Frosty and Annie go home!

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Frosty made a steady recovery during her 3 days inside!  She and her mother Annie were wonderful house guests, even if they were a bit curious about the inside of a house.  With the weather warming up outside, by goat standards at least, we picked today to transition them back out to their home in the barn. 

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Annie was a lot happier to go back out to the barn than she had been to come into the house!  She walked along quietly after Acadia and baby Frosty.

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We had put a heat lamp on in the stall to give Frosty a warm spot if she needs one, and she is sporting a very stylish “kid coat” made of an old sweater sleeve.  Frosty really doesn’t like the coat and has little interest in the lamp when she could be next to her mother or tumbling around in the hay.

It looks like Frosty is well on her way to becoming part of the herd! (We think the one floppy ear, a result of her frosty birth, just makes her all the more cute!)

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Goat Watch day 3…No goats in the house

ImageThis may look like a goat in my basement.  It is.  I have a goat reference book that I rely on for goat care information, one of those great Storey’s guides that you can find on any topic you might be interested in.  In it, there is a passage that states “Everyone will end up with a goat in the house at some point”.   “No, everyone with not” I replied to the book each time I would see that in the chapter on kidding.  Last night I brought a goat into the house.  Look out, apparently everyone will have a goat in their house at some point.  You may want to go check your basement.

I am not really sure if I want to write this post, I don’t know if it has a happy ending or not.  Our first goat kidding took place for the year yesterday.  I had been really worried with the temperatures dropping so low at night and then yesterday never getting about about 10F in my barn.  Our first time mother, Annie, gave birth yesterday afternoon around 1:00.  The kidding went really well, Momma did all the right things.  We were on hand to help her dry the baby and the little girl came out feisty and strong.  But the temperatures were just too low.  The baby began to freeze and we couldn’t get her warm. 

Our goal is always to keep the momma and baby together and help the baby to nurse naturally.  We try to intervene as little as possible, because the more we interfere with the natural processes, the more unlikely it is that we will have an independent mother/kid pair.  In cold weather the goal is to help the baby to regulate their own temperature so that she can stay with her mother and the herd where she belongs.  When the baby couldn’t seem to warm up, we started with a kid coat made of an old sweater, and then progressed to a heat lamp in the stall.  She got weaker and weaker until we lost hope of her beginning to nurse on her own.  We finally decided that we needed to get the colostrum from mom into her one way or another and brought out “the kit”.  Annie was such a trooper through the whole process, we milked her out while she stood patiently (this is amazing for a first time mother who has never been milked) and used a stomach tube and syringe to get it into the baby.  The little one responded well to the tubing and became alert again, but was still too weak to stand  and couldn’t stop shaking. 

We took turns sitting with the the pair in the barn until Chris got home from work and the temperatures started to get even lower.  After checking the forecast again and seeing -4, we made the decision to move the baby into the house to try to save her.  I was really upset about taking her away from her mother, knowing that she would now be bottle fed and have to live in a cage in the house until spring.  We were in the process of saying “It’s too bad we can’t bring Annie in too…”  when we thought, we live in an old house…our basement can certainly accommodate one small momma goat.  And so I found that “everyone eventually has a goat in the house”.

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This morning “Frosty” is doing better.  She is still having trouble standing on her own, she is much weaker than most babies her age.  But she did start nursing on her own during the night, with the help of one of my children who apparently couldn’t sleep.  We will see.  Our goal is to be able transition the pair back out to the barn in the next day or so, possibly with a heat lamp in their stall for a while.  

 

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Making room for starts

Goat watch Day 2:  No baby goats, expectant mothers happily cuddling in their stall.  This is a good thing…but anytime now would be fine before the temperature drops again next week!  We are waiting on Tansy, Milly, Annie, and possibly Coconut.

Meanwhile, in the house…

Our upstairs bathroom is out of commission for a quick re-tiling job…but, we live in an old house so of course we ran into complications.  As long as we now have to rip up most of the floor to repair the structural problems, we may as well finish the whole thing and add a shower stall that a grown up human can stand upright in.  So, the hall closet/new shower stall has been emptied and now lives in my sitting room/upstairs hallway waiting for us to find a new storage solution.

The Soaps have had their day curing on the seed starting stand, but they are going to have to move into the dining room now.  Time to make up that potting mix and plant some seeds!

Homeschool Joy of the Day:  Listening to A. read Roald Dahl in the car every time we get in to drive anywhere.

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The goat watch begins…under less than ideal circumstances.  This will be our first year expecting babies in really cold winter conditions.  I am really hoping for no babies in the next few nights with temperatures hovering around 0*F.  We have all the whole goat crew in the main part of the barn conserving heat with the horses, and we are trying to come up with a good system for keeping mommas and babies warm if they are born.  Let’s hope for some warmer weather and late kidding!

Lawn Project: Week 2

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Planning a strategy

Week two of the lawn project is here!  I still have grass, lots and lots of grass, but at least it is nice and green now.  Looking out at the expanse of lawn you might not think that I’ve followed through on my one project a week promise.  This week’s work is just not obvious.

Those of you that know me may have figured out that my first step in any new endeavor is usually to make a lot of lists, sketches, pictures and plans.  (Chris would probably argue that my first step is really to buy the largest book I can find on the topic.)  So, you will have to look inside for progress on the Lawn Project this week.

I started out the week by walking around the yard and thinking.  I already had some ideas about what I would like the yard to look like and how I would like it to function, but I decided that it would be a good idea to make a concrete list of those ideas and my overall goals.

I thought all the comments were right on the mark last week.  I will definitely be keeping some grassy areas for plan and relaxation. I am also trying not to rush the process in order to meet deadlines.  The entire project will likely not be finished in one year, and will continue to evolve for as long as we live here.  But, especially with a lager scale project like this, I like to have a road map of where I want to go.  Detours will certainly happen, and the final destination may not even remain the same, but having a direction in mind helps to focus everything. This lack of overall planning has been one of our biggest problems in the past,  I am trying not to make the same mistake again!

So…drum roll…here is my list of goals:

  • Install thoughtful plantings that include food for us, food for wildlife, food for bees, and food for the plants themselves. Lots of food.
  • Spaces for recreation and relaxation
  • A more extensive collection of herbs, both perennial and annual
  • Manageable pathways and low maintenance edges
  • Flexibility built into the design

I started off by dividing the yard in to four quadrants, the NE, NW, SE, and SW.  I measured both the  SE and SW sections this week  and drew a map of each showing all the existing plantings and landmarks.  After that, I began to sketch in the ideas that I have been playing around with.

Now…

SE section Before

SE section Before

And Later…

SE Section Proposed

SE Section Proposed

Was I sitting around in the house all week drawing?  Nope.  Sig and I took advantage of the nice weather and planted 3 new trees, another peach tree, a new sweet cherry, and a pine tree that the nursery down the street gave Sig and Acadia for Earth Day.  We also continued the general spring cleanup and managed to get a few potatoes in the ground before it rained.  Here are a couple of pictures of the new trees and plans.

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Have a great week!

Himalayan Sea Salt Spa Bar

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Meet our new seasonal soap and spa collection…Himalayan Pink Sea salt! The soap is purifying and exfoliating with it’s blend of creamy soap and sea salt. I love the naturally pink color of the salt. It is scented with a great blend of Lemongrass and Eucalyptus essential oils.

The soap works really well as a set with the matching bath salts and either whipped Shea butter or Goat Milk body lotion in the same scent. I am offering these for sale for a limited time around Mother’s Day.

Happy Spring!

The Lawn Project

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Well, there it is.  Our lawn.  A big lawn, full of grass.  From looking at the pictures I post online and stories I share about our homestead, you probably would never guess I have  one of these.  But, its true.  I own…a lawn.

What’s wrong with a lawn?  The evils of the American lawn are the subject of many articles, books, periodicals, and websites.  In short, the average lawn uses resources that could be used to grow healthy food rather than grass, and, in keeping the lawn picture perfect, more chemical fertilizers,  pesticides, and herbicides are dumped into the environment than by all the farms in the U.S. combined.  I am not going to try to reiterate here what many have explained better elsewhere, nor will I be telling you how I have risen above the culture of the lawn…I just showed you the proof that we fit right in with most other turf owning households.  If you do want to read a bit more about lawns and their impact, I will list a few resources at the end of this post.

downsized_0409131625My reasons for posting are more personal and more about our particular situation.  We chose to move to our homestead in large part to be able to align our ideas about healthy food systems with our lifestyle.  We wanted to eat local, fresh, organic food, and be more connected with where our food came from.  (Of course, there are many ways to do this, and this isn’t meant as an attack of anyone, or their lawn!). We were, and are, interested in playing around with a lot of the ideas we had been reading about; sustainable food production, creating systems that allow plants and animals to work together,  and making  all of this an integral part of our life.  A big part of the whole idea was to use the resources we have to their best advantage.  Mowing an acre or more of grass and trying to make it look like a suburban lawn doesn’t work with our overall goals,  and so…the lawn must to go.

I didn’t plan the lawn, it came with the house when we moved in three yearsdownsized_0409131625a ago.    Every winter I make sketches of what I will it become over the summer, and every spring I get busy planting the vegetable garden, taking care of the animals, or painting an outbuilding.  Pretty soon it is the middle of summer and really not a good time to put in new beds or plant trees, so I decide to prepare the area in the fall so that it is ready next spring.  Obviously, if you looked at the picture above, that hasn’t worked out too well for me either.

To be fair, this is actually a big project.  We have what amounts to about two acres of lawn.  Purchasing enough fruit trees, perennial vegetables, and other plantings is not possible for us all at once. Also, we have a lot of other things going on around here, so budgeting time for lengthy projects can sometimes be difficult.  Then there is the issue of figuring out what I really want this lawn of mine to become.  Each one of those winter sketches was different, depending on the current goals for our homestead or even what I was reading at the time.

So what is the plan?  I can’t create the change I want in a day, or even a weekend.  Instead, I am going to challenge myself to do at least one task per week moving toward my end goal.  To keep myself accountable, I will be posting about my efforts here.  (feel free to get on my case if I miss a week!) Maybe someday I will look out the window and see the lush food forest with fruit trees,  vegetables, herbs, bee forage, and wildlife plantings that I have in my head!

(By the way, if you happen to see Chris…I’m not sure I have mentioned the extent of this project to him yet…)

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ok…not yet, but maybe someday?

If you would like to learn more about changing up that same old grass in your yard or just look at some cool pictures, check out these resources:

My new favorite soap

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A real quick note here…just to let you know I have fallen in love with the calendula goat milk soap!  The bars are rough cut and irregular, but  like the look of the calendula petals on top.  The soap includes a sizeable percentage of Macadamia Nut oil, and also includes Jojoba oil…if those skin loving oils weren’t enough alone, they were infused with healing, soothing calendula weeks before making the soap.

Of course, I knew this would be a nice soap, and I did test a small sample when it was cured, but I have a tendency to save those specialty soaps for customers rather than using them myself.  We wait to choose our Thanksgiving turkey until after we have filled all the orders, we use the stained eggs rather than the pretty ones, and I am tempted to use the soaps that might not have turned out quite as pretty as the others for our everyday bathing.  No complaints really, it just gets to be a habit to use the seconds first.

But, last night I was feeling a little bit overscheduled and harried.  Everyone else was in bed, it was closing in on midnight, and I was still chipping away at my “to do” list.  I decided that instead of going straight to bed, I was going to take a shower. An uninterrupted shower. An uninterrupted shower, with a fancy soap!  (All in the spirit of quality assurance)

So, shower I did.  It was a very nice shower, not life changing or anything, but nice.  I chose the Calendula Goat Milk soap to use and that part of the shower was amazing!  It is really one of those perfect goat milk soaps; gentle, with an exceptionally creamy lather, and very, very moisturizing.

Anyhow, that’s all.  A shower and a nice soap.  I still have half a batch left, and if you liked the limited edition (sold out) Vella’s Baby Buttermilk soap, you may want to give this one a try. If not, I might just keep using it!

Sig’s New Job

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This is Sig, he is six years old.  He has a big smile on his face now, but he was feeling pretty left out for the last few months. Sometimes it is hard to be the youngest.  Everyone else in the family had a special animal to take care of and their own jobs to do at chore time.  It wasn’s as though he didnt have anything to do, there was always a bucket to be filled or feed to be carried, but it was always helping  and not  a job of his own.  It was turning into a real problem for Sig, so we thought, and thought…and decided that it was time for him to have a job!

Sig is now in charge of our laying hens and the egg business.  During the spring, summer, and fall our chickens live in their mobile coop surrounded by an electronet fence that keeps them safe from predators. Since it was just about time to move the chickens from their winter quarters close to the barn to their summer home, it seemed to be a good time for him to take over his new responsibilities.

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First, Sig helped Chris build new nest boxes that fit onto the back of the coop so that he doesn’t have to crawl through the coop to collect the eggs. 

Next, Sig and I took the electronet out of storage and set it up in one of the hen’s favorite spots under the big pine trees.  Late that night, after all the chickens were asleep, we moved them one by one into the mobile coop. (If you ever need to move a flock of chickens, night time is time to do it) Now, it is all up to Sig!

Sig makes sure that the chickens are let out of their coop in the morning to free range in their pasture. He carefully keeps the nest boxes filled with fresh bedding, makes sure that they have food in their feeder and plenty of water.  In the evening he collects the eggs and brings them into the house to sort and place in cartons.  If there are more eggs than we need that week, Sig will be in charge of selling the extra eggs.  He will also need to budget for feed and decide how much his hens need.  Looks like this boy will have his hands full at chore time now…but it is good to have a job of your own, just ask Sig!

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You are doing a great job Sig!  Keep up the good work!

My Room

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During a friend’s visit the other day I heard myself announcing that our laundry room was “my room”.  Even as my inner feminist cringed, I realized that it was true. Not, of course, because it is the laundry room. I do wash clothes there, it houses the washing machine, but it is really much more than a laundry room to me.plant

Not only is it the laundry room I claimed, it is also the room that essentially I have not changed at all since we moved in. When we first came to look at our current home, this was the room that I fell in love with even as my more practical partner was deciding that the house needed far too much work to even consider. I could imagine how versatile this sunny room lined with recycled school shelves and cabinets would be, and it was the only room where I could see the old house’s “bones”. The rest of the house had been updated several times, old trim replaced and plaster walls covered with paneling, anything that had originally been hers was hidden, but no one had bothered with the laundry room.

As we proceeded to tear out and replace flooring, paneling, and plumbing in the rest of the house, nothing really changed in the laundry room. The former owner gifted us with much of his library of homesteading books and they remained comfortably on the shelves to be joined by mine as we unpacked. I shelfchose colors and painted the bedrooms, the kitchen, and living areas, but the laundry room’s white walls and old linoleum floor were only scrubbed clean and left alone. We unpacked and everyone’s boxes went to their respective rooms. My various project boxes (and all the “how to” manuals that went with them) landed, for lack of anywhere better, in the laundry room. My books, everything from cooking to ecology to history…the laundry room. Binders full of dreams, plans, and breeding records? Put them in the laundry room.

Over the years I have added to those original collections. More books with eachsoap new project, beekeeping supplies for the coming year, soap molds, cheesemaking and milk handling equipment…somehow there is always a corner cabinet that has room, with just a little reorganization. Chicks have been hatched, plants grown, minor surgeries performed, and chicken coops planned. Slowly, without my realizing it, it became my personal space.

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So now, if you want to know anything about me and what I am up to, just check out the laundry room. It doesn’t really matter if I am home or not. Spring time? One corner is dedicated to started garden plants under lights, the incubator is probably sharing the same space, the current batches of soap will be curing on a shelf, another shelf will probably be missing the books about goats kidding and garden planning, the milk separator and cheese press are waiting to be put into action, and the pots of herbs and aloe are stretching toward the windows asking to go out in the sunshine. Summer will find herbs drying, and fall may see overflowing baskets from the garden waiting to be dealt with…but it will always be a snapshot of what is going on with me right now. And yes, there is laundry, sometimes I do that too.

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Do you have a room of your own?