The Cute

The kids are getting close to weaning. The oldest ones are now 13 weeks old and the youngest are 11 weeks old. Time sure does fly. It seems like it was just yesterday when Tom was trying to get the first two to take the bottle.

1424442_10152026285748826_1730113105_nAnd then it was their first time outside for a romp.

And then their first time figuring out that stairs were the best thing ever.

It’s been such a ride with these guys. No one is safe around them. 

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Attack!

 

They grow up so fast.

Tanq2

Tanq likes to talk

 

abby1

Abby: “What’s that strange black thing on your face?”

 

abby2

Abby and Trouble, who is looking extra mischievous

 

abby3

Abby, Kahlua and Betty

 

Betty and Emmy

Betty and Emmy

 

emmy1

Emmy is amused

 

Kahlua Trouble

Trouble and Kahlua

 

 

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Workshops are Back!

People have kept bugging me about whether I will be teaching more workshops. I would say “yes, there are some in the works” but never really got further than that. Friday, Brande and I finally sat down and worked on our schedule.

Garden Planning Workshop

421704_366072500090494_1182708223_nSaturday January 18, 11-2 p.m. at the Hub Vallejo 342 Georgia Street, Vallejo CA 94591
$30/person

Learn what, how and when to start planting for a well-timed and productive year-round garden here in the Bay Area. We will talk about concepts like companion planting, cover crops, perennials, and choosing the best varieties to grow.
We’ll go over what your soil needs to get through the year, and the proper methods of bed preparation and crop rotation to prevent pests and diseases. This workshop will involve developing a garden plan that you can use for the year.

Instructor: Rachel Hoff of Dog Island Farm www.dogislandfarm.com
Stop by the Hub this weekend to sign up, or sign up online at www.luludeuxmillinery.com/workshops

Homebrew 101 – Malt Extract Brewing and Hard Cider

February 15th, 11-2 p.m. at the Hub Vallejo 342 Georgia Street, Vallejo CA 94591
$30/person

Learn the basics to making your own homebrew and hard cider including the equipment you’ll need, different types of ingredients, the different types of homebrew and hard ciders, recipes and kegging and bottling procedures. We will get you started using the easiest form of homebrewing with premade malt extracts which make quality control much easier for the beginning homebrewer. Must be at least 21 years old to attend.

Class Instructor: Rachel Hoff has been making homebrew and hard cider since 2002 and has been making homemade sodas since 2009. She’s made a vast variety of different types of  ales, stouts, and ciders over the years.

Chickens 101
hens
Saturday, February 22nd 11am – 1pm in Vallejo
$25/person or $40/couple
Learn everything you need to know about basic chicken care. We’ll talk about the different breeds and reasons for raising chickens. You will learn about feed, supplements, and their dietary needs in general. We will go over how to handle your birds properly, examine them for issues, and take care of their physical and social needs.

Class instructors: Rachel Hoff has been raising chickens for eggs and meat for 8 years and has been teaching beginning and advanced chicken workshops for the past 2 years.  Brande Wijn has been raising chickens for both eggs and meat for 4 years, and currently runs a small urban egg CSA.

You can register here or email us if you would like to pay at the door. Contact Rachel or Brande at classes@dogislandfarm.com

Refund Policy:
You will receive a full refund if you cancel at least 7 days in advance. Refunds will not be given if you cancel with less than 7 days before the class, however, you are free to send someone in your stead.

Goats 101

goats

Saturday, March 15 11am – 1pm in Vallejo
$25/per or $40/couple

Have you ever considered raising goats but don’t really know if it’s for you? Come learn about what it takes to have your own milk-producing (or not) family goats. Meet a few, see where they live, and learn what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Learn about how milk production works, and about how much work goes into daily life with goats. Also get a chance to play with some baby goats.

Class instructor: Rachel Hoff raises dwarf breed goats for dairy and is a member of the American Dairy Goat Association.   Brande Wijn has her own small herd and has assisted with care and kidding of others’ as well.

You can register here or email us if you would like to pay at the door. Contact Rachel or Brande at classes@dogislandfarm.com

Refund Policy:
You will receive a full refund if you cancel at least 7 days in advance. Refunds will not be given if you cancel with less than 7 days before the class, however, you are free to send someone in your stead.

Gardening Tips & Tricks

yard1Sunday, April 6th 11am – 1pm in Vallejo
$15/person or $20/couple

The growing season is just starting to ramp up but it’s also the time when we have the most questions. Bring your questions and learn some new things. We’ll have a question and answer session about general gardening. We will also discuss soil fertility, planting schedules, how to be as productive as possible and how to garden on a budget. There will be starts available for you to purchase afterwards.

Class instructors: Both Brande Wijn and Rachel Hoff have been gardening for over 20 years each and teaching gardening workshops for the past three years.

You can register here or email us if you would like to pay at the door. Contact Rachel or Brande at classes@dogislandfarm.com

Refund Policy:
You will receive a full refund if you cancel at least 7 days in advance. Refunds will not be given if you cancel with less than 7 days before the class, however, you are free to send someone in your stead.

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What the Fodder?

Have you seen the new biggest craze in livestock feed?

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.

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All About Poop – Using Manure in the Garden

This afternoon while I was prepping a new bed for garlic it dawned on me that I should probably pay attention to which manure and bedding I add to it. Being a root vegetable I didn’t want to add high nitrogen to the bed because that would stimulate too much top growth and the energy of the plant wouldn’t be used for making those big, juicy cloves on the bulb.What I would need is a manure that helps promote root growth. Ideally this would be a manure that was high in phosphorus but lower in nitrogen. Potassium is the third micronutrient and is used by the plant for overall vigor and disease resistance so it would be OK if this was high as well.

One of the benefits to keeping all of our animals in separate housing is that I can pick and choose who has the most appropriate manure for each bed. I can also choose when in the growing season I can apply each manure. In general chicken, turkey and goat are considered “hot” and need to be composted first. We usually put these down right after harvest and let them sit until we plant again. Rabbit, on the other hand, does not need to be composted first so we like to use this during the growing season. Additionally, the bedding that is mixed in with the manures really helps improve our heavy clay soil.

Here are the average numbers for common livestock manures that are readily accessible to us. The numbers correspond with N-P-K (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium) and are percent of dry weight.

Goat 1.5 – 1.5 – 3.0

*Horse 2.3 – 0.9 – 1.7

Poultry 3.2 – 5.2 – 1.8

Rabbit 2.4 – 1.4 – 0.6

Steer 1.7 – 1.2 – 3.0

If you want to get really technical determining how much of each type of manures you should add you can do some calculations. Since growing food isn’t a business for us it’s not really worth it to have all the manure sent out to have it tested and then weigh everything before applying the manure. For home garden it can be more of an approximation based on the needs of different crops and what the different manures contain.

What I chose to use for the garlic was the old bedding from the goat yard that also included chicken manure from when the chickens were housed with them. This will be what I use for root vegetables. Once it runs out then I’ll mix the poultry and goat manure together to reach the same numbers. For other crops here is what I’ll be using where. (Nutrient requirements based on info in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible)

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=high; K=high

Combination of poultry and rabbit manure (or poultry and horse)

  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=moderate; K=moderate

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Asparagus
  • Mustard
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Carrots
  • Parnips

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=moderate; K=moderate

Combination of poultry and goat manure (or poultry and steer)

  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Fennel

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Melons
  • Watermelons

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=moderate; K=moderate

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Bush Beans
  • Pole Beans
  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=low; K=low

Light on the goat manure (or steer)

  • Arugula
  •  Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Horseradish
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Sage
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tarragon
  • Tomatillos
  • Turnips

Of course nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are not the only nutrients plants need, nor are they only nutrients found in manure. Manure also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, sulfur and various levels of other nutrients. Composted manure also contains a lot of beneficial microorganisms which help break down nutrients and make them available to plants. The addition of carbon (bedding) makes the perfect mix of nitrogen and carbon for composting. It wasn’t until we got chickens and started adding their bedding to our compost pile were we finally able to get it hot. Our livestock manure is actually mixed in with composted kitchen scraps and yard waste to add another level of nutrients.

It’s not just about nutrients when it comes to manure and compost. The addition of it greatly improves the soil structure such as loosening heavy clay soil or increasing water retention in sandy soils. In my opinion adding compost and/or manure is really the only way to go when trying to improve your soil. You just can’t have healthy, nutritious food without healthy soil.

*Horse manure is commonly available for free or very low cost at boarding stables. Be aware, however, that if the animals are pastured it could be high in weed seeds unless it is properly composted at a high enough temperature.

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A Garden for the Birds (and the Bees) Part 1

This picture makes me sad. It makes me sad because it no longer looks like this. We had a brilliant plan to redo the garden. We pulled everything out to make room for new plants. And then we moved the chickens.

And now it looks like this. And I hate it. I’m the mechanic with the crappy car that doesn’t run. For reals. This is the plan view:

Dirt and birds. That’s what I’ve got. And the trees are a bit bigger now. There are only a few token shrubs left, some of which look better than others. We don’t even have any weeds. Have I mentioned how good chickens are at weeding? This is just a portion of our yard, our “entertaining” area where we can seat a lot of people. The patio is actually more square footage than our house to give you an idea. The trees moving from upper left, across and then down to lower right are: Arkansas Black apple, Manzanillo olive, Arbequina olive, random orange tree, pomegranate, Karp’s Sweet quince, Johnny Appleseed Apple, Illinois Everbearing mulberry, Indian Free peach, Jubileum plum. The gate to the right of the chicken run has actually been removed so that the birds have access to the large orchard area near the garden. I’m not so concerned with that area right now as I just want to focus on this main part of the yard. The first area that people see when they enter our backyard.

A couple of months ago I was sent a book to review. I was so excited to get this book as it was EXACTLY what I needed to inspire me to get moving on the garden. Free Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard  by fellow designer Jessi Bloom was going to be my garden savior.

This is definitely a book you can judge by it’s cover. It’s got beautiful photos – full page photos – throughout with tons of information including basic chicken care, how to build a coop using different materials (plus the pros, cons, availability and relative expense of those materials), and of course what plants you can and cannot use around chickens. It also features different chicken gardens throughout the book which is great. I like seeing what other people are doing with their gardens.

As designers we take a lot of inspiration from what other designers do. We don’t copy but we are inspired by different ideas and then change them to make them our own. Our book shelves are lined with relevant topic books that we go through and tag the ideas that we like for each project. Then we work on bringing all the things we like together into a design that flows. This book is perfect to add to my shelf because it deals with a lot of plants I don’t normally use – perennials. I work mostly on large projects where we need bulletproof plants that don’t die back every year so my experience using perennials is a bit limited.

Next week I’ll unveil the plan I have for the backyard along with a plant list that will use chicken-friendly plants. I’ll also be incorporating bee-friendly, edible and medicinal plants as well. A following post after that will be the project of putting the plants in (though this might be over a few weeks because I’ll need to source them through wholesale nurseries. I’m really looking forward to this project.

 

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10 Repurposed (Free or Cheap) Things You Should Have

I was puttering around in the yard when I realized that we sure have a lot of random crap around our yard. I guess you can’t call it crap because it’s all really, really useful stuff. None of these items’ primary use is for gardening or livestock keeping but here we are using them all the time. So here’s my list of items that you should keep around if you are an avid gardener or own livestock.

5 Gallon Buckets

I honestly don’t know how I ever got through life without 5 gallon buckets. The food grade ones are awesome for storing food of course, though you need to take care to keep rodents out, but even the non-food grade ones are indispensable. I use them to mix potting soil, tools, irrigation supplies and pipe, and garden supplies. I also use them for harvesting larger amounts that my basket can’t handle (like the 70lbs of apricots we harvested this past weekend) and for collecting weeds in when I’m weeding. You can upend a bucket over a tender plant overnight if you’re suspecting a frost (just remember to remove it in the morning). We also cut them down, hook up a float and use them as automatic waterers (a very wise goat breeder told me that goats prefer to drink out of white buckets). You can even use them to make self watering planters!

Burlap Bags

These are the big bags that they ship coffee beans in. You can ask your local coffee roaster if they have any they can give you or sometimes the dump has pallets of them. We use them as weedblock (doesn’t work very well for bindweed or Bermuda grass though) and in our mushroom garden to keep logs moist. For events we use them as rustic table cloths but when we’re home they are useful for anything we need fabric for outside use. With the animals it works well for insulation on cold nights and for calming animals in distress when we have to isolate them. We also use it to help keep the chickens from sleeping in their nest boxes at night (in picture). By nailing one edge above the nest boxes and attaching a heavy bar to the opposite edge we can roll it up in the morning and bring it back down in the evening when everyone is done laying. Helps keep the boxes nice and clean because the girls can’t sleep in the boxes. Additionally you can use them as temporary planters by setting them upright filled with soil. The jury is still out though on whether they are good for potatoes.

Electrical Conduit

This is probably one of the most useful items we have around here. Tom works for an electrical wholesaler and so any bent pieces they receive he squirrels away until he has enough to bring home. We use it for making trellises for climbing veggies. When making trellises  you lash together two pipes (pound them into the ground some) on each end of the bed and then stabilize them with a pipe running through the crook made by the ends. Lash it all together and it should be pretty stable. Then we use line to run back and forth or up and down depending on what we’re planting. Beans and other twining veggies get a vertical trellis while grasping vines like peas, cukes and squash, get a horizontal trellis. Polyester line works well but we like to use the lines off of hay bales because they are stronger and last longer. Electrical conduit also works well for fence posts. When it involves keeping chickens out they are too thin for the chickens to jump up onto. We use it as the “rails” in our feed mangers for the goats and we even used it for building the chicken run. It is strong enough to support the wire that covers the run and was easily attached to the posts with pipe straps.

Stucco Wire

Similar to chicken wire, stucco wire is cheaper and stronger (after all, it has to hold the weight of stucco to a buildings). We primarily use it for temporary fencing and of course for poultry housing. It’s also good to wrap around newly planted plants to keep critters from digging them up. We use it in planters to keep the squirrels out and then we also tie scare tape to it to keep the birds away from by blueberries. It’s useful to use to for impromptu compost bins by wiring it into a circle because it allows for lots of airflow. It’s also a cheaper alternative to hardware cloth under raised beds to keep gophers out and also as cages under new trees and shrubs that you may plant to also keep gophers away.

Concrete Reinforcement Fabric

By far the BEST tomato cages available are the ones you make at home from a wire mesh meant for pouring concrete slabs. The spacing between the wire is perfect for reaching your hand through to pick even the biggest tomato but it’s also strong enough not to collapse under even the largest plant. We also use this mesh for tomatillos and you can make nice arbors with them. We’ve had ours for well over 5 years with no issues. At the end of the season you can open them back up and lay them flat or stack them in an out of the way place, which is what we do. There’s also an option to cut them into four pieces of equal size and then wire them into square cages which can lay flat for storage.

It also works well for potato towers because it’s strong enough to hold hay, soil and lots of potatoes!

Concrete Pavers or Bricks

We put in a patio in our backyard and ended up with a whole bunch of leftover pavers. People are always trying to offload extra brick and pavers on Craigslist and Freecycle so they are fairly easy to obtain. They can be used as small stepping stones through the garden if you don’t want to put down a path and just want something temporary. We also use them whenever we need a hard, level surface such as under water buckets. They are great for keeping wood and metal off of the ground as well. While galvanized metal is rust resistant it isn’t rust proof so we like to keep our metal pails on the pavers to reduce their contact with moisture from the soil. I also find them helpful protect our irrigation system, particularly where the risers come out of the ground. We stack them around the risers so that we don’t trip on them (makes them more visible) and also to keep us from damaging the rises with tools or wheelbarrows.

XL Wire Dog Grate

If you have livestock this is a must-have item. We have two of them plus a wire pen and all of them are in constant use around here. For rabbits they work well as temporary pens when you’re cleaning out hutches or just want to give them some time in the grass to play. We use the pen most often for this because it’s large enough to let them romp around. If you have chickens (same for turkeys and ducks) they are great for brooding chicks in. Unlike plastic dog crates, the wire ones have a removable bottom tray so you can get those chicks on the dirt as soon as possible. Plus this eliminates a slick footing which can cause splay leg in your chicks. They are also great for isolating a hen if she’s injured or broody, without separating her from her flock which is much less stressful. For goats it’s perfect for keeping the kids off of mom at night if you’re milking her in the morning. They sleep comfortably while still in full view of mom. I also use the crate for transporting the goats to the vet or breeder. It’s large enough for two dwarf goats to move around plus water and food.

Concrete Christy Boxes

These are the those boxes you see set flush in the sidewalk that have a concrete cover over them that usually says something like “Electrical” or “Water Meter.” They come in all different sizes from several feet long to 9″ rounds. The larger ones are the most useful for us as they make great deep raised beds in small spaces. The bonus is that they are concrete so they don’t disintegrate over time. They are also small enough to move around.

Old Recycle Bins

Remember back in the day when the recycle bins were just a small crate that you carried out to the curb? When we moved into our house we found over half a dozen of these boxes in our backyard. They’ve turned out to be extremely useful to us. We use the majority of them as storage bins for garden and irrigation supplies. We use them when weeding large areas because they are great for storing a lot of weeds between dumping. Flip them over and use them as a garden seat. We keep them out in the goat yard to either sit on or let the kids play on or in. I can also foresee making nest boxes out of them in the chicken house. Because they already have drainage holes in the bottom they can work as movable planters. Drill large holes in the sides, fill up with coffee grounds and grow oyster mushrooms in them as well. The uses are endless with these.

Pallets

The ubiquitous pallet can be had for free from many places. Tom’s work can’t get rid of them fast enough and has stacks of them in their yard waiting to find a new home. Pallets have been getting a lot of attention lately for their usefulness in the garden. From making vertical garden walls to temporary beds for lettuces they have a multitude of uses. We use them for a lot of things here. We built Turkey Town almost entirely out of pallets and burlap. We store our hay on them and we made a hive stand with one. We used them to make our potato bins, which we’re hoping increased yield this year. The uses of pallets are only limited to your imagination.

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Book Review & Giveaway – A Chicken in Every Yard

*Update: Susan is our giveaway winner! Look for an email from us to get your address.

The Review

I rarely ever read a “reference book” all the way through. Actually I have never read a reference book all the way through (not even my college textbooks). That was until I got my paws on A Chicken in Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Litt, owners of the Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon. It was an easy and quick read while containing quite a bit of information. It is a great primer for those that are planning on getting some backyard chickens. It’s also got some good information if you have chickens including a health section that goes over the most common ailments that your chickens might suffer.

It goes over various topics including some of the more popular breeds of chickens, brooding chicks (more on that below), litter management, feeding, predators, clipping wings and introducing new birds. A Chicken in Every Yard even includes simple plans for building a basic chicken coop. It discusses various options for runs that will effectively keep your chickens safe and happy. It breaks down how much time per day you’ll need to work at keeping chickens depending on what management system you’re using.The most interesting chapter, to me at least, was about eggs. I never realized there were so many different parts to an egg. It’s also got some delicious looking recipes that utilize those tasty homegrown eggs.

Because there are as many management styles as there are chicken owners, there are some things that they recommend that I personally don’t follow. Their recommendations include the use of medicated feed which is definitely an option but I wish they would have discussed other management techniques such as brooding without the need for medication. The one great thing they offer in their chapter on chicks is a checklist of all the supplies you will need if bringing home chicks.

This book is targeted towards those that will be keeping chickens as “pets with benefits.” If you want a book that also covers chickens for meat this wouldn’t be the book for you as they are clear in the very beginning that they will not be discussing using chickens for meat – even retired chickens. And this is really the only source of contention that I do have with this book. They don’t push the issue in regards to what to do if you end up with a rooster (while not likely with sexed pullets it’s still a possibility that people need to think about) and they “highly recommend” sending retired hens to farm sanctuaries if people don’t want to keep them past their egg laying years which I find very irresponsible. I always tell people that there are only two choices when you have chickens. They are either a pet or they are dinner. But don’t let this turn you off from the book because otherwise it’s quite good and if you are new to chickens you’ll be successful if you follow their recommendations (even if there are other ways to do things).

The Giveaway

If you would like a chance to win this book please leave a comment with your beginning chicken keeping questions. For extra entries you can like us on Facebook for one entry and get another entry if you share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter (that’s 3 extra entries). Just leave a comment here that you’ve liked us (even if you already do) and/or shared this post.

The giveaway will go until midnight on Friday, June 22nd and I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, June 23rd. Unfortunately I have to limit it to residents of the U.S.

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Sometimes All You Need is a Little Trim

Up on the Stanchion

One of the scheduled maintenance chores around here is hoof trimming for the goats. We do it about every 4-6 weeks depending on the growth. Unfortunately Sedona was a bit overdue. Well, actually she was really overdue. Because she’s pregnant we were holding off so as not to stress her out too much. Since she still hasn’t kidded we decided we just couldn’t wait any longer.

Tom first learning how to trim hooves

We do our trimming on the stanchion, though you can also do it without. In the photo above you can see how Tom is holding the goat (not our goat but rather Novella Carpenter’s goat during her goat class). We like the stanchion because it helps keep your pants a bit cleaner and the grain bucket keeps them preoccupied.

Sedona was in serious need of a trim

The goal to trimming the hooves is to remove the overgrown hoof walls that have a tendency to curl under. They can trap mud and manure up against the sole (frog) which can cause hoof rot. You’ll want a good pair of hoof trimmers which you can get at various feed stores.

Trimming the tip off of Bella's hoof

Scrape out any dirt that’s up against the sole and trim off the excess tip of the hoof. This is easy to see as you want to cut just to the sole.This also makes it easier to trim the hoof walls.

Trimming the hoof wall on Bella

Now you can trim the hoof walls. Trim the walls down so that they are as even with the sole as possible. Trim both the outer and inner edges. Don’t worry if you can’t get close enough. You don’t want to hurt their feet.

All cleaned up

I don’t even think Sedona noticed that we were actually trimming her hooves. But I’m sure she felt a lot better afterwards.

 

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Meet Your Farmer – Castle Rock Farm

Our meet your farmer posts feature a small family farm that we feel exemplifies the type of food system we all need to support. They show passion and dedication to raising and growing food sustainably.

Andy & Sarah

Not all sustainable farmers sell food.

This month post is on Castle Rock Farm in Vacaville, California owned by Sarah Hawkins and Andy Pestana. Castle Rock Farm is well known for their high quality Nigerian Dwarf Goats and it’s where our girl Sedona is from.

But Castle Rock Farm is so much more than just Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

The Birthing Clip

When we pulled up there was a family there and on the grass were two very happy kids, of the four legged persuasion, bouncing around like popcorn. They really don’t get any cuter than that and I was starting to miss having kids around here. The family scooped them up and got in their car and left. Over on the stanchion stood a very pregnant doe who was getting a birthing clip from Andy. The clip is to help streamline the doe and keep all the goop from getting stuck in her fur when she kids. It also allows you to monitor the changes in her body that occur right before kidding.

The Bee Garden

Our tour began with the bees which were nestled back amongst the oak trees. The bees provide not only honey for the farm but also beeswax and propolis for Sarah’s main business, English Hills Soap Company – soaps and skin care products that utilize the goat milk that her goats provide. She’s currently working on rebranding to English Hills Naturals to include some new products. I’m a HUGE fan of handmade skin care products. They don’t contain all the chemicals that the drugstore stuff has and they are generally much easier on your skin and hair.

Surrounding her hives she has a California native garden, which is another passion she has. It was so much fun talking plants with her. It’s not something I get to do very often with people outside of my field. Their mission for the property is to only grow natives or edibles. Both of which open up more income possibilities. Sarah is also starting a native plant nursery and even possibly selling herbs and tea in the future.

One of the many birdhouses

Walking around the property we got to see the buffer she is creating around the edge with native trees and shrubs. There’s the greenhouse that contains cans and cans of native plants inside and out and a small fruit orchard. While caring for and revitalizing  the flora on their property, the are also providing homes for the local fauna as well, including multiple birdhouses.

Lazy Goats

Of course the goats have the biggest part at Castle Rock Farm. It was a beautiful warm afternoon between rainstorms when we were there and most of the goats were lazily laying in the shade for their siesta. The ones that weren’t sleeping were chasing each other and one doe was teasing the bucks on the other side of the fence. The blubbering was some of the best I’ve heard. There was even a “la la la la la” from one of the bucks (I think it was CRF Tanzanite).

A very pregnant Infinity

Seeing some of the pregnant does made me start to question Sedona’s status. She only had about 5 weeks left of her pregnancy and didn’t look pregnant at all while some of the does that weren’t that far were huge. After talking with Sarah and Andy separately about it, I felt reassured that she was pregnant (and now it’s quite clear). We talked a lot about goat health in general and I learned a lot from them.

It was fantastic spending most of the day out there. Before we knew it we realized we had to run. They were very gracious hosts and we thank them for being so generous with their time and knowledge. I meant to buy some of her products while we were there. I’ll just have to make sure I pick some up the next time we go over there.

If you’re interested in checking out what their skin care products, you can find them online or at the Davis Farmers Market. They may possibly also be at the Vacaville and Napa Farmers market in the future.

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5 Reasons Why You Want Chickens

One of my girls enjoying some grass and bugs

At one point I was definitely a chicken hoarder. I’ve now been able to rein myself in to keep it at a respectable 12 hens. Well, right now we have 11 hens, but we’re hoping to get some new chicks here next month.

I remember when we got our first three girls. I would sit out with them totally mesmerized by their chicken-ness. As the pecked and scratched and bathed in the dirt I would just watch in amazement. Bringing in our first chicks wasn’t any less magical. I was intrigued by how mama would let the chicks hang off her waddle without even a flinch. She protected them like they were part of her (even though we had brought them home from the feed store). We’ve had many chicks since then, the majority we raised rather than having a hen do it, but I still really enjoy having them around. When Spring comes they squat in front of you (to them you are the rooster) and let you pick them up.

I love chickens. Who knew? I want to share the chicken keeping experience with everyone and have ended up turning into The Chicken Pusher. Unlike being a meth or crack pusher, I’m here to better your life. So here are some reasons why you should get chickens.

1. They make you breakfast (and lunch and dinner if you so choose and let’s not forget dessert). Well cared for hens make you a better breakfast at that. Chickens that have access to grass and bugs have shown to give you healthier eggs than their factory counterparts. The yolks are so dark they are almost orange and they taste so much better. Now when I see a commercial egg I get kind of grossed out. Not to mention they are much happier than the poor hens that live their lives like this:

2. They take care of pests and weeds. The photo of the hen at the beginning of this post was taken when they were first moved into that area about a month ago. Now the weeds are all trimmed short and there isn’t any sign of the real problem weeds we have going on. They have a particular penchant for Bermuda grass, which is awesome for us. Of course they also love bugs. Chickens are omnivores. Don’t let the “All Vegetarian Diet” on a carton of eggs fool you. They need animal protein to be healthy, especially during their seasonal molt which can really tax them. And did I mention that they also kill rodents? Yeah, chickens are pretty awesome.

3. They are super easy keepers. With an automatic waterer and large feeder you don’t have to tend to their basic needs that much. Even less if you allow them to free range. The only daily chore for our chickens is collecting eggs. When free ranging they also don’t require as much coop cleaning. We like to utilize deep litter here anyways, which really cuts down on cleaning while also keeping them healthy. You don’t need a rooster to have hens that lay (roosters can sometimes stress hens out too much so they lay less). Plus hens are pretty quiet only making noise for less than 10 min. a day right after laying an egg. This usually occurs late morning and early afternoon. They make no noise between sunset and sunrise. I wish I could say the same about some dogs in our neighborhood.

4. They make your compost. And they make enough of it that you will probably never have to bring offsite compost home again depending on how many chickens you have and how big your garden is. They really are great for low-input gardening.

5. They are entertaining and make great pets. Even though we don’t handle ours much they are still pretty friendly. They let us pick them up and handle them if we need to. If you do handle yours a lot from the very beginning they easily bond with you and can be great for kids.

There are of course many more reasons why you should consider having chickens. This is just a good list to get you started on thinking about why you should get some chickens of your own.

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