April 19, 2019

Trying Again for Year Around Milk

A year around supply of fresh goat milk has been one of my self-reliance goals. I know some folks like to take a break from milking, but for our chosen diet, I need fresh milk all year long. This is mostly for my kefir grains, which need milk to stay alive. If I don't have my own source, then I have to buy milk. Seems better to always have my own available!

There are two ways to accomplish year around milk. I've blogged about these before, so I won't go into a long explanation (see "Year Around Milk" and "Dry Days Ahead"). For me, the best option is to breed at opposite times of the year: in the fall for spring kidding and in the spring for fall kidding.

Standard size dairy goats can't do this because they are seasonal breeders, but Kinders are aseasonal breeders. Even though they are half Nubian, they inherit the ability to breed in any season from their Pygmy genetics. This is one of the reasons I chose the breed, and one of the reasons I think they are the perfect homestead goat! (Pardon my prejudice, LOL. Just ask me and I'll tell you all the reasons!)

Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as it sounds! Fall heats are always the strongest with the rest of the year being more subtle. So far my several attempts to produce fall kids have been unsuccessful. But this spring I'm going to try again. Hopefully, I've learned more about detecting subtle heats and will have success.

My candidates are:





The best way to guarantee success would be to leave the girls with their prospective suitors for at least three weeks or more. The boys love this but I find it upsets all of the does terribly with a whole lot of hollering going on. It's less stressful for them to just visit for an afternoon for a couple of days in a row with a followup visit three weeks later. More predictable kidding too. But, since that hasn't worked well for me for spring breedings, I may try extended visits instead. Wish me Good Providence!

April 15, 2019

Spring Chores: Trees

One of the spring projects on Dan's seasonal to-do list is our trees. His list included:
  • the falling pines in our woods
  • overhanging branches along pasture fencelines
  • letting in sunlight for an upcoming solar project
  • firewood

From time to time, I've shown you photos of the pine trees in our woods. Of our five acres, about half is wooded with mature pines and young hardwoods. In the past couple of years the pines have been giving way to the hardwoods. This is ecological succession and can't be helped, but woe to humans who want to fence it in!

Photo from my Tending Fences blog post.

Some of these pines simply uproot.

This usually happens when we have saturated ground from a lot of rain.

Others simply break off anywhere along the trunk.

Pines grow quickly but most of ours are
tall and spindly from competition for sunlight.

Some of these are alive, but some dead. Dan tries to get the worst ones down before they fall on their own. Either way, it seems to create a lot of waste and is why he invested in his sawmill. As sad as it is to see those trees come down, they have been the source of timber and lumber for our barn and carport renovation.

This large pine tree was on the fenceline between two goat areas.

Although it looked healthy, in fact the heartwood was not sound

Here's the same tree, now ready for the sawmill.

The twigs and branches of all the trees we cut become woodchips.

The other bonus is that once the pines are down the hardwoods begin to grow and flourish!

I count three pine stumps in the foreground of this photo. What
remains are hardwoods which are beginning to fill out and grow.

Thinning limbs that extend out over our pasture is also on Dan's tree project list. This is actually one of our subgoals for pasture improvement. Forage doesn't do well in dense shade, but in our hot climate it appreciates light shade from a high canopy.

We saved some of the limbs for next year's firewood,
and used some to plant mushroom plugs (post here).

April is greening month! Limbs thinned means better light to the pasture.

The solar project is one of our 2019 goals. We want to put our extra fridge and freezer on a small, dedicated solar system. I've observed optimal sunlight for the past several years, but we also knew we would get more energy if we took down one strategically placed maple tree.

The fact that it was leaning helped with the decision!

This was done last February.

I think taking down trees to install solar is something of a catch-22. Shade from trees reduces temperatures by ten to fifteen degrees. Remove the shade and the house is a lot harder to cool!

Lastly, Dan selected a few trees to become next winter's firewood. How does he decide which trees to cut? Usually the most mature hardwoods.

The oak in the center of the photo before cutting.

They should be cut before they become old and weak. The tree above is mature, but also has a hollow spot which was once a branch.

Rainwater collects in it & becomes a mosquito nursery!

The water is also an invitation to wood rot.

Something else we've learned is that they need to be cut before they become too large for the chainsaw. We had a couple of old oaks that measured 48" across at their base. They had to come down because they were dead, but they were difficult to deal with. This one was still manageable.

It will become next winter's firewood. He'll work on cutting up over the next several months, but in the meantime it's a great place for the kids to play.

One thing we are careful to do is to make sure that each tree that comes down has at least one replacement.

One of the replacements for our two old oak trees.
The rotting stump of the old tree is on the left.

This is good stewardship. If this kind of stewardship was practiced universally, then hardwood trees would make a fantastic renewable resource. Unfortunately, this doesn't fit the mass production mindset and has forced us to turn the petroleum based plastics, vinyls, polyethylene, etc as an alternative. The triple whammy is that fossil fuels are needed to make, transport, and recycle them. Okay, I'm not intending to get out my soap box LOL. But I do think that properly stewarding our trees instead of trying to find alternatives would go a long way in helping the health of our planet.

This is a big spring chore tended to! I think Dan would have liked to make a little more progress, but for now, he's happy with what he's gotten done.

Spring Chores: Trees © April 2019 by

April 12, 2019

Kid Proofing the Hay Loft

When we built our barn, Dan installed a gate at the bottom of the hay loft ladder to keep the goats out.

Hay loft ladder

Besides crawling between the steps, they also slip between the ladder and the wall on the right.

Yesterday morning I found this ...

They not only climbed up by themselves,
but they climbed down by themselves too.

That was it! It was time to install a kid deterrent! I cast about for some ideas and finally came up with this...

Kid-proof hay loft ladder (I hope!)

It's a scrap of beadboard paneling leftover from our kitchen bathroom remodel several years ago. It slips in and out easily, and so far so good!

Unfortunately, it will probably deter the cats too.


But some things can't be helped.

Kid Proofing the Hay Loft © April 2019 by

April 8, 2019

Anna's Surviving Twin

Anna's little guy is now a week old and doing well. He still sleeps a lot but is becoming more active when he's awake. He doesn't have a name yet, but if I ask Anna where her baby is she usually knows where to find him.

In the background Henry (6.5 weeks old) looks on.

Big sister Miracle isn't interested in playing

Behold, a challenge.

Eddie and Nova (10 weeks old) watch.

Ellie's 3.5 week old twins River (left) and Hal (right) watch too.

What's next?

A little exploring in the pasture. Mama Anna is
on the left, Jesse James and Eddie are on the right.

A snack

Then while everyone is out grazing,

it's time for a nap under the hay feeder. 

Anna's Surviving Twin © April 2019 by

April 5, 2019

Poised For Planting

With our official last frost date still several weeks away, we're finishing up the winter garden and getting ready for spring planting.

Violets are blooming everywhere

We're still getting a little more lettuce and claytonia for salads, but the carrots were starting to get those little white growth roots so I pulled the last of them.

Last of the fall planted carrots

One oddball!

The garlic is just beginning to die back.

Winter wheat is doing well. It will be ready to harvest in June. We planted it with clover so it looks really happy.

Wheat with my crabapple blooming in the background.

But we didn't plant a lot this year, so I'm doubting it will be a full year's supply. Still, something is better than nothing.

Here's a closeup of that crabapple.

Crabapple blossoms

I have planted a couple of things. One was seed potatoes in pots. I've heard of this, but Mike at Living Prepared posted a really nice tutorial which got me motivated to give it a try.

Eight seed potatoes at Walmart for $3. Mike used supermarket potatoes, thoroughly washed, and his are growing just fine. I may try some of those too.

Potatoes haven't done well for me for several years, so I'm hopeful about this!

Peas are just breaking through too!

Hopefully it won't get too hot too quickly (a real possibility here). That's usually what puts an early end to my early garden. It would be nice to enjoy fresh peas in salads for awhile. Still, the chill is keeping me from jumping the gun on things that might get frostbit. Instead I've put my planting energy to spot-seeding the pastures.

I let the goats graze the paddock down first. Then I seed the areas of bare
soil and cover them with barn cleanings. This method has worked very well.

So that's it so far for planting. It's a hard time to be patient, but getting caught by a late frost wouldn't be good. So while I wait, tell me what's happening in your garden.

Poised For Planting © April 2019 by