December 29, 2014

2014 Year In Review

It's hard to believe another year has flown by! We've been busy and accomplished much. We experimented, had our ups and downs, and learned a lot. Here's our year in review.

January

January brought cold and snow.

January was unusual because we experienced the coldest winter temperatures we've had since moving here; the lowest being 8° F (-13° C). Inside, we finished the ceiling on the master bedroom. Our outside project was to finish fencing an area of the woods for the doe browse.

February

2014 master plan photo 2014_master_plan_scan-1_zps877e6479.jpg
2014 revised Master Plan 

In February we revised our master plan and got started on a new chicken coop. The eventual goal was (and still is) to build a decent outbuilding for a goat barn. The first step was to get the chickens out of the old shed and into quarters of their own. Our inside project was supposed to be the bedroom floor, but this was temporarily postponed.

March

We put a metal roof on the chicken coop.

In March we got a roof on the chicken coop, found a great deal for the bedroom floor, and kidding commenced! Two sets of triplets, Ziggy's and Lily's, and a close call for Surprise and her miracle twins. 

April

Purple top turnips and Wando peas.

Our last frost is in April so it was a busy planting time in the garden. We ate out of the spring garden and I tried my hand at violet jelly. We made a lot of progress on the chicken coop: walls, windows, and roost; then nest boxes and interior people door, and an entry door for the chickens.

May

1967 Simplicity Model W Walking Tractor

This was a big month in that we finally got some much needed equipment, a walk-behind tractor with numerous attachments. It was also the month we finished the chicken coop and moved the chickens in! Kidding season finished up with Zoey's twins, giving us a total of ten kids for the year, six does and four bucks.

June

Caleb, treed by a baby pig.

In June we got our first pig! We'd been wanting pigs for several years and finally did it. The breed? American Guinea Hog. Our house project was to finally finish the master bedroom floor. It was also the first year we had a second batch of home-hatched chicks.

July

Our 2nd rainwater collection set-up.

Summer was actually pretty pleasant this year, with temperatures cooler than in the past and with fairly good rainfall until July. That was when we installed a second rain collection tank. In thinking ahead toward building a goat barn, we developed a plan for a round barn that we really like. Toward that end we started tearing down the old outbuilding that stood where the new barn will go.

August

August was for canning, freezing & dehydrating

August was a busy month in the garden - picking and preserving. We got our second pig, a little female (Polly) to go with our male (Waldo). I got my first unofficial Kinder doeling and a Great Pyrenees livestock guardian. The dog promptly ran away and sadly, we never did find him.

September

Chickens now help us with the compost.

I started a new experiment this month and moved the compost piles into the chicken yard.  We put the goat barn on hold and started working on repairing and renovating the front porch. Best of all, I bought my first two registered Kinder does.

October

This field was once solid with ground ivy. The pigs have been rooting it up.

In October we learned what a good job pigs can do on ground ivy.  It had completely taken over and destroyed our back pasture. With the pigs help, we got most of it cleared out and replanted. We made a lot of progress on the front porch: we came up with a plan for it, got the old floor torn out, and the crawl space sealed off. Also I bought my first registered Kinder buck.

November

Recycling the roof, posts, and wall really improved the old goat shed.

In November I launched my eBook series, The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. Outside, we finished tearing down the old "barn" and recycled its roof and walls to make an addition on the old goat shed. Next, we installed the new floor on the front porch. We also bought electric netting and a solar fence charger to see what the pigs (and goats) could do in the garden.

December

New front door, installed at last

Work resumed on the front porch. We installed the porch posts and a new front door! Also noteworthy was my Meyers lemon tree. December is our evaluation and goal setting month, a perfect activity for when the days are damp, dreary, and drizzly. More on our new goals soon.

How about you? When you look back over 2014, was it a productive year or full of ups and downs? Did you accomplish what you hoped or take unexpected detours due to circumstances?

December 28, 2014

Around the Homestead

It's been six months since my last "Around The Homestead." Time flies! Here are a few updates on projects I've mentioned but haven't followed up on.

Pastures 

Pasture improvement and maintenance is ongoing. This fall I replanted two, the buck pasture and back pasture. They are both coming along slowly (too slowly, but what can one do?).

Back pasture. New forage is growing, but slowly
Buck pasture, a little farther along.

We've been fortunate that November and December have been mild and rainy enough to make for good growing conditions, but the growth is still too young and tender to let the goats on it.

Winter Wheat

I have two small patches of winter wheat.

There was a long dry spell after I planted, but at last it came up!

Transplanting

I'm using cattle panels to plant Jerusalem artichokes
along the fence line. The idea is that the goats can eat
the leaves without demolishing the plants. I hope. 

It's the time of year for that. I've been relocating Jerusalem artichokes and moving volunteer blueberry bushes.

Garden (Lone Bed)

Lettuce, radishes, mesclun, and my garlic

Overhauling the garden this winter meant I didn't get much planted for a fall and winter garden.  What I did plant has been pretty sparse in coming up. I lament that, but we do enjoy the little bit we get.

Barn Razing

Everything's down and gone, except the concrete slab which used to
be the "coal barn" carport. Hopefully that will become my milking room.

We've got the old coal barn completely down and the area pretty much cleaned up. The next step will be to trim the dead branches from the old oak tree which could cause damage. That will also be next year's firewood, so that's two benefits with one job.

Goat Breeding

Daphne & Helen

I'm about 95% confident that my Kinder girls have been bred, and about 95% that Surprise hasn't. This is based on whether or not any of them have (or haven't) gone back into heat. I'm not planning to do any other testing, but will keep an eye on them. Helen's due date would be around March 11, Daphne's would be closer to April 2. I've had Surprise with Gruffy repeatedly, but she keeps going back into heat so I'm assuming first generation Kinders are a no go.

Little Series of Homestead How-Tos eBook

How to Make
An Herbal Salve
Thank you to everyone for your kind words about the publication of Book 3 in the series. They are encouraging! If you think it is worthy of your endorsement, please consider writing a review at either Amazon or Smashwords, or better yet, both! Reviews are what help Indie authors get the word out and sell books. Folks want to know what you think!

Look for Book 4 of the series to come out next month.


December 26, 2014

Homemade Doughnuts


When I was a little girl my grandmother often made doughnuts. There was absolutely nothing like them in the world. With no little ones to wake us up early on Christmas morning we had a more leisurely breakfast and I made fresh, hot doughnuts. What a treat!

Homemade Doughnuts
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or 2 tbsp yogurt or kefir with remaining 3/4 cup sweet milk)
  • fat or oil (your choice) for frying, enough to fill cast iron kettle at least 2 inches

Heat fat or oil to about 375°. While it's heating, combine about a cup and a half of the flour with the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Roll out to about 3/8 inch thick and cut with a doughnut cutter. Check the oil temperature by frying a doughnut hole first. It should fry in 2 to 3 minutes. Brown on each side and gently remove. Drain on brown paper. Eat fresh, and coat the remaining doughnuts in powdered sugar.


December 22, 2014

Front Door!

New front door, installed at last

I'm very pleased to show you our new front door, finally installed. What a difference, both outside and in.

Old front door

The old front door was functional but not very aesthetic. Nothing a fresh coat of paint couldn't spruce up.

This is why I couldn't get rid of this door fast enough

Inside, well, now you can see why something needed to be done. My wintertime solution to this was to tack a folded quilt over the door. Kept the drafts out but, boys howdy, was it a nuisance to bring firewood in from the front porch. We bought the new door back in early 2010, but structural concerns kept Dan from putting it in. One had been the repairs to the front porch floor, which were now done.

The new door was a bit larger, so another concern was whether it would fit into the old opening. Removing the old door was no problem, but there was a problem removing the trim.

Door trim behind the siding

In the above photo, you can see that the siding was installed on top of the door trim. One option was to remove the siding to get the trim out. That, we did not want to do; we've been nailing the new siding right to the old. The other option was ...

Hurray for the sawzall

... the sawzall (reciprocating saw). Once Dan cut through the nails, the piece pulled right out.

Like all the other doors and windows we've replaced in this house, the front door had no proper header.

This is what we found once the door and trim were removed

The way it's just toenailed in makes me wonder if this was the original location for the front door. Dan's upgrade -

A lot of my photos are wonky. It's the camera, not the house!

Then he covered the gaps and we were ready for the door. Cracks and openings were foam insulated  from the inside.


I missed a good shot of the next step, which was to put up a sheet of the new siding first. The new door was installed on top of that.

One sheet of new siding went up first, then the new door. 

This is the same barnboard-look siding we're using on the rest of the house. (Photos here and here). For now, I primed it and painted it white.


Once the rest of the siding is up I'll do a proper paint job with the proper color scheme.

House colors: blue siding, brick red doors, white trim.

Inside? What a wonderful difference that window makes.

Needs trim, which won't happen until the windows are in 

No more getting dressed in front of the woodstove in the morning, but I love all the light the window lets in. The living room was always so dark because I keep the windows heavily draped to insulate from cold in the winter and heat in the summer. We used to have to turn on a light to see anything, but the new door lets in plenty of natural light and I love that.

The next step will be to replace those windows, although there is no time table for that yet. [Click here for that post.]

December 19, 2014

Announcing Book 3 of The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos

I am excited to announce the third book in my new eBook series, The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. The newest addition is entitled,

How To Make An Herbal Salve: 
an introduction to salves, creams, ointments, & more.

When I launched the series, I asked for suggestions. One request was for information on healing herbs and how to use them. This is my first eBook on that topic.

The official blurb:

"Herbal salves are easy and fun to make. This little eBook discusses herbs, oils, beeswax, essential oils, why some herbal preparations don't work, and how to make an effective salve. Included are simple, basic recipes for slave, lotion, lip balm and non-petroleum jelly."

Like the others, the list price is $1.99 (USD) but, now through Sunday, you can get it for free at Smashwords! Sign up, choose your format, and use this code JF87V (expired). If you prefer, you can have it auto-delivered to your Kindle from Amazon USfor $1.99 (where they won't let me offer it for free because I didn't sign up for Kindle Select).

You can see all the books in the series (all three so far ;) here, along with a list of where they're available. I'm working on a fourth and hope to have that out soon.

December 15, 2014

Feeding My Goats: Research, Thoughts, & Changes

Over the years I've written quite a bit about feeding my goats. With our self-sufficiency goals, feeding our animals from the homestead is a primary concern. Progress has been slower than we'd like, and I'm always contemplating how we can do better. Recently, I finished some rather extensive research for Critter Tales, the book I'm currently working on. If it hadn't been for the book I probably wouldn't have dug this deeply, but I'm glad I did because I've come to some conclusions and made some changes in the way I feed my goats. The following is an excerpt from the current draft of the "Goat Tales" section of the book. I hope it will be useful for those concerned about feeding their goats.
~~~

In the beginning, I assumed we would have to grow grain for our goats. Grains are high in energy but low in crude fiber, as are the beans or peas which are added for protein. Together, grains and legume seeds are referred to as concentrates. This is considered the necessary non-forage portion of the diet. The modern pelleted form usually contains corn and oil or fat for energy, soy or cottonseed meal for protein, plus added fiber, vitamins, and minerals for a complete feed in a bag.

With Dan's and my goal of feeding our animals from our land, I assumed I would need to learn how to make my own concentrate mixture. I would need to know what grows well in our area, plus I wanted to find a soy substitute, because soy requires extra processing to make it digestible. To grow a year's supply of these things would be more challenging than the garden. It would require good soil and adequate moisture, but at a scale needing more land, more water, larger equipment, and more storage space. Because of that I wanted to do my homework first.

As I researched what to grow for our goats, I learned there are a wide variety of opinions about what to feed them. Some folks are able to maintain healthy, productive goats without grain. Others assume it's a must and can't imagine feeding goats without it. They believe grain is essential to a goat's health and well-being.

The reason for feeding grain and legumes to ruminants is to enable them to reach their "genetic potential" for maximum milk production and rate-of-gain, i.e. weight gain for meat. [3] One of the questions I had to ask myself is, do I really need maximum production? If I want to make any significant income from my animals, then my answer will likely be yes. As someone who simply wishes to live on what I can grow and produce for myself, then I need to consider my answer. Is it possible to be satisfied with what my goats can provide without being pushed to their limits? Can I adapt our diet to true seasonal eating? More importantly, does our feeding regimen fit our values of stewardship and self-sufficiency? Is it in their best interests to be pushed to maximum production or will I burn them out? Is it possible for my goats to thrive without a concentrated type goat feed?

In Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals, Dr. Paul Dettloff, DVM comments that veterinary textbooks of the 1950's make no mention of acidosis. It was not a problem when ruminants (cattle in his example) were fed on hay and pasture alone. The problem developed when the standard feed for cattle became grain, particularly corn, both as feed grain and as silage. The result has been that acidosis and it's various symptoms are now common: hoof problems, loose and runny manure, decreased resistance to disease, decreased butterfat, and shortened lifespan. Autopsy reveals an enlarged, yellowing liver. [4]
In goats, symptoms of acidosis are similar to those in cattle: decreased appetite, indigestion, dehydration, depression, weight loss, foot problems, scours, B vitamin deficiencies, decreased resistance to disease, and eventually death. Preventative measures include adequate roughage (especially long stemmed grass hay), whole rather than cracked grain, feeding hay first, and slow changes in diet to give the bacteria in the rumen time to adjust. [3] Acidosis is also the reason goat owners leave out free choice baking soda, so the goats can self-treat mild cases.

The problem is that the rumen is not designed to digest grain and seeds. It is designed to digest roughage, which is a generic term for the long stemmed, high fiber plants which make up forage, browse, and hay. According to the classic Feeds and Feeding by F. B. Morrison, the rumen is unique because it contains digestive bacteria which are able to break down plant cell walls, particularly cellulose and pentosans. This is something digestive enzymes cannot do, which is why roughage is low in digestible nutrients for monogastric (single stomach) creatures. Ruminants, on the other hand, are able to assimilate more nutrients from roughages. The longer the roughage stays in their rumen, the more nutrients they can extract. However, the digestive bacteria will also digest the starches and sugars found in grain (and in molasses, which is used as a binder in processed pellets)[5]. Dr. Dettloff, writing sixty years later, makes the connection with acidosis. The digestion of starch throws off hydrogen ions which lower pH, initially in the rumen but, eventually, systemically. The body cell membrane's sodium-potassium pump becomes unbalanced so that the immune system suffers and the animal's condition deteriorates.[4]

What goats need are plant material with long coarse fibers. These stimulate the rumen to function properly in what is known as the "roughage effect." During digestion plant matter is broken down and begins to ferment. Because it is not very digestible, roughage requires re-chewing to further break down the cell walls to release nutrients. We know this as chewing the cud. This action also neutralizes rumen pH because goat saliva contains buffers. [6] This buffer is a naturally produced bicarbonate, which according to M. Hadjipanayiotou, is apparently superior to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in its ability to regulate rumen pH. [7] The more the animal chews its cud, the more bicarbonate is released into the digestive system. Grinding roughage into small particles (as for making pellets) greatly reduces this effect and the rumen's ability to digest and buffer properly. [6]

Something that surprised me is that goats don't need high energy feed (grains) to keep warm during cold weather. Among other nutrients, ruminal fermentation produces volatile fatty acids (VFAs). These provide over 70% of the needed energy supply, [8] enough to enable the animal to stay warm.[9] Robert L. Johnson of the International Dairy Goat Registry concurs, "They need plenty of real roughages–tree bark, dry leaves, poor-quality hay, even straw. If you give a goat a big bowl full of high-protein feeds on a cold winter night, you are actually chilling the goat; still more energy is needed to digest the meal, and goats can get pneumonia."[10]

Keenan Bishop summarized it well for Kentucky's The State Journal, "Goats do not perform well on high concentrate or high starch diets; however, they perform best on feeds in the range of 55-70 percent total digestible nutrients with just enough nitrogen in the gut to produce microbial protein and enough digestible fiber to produce fatty acids." [11]

The subject became more complex from there. In addition to crude fiber (CF) some articles now discuss acid detergent fiber (ADF). Basically, higher ADF means lower digestible energy and is used as an indicator of when to add grain to the diet. When I could not readily find charts with this information, I began to wonder how complicated I really wanted to get. Isn't the simple life supposed to be, well, simple? My conclusion was that everyone recognizes the inability of ruminants to digest high starch concentrates, but their solutions were finding ways to avoid symptoms rather than eliminate the cause of the problem. They want to dig deeper with scientific research to find the exact numbers needed to obtain a profitable balance between production and health, while adding rumen buffers, neutralizing agents, and inventing rumen modifiers. Trying to find exact, scientifically calculated figures for a roughage/grain/additive ratio may make sense in a dry lot, feedlot, overgrazed, or production situation, but it did not seem the best plan for our goals and our goats. To me that seemed a game of Russian roulette that I don't want to play. Free range goats will choose a large variety of things to eat if available, and are healthier for it. Our job is to steward our land to keep that variety available.

That still left the question of protein, another much talked about topic in regards to feeding goats, and another reason why folks feed concentrates. I've written many a blog post reporting my research on the protein content of things we can conceivably grow on our homestead: wheat, oats, amaranth, BOSS, grain sorghum, corn, cowpeas, comfrey, etc. How to make a homegrown feed mix containing the recommended 16% crude protein (CP) was a concern, because the things we can grow don't contain enough CP to get that percentage. That's why soy is commonly used in commercial feeds.

It was when I read Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care that I learned that overfeeding protein can actually cause health problems such as mastitis, acetomenia, milk fever, ketosis, foot problems, and also mineral deprivation, especially copper. In addition, legumes which are used as protein sources: soy, alfalfa, beans, peas, tagasaste, clovers, etc., are goitrogenic, i.e they interfere with the thyroid's uptake of iodine. Fed in excess, they deplete iodine and can cause thyroid problems. I know that when I feed my goats lots of alfalfa, they consume more kelp, which is their source of iodine. [12] Phytoestrogens (plant based estrogens) are another concern and are found in significant amounts of in a number of legumes: alfalfa at certain stages of growth, various clovers, and soy, also some grains such as wheat and oats. These can effect ovarian function, fertility, and milk production [13]. Also they can be a contributing factor in ovarian cysts. [14] These things raised red flags in my mind in regards to whether or not the protein they provide is worth the risk. To put it another way, do goats really need all that protein?

Most dairy goat feeds contain a minimum of 16% protein (some higher). Proponents of natural goat care recommend 12 to 14% [12, 15]. According to the online Merck Veterinary Manual, the very minimum amount of crude protein needed by a non-working goat (i.e. not pregnant, lactating, or in rut) is 7% crude protein. [16] These figures are for crude protein (CP, which is actually nitrogen content). Of that, roughly 70% is digestible [10]. That means 16% CP yields approximately 11% digestible protein, 7% CP would be about 5% digestible. That seemed shockingly low to me after years of trying to figure out how to make my own rations containing 16%. In light of the other information, however, I was beginning to reconsider.

An extremely helpful article was one I found by Dr. Robert J. Van Saun DVM, of Penn State University. In "Dairy Goat Nutrition: Feeding for Two (How to properly feed the goat and her rumen)", he states that milk production can be increased by decreasing grain and maintaining a high roughage diet. How is that possible? Because the microbes in the rumen produce the building blocks of protein though bacterial fermentation.

"The dairy goat derives a majority of her energy and protein from microbial end products or the microbes themselves. Bacteria contain approximately 60% protein, which is of high quality and digestibility. In other words, the more we make the bugs grow in the rumen system, the less additional more expensive feedstuffs we need to provide the doe."

He goes on to state that in dairy cattle, microbes can provide protein for up to 50 pounds of milk.  [9]

According to another source [17] ammonia builds up in the rumen when rumen degradable protein exceeds the capacity of the rumen microbes to assimilate it. The ammonia is absorbed into the blood and converted to urea in the liver. This conversion process takes energy that could be used for making milk. This is why too much protein in the diet decreases milk production. It can further create a negative a negative energy balance which can eventually result in reduced fertility.

All of this supports a low grain, high roughage diet. Grain can cause problems but roughage keeps the rumen active, healthy, and able to extract those protein building blocks from that it.

What does all of this mean to me, in terms of growing grains and legumes for our goats? It means that if I can provide high quality forage, both fresh as pasture and browse, and dry as hay, then I do not need to focus on growing grains and legumes for them. I can put that land to use growing winter greens and root crops to supplement their diet rather than concentrates. If I do feed them grain and legumes, I would rather include it in their hay as whole plants, i.e. before the wheat has been threshed and with the peas still in the pods on the vine. The goats can get the nutritional boost from the wheat and peas, but with the buffering, roughage effect of the stems, pods, chaff, and leaves. They eat it all and the chickens happily clean up any dropped seeds.

~~~

I'll stop there for now, except to give you the bibliography below with links to my sources. As you can imagine, this has had quite an impact on how I feed my goats. Of grain, I'm down to only a very small amount: 1# daily for each of the Nubian does, about half a cup each daily for the Kinder does (does are fed twice a day so this is divided into two feedings), a tablespoon at the most for the bucks and kids, which are fed once a day. They all get a couple scoops of Chaffhaye, chopped garden vegetables, and a handful of dried herbs, fruits, and veggies. The rest is forage and hay, either what we grow here  (including weeds), or the best hay I can find to buy. I've also changed up their minerals and will post about that soon. Since these changes my goats look better than they ever have!

Will also add that most of the book isn't this intense or heavy! Mostly I'm focusing on our crazy experiences with our critters, with lots of hopefully useful information thrown in for good measure.

Bibliography

[3] Susan Schoenian, "The truth about grain: Feeding grain to small ruminants" Small Ruminant Info Sheet, 2007-2014

[4] Paul Detloff DVM, Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals Austin, TX: Acres USA, 2009, 9-12

[5] F. B. Morrison, Feeds and Feeding: A Handbook for the Student and Stockman 20th ed. Ithaca NY: The Morrison Publixhing Co. 1943, 27-28

[6] Suzanne Gasparotto. "Long Fiber: Critical to Good Nutrition", Onion Creek Ranch

[7] M. Hadjipanayiotou "Effect of Sodium Bicarbonate and of Roughage onMilk Yield and Milk Composition of Goats and on Rumen Fermentation of Sheep", Journal of Dairy Science Volume 65, Issue 1, January 1982, Pages 59–64 

[8] R. Bowen, "Nutrient Absorption and Utilization inRuminants", Colorado State University, 2009, Web. 12 Dec 2014

[9] Dr. Robert J. Van Saun, DVM, PhD of Penn State University Dairy Goat Nutrition: Feeding For Two  

[10] Robert L. Johnson, "The Feeding Of Goats" International Dairy Goat Registry, April 29, 1996, sadly the site has changed and the article removed.

[11] Keenan Bishop, "Getting your goat and feeding it too", The State Journal, Oct. 7, 2007

[12] Pat Coleby, Natural Goat Care, Austin, TX: Acres U.S.A. 95 - 97


[14] Carol Raczykowski, "Hormonal Causes of Infertility in the Doe", Pygmy Goat WORLD, 1994

[15] Kristie Miller, "Goat Feeding ", Land of Havilah Farm

[16] NutritionalRequirements of Goats The Merck Veterinary Manual 

[17] "Crude Protein: Ruminant Nutrition, CNCPS, Crude Protein Fractions, Rumen (un)degradable protein" www.dietaryfiberfood.com Last Updated 05 April 2012

December 13, 2014

Lemons!

My little Meyers lemon tree, currently residing on the back porch

I'm going to have a real lemon harvest this year! I've had my Meyers lemon tree for about five years and barely get but two or three lemons each year, if any.  This year I probably paid the least attention to it, even wondering if it was worth keeping. And look! Nine lemons! That means Lemon Cream Pie for Christmas! What a treat. :)

Lemons! © December 2014 by Leigh
at http://www.5acresandadream.com/