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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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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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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Top 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Own Goats

Bella and Daisy hanging out on the roof of their old goat shed

A lot of websites and blogs tout how wonderful it is to own goats. They tell you the milk is wonderful, the goats are happy and the perfect little urban livestock. This isn’t one of those posts.

While I am usually promoting urban farming/homesteading in all it’s glory I’m actually going to tell you one thing you probably shouldn’t do, and that’s owning goats in the city. Of course they have their benefits, and I love owning goats, but they are definitely not for everyone. So if you’re on the fence about them, I’m going to tell you why you should get off the fence.

1. Their whole goal in life is to go where they aren’t supposed to be. Unless you have really good fences that they can’t jump over or go through you’re in trouble. They challenge all of our fences. Wood fences, chainlink fences, wood doors, etc. We switched our fencing from horse fencing to chainlink because it gives and returns to it’s original shape. The horse fencing they ruined quite quickly. Even though our goats are only 50-60lbs I’m always amazed at how hard they can ram and how much damage they can do to doors, walls, and fences.

They can jump pretty high and can balance on the thinnest of ledges. I once witnessed Daisy jump up and perch herself on the edge of sheet of plywood that was leaning against a fence.

It’s also important to note that they are like rodents. If their head fits so will the rest of their body, which can pose a significant problem if you keep them with chickens. Chicken food is bad for goats – very bad – and of course they love it and want to gorge themselves on it. We’ve had to get quite creative with the door to the chicken coop and also where we keep their feed.

2. They are as smart, if not smarter than, dogs. You may think this is a good thing. The problem is they aren’t nearly as willing to please you as your dog is. They can be ornery and stubborn, especially during their heat cycle, and you can only trick them once and then they are on to you. They can also be louder than dogs when they go into heat. Heat = screaming at the top of their lungs. You’ll end up having to do a lot of apologizing to your neighbors, and possibly even bribing.

3. Even though they are smart like dogs they aren’t nearly as easy to care for. They have special dietary requirements. I have to worry about whether their hay is selenium deficient. I have to make sure they are getting enough copper in their diet. Of course I also have to worry about them getting too much selenium and copper, which can be toxic. The girls provide better milk on quality alfalfa, but wethers (castrated males) can’t eat alfalfa without risking urinary calculi. They need to be regularly screened for CAE (Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis) and Johnes disease. And then you have to worry about parasites and worming. Trying to worm or drench (orally medicate) a goat is not fun. And just like your other pets, they also need yearly vaccinations.

We kept a buck here for a few weeks. Would prefer not to do that again.

4. Raising them for dairy means you have to breed them. Breeding them means kids and you’ll need to figure out what to do with the kids when they are born. There are only three options. You keep the kids, you sell the kids or you eat them. Of course, another problem with breeding is the buck. They are some of the most vile and disgusting animals to walk the planet. Long story short, they like to urinate in their mouth and all over their face and front legs. Let’s take a moment and imagine the smell they emit because of that. They can also be aggressive and noisy and they waste so much feed it’s downright ridiculous. If you’re in the city definitely don’t own them. This leaves you with having to find a farmer with a buck that is even willing to let you breed your does to him. Many breeders only run closed herds because of the risk of CAE and Johnes. So this can pose a problem in and of itself.

5. They are a complete time suck. They are social animals so you need at least two, but also you’ll need to spend a lot of time with them. Unlike dogs and cats they are not suitable to hang out in the house with you while you do other things. This means you’ll need to block out time to hang out with them every day. Then it comes to milking. When they have kids you can choose to keep the kids on them and then you only need to milk once a day, but eventually the kids will leave or mom will wean them and now you have to milk twice a day. I know some people that still just milk once a day, but our goats give up double the amount of milk if we milk them twice a day. So that means we have to be home every evening in time to milk them. It can be really inconvenient and put a hamper on events especially around the holidays.

6. They are not cheap. The upfront costs can be staggering to say the least. A good dairy goat will run you $300-400 dollars and you have to have two of them. Then you need an adequate shelter, feeders, waterers, mineral feeders, a milking stanchion, milking supplies (strip cup, teat dip, milk filters, milking pail, etc.), rodent-proof feed storage, and bedding. You also have to pay for stud service if you find a farmer that will let you breed your does. Vet costs are really expensive if you can even find a vet that will see goats. It takes a long time to make up the money you spent in dairy savings.

7. They are inconvenient. If you want to go on vacation you have to find someone to come over and care for them including milking if they are in milk. This is definitely not cheap and farm sitters in the city are not easy to find. Finding a vet that is within driving distance can be very difficult and it’s not like they usually have night or weekend hours. So if you need to take them in expect to either pay extra for off-hours care or take time off of work to take them. If you realize after work or on a Sunday that you are out of food you can’t just run to the store to get more. By then most feed stores are closed.

If you think you are up for having them definitely go for goats (as long as they are legal where you live, which I can’t stress enough). It’s important to know what you’re up against and of course this list is not inclusive and not all goats will do everything in the list. They aren’t awful and can really enrich your life, but it’s not all puppies and rainbows. They are a lot of work and require quite a bit of money.

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A Second Look at the Line

I wrote back in early February about that line between livestock and pets. I was pretty sure that’s how I felt. Pets you name and interact with and livestock you don’t. That is until these kids came along. It’s easy with chickens. They thrive without our attention. The kids aren’t the same. Maybe it’s that mammalian connection?

The plan all along was to use the kids for meat. People asked “Why don’t you sell them?” Well, they aren’t papered so they aren’t worth much. The only people that would buy them are people that would eat them. And to be honest, if someone was going to eat them I want to make damn sure it’s done humanely and the only way to do that is if we have it done ourselves. Keeping them isn’t an option either. We can’t keep them here, there just isn’t room.

Mork wanting to come sit on my lap

This is, of course, the downside to having a dairy animal. With milk usually comes death, especially for any male animals that are born. Simply buying milk helps support the veal industry.

So it’s something I’ve come to terms with. But I’ve also realized something else. Why can’t livestock be treated as pets? Why can’t they be given love just like our regular pets? Why can’t they have names? They have personalities and I think it’s only fair to give them a moniker of their own. We won’t be as close to them as we are to our dogs and cats, but we’ll treat them with the same respect.

These kids are so friendly. They love to jump in your lap and be held. The second you sit down they run over to get some love. Mork will climb all over you and nibble your hair. Mindy likes to crawl in your lap and fall asleep. Mongo isn’t quite used to us yet, but we’re working on him.

Of course I’ll be sad when they have to leave us, but I know it is inevitable and I want them to have the best life possible even if it is short.

 

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Saturday’s Farm Diary – Novella Carpenter & Urban Goat Raising

This past Sunday Tom and I joined a group of like-minded people at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley for their Urban Goat Husbandry Class. The class was taught be the well known Novella Carpenter who wrote one of our favorite books, Farm City. If you haven’t read Farm City I highly recommend you read it. It’s not a how-to book but a charming story of how she created an urban oasis on someone else’s vacant lot – her own squat urban farm.

Novella demonstrating how to trim hooves.

The 3 hour class was incredibly informative and I HIGHLY recommend anyone contemplating goats to take it. I wish we had taken it before we got goats. I don’t regret the decision of getting pygmy goats (as opposed to a dairy breed) at all. I’m just not very happy about how we got them as it makes our ability to breed them very difficult at the moment. I’m hoping the situation corrects itself very soon so we can get going on the task at hand – to start breeding them. Either way, we need to get them to a vet and get them tested for CAE, CL and Johnnes. We don’t have their previous vet information right now, but they need to be tested once a year if we are to take them onto someone else’s property.

Tom’s turn to trim hooves

The best part of her class was the hands on hoof trimming. We had NO idea how to do it (fortunately Bella and Daisy’s hooves are pretty good) and pictures online and in books just aren’t the same as real experience.

Novella’s quickly put together stanchion

Novella also showed us how to quickly put together a stanchion. Of course Tom will use his handy woodworking skills to make something a bit sturdier, but I was amazed at how simple it seemed to go together just from scrap wood she found around the station.
She also quickly went over how to make yogurt and also how to make cheese. We got to sample some of her cheeses which were fabulous! I am really looking forward to learning more things about goats.
She also teaches a Complete Rabbit Class that we really want to try. Her next class probably won’t be until September so we’ll just have to be patient. Urban homesteading can’t happen overnight even if we really want it too.

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Saturday’s Farm Diary – Novella Carpenter & Urban Goat Raising

This past Sunday Tom and I joined a group of like-minded people at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley for their Urban Goat Husbandry Class. The class was taught be the well known Novella Carpenter who wrote one of our favorite books, Farm City. If you haven’t read Farm City I highly recommend you read it. It’s not a how-to book but a charming story of how she created an urban oasis on someone else’s vacant lot – her own squat urban farm.

Novella demonstrating how to trim hooves.

The 3 hour class was incredibly informative and I HIGHLY recommend anyone contemplating goats to take it. I wish we had taken it before we got goats. I don’t regret the decision of getting pygmy goats (as opposed to a dairy breed) at all. I’m just not very happy about how we got them as it makes our ability to breed them very difficult at the moment. I’m hoping the situation corrects itself very soon so we can get going on the task at hand – to start breeding them. Either way, we need to get them to a vet and get them tested for CAE, CL and Johnnes. We don’t have their previous vet information right now, but they need to be tested once a year if we are to take them onto someone else’s property.

Tom’s turn to trim hooves

The best part of her class was the hands on hoof trimming. We had NO idea how to do it (fortunately Bella and Daisy’s hooves are pretty good) and pictures online and in books just aren’t the same as real experience.

Novella’s quickly put together stanchion

Novella also showed us how to quickly put together a stanchion. Of course Tom will use his handy woodworking skills to make something a bit sturdier, but I was amazed at how simple it seemed to go together just from scrap wood she found around the station.
She also quickly went over how to make yogurt and also how to make cheese. We got to sample some of her cheeses which were fabulous! I am really looking forward to learning more things about goats.
She also teaches a Complete Rabbit Class that we really want to try. Her next class probably won’t be until September so we’ll just have to be patient. Urban homesteading can’t happen overnight even if we really want it too.

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