July 31, 2014

Garden Harvest in Late July

Starting at the top and working to the right: blueberries, Tendergreen green beans, multiplier onions, Zuchetta summer squash, Green Nutmeg melon, Sugarbaby watermelon (a volunteer), Amish Paste and Roma tomatoes, a couple of eggs, and a blueberry pie. Sadly, the cucumbers are finally done due to blight. We had enough overlap to get a few tomato and cucumber salads, but I certainly wouldn't have minded a few more.

How is your garden doing?

July 28, 2014

Idea For A Round Goat Barn

Folks sometimes comment that Dan and I seem to get along so well in spite of our many home remodeling and homestead projects. Many a marriage has taken its hits from differences of opinion! Our ground rules are simple, but effective.
  1. Brainstorming stage - anything goes. we can throw out any idea, no matter how fantastic. No criticism from the other party allowed.
  2. Discussion stage - we take a closer look at all the options and try to list pros and cons for each one. Again, no criticism, we just try to take a realistic look at feasibility. The wildest ideas usually get canned at this point.
  3. Decision stage - if we both agree on an idea, it's a go. Likewise, if we both disagree, then it's crossed off the list. If one feels strongly and the other doesn't care, then we go with it. If we differ in opinion, then the idea in question is set aside and we keep looking until we both agree. This has actually been a marvelous rule because it forces us into better solutions than we previously thought we wanted. 
But on to the idea for the barn. I've showed you a couple of our ideas for a goat barn, one here, and the plan below.

Click for larger view. Details here.

This plan has been the top contender so far. It fits within the footprint of the outbuilding we just tore down, and pretty much resolves most of the problems I have with managing my goats. We still discuss options from time to time, but always come back to this plan in the end.

While we were working on the coal barn demolition, Dan said, "What about a round barn?" I said, "Let's look into it." We found a great website, which has a collection of photographs of round and polygonal barns from all over the U.S. and Canada. Dan immediately starting thinking about the how-tos of constructing such a barn, while I started thinking about the how-to of dividing the space within. We came up with a rough sketch of a floor plan for a bottom floor. A second story would be the hay loft.

Rough sketch for a round barn idea.

The challenge to doing this is working around the concrete slab that used to be the carport for the old coal barn. Dan doesn't want to tear it out, so we figured it would make a good floor for a milking/feed storage room. That was placed in the center of the plan.

At the bottom of the plan is a loading bay, large enough to back the bed of a pickup truck into. Things could be carried directly into the storage room, or goats could be loaded or unloaded from their area on the left. We're also considering making it open to the hayloft above. The truck could be backed in and the hay hoisted up with a block and tackle. This arrangement would mean we wouldn't have to have a hayloft door on the outside. In fact, we could likely leave the bay open with no exterior door. The goats would still be protected from rain, snow, and wind, but have excellent ventilation.

Goat area on the left. A hay shoot from the hay loft would allow for direct dropping of hay into the feeder. For the goats, I'd have both entry and exit doors for the milking room. No more clogging up the door for feed! At the back (top of plan) a large 8 or 10 foot gate would access an open area as a covered loafing area. I haven't figured out where yet, but I'll have portable pens for kidding (no more territorial fights over the kidding stall!).

The goat porch in the back would be open to the outdoors, no walls, just the roof overhead. It would be open to a small courtyard with gates to either of the back forage areas, easily enabling pasture rotation.

On the right would be a room for processing feed and storing the equipment needed to do so: my corn sheller, a threshing machine, and a hammer mill (both items on my wish list). We'd need to add a door into the milking room. This room is also where we'd have a narrow stair or ladder to the hay loft.

The round barn idea is still in the discussion stage, but we both really like it. We haven't yet figured out if it would be truly round or polygonal, nor things like where to put windows. The milking room being in the center presents concerns about light and lighting. Also trying to work a round building off a square room is a puzzle. We haven't dared consider the cost either! That would likely be so discouraging as to us abandoning the project. We'll continue to work through the details, discussing if this is truly a feasible idea. Like everything else, we'll plan it out and take it one step at a time. That being said, there's no telling when we'll actually be able to get started. When we do, you'll be the first to know. 

July 26, 2014

Before There Was Duct Tape There Was Baling Twine

I love baling twine. It's always been a favorite of mine for holding things together in an emergency. When Splash kept slipping through the fence and getting into the blueberry bush ...

Splash looking longingly at the blueberry bush, now off limits.

The first thing I thought of was rabbit fence and baling twine.

Old baling twine easily ties rabbit fencing to the
rail blueberry fence. It is made out of sisal fiber. 

I could have used staples, but that would have meant going to buy them and dragging out tools (I was in the instant gratification mode, you see). I could have used wire, but I don't like working with wire if I can help it. (BTW, a roll of wire is cheaper in the electric fence department than the same gauge in the hardware department). Wire is more permanent than the twine, but it gets caught on everything making it a nuisance to work with. Besides, baling twine has worked well for patching fence in the past.

This was a hole that Elvis tore in the fence. It's
new baling twine, made from a synthetic fiber. 

I know folks love their duct tape, but I couldn't have done that with it.

There are some things baling twine isn't so good for, such as deterring chickens from fence hopping.

My baling twine chicken barricade was a fail.

Maybe I should have tried duct tape for that.

Then there are the times when only duct tape will do.

Not to hold it in, LOL, for leaking.

I reckon if I keep both handy, I'll be prepared for just about anything.

July 24, 2014

Cucumbers For Chickens, Cucumbers For Goats

First garden pickings of anything are exciting. Eventually, however, things are going gangbusters and the question often becomes, what do I do with it all? Things I can can or freeze are no problem, neither are cucumbers if I need the pickles. But with my pantry shelves full of pickles and relish, I was looking for something else to do with them. To complicate matters, my cukes were getting bitter from so little rain. I managed to keep them watered enough to get small ones for cucumber salads, but when it's dry plants seem to be in a hurry to complete their life purpose of producing seed. Composting is always an option, but with critters, somebody is always happy to eat the surplus!

The goats love them chopped, and I thought perhaps the chickens might enjoy some too. I cut one in half lengthwise, like I cut overripe melons for them, and set it out in the chicken yard.

Chickens discussing cucumber.

They eyed is suspiciously until the bravest ventured a taste. They talked about it amongst themselves and walked away. Oh well.

Another thought was to dehydrate some to feed the goats next winter, along with their homegrown vitamin and mineral mix. The solar oven was tied up with blueberries, so I decided to dry the cukes in my electric dehydrator.

I grated them first in my manual food processor.

Shredded cucumber draining

Because cucumbers have such a high water content, I let them drain overnight in a colander. I gave the juice to the chickens, who loved it! (Go figure). I put the shreds in the dehydrator.

Dried cucumber shreds

I let them dry all day, then cooled, and finally put them in a storage bucket. I still have more to go and I don't know how much I'll end up with, but I'm glad to have a little more stored away for the goats.

July 22, 2014

An Experiment With Solar Dehydrating

I admit that I never thought solar dehydrating was a very good option for me. We have too much humidity. But when I ordered my solar oven, the preparedness accessories kit was too good a bargain to pass up. It included dehydrating racks, so I thought I might as well give this a try.

The accessories kit included drying racks and parchment
paper, as well as two enameled cooking post with lids. 

July is blueberry harvest so blueberries were a good choice for my first experiment. Solar cooking is a moist cooking method, so it is important to vent the moisture. This is done by resting the oven lid on top of the latches.

Latches used to vent moisture.

At night the lid is secured tightly, and the process is resumed the next day. The biggest challenge was keeping the oven temp low enough. Recommended dehydrating temperatures are 100 - 150° F / 38 - 65° C. If aimed at the sun, my Sun Oven easily reaches temps of 325 - 350° F / 165 - 175° C. Even aiming away from the sun didn't guarantee low enough temps.

Fortunately we had low humidity for several days. After 48 hours, the top rack had dried perfectly,

Blueberries after 48 hours in the solar oven/dehydrator.

but only the top rack. It took a couple more days to get the rest of them dried properly.

The biggest problem was that this tied up the oven for quite a few days. I use my solar oven every day for cooking, if there is sun, so not being able to was an inconvenience in that regard.

Humidity is a big factor for dehydrating here anyway. Even in my electric Excalibur I can't make crispy veggie chips; they start becoming soft as soon as they cool off. Things still keep however, which is good.

I think this experiment was successful enough that I would consider building a dedicated solar dehydrator in the future, rather than use the solar oven. There are some nifty DIY dehydrator plans here. I'm sure I'll have some spare time to do that within the next decade or so.

July 20, 2014

Rainwater Catchment Update & A Few Garden Photos

Last summer it rained so much that we used very little of the water we collected in our rainwater tanks. This summer, we've used it all. We had good rainfall in May, and in June the garden still looked good.

June: Amish Paste tomatoes in front, Zuchetta summer squash behind.

Until last Friday July had been hot and dry and everything looked it. Our highs have been in the low 90s F / 30s C and rain has only been scant drizzles. The ground has been thirsty. That's worrisome for a gardener.

Remember the ground Dan plowed with his new 2-wheel 
tractor? I planted Amaranth and it's doing splendidly
in spite of no rain. This crop will be for feed grain.

We used all the water in the rainwater collection tanks. We have five, 275 gal / 1000 liter tanks, which were full at the beginning of summer. That 1375 gal / 5000 L seemed like a lot then, but during two months of no rain it didn't seem like enough! Even things in mulched beds were wilting. It was hard trying to decide where to use the last of those gallons. I felt like a mother who has only enough food to feed one of her 12 starving children. I finally decided on the okra, which hadn't received any yet.

Okra being watered from the rainwater tanks with the new irrigation pipe.
I hadn't mulched it yet because I did a 2nd planting due to poor germination.

The PVC pipe you see in the photo above is what I'm using to irrigate. I got tired of wrestling with soaker hoses, so Dan drilled a series of small holes in a length of pipe and fitted it so I could attach the garden hose. This works very well and I'd eventually like to have them permanent in every garden bed (I have 30 beds in the main garden).

We were concerned about the corn and decided to set up one of the empty tanks in a front corner of the house.

This 275 gallon tank collects from from a larger area
of roof than the 1st tanks. One inch of rain fills it!

Dan made some changes with this one. He lowered the clean-out plug and you can also see the overflow pipe. It's full because thankfully it started to rain Friday night. We got 1.85 inches of slow, steady rain all day yesterday (just for fun, you can see what Sam did in the rain here.) Temperatures dropped too, so that it was almost chilly.

Garden grown Tendergreen green beans, sweet basil,
Zuchetta summer squash, and Boston Pickling cucumbers. 

Our rainwater collection is something we definitely want to expand. In fact, that's one nice thing about a rainwater catchment system, it's easy to add on to. We've discussed 1000 gallon tanks, but tanks run anywhere between $1 - $2 per gallon, so that would be over $1000 for one 1000 gallon tank. The other possibility is making our own with ferrocement. No plans for that at the moment, but it's a thought. The totes are cheap (about 25¢ per gallon) and stackable. So for now, something is better than nothing; a favorite phrase of mine.

July 18, 2014

Of Routine and Spontaneity on the Homestead

About 15 years ago I managed a food co-op, i.e. bulk food buying club. It was a small club, where we put in a monthly order, met at a local church, unloaded the truck, divvied everything up, paid the treasurer, cleaned up, and went home. Like all groups we ran into problems along the way and had to make decisions from time to time. Something I observed was that members seemed to fall roughly into one of two groups: those who like rules and those who don't. Those who liked them thought they made the ordering and delivery processes orderly and efficient. Without the routine, they saw only chaos. The other group was the "go with the flow" folks. These seemed to thrive more on spontaneity and believed problems would work themselves out. They disliked rules because they felt stifled by them. This contrast was interesting to me and fortunately we all got along well and never had any knock-down-drag-outs because of our differences.

On the homestead I am learning that we need both routine and spontaneity. Animals, especially, thrive on routine. If things aren't predictable, they aren't happy. I try to set my routine according to their species nature and stick to it. If I'm late, I hear about it! Their care and feeding are my daily chores. They are the foundation of my day. No matter what else I'm doing, when it's chore time, it's chore time. Everything else must be set aside for another time.

Spontaneity on the homestead isn't exactly the same as it is in the rest of the modern world. We can't not do chores for the spontaneity of it, or load up the car on a whim for a weekend getaway. Our spontaneity must exist without the framework of our routine. Even so, interruptions in routine often happen when unexpected things present themselves, such as goats getting their horns stuck in a cattle panel, goats getting their horns stuck in each others' collars, guinea fowl squawking in the middle of the road and blocking traffic, or animals getting hurt or sick. All of these demand immediate action, and the day's plans are delayed if not down the tubes. We've learned that it's not so much spontaneity that's required, it's flexibility.

Weather is an unpredictable factor which requires flexibility on the homestead. In the typical modern lifestyle, weather is considered either cooperative or uncooperative; peoples' lives go on regardless. On a farm or homestead, weather determines everything. It's why we got so much done on our master suite last summer - rain! If rain looks imminent, we'll jump to projects that will be effected by it: raking in the hay, getting that building project covered, garden picking, etc. We try to schedule working with the soil around it. Unexpected rain or snow can put a halt to the day's plans and make us change direction. That's why we keep an outdoor project and an indoor project in the works at all times.

Our routine is so intertwined with the weather and the land that I have gradually come to see ourselves differently in the grand scheme of things. I no longer see nature as something we simply observe, appreciate, and preserve; nature is something we are a part of. It isn't something we can put fences around, scatter educational placards throughout, and build pathways with a donation box at the end of the trail. It was never meant to be that way, but modern life, which is all wrapped up in technology, pretty much thinks it can go on without it.

One challenge to flexibility is work style. Dan and I have very different work styles. When Dan commences a project, he sticks with it until it's done. He doesn't like unfinished, loose ends. I'm the kind of person who has several projects in the works at any given time. I'm not actually a good multi-tasker, it's just that there's always a gardening project, kitchen project, housework project, and writing project all floating around in my day. Dan tells me he couldn't work like that, but I remind him that my projects are ongoing ones, while his are start-to-finish ones: new fencinginstalling a wood cookstove, installing a rainwater collection system, or building a new chicken coop. For me, there will always be dishes to do, weeding to do, laundry to do, meals to cook, food to plant, pick, or preserve, errands to run, etc. I suppose it's part of why that saying came to be "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done." Dan's projects can be marked with check boxes, mine are a lifestyle.

That doesn't mean developing a homesteading routine has been easy for me. I tend to get distracted by things that suddenly seem urgent, such as, "Oh no! The library books are due today!" In the beginning, especially, it was hard because there was so much to do. Then we got animals and were so thrilled when they ran up to us to beg for attention and food - so cute. One day I realized that the animals were dictating my day. The goats kept hollering to be fed earlier and earlier, and the chickens were jumping the fence to see if I had some tidbit to eat. I realized they needed a routine just as much as I did.

I do think there's a difference between spontaneity in the modern way of life and flexibility in an agrarian one. I think the worldly minded usually want flexibility to suit themselves. On the homestead, flexibility is required to suit everything else. I suppose that's why so many folks left the farm in the first place, for the freedom to not have to be flexible for the sake of everything else. Life appears so much simpler when everything appears to be predictable and one can be spontaneous simply for the fun of it.

Both Dan and I are still learning how to mentally balance routine with flexibility. There's a fine art of switching mental gears that neither of us has yet perfected. Sometimes we're mentally and emotionally set for one thing, but must switch to something else without losing motivation and enthusiasm. Hopefully we will someday be able to take it all in stride, simply saying, "It's all in a day's work".

July 16, 2014

Pig Alert

It started with chickens under the blueberry bush. Not that I haven't had chickens there before, hunting for fallen blueberries, but this time they weren't supposed to be there. I use gates and cattle panels to route animals (chickens, goats, and pig) to the areas where I want them. That way I can rest an area from being overgrazed, or, as is the case this time of year, keep the bucks and does separated by more than one fence to keep the bucks from getting too rambunctious, if you know what I mean. Somehow, the chickens had gotten into the front pasture.

I didn't think much about it until later in the day, when I heard the kids hollering. Initially I didn't think much of that either, because goat kids will holler about everything: they can't find their siblings, they can't find their mom, they can see their mom but she's too far away (so they expect her to come to them and holler about it), or simply because somebody else starts hollering. Zoey's Li'l Red was getting pretty worked up, however, so I thought I'd better go check. As I approached the gate, all nine goats ran past. Something must be going on. As I got closer, I saw this...

How did he get in there? He came running up to greet me when he saw me, apparently very pleased with himself for being there. A quick walk of the fence and a gate check revealed this...

Somebody (or some pig) had pushed his way through the log barricade and wiggled his way under the gate. Pigs are notorious fence crashers and obviously our gating situation isn't pig, chicken, or baby goat proof. I blame the uneven land with all its bumps and ridges, but also we were pretty new to fence and gate installation when we did this one.

No pig wrangling took place, but after Waldo made his way back I added a few more rocks to the under-gate log barricade. I can see why he liked it with the girls. Their pasture has quite a bit of clover in it and pigs love clover. My plan has been to allow Waldo and his bride in here anyway, shortly after she arrives. In the meantime I figure no harm done, other than startling the goats.

So far, the girls and their kids have made it a point to keep their distance. But I reckon they'll get used to him soon enough.

July 14, 2014

The Keep Cool Piggy Pool

Remember this "Around The Homestead" photo?

Waldo in his water dish. 

We tried to make him a proper mud wallow, but no spot near the shelter holds water very well. So until we can get to that, he has his piggy pool.

Waldo is telling me he'd like more water please.

This is the same dumpster find we used for a chicken heatwave wading pool a few years back. They never appreciated as much as Waldo does.

He can still have his mud if he wants it. He jumps out of the piggy pool and dives into a little bare patch of dry, loose dirt. He trots off coated with his DIY mud, just as happy as can be.

July 12, 2014

Hard Boiling Eggs Without Water

Well, technically I supposed they can't be hard boiled if I didn't use water, so let's just say hard cooked. How? With my solar oven.

Hard cooking eggs in my solar oven.

I learned how from a video at the Sun Oven website. We have a lot of eggs so I hard boil a lot of eggs and had to give it a try. Eggs are placed in a cardboard egg carton and put inside a preheated solar oven. That's it. It takes about an hour or so, but they come out perfectly hard cooked.

The video states that even fresh eggs are easy to peel and I found this to be pretty much true. Mine apparently have a pretty tough membrane, so fresh solar eggs don't peel without a few bits pulling off, but I no longer have to wait until eggs are "aged" to hard boil them. And I no longer have to hang around the stove so I won't forget they're on! (Don't ask.)

Besides being a novelty, so what? I have to say that the Sun Oven folks bring up several good preparedness points in regards to solar cooking. Besides being able to cook for free, it also conserves on two precious storage items - fuel and water. Eggs aside, solar cooking a moist heat method of cooking, so less liquid is needed for cooking most foods.

I use my solar oven almost every day because it has become one of my primary cooking tools. If there's sun, I'm cooking.

July 10, 2014


Scott Terry, host of Christian Farm and Homestead Radio, has invited me to join him on the air Friday, July 11 from 8 to 10 pm (Eastern Time). We're going to catch up on Dan's and my latest homestead happenings, and talk about self-publishing a book. Please join us!


Afterwards, the show will be available download; just use the same link.

July 9, 2014

Coal Barn Demolition

The coal barn is one of the two original outbuildings on the homestead.

The "Coal Barn"
Photo taken January 2010

Why do we call it the coal barn? Well, see that little door on the lean-to section on the right? It stored the coal, which at one time was used to heat the house. There's still quite a bit was left in there.

The coal barn is the same age as the house, about 90 years, but hasn't been maintained the same way. It's always leaned a bit and been somewhat rickety, but served for storage and Dan's workshop. Over our five years here, however, it's gotten worse. The floor was so wonky that I almost felt sea sick any time I had to go inside the building. The next major homestead project is a goat barn, right where this one used to be. I say "used to be" because Dan has been tearing it down.

We used the carport to store hay. 

The carport became our hay mow. We covered the sides with tarps to protect the hay from rain. All that remains is one purchased round bale. Our own hay harvest for this year is being stored in the old chicken coop.

At one time the building had electricity, as evidenced by the remnants of knob and tube wiring along the ceiling joists (above). Notice too, that the lumber is simply slices of tree (with the bark still on, I might add). The original roof was cedar shake, but had long since been covered by several layers of asphalt shingles.

We'd hoped to save and reuse as much of the materials as possible. There's been a lot of termite damage and rotting over the years so that most of it is too old and brittle. It's amazing the building hadn't collapsed before now. 

About what it looks like now. We'll leave the carport for storage for awhile.

We've salvaged what we could but most of the lumber is in pretty bad shape. Dan decided to leave the carport for now so that we can store a few things in it. (You can see how we tore that down here.)

The only "find" was an old Clorox bottle.

When new barn construction will begin is anybody's guess. Dan's vacation is over and his new schedule looks to be busier than before, so home time will be more scarce. While he's been working we've been discussing our barn plan (here) and exploring other possibilities. We've come up with another idea which I'll have to show you soon.

[And here's pulling down the rest of it.]

July 7, 2014

My Worst Gardening Mistake Ever

It doesn't decompose, it deteriorates.

Landscape cloth. I don't care what you hear about it, what you read, or what anybody says. Don't do it. Landscape cloth was the all time stupidest gardening decision I've ever made.

I thought I could use it to conquer my wire grass. I thought I could eliminate it by smothering it out. I was lured by the so-called "guaranteed."

I spent days laying the stuff out and pinning it down.

June 2010

I spent more days covering the entire area with wood chip mulch. The directions said 6 to 8 inches of their brand of rubber mulch, but I would never use that because it won't decompose. The rubber mulch should have been a red flag before I ever bought it.

But it's lightweight! (Flimsy). It is porous to let rain in through! (And sunlight). By the end of the summer the wire grass was happily beginning to poke its way up on through it.

September 2010

By the following summer, the wiregrass had taken it over. Eventually it matted the landscape cloth to the ground. The only way to get it out was to dig it out. The "Guarantee"? Well, if you don't follow the directions to a "T" (i.e. apply those 6 inches of rubber mulch)  any warranty is null and void.

This spring Dan took the tiller to it so we could plant corn in that spot. What a mess. The wiregrass matted landscape cloth bound up the tiller and left squillions of bits and pieces of petroleum based landscape cloth all over the place. I'll probably be picking them up till the day I die.

But at least the corn looks good.

Your turn. Have you made a worst gardening mistake?

July 4, 2014

A Goat Mystery Solved

I hate learning things the hard way, but for several years I have been bewildered by the mystery deaths of three young bucklings. I had these boys in different years and they were different breeds. Two were purchased from breeders in different states, the other was born on the homestead.  No other goat had been or became sick. None of them had diarrhea, a symptom of coccidiosis, which often afflicts young goats. What they all had in common was dying shortly after they'd been weaned at two months old.

The symptoms were the same: weakness, lethargy, and then death within just a couple days. The first one I tried to treat myself with antibiotics because the vet I had at the time wasn't familiar with goats. The second one I took to the vet but he was stumped. He gave him antibiotics but I lost him anyway. The third one went down so fast that I barely knew what happened. Needless to say, this turned me very much against early weaning.

Two months of age is generally considered an acceptable age to begin weaning goats. Young bucks are often separated because they become sexually mature that young. It is fully possible that they can impregnate any doe or doeling in heat. Last year I kept Alphie with his mother until three months of age. He wasn't happy about being separated, but he made it just fine.  Ziggy's boys (Zed and Buster Brown) were neutered and bottle fed. I sold them at four months old while they were still on the bottle. In fact, the gentleman who bought them was looking for a pair of wethers as pets for his kids. He had previously bought a pair of two month olds and lost both the same way I lost mine. He was happy with how healthy my boys looked and they went to a good home.

This year I think I've finally figured something out.

Splash's sisters Sissy (front) and Dottie (back)

It was just before I separated Splash, and Lily was feeding all three of her triplets. They always rushed her at the same time and with all three of them pushing and shoving and jockeying for a teat, I couldn't really tell who was getting what and just assumed they all got at least some milk. But one morning, there was Dottie, weak, wobbly, and alarmingly thin. She was standing there with a spaced out look and trembling. What had happened? Wasn't it just yesterday that all seven kids were running and leaping through the back gate, down the hill, and into the woods? Or was it the day before? How could this have happened so fast? Why didn't I notice?

This was exactly what had happened to the three bucklings I'd lost. How could it be happening again? And to one of my precious little Kinder girls. In a flash I realized that Dottie must have been consistently pushed out of the milk feeding frenzy. As she grew weaker, she got less and less. But what was going on?

The hard part about diagnosing animals is that they cannot give subjective information. They cannot tell you how they feel, where it hurts, or what led up to the problem. Diagnosis is a based on objective observations, and anyone who is doing the diagnosing will likely tell you it often feels like taking a shot in the dark. In my research I found a helpful Symptoms Chart over at the Jack and Anita Mauldin Boer Goat website. Based on that, my best guess for Dottie was goat polio (polioencephalomalcia). This is actually caused by a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency, not a virus or bacteria. It is treated with massive doses of thiamine injections.

Injectable thiamine is a prescription item so I didn't have any, but I did have over-the-counter injectable B complex. I followed the directions for using that, giving injections every six hours until symptoms either cleared or the animal died. It took a week's worth of injections but, to my great relief, she finally pulled through.

Dottie, still a little thin but getting around and eating again.

How did it happen? Goat polio is more common in young goats than adults, and one of the causes I found listed was a "difficult weaning". I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, but what happens, is that an abrupt weaning (such as separation) amounts to the sudden change in diet. This is something goat owners are warned against because it upsets the microbial balance in the rumen. The micro-organisms, besides digesting what the goat has eaten, build proteins and manufacture B vitamins. Cautions are always given about changing feeds, adding fresh pasture, etc. The bacteria and protozoa need time to adjust for healthy digestion. I knew to make slow adjustments in an adult goat's diet, but it never occurred to me concerning weaning. Abrupt early weaning causes a disruption in the manufacture of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and the young goat develops a deficiency. The symptoms of that deficiency (depression, not eating, weakness, staring off into space, aimless wandering, apparent blindness, muscle tremors) is what is called polioencephalomalcia or goat polio.

If I'm right, then this explains why my 2 month old bucklings didn't make it. By three months of age, they must be getting more forage than milk anyway, so that's why I didn't have a problem with Alphie. For Splash, besides separating him immediately, I gave doses of "medicinal milk" for several days to make sure his rumen could adjust!

People deal with bucklings in different ways. Some separate and bottle feed all the boys from birth. The boys are usually stronger and more aggressive. They can and will push weaker sisters out of the way. I've opted to let them stay with mom and separate at three months. It results in a lot of hollering, but it's been less work for me to let them nurse rather than wait for me to fix a bottle.

I'm not 100% certain I'm correct about this, but the B vitamins seemed to make a life or death difference for Dottie. She had a few ups and downs but gradually got stronger and started eating again. What a relief.

July 1, 2014

Pig Report

Waldo is doing very well.

I'm not sure if he knows his name yet because we still call him "Pig." He comes running when he sees us and lets us give him a scratch. He's still a bit shy and has to sniff your hand first.

He seems to like being with the goats while they simply tolerate him.

Sometimes he's off doing his own thing.

He loves rooting in the leaves back in the woods.

At such times he's happily oblivious to everything else.

My pig news is that I found a mate for Waldo, a gilt about six weeks younger than he. A gilt is a female that hasn't yet farrowed, i.e. had a litter of pigs (see, I'm learning pig terminology). She won't be ready to be picked up until the end of July. At that point we'll move them back into the old buck shelter (Fort William) where they won't be bothered by goats (as if the goats care) while they get acquainted. Expect lots of piggy pics then.