April 27, 2019

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Especially if you're an intact buckling!

What Henry thinks about weaning.

For those not familiar with livestock lingo, "intact" means not neutered. Neutering is a choice that has to be made about the males, with usually only those considered "breeding quality" left intact while the others are neutered (wethered in the case of goats). Neutered bucklings can be left with the does, but those with the breeding goods intact become capable of breeding when they are a couple of months old. By the time they're three months of age they need to be separated. Unfortunately, this is before they want to give up their mother's milk.

My preferred way to wean bucklings is to send them to their new homes when it's time. That doesn't always work out, however, so they have to be separated from their mothers while they're still here. They are brokenhearted when this happens and spend most of their first days and nights hollering to go back to the doe barn.

Some people put their little guys right in with their adult bucks. But our bucks have always been too rough and aggressive toward the little guys, especially if any of the does go into heat. That seems to be the downside of aseasonal breeders! In the past we've put the bucklings in the small log barn at the back of the pasture. It's pretty far from the others and from the house, and it's hard to keep a close eye on them, especially when we hear coyotes around. I told Dan I wished we had a better setup, so he came up with an idea to divide the buck shelter.

He tied a cattle panel to the hay feeder, center post, a tree, and the fence running off the shelter.

He put in a gate from the old goat barn to give them access to the back paddock.

I feed them at dusk so I can close them in for the night.

They are safe, have good shelter, and aren't isolated, which makes me feel a whole lot better!

Big boys now: Jesse, Henry, and Eddie.

It can take several weeks before they settle down. In the meantime it's hard on everybody, although usually the does are so relieved to not be pestered and chased that they don't complain. On occasion I have a doe whose son was her favorite and she may be unhappy. In fact, I have to keep an eye on her girls if she has them, because I've had does who stop letting their others nurse once the favorite is gone.

So far so good, and for now, I'll just give my little boys plenty of extra attention. Eventually, they'll get used to it and peace and quiet will reign on the homestead once again.

Growing Up is Hard to Do © April 2019 by

April 23, 2019

Saving the Wheat

I didn't know whether to call this blog post "Saving the Wheat" or "More Adventures in Haylofting." Why? Because of what happened to our beautiful stand of winter wheat.

One of our two small stands of winter wheat.

A mix of winter wheat, crimson clover, and vetch.

It was doing wonderfully until we got a series of heavy rains which flattened it. Last year some of our wheat lodged and while the kernels still dried, they also mildewed. With more thunderstorms on the way we decided to cut it. The kernels were still immature; in the milk stage with soft berries that squeeze out milk-like moisture. Because of that we decided to use it for hay.

Vetch is hard to cut with the scythe, so Dan used the sickle mower instead. We let it dry for two days and then with rain due again we raked it up. It amounted to two trailer loads, which were stored in the carport until the next round of rain was over. Then we had to figure out how to get it into the hayloft. We've somewhat "perfected" (I use that term loosely!) getting large round bales up there, but loose hay is another matter. This is what Dan came up with.

Extension ladder, plywood, and rope.

The tarp is one Dan used as a flat-bed driver.
It's much heavier than retail consumer tarps
and has d-rings as well as grommets.

Tarp tied to the plywood & sides bungeed together.

It was fairly easy to pull up then.

Because it wasn't fully cured, the concern was mold and the possibility of combustion from high heat decomposition within the piles of hay. In Salad Bar Beef, Joel Salatin mentions salting hay, so that's what I did.

I sprinkled a handful over each layer.

Spread out in the hayloft to finish drying.

So far this is working very well. I'm still turning it twice a day and am amazed at how quickly it's drying out. While it's a disappointment to lose the wheat for our consumption, this is really my favorite way to feed grain to goats. It's truly whole (plant) wheat. If SHTF and I can't buy wheat for flour this winter, we'll eat cornbread!

Meowy's favorite use for hay.

Weather is just one of those things we can't control! But a loss somewhere can be a gain somewhere else. All in all - no complaints.

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 Hayloft

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