Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pleasant


We were discussing our birth months and our astrological signs with some friends, and someone said to me, "You're a Libra? That must be why you are so pleasant."   


I take this as the compliment it was meant to be, but I have thought about this label several times lately.  Pleasant isn't the most dashing moniker!  If you only know me from this blog, would you describe me as pleasant?  I was told by a friend that she likes to read this blog, in part, because the subject matter is light.  Especially when the news headlines are most often dark or stressful.  


It's nice to think of my words and pictures as a source of pleasantness, or light.


Another friend of mine told me that she was usually stressed by what was reported to be happening in the world before she even made it to the office.  She was angry or disturbed every day, during the solitude of her commute.  The morning headlines where enough to make her feel the weight of the world even before she took on the stresses of her daily job.  


I don't follow the news.  I've stopped paying attention to things outside my sphere of influence, as a matter of self preservation.  Selfish?  Sure, but who will protect my pleasant thoughts if not me?  Stuff seeps in, through conversation, so you don't have to worry that I will live blissfully unaware of the worlds big events, because trust me, someone always takes the time to fill me in.  Bombings, shootings, tsunamis, wildfires, sex scandals - all that stuff finds it's way to me, but I don't seek it out, and I try not to let it in passively.  I like to control my own message.


I might not be able to hold up my end of the dinner party conversation with out turning the talk to the challenges of goat breeding, but otherwise, being uninformed isn't a problem.  It's actually kind of pleasant.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Donkey Drainage


What a terrible title for a blog post, right?  Don't worry, nothing is draining from the donkeys!  At least nothing that isn't pretty normal. Ha!


The drainage I'm talking about is in the donkey yard/pen.  When it rains a lot, like it has this fall, water flows from the roof of the chicken coop and from the grassy area in front of my corn crib barn, and flows directly under the gate to the donkey yard, down the slight slope, and pools at the fence line and at the entrance to the donkey shed.  The donkeys tramp through the mud, obliterating any little channels I try to excavate to move the water away from their stall.  It turns into a muddy mess, and the donkeys get their feet dirty every time they step out of their room.  


I've pondered different solutions to this.  Some of the engineering solutions, such as drain pipes, ditches, and site re-grading, would work wonders, I'm sure, but in practice, I don't have any equipment for jobs like that.  I think my best idea so far is to dump a giant load of sand in the yard.  I think this would at least keep the donkeys from sinking to their ankles in the mud, because the sand would pack down hard, and they could walk on it even when it was wet.  But, I don't have a load of sand either!  My temporary solution is to cover the mud with old hay.  


All that old hay helps the mud situation, for sure, but it doesn't last that long, and makes the drainage worse.  Organic matter is building up along the fence line and flattening the grade, which prevents the site from draining even more.  Plus, it's not a small job to cart in enough hay to keep two heavy animals from sinking.  If drainage elves were real, like I wish, they would come and remove about four inches of perfectly mixed garden soil from the downhill side of the pen, improving the drainage, and then they would cover the ground with loads of course sand.  Then they would put gutters and rain barrels on the roof of the chicken coop.  They might even build a roof over the donkey yard, so the donkeys and I could stand out of the rain.  I would leave cookies for the drainage elves, if only I could coax some in.  



Rufus doesn't see what the big deal is.  It's just a little mud.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Herd Dynamics


As you know, I'm a frustrated goat farmer.  Or maybe I should say, goat-milk farmer, since I have plenty of goat, but zero goat-milk.  


Look who met me as I parked my car at home the other day - the entire goat herd!  Somehow the gate wasn't latched, and the goats spent the day eating my fruit trees instead of staying in their pen.  I can't blame them, but I was a little worried they would get the bloat.  Thank goodness they didn't get into the feed bins.  

 

Don't worry, Peaches, I haven't given up on you yet.  As far as I know, Peaches is perfectly capable of producing baby goats and all the goat cheese I could want.  But, Little Buck is going to have to play his part before that can happen.  


Based on some of Little Buck's recent, quite shocking, behavior (should we rename him Louis C.K.?), I think he's getting the idea, but I don't think he has been able to do the job he's been assigned.   


I think these guys are partially to blame.  I've seen Peaches lift her tail and rub her body all over Dark River, who is ill equipped to do Little Buck's intended job.  She squats to pee, and the boy goats pick up a smell that makes their hair stand on end and then they rear up on their hind legs and slam each other.  They gang up on Little Buck too, and he can't even get close to Peaches.  She doesn't like him either, and he's not confident enough to press the point.  Sometimes I think I should lock the River brothers in a different place, so the Little Buck has a chance with Peaches, and they can't run block.   


If I'm patient enough, I think eventually Little Buck won't be so little, and he won't be intimidated by the River boys.  They don't look very intimidating, do they?  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Moving the Meat Babies


The baby meat birds are nearly seven weeks old now.  Despite their massive size, they are very much baby birds.  They make little peeping bird sounds, and spend most of their time preening their feathers and snuggling.  Occasionally, I will see two of them in a rooster stand-off, but they don't stick with it very long.  They have a wide legged lumbering gait, and love to eat and drink, but don't seem as excited to scratch around in the straw as much as little MJ, the heritage breed chick that lives with them.  


They have been living in the greenhouse, inside the brooder box, which by the time they were five weeks old was too small for twenty-three birds.  One night a few weeks ago, it was well below freezing, so I closed the side of the greenhouse, which I have always left open before.  I left for work early, and forgot to open the greenhouse plastic on one side.  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  

The meat babies got too hot.  They ran out of water.  The only thing that saved them, I'm sure, is that it was such a nice day, that I left work early thinking I would spend the extra daylight hours figuring out how to build them a ramp, so they could get out of the brooder box if they wanted.  

It was terrible, to find them all pale, gasping, and woozy from the heat.  Six of them were already dead when I found them.  I hurried to open the greenhouse and refill the water.  Some of them couldn't walk, so I had to bring them to the water and lift their wings to the breeze so they would cool down.  After about an hour, they regained their pink cheeks and seemed normal.  While I tended my poor overheated birds, and stacked up the bodies of the birds that perished, I had plenty of time to think about my mistake, and my regret.  At first it seemed like such a disaster of my own making, but I know in the grand scheme of things, the loss of six birds destined for the frying pan isn't quite the stuff of tragedy.  It sure felt like it though.  Poor meat babies.   


From then on I left the greenhouse side open, always.  Last weekend, I moved each bird to the big chicken coop.  Because they don't try to fly, I could just set each bird in the bottom of a bucket and carry a bucket in each hand to the coop.  Some of them were curious enough to stick their heads out of the bucket and look around, but most just settled in to the bottom of the bucket.  These are very accommodating birds.  Brandon saw me carrying buckets back and forth and asked me what I was doing.  You know, just hauling buckets of chicken.  


The meat babies are settled in the chicken coop now.  They don't seem interested in coming out to explore, but I'm glad they have more room to move around.  I'm learning some things about raising meat birds with my set up, for sure.  Even though these birds grow fast, and don't try to fly out of their space, I'm still not sure I don't prefer to raise the heritage birds that have a little more independence.  Taking care of meat babies is like taking care of babies.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Big Dog, Little Donkeys


Oh my!  Wendigo, you are too big to be a lap dog!  She will never agree though.  If she could cuddle up in our laps and take a nap, like she did when she was only months old, she would.  It's fun to have such a cuddly dog.  As long as we don't mind sporting long white dog hair all over our clothes! 


Wendigo is nearly as tall as Rufus.  Rufus and I practiced walking around the farm with the lead rope.  He is really getting the hang of it now, and as long as I walk forward with a sense of purpose, he follows along nicely, even deep into the weeds and brush, to visit Brandon while he cuts fire wood.  


Wendigo might be nearly as tall as Rufus, but Rufus is pretty small for an equine.  


While Rufus and I were out on our adventure visiting Brandon, Hattie was left behind with the goats.  Even from the far corner of the little farm, I could hear her braying for her brother.  Rufus finally answered her back, and nearly deafened me with a long, loud, bray.  


When I walk Rufus on the lead rope, Hattie falls into place behind him, and we meander around the pasture like we are in a congo line.  I haven't gotten brave enough to bring them both outside the fence at the same time though, because I can't figure out the logistics of the lead rope for a donkey bringing up the rear.  Should I make them learn to walk side by side?  

Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm Into Cats


Someone came by my office and asked me if I wanted a stray kitten.  I said no.  They said it was the cutest little kitten and it needed a home.  I said no, again, and I must have been very firm with my answer, because then they asked "So, are you just not into cats?" 


Ha!  I was asked this on the same day that I nearly filled my phone with pictures of my cats. I'm definitely into cats.  Three cats is plenty of cats.  


I've been working on my official crazy cat lady status since I was a kid.  But these days, I even have cats climbing my ceilings!


Leaving the ceiling beams in our upstairs exposed changed the room from a closed-in tight space into something interesting and open, but it also added a unexpected bonus. 


The cats can leap from beam to beam, entertaining us with their acrobatics!
 

Newt, our adventuresome calico girl, is really the most agile climber.  She likes to surprise me by jumping down from above when I'm not paying attention.  Ditto, my sleek but timid boy, is more comfortable when he has all his feet on the ground.  

 
Isn't he beautiful?  I think so, but then again, I'm into cats. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cutting Flakes and Mixing Dough


Some of us thought this snowflake was the most beautiful of all the snow flakes my nieces and I created yesterday. 


My nieces got to spend the night with us on Saturday.  We made popcorn on the stove top, and settled in to watch Swiss Family Robinson, one of my childhood favorites.   It's been years since I watched it, and I forgot about all those animal scenes.  This movie must have been filmed before the promise that no animals were harmed, because I'm pretty sure two dogs fight a tiger.  For real!  


The kids come with some of their own entertainment.  The eldest is reading The Chamber of Secrets, and youngest had several national geographic books full of interesting facts.  They also have a smart phone, which was very helpful to us when we were trying to learn how to fold paper for our snow flakes.  We had to watch the youtube video very closely, and push the pause often, before we finally figured out what we were doing.  None of our flakes looked much like the video, but they were all pretty when taped to the window. 


Our flakes were even decorated with glitter!  They sparkle, just like real snow. 


We made pizza for lunch too.  We even mixed up a gluten free crust.  Unfortunately, the tomato paste we used for sauce was too tangy for their taste buds so there were lots left over.  I guess that's one way to make sure they don't eat too much pizza, huh?   


Puck wasn't very helpful at making snow flakes, but he was very involved in the pizza making, and diligently patrolled the kitchen licking up any dropped cheese shreds or pepperoni pieces.  Good times were had by all! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chicks on Stage


I was thinking about you yesterday.  I was standing in the greenhouse, with my hands in my coat pockets, staring at the baby chicks, like I do, as I pondered two things.  First, what could I take a picture of that would be interesting to the blog, and also, what am I going to do about these meat babies.  

The meat babies are crowded in the brooder now.  Their bodies are big, and their feathers are finally covering their skin.  If they were normal chicks, I would just open the brooder and let them roam the greenhouse at will, because I know they would put themselves back to bed in the brooder at night, and I could shut the lid and they would be safe from predators.  But, these chicks don't seem very mobile, so I'm not sure they would find their way in or out of the brooder.  Maybe they need a ramp...


So, what do I see that might be interesting to someone else, or to Future Rain?  How about the crazy looking interior of the greenhouse!  It doesn't seem that odd to me, but if I look at it through your eyes, I could see how it might be nice to get a little explanation.  The burlap hanging from the roof, for instance.  Why?  Theatrical ambiance?  


Before the days became so cold, the sun would shine down on the baby chicks in the brooder and they would seek shade.  I clipped the burlap in place to shade the baby chicks from the bright hot yellow sun.  It appears that the curtains are always rising.  

These chicks eat a lot.  Which means they poop a lot too.  I collect old hay and straw from the barn in the plastic tub, and add several hand-fulls each day to keep the floor of the brooder dry.  There is about six inches of straw and poo in the bottom of the brooder now.  The chicks are bigger too, so they were hitting their heads on the heat lamp.  Several times I came out to find the bulb knocked loose and the chicks huddled up in the cold.  Since they don't have to be so warm now that they have feathers, I moved the heat lamp so that it rests on the lid of the brooder.  


 MJ, are you squished?  


I fill the black bucket sitting on the ground with water from the hose every other day or so, which allows me to dip fresh water for the meat babies.  This morning, after I refilled the black bucket, I sprayed all the old goat bedding that I spread in the greenhouse with water.  I soaked it good, and mice came running from the piles and darted under the old tomato plants.  I want all that organic matter to start breaking down, so that when I plant in the spring, the soil is nutritious.  If I can figure out how to let those meat babies out into the greenhouse, they can add extra nutrition.  I may have to go out there and ponder that ramp some more...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Welcome Mat Guards Goats


Wendigo makes a good welcome mat as she sleeps just outside the door to the house.  Brandon has been expanding our stone pathway.  Some day we may have enough stones that we could walk to the barn or the car without tip-toeing through the mud puddles.  Some day.  


I think Wendigo's favorite person is our mail lady, Terry.  Terry brings dog biscuits, and she is friends with all the dogs on her route.  Wendigo gets so excited when she spies Terry's jeep, that she shakes all over and drools.  I've seen Terry give Wendigo an entire jar of treats.  Probably because she's afraid to hold any back with such a drooly giant pouncing on her!   


If Wendi is our welcome mat, that must make Puck the entry rug as he lays just inside the door. 

 

Puck, can I wipe my feet on your fur?  No?  


Sometime during the summer, Brandon and I used four long hog panels, and created a small fence in the brush, for the goats.  I thought that we might be able to move the four panels around and concentrate the goats where we wanted them to eat.  It worked too - for about two hours, then the goats escaped.  Sigh.  Moving the panels was a pain in the neck too, so that experiment didn't last very long.  


The small fenced in area soon grew up in weeds and brush goat food.  I decided to give it another try recently, and used some zip ties to strengthen the corners, then lead the goats, with a promise of sunflower seeds, back inside and tied the panels closed.  


Wendigo patrolled the perimeter of the fence for a while, then left the goats on their own so she could take a nap on her lounge chair.  Shouldn't she be on guard?  It's a good thing she makes a pretty welcome mat. 


The goats were nervous to be left alone out there in the weeds, but stayed busy munching everything in sight.  After about four hours, there was hardly a leaf left!  Their bellies were sticking out so far they looked pregnant as they waddled back to their barn to be put to bed.  I was encouraged, but still not sure that the heavy hog panels are the best thing for me to use.  Walking the goats with Peaches on a leash is the easiest way for me to let them eat some weeds, but I don't have the time or patience to let them eat for hours.  We are years away from having the whole place fenced in with woven wire. My goat day dreams are starting to have multi strands of electric wire.  


We butchered four roosters on Sunday.  Some of these roosters were hatched here, under one of these yellow hens.  They were small, and hardly had any fat on their organs.  It's hard to know if my hens are too fat, so it's nice to get a peak inside some of the flock members.  I don't think I'm feeding them too much.  Those giant meat babies in the brooder are going through bags of chick food faster than any birds I've ever raised.  They better taste delicious!
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