June 28, 2014

The Worst Part Of Keeping Goats

Maybe I should have said, "one of the worst parts of keeping goats," because there are several unpleasant tasks which often must be done. Goatherds would probably mention disbudding, neutering, and weaning. Of the three, I think weaning is the worst. It's traumatic for both kids and mamas, and there is about a week's worth of crying and hollering.

Splash is now one of the big billy boys. 

Weaning amounts to separating the kids from their moms. In our case, it's only the intact boys that get separated, because once they become sexually mature at about 2 months of age, precautions must be taken! Some folks wean bucklings at 2 months old, but I've had problems with that (details in an upcoming post, "A Goat Mystery Solved"). Because of that I like to wait till they're about 3 months to wean, if possible.

The terrible day finally arrived for Splash. Lily's triplets are three months old and being the biggest and strongest, he was getting the lion's share of her milk. Not to mention he was doing the buck thing, which none of the girls appreciated.

Introductions in the buck pasture went fairly well. Neither Gruffy nor Caleb is a bully like Elvis was, so that helped. Of course there was the obligatory macho goat ritual.

They haven't actually been mean to Splash, but they give him a hard time about entering the goat shelter. For his part, I think Splash has done quite well, better than Alphie did. He hasn't backed down from the other bucks, but still cries cried for his mother and the other kids. Alphie carried on so that I fully expected a sheriff's deputy to pull up one day and ask if I was torturing children. But then Alphie was constantly bullied by Elvis.

I still have Zoey's buckling to separate from her when he's old enough, but hopefully he'll take it like a buck, just like Splash.

June 26, 2014

Baby Chicks, 2nd Batch

Our second batch of baby chicks hatched late Tuesday afternoon. This is the first time I've had two broody hens in one summer.

This Buff Orpington Mama only had four or five eggs, and it looks as though two hatched.

At least that's all I've seen so far because they tend to hide under Mama when I come near.

The hardest part is keeping the adult hens out of the brooder area because I have yet to build something more permanent than a temporary barrier of hardware cloth. Thankfully, they're only interested in food, and not in giving the chicks a hard time.

And our first baby chick? Growing up.

Baby Chicks, 2nd Batch © June 2014

June 24, 2014

Bedroom Remodel: Floor Done at Last!

There were times when I thought we'd never get this project done. We got the carpet last March but the job never seemed to make it to the top of the priority list. Finally Dan had some time off work so we were able to finally knock this out! We did it ourselves (Dan mostly) with the help of library books and YouTube videos. Here it is in pictures.

Tackless strips were nailed around the perimeter of the room. I'm not sure 
why they're called tackless because they had tacks poking up through the
 bottom to secure the carpet.

The carpet pad was cut and pieced to fit inside the tackless strips. 

Those pieces were secured together with duct tape.

The padding was rolled back to apply double sided tape to the floor. I'm
glad we did this because it kept the padding from sliding  around when we
wrestled the carpet into the room. 

The carpeting was laid out.

This is one of the two tools we rented, a knee kicker. It's used to scooch the
carpet over the tacks on the tackless strip. The hammer was used to press
the carpet securely onto the tacks, i.e the tackless strip tacks. 

A carpet stretcher was the other rental. It, of course, stretches out the
wrinkles in the carpet when securing it on the opposite wall. 

The excess was trimmed off with a carpet knife and a stair tool was used
to tuck the edges of the carpet under. 

And there you have it!

Still to install are the thresholds and the bedroom door. Not sure when we'll get to that but then I can show you my before and after shots.

June 21, 2014

Homemade Goat Hobble

Some goats do not like being milked. I'm sure it takes some getting used to, but not all goats settle down once they've had plenty of time to get used to it. They fight it every step of the way. Such has been the case with Lily and Zoey, both of whom are getting milked for the first time this year! Even after milk stand training (see Fern's post at Thoughts From Frank and Fern), they didn't want to be milked.

I priced hobbles, but don't have the cash at the moment to buy one. I did some online research and came up with one that uses something I already have, a dog leash.

Why isn't the head piece closed? Because she's so cooperative? Not! Being  1/2
Nigerian, she can easily pull her head out. I have her secured with a 2nd dog leash.

Credit for this idea goes to Rachel at the Butterfly Ball, although I did modify it. She put her goats' legs through the loop at the human end, but I didn't figure my girls would stand for having me do that. Instead I gently sneaked the leash around her legs and ran the long end through the hand loop. I snugged it up a bit and wrapped it a couple of times to secure it.


Proper placement is key! Most photos show it low, around the pasterns. This may keep a goat from wandering too far if foraging, but to prevent kicking, the hobble needs to be above the hocks (back leg "elbow"). Thanks to Molly at Fiasco Farm for that tidbit.

It's so nice to get milk without a foot in the bucket or having the bucket kicked over. Hopefully the girls will settle down soon and get used to joining Surprise in the milk goat ranks. In addition to making mozzarella, I'm ready to try my hand at a few more new cheeses.

June 18, 2014

Of Deer, Dogs, & Gardens

In my "Around The Homestead" post, I showed you our latest outdoor project, privacy fence for the side yard, or "bird garden" as we call it on our Master Plan.  This fence was actually preparatory to the main event, fencing the garden. For those working toward self-sufficiency, all aspects of food automatically become a top priority. There are a lot of things we can do without, but food isn't one of them. Protecting the garden is a must! Besides insects and disease, we have two other garden predators - deer and dogs.

I frequently mention deer and show you photos of deer tracks, because they eat things like sweet potato vines, beet tops, peas, green beans, etc. I've tried a couple of things to keep them away, a scarecrow deer, a solar flashing LED light thingy, and finally Deer B Gon.

The Predator Guard works fairly well. I bought two and placed them facing in opposite directions about 4 feet off the ground, as recommended for deer. Customer reviews are mixed on this as it seems to depend on the deer! For us, I'd say it's decreased deer damage but not stopped it.

The Deer B Gon is a plant spray formulated from putrescent eggs. If you've ever smelled a rotten egg then you know it will deter anybody. It also contains cinnamon and clove oils for "no stink" application. It's applied about once a month and seems to work. Even though the ingredients can be considered "natural," I'm not particularly thrilled about supporting one of the big chemical companies, nor about having to be dependent on continually buying a product, any product, nor on having another container to discard.

The dogs don't eat anything, but they dig and do their business in the garden beds without regard to what's growing.

Photo take last January of dog prints I found in the garden

The only answer we could come up for all this was to fence the garden. Fencing the side yard and the garden have been on the Master Plan, but like every homesteader, we have a to-do list a mile long. And it seems to get longer as the years go by rather than shorter. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of discussion to figure out what's next. Having goals and priorities really helps here. Then sometimes it's circumstance that brings a project to the forefront. Such was the case here.

We started by putting up the rest of the privacy fence, which I showed you
previously. We've had the panels for awhile but needed to get them
out of the old barn so we can tear it down to make way for the new one.

I cut the path, then Dan ran welded wire fencing off the last panel. 

At the top of the garden there will be a gate, wide enough for Dan
to bring in the walk-behind tractor. The gate is yet to be built.

We wanted to make the front a little more aesthetic than welded wire, so
Dan made a four rail fence using 4x4s and decking planks (cheaper than
1x6s.) Welded wire fencing is stapled to the back of the posts and rails.

A wider drive through gate goes in at the bottom. Both gates are still to be built.

There's just enough room to drive a vehicle or equipment back through the 2nd
gate you see in the distance, such as the time we had to dig a new drainfield.

Those of you familiar with the damage deer can do to gardens will be quick to point out that ours is not a tall enough fence for deer. This is true. The 8 to 10 foot recommended fencing was not within our price range. What is in our favor is the hedge and shrubbery on the sides. Also the ridge in the front raises the 5-foot rail fence by two feet on the highest side of the ridge. My elderberry and hawthorne bushes on the lower side add an additional barricade.

I like that it defines the garden area. Still to do are the two gates, and then this project about finishes up fencing our perimeter.

June 16, 2014

More Solar Cooking Links

I found this list in my drafts folder. It's a collection of links I gathered last year, when I was considering using these plans to build my own solar oven. These are in addition to the links I gave you in my "Crossed Off My Wish List - A Solar Oven!" post. For anyone interested in solar cooking, I hope they are useful.

More Recipes:
Recipe Index at Solar Cookers International Network
Recipes from the Solar Oven Society
Step by Step Solar Cooking Recipes at CantinaWest
Cook with the sun

More Resources:
Introduction to Solar Cooking
How Solar Cookers Work
Free plans for making solar cookers 
Solar Cooking and Food Drying and Solar Stills and Root Cellars
Comparison of plans for solar cookers
Solar Cooking Guidelines (with cooking times)
Solar Cooking Tips and Tricks
Solar Oven Questions & Answers
Food Safety & Solar Cooking
Solar UV Index (for the U.S.)
Solar Cookers World Network
Solar Cooking Discussion Forums Archives

REMINDER: You can get an $80 discount on a Sun Oven by going to this page and entering the discount code "FiveAcres" at check-out. I am not a Sun Oven affiliate and get no sales fees for this offer. I'm just passing it on to you. Code expires June 30.

June 14, 2014

Around The Homestead

A few updates all rolled up into one post.

Corn Update

Truckers Favorite field corn interplanted with cowpeas & pumpkins

I think this is the prettiest corn we've ever grown.

Baby Chicken Update

Mama and Lone Baby Chicken are doing well.

This is the first time I've had a chick be so well received by the rest of the flock. No one pesters or even pays any attention to the chick, even Rooster Man! Plus, I have another broody hen. I gave her half a dozen eggs.

And, I have another broody hen. Due to hatch June 25.

This is the first time I've had more than one broody hen in a summer!

Fencing Update

View from the back side before the gate was installed.

After finishing the chicken coop Dan wanted to take a break from building. The current project is fencing (again).  First thing done was to finish putting up the privacy fence on the other side of the house. On the Master Plan, this is on the right side of the house for the area labeled "bird garden".  This will hopefully be an outdoor relaxation area since we have no back yard. It would be nice to sit out and enjoy the weather some times!

Solar Cooking Update

Cooking freshly harvested potatoes for potato salad.

A 100% solar cooked meal: chicken, carrots, turnips, and potato salad.
Everything but the carrots are homegrown (we've already eaten all of ours)

I'm using the solar oven every day unless it rains or rain looks imminent.

Screen Door

Sam takes a peek out the screen door. The cats like looking out

Dan finally got the screen door hung on the back porch. I am really, really happy about this. Since my non-air conditioned back porch / laundry room is also my summer kitchen (when I can't use the solar oven) plus my canning kitchen, I need all the access to cooler air I can get. We hung the kitty door bell on it because the kitty door (under the bench on the left) is one-way only these days, out. That's because all three cats like to bring their catches (usually live) onto the back porch!

The door still has to be painted, and we'll need something to protect the screen from claws, but at least it's up.

Parting Shot

I just did a pig update, but couldn't resist passing on this shot.

Cooling off. 

For some reason his water dish is preferable to the little mud hole we made. What a pig.

Around The Homestead © June 2014

June 12, 2014

In Which We Name Our Pig

So we decided to call our pig Waldo.

We're still looking daily for a mate for him. In the meantime, he hangs out with "the boys". Life is good for a little pig.

June 9, 2014

Crossed Off My Wish List - A Solar Oven!

Something I've had on my wish list for awhile is a solar oven. Last summer I planned to make my own windshield shade solar cooker, with directions found at the Solar Cookers World Network, but we had such a cloudy, overcast, rainy summer that I didn't bother. I hadn't given it a thought so far this year until a couple weeks ago, as I was waiting for my interview on the Homestead Honey Hour. I was listening to the adverts and one was from Sun Oven. They were offering a discount for Prepper Broadcasting Network listeners. Never one to pass up a bargain, I decided to look into it.

I read through their website carefully and then did a little more research. The most helpful information came from a solar oven comparison page, where even the cons for the Sun Oven weren't so bad. The other oven I considered was a SunCook, which Dani at Eco Footprint ~ South Africa has. I've read her blog for a long time and so trusted her recommendation. The price was considerably higher, however, probably due to shipping because they are manufactured overseas. In the end, I used the discount code from the radio show and got $80 off the All American Sun Oven with dehydrating and preparedness accessories, plus free shipping!
Quick update: I've been authorized by Sun Oven to offer my blog readers an $80 discount like the one I used. Go to this page, and enter the discount code "FiveAcres" at check-out. Offer expires June 30.

In my excitement I don't want to sound like a commercial, so I'll let you read the convincing sales pitch for yourselves here and here.  I will show you some basic features.

The oven can be used for either hot or slow cooking. For maximum oven temperatures, it must be kept aligned with the sun, of course, which requires adjusting its position every half hour of so. In some ways, this is no different than cooking on a wood cookstove, which also requires constant attendance to keep a steady heat. It's easy though, align by standing behind the oven, turning until the shadows are equal. In addition, the oven can be raised or lowered to maintain alignment with the sun.

Back view with adjustable alignment leg.

This is done with the adjustable leg in the back of the oven. The Sun-track indicators on the bottom corners of the oven door (shown below) help adjust to the optimum position. When the dot of light is over the hole, the oven is aligned with the sun for the hottest cooking temperatures.

To maintain a level cooking surface, the oven comes with a leveling rack. It hangs from threaded rods on the inside of the oven and remains level no matter the angle of the oven.

The advertising said the oven maintains an even heat throughout.
I checked this out for myself with a second oven thermometer. Even
heat means there are no hot spots which means no burning of foods.

Mine came with two bread pans and two enamel cooking pots in addition to the dehydrating racks. Dark pots and pans are recommended, such as cast iron, with lightweight pots heating up faster.

The oven is portable, folding up with a handy carrying handle. It weighs 21 pounds, which isn't featherweight, but neither is it too heavy to transport easily.

One other point made about this oven is that even though the surface temperatures get hot to the touch, they aren't hot enough to burn the cook, or curious kids, or curious cats ...

Curious Katy sneaking a peek.

I have found this to be true as well, but I do need hot pads to handle anything inside the oven.

My first project was a loaf of solar bread!

My first loaf of solar bread.

It baked perfectly in exactly the same time it takes in a conventional oven. The next day I baked brown rice and frozen (cooked) meatballs. The sun was intermittent, so I had to finish it up on the stove, but I'm learning. According to the advertising blurbs, I could have started my rice much earlier with out worry of burning because of the moist, even cooking heat.

Even though I got the dehydrating kit, I'm a little dubious about that because we can have some terrible summer humidity here. With blueberry season starting soon, I'll be able to put my oven to the test as a solar dehydrator.

The oven came with a CD containing the same videos as the website and also a cookbook. It's actually cooking software, but for Windows or Mac. Since I'm a Linux gal (see Frugal Computing), it isn't much use to me. We took a look at it on my daughter's computer, but in the end I bought Dani's solar cooking and recipe collection, Free From The Sun. Besides her very inviting recipes, it contains good basic solar cooking information plus lots of tips. I'd also recommend checking out all her solar cooking blog posts.

Lastly, a few more links (1st two from the Sun Oven website):
Besides cooking for free (Happy Feet Penguin ), the best part was not heating up the house, or in my case the back porch summer kitchen. That means a double savings of energy because it means not having to re-cool the house!

We figured out awhile back that going completely solar is highly unlikely for us. But that doesn't mean we can't utilize solar wherever we're able! And, like our walk-behind tractor, my solar oven was purchased with royalties from my book. I could insert another Happy Dance Penguin for that, but instead, I'll just say thank you to everyone who purchased a copy!

June 7, 2014


Getting pigs has been one of our yearly homestead goals for several years. Considering our goal of having a self-sustainable food supply, I always figured we'd eventually keep a breeding pair, but considering our lack of experience with pigs, I also figured we'd start out with a couple of "practice" pigs which we'd raise for the learning of it.

I've looked for young pigs from time to time, but have always been dismayed at the price. Seems the "going rate" for a weaner pig runs in the hundreds of dollars. To buy and fatten a couple for the freezer, adding on killing and butchering fees (since most folks don't do the deed themselves), doesn't seem a very economical way to have pork. I began to wonder if I shouldn't just look for a pair to breed anyway.

Breed was a consideration, especially after hearing so many horror stories about aggressive pigs. A heritage breed was a must, as commercial breeds are developed for production rather than other purposes. Initially I wanted Red Wattles, but soon learned that there were none to be had anywhere near me nor neighboring states.

Then I started to get suggestions from readers about American Guinea Hogs.

The American Guinea Hog is a true American heritage breed, developed right here in the southeastern United States. Listed as "threatened" by The Livestock Conservancy, they are an ideal homestead pig: small (adult weights approaching only 200 pounds), docile, friendly, excellent foraging pasture pigs.

I have been keeping an eye on craigslist for a pair of these, i.e. an unrelated male and female. When I found them I was delighted. Unfortunately it didn't work out for the female, so at the moment I have only one lone little boy pig.

He spent his first day looking for someone or something familiar. He came from a place with Nigerian Dwarf goats so he was at home with my billy boys. The billy boys weren't too sure about him.

He's a very busy little fellow, always on the move, always eating, always grunting with an occasional squeal and rare bark. He comes running when he sees me with his dish of table scraps and whey in the morning. He adores the whey and slurps it right down. He burrows in the straw at night between the hay feeder and the goats' sleeping pallets. We tried to make him a mud hole but his water dish will do just fine to cool off in, thank you very much. He appears to have made himself right at home.

Even so, pigs are companionable animals and not loners. It is better to have at least two. I've been told that for those being raised for meat, having competition for the food makes them gain weight quicker. This pig is for breeding, so that's not an issue, but, 1 + 0 ≠ more pigs! He needs a sweetheart. Hopefully I'll find him one soon.

Two more links of interest for American Guinea Hogs are:

Pig © June 2014 by Leigh at