It’s been hot around here (David Bowie is panting). So this is how we keep our girls cool. A kiddie pool filled with muddy water. The trick is the mud. They refused to stand in it when it was just water. All of them loiter around the pool during the hottest part of the day taking turns dipping their toes in the cooling mud.
Raising livestock can be very rewarding. You get to build this very intimate relationship with the creatures that provide your food. You take a great deal of care in their raising because you want them to be healthy and happy. The healthier and happier they are the better the food they produce for you will be.
But on the other side of the coin, sometimes, no matter how great the care is for them they don’t always make it. For whatever reason, they give up before you do and once they do there really is nothing you can do to save them. Mindy was my biggest heartbreak. I still get teary-eyed when I think about her. For those that are new to reading the blog, 2 years ago we got to help Bella kid Mork and Mindy. It was the first kidding we’d ever had here, or even attended for that matter. When they were born Mork was up and at ‘em immediately. His sister, however, was not. She nursed right away laying down next to Bella, but other than that she was very slow to stand. From then on she was never quite right. The kidding coincided with a huge storm and what ended up being one of the wettest, longest winters I can remember. Very quickly she got coccidiosis, which we treated only for it to come back again soon after. When we finally knocked it down all the way she got in a good week of normalcy. It just so happened that was the week we had a photographer here for a book and there were some amazingly cute photos of her playing. But the healthy week was short lived. She started to show signs of goat polio and off to the vet she went. The vet had us give her vitamin B1 shots for three days but when that was up we didn’t see any improvement and she was now wheezing. Pneumonia is particularly dangerous in goats. The vet put her on some strong antibiotics and at first she seemed to be improving. But then she crashed. Really fast. She was fine in the morning and then that afternoon we came home to find her unable to keep her balance, heavy wheezing and her eyes were bulging. We were sent to UC Davis where they confirmed that she had not only pneumonia but also encephalitis of unknown origin. She wasn’t going to improve so we had to let her go.
It’s amazing how such a small little creature can get into your heart so quickly. Since she was from our very first kidding it made me really nervous. In the back of my mind I had this fear that doelings were just too fragile. Mork and Daisy’s buckling, Mongo, were big, strapping kids that were incredibly healthy. But Mindy, our one and only doeling, couldn’t make it past a few weeks. Bailey proved me wrong and she’s definitely eased my fears, however irrational they may be.
Sometimes, though, they continue to fight and don’t give up. As many of you know, Hank, my tom turkey, is one of my favorites around here. I came home from work one afternoon a couple of months ago to find him stumbling and completely off balance. He also appeared to have lost sight in one of his eyes. I was completely freaked out. We don’t have any poultry vets around here so the first thing I did was email Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm to get some advice. She really helped and I can’t thank her enough. Unfortunately it was unclear what was causing the issue. Looking up various poultry sites it seemed that maybe he had a mineral or vitamin deficiency. Fortunately he was eating and drinking fine (as long as he could stay standing upright) so I was able to give him some extra supplements. But after a few days and no improvement I had to look elsewhere. In the meantime he seemed to be getting worse. His vision in the other eye was questionable and Tom was feeling like it might be time to put Hank down. The photo of him was taken just a couple of days before he fell ill and I was scared that it would be the last one I would have of him. I stood there in the yard, holding him up crying. I just wasn’t ready to let him go yet.
I finally decided to use antibiotics. I’m not one to like to use them on a whim so it took a lot of thought to decide to go this route. Clare gave me some advice on the length of treatment and so I put him on the patio (it seemed to offer him better footing) in his own pen and makeshift coop and started him on antibiotics. Within a few days the improvement was noticeable. After 10 days he gobbled at me. By the end of the round he was strutting and calling for his ladies. He’s now back with everyone and soon to be a dad again. I’m glad we fought for him since he was still willing to fight.
We just planted our tomatoes, eggplants and tomatillos this weekend. In a couple of more weeks we’ll be planting peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans and corn. In just a few months we’ll be busy harvesting and preserving our bounty through drying, freezing and canning.
Preserving has been gaining in popularity and I see some really great recipes out there on the interwebs. I also see some dangerous ones that kind of scare me. I’ve seen so many bad ones, in fact, that I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to judge canned goods at events anymore unless the recipe and canning process is included with the sample. You can’t simply shoot from the hip and make up recipes that “sound about right” and expect for them to store at room temperature for extended lengths of time. There’s a science behind canning to ensure safety that I can’t stress enough. So I figured that with canning season fast approaching we should discuss some guidelines to canning to help everyone stay safe.
1. Just because it’s on the internet does not automatically make it a safe recipe.
Be critical of every recipe you see on the internet. Check to make sure it has enough acid and is processed long enough if it’s not pressure canned and uses low acid ingredients (especially if it is raw packed). If it’s high acid make sure it is water bath canned long enough. The USDA has safe canning guidelines through their National Center for Home Food Preservation site that you can cross reference from. Also avoid recipes that have dairy, eggs, and pureed low acid food (such as lemon curd, pumpkin butter and pureed bananas) and don’t also say that it is to only be kept in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time (usually for a month) or to freeze the finished product.
2. Books are *usually* a safe bet.
I only say “usually” because I’ve seen some questionable and downright dangerous recipes even in published books. Check the book to make sure it says the recipes have been tested for safety. The most reliably safe books (though I can’t testify to the flavor of all the recipes in these books) are:
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
- Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry
- Put ‘em Up!
- Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
- Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving (2009 Revision)
3. If you find a safe recipe do not alter it, but if you do, know the guidelines.
Even adding a bit more onion to a recipe can alter the pH enough to make it unsafe. For water bath canned products you want the pH to be 4.6 or lower. However, unless you have a super deluxe Vitamix blender, chances are just blending and using a litmus strip isn’t going to give you an accurate reading of the acidity. The safest way to test is to send it to a food lab, but that can get expensive so just stick with a tested recipe. Always follow the basic safe guidelines if you do change the recipe. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t alter it. The canning recipes I have on this blog always follow the safe guidelines and I almost always increase the acid when I don’t need to just to be on the safe side. I will not post low-acid recipes that require pressure canning. And recipes that don’t follow the safe guidelines, like our oven-baked heirloom tomato sauce, will always be for eating immediately of freezing (which is why we don’t include canning instructions with it).
4. Not all fruit is created equal.
While many fruits are high acid and relatively easy to can, some are either borderline or low acid and must have acid added. Figs, bananas, white peaches, Asian pears, watermelon, mangoes and tomatoes all fall into this category of not acidic enough to can on their own without added acid. Be sure to follow the USDA guidelines if canning these items. I have posted tomato canning guidelines that are based on USDA guidelines and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
5. If it’s a low acid food and you don’t add acid don’t even think of water bath canning it (same goes for recipes with meat in them even if you do add acid).
I’m serious here. Botulism will fucking kill you. Adding loads of salt or sugar won’t save you here.
6. If a recipe says to pack pint jars don’t pack quart jars and increase the time to what you think it should be.
Sometimes you’ll come across recipes that only give you the processing time for a specific jar size. Don’t pack into larger jars because you don’t know what the processing time is for them to be safe. Tomato paste is a good example of this. Due to it’s consistency it’s best to only can it in 8 oz jars. And never can using jars larger than a quart unless the recipe calls for them (tomato juice can be canned in 1.5L jars per the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).
7. Don’t create shortcuts.
- Cut fruits or vegetables into the indicated size as this ensures that the center reaches the correct temperature and acidity if using low acid foods.
- Don’t “eyeball” the amounts of your ingredients – think of this as a science experiment rather than an art project.
- Start your processing time after the water has come back up to boiling if using a water bath canner or after you reach pressure when pressure canning.
- Pack hot food into hot jars that were slowly brought up to temperature, not cold jars (the sudden heat from the food will stress the glass causing breakage).
- Don’t reuse lids (Tattler lids are the exception). You can reuse rings though.
- Follow head space rules for a recipe – don’t over or under fill jars.
- Always make sure there is at least 1″ of water covering the jars when in the canner.
- Do not skip the water bath for acidic foods. The water bath heats up the food in the jar to kill microorganisms. The heated food increases in volume (why you need to follow rules for head space) pushing out air. The water covering the jars doesn’t allow air to reenter the jars. The air also is heated making it expand and escape the jar. Less oxygen means less oxidation and less spoilage (except for anaerobic microorganisms like Clostridium botulinum, many other microorganisms require oxygen). You’re much more likely to get mold if you don’t properly do a water bath. Mold changes the pH of the product making an acidic food more basic which opens it up to C. botulinum, which causes botulism.
- Remove air bubbles after packing hot jars. Sometimes the food can contain enough air in it to alter the head space. Plus extra air means extra oxygen and more chances for spoilage.
- Always wipe the rim with a clean cloth before putting the lid on. This will help ensure a good seal while also removing a vehicle for contamination to get inside the jar.
8. Take the rings off your jars after they seal.
The rings are really just designed to keep the lid on while canning and should be removed after they seal. This will help reduce corrosion and rust on your jars but more importantly removing the rings help you avoid a false seal. A failed seal would indicate spoilage but if the ring keeps the lid down you wouldn’t necessarily know the food has spoiled – smell, taste and looks can be deceiving for some types of spoilage. However, you can put the rings back on once you break the seal to avoid creating a mess.
9. Remember to adjust for altitude.
10. Use the right equipment.
Steam canners and oven canning are not recommended and cannot remove the risk of all types of spoilage. A stock pot that is deep enough for your jars plus 1″ of cover is fine for water bath canning. Make sure to use a rack on the bottom of your pot though. The rack helps keep water moving all the way around the jar and helps prevent the jars from breaking. Use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker, when canning low acid foods and meat. Pressure cookers don’t have as reliable gauges if they have one at all. Also make sure that your pressure canner is in good condition. Old or poorly taken care of pressure cookers are dangerous and can explode. Your county extension can test your pressure canner for you or direct you to somewhere that can.
Canning isn’t something that should intimidate you by any means, you just have to follow some rules to make sure your finished product is safe. Properly canned foods are delicious and most times are much healthier than what you can purchase at the store. So get out there and start canning!
This morning I saw tomato and pepper plants for sale. This morning I also saw frost on the ground at my house, which has a much milder climate than where I saw these plants for sale. What do peppers and tomatoes hate? You guessed it. Frost.
So why in the world would some nurseries be trying to sell frost sensitive plants while there is still frost? Come on now, we live in a capitalist society, we all know the answer there. They don’t care if your tomato plants get ruined, they want to get a jump on selling the most popular vegetable plant around.
Don’t be fooled. Just because the nurseries have it does not mean it’s time to put it in the ground. Even some of the best nurseries can make you fall victim to buying before it’s time. Spring is here, the seed catalogs are out. It’s time to plant!!!!
Hold on a second. What’s your last average frost date? Not yet? Then don’t buy those frost sensitive plants. Actually I wouldn’t even buy them within 3 weeks of the average frost date. Remember, it’s an average, so some years it will be later in the year. Our last average frost date is supposed to be sometime in February but I’m not buying it. As I said, we had frost last night and I know last year we had frost as late as mid April. Since then I’ve learned that February is NOT our last frost date and I won’t plant until after mid April.
Now, you can very well plant them early if you have season extenders, but mid-March still seems excessively early to even use those. Tomatoes and peppers aren’t just frost sensitive but they LOVE heat and prefer their nights to not go below 55 deg F. Planting them too early can stunt them or just knock them back so they don’t get a good start.
Nurseries do a disservice to gardeners by selling plants before they can safely go in the ground. Beginning gardeners trust nurseries to know when planting times are so if tomatoes are in they think that it’s time to plant them. Then they plant them and the plant dies because it’s still too cold still. And nothing discourages a new gardener like a dead plant when they just start out.
It takes just about a week to grow and increases your feed by up to 6x* by weight. It’s highly nutritious and provides 20% protein by dry weight. You can feed it to poultry, rabbits, ruminants, horses, just about any grass-loving livestock animal around.
When my friend, Brande, first told me about it I wasn’t so sure. I had heard great things about it but had only seen these huge, incredibly expensive setups for large livestock operations. I hadn’t even thought that it was possible to do fodder without one of these setups.
What in the hell was I thinking? Nowadays everything can be done DIY so why couldn’t making fodder? It would just require a bit more labor on my part.
There are really only about 3 things you absolutely have to have: seed, water and planting trays with drainage holes. There’s no need for soil or fertilizer. Because we have a mild climate I’m just growing mine outside on a table. The best seed to use is barley as it has the highest nutrition and protein of all the other grain seeds. I can get an 80lb bag of barley for just over $18. You can try to find hulled barley but I find that unhulled seems to work fine. When watering, I recapture the water that drains to reuse.
You only want to put about a 1/2″ of barley in your tray. It really does swell up and I found that with 3lbs of barley the tray was busting out at the walls. Before you start with making fodder you need to soak the barley for 6-8 hours in water. This degrades germination inhibitors in the seeds (this is why you should also soak peas and legumes before planting). You want to cover the barley with enough water so that when it expands it remains covered.
Once your soaking is over pour the seed and water into your tray and then rinse the seed. Cover your tray so that it remains dark to help encourage germination. Above is the day after soaking. Small root tips begin to show up at the ends of the seed.
Water your seed 2-3 times a day. You want to keep it from drying out too much. By the second day after soaking you’ll start to see more of the roots.
The following day small bits of green will poke their heads out of the layer of seeds and roots. It will soon be growing so fast you can almost watch it. By now you can take the cover off because you want the grass blades to develop chlorophyll and energy.
On the fourth day after soaking you’ll be seeing the beginning of a nice little green carpet. It’s not much yet but the following day you’ll be amazed.
Day 5 and it’s starting to look like turf. Keep watering at least twice a day.
By day 6 you’re almost ready to feed it. Supposedly this is when the nutrition of the grass begins to peak.
On day 7 it’s time to feed the fodder. You can see here the awesome layer of roots, seeds and grass. Poultry and ruminants will consume all these parts. Rabbits generally only like the greens. I started with 3lbs of seed and produced nearly 15lbs of fodder. It took my hens a couple of days to eat one tray’s worth of fodder. If you start a new tray ever day or every couple of days you’ll have a constant supply of fodder to feed.
*I’ve only seen about a 5x increase but I’ve heard that 6x is also possible.
I wanted to know if there is a drip irrigation system that you guys would recommend! I don’t have such a big garden just a few raised beds! I seen your system and is huge but i just need something small! It would be really helpful! Thank You!
Choosing Your System:
Part of my day job description includes putting together irrigation construction documents for construction projects. Usually these documents are for huge sites with extensive systems involving thousands of feet of piping, dozens of valves and sometimes multiple controllers.
You’re probably scratching your head trying to make sense of what you just read. That’s OK because the typical home garden is not going to require all this fancy talk, but it will require a few necessary items to work well.
I like to set it and forget it, meaning I really don’t want to have think that much about watering. Of course, having a garden that would require several hours to water every other day is the reason for that, but even with smaller gardens you might want to think about going this route because sometimes life gets busy and you might not be able to water for a few days. If you have automatic irrigation you won’t have to worry about losing your garden that you’ve spent months nurturing.
I’m also of the mind that you should have a system even if you don’t necessarily need it. This was highlighted last summer with the severe drought in the Midwest My mom, who lives in Ohio, depended on summer rains to water her garden but the rains never came. The heat did though. She had to spend large amounts of her time hand watering just to keep everything alive. When you don’t need it you can just turn it off and when you do need it it’s nice to just be able to turn it back on and let it do its thing.
There are so many different types of irrigation how in the world do you choose one? My first word of advice is put down the pre-assembled “garden drip” irrigation kit at the big box store. Every site is unique and those kits do very little to accommodate even the average one. Second you’ll need to figure out if you want to do drip irrigation or overhead irrigation (which I won’t be covering here).
I recommend drip for several reasons. First it is low flow and the water is put directly on the soil at the rate the soil can absorb it. This reduces evaporation and eliminates drift from wind. It also reduces fungal diseases that can be caused by overhead watering while also being less likely to cause puddling and soil erosion. In addition, you’re less likely to have weeds when you control where the water is going through drip. The weeds have a tendency to congregate at the point source rather than spreading out across your entire bed. The downside of drip, however, is that it can be clunky to handle and it gets in the way of digging, hoeing, and raking the soil. It also doesn’t last as long and has to be checked over thoroughly before every season. To me, however, the saving in water (and $$$) is well worth these minor headaches.
Designing & Installing:
You will either need to draw up a site plan of the area you want to irrigate or get some construction marking paint (spray pain that can be applied when the can is upside down – usually comes in fluorescent colors). The main purpose of this is to find out how much PVC irrigation pipe you are going to need between your water source and the places you want to water. Generally the pipe will only need to run to the end of each bed closest to your water source. Rainbird, a popular irrigation supply company, has some design manuals online that you can use to help with your irrigation layout.
Stick with 3/4″ Schedule 40 PVC pipe unless you’re doing a really large area on drip or you’re using spray. Then you’ll need to do pressure loss calculations but I’m not going to go into that here. Pipe is pretty cheap so if you purchase more than you need (which you will) it won’t break the bank. In addition to the pipe you’ll also need the joints (elbows, tees, 4-way, couplers, etc.). This is why a drawing is helpful. Keep in mind that any turns in the pipe are usually going to have to be at 90 degrees.
The photo above shows how we set up our valves. The valves are what turns the water on and off automatically (there is a manual switch as well). They are connected to an irrigation timer (also known as a controller) that is in our water tower by low voltage wire. When you enlarge the picture you can see the wires that you connect on the top of the valve (they haven’t been hooked up yet in this picture). If you just have a few raised beds you’ll probably only need one valve. We have three different watering zones – fruit trees, vegetable beds (we require two valves due to water pressure loss), drought tolerant landscape – which all require different watering schedules so we need to have four valves for our backyard.
It might look complicated but once you have all the parts you need it’s really not. Everything gets put together rather quickly. The hardest part of installing irrigation is digging the trenches for the pipe and electrical wires in my opinion.
For the threaded joints you’ll want to purchase plumbers/Teflon tape – a thin relatively stretchy white material that’s not sticky to the touch. With this you’re going to wrap the threads in the same direction you’ll be screwing on the fitting. This tape fills in any gaps in the threads, sealing it from leaking. Wrap it around about three times but don’t let it extend past the end of the threads as it can potentially clog your system if a small piece breaks off. For the PVC slip joints you’ll want to get pipe cement and primer. Some people claim that you can skip the primer, however, this is only true for systems that will not be pressurized. With drip systems the lines will have pressure when they are on so make sure to use primer first, otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of leaks that you can’t always fix. Primer is generally purple in color and you apply it first to the inside of the connector and the outside of the pipe. Allow it to dry a bit. You then apply the cement in the same fashion and insert the pipe into the connector. It should have a firm hold to finish connecting within a few minutes but don’t plan on running water through your system for at least 24 hours to allow the joint to cure.
You’ll want to run pipe to your beds. Connect them with female slip joints and cement. I prefer the pipe riser for each bed to be located on the outside of the bed, though some prefer them on the inside. If the bed is already in place and filled it will have to be on the outside. On the left is what you need for each bed. The ball valve is important because it allows you to turn off individual beds when they aren’t planted. I like to use the threaded gray risers as they contain carbon to help make them more resistant to UV. You can use PVC though if you want to. just remember that if you use the threaded pipe you’ll need elbows with one end being threaded.
Now that you’ve got water to your beds you’ll want to get the dripline down in your bed. There are several options regarding the type of line you want to use. I personally like dripline with inline emitters because it’s easier to handle. You can get these in 1/2″ and 1/4″ size. With each of these sizes there are different emitter spacings within the line. The 1/2″ dripline’s smallest spacing is 12″ which might be too far for vegetable beds. The 1/4″ size comes in 6″ spacing so go with that. Some people like to use the porous soaker lines which look like black spongy material that “weeps” water when it’s turned on. If you have hard water or even just well water this type clogs really easily and you’ll need to replace it before the season is over (trust me, I’ve had to do this). The inline emitter dripline use turbulent flow to help keep the emitters from clogging.
Another option is drip tape. Drip tape is inexpensive and puts a good amount of water down in a relatively short time frame. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long. By our 2nd season we spent a good portion of our time repairing blown sections of it. It also requires a much lower water pressure to run correctly, which requires difficult to find pressure regulators.
Once you figure out which type of dripline you want to use you’ll need to layout how you want to water it. I prefer to run the water source on the end of the long side versus the center of the short side. From the source you run 1/2″ poly across the short side and then cap it. At ever 6-9″ (spacing is personal preference and also depends on the width of your bed) you’ll insert a barbed 1/4″ tubing connector. There’s a poly tubing hole punch gun that makes this job MUCH easier. Connect 1/4″ dripline tubing to the barbed connector and run it to the end of the bed. Crimp the end and stake it down. You can buy end clamps or just use zip ties.
One more thing you’re going to need to consider – when dealing with poly tubing you want to either use universal fittings or fittings that are the same brand as the tubing. Different manufacturers vary the size of the tubing ever so slightly so the fittings of another manufacturer (unless they are universal) will not work on their tubing. The links in the following list are just to give you an idea of what you’re looking for. They don’t necessarily work together. Your best option is to purchase everything from the same store, which will generally have compatible parts.
The Basic Supplies for Automatic Drip Irrigation
- Controller/Irrigation Timer
- Sprinkler wire with wire splice connectors
- Anti-siphon valve with atmospheric vacuum breaker & pressure regulating filter
- 3/4″ PVC pipe
- Various 3/4″ PVC connectors – couplers, elbows, tees, risers, adapter
- Teflon tape
- PVC primer
- PVC cement
- Supplies to connect to water source
- 3/4″ Ball valve (one per bed)
- 1/2″ Poly Tubing Compression Adaptor (one per bed)
- 1/2″ Poly Tubing
- 1/4″ dripline
- Punch gun
- 1/4″ barbed connectors
- End clamps
A word about controllers
With controllers you can go cheap or you can go expensive, but either way, it will most likely be your most expensive piece of irrigation equipment. The more costly a controller is, the more features it will have such as being able to attach rain sensors, soil moisture sensors, or more programs and stations. The one I’ve linked to is the one that I own and have been very happy with it. It has a rain delay and a rain shutoff switch so I can turn it off during the winter and when it’s time to run it again, it keeps all my previous programs. The programming is relatively easy to do as well.
One thing I will caution you against is getting battery operated controllers that also double as a valve. In my opinion (and experience), these are not reliable and go out regularly. The worst is when you’re on vacation and the battery goes out with the valve open (yeah, this happens more than you’d think).
We’ve now been milking Sedona for 7 months. For the first couple of months, she was the only one we were milking and she gave a good deal more milk, about 50-75% more than the Ghetto Goats individually had when we were milking them. In all fairness, Daisy was a first freshener* and Bella was a second freshener, while Sedona is a third freshener. Even though she is only ahead of Bella by one freshening, it was clear that she was a better producer than the Ghetto Goats. That’s to be expected though since Sedona is a Nigerian Dwarf, a dairy breed, and the Ghetto Goats are, well, not a dairy breed. I usually just call the Ghetto Goats “Old World Pygmies” because they don’t look at all like the breed standard. They’re just not cobby (though Bella could fool you this year with her super fluffy winter coat) like pedigreed/registered pygmy goats.
We’ll be breeding Bella again soon. She’ll then be a third freshener so we can see how well she does compared to Sedona. I’m also interested in seeing how long Sedona will produce. The Ghetto Goats went strong for 15 months until we decided to dry them off because we bred them again (Bella didn’t settle though). Surprisingly Bella still had enough milk left when Panda was just a few days old that we could use her to feed Panda when Daisy was suffering from milk fever and didn’t have enough milk to feed her.
The real difference though is in the milk. While Sedona’s milk is OK, it’s a bit bland compared to the Ghetto Goats’ milk. I would almost say the flavor is flat comparatively It also turns goaty before the Ghetto Goat milk does. The Ghetto Goat milk is much richer and sweeter than Sedona’s milk because it has a higher fat content. The cream rises in the Ghetto Goat milk after just a day. For those of you that milk goats you know what a big deal that can be since goat milk is naturally homogenized and the general rule of thumb is not to expect much cream. For those that don’t milk, it’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to find goat butter.
Milk stand attitude goes to Sedona. She calmly stands still and lets me adjust her legs while milking. Daisy, on the other hand, likes to get pissy on the milk stand. She likes to hold her legs together blocking me from reaching her teats, and sometimes, if I try to move her legs she’ll throw a little kick my way. Her other preferred milking stance is the squat, hoping I can’t reach her teats. She really likes to do this when it’s time to dip her teats after milking. Fortunately she stopped laying down. In addition, Daisy has to also wear a special collar made from a 1 gallon plant pot to keep her from self-sucking (more on that later). Bella, is less of an issue with the milking but isn’t as calm as Sedona and she does have a tendency to throw the occasional temper tantrum.
The process of milking, other than attitude, has to go to the Ghetto Goats. They have super-sized teats which makes for less hand cramping and faster milking – a good thing with uncooperative goats. Sedona has small teats (though large orifices) so it takes longer to milk her. In addition, because of their size, I’m the only one that can milk her since Tom’s hands are too large. Sedona also has a tendency to hold back a lot of milk.
Milk Wars Score Card
- Quantity: Sedona
- Lactation Length: No Clear Winner Yet
- Quality: The Ghetto Goats
- Attitude: Sedona
- Ease of Milking: The Ghetto Goats
So far it’s a tie. We’ll have to see how long Sedona can produce milk before we call this one.
*Freshening is the goat-term that refers to how many times they’ve kidded. With each kidding their milk production increases.
Turkeys. They aren’t nearly as popular as chickens so info on them can be difficult to find. Heritage turkey info is even harder to find because even fewer people raise them and there are differences in raising them compared to the Broad Breasted breeds. Fortunately Backyardchickens.com has a forum for turkeys, which helps immensely. I also have a book called Not Just for Christmas that has some info, though I find it rather lacking. A Storey Guide might be better but I haven’t reviewed the one for turkeys. For us, turkeys have basically been a “learn as you go” experience. What I have learned is the following(this applies to heritage breeds which is what I have experience with):
8.Turkeys fly pretty well. If you don’t keep them in a completely enclosed run you must keep their wings clipped. When they are younger this means clipping once a week as their wing feathers grow pretty fast.
I woke up early this morning thinking we must be getting a downpour. I looked out the window to realize it wasn’t raining yet. What I was hearing was the large tamarack tree across the street getting pummeled by 50mph winds. In my mind a did a quick inventory and when I realized that we don’t have any trees within damage distance to our house I went back to sleep for another hour.
All last week they were warning us that there was this big storm coming in on Thursday that was supposed to drop 12″ of rain between Friday and Sunday with a small break on Saturday. The last time they predicted this it ended up being overly dramatic and it barely showered. As Friday came along the rains and high winds they said were coming never really showed. I guess you could say we let down our guard and it was business as usual. Tom even left to go pig hunting this morning.
I eventually woke up at 6am to the same sounds as before but it was louder. The tree was still being abused by the wind but now it was raining forcefully. It was time to get up anyways, so I got dressed and headed out to milk the goats. The barn was still nice a dry since earlier this week we decided to get sandbags which we then placed around the goat barn. So far, so good. I got the goats milked and let the chickens and turkeys out and headed back to the safety of the house.
By 7am it was raining even harder. I couldn’t believe it. Our gutters and downspouts couldn’t keep up with the water. Unfortunately we had left our large 75 gallon recycle bin open and the water from the gutters was just pouring into it. In less than 45 minutes the bin was overflowing. Damn! We should have gotten rain barrels. The torrential downpour only lasted about an hour and eased off to a steady hard rain.
At 8am I threw on a jacket, my muck boots, and headed out the door to see what the damage was. The chickens and turkeys got off light. There is some pooling of water in their yard, but their coops are both dry. Not that the birds seem to care. They were out in the rain eating worms. The rabbits were nice a cozy. The large Coast Live Oak tree that their hutch is under took the wind like a champ and didn’t even drop a small limb.
I knew when I saw the newly formed 6″ deep creeks running down what used to be walkways between our garden beds that I was going to be in trouble. The sandbags did what they could but they just weren’t quite high enough and there was water pooling in one corner of the goat barn. We’ve got about 12″ of deep litter in the barn, so the water was pretty high to create a pool. The goat yard was even worse. The creeks running down the yard were met with another new creek coming from our neighbor’s property and they were emptying out in the goat yard. After about an hour of moving mud I was finally able to get positive drainage again to get water away from the goats. Did I mention goats HATE water? The sandbags were back to working when I walked away soaked and muddy just hoping that the water continues to move.
When we were throwing down sandbags this past week we brought up the idea of moving the goat barn. Not an easy task as we’ll have to tear it down and rebuild it. As I was moving mud I looked over the yard and saw that the place we’re planning to move it to was the only spot in the goat yard that wasn’t flooded. I foresee another project happening within the next couple of weeks.
Meet Big Red. She’s a two year old Buckeye. She’s also one of my favorite hens. The Buckeye is a threatened breed of chicken according the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. They were originally developed during the turn of the century by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio – the only chicken breed developed completely by a woman. Buff Cochins, Barred Rocks and Black-Breasted Red Game were used in their development. Their pea combs and wattles are incredibly small – nearly non-existent – which makes them very cold tolerant birds. I always recommend them for people that live in cold areas because of their tolerance to frigid conditions. Even though we live in a milder climate than most of the country, our Buckeyes consistently lay medium, brown eggs through the winter unlike our younger hens.
From the ALBC’s Buckeye page:
The Buckeye should not be confused with the Rhode Island Red, even though they share some history. Buckeyes are unique in their body shape: slanted, short but broad back, very meaty thighs, powerful wings and breast. They appear very close to the Cornish, as bred in 1905, in body shape. (It should be noted that the originator indicated that she did not use Cornish in their breeding; the Cornish body shape was simply her goal.) In color the Buckeye is also unique. The color of the Buckeye is darker than that of the original Rhode Island Red (later, the Rhode Island Red was bred for a shade of color even darker than the Buckeye). The Buckeye also has a slate colored bar in the undercolor (fluff) of its back; the Rhode Island Red’s feathers should be red to the skin. Both breeds share the trait of tight feathering – unique in the American Class of poultry.
They also have a unique personality. If you can get past the fact that they always look angry they are actually very friendly, though quite active. We have a batch of 4 week old chicks right now, including 3 Buckeyes. They are the only ones out of the group that actually allow us to pick them up and carry them around perched on our fingers. Big Red is our “event chicken” because she’s so friendly and doesn’t shy away from large groups of people. They are great foragers, however, and don’t do well in confinement. They have a reputation for hunting rodents rivaling the hunting ability of cats. The roosters can make a huge range of sounds including a dinosaur-type roar.
The Buckeye is a dual purpose bird with hens weighing 6-7 lbs and roosters weighing 9lbs. Readers of Mother Earth News rated Buckeyes as the best for meat and flavor. Back in early 2011 we raised some Buckeyes for meat and they were definitely tasty and grew out relatively fast for a heritage, dual purpose breed at 16 weeks.
Of all the breeds we’ve raised so far, if I had to choose just one it would be the Buckeye. Now if only I can find a dinosaur-roaring rooster….