Thursday, October 31, 2013

Farmland ~ The Movie

 Guys!! LOOK what's coming out in Spring of 2014!!! I apologize that there's no picture, no video, no nothin'; I tried. Honest. But there's an awesome film coming out after winter thaw; a story following 6 young farmers in their 20's and how they do their job. Looks like they cover a pretty good scope with a crop farmer, cattle rancher, hog farmer, chicken farmer, and...? The trailer had me all misty eyed and I done ruined my mascara now. :P I realize not everyone will get teary eyed over something like this, but I think a few will understand my excitement. I think I might even be more excited about this than I am about the new Marvel movies coming out (Thor 2, Captain America 2, Avengers 2). Shucks, I might even be more excited about this than about The Hobbit 2. And that's sayin' somethin'.

 If you missed that first link, here it is again. Click HERE to check 'Farmland' out!
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Let There Be Cowgirls

  It's been a long time since I've listened to honest-to-goodness country music. You know, the songs that actually talk about cowboys and cowgirls? I listen to a lot of country music, but my kind is the kind about tractors, crops, and pretty girls. ;) It's been many a year since the term "cowgirl" applied to me. I used to be that type of person... I was a rodeo girl; passionate about barrel racing and pole bending, and desperately wanting to master roping. My usual mount was a little gray Arabian mare; but my favorite was a lazy, bad tempered buckskin Quarter Horse named Snippy. The Arab was great if you wanted a good, dependable run; she was sturdy, and fast enough to finish a barrel course in 16 to 17 seconds. But the Quarter Horse... She made you work for the ride; you had to give things your all, ride her just right, convince her that this was the thing to do... If you were lucky, and she was in a good mood, the two of you flew through those courses and getting a time of 14 or 15 seconds on the patterns wasn't uncommon. I've ridden who knows how many horses over the years, but obstinate Snippy is still a favorite.

 But back to the music! Like I said, I haven't listened to this stuff since I was a rodeo girl myself, at the age of 12; my riding instructor got me hooked on this style of music and usually had it playing when it was just the two of us. I had forgotten all songs and artists that I liked over the years, and then a friend sent me a link to a country song the other day. I laughed at the song; thinking of all the memories that it brought back, and then instantly downloaded it onto my MP3. It's called 'Let There Be Cowgirls', by Chris Cagle and I have to admit that I'm quite smitten with it right now. I sing along with it outside while working in the barn, and my mind drifts back to days of creaking leather saddles, dusty arenas, and three barrels set up in a triangle shape... Waiting for a cowgirl and her mount to fly through it.

Feel free to give it a listen to. ;)

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Graceful Me (Not)

 I wasn't planning on publicly sharing this story (because it's embarrassing!), but a friend convinced me, in between her peals of laughter, to share it nevertheless.

  Just know that I am not a very graceful person. 'Nor am I very bright most of the time. In short, I'm a klutz who is quite good at making a fool of herself.

 My afternoon was going swimmingly (that's such a fun word. I adore it.). It was a bright fall day, I had just finished a good morning's work in the barn, and I was ready for lunch. Everything was grand. I was sporting an unusual mishmash of clothes, but didn't really care then and there since I was just doing barn work and no one was around. On my head was a soft pink colored cap that said "John Deere" across the front, on my feet were bright purple Bogs boots that I got last week (Bogs sent them to me for free since my old pair was cracking!! Woohoo!), and I was of course sporting my absolute favorite sweater that I own: the ugliest lime green, fleece pullover that you ever done did see. It used to be a shocking neon color, but I've had it for so many years that it's finally faded to an awful lime. I love this sweater way too much to ever give it up. Even if it is an eyesore.

 So yeah, I looked like quite the oddball as I walked back up to the house for lunch. But hey, there was no one around right? Knock on wood, my dears. Knock on wood. I'd only gotten halfway to the house when I heard a familiar rumbling sound that always makes me smile: A tractor was coming my way. And it was big. I twisted around and saw to my delight that it was the neighbor down the road, driving his John Deere 9630 (remember this baby? I've got such a horrible crush on it...). Oh this was my lucky day!! The 9630 was driving right past me. I forgot all about my pink hat, purple boots, green sweater, and the fact that I looked like a wreck. All that mattered at this moment was that a beautiful hunk of metal was going by, and it was like being at my very own private parade. I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing, too.

 The tractor was going at the same pace that I was walking, so I was all too happy to just let my feet walk in the direction of the house while I gazed longingly at the tractor. And yes, I will admit that I had a dorky smile plastered on my face as I looked up and down at the giant wheels and green paint.

 Then things got bad.

 There I am, walking along, looking like an idiot in every sense, and trying to not squeal out loud at this tractor, when I glance at the cab. Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no!!! Folks, it wasn't the elderly neighbor who's in his 90's driving that machine. It was his grandson who's MY age. We're talking early twenties, blond crew cut, muscle to spare. You know, the type that catches the eye of most girls? Yeah, that kind. We were far enough from each other that you most likely couldn't tell exactly where a person's eyes were looking, so to him it probably looked like I was staring at him, and smiling like someone who should be in an asylum. Okay, I swear I was not checking him out. Let me just state this here. Cross my heart and hope to die. I check out tractors and trucks; not guys. He just had to be in there, didn't he!?!? Of all people, why did it have to be the neighbor's grandson in that cab!? He had the strangest expression on his face when I looked at him. Like he was trying to figure out why this girl dressed in clownish colors was staring, smiling, and walking in a crooked line towards her house. Apparently I wasn't the only one staring.

 I wanted to die. To be swallowed up by the earth and never be seen again. This was embarrassing. No, this was humiliating. I'll never be able to go on a walk up the road again for fear that I'll see him. Oh it was bad...

 At this horrifying realization of who the driver was, I did the most logical thing there was to do: Panic. Yeah, I'm great at being logical. I should get a degree for my logic; or a medal or something... 'Cause I'm obviously top dog in this circle. Okay, whatever.

 I had just reached the front porch by the time it completely sank in that it was raining on my parade, so to say, so without further ado I whipped myself around and decided to bolt towards the front door. I probably would have made it too, had the support beam to the porch roof not been in my way.

 Yes, dear reader, yours truly smacked herself into a beam. And the grandson saw me do it. It was like something from a cartoon; right when I thought I couldn't embarrass myself any further, I go and walk into a big wooden beam.

 There was no way to play this cool. I had just destroyed every shred of dignity I owned because of a tractor. I was officially mortified. Why couldn't he have looked the other way!? Why couldn't a cougar have suddenly darted into the road?? Or a herd of flying blue monkeys have gone past his windshield?? Anything to have made him glance away and not see me walk into a post. But no. He saw it. All of it. And I wanted to die. My one comfort is that I'm leaving the state in thirty six days and then I won't have to worry about bumping into him again for awhile. And maybe he'll have forgotten the whole thing by the time I come back. We live in hope, anyway.

So there you have it folks. I'm ruined. It's a gorgeous tractor though, I will still cling to that. But if I have a "most embarrassing moment", this surely is it.

 It just had to be the grandson in there, didn't it??
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Monday, October 28, 2013

Heifers For South Dakota!!!

 I just found this organization about an hour ago and I'm positively THRILLED to see it! This is a group of folks actively taking donations and buying heifers to help the ranchers in SD get back on their feet. Things like this are a great reminder to me that there's still hope for this nation... There's always hope. There are still good people here who will help a total stranger build their herd of cattle back up.

 The blizzard 'Atlas' may have ravaged that state, but Americans know how to fight back.

 Wanna' join ranks and help? Click HERE and you'll go right to the Heifers for South Dakota website. :)
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Q&A Monday


 Okey dokey my dears... It's time to confront the question of the week and give it an answer!

  This week we're hearing from Tasha, and I *think* I understand the question, but I'm not positive. Tasha, you referred to micros, but then went on to explain fodder; are we just talking fodder here? I wasn't sure where the micros came in. Just to clarify the difference betwixt the two, microgreens are a leafy vegetable such as cabbage, kale, radish, and peas that are grown in soil until 14 days after germination, and then normally saved for human consumption. These are fancy little greens that sell for a hugely high price to restaurants. Chefs love 'em. Fodder on the other hand is barley or wheat (the two most common grains; you can sprout anything, but nothing grows like these two) that is grown "hydroponically", meaning there's no soil; you just keep them in drained trays until you have a mat of "grass" which you feed to livestock. You don't sell this stuff to restaurants. ;)

 I'm going to guess that we're talking about fodder here, so that's where I'm taking this conversation. :) You asked how often to water fodder, and then stated that you're having mold problems. I can relate. And I'll bet an acorn to an oak that anyone else who has ever done fodder will raise their hand and agree that they've had the same problem. Oh the mold issue... Don't worry, it's fixable.

 First off, make sure that the grain in your trays is no deeper than 3/4 of an inch. Any deeper and you'll just exacerbate the molding problem. Any thinner and it'll dry out too soon, and then when you get it wet again, you face mold, or the loss of the entire tray due to the germ dying. (yeah, this is sounding like a really fun project, huh?) If you feel that your seed depth isn't a problem, then next look at your drainage. There should be NO standing water, EVER. I repeat, NO standing water, EVER. When you water your grain, all liquid should drain out within twenty seconds. If it takes longer than that, then you need more drainage. Someone gave me "pre-drilled" trays once, and those things took almost a minute to drain. This seemed great at first; I was able to fill each tray to the brim and then walk away, letting it drain slowly on its own. Or, that was the thought anyway... Since there weren't enough drainage holes, there would be too much moisture hiding in the cracks and crevices; puddles sitting in the low spots where there was no drainage hole. After two days in the high 80's I had to throw ALL of it out. Mold. Lots of it. As to how often to water, I do it 3x's a day when it's hot outside (like, 80F and up). Anything cooler than that, and I find that 2x's a day is usually fine.

 Now, suppose your drainage is fine, and your depth of each layer is fine. Now what!? Mold is an extremely common problem during the summer; doesn't matter how you do it, you're most likely going to have mold issues because it's hot, your grain stays moist all the time, and each pound of grain has thousands - if not millions - of bacteria spores coating it, which is what causes your mold. So the key is to deal with the bacteria that's present on the grain itself. How do you do that? There are a couple ways.

1. Skip the initial soak during hot weather. Normally you let your grain sit in water for 12-24 hours before you put it in the tray. Skip it, and put your dry grain in those trays. I don't completely understand what effect this has on the grain, but someone gave me this tip when I was having issues with mold back in August and it worked well for me.

2. Put a "glug" (1/8 to 1/4 cup) of apple cider vinegar (raw, with the "mother" in it) in the water that is soaking the grain. This method you would obviously only use if you wanted to keep doing that initial soak (which some feel is beneficial in breaking down enzymes). Or, you can do a capful of bleach into the soak water. Either one should work; these *should* kill off the bacteria that's causing you problems. I say "should" a little hesitantly because nothing is for certain with this. I've had both options work really well for me, but I have a different climate than you most likely.

 If you're still having mold problems when they're growing, and you're not growing a huge amount of fodder, you could try watering with a watering can, and putting a bit of ACV or bleach in the can once a day (I would really recommend the ACV during the growing period) to keep that bacteria at bay.

 Hope this helps! Mold can be such a frustrating thing to figure out.
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Cider Pressin'!

This was my day today. Well, part of it. We invited a couple of families over and together we pressed some cider to go 'round. Cider pressin' is one of my favorite parts about October. ^_^

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Marvelous Marvel

 Okay... Besides being a LOTR nut, I'm also a fan of anything by Marvel. I like them all. ^_^ And while I admit that the story plot for Captain America 2 didn't sound all that great, the trailer has got me thinking otherwise. I'm gonna' have to watch this one. After all, anything with Capsicle is good, right? (my fellow Avenger fans will understand the name on that last sentence. Hehehe.)

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Pinterest Link Up! Week #6!

Whew, well after a crazy morning to start my day, here's this week's link up! Enjoy!

1. How To Make Your New Favorite Breakfast - Creamed Honey! {Courtesy of Honest Cooking}

2. Small Farm Tractors - How To Choose Wisely. {Courtesy of Garden and Farms}

3. Getting Goats 101. {Courtesy of From Scratch Magazine}

4. Free Seed Packet Patterns! {Courtesy of Content In A Cottage}

5. DIY Meat Smoker. {Courtesy of Instructables}

6. Herbs for Healthy Chickens. {Courtesy of Mudbrick Cottage}

7. 5 Steps to Writing A Farm Grant. {Courtesy of}

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ask It!

Here's your cue, folks. 
If you've got a question of any sort, just leave a comment below and I'll answer it on Monday!

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poor Girl's Greenhouse

  For the whole spring and summer, I've been growing my microgreens outside on the back deck; they took up so little room that it worked perfectly! And then the rains came. Granted, I was delighted to finally have the rain; we needed it super bad. But my micros weren't thrilled with the sudden sogginess. It finally got to the point where the micros weren't growing at all, but rather were rotting, because of all the standing water (I'm not kidding when I say "the rains came". It was torrential and lasted for days!) 

 So I had to build some sort of protection really fast, and really cheaply. I'm a horrible builder (I can do basics if you tell me precisely where to put something), so that left me having to face a project that wouldn't fall down on me, and didn't really require wood... What I came up with was a tweaked version of things I was seeing online. It involved cattle panels, greenhouse plastic, fence posts, and wire. Ta da.

My sister helped me erect this funny little greenhouse, and all total it took us about 4 or 5 hours. In the pouring rain. It rained so hard that our Carhartt coats were drenched through (that's sayin' something!), our hats were worthless, and we could have feasibly brought out shampoo and washed our hair there and then. It was wet. But it was fun; we sang lots of songs from Pete's Dragon (I admit, that's a favorite childhood movie...).

 Anyway, you probably want details on this thing, huh? Thought so. I was originally planning it to be something like a 6.5'x15' structure, but apparently the cattle panels are shorter than I remembered... It came out as a 6.5'x13'. Oh well.

 We pounded 8 fence posts into the ground at 4' spacings, to keep the greenhouse firmly on the ground, and then used some random wire (it was leftover from the electric fence used on the pasture!) to lash three cattle panels to it. Technical, I know. I didn't really know what I was doing; just had a vague idea, and ran with it. 

 The plastic was a mistake. I didn't know what weight to get, so went with the cheaper option of buying the 4mm. Next time I will invest in the 6mm. Trust me folks, pay the extra cash and do it. Water comes through the 4mm. I'm not talking condensation here (you get that no matter what weight). I'm talking actual RAIN. If it's raining hard enough, and you're standing inside that greenhouse, you'll feel a gentle mist of drops coming right through that plastic. Which can be nice in a way; it's like having an automatic watering system. ;) Just tryin' to stay positive here. But still, go with the 6mm plastic. It's worth it. You may also notice that I have two flavors colors of plastic going on here. No idea what happened there. I thought for sure I had grabbed the exact same bags of plastic, but when I pulled them out to put them on the panels... They were different!!! *shocked look* There wasn't any time to exchange one for a matching plastic (remember the drowning micros?), so I just went with it. I like the less-clear plastic, personally. Seems to hold heat in a bit better.

To put the plastic on, all I did was dig a 6"-8" trench around three sides of the greenhouse, lay the plastic over the panels, get it snug, and then buried everything. That greenhouse ain't goin' nowhere.

You may notice in the picture above that I have pieces of cardboard behind each fence post; this keeps the metal post from ripping the plastic. My original desire was to put those rubber sleeves on the tips (you find them at farm stores; they keep animals from gutting themselves, which happens more frequently than you might think...), but once again time was the master of the day and I didn't have said rubber sleeves on hand. So ugly cardboard has to suffice for the moment.

This image below gives a closer look at our "wire lashing" job. Zip ties would have been awesome to have (that would have cut the building time down to probably 3 hours or less!), but did I have them? No. Phooey.

 I'm working on lining the back and one whole side with these handy dandy PVC shelves (this original one came with a kit from Half Pint Homestead), but until those get made, I just plop my extra trays on the ground.

  To keep vegetation at bay in there, I'm getting ready to put landscaping fabric down, and then covering everything with a generous layer of woodchips. It'll allow water drainage, look nice, and do an excellent job at smother weeds and grass.

  It took about 2 weeks for the microgreens to adjust, but now they're doing amazingly!! It gets up to an easy 80+ degrees in there by afternoon these days. I'll be working on winterizing the greenhouse over the next couple of weeks; getting a front and door on it, and then *hopefully* building a homemade solar heater.

 It's still very muchly a work in progress, but I wanted to show it to y'all nevertheless. It was cheap to make (all total it came to $85), works well, and my sister (who is taking over the business when I leave for Missouri) should be able to grow microgreens through the whole winter.

 Not bad for fence posts, cattle panels, and plastic sheeting. ;)

 photo banner1copy.jpg

How Joel Salatin Nets 60k/year On 20 Acres of Rented Land

  Okay this is only a 10 minute teaser clip, but I was still absolutely excited and inspired after watching it!! Joel Salatin explains how he NETS $60,000 every year on 20 acres of rented land, via hogs. I learned all this stuff while I was at Polyface last year, but it's still great to see and hear it all over again. It really works, folks. Had I decided to stay here in Oregon instead of head to Missouri, then I would have been doing this. It was my original plan; raising Berkshire and Hereford hogs to sell for a premium price to local customers, restaurants, and the local butcher shop.

 Maybe I'll pick that plan up when I come back... First things first, right?

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Monday, October 21, 2013

He's A Good Boy

I found Gyp's puppy pictures while skimming through my files on the computer... I had forgotten just how tiny and fluffy he was when he first came!!!

Gyp at 9 weeks:

Gyp at 7 months:

Shucks, one moment he was a pudgy fluff ball, and the next thing I know he's a beautiful dog who's herding animals. He's a good boy. :)

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pinterest Link Up! Week #5!

Ta da! Here's this week's link up! I found some neat stuff this week! :)

1. How to make mozzarella cheese. {Courtesy of The Prairie Homestead}

2. DIY Cotton Faux Paper Towels. (I thought the snaps on these were kinda' cool...) {Courtesy of My Healthy Green Family}

3. Use buttermilk to take the "gamey" taste out of your meat. {Courtesy of The Backyard Pioneer}

4. Ten miniature cattle breeds for your small farm. {Courtesy of Big Picture Agriculture}

5. Creative and homemade hay feeders for goats! {Courtesy of the Homesteading Today forum}

6. 4 Reasons your hens aren't laying. {Courtesy of House. Barn. Farm.}
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Writer Is 'In'

Ahem, so the Peanuts picture is posted slightly tongue-in-cheek... But it came to mind as I was writing this. I just wanted to draw your attention to the newest page up at the top bar of this little ol' blog. You know, that bar up there (please scroll up for a moment) that has the "home, about, and 'crazy bucket list'" pages? Yeah, that top bar. There's a new page there now, titled "Consultation Services". By all means, please do check it out!
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Ask It!

 Look! I remembered to post the "Ask it" post today! How shocking!

 Same as ever, questions go in the comments, and I'll answer 'em on Monday. ;)
 photo banner1copy.jpg

'You Can Farm' E-School

Verge Permaculture is hosting an amazing e-school taught exclusively by Joel Salatin! Looks like there's going to be three workshops to attend (hm, hm... I want them all!); each one focusing on one of his book topics: You Can Farm (starting and succeeding in farming), Pastured Poultry Profits (raising broilers), and Salad Bar Beef (plus pigaerator pork).

  Verge is giving thirty minutes of one of the lessons for free up until Sunday the 20th; so hurry up and watch it before it's too late!! I enjoyed it, as I always do enjoy Joel's stuff.

 So if you've got some birthday money sitting in your pocket, it looks like Joel's e-school might be a good way to spend it. ;)

 photo banner1copy.jpg

I Sound Like A Toad

  Today I am incredibly grateful for a dog who responds to whistles as well as voice commands.

 An unexpected cold has sprung itself on me, and now I've lost my voice (the tiny bit that's left sounds like something belonging to a toad). 

 Thank heavens I had the brains to train that dog to a whistle... 

 But I still really want my voice back.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mini Hay Baler - What Do You Think?

  So here's something new to me: A walk behind, mini round baler that's powered by a BCS. It's designed for the small farmer who has 10 acres or less and wants to bale their own hay. The round bales are 2x'2' and weigh roughly 45 lbs. each.

 I have no idea what this baler costs (have yet to find a price online), but what do y'all think? If the price was decent, would you consider something like this? I ask out of curiosity. :) I would love to bale my own hay, but I always thought I'd either have to have enough land to warrant a tractor and all the equipment (which then puts me in the haying business, which I don't really want), or I'd have to do it the reeeeaaaally old way of using a scythe and then putting the hay on tripods, just like old times. I like the idea of the round baler. Looks fun. Although, speaking as someone who's used to using 120 lb. bales, I think the size is a tad pathetic. Forty-five pound bales are -- puny. Sorry. Maybe there are some good things about them that I don't know about. Like, they're a single size serving for cows??? Again, I'm used to my 3-stringers that weigh as much as me. ;) I don't think I've ever seen a 45 lb. bale...

  But size aside, I'm still curious about these things.

  Would you buy one if you could?

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Used To Wonder

 I used to wonder how well I would handle having to put down an animal of my own. Slaughtering I can do; it's easier, mentally, to do the task since you know you will be putting meat in the freezer. But I wasn't sure how I would do with using a rifle to dispatch an animal that would not be used for meat. An animal too sick, or too old, or too "something" (imagine your own circumstance), to put it in the freezer. I've been lucky for a long, long time. I usually either found animals already dead, or found them minutes away from dying; so I never had to face that moment of loading a gun and putting something out of it's misery.

  Actually, I take that back. I've just been a coward up until now. I've had animals that needed to be shot, but I was a wimp and made either my dad or my older brother take the poor thing down and out. Yay me. Not.

  My memory is a funny thing... When I decide to forget something, then that's pretty much it. I forget it. I've got a "permanent delete" button in this ol' noggin' of mine. A couple weeks ago I was morbidly doing a head count of my animal losses this year (gotta' have something to think about while washing the dishes!), and it was the hardest thing trying to remember everyone... Last year was excellent; I didn't lose a single animal. But this year has been marred and scarred by multiples happenings; the cows had their issues, Peaches, the heifer, killed a bunch of goats, and then there was Trigun.

  I shot Trigun. It was the last day of July, early in the morning. My day had started out gloriously, my grandma and sister-in-law were over for a visit, we had our day all planned out, and I was busy taking care of the stock before breakfast time. Then I found Trigun. Laying down on the cool dirt floor of the barn, with all of her insides grotesquely on her outside. In short, I had before me a goat with a severe prolapse. Seriously, it was gross, and I do not get grossed out easily. The entire goat herd had gotten out 48 hours earlier (sigh... Goats are amazing fence crashers) and Trigun had made the mistake of eating foxglove, which is a poisonous plant. Normally this causes cardiac arrest, but for some reason it made Trigun prolapse. My first thought was to put those organs, intestines, and what-have-you right back inside the goat (it was early morning still. I really have no idea how I would have done that. Give me a break here), but that idea was quickly shot down as I looked at the mass of tissue protruding from her. It was filthy and completely covered in dirt, and dry; there was no way to fix that problem (no, I couldn't "just wash it!"). Poor Trigun was in a bad state; breathing shallowly, groaning softly in pain, and fading before me. That goat just wanted to die.

  And it was then and there that I felt my clear, semi-calm (you can only be so calm when you're looking at your herd matriarch in a state like that) decision. She needed to be dispatched. NOW. I read about folks who tote their livestock to the vet to be euthanized, or hear about having the vet come out to do the job. There was no time for this; not when my goat was in this state and the vet was an hour away. Sometimes the most humane way to end an animal's life is to do it immediately. So I ran inside, and told someone (I think it was mom?) that I needed the gun. I can't for the life of me remember if I went and got the gun, or if someone brought it to me... All I remember is my sister-in-law appearing to come help me with this task before breakfast. Bless her heart, my SIL has put up with so much over the years, but somehow I don't think she ever expected to have to witness/help the dispatching of a goat. Eh, there's a first time for everything.

  Turns out that the firearm for the job was our sleek, compact 9mm handgun. I had never shot this thing before... I knew how powerful it was though, and knew that it would do the job. I think my SIL came along in case I broke down and couldn't shoot my lovely Trigun. This was the sweetest goat... She milked 2 gallons a day, never shoved the other goats around, never escaped; she was a good, old girl. She was old too; almost 8 years, which is a ripe age for most goats. Walking back to the barn, there were those thoughts of wanting to fix her, wanting to postpone this. But once you saw her, you knew there was no way around this. She needed to go. She wanted to go.

  In my haste to help Trigun, I completely forgot to consider ear plugs for myself. I guess since I had never shot this particular gun before, and didn't know how loud it was, it didn't come to mind... My SIL didn't think of it either until the very last moment, but was at least able to plug her ears with her fingers.

  I used to wonder how I would handle having to put down an animal of my own. Now I know. You just do it. Turn your brain off and do it, knowing that this is the best thing.

 I aimed the gun; back of her head, right where horns would have been, the muzzle pointed straight to the nose. This causes instantaneous death with small livestock such as sheep and goats, whose heads differ from cattle and hogs (where you draw an imaginary 'X' on the front of the face).

I aimed.
Said I was sorry.

 Trigun dropped. Quickly, painlessly, instantly.

 I was totally unprepared for the impact of the shot's noise on my eardrums. Holy kohlrabi. They weren't ringing. Or, if they were then I sure couldn't hear 'em. In fact, I couldn't hear anything! Shucks, you could hear things underwater better than this. Turns out that I didn't have my full hearing back for another two days. Lesson learned.

  Dispatching livestock is nobody's favorite job. But it sometimes has to be done. For three months I've kept this story to myself, but tonight I wanted to share it. Not because I'm feeling morbid. But because I know myself well enough to know that I will forget Trigun eventually; and this is my way of recording what happened. It's also to give some of y'all a peek into the harsher side of this lifestyle. Not many people like to write about graphic problems like this because not only is it NOT pleasant (and who wants to read an unpleasant blog when you can read a hundred "very pleasant" ones on the web?), but it's also because we know that there are plenty of animal rightists and PETA members crawling around the place and they certainly don't like stories like this. But someone has to share this stuff. Someone has to be the brave (or foolish. Take your pick) soul to tell the truth that there are still hard days. And shucks, this one little moment can't be anywhere near what the ranchers in South Dakota are going through as they deal with their dead and dying cattle. So with that in mind, this is my story. I shot my goat.

Memorial for a Farmer. I Almost Cried.

 Illinois farmers know how to pay a tribute. My goodness do they know how... The Modern Farmer posted an article about a most unique tribute to a fallen farmer; the man was only 31 when he died of cancer. He left a wife, two kids, and a farm behind. After his death, the entire farming community rallied together to create a memorial that is not easily forgotten.

 Here's the article if you should so desire to read it. The photography is to die for, and the story compelling. I think the part that got me tearing up was -- well, you should read it first. I don't want to spoil anything. ;)

  There is hope for humanity yet, I tell ya'.
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Start Your Own Meat CSA


 A few months ago, I read about the neatest idea in one of my Acres USA magazine. The article was about this thing called a "meat CSA" and the story featured a farm in Kentucky that did this. By golly was I intrigued... I knew all about vegetable CSA's (which, by the way, stands for "Community Supported Agriculture". Click the highlighted words to read more about what this is, if you're not familiar with it), but always wished the idea could somehow be tweaked to make it work for meat. Raising meat is my specialty, and my passion; the only problem with it is that it involves a VERY high start-up cost. When a single beef calf costs $500 to $700, and broiler feed is almost hitting $800 for a ton (which will only feed 150 - 180 birds), well -- it can be hard to start a meat enterprise up. Compare it all to buying seeds, which are about $2 to $4 for a packet. Beet seeds are cheaper than lambs, no matter how you look at it.

 What I wanted/needed was something like a CSA... Customers would pay upfront; either a 1-month, 6-month, or 12-month amount, which would allow me some immediate income to not only buy calves, lambs, chicks, poults, and giraffes (you still awake?), but also give me some much needed income to pay bills and buy toothpaste and  socks. The idea is to spread the income out a bit, rather than having it all come in one huge swoop when harvest season rolls around.

  So when I read the article about that Kentucky farm, I blasted out of my seat and immediately bought the Meat CSA Guide that these farmers have so clearly laid out. It. Is. Amazing. I printed the whole thing out and regularly flip through it. I may have the farm on hiatus through 2014, but hey, when I pick things back up, this could very easily be what I decide to seriously look into starting.

  While reading through my guide for the one billionth time yesterday, it occurred that I should share this treasure trove of knowledge with y'all. You can even get the guide for free now, which blows me away. Not only are these farmers giving out every secret of their business, they're even willing to answer your questions (believe me; I peppered them with my fair share). I paid for my guide at first (they used to charge $10 for their wonderful booklet), but then when they changed their mind and switched to it being free, they sent me a second guide for no cost at all. That's it; I'm impressed. They do still have the option to donate money for the guide, which I like to see (as a fellow writer, I know how much it means to get some sort of payment for your work!), so here you go folks: Go get yourself an awesome guide on how to start your own meat CSA. And feel free to give those farmers a few bucks as a 'thank you' *hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.* Yeah, I'm trying to be subtle here.

 Clicking right here will lead you to the wonderful paypal button CSA Guide!
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ride That Pig!

 This old picture makes me chuckle every time I see it. Between the fact that the animal is a pig and not a pony, and the scowl on the little boy's face (which I have to admit is about what I look like first thing in the morning...), this image is pretty priceless.

  Ride that pig, son!

 photo banner1copy.jpg

Monday, October 14, 2013

See You Tonight


Q&A Monday!

 We squeaked by this week with a last-minute question! Hey, better late than never, right? Smile and nod folks, smile and nod.

  So, ze' question of ze' week? A reader is wondering what books/videos/websites I'm using to teach myself and my crazy pup to herd animals. Well, *I'M* not the one running around herding animals, but you get what I mean.

  My first reaction to the question was, "I wish I knew!" Then I remembered that I do have a few things... For the most part I'm only dealing with the bare bones basics of training Gyp. He's got a good bit of natural talent, so that helps too. But right now he and I are just killing time; I don't want to train my first herding dog, I want a professional to do it, so that I don't mess Gyp up. At first I thought Gyp and I would head to weekly lessons here in Oregon, but now we're waiting to settle in Missouri and then I'll find a trainer over there who will take on a farm girl and her English Shepherd.

  The main book that I've been using (and is forever next to my bedside for reading sprees) is Vergil S. Holland's book titled 'Herding Dogs: Progressive Training'. I found this at a thrift store 6 years ago and got it because I was curious to know how on earth people trained dogs to herd livestock. Today I'm using to train my own! It's a great read; easy to understand, and it breaks the process down into small, doable lessons. I've skimmed through a couple other training books but didn't care for those. This one sticks around.

  I've also been watching some Youtubes, and I have to say that these made a HUGE impact. I always figured I would teach Gyp the basics of "sit, stay, down, come, etc." and then leave things like "Away to me" and "come by" to the trainer. The videos made it so easy though! So I started teaching Gyp the commands! Granted, he's still a youngster and is apt to forget his commands every now and again, but at least there's effort.

  The Youtubes in question are taught by Ted Hope; an Englishman who excels with Border Collies, and training them. The videos are a little hard to understand (he has quite the accent, and footage quality is sometimes uneven), but they're worth the effort of watching.
 Part 1 can be found here.
 Part 2 is here.
 Part 3 is here.
 And Part 4 is here!

  It's also just been a bit of watching Gyp and putting commands to the desired action. For example, my book says that teaching the command "Go Back" (meaning, the dog turns around and does a straight line AWAY from the stock. No dog wants to do that!) is the hardest thing to teach. I accidentally taught it to Gyp without trying, when he was 4 months old. During the height of summer, I would always have to stomp down the tall grass before setting up the next day's portable fencing for the sheep. It took awhile and Gyp would get bored and would try to follow me via the path I had stomped. I never allowed him to follow because he was notorious for getting tangled in the netted fencing. So I would always say, "Gyp, go back!" and the only thing for him to do was to turn tail and run back down that straight, stomped path. After about a week of that, I could tell him "go back" anywhere and he'd make that straight line away from me. He and I still do this twice every day. Before he gets his food I have him "go back" and "come" multiple times at varying distances to keep him on his toes.

  He also responds to the word "wait", which was another accidental teaching... He likes to run ahead of me, and when I was done moving the sheep I was always afraid he'd run into the road and get hit by a car (we had to cross a road to get to the neighbor's property, where the sheep were). I'd watch him until he got close to the road and then I'd shout "Wait! Stay!" which got his attention enough to pause his galloping until I caught up. It eventually morphed to the point where I could say "wait" and he'd hesitate on anything and listen for another command. Nowadays he usually stands in place until I catch up to him, or if he can't see me then he'll turn around and come back. I like it that he hesitates though; I can slow him down, remind him to be cautious, or just make him wait on me.

  And as a random tip that someone once shared with me... I used to always have a hard time remembering which direction was 'Away' and which was 'Come By'; then a shepherd told me that he remembers it by thinking about how "time goes by" in a clockwise circle; just like a dog "Coming by" on sheep. Clockwise.

Hope this helps. ;) Gyp and I are still learning this ourselves!
 photo banner1copy.jpg

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Regret Happens

   I will forever regret not buying this cow...

  She went up for sale back in July, for the steal of a price of only $700 (and the seller was willing to come down). She was a 4 year old, purebred Holstein who is what is known as "old style". One of the few Holsteins that will do well on grass, is quite hardy, and built like a tank. This cow was huge, weighing in at 1,600+ lbs. That's about twice the size that my Mattie was. Shucks, Cinnamon was big and only weighed 1,200 - 1,300 lbs. For all her size, and all her milking ability (12 gallons a day on her 2nd freshening!), she only ate 8-10 lbs. of grain to keep her looking chubby like she is in the pic. For the record, I had to feed Mattie about 10 lbs. of grain and she only milked 2-3 gallons of milk. Cinnamon would get 12-14 lbs. of grain and gave 5 gallons of milk. So imagine my awe when I hear about a cow twice the size of my Jersey, giving six times as much milk as her, and needing LESS grain. You could have pushed me over with a feather.

   I wanted this cow so stinkin' bad that it hurt. It still hurts. I still want that cow. I could have had her, but gave her up at the last moment. And instead put GSF on hiatus and signed up for an internship in Missouri. In all honesty, this cow is the only thing that has made me reluctant to leave. That's how bad I wanted her.

  Regret happens all the time in life. We all experience it. Some handle it better than others. As for me, I will forever regret not buying that Holstein cow... She was a good one.

 photo banner1copy.jpg