24 December 2016

Happy holidays y'all

Got a very nice card from Dad that I feel is just perfect for this year.  (I also got a card from my sister, cute in its own right.)  So here it is to share with everyone.
lovely card from Dad
The only change I'd make to the artwork would be to put the cardinals on an evergreen pine, instead of being amid all that cold, evil white stuff.  Other than that, the "quiet beauty of a peaceful Christmas season" definitely fits out here ... when the goats aren't getting out, or the pigs doing their "starving swine" routine (that reminds me of the 30 pound fat cat doing the "starving kitty" routine up in Tennessee), or the growing little chicks crying for more food ... well, the rabbits and gardens are pretty quiet.

I hadn't intended to grump here, but my back is bothering me yet again - third weekend in a row, in fact.  A couple weeks ago, when I was having trouble even standing up straight, I quipped to hubby, "And this is why VA pays me to stay home."  Bleh.  This isn't a good day for this, as I have things I want to do, like bake cookies, then ice and decorate them for tomorrow, finish planting another round of seeds in the starting tray(s), and oh yeah, I should probably clear out the fridge of unauthorized science projects to make room for leftovers from tomorrow when hubby's parents come down.  We're having the last leg of Pork Chop, the feeder pig from the spring.  Hubby gave it a nice hickory smoking yesterday, so not much to do tomorrow.

I suppose I could hook up some hats for up there.

21 December 2016

Solstice chick update

So today is the winter solstice.  The good news is, the days won't get any shorter than today - they'll incrementally get longer until the summer solstice.  The bad news is, the cold has not yet hit.  As much as I hate cold weather, I hope we can get a few days of frost to kill off the fleas which have staged a major invasion here in the 75+ weather we've been having.

The first batch of chicks hatched last month are happily growing.  We still give them a lot of food, but it doesn't seem possible to keep food in front of them at all times as the voracious little monsters hoover it up rather quickly.  I got weights this morning (forgot last night, and the previous two Tuesday evenings!) for the four week mark.  Two runts at 5.1 and 5.2 ounces, one in the middle at 5.5 ounces, (those appear to be cockerels) one pullet at 7.3 ounces, one "not-sure-just-yet" at 7.9 ounces, and one pullet weighing in at a hefty 8.0 ounces.  The big girl looks pretty good shape-wise, although her legs are a sooty color.
Pollux watching his latest batch of Wyandotte babies

left to right: a runt, the not-sure-yet and the dark blob is the big girl

on right, that's the big pullet's butt ...
looking closer that is a nice wide tail set!

Wyandotte chicks
I have a second batch of Wyandotte chicks, hatched out Friday.  Fifteen total, but one may be a cull if its neck doesn't straighten out better.  It appeared to be malpositioned in the egg.  This bunch is from only two breeding groups: Azar x the Sisters, and Tiny x the Pretties.  Week zero weights are: one at 1.2 ounce, one at 1.3 ounce, seven at 1.4 ounce, two at 1.5 ounce, and four at 1.6 ounce (all from Tiny x the Pretties).  Looks about the same as the first hatch, but I won't be able to compare again until week four because I missed weeks two and three on the first hatch.  Ah well, I'll get numbers for each week before summer hits this time.
new batch of Wyandotte chicks, hatched 16 Dec
The great possum war rages on, with egg thief number seven trapped and dispatched the previous weekend.  Something tripped the larger trap overnight, but was not caught, so I'll be looking for number eight in the traps soon.

Hubby has been busy the past week:
tree clean-up
That's a water oak behind him, and yes it came down on the workshop.  Given the size of the tree, that's really not much damage to the workshop roof.  The hurricane in early October partially uprooted this water oak (and about three other trees, but further back on the property) and it's basically been hanging for two months as we couldn't figure how to get it down without landing on the pig pen, the workshop, the power line, or the house.  It must have got tired of waiting on us, because it came down last Wednesday evening - and there was hardly any wind that night, so it came down straight.  I did need to call out the power company to get it off the power line to the main box, but we didn't actually lose power, so again not as bad as it could have been.

If I don't post again before the holidays, hope everyone has good ones, and hope y'all are enjoying all the warm weather!

03 December 2016

First try at making lotion

First, a confession.  I do not truly have a "black thumb," (as opposed to Mom's green thumb) but perhaps just a brown thumb.  The one species of plant I have always been able to not only keep alive, but have it thrive, is the aloe.  Yup, the burn plant has always done well for me ... okay, except when I had Twilight the indoor Terrorist Kitty who actually ate aloe plants.  She was quite strange even before she came back to me as a goat (now Chocolate, my blue-eyed Little Monster).

So, with a large number of aloe plants my mother-in-law gave me, and more peeking up around those plants, I have been researching things to do with aloe.  I have the stuff I need to make soap, just waiting on a day my back is more inclined to tolerate standing at the stove for the long stirring step in hot process soapmaking.  I also have the stuff needed to make my own lotion, and found a small batch recipe here.

So, I just gave it a try.  It will need some tweaking, but my first attempt was:
1 oz (by weight) olive oil
3 oz (by weight) coconut oil - solid at current room temp
30 g wax (clear cheese wax, I used a vegetable peeler to slice it off the block)
35 g aloe gel - one large fat leaf's worth
first batch of aloe lotion
I melted the wax and oils together, giving it a short zap in the microwave (30 seconds per zap) to heat it.  I probably should have measured out the aloe gel first, since it was trying to congeal as I was still scraping the leaf.  No fragrance, and definitely no colorant used, as I am not trying for anything fancy, just useful.

We're supposed to be riding the weather roller coaster ... a couple days in the 80sF, then rain, then chance of frost immediately behind the rain.  This has been the pattern the previous winters, and from listening to the locals it's perfectly normal.  When the cold hits, and hubby lights the wood-burning stove, the new lotion will get its stress test as that is when my skin gets SO dry and itchy.

Even if I end up not liking the "feel" of this first lotion, it will still make excellent udder balm for the goats.  It even looks like Udder Balm.

30 November 2016

Post-Thanksgiving post

Time flies when you keep yourself busy ... it's already the end of November??  That means my "baby" has had another birthday - he's 23 now.  Wow.

We hosted a small Thanksgiving here, with hubby's parents coming down.  I roasted a Muscovy duck, gifted to us by Frank and Caroline back when I helped them wrangle and castrate piglets and picked my three up.  I think that was September.  Along with the duck, I baked two decent sized sweet potatoes, then steamed some broccoli florets (store-bought, my plants are yet big enough to feed us) and opened a can of cranberry jelly.  Simple but very tasty.
roasted muscovy duck
That's the china platter I intended to send Feyd off on ... he would have filled it just a bit better, I think, but we were denied that by some nighttime predator.

Speaking of nighttime nuisances, egg thief number SIX has been trapped and dispatched.  This one tripped the smaller trap a couple times before finally getting caught in the larger of the traps.
possum number six caught
This one is pretty big, but still acted juvenile by opening its mouth and hissing at me.  I guess it grew up big from eating all those eggs ... the traps are set again, although one of the Flashy Girls sprung the larger trap again, thinking she should lay an egg next to the ones in the back of the trap for bait.

I put enough of a dent in the possum population to load up the incubator on the 1st, and chicks hatched on the 22nd.  I helped three out of the shells, as I had too many eggs in one plastic strawberry basket, but one chick was too weak and one had a dislocated hip, so eight chicks made it out of the incubator to be weighed and put in with Pollux.  The eight weights were: 1.2; 1.3; five at 1.4; and one at 1.5 ounce.  In the week just past, we lost two chicks due to smooshing (it's a technical term), likely from Pollux.  He didn't immediately adopt this group, and it's probably because I didn't take his last chick away soon enough for him to start feeling lonely and inclined to adopt any little ball of fluff.  We even had to set up the heat lamp and a tub of pine shavings for the chicks ... and of course there is always at least one who hops out immediately then cries about being alone and colder.

I weighed the remaining six chicks last evening, and had three weigh in at 1.9; one at 2.2; one at 2.4; and one at a whopping 2.6 ounces.  Next week I will be certain to have a paper bag I can fold closed to weigh them again!  The heat lamp provides just enough light for them to jump out of the plastic strawberry basket.  I know the original eight were five Bigfoot x Feyd's Daughters; two Azar x the Sisters; and one Tiny x the Pretties (the largest, also the surviving one I helped out of its shell).  I don't know which died.

Another note on those plastic strawberry containers: they don't even hold in/out newly hatched chicks.  I used four with the lids cut off to (try to) separate the eggs in the incubator, and it was not long after drying off that the chicks were up and over the sides of the baskets.  Lucky for me, I did not cut off ALL the lids on my stack of baskets, so I can try again with the current batch cooking in the incubator.  I had five breeding groups' eggs in there for that hatch, and this time I limited it to only three breeding groups (Azar x the Sisters; Tiny x the Pretties; and Azar x the Flashy Girls).  No eggs from Feyd's Daughters this time around, as one of the Daughters is broody and has been since the 17th.  She still has that crazed look in her eyes, so she may go the distance despite this being the wrong time of the year for them to go broody.  (NB: Lengthening daylight hours usually triggers those hormones, along with upping egg production just prior to broodiness.)

I'm also working on starting seeds, but I'll save that for another post.

17 November 2016

A few garden pictures

I may not have a green thumb, and still have more gardening fails than wins, but when something survives me - it tends to really thrive.  Here are a few notables thriving outside right now.
17 broccoli starts - all still going!
(Pac-Man hybrid variety, so no seed-saving)

the Greek oregano that must dream of world domination

3 hibiscus flowers in a row, that inspired me
to grab the camera and get pics

2 more hibiscus flowers

Italian oregano, two full season younger than the Greek
but expanding its reach nicely

surviving curled-leaf parsley
(the other is being choked out by the Greek oregano)

06 November 2016

Mystery kit and Daylight Stupid Time

First, before I do my semiannual rant about the clock stupidity, a bit of a mystery yesterday afternoon.  Hubby found a newborn kit (baby rabbit) on the ground by the right side of the cages.  Given this position, that ruled out Brooke, who is in the far left cage.  Shalimar was just bred October 23rd, so it was not hers.  Gracie had been in with George the week prior, but that would be early ... and when I pulled her out to inspect her, her nipples are tiny and hard.  So, I pulled out the new girl, Ginger, who I was assured was "definitely not pregnant."  Ginger was born in January, and not bred before I got her.  Her nipples were large and soft and a lot easier to find than Gracie's, who has had two litters prior to this breeding.  So much for "definitely not pregnant," as she must have gotten bred during the transit.  I called Lynn up, who says rabbits "usually" have more than one kit, but it isn't impossible.  Another possibility is that Cutie Pie, the outdoor cat, got any other kit(s).  So, Ginger is back by herself for a couple days for recovery before I toss her in with Jack again.  At least I now know why she was refusing to let Jack breed her.

Now ... about this idiocy with changing the clocks.  Where in the (*bleep*) did this crazy idea that somehow this is for "the farmers' benefit" come from recently?  There is not a single critter here that gives a flying leap what our clocks say, because animals are on sun time and not clock time, despite my best efforts to keep the goats on a 12 hour milking schedule.  The goats keep insisting I am early for morning milking and late for evening milking these past six weeks in particular.

Folks, for the record, Daylight "Savings" Time was started during World War Two as a way to conserve energy back home so more fuel could be used to power the war machine in both the European and Pacific theatres of combat.  Period.  It does not really affect a farming schedule, except for when us rural folk have appointments in town or need to be aware of business hours.  The energy conservation is much higher in the cities.  Basically, this is just a big annoyance, 71 years after the end of WW2.  The dog came in to wake me up the exact same time as he did yesterday.  Of course, I haven't yet changed my bedside clock so when I opened my eyes I just thought the dog was on time.  Anyway, y'all have now been informed so you know not to repeat the absolute ignorance of DST being "for the farmers' benefit," because the livestock does not care.

01 November 2016


Is it really November already?  Wow, time flies.  That means my "baby" will turn 23 later this month.

It's time for a rabbit update!  I even have pictures.  Dad informs me his wife LOVES my critter updates, so I should do them a little more often.  First up, I finally got a good picture of Shalimar, the solid blue Rex-furred doe I finally got from Wayne and Lisa.  They bought her at the auction the same night I bought Brooke and Gracie, and she's had a good litter for them so has a track record of breeding and rearing.  She ought to be pregnant by Jack, as I put her in on the 23rd of October and he bred her three times.
Shalimar, my solid blue Rex-furred girl
You can see why it's been more of a challenge to get a decent pic of her, with that color and trying to keep the bunnies in the shade during the heat of summer.  It is FINALLY cooling off at night - we've even had a couple nights below 60F!

I have a new addition to the bunny banks: meet Ginger.  She's Rex-furred, but is a cross between New Zealand (a large meat breed) and Florida White (a medium, compact meat breed).  I asked where the Rex fur gene came from, and was told it lurks in some Florida White lines, as there was a standard Rex or two in the foundation stock.  Here she is, in with Jack the Gigolo Rabbit:
Handsome Jack and Ginger

Ginger and Jack
Jack is becoming quite the gigolo, as he's been out to Flagler Estates to breed the mother of the young bunnies I got late spring, and in addition to Brooke, Shalimar, and now Ginger, my friend Lynn says she wants to bring her three meat cross girls to him.  She traded the lady I got Ginger from three guineas for three rabbits - and that was somehow MY fault for referring the lady to Lynn when she mentioned she wanted guineas.  Uh huh ... whatever.

Final big update: Lacey is now renamed Larry.  He was the only little bunny Lynn was not certain on gender ... I really hoped he'd be a she but there is no doubt anymore.  I kind of wish I had discovered it before I put Shalimar in with Jack, because she'd be a good cross for Larry.  Lynn is thinking she might breed one of her girls to Larry to see what she gets, considering he's an F2 Rex/New Zealand cross.

So there are my new(ish) rabbits.  Now it's time to check the girls to see if they have any buns in the oven (haha) while pestering Caroline's husband Frank for technical drawings of his rabbit hutch design.  I'd love to move the bunnies out from under the carport to inside the chicken's electric perimeter, especially since Brooke and George have now finally decided to let me pet them without shying away, cringing, or shaking themselves off ... it's been along time coming, but persistence pays off with even the more stubborn critters.

24 October 2016

Egg thief number 3 caught

Another egg thief caught, and this one is no juvenile.  With luck, I have now trapped the ringleader, aka "Big Mama."
unhappy trapped egg-thieving possum

this one is twice the size of the others
I did manage to collect some Wyandotte eggs yesterday before milking time - twenty-three, to be exact.  I found no intact eggs in the Big Butt Girls' tractor, and when hubby went to collect what looked like two eggs in with the Flashy Girls, he only found empty shells.  The older hens should be done molting, but they won't lay really well until after the solstice when the days start to get longer.  Y'all can see why I am trapping these egg thieves - I need all the eggs I can get for the incubator.

21 October 2016

Egg thief number two

I was going to take a pic, but then I decided to just deal with it right away and worry about a pic on the next one maybe.  Apparently, we have a whole family of possums eating our chicken eggs.  It was noticeable because I had decided it was time to fill up the incubator and start hatching ... and finding broken egg shells in multiple tractors really had us tweaked.

I'm pretty sure I've seen Big Mama possum over the summer in the back pasture - big ugly thing.  Hubby saw her the night before last, when he went out behind the workshop to see if that annoying armadillo was digging back there again.  Wednesday morning, the first juvenile was in the smaller trap (borrowed from Lynn) but nothing in the bigger trap (bought Tuesday at TSC, 30 days to return with receipt taped to the packing).  Yesterday there was still nothing in the big trap, and hubby hadn't reset the smaller one Wednesday night.  This morning, another juvenile in the small trap ... and eggs missing from the tractor with Azar and the Sisters where I think I saw three yesterday and hubby remembers two.  I'm wondering if the juveniles are too small to trip the big trap.

Hubby had been moving the fence around, trying to close up where ever they are getting in, and I think he's got it so Big Mama can't get inside the electric perimeter, but obviously the younger ones still are.  I plan to move the big trap to behind the workshop and see what we get.  Meanwhile, the small trap will be set up in the same spot again tonight.

We are not doing catch-and-release, because they would just come right back.  The juveniles are too small to even bother with skinning and feeding to the pigs, so we are just drowning them in the big brooder tub (actually a 110 gallon stock tank) then tossing the carcass out back into the state-owned woods.

Meanwhile, the mosquitoes are HORRIBLE this year.  These aren't just the small, sneaky normal mosquitoes - these suckers are big enough to see and feel the bite.  Speculation is they blew in with the hurricane.  I wish they'd go back to whichever pit of hell they came from and leave us alone.  They are bothering a whole lot more than just hubby and me - the mosquitoes are all over the goats, rabbits, and pigs ... probably the chickens too but they don't let me get up close to see.

10 October 2016

Back to normal

The electricity came on late yesterday afternoon, so it's back to normal here.  We're slowly going through the fridge to see what is still good and what should go to the pigs - they're getting the milk from yesterday morning and earlier, and are quite happy about that.

All the critters came through the hurricane safe and sound.  It could have been a lot worse, and we're both grateful it wasn't.

06 October 2016

Pre-storm check in

Right now, the sun is shining and the wind is just a normal breeze.  We did our main stock-up on Monday, before anyone else ... but the one critter feed I forgot was cat food.  Hubby went up to Palatka yesterday to pick up his new glasses, and said there were lines for gas stations and the parking lot for the local Winn-Dixie was "packed."

It's been a whole lot of normal here lately.  About the only newsworthy things is I got one new bunny, a New Zealand/Florida White cross with Rex fur who is white and orange-red.  I named her Ginger, and she was born sometime in January, so a little older than Lacey.  The goats are in their breeding season, and Brownie is a stinky, silly billy who has worked off his pot belly pudge already.  The pigs are growing, and look healthy and happy.  Cerridwen will now let hubby and I both scratch her ears.  Annie Sue still isn't sure about being touched, but Boston IS sure - he is sure he wants nothing to do with it.  I only had two chicks hatch from Feyd and the Sisters, and one of those broke its thigh bone (Pollux probably stepped on it) so just one last chick from Feyd.

A reminder that we are on satellite internet, so there will probably be several hours when we can't get signal through the clouds.  Being on the dead end of a dirt road, it's likely we may lose power for anywhere between an hour and a few days.  Our neighbor Slim told us the record for this set of dirt roads was the year three named storms came though one right after another, and power was out for two weeks.

I'm not worried about the rain - the forecast is for 7-10 inches, and we got 14-16 inches in 36 hours up in Tennessee in the spring of 2010.  Of course, that kicked off an historic flood, but then as now I had bought a home on higher ground.  Our biggest concern is the wind, since we DO live in the woods.

We are not under mandatory evacuation orders, so we are staying put to take care of all the animals.  It may be difficult to get in touch with me if the power goes out for a while, but have faith that we'll make it through.

12 September 2016

Pig Pen pictures

The pig pen is complete, and the three little pigs have moved in.  They seem to be enjoying the room to run.  It took two weeks, but it's always faster and easier to do it right the first time.  Now, let's hope we did it right!

pigs enjoying the new pen

lots of room to move around - right now

02 September 2016

Quick storm update

Just got a text from my sister asking how things are going down here.  I had been thinking about posting an update anyway.  We're not in the storm's path.  Landfall was a good 4-5 hours' drive from us.  We are getting rain, so work on the pig pen is temporarily paused due to that.  I woke up at three-something this morning to the sound of pouring rain and a full bladder, but it's down to just enough rain to irk the chickens right now.  Cell phone coverage seems spottier than usual, but power and satellite internet are both working.

I think I'll sew today.

31 August 2016

3 little piggies

I went and got our three little piglets on Sunday - and boy what an adventure that turned out to be.  Dragon-Momma Miss Piggy led a jailbreak, so it was more challenging than expected to get the piglets separated from her, and there was one little shoat (uncut male) we could not catch.  In fact, Frank said he didn't finally catch that little monster until this morning.

Meanwhile, I had a front-row "seat" to learning how to castrate pigs ... I had to hold them because Caroline took a wrong step the day before and had a swollen knee under her knee brace.  Castrating pigs is a lot like caponizing chickens; just no rib spreader needed.

I got picks of the litter, since Frank and Caroline plan to eat the remaining pigs, including Miss Piggy.  I picked the solid, heavy black gilt (baby female) as soon as I netted her.  She ended up breaking the net frame, she's so heavy compared to her siblings.  Even without catching the one, I am sure she is the biggest of the six.  Her name is Cerridwen (pronounced "Kerr-a-dwynn", the Welsh goddess who sometimes appeared as a big black sow).  I compared the red gilt to the spotted gilt, and saw the red one was wider through the body, so that was my second girl and I named her Annie Sue, from The Muppet Show.  As for my newly-cut barrow (pig equivalent to a capon), his name is Boston Butt.
3 little piggies
my only somewhat-clear pic of Boston

Cerridwen and Annie Sue,
each trying to HOG the food
Right now they are in dog crates, with Boston being by himself until his incisions heal.  This also keeps them from running too far away from us until they get more used to us, and realize we are the source of food, water, and yummies like eggs and whey.  The other reason they are in the dog crates is because hubby is still working on the pig pen.  He'd like to get it right the first time, and when Lynn brought the cattle panels down on her flatbed truck, she had some advice ("Dig it in a lot deeper than that!") which hubby is incorporating.  Here's where he's at today:
working on the pig pen
Finally, a goat picture ... just because.  Usually, there are four or five lined up on the downed tree, but every once in a while when it isn't too crowded, Flora lays down on it.
Molly, Flora, and Tangie
I'll need to get a pic soon of Flora standing up.  She's just gone through another growth spurt.

18 August 2016

Ground broke for pig pen

So while I was stir-frying up some zucchini and leftover rice, Caroline calls.  The piglets are pretty much off the teat and eating solid food, to Miss Piggy's disgust, and four of the six are getting out regularly.  They were finally able to sex the piglets (Miss Piggy is from the school of dragon-mothers) have a half-and-half litter, with the spotted one, one red, and one black being gilts (young girl piggies).  When she called me, they had just picked up the bander and bands for all the boys.
the piglets and Miss Piggy, mid-July
The piglets sunning themselves, mid-July
So hubby and I - being King and Queen of procrastination, respectively - went out with the tape measure, six sections of PVC pipe, and the rubber mallet and began seriously discussing where the pig pen will be.  Hubby only wants to build it once, and I fully agree on that sentiment.  We also briefly discussed the layout and concept, and that is a go at this station.  The main difference of opinion was which side of the property to build it on.  I insisted it be on the southern side, where it is always shady to keep them out of the heat.  Hubby prefers the northern side, where it will be much more protected from predators, although that is also where we have the solar charger for the fence due to the sunnyness.  A little bit of haggling, and it is set up on the southern side, but we'll be getting another section of fence to put it inside the goat perimeter.  We'll also be moving the grape vine that was here when we bought the place, and Lynn has commented that it doesn't produce because it's in far too much shade.

I am buying two gilts and one barrow (cut male) as "quality control".  I am not certain which I am getting just yet, but I suspect Caroline will want to keep the spotted gilt judging from how she talked about that one.  One red and one black are fine with me, and I shall name them Miss Piggy and Annie Sue.  Annie Sue was the younger girl-pig on The Muppet Show in the second season.  I think I'll let hubby name the feeder boy.

Progress for today is the pig pen laid out, measured, and six fence post holes dug in the right places.

16 August 2016

Nine A.M.

A while back, one of the military branches (Army?) had a recruiting commercial that said, "We do more before 9 A.M. than most people do all day."  Well, the thought occurred to me this morning that out here I do more before 9 A.M. than I did most days in the Army.

So, things I have done already (clock says 0903) include:

  • turned on sprinkler in goat pasture
  • let morning crew of chickens out
  • let guineas out
  • fed rabbits
  • milked four goats
  • refilled mammals' waters
  • moved sprinkler to new location
  • trimmed dog's toe nails
  • fed chickens
  • started laundry
  • watered garden boxes where I planted Swiss chard seeds and green onion seeds the past week
I still need to hang my laundry, then bring it in before dark, do something with at least a gallon of milk, and of course milk in the evening.

Usually, when in garrison in the Army, by 0900 we had gotten up, did PT (physical training, not therapy), showered, ate breakfast, and dressed for work call formation which normally was at 0900 sharp, which meant you better have been there by ten minutes prior or you'd spend however long in back of the formation doing push-ups.  Looking over my little list, there is nothing physically strenuous - and that's a good thing with my back.  It just looks like a lot because it didn't rain last evening or overnight, and only a small chance of rain for today so I may water where I seeded again this evening.

14 August 2016

Wyandotte pictures

Just a few pics, first up, the new chicken fence:
new 48-inch high chicken fence
It seems to be working properly, as we haven't lost any more chickens.  It's also too tall for Flaca and Ducky to just hop over any time they feel like checking out sprouts in the front "lawn" area or garden beds.  The pulser actually was not bad - the battery wasn't holding enough of a charge to pulse the fence.  The box for the goat fence has two batteries, so hubby swapped it for one of those and everything seems to be working fine now.

I have not posted any recent pics of my gold-laced Wyandottes, so here are a bunch of my F1 generation, including Bigfoot.
Bigfoot, looking pretty

Pollux the capon nanny,
and Feyd's five daughters from the March hatch

Pollux and Feyd's daughters
note the nice wide-set tail!

Bigfoot's four sisters, and one Azar daughter -
I can't tell them apart 

F1 group I call "the Sisters"
plus Azar's one daughter

new pic of Tiny,
sire of Bigfoot and the Sisters
I had Feyd in with the Sisters, so I have been collecting up every egg they've set since he died.  I plan to set the incubator tomorrow evening after picking up eggs for day ten.  This hatch will be my first F2 generation (since the Sisters are F1s).  When Feyd's daughters from the March hatch get laying, I will be rotating Bigfoot in with them first, then Tiny and Azar afterwards to see which cross gives me the best looking chicks.

07 August 2016

Planting notes, 7 Aug

So, hubby took my camera out the other evening while I was milking and grumping about getting hardly any pics in focus, and he took a bunch of pictures of all the goats (from all angles, as well).  I did try to pull those pics off the digicam, but apparently the computer and cam are not talking to each other today.  So, you'll get a text update.

First, our chicken thief returned last night.  This time it got a Silkie hen who was setting a nest, and almost everything in the nest as well.  I discovered it quite early this morning, when I heard a chick cheeping LOUDLY.  Along with the missing hen, I also found a dead hen - the last black one.  She has no marks on her, so either internal injuries or she literally died of fright.  I am guessing the wet smell of chicks hatching is what attracted it.  We still don't know what is preying on our chickens, but we did learn what the problem was the other evening: the pulser in the fence charger died.  Tomorrow afternoon, the big brown truck will bring us not only a new pulser, but new poultry netting as well - this one 48 inches tall.  Let's see if it can get over that.  Of course, if it does then we are dealing with something not only big enough to carry Feyd off the other night, but something that can climb the trees well enough to bypass the fence ... the only thing I can think of that could do that would be a Florida panther.  (Yes, they are real.)  Recap: good news/bad news first thing this morning.  One hen missing, one hen dead, one new (really loud) chick.

I managed to accomplish the task I wanted to do today a little after lunch: spreading forage and clover seed in the goat pasture.  The goats followed me around as I tossed the seed, trying to figure out if I had treats, then getting annoyed that they couldn't find the grain seeds.  I tried to tell them, "Curiosity killed the cat, ya know," but the look I got basically said, "What does our crazy little cousin have to do with this?"

Talking to Lynn afterwards, I asked if she starts any seeds this early.  She not only said yes, but she meant to tell me the other day that August and September were the months to start tomatoes and peppers as well as herbs.  So, I plan to start some seed trays tomorrow - parsley first as it takes just-about-forever to sprout.  One of the herb gardening books poetically puts it, "Parsley must go to the Devil and back seven times before it will sprout."  It may sound silly, but it sticks in my memory.  Speaking of memory, I read rosemary is good for memory, and students in ancient Greece used to wear crowns of rosemary for tests.  Again, odd visual ... and it stays in my memory.  My rosemary is still alive, but still not yet big enough to start harvesting.

In case anyone is wondering, I am also trying to learn a bit of basic herbalism to go with the culinary uses.  I'll have to get a picture of all my herb books: growing/gardening, medicinal uses, and of course magical properties as well.  Those of y'all who don't believe in magic can just think of it as learning the old folklore associated with herbs.  If y'all want to take it a step further, plant herbs when the moon is in Libra (by the astrological chart, not astronomical one).  Same with pasture and field grains and grasses.  If it takes magic (or folklore, if you prefer) to overcome my black thumb, then magic it shall be.

04 August 2016

Molly and Flora

I finally got around to attempting to get halfway decent pictures of Molly and Flora.  I've only had them for over a month now!  Lynn says Flora looks double the size she was when we went to get her the last weekend of June.  Molly is half Nigerian Dwarf, half Nubian, as is Flora's sire, which make Flora technically half/half, albeit an F2 (second generation).  Molly is a very good milker, and I am hoping Flora is the same.

Mind you, I took either 14 or 16 pictures just to get these four somewhat in-focus pics.  That's about the same (lack of) success rate I have with the chickens.

02 August 2016

Now Feyd is gone

I had intended to resume blogging with a much more cheerful topic, really I did.  Feyd - my beautiful, big original Gold-Laced Wyandotte rooster - is gone.  A medium-sized predator got into the electric perimeter last night, dug under the back board of the tractor, and managed to get Feyd and drag him off.  Knowing Feyd, he probably bit the predator's nose bloody, and is giving it indigestion to boot.  All five pullets that were in with Feyd are still here - Bigfoot's four sisters plus Azar's one daughter.  I plan to gather up every egg they lay in the next ten days to hatch, before I put another rooster in with them.
Where the predator dug under, and some feathers from Feyd

This wasn't how I planned for Feyd to make his final exit ... after Feyd taking a chunk of skin off hubby's palm last week, I had decided Feyd deserved a proper death, as the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner on the blue and white china platter.  So much for plans.
another view of where the predator dug under

This is our fault.  We had become complacent; we had become lax.  We both had seen the broken eggshells , but thought the hens were kicking them out of the tractors.  We have been lazy on keeping the grass down around the electronetting, so it could have been grounding out.  Hubby immediately spotted where the fence was sown this morning.

We're not sure what we're dealing with - smaller than a bear (the bear would have caused much more damage) but larger than your average opossum or coon.  Possibly a bobcat, or coyote, or loose dog, or maybe even a fox.  Hubby says he will probably sit up tonight, hoping to shoot it.

This is on top of another rabbit loss Saturday.  Out of the four young rabbits I bought, I sold one _ Runt - lost Hogger to a freak accident where he got both hocks jammed into the wire and tore skin and meat off trying to get loose, and now Roberta, the big girl, who like Hammy looked like she simply went to sleep and didn't wake up.  That leaves me with Lacey from that group, plus Shalimar who is doing just peachy.
Lacey, remaining bunny from the NZ/Rex mix group I bought earlier this summer
Y a know, I forgot to snap a pic of Shalimar.  She's in the shade now, and that will make it difficult to get a good pic because she is a solid dark blue (grey).

As for the long silence ... well, it seems this year that the more I am doing around here, the less I feel like blogging.  I guess you could say I've been spending my energy doing, instead of just "talking" about it.  By the time I'm done with evening milking, I usually just want to stop sweating, maybe take a shower, and lay down and either read, or just page through a knitting or crochet magazine, or cookbook, or through one of my herb books with lots of pictures.

24 June 2016

Hammy died

I'm actually a bit upset about it - Hammy died in his sleep overnight sometime.  I was not ready to be pig-less yet ... we have a 50 pound bag of pig feed we just opened this week, and for whatever reason the chickens don't drink the whey from cheese- and yogurt-making.  When I noticed Hammy was not flipping his metal water pan or oinking and grunting at me to hurry up and bring him breakfast, I went over to investigate.  He looked like he was racked out for a nap, except as I got closer I could see all the flies and ants.

It isn't just about all the meat that went to waste.  Hammy has provided much amusement, even when he got out Wednesday morning, and was running around, barking, wagging his tail so hard it looked like a propeller on his rump, scaring the chickens, and in general having himself a great-good time.  We got him back in the crate  in the usual way: pour some whey from the recent batch of butterkase cheese in his dish, and in he went.  He took a couple gulps while hubby got the door closed, then Hammy started to roll in the whey, which was still quite cool from being in the refrigerator overnight.  Feel free to joke about us playing with our food ... we make that joke quite often.

I had been meaning to get a picture of Hammy recently, to show how big he'd gotten as well as hopefully showing how shiny his hair was in the sunlight, but hadn't done it yet.

06 June 2016

Bunny update

No pics, as it is a grey and blah day here.  It's just not as wet as was forecast so far - we'd actually like a little more rain for the new fruit trees.  Along with putting up a post to let family and friends know we are still very much above water, there have been some significant bunny changes here.

The first is in the addition column of "rabbit math."  Five new rabbits - yes, five - have been added: four just weaned and about six weeks old (born April 27th) and cute as baby bunnies can be, and one adult that I have been hoping to buy for months.  I bought all four baby bunnies because the lady said she isn't good at sexing them at such a young age, and neither am I.  I stopped by Lynn's on the way home with them to have her look, since she used to raise rabbits by the hundreds (literally).  She looked, and said I have two and two, so Saturday I took the runt male up to the farm swap to try and sell him as a pet, since not only is he flashily marked, but has the perfect balanced temperament for a pet - not too adventurous but not too timid.  Animals just weren't selling this month, and I was not inclined to hang around at the auction to sell him there.  So, I'll feed him for a month and try again next time.

The adult addition to the rabbit row is a beautiful dark blue Rex furred female.  I had thought she was larger, but that was probably because when I first saw her at the auction she was in a very small cage.  Lisa had named her Shalimar, and I'll likely keep that name.  Lisa told me Shalimar is shy and submissive, and needs a week or three of sniffing noses through the wire before I try to put her in with Jack the gigolo bunny.  Oh yeah, part of the payment for the baby bunnies was bringing Jack out to spend some time with the babies' mother.  Tabitha is really hoping this results in a litter, and I of course am curious to see how Jack's first kits turn out.

Now, for the subtraction column of the rabbit ledger - Beau is fulfilling his destiny, and weighs in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces of meat and bone.  I salted his skin with canning & pickling salt, then left it out for a few hours to somewhat dry (as best as can be expected in our humidity) then folded it salt-side-in and put it into a freezer bag in the freezer to wait until I have a couple more.  We're looking at various rabbit recipes.  Lynn came down yesterday morning to demonstrate proper slaughter and dressing-out of a rabbit, so now I know how to snap a rabbit's neck quickly and with as little stress as possible.

So, to summarize: still alive, still above water, and still weird.

21 May 2016

Crazy critter week

Very, very busy week with the critters here, starting on Monday with first baby Silkie chicks that had to come out into the brooder tub because the two black dragons were so deep into nest setting mode they pecked at anything moving too close to their nest ... including the newly hatched chicks.  Then Monday afternoon, hubby called to me to come outside and identify something ... "Baby bunnies!"  Except only one of the three was still alive.  I hadn't put the nest box in because Brooke gave no hint of impending labor or delivery.

We've had some heavy downpours this week (though no flooding, thankfully) and the first really heavy wall-of-water rain flooded the brooder tub.  Hubby just happened to hear baby chicks cheeping, and went out and saved three of the four in the tub, which he moved into his workshop until last night.

The squirmy little bunny kit started off a bit chilled, then I held Brooke on her back, cradled in my arm like a babe, so the kit could nurse.  The kit kept going from teat to teat, and I could hear it sucking vigorously, but it would take 20-30 minutes before I could see the milk belly.  Brooke wasn't making much milk.  We also caught her using the nest box as a litterbox, so I pulled the nest box out and set it in the brooder tub so baby bunny would stay warm and dry.  When I got home Thursday afternoon from Tractor Supply to pick up some feed and kitten bottles, the kit was lethargic, barely responsive, and looked emaciated ... so I called up Lynn, who used to breed and raise a LOT of meat rabbits.  She told me Brooke sounded like the textbook problem "newbie" mother, and that she usually figured her first timers would have small litters and then lose them all through clumsiness or benign neglect.  I found the kit cold, stiff, and dead the next morning.  Lynn says I can breed Brooke back two weeks after the kits were born, and she ought to do better with the next litter.  If she doesn't, Lynn recommends "into the frying pan with her!"

I sold Harry Houdini and Cocoa to my friends Caroline and Frank yesterday, then today I drove to the other side of Gainesville (good grief, there are a lot of goat people on that side of Gainesville!) to pick a new Nigerian Dwarf doe/nanny, who is registered and looks to be a great compliment to Brownie if I feel inclined to sell registered kids.  The option is there.  Here she is, Honey Road FRP Tangie, or just Tangie for short.
Honey Road FRP Tangie, Nigerian Dwarf doe
Ain't she purty?  She's technically oversized, as in too tall and would be disqualified from the show ring, but I didn't buy her to show.  While she hasn't been milked this year, the lady said she did milk her last year and Tangie produced quite decently with tolerably good milk stand manners (especially when grain is involved).  She's two years old, a couple months younger than Chocolate, and kidded twice now - single birth both times - with this year's kid born four weeks ago.  The lady said she wanted to finish this year's kids on the bottle, as that makes them a lot more people-friendly.

So, two kids leave here, and one nanny sans kid arrives ... and all that milk will be MINE!  Mine to make all sorts of cheese with, and still have plenty to keep us in caramel coffee creamer and me in yogurt.  Now all I need is a decent cheese press, so I can make colby, cheddar, brick, swiss, and whatnot.

Oh, almost forgot to mention sending out guinea eggs - 45 to Lynn (who also has my incubator to hatch them with, along with her whites) and then 15 went home with Frank and the kids, but he probably won't let the kids have anything to do with them.  LOL

Just think - this is the short version, and doesn't cover planting.  It's been quite the busy week.

15 April 2016

Goats and goat cheese

OK, I thought hubby had put up the pictures from last week, but apparently not ... so here are the first pics of the goat who is helping to keep me busy.  Meet Prim, and her buckling Harry Houdini.
little Harry Houdini nursing his dam, Primrose

Prim and her buckling Harry
While we're at it, here's a nice pic of four out of the five goats resting in the shade and chewing their cud (yes, goats are ruminants like cows).
relaxing in the shade
Prim produces a good amount of milk - between a quart and five cups a day.  This gives me a decent amount of milk to work with, although Prim's milk has a more pronounced "goaty" flavor than Chocolate's milk does.  Last weekend, I made my first batch of feta, and we finally tried it last night.  It has the flavor note from Prim's milk, and may need a little more salt, but is definitely feta and does taste pretty good.

Earlier this week, I made caramel coffee creamer from a recipe in the Raising Goats Naturally book I've mentioned before.  It's just milk, sugar, and a bit of baking soda to keep it from boiling over, then you simmer for however many hours it takes to get it to a consistency you want.  Hubby pronounced it good ... in fact, he had urged me to make it so he could find a way to appreciate the goat milk.  He says he really does want to find a way (this was before the feta was ready to try).

Now, I have queso blanco in the cheese mold - with pasilla peppers mixed in it.  My inspiration was here for a photo tutorial which used jalapeno peppers, which don't agree with me (but hubby loves).  Depending on how it turns out, we may fry up some for posole (Maria and Perla gave me the recipe last night!  Yay!) or just make tacos or burritos out of it, or pop it onto tortilla chips for nachos.
queso blanco with pasilla bajo peppers
(in the mold)