Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things might get interesting around here...

 It's been so nice lately.... Mr. Jasper finally left, making the barn a peaceful place once more. Three goats is a really nice number; it's not too small, but neither is it a horde. But I must enjoy the peace while I can, for things may get interesting very soon...

 A fellow goat friend has been having flooding problems on her property since autumn, and now with winter here, she has been faced with the possibility of having to evacuate all of her goats until the problem is resolved. And where do I fit in here? Ahem, I offered to "goat-sit" all of her goats for as long as needed.

And how many goats does she have?


Yup, I may find myself with a whopping 33 goats jumping around the place!!!

Nine of those thirty are milkers, somewhere around fifteen are meat goats and the rest are dry yearlings and kids.

Honestly though, I am so ecstatic about the possibility of having a horde of goats everywhere!! Yes, I am a true-blue goat lover and the more I have, the merrier I be! ;) 

My poor cow though, what will she think when her home is suddenly invaded by a bunch of crazy caprines?! ;D

Friday, December 3, 2010

There's always a chance, right?

I don't know why I enter giveaways. After all,  I never win them. But I guess hope springs eternal, and here I be: trying once more, and entering a giveaway....

You can find info about it, HERE.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quietly, quietly....

Suppose We did our Work
Like the Snow, quietly, quietly,
Leaving Nothing out.
~Wendell Berry

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting started with rabbits: Part #1

 So maybe you've been thinking about getting rabbits, but have no idea where to start, what to look for or what to do. I thought I might do a series of posts that might help those who are interested. In part #1 I think I will start out by covering housing...

Housing: "What should I put them in?" Let me start out by saying that this will be your biggest hurdle (as good cages are hard to find!); but once it's done, it's done! All wire cages are my top favorite. They are easy to clean, durable, light, and can be used for other purposes (such as a corn crib!). The only downside to using wire cages is that they are hard to find. Rabbit owners hoard these, knowing their value, and can be reluctant to sell them. I would suggest looking on Craigslist for cages. If you see an ad that says someone is "getting out of rabbits", or "selling the whole herd" ask them if they are selling any cages!

Wooden hutches are okay. They are much easier to find than wire, hanging cages, but tend to be heavy, hard to clean, and the rabbits gnaw on exposed wood. But if you are just starting out, and don't know if rabbits are something that you want to go further with, wood hutches might be a good thing to start with. When looking at used hutches, make that the flooring is not hardware cloth! I've had hutches with hardware cloth, and trust me, it doesn't pay in the end. Hardware cloth is not as sturdy as the usual 1/2"x1" flooring wire, and will eventually break from the strain of having rabbits on it. Rabbits also tend to get 'sorehocks' (infection in the feet) when on hardware cloth. Also check the hutch for cleanliness (they are never going to be perfect, just ask yourself "Am I really going to be able to clean this up?") and wood that has been chewed on.

For the meat breeds, cages should be at least 2' wide and 3' long (cages are usually 18" high). This will house a doe and her litter. Smaller breeds, that could still be used for meat (such as a Dutch, Tan, or Havana) will be fine in a 18" wide and 2' long cage.

The wooden hutches, of course, will be fine anywhere outside as long as they won't get the brunt of any bad weather. Hanging cages need to be inside a building of some sort. Be it a shed turned into your rabbitry, a barn, chicken coop, etc. Just someplace that is relatively draft free.

Where there's a will, there's a way

I was very blessed this past week by receiving a whole truckload of mulch from a landscaper! My garden is almost completely covered now! The only downside to getting all those lovely leaves, was that it had to be hauled by hand, on a tarp, all the way to the garden.... Hmmmm.
After moving half the pile (thankfully, I did have help for the most part!) I had an idea.

It's always scary when I get an idea.

Taking a belt and some tie-down straps, I fashioned a crude, but usable, goat-sized harness. I chose Capri as my victim  helper, since she is my only doe right now that is not pregnant. She did surprisingly well for her first time! She has always loved to pull and push things, so I figured she would be a good choice. I don't think I will try using any of my goats for draft work again, until I can get a proper harness, as I think my makeshift one was putting a little too much pressure on Capri in some areas. But it was fun working with her today!

Here, you can see Capri hitched up to the tarp. We had just dumped a load of leaves on the garden and were heading back to do more.

A closer view of my "harness". ;)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Newbies around here

 Happy day-before-Thanksgiving everyone!! I know my family and I are definitely looking forward the upcoming holidays. :) What's new around here, you ask? Well, I'd say the newest of new would be that we got our first dusting of snow yesterday! Two whopping inches yesterday, and patches hither and thither today.  But brrrrrr, is it cold! Why is it that animals always get really thirsty right when the pipes to the barn freeze? ;)

Other items on the 'new' list..... We got two more goats! Well, more like we got one new goat and the second is here for a visit. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet 'Jasper'. 

Ahem, Mr. Jasper is here for a visit with our lady goats, and plans to stay for a few weeks yet.

He really does think himself quite handsome, and I have decided not to tell him otherwise. All I'm hoping for are some spotted doelings (female goat kids) come spring!

Second new goat is 'heidi'.

No, there is nothing wrong with her ears! ;) Heidi is 1/2 Saanen and 1/2 La Mancha, so she gets her big white body from the Saanen lines, and the ridiculous looking ears from the La Mancha side.

When I first got her, she looked to me like the ugliest goat in the world. She was shaggy, underweight, had a 6" long beard, and I couldn't help but compare her 1" inch stubs of ears to my Nubians, who's ears are somewhere around 8"! She has improved since then. Her small grain ration is helping her gain weight and is making her sleek, I trimmed the beard off, and have finally gotten used to the teeny ears. 

Oh yes, and she is due to kid in February! It will so nice to have another milker! The only downside, is that she was bred to a Boer (meat goat), so we will not be keeping any of her kids.

Okay, Poppy's not new, but she was so cute that I had to put a picture of her on here! ;) In the picture, you can see where I dehorned her.

I did finally get more rabbits too! I had finally given up trying to get some Blue American does, as I absolutely couldn't find ANY in Oregon or Washington, so I reluctantly started looking for some Champagne De Argents instead. While at the feed store last week, I was chatting with one of the employees (to whom I had sold some rabbits to a few years back), and asked her what breeds of rabbits she was raising now. Her astonishing answer was: "Blue Americans"! 

four days later, I came home with two Blue American does. :) 

I tried to get a picture of my new girlies, but was unsuccessful due to lighting outside. I named one 'Pennyroyal', and the other is 'Thistle'. I cannot believe how big and gentle these girls are! With luck, I will have two litters of baby bunnies (also called "kits") in a month or two! 

In the past, while raising rabbits, I have always kept them in a separate area from the chickens. And all I remember from those years, was shoveling the manure buildup, trying to keep the smell down, and all around wishing that there was a better solution to raising rabbits. Then, I recently read in Joel Salatin's book 'You Can Farm', about keeping chickens and rabbits together. Put the rabbits in hanging cages, in the coop, at about shoulder height, and keep a thick layer of wood shavings on the coop floor. The chickens scratch through the shaving and will compost the rabbit manure, any fallen grain and hay that falls onto the ground, while the rabbits use up otherwise wasted space.

It sounded like a good idea, so I went ahead and put my rabbits in the coop to see what would come of it....

The plan works beautifully!! It is so nice when I go into the coop and see all that lovely compost, ready to be put outside in the spring! The best part is that it smells really nice in there; very woodsy and clean, neither like a chicken coop, or like a rabbitry in need of a cleaning.

So that's what's been happening around here! You got to read a huge post only to find that we merely got two new goats and some rabbits. Sheesh, maybe I should learn to cut to the chase....;)

Friday, November 19, 2010

For the first time.... There's not enough.

 In the past, it always seemed like the trees would never stop dropping leaves. As soon as you thought you had raked up every rogue leaf, there were hundreds more all around! This year, I have been busy raking up the leaves, and putting a thick layer on the garden. Why is it, that when you don't want 'em, they're everywhere, and when you do want them, they suddenly become scarce!? :-/ 

The garden is halfway covered, and I desperately need to finish covering it before the frosts come. The half that is covered looks so pretty, much like a patchwork quilt in autumn hues. One square of fiery colored maple leaves, one of drab Cottonwood, a streak of apple here and there, and one purple patch of pear.... ;)

I've begun to look at trees differently lately. It's like another sort of harvest.... You watch the trees as their colors turn, and whoop with joy in the morning when you see a thick layer of leaves everywhere, like snow. Our property is surrounded by trees, I would have thought that there was enough to cover the garden area, but I don't know... We'll see. 

I love autumn....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It made my day...

I was talking on the phone with a milk customer the other day, and as we were finishing up she said to me, "Oh by the way, my family and I want to thank you so much for the goat milk. For the past couple of weeks, the milk has been a lot sweeter than usual, and it has been so great! I don't know what you might have been doing differently, but it tastes really good."

Those three little sentences, made my day! I was beaming from ear to ear for the rest of the evening! I really have no idea why the milk is suddenly sweeter; the only thing I have been doing differently is getting the goats to eat more fresh forage, and am slowly weaning them off of their grain. But would that really make a difference?

 I worked hard all summer and early fall to try and raise the sugar content of our grass, and you can see the difference between one pasture that got a lot of attention, and another pasture that didn't get much. The one that I worked on is green, green green! It's very lush, and it has a lot of clover (it used to never have clover), while the other one has a lot of couch grass and other coarse plants. Maybe all my hard work is paying off with a higher butterfat percentage in my goat's milk?

Or maybe the goats have just been in a good mood.... ;)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Heifer International

You can give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. Or, you can teach a man to fish, and thus feed him for life. Heifer international is probably my favorite charity. They are really making a difference in people's lives....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Now THIS is funny!

A friend showed me this YouTube recently and I thought I was going to die laughing! I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I had always wondered which states allowed raw milk sales and which ones didn't. This map was neat to see....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Seems like yesterday

I can't believe I've had Poppy for almost one month now. It seems like I brought her home just yesterday!! I have definitely learned some lessons since that first fateful day of bringing her home.... But over all, I have had so much fun with this little gal. I am truly blessed.

Saving Seeds...

Ta da!! this was my first year ever to save seeds from my garden!

The foundation stock is from Baker Creek heirloom seeds, and this particular variety is called 'Bean Contender'. Inside the packet, there were only about 30 small seeds. But from those 30 seeds, we got many, many yummy meals, and enough seeds saved to fill the packet 2 1/2 times over! 

The beans themselves are very tender and delicious while small, and have an ever-so-slightly fuzzy feel to them. (Which makes it perfect for throwing at people because then they stick!) 

I am so excited to save more seeds next year!! :D

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A starving nation?

Third world countries aren't the only places with starving people.

Sometimes, starvation shows different symptoms than what we would normally think of....

Americans these days suffer from many illnesses and diseases that third world countries rarely have problems with: Cancer, heartburn, heart failure, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, chronic obesity... What is going on here?

America is a starving nation.

"Wait a minute!" You say, "How can you call us a starving nation, when we have such a bounty of food! The grocery stores are packed! If you're hungry, just go and get something to eat!"

And you are right; our stores are filled with foods of every kind. We are very blessed.

It's not that we are eating too many bad foods, that is making us prone to so many diseases today; It's that we aren't eating enough good foods! Our bodies are starving for good foods that will nourish us. Heal us. Boost our immunity. We aren't eating those foods that would do us worlds of good, and consequently, we are are suffering needlessly for it. 

But, lest you think that I am some sort of person who only eats healthy foods and condemns anyone who so much as whispers the word "chocolate", ;) I really like Reese's Peanut butter Cups. :) Second to that, I think I would choose a raspberry 'Zinger'. I'm human too, and I have quite the sweet tooth. 

My motto is "It's not what you eat every now and then that gets you, it's what you eat every day." I won't die if I eat a candy bar every once in a while, but if I started eating them everyday, I really only have myself to blame when I start having health problems.

Living the life of a farm girl can be overwhelming for me at times. In my hands I have the power to grow and raise clean, nourishing food that will help people. Wow. I may not be able to save the world, but I can help those around me by providing for them good food that will help, rather than harm. I can provide raw milk that will lower the chance of getting osteoporosis, strengthen bones and muscles, enhance the nerves and boost the immune system. I can offer clean meat that contains no hormones or arsenic. Meat that will nourish and provide much needed vitamins and minerals needed for optimum health. I can provide pesticide/herbicide free heirloom vegetables and fruits that will also provide vitamins and minerals, lower chances of getting cancers, heart diseases, etc...

And it's not just me! I only live on 1 1/3 acre of land. If I can raise good food on this bit of land, then you can surely do it too! Do you have a backyard? You can raise chickens and/or turkeys in a "chicken tractor". Do you have a window? You can grow vegetables pots! Have a garage, shed, or some other sheltered place? Rabbits make excellent eating! 

We can make a difference. We can provide good food to those around us. Some nights, I dream about being able to start giving away food, or animals to people. You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or, you could teach a man to fish and thus feed him for life. I would love to be able to give cages and rabbits to people, so that they could begin raising their own food too. Then they would give away some of the resulting rabbit offspring, and it would continue on, and on.... Same thing with chickens and chicken tractors. Or goats, or cows.... What can I say? I'm a dreamer. ;D 

Took the words right outa' my mouth....

A few days ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing the prices of pasture-raised turkeys, which we have seen range from $15 a bird, to a whopping $330 for a 30 lb. turkey!! :-/ I would love to start raising a few turkeys come spring 2011, but I think I will keep my prices at $15 per bird, regardless of weight. Am I the only one who thinks $330 might be a weeeee bit extravagant for a thanksgiving meal? ;) Anywho, below is my friend's reply, and I liked it so much that I asked her if I could put it on here...

"As for the $15 turkeys - you get what you pay for. I'm about to cry right now, thinking about how terrible and huge the commercial confinement turkey operation has become. We are paying for those cheap turkeys with denuded land, neighborhood stench and wastes, exorbitant fuel use, toxic chemicals which cause allergies and Auto-immune diseases in over half the population, and being propped up by medications is no answer. You bet I'm raising free-range turkeys again next year. And you bet I'm thankful that this Thanksgiving we get to eat food which didn't kill anyone or depend on government intervention during its production! Salatin wrote a new book called 'The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer', and he's totally right. It is absolute joy to realize I'm doing what is right, even though 99% of farmers are doing what is wrong. It makes me positively giddy to think that my family's freezer is full of grass-raised beef, pork and chicken, and we have the freedom to drink real milk out of glass jars and bright yellow butter created straight from yesterday's lush green grass. And that by God's grace I'm investing in the future of my children and grandchildren, and those of my siblings by the choices that I make right now. And the knowledge that I can heal the pastures on this farm so that in the near future, by careful management they can become living active storage units of biomass and health. There is so much to being good stewards of the earth as God has commanded us."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And now -- Pot scrubbers!!

I found this small article on the 'Eat wild' website and half of me wanted to laugh, while the other half wanted to cry...
"In the "what will they think of next" category, feedlot nutritionists have been experimenting with substituting kitchen pot scrubbers for hay. Feedlot cattle need some roughage in their diet in addition to the grain concentrate or they will become sick and gain weight more slowly. But why bring in all that bulky hay, reasoned investigators, when pot scrubbers might do the trick? To test this novel idea, the scientists fed a group of steers a high-grain diet and then inserted either zero, four, or eight plastic scrubbers into each animal's rumen (stomach). The experiment appeared to work. "From day 113 to 152, steers provided with pot scrubbers had 16% greater average daily gain than those fed the 100% concentrate diet without pot scrubbers."
Wouldn't it be gratifying if the money spent on this questionable study had been spent on exploring the health benefits of raising animals on pasture?"


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Last of the season....

This is a picture (a rather blurry one at that) of the last of our heirloom tomatoes for the year...

I was surprised at how late our tomatoes ripened this year; in fact only about 10% of our plants actually ripened at all. All of the tomatoes I was most looking forward to, stayed an emerald hue... 'Goldman's Italian/American', 'Striped Roman', 'Big Month'.... I had so hoped to get to try them out and save seeds from them. :( 

Our garden did pretty poorly this year, due to a wet, cool summer that had sporadic heat waves. The plants just couldn't seem to handle the weather variations. I did however learn this year, that our soil is deficient in calcium, magnesium and sulfur, by seeing what weeds were growing (ahem, yes I did get a little behind in weeding).

Next year, I'm hoping to use raised beds with a hoop house over it. The raised beds will allow me to use good fertile soil for the plants, and the hoop house will raise the temperature within. Hopefully it will raise it enough that our tomatoes will do better! 

I think tomatoes and pumpkins are my two most favorite plants to grow.... They're so fun! ;)


Friday, October 15, 2010

Meet the farm hands

Welcome to Mennagerie Farm! The first post is always the hardest it seems, so I thought I would make things easy on myself and introduce y'all to our "farm hands"....

First stop would be our Wascally Wabbit, whom has been dubbed 'Coinin'. This big fella' is a 4 month old, purebred Champagne D' Argent and will be our herd sire for our rabbit breeding program once he reaches breeding age. Our goal for the rabbit world? We are working towards a strain that will grow well on pasture forage, using Joel Salatin's "Hare Pen" technique. I'm still hunting around for some good does for our herd; I would love to either have some blue American rabbits, or maybe some Beverens; but we'll see what happens....

Rabbits have got to be the hardest thing to get a good picture of....                                             


Next stop, the egg producers....

These ladies are only about 2 weeks old, so it will be awhile before we begin getting eggs from them! This year, we decided to try raising Delawares, which are a rare, heritage breed, rather than sticking with the more popular breeds such a Rhode Islands, or Plymouth Rocks. In the past, we have always raised our chicks in the spring, but when they reached laying age, it was almost winter time; so they never seemed to lay very well. This time we are experimenting a little and we are raising them in the fall, so when they are of laying age, it will be spring time, which is when birds do best when laying eggs anyway!

Other reasons for choosing Delaware hens, is that they are good producers in extreme temperatures (both heat and cold), they're excellent foragers, which is a huge deal for us since their diet will be mostly forage to heighten the nutritional value of the eggs. They are good, old fashioned, broody hens! We will be using a New Hampshire Red rooster to breed these gals with, and the resulting chicks will be sex-linked. Meaning all the male chicks will be white and female chicks will be red. So these little chickies will be hatched out from the hen and raised by the hen; no more brooder boxes!! Whoohoo! ;)

Here we have rodent control. Best mouser we have ever had; in fact, he's a little too good. Rodent population is practically nil, so we actually have to give this guy cat food!

Ahem, now we come to Quality Control (QC team)

These ladies are very proud of their official title and never lose a chance to check out chicken feed, cat food, garden produce.... Gotta' make sure it passes the standard. They take it upon themselves to eat whatever does not pass. Very little passes their standard. They want to eat it all. ;)

At the moment, we only have two goats, but they keep us in good supply!

This is Ivy, our 2 yo. Nubian doe. She is a sweetheart; whenever a kid on the shyer side wants to pet a goat, I bring Ivy over; she knows to be gentle. She is lovely to milk, very patient, and at her lactational peak (around spring time) she was giving 3/4 gallon a day, which isn't bad at all for a goat so young.

At the other extreme is Capri. 

Half Oberhasli, half Nubian, weighing in at 175 lbs. This girl is a goof ball.
She too is gentle, but perhaps not quite as much as Ivy. I often think we should hang a sign around her neck that says: "Warning! I might lick you to death!" She loves to give kisses, and is enamored with small children. Capri is our top milker right now; when we first got her, she was half dried up and giving 3/4 gallon a day. Her mother is giving 3 gallons a day on grass alone. We are praying that Capri has inherited her mother's milking ability!!

Last, but NOT least is our newest lady here on the farm...

Mennagerie's Poppy Patch. But we just call her Poppy.

Cows don't get any sweeter than this!!

What a total love. This wee lassie could melt a heart of stone.
She is a purebred Jersey, and with luck, by spring of 2012, we will begin getting milk from her!
So along with offering goat milk to customers, we will also be able to offer raw cow milk!

Congratulations for managing to read this whole post! I will admit that is was very long... ;)