the posts, and I conned my husband into putting the clips on at the t-posts as I always spend way too long fighting with those stupid things - but everything else there was all me :) Took the better part of the last 5 days too LOL - but remember I start and end my days with a few hours of work so my days are not ALL fence related!

I dunno....I have a few things to think on and a day off (or two) to take AND I need to clean this house - I let it go 2 weeks ago when we had a flood (story to follow) while I rest and recover from my outside duties I will think on it and plot and plan....But I am happy to finally see the goats able to run and play and use their cable spool thing I brought home a year ago!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

DHIR....DHIA....Owner Sampler what? MILK TEST!!!!!!!!!!

Why yes...I do believe before the month is out our little herd here at NadaLottaRanch will be on milk test officially :)  Kind of exciting really - I have wanted to go official for YEARS in this fashion...but I have been scared away by the paperwork and how much it seemed like you needed to do. I had this vision in my head of needing to fill out a million forms each and every day at each and every NO! NOT THAT HARD!

First of all, why test you ask?  What's in it for the herd?  Well, very simply, your does can earn their "stars". I know...stars on yars...sounds like that book by Dr. Seuss about the Sneeches right? But stars are GOOD!  With dairy goats you want to see things like "star milkers" in their back ground. You want to know that a goat comes from genetics that produce MILK and LOTS of it LOL :)  Otherwise, WHY have a DAIRY goat?  I mean yeah, sure, showing can be fun and rewarding if you enjoy it.  But me at least, a dairy goat needs to make enough milk for my time and effort in caring for them and milking them to be WORTH it! A cup or 2 a day, even back when we had dwarf goats, does NOT cut it!  We need to see POUNDS of milk a flowing!

The other thing you find out by sending in samples of your does' milk is how much protein and butterfat they are putting out there. I would prefer to see a goat make a bit less milk with higher fat and protein than a doe who makes tons and tones but it's almost all water. When making things like cheese and yogurt, and even when just drinking it, you want a nice, sweet, rich milk. Not a watery milk.

I have a few more questions to call ADGA with....a few more to call Langston with (who my tests/samples will go to each month) and then after a few forms to fill out and I will be good to go :) I'm pretty excited - at this point I am drying up 3 of the 5 does in milk and I will only have 2 on test. To me, I want it to be simple the first year. I want to only have the potential of a few mistakes and not a whole herd worth if we screw up on papers haha, PLUS the other does have been in milk for 6 months now and I am ready for a break! After this, there will be no more breaks....starting with the next round of kidding we will be on test until I give up LOL...and I think as simple as this is I can stick with ti for a long time to come!

So...stay tuned....there will be more info on this to come so everyone can join in. It really is a valuable tool in making well informed decisions on what goats to buy and bring into your herd and such - remember, it costs the same to feed a crummy, low producing wompy looking goat as it does to feed a high producing well built goat! Might as well get the most bang for you buck when you buy right? 

Happy dance, happy dance - we are gonna be "official" lol :)

PG600....AKA "Pimp Juice"...Has Arrived :)

So...a little over 3 weeks ago CIDRs went into 5 of the girls here....last week my "Pimp Juice" came!

I know - the bottle speaks of pigs - but in the dairy goat world we use it in conjunction with CIDRs to get the girls to come into heat.  Sooo....everyone got their 1.5cc shot (IM) on Wednesday. Hooves were trimmed through the whole herd, a few not being bred were wormed, and then that evening CIDRs were pulled. Next day BAM! Willow was in first...then Champagne, then Fajita and Penelope and lastly Charyzma. HOPEFULLY everyone takes....well....actually I'd be happy with 3...but all 5 would be great too :)

I have my doubts on a few...Charyzma being one as she was the last to come in and not that amused with the entire process....we will see in 45 days or so when I pull blood to send off for pregnancy tests through Biotracking....

It's been a busy few weeks - what with the arrival of the Pimp Juice, a water heater melt down I have yet to blog about, breeding, working on a new yard for the ladies, blood draws for my herd and 2 others for their annual CAE testing...oh yes...been a little hectic! But it's nice to have several girls exposed and the hopes of winter milk on the way.

Please note this also....I am seeing a herd I PERSONALLY not only drove almost 2 hours one way out to last July But also I PERSONALLY gave their does shots of the PG600 (since the husband was working and the wife doesn't do shots) anyways...point being I am seeing them telling people they bred last season USING CIDRs ALONE AND THAT IS A FALSE STATEMENT! Be cautious when you take advice from people...I admit I myself do not know everything, with goats you learn something new once a week, it's how they work! be blatantly REALLY eats at me. Perhaps they don't know, perhaps they forgot....BUT THEY DID use the PG600 last year! I have already hit on one herd who took their statement for fact only to be let down when does did NOT come into heat with the removal of CIDRS and NO PG600 was given.  It was kinda sad to see someone have to start over on that long wait to breeding! Now, IN SEASON (as most goats tend to be "seasonal breeders") MAYBE it works without the Pimp Juice....I don't know....never tried it without....BUT OUT OF SEASON I am pretty sure after hearing that YOU NEED THE PIMP JUICE!  The CIDRs prep the goats to ovulate, the Pimp Juice makes them's a process followed by those that do even with live cover from a buck it works.

Also...with the "Pimp Juice"...please note: IT is SUPPOSED to be mixed and used FRESH! Not kept refrigerated between breedings. THERE IS A RUMOR that you can mix it and freeze it by dose and thaw as needed...I DO NOT KNOW IF IT WORKS, lord knows I am NOT a vet...but since you can only get one huge vial (enough for 5 pigs or 15 goats) is worth a try I suppose! I have a cohort working on this theory now - she took the rest, did a few shots that same day and has frozen the left over...when I hear back what she has to say I will report on it!

Needless to say, a little time and money has gone into this effort.  The supplies and days spent doing this DOES add up - BUT - it is worth it! It makes my year so much more manageable to be able to be on a schedule I set! I am happy with it, and I can't wait to see who comes back open and who comes back bred! Watch for updates...more news to come!

Oh...what breeds will we be getting you ask? I bred saanens, nubians, and a few we will see who comes back bred :)

An Ear Update :)

See that mostly white goat? Remember the taped up head? The one that looked like it had a pair of underpants on it? Yup - that's Hannah - AND LOOK AT THAT EAR!!!!

Tape came off a week or so ago and WOW! FULLY normal again :) Back like it should have been :)

So, remember, with those floppy eared goats, when the ear ain't right - TAPE IT! There's nothing a little duct tape can't fix ;)