April 28, 2018

Random Progress on the Barn

Back wall for the milking room.

Bottom to milking room back door (top to come later)

Dan used my Kikobian Books logo as the pattern.

Oak floor boards for the hay loft!

The floor boards for the hay loft aren't home milled, but they are locally milled. Dan's hand simply isn't ready for the chain saw, which is something he'd need to prepare more pine trees for milling floor boards. We considered waiting, but also really want the hay loft functional by the time we start harvesting hay. We didn't get a tax refund for federal taxes, but we got some back from the state; enough to buy the hay loft floor plus everything for a hayloft door. That is extremely encouraging! And the to-do list for barn completion is definitely getting shorter.

April 25, 2018

Egg News

We're currently getting about four or five chicken eggs every day, and every now and then we get an unusual egg. The other day Dan brought this one in from the chicken coop.

He wondered if it was uncomfortable to lay while I thought it must have been easier! Several days later he found another just like it. So then we had

And a couple days later he found a third.

Since all three eggs are the same elongated shape, I can't help but wonder if they were laid by the same chicken. We'll never know!

In other egg news, M.O.M. has been setting a clutch of duck eggs.

I'm not sure how many she had initially, but it was almost more than she could manage. The other day we noticed that it was quite a few less, and then found one broken open, as if it had been eaten. Yesterday morning that egg was gone and when we went out to do morning chores, we saw two opossums making a getaway through the back of the pasture. Needless to say this weekend we're going to try barbeque 'possum for the first time. Even so, I'm not very hopeful that she'll actually hatch anything since we lost our drake earlier this spring,

Egg News © April 2018 by Leigh at 

April 22, 2018

How To Spoil a Goat Kid

My little preemie goatie girl is 4-weeks old now and thriving.


However, we've developed a habit that I don't think I can break now! For her first several days she was bottle fed on my lap because she couldn't grasp a teat. After a few days I taught her how to nurse from her mother by laying her on my lap and showing her where the teat was. We did this several times a day until she caught on and could nurse on her own.

Now she expects to nurse this way every morning. She follows her mother into the milking room and paws me to be put on my lap for breakfast!

Once her tummy is full she wiggles down and stands for her morning scritches.

Then I put her out with the other kids until the adults are done with their breakfasts.

It's only in the morning that she expects this; the rest of the day she nurses normally from her mother. Initially she wanted to follow me instead of her mother, but she's gradually accepting that she's a goat instead of a human. But she still comes running when she sees me and will follow me around for as long as I'll let her.

Developmentally, she's about two weeks old, although two extra weeks of milk has meant good weight gain. I'm just happy she's doing so well.

Just need to mention that I'm having a problem with blogger since this morning. I can only sign into my dashboard. When I view my or anyone else's blog I'm signed out, so I can't comment. When I try to sign in I'm directed back to my dashboard. Hopefully I can get this corrected soon!

How To Spoil a Goat Kid © April 2018 by

April 19, 2018

Hay Feeder

While we're gradually collecting more plywood for the goat barn walls, there is still plenty to do on the inside. Like the hay feeder.

The plans for this particular feeder came from Premier 1 Supply Company, although Dan made a few modifications. The specs are to accommodate standard-size sheep and goats, so we had to modify it for our mid-size Kinders. Also, we didn't order Premier's specially made feeder panel, rather, Dan cut down a sheep and goat stock panel from the local feed store.You can download the free plans here.

The instructions offer a choice of single or double-sided feeders. I wanted the double-sided for several reasons. One is because it will be positioned under a hay chute. The other is because dominant goats have a tendency to hog any kind of feed and chase the others away. I figure you can't defend both sides of the feeder at the same time.

The beauty of this design is that there is less wasted hay. The V-shape of the panels holds the hay, and the goats access it through the panel. The shelf on the bottom catches hay that gets pulled out and dropped.

It's free-standing, so it could be moved in the future if we want. Directly above it will be a hay chute between two of the floor beams. It will be so nice to not have to wade through a crowd of grabby goats to fill the hay feeder.

And that brings us to the hay loft floor. Originally Dan planned to mill it from our homegrown pine the way he has the rest of the barn.

The problem is that it would require use of the chainsaw, but his hand just isn't ready for that yet. No matter, there's still plenty to do and it all has to be done before the goats can move in. Progress in any form is nice to see. 

Hay Feeder © April 2018 by Leigh

April 17, 2018

Book Review: Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook

I am very pleased to share this book with you, Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook: Long-term food storage techniques for nutritions, delicious, lifesaving meals by Shelle Wells. It's the latest edition in the Ulysses Press prepper book series.

I have an electric dehydrator, but admit I don't dry much. I think that's mostly because of my preservation and cooking habits, but a book like this inspires me to expand my repertoire of preservation methods.

When I read through chapter 1, "Why Dehydrate," I was reminded why this is truly one of the best methods of preserving and storing foods. Dehydrated foods save on shelf and freezer space, have the longest shelf life, and are the most portable of all preserved foods. This chapter also includes really good ideas on developing a food storage plan with some helpful charts.

Chapter 2 discusses the various ways to dehydrate foods: solar, oven, microwave, and dehydrator, including a description of the different types of dehydrators. Chapter 3 offers basic instructions: equipment, general rules, both small and large batch drying, blanching (or not), how to prevent oxidation, conditioning after dehydrating, and rehydrating. Chapter 4 discusses finding and choosing foods to dehydrate (including frozen foods), as well as safety considerations such as what not to dehydrate and what foods are most commonly contaminated with E.coli, and how to safely prepare them. I appreciated the section on how light, heat, oxygen, and humidity effect dried foods, because I live in an area with hot humid summers! Chapter 5 gives you storage options for dehydrated goods, including tips on both short and long term storage.

The next several chapters teach you the specifics for a variety of dried foods: fruit and vegetable leathers, jerkys, soups, powders, and herbs. Details on dehydrating 50 fruits and veggies are next, and then come the recipes. Things like blueberry basil syrup, pink grapefruit jelly, honey peach BBQ sauce, cinnamon apple leather, candied ginger, and how to make pickles from dehydrated cucumbers. Four conversion charts complete the excellent information in this handbook.

This is a great book for every food preservation and prepper's library. Click here to "Look Inside."

April 14, 2018

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes

Of sweet potatoes, I was surprised to find this one the other day. I got it from storage to make oven-baked sweet potato fries for dinner.

It was sprouting beautifully! Usually I stick a sweet potato in water to let it root and sprout, like this

This one went in right after I harvested it last fall. I always hope I'll get a beautiful growth of vines for winter greenery, but I never do. I get very few sprouts until spring, when the weather warms up. I figure it's probably because my house is too chilly all winter to encourage sweet potatoes to grow.

Of seeds I've been doing some late indoor planting. Not that it isn't about time to sow directly into the ground, but usually indoor plantings are started about six weeks before the last projected frost date. These future tomato plants are late in that regard...

...but earlier than if I planned to sow them directly into the ground! We have a long enough growing season that I can do that, but we're late on garden bed preparation too, so this is a start.

I didn't order many seeds this year. These came from Sow True Seeds.

Some of them are new for me: anise hyssop and cardoon, others are new varieties: Southern Brown Sugar cowpeas are supposed to be a "best tasting" variety, and Shin Kuroda carrots are said to do well in clay soils. The sorghum is for livestock feed, although some day I'd like to try my hand at making sorghum syrup.

At the moment, most of my planting energy has been focused on our pastures. I've had such good success with my modified Fukuoka natural farming method that I use it to spot seed every time I clean out the barn. Pasture improvement is a specific homestead goal for 2018, and more specifically, to establish the most diverse year-round polyculture pasture I can manage. Sounds simple, but it's been a slow process with a significant trial-and-error learning curve. One problem is limited local choice of seed. Around here tall fescue is sold as the cool season grass and Bermuda is the warm season choice. The only pasture mix I can find locally comes from Tractor Supply Co. in 40-pound bags to the tune of $150 each. So I started looking for other options.

One is deer and turkey food plot mixes in 50-pound bags for under $25 each. They are cheaper because they contain mostly annuals. The one I bought last fall contains: wheat, oats, rye grass, crimson clover, peas, and rape (canola).

In addition to that, I bought a 5-pound bag of "Herbal Ley" from New Country Organics. It contains a mix of legume and forb seeds: sainfoin, yellow clover, alfalfa, small burnet, forage rape, chicory, plantain, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and forage brassicas.

I also found the website of Seed World. What I like about this company is that I can purchase small quantities (as little as one pound) from a huge selection of pasture and wildlife food plot seeds. I can make my own blend; sericea (perennial) lespedeza, hairy vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, Bahai grass, chicory, orchard grass, etc.

To my pasture mix I add annual summer pasture seed from the feed store: sudan and millet, plus seeds I've saved myself: Austrian pea, oregano, yarrow, echinacea, vetch, and radish, turnip, old garden seeds, plus any native grass seed I can gather from non-pasture areas.

I mix all of these together

and head out with a bucketful of seed and a wheelbarrow full of barn muck. The annuals give inexpensive variety and will hopefully fill in until I can get enough perennial forage established. I don't expect it all to come up, but I hope that something will do well no matter what kind of summer we have this year.

After I finish getting the goat barn cleaned out, it will be time to plant our summer garden.

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes © April 2018  

April 11, 2018

Dutch Doors for the Goat Barn

We have three people doors planned for the goat barn: front and back doors for the milking room, and one to enter the goats' area. I find Dutch doors are perfect for these: they let in light and breezes but keep goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs on their side. They are called Dutch doors in the U.S. because they were introduced here in the 17th century by Dutch settlers. They are called stable doors in the U.K.

Here's where the first one is going to go.

The front and back doors of the milking room line
up with the door to what will become Dan's workshop.
This is to accommodate cooling summer breezes.

With scrap plywood and lumber they are inexpensive to make. The plywood will serve as the backing and is measured and cut to fit the door opening.

It seems as though all of our barn doors are different sizes, but then, we haven't been working with standard building materials. However, we make sure they are wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow. This particular door is 6'8" tall.

After the plywood is cut it gets a fitting. This wouldn't be the first time that something didn't fit!

Checking the fit.

The next step is deciding where to cut the door into top and bottom. Most of them are probably in half, but it doesn't have to be.

Where to cut the plywood into top & bottom is personal preference.

Wood for the rails and stiles is scraps of home-milled boards. Ours are one-inch thick and four inches wide, but that's a matter of design choice too.

The X is a traditional barn door pattern.

First one done.

The bottom part of the door is made the same way with one difference. We like our Dutch doors to have a shelf topping the bottom half, so Dan reinforced the top edge with another board on the back of the door.

Clamps hold the pieces together for drilling and screwing.

That gives a wider base to attach the shelf to.

That little shelf is really handy for setting something on to unlatch the door, to lean on when looking inside, or as a cat seat.

Hinges were next.

Then door latches.

To secure the top part of the door when it's open, a spring hook was attached.

Here it is.

One down and two to go.

To see the other Dutch doors Dan made, click here for the exterior door on the Little Barn, and here for the interior door in the chicken coop. You'll have to scroll down to find the pictures.

April 8, 2018

Miracle: 16 Days Old on Her Due Date

Today was the original date I had circled on my goat calendar as Anna's due date. Today, Baby Miracle is 16 days old! How's she doing?

Very well! She's bonded with her mother but comes running every time she sees me. Then she follows me around and bumps my legs looking for milk. She thinks her name is Baby, because I'm always asking Anna, "Where's your baby?"

So there's a tale of woe with a happy ending. Gives meaning to the saying, "All's well that ends well."

April 5, 2018

Garden Assessment

We had too cold a winter this year to have a winter garden. Some years our winter weather is mild and things grow well. Other years, forget it. I never know for sure, so I always plant in hopes of a nice winter harvest. After Dan's accident at the end of January, our typical seasonal routine was put on hold, including planting an early spring garden. I told myself it probably didn't matter anyway, because we got so much rain. Now it's time to prepare for summer garden planting, so I spent some time the other day assessing what needs to be done.

Cabbage-collards were my only green to survive the harsh cold.

These are also called heading collards.

Then we got a streak of really warm days and it decided to flower to make seed! Even so, the young leaves are tender and tasty in a salad.

I had planted two beds of sugar beets last fall, but had less than half of them made it. These are a first for me, for goat feed and to try my hand at sugar making.

Sugar beets.

The cluster above needs to be thinned out and the few others need to be mulched.

A few random radishes made it.

Multiplier onions survived and are coming along.

No onion bulbs yet.

And my garlic is beginning to die back. Harvest soon.

Outdoor bed of garlic.

A year ago last January I planted garlic bulbils in the hoop house. Here they are now.

Hoop house bed of garlic.

I'm happy they've done so well, especially since they've undergone some neglect from time to time during hot weather.

Plantings in the hoop house were slow growing but survived better than what I planted outdoors. We currently get several salads each week.


Chickweed has taken over 2 beds in the hoop house.
It's good in salads, salves, and for chickens.

Corn salad. It's trying to bolt too, but is still tender and tasty.

Miner's lettuce. These are volunteers! I planted two rows
outdoors but only one plant survived. Glad to see these!

Arugula is going to flower.

My fall-planted Savoy cabbages froze out. We like them,
though, so I bought a 6-pack at the feed store to plant.

All in all I think my garden did fairly well despite the snow and cold. We don't have a surplus, but we're still harvesting a few things to eat.

The next couple of weeks need to be spent in soil prep for summer veggies. Along with that comes the question of whether or not we'll get enough rainfall for everything to get a good start. It's always a guessing game, isn't it?

Garden Assessment © Ap 2018 by Leigh