Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Cleaning at the Farm

We had our semi-annual Farm Clean-Up Day a little bit ago.  When we got there in the morning we had a herd of friends waiting for us, but they didn't seem to want to really stay and help out but that was ok because that kind of help isn't very useful anyway.

We had lots of other hands to help out in all the work that we had planned.  Which wasn't really all the much, but it took quite a bit of work to get it all done.  We mostly just cleaned up the farm and moved in the ton bales of hay that we have gotten in the past few weeks

One of the things I'm glad the minions did was to muck out the manger area.  That is always a dirty, dusty, smelly job.  Trents minion took to it with gusto though and was having a great time digging all that stuff out.  The only good thing about that is that we now have a large pile of excellent compost for gardens come Springtime.

.  Moving the hay was a real hassle.  Since there wasn't any way to move the ton bales themselves through the narrow doorway, we had to move them a slice at a time.  We would set up a tarp next to the bale, pull off a bunch of hay onto the tarp, and then drag it into the barn.  It sure is amazing how much hay 1 ton actually is when it is all spread out instead of bunched up tightly into a bale. 

 These are 2 different pictures of the spot we store the hay in.  The left is after about 1 1/2 bales have been moved in.  The right is after all 3 bales were moved.  They are from different angles but you can see how much further out the stack is by comparing the other stack of regular bales on right hand side of the storage area.


Naturally, once the hay was all moved, everyone had to take turns swinging on the rope and landing in the hay.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Well I think the motor is now working properly, I checked it this morning and it has stopped binding up. It may have just needed to be broken in. Let me know if there is a problem.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Problems at the Pump

Apparently our pump broke down a few days ago.  I didn't hear anything about it until it was fixed, but I feel for those that had to hand milk for the time that it was being repaired.  Now that it is fixed, it sometimes binds up and the internal motor won't spin.  It is easily fixed by manually turning the motor back a few degrees.  The best way to do that is to use a metal rod and get some leverage on the fins attached to the internal windings.  Then push them clockwise.  Looking at the end of the pump face on, here is what to look for.

To further illustrate this process we have a short training video to become familiar with in case you are called upon to perform this procedure in the course of your duties.
Hopefully this will not be necessary once the new parts become worn in.  If it continues, it'll have to be taken apart and re-examined to see what is causing the internal winding to become bound up.  I have left a metal rod that works well for this on the left side of the pump.

Stuffed Zuchini for dinner

I applaud you in your efforts of trying to be 100% self sufficient. I have tried to find ways to do that myself, but often get some crazy looks at my house.

If you are looking for a dinner that is made all homemade I think I have found one for you if you like zucchini. Here is a recipe that a neighbor just told me about and we tried last week. Since I have only made this once I haven't perfected it quite yet, but it definitely has potential. If anyone has any adjustments please post them so we can all benefit from them.

Take a large zucchini (we used two medium sized ones for our family of 7)
Cut it lengthwise in half. clean out the seeds, making a trench.
You may want to steam it for about 10 minutes in the microwave to soften it. (you can make your stuffing while you do this)
Use your yummy sausage from you newly slaughtered pig, fry it up and place in the bottom of the zucchini trench you have made.

1/2 c finely diced onion
3/4 c chopped celery (I passed on celery since I didn't have any, still turned out delicious)
1/2 c butter
4 cups homemade bread cut into cubes
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Saute onion and celery in butter (and sausage drippings if you would like) until softened, but not browned.
Stir in about 1/3 of the bread cubes. Pour onion mixture into a large bowl and stir in remaining bread cubes, poultry seasoning, and pepper. Mix well, this stuffing is ready for baking.

After you have heaped stuffing on the top of each of the zucchini halves, place in the oven on a cookie sheet, uncovered, on 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes (or until zuchini is tender and stuffing is crunchy).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Well I have looked forward to this day for a while now, although the dream is not quite realized yet, I'll explain that a little further on.
This morning I ate a meal that was (almost) completely home-grown produced by us. I had sausage from our pigs (which by the way, far exceeded my expectations, it was awesome), eggs from our chickens, patty pan squash (sometimes called peter pan squash) cooked up with the eggs, home made bread with honey from our bees and unfortunately the butter was Tillamook butter so it was not produced or grown by us, I will work on that and see what I can do. Fresh awesome raw goat milk from our goats, that's pretty good ,I think coming from a suburban home in the middle of a neighborhood that's really good. So except for the butter (and the salt and pepper) everything came from our own production.
I am working to have a full blown real meal completely produced by us, that is the real dream, seems that breakfast is easiest but I want to produce a full dinner without skimping. I will keep everyone posted and by the way if you have some good recipes please post them here on the site, thanks.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kill The Beast!

For quite some time now there has been a rash of chicken slayings at our farm.  Nearly 50 chickens have lost their lives to some fearsome creatures that have been preying on them whilst they slept.  In the dead of night it would slink through the woods, coming ever nearer to the poor ladies who were trembling in fear, as they did each night.  Terrified of the scratching that would come at the door, more terrified of the beasts that would come through the door and visit blood and horror upon them.  They would run stark raving mad, each trying to escape the death that came each evening.  Yet in the morning, each would look upon the sunrise with relief, delighted to live another day, yet ashamed that a sister had to meet a terrible fate of claws and fangs, in order for them to live a while longer.

Trent had been trying to trap the unknown creatures with the bear-claw type traps but he wasn't having much luck.  As a matter of fact, the creatures absconded with one of his traps, which had been staked deep in the earth.  Letting us know that this was no ordinary beast we were up against.

Some futile days of effort later, a kindly neighbor put out another kind of trap. A little less deadly, but it was more effective because the culprit was soon apprehended.

It seems that a family of raccoons had discovered the buffet that an unguarded chicken coup can be.  There seems to have been quite a family of them because 8 have been trapped, and 2 have been seen dead on the road.  We saw another one tonight as we were finishing up milking.  This little monster was thrashing at growling me as I came near the cage, giving me the evil eye.  I suppose that I wouldn't be too happy to be stuck in a cage either.  But for the death and destruction it and his ilk have caused,  there is only one sentence...DEATH!

As I've said before, I used to think Trent was a soft-hearted guy but I might have to adjust my thinking.  When I first saw Frankenstein and how the townsfolk destroyed him so easily, I found it hard to believe, however, seeing Trent the Vengeful wielding a pitchfork made me rethink how deadly it is to be on the receiving end of one of them during a peasant rebellion.  No wonder the Devil uses them to spread misery and agony.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Red Letter Day

Today was a Red Letter Day.  I'm not exactly sure why that means a good day, at least, I wasn't sure, but after looking it up, I am sure why it means that, gotta love the Internet......

So Anyways, it was a Red Letter Day for a couple of reasons today.  First and foremost, we sold off the Moocher.  That is what I have been calling the little horned goat that has been mooching food, water, and lodging from us for the past several months without giving us anything in return.  We had a guy come a pick her up tonight as we were milking.  She wasn't a bad goat, for a moocher, but I think that as a group we are much to easily taken advantage of.  We keep falling for the big eyes, and sad stories, and keep letting these non-productive members of the commune moocher off of our tender hearts.  There were the ones last year, and this one this year.  Most people would just turn them on the street but we never seem to do that.  It is time we learn some tough love regarding these things.

The other good thing is that the Moochers friend, the littlest goat, has finally gone through the whole milking routine without any intervention or help.  She is still a little shy, but did it all on her lonesome.  She is always in the last set to be milked, so I was getting her companion going and seeming to ignore her.  In reality I was keep a sideways eye on her to see what she would do.  So she comes into the milking area and back to the eating area a few times, kinda like she is waiting for me to do something.  I've got my hands full at the moment and she finally gets tired of waiting for me and walks in, jumps up on the stand, and starting eating.  She didn't even jump when I closed the stocks around her head.  After the milking was done, she jumped on down and joined her compatriots.  Gold Star for me!  The next step in her training is to get her to fight to be the first one in like the others do.

The other night it was time to trim the toenails.  That is another nasty job that I'm glad Mike does.  But it isn't nearly as simple as it seems.  Here is a picture of the crew that it took to get it all done.  You wouldn't think that those things could put up such a fight, but apparently for a woman, breaking a nail can be a catastrophe!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Growth Spurt

We have had a growth spurt here in the Commune, but instead of goats, it is with new suckers..err members.  A few weeks ago Dan joined the group, and now Jen and Desi are joining in the experience as well.  The more the merrier, spread the wealth, many hands make light work, and all that.  For me it just means less times I have to milk.  This is the time of the year that my hay fever reaches a fevered (hah) pitch and as soon as I walk into the barn I start to get that itch in my throat, that one that sits right near the back where you can only scratch it with your tongue and while scratching it feels ohh soo nice, but the second you stop it is torture so you don't want to stop but while that itching feels good, it sounds like you are choking so everyone nearby looks at your funny and runs over and starts giving you the Heimlich.  Then the sneezes start and the snot faucet turns on.  Pure misery. 

I know Trent would say that it is because I'm not drinking the goat milk, if I did it would cure my allergies, as well as my greying hair.  To that I say:  I've been taking a spoon full each morning along with my vitamins.  So far no luck.  However I don't think my heart is really in it so that could be holding me back.

Nevertheless, welcome new members!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Training Day

We have sold off the White Saanen that was giving us grief due to the mastitis that it had.  It is too bad that we didn't handle that better, but it is a lesson learned for next time. 

The next task is to teach our newest goat to come in and get up on the milking stand all by herself.  She is still pretty shy of me, I have to lure her into the barn, then grab her collar and lead her over to the milk stands.  This last time, she only needed a bit of prompting to jump up onto the stand herself.  The times before that I had to drag up so she is slowly learning.  The first one of us that can get her to do the whole process by herself gets a medal.

The heat is here to stay and it looks like the milk is slowing down a bit.  One of the pastures is mostly dry and I'm not sure if the goats are eating anything out of it anymore.  We are getting low on hay and will have to make another hay run at some point in the near future.  With just 1 more goat to sell, things are looking pretty stable for the time being.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Farm has a Visitor

While driving up to do the milking this morning we saw this visitor. It isn't unusual to see deer at the farm, but normally they run away as soon as we pull in.  This one just slowly meandered along the road as we drove in, only moving when I just about ran it over.

Milking has stabilized a bit for now.  We seem to be getting between 33-38 lbs depending on the time of day.  The heat has been cranking up but it hasn't seemed to  affected the milk out put yet.  We'll see if it does as our hot streak continues.

We have sold off the last baby goat, the little spotted one.  We are now just looking to sell off the horned one and the other Saanen that had problems with it's udder.  It is probably only good for meat now.  We don't milk it, obviously, but it keeps poking its nose in, watching the whole process.  I sometimes feel that it is just watching me, waiting for the moment that it can take revenge for all the pain and suffering I put it through when trying to work the mastitis out.  It still won't let me near it, just runs away when I walk towards it, or even look at it with my steely gaze.

As a side note, the pigs that we got a while back are getting big.  I can just about taste them now.  We had a brief meeting about them and it seems like in about another month they will be ~180 lbs, which from the research that has been done, is about the right weight to butcher them.

We went to feed them today(milk the goats, feed the pigs, get all the unpleasantness over in the same day) and I see that they have a mud wallow now.  They were really loving it in today's heat.  I hope they are enjoying it while they can, because I'm certainly going to enjoy them for breakfast in just a few weeks.

One question we, at least Will and I have this question, has to do with the bacon.  I've had bacon that was pretty much straight off the pig and it was horrible!  Tasteless, bland, almost made me want to give it up.  I'm hoping the butcher handles the hickory smoking of it.  If not, we are going to have to figure out something to turn it into the deliciousness that it should be.  Same thing goes for the ham I suppose.  I don't think it honey glazes itself.  One of us has a butcher for an uncle so hopefully we'll get some information on that.

One other incident happened while up at the pigs.  We have an electric fence around it and after we were done and I had hooked it back up I didn't hear the normally sparking of it.  I was wondering if it had become unplugged or something so I'm following the power and find it all looks normal so I touched the fence and got a slight zap.  Very slight, almost tube sock on carpet slight.  Since it was so light, I talked my minion into touching it, something his rivals have done before which led to much bragging at home.  So my youngest minion puts his finger on it and I hear this big *Zap*!  He jerks his finger away and starts crying.  I think the capacitors must have had time to charge up with all the time it took me to convince him it didn't hurt and that he should touch it.  Well, that is some trust broken right there.  Although he did brag about it to his rivals later that night.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making Cheese

We've been getting about four gallons of milk per day (two gallons per milking, two milkings per day: Once before I go to work, and once in the evening. You do the math.) This is approximately two gallons too many for what we consume as a family. Yes, we have a family of six (two adults, four children... or maybe we should count that as one adult (my wife) and five child-like people), but we aren't big dairy consumers. Not enough chocolate chip cookies, I guess, for dunking.

So... what to do with the extra milk? Well, we do lots of neat things, but this post is going to focus on how I make cheese with it. So far, I have made several batches of Feta cheese and am trying out some Amish Roquefort, but that last one requires some time to age. I'll keep you updated.

First, I went to the grocery store and found myself some culture in the form of some crumbled Feta cheese that still looked pretty active. This process wasn't painful. I like to buy cheese!

Second, I got out my Large Orange Pot, a three gallon ceramic coated pot I located in some bygone era at TJ Max, nicely colored a pumpkin orange. This is what I use for large amounts of cooking, usually chicken stock, but in this case, it works great for cheese. I placed it on my most powerful burner on the stove, poured in two and a half gallons of goat milk, and lit the flame!

Oh, but first I put a digital thermometer in the milk so I can keep track of the temperature. A digital thermometer is the most useful kitchen device I can imagine, outside of a good chef's knife. I own several, with one still in its packaging, so I can properly grow culture(s) in my kitchen, such as bread, yogurt, and CHEESE! And you thought culture was something you had to go to finishing school for. Wrong! You just need a little starter and the right temperature. And time. And medium to grow it in. And patience... Ah, just keep reading!

I set the alarm on the digital thermometer for 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot enough to kill off any competing bacteria, but not hot enough to break up or denature the sugars and proteins my culture will feed on. Once that alarm went off, I turned off the stove and let the whole thing cool down.

I look for everything to get down to 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a perfectly cromulous temperature for bacteria to grow in. This also happens to be the temperature at which I start the yeast for my bread making, but that is a different post (and maybe a different blog). This cooling takes a while. Go do something else and walk by the stove now and again.

Once you are at 100-105 degrees, pull your starter out of the fridge. I took out about a fourth of a cup and mashed it up into a bowl so all potential culture was exposed, and then whisked it into the warm milk. The pot then went into my oven, a Kitchen Aid (oh, fancy!) that has an outstanding feature: a bread proofing setting! Yep, I can set my oven to stay at 100 degrees, although it only stays on only for twelve hours at a time. For bread making you I can't see why you would ever proof for more than a hour (pizza dough?), but for cheese making this is wonderful!

If you don't have such an oven on hand, I have heard of other cheese makers using a heating pad, placing the pot on that, and then fiddling with the heat settings to keep it right in that sweet zone of bacterial happiness and growth (the SZOBHAG ("zop hag") for those of you following along at home).

I often put the milk in the oven before bedtime, and turn it off and then back on again in the morning so I can get a full twenty four hours in as a minimum. Sometimes I've let it go up to thirty six hours of SZOBHAG.

Here is the cool thing about this method: most cheeses require an acid (rennet, lemon juice or vinegar, usually) to clot or curd up. If I let my Feta culture go this long, it curds up nicely all on it's own, and when I remove the pot I find an island of raw cheese floating on the top of a couple gallons of whey. Sweet! No extra ingredients! No extra expense! Cheap cheese with no additives!

I now set out a mesh colander, set inside a large bowl or five gallon bucket. If the grating is too wide on your colander, you might need some cheesecloth, but mine is fine enough that it catches the curds just fine. I scoop the cheese out using a "spider" I also use for pulling stuff out of broths and hot oil. But in this process I have also used a large kitchen spoon and just let the extra whey drain through. I find that I can get 98% of the curds out this way, and I just leave the rest of the curds in the whey, still in the big orange pot.

I now need to let the curds drain for at least a half hour. But since cheese without salt is really bland, and since I've been known to forget to add salt until it is much too late, I sprinkle on some kosher salt at this point; the ratio that works for me is one teaspoon of salt per gallon of goat milk. But I only want to add salt at this point (after the culture has grown) because bacteria generally don't like salt and if the milk is too salty, they won't grow, with the result that you have no curds, and no curds means no cheese.

So go do some other stuff (the bees need tending to, don't you know), and when you next drift past the cheese, you can give it a light stir to mix in the salt and let it drain more.

Once it is dry enough for your taste, you can sprinkle in some herbs (basil, thyme, mint, and oregano all are nice), and then do one of two things:

Put it in an airtight container, and store it in your refrigerator. Crumbled Feta is lovely in a salad.


Put it in a cheese press, compress it, and make a nice round cake of cheese, perfect for your next social event along side some crackers and fresh sliced vegetables.

You'll want to keep this cheese in the fridge, because it has no preservatives, and although you pasteurized the milk by bringing it almost to a boil, I do note that it does tend to go bad rather quickly (within three weeks) in my fridge. That is, if it lasts that long before being consumed.

And that whey? Gold, baby!

Use it to feed your chickens or pigs. Use it to water your garden. Use it (instead of water) to make some lovely tangy imitation sourdough bread. Feed your house plants. Grow your vineyard. It is packed with protein and nutrients that other living things just love. Heck, I know someone that sweetened it up and made something kinda like lemonade. But that last idea sounds pretty nasty to me, so I just convert it into other food (eggs, grapes, tomatoes, bread, etc.). I might make some whey-ade if I have a visitor that is staying too long, though. Nothing like the tangy smell of sweaty feet to drive the unwanted away!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting back to Normal

It has been a  while since our last update but there has been quite a bit of activity within the Commune in the past while.  We have finally sold off all the LaManchas(short eared) goats!!  Hurrah for that.  We have 3 new Nubians (a bit redundant there), 1 of which we are milking, 1 just had a baby, and the last is supposed to be pregnant but she doesn't look like it.  Not sure if we got ripped off on her or not, time will tell. 

Now while the baby LaMancha's were kinda cute, they don't really compare to the cuteness of the Nubians babies.  I would never have thought that ears make that much of a difference, but they surely do.
With getting rid of all the LaMancha's the farm seems quite a bit more empty and the milking times seem less like a circus than before.  Our milk production has been pretty good, consistently over 40lbs, a few drops below every now and then, but the 6 goats that are currently being milked are doing better than this time last year.  If it remains at this production level, we may get rid of the 2 Nubians we are currently not milking; the new Mom and the Not-Sure-If-She-Is-Pregnant one.

Our other new Nubian is a dark chocolate brown and gives a lot of milk.  One odd thing about her is that if you touch her, she immediately starts to lean against where she is being touched.  The first time I milked her I had her up on the stand and my shoulder was just barely rubbing against her side as I put the milkers on.  She started leaning into me and I gave way a little, she just kept leaning and nearly leaned herself right off the side of the stand.  I've learned to not touch her when milking her anymore, but if I do need to move her, I just put my hand on her side in the direction I want her to move and she starts leaning.  When she is where I need her to be, I just remove my hand.  Interesting conditioned response she has learned.

The white Saanen that had the bad udder took a turn for the worse.  Her udder just didn't get better, and eventually it seemed to split open or something.  Some sort of protuberance has burst through the udder wall.  It is quite disgusting looking, kind of like in Alien when the implanted egg finally hatches and rips it's way out of the guys chest. We're not sure what to do about it, but we suspect that her milk days are over.

We are losing one of our new families that started milking with us a few months ago.  They have some other things happening and goat ranching is not something they can do right now.  That means that we are going to either have to find a replacement, or start rotating the extra day as we did before.  I'm hoping we can find someone to fill their spot.

This is quite a commitment and responsibility that someone takes on when they get involved in something like this.  As I've stated before, I've got respect for those that do this full time for a living.  This once a week is more than I enjoy most times.  But in an emergency/tragedy/disaster, we'll be able to drink some nice warm goat milk, which is more than many will be able to do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

We're havin' a Barn Raisin'

Part of our arrangement with the owner of the farm area is that twice a year we would put in a work day.  He has some tasks he needs completed so we would handle those as well as anything else we see that needs to be done to maintain the place.  Our work day was this past Saturday and there were lots of helping hands.  The only task the owner had for us was to paint this little out building.  This is the place we originally milked the goats but we've moved them over to the bigger barn.  We currently have 2 billy goats here, we need to keep them separate from the nanny goats or they ruin the taste of the milk.  Needless to say, with this many willing hands, the painting went quite quickly,  I think much more than the building got painted though.  Many of the kids came home with speckled faces from paint rollers, others were almost covered from head to toe in paint.  The ground got a coat, so did the wire fence, the tin roof, the goats, and 2 or 3 roosters.  The kids seemed to be smiling but I think the painting fore(wo)man was nearly pulling her hair out in frustration with some of the kids.  But she exercised patience and let them have their fun.

Some of the other things we did was to muck out the barns.  What a nasty job this is.  I've done this quite a few times in my life and it is never fun, the only thing I'm grateful for is that it wasn't pigs.  Out of pigs, cows, horses, chickens, and goats, pigs are by far the worst.  Even at the best of times, it is still a  horrible job.  There was one corner that we must have dug down 2 feet to hit the bottom.  There were two digging and two running the wheel barrows.  I knew those diggers had some stories, but they way they were slinging that morning was something to be seen!

There was some general maintenance work done as well.  In replacing some boards we came across a bunch of old nails.  The handmade kind where each nail is its own unique masterpiece, different from all the rest.  I am so grateful for standardization and the assembly line, it makes everyone's life that much better.  Those old nails do give a bit of a timeline for how old this barn is though.  I'm not sure when hand-made nails went out of fashion, but it was definitely after this barn was built.

All in all it was a good few hours of work.  Some much needed mucking was done, painting, and general repairs to make life easier for all.  If that darn baseball and soccer season hadn't gotten in the way, we could have gotten more done, but we did get all the necessary stuff, and some extra, completed.

If anyone needs some compost or fertilizer, thanks to the Sharp and Allsup minions, we have a great big pile ripe for the taking.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Certified Goat Ranchers

I'm not sure what is happening, but my last post was about selling off some of our goats and shrinking the size of our herd.  I go back to milk today and I find that we have doubled in size!  We have added 16 goats to our herd.  I'm wondering if goats and rabbits have similar breeding patterns.   One of us found a great deal 2 Bucks and 4 Nannys, with the 4 Nannys being pregnant.  That was a few days ago and they have all given birth.  These are LaMancha goats and are Ugly with a capital U.  If you look closely, you can see the evilness shining out of the eyes of them.  I can understand why we got such a great deal for the whole bunch of them.  There is something about those human looking ears that is disturbing.  Goats should have big floppy ears, not little nubs like these ones do.

The kids are not so repulsive, in fact the kid in this picture is downright is the goat.  We have 10 baby LaManchas running around, they are quite a bit smaller than the others that we still have and it is amusing to see them frolicking together

We have sold all the females from our first batch and are trying to sell the males.  With this new bunch, we have way more than we bargained for.  We are going to try and sell them all together, and are giving a really great deal on them so if you are interested, or know someone who is, then check this out.

The good news is that the little blind goat, seems to be getting better.  It's eye's are clearing up and it is reacting to movement in front of it's face.  I think this is fantastic, being blind would be lousy.  The weather is warming up and hopefully last weeks snow was the last we'll see till November.  I'm fine with it raining more, but I've had enough of the snow and cold.

The bad news is that one of the white saanens that we have is in bad shape.  She is a first time mother and only gave birth to 1 goat.  She has been skittish about getting milked and as such I think we neglected her a bit.  Now one side of her udder is hard as a rock.  Her kid seems to be still eating of the other side, but she is in constant pain.  I've been able to milk some out of her bad side, but it is so painful she stands there and maa's the whole time.  When I try to massage her udder she is jumping all around to get me to stop.  We have put the machine on her a few times and she does give some milk, but then it starts to get blood in it.  I'm not sure what is wrong with her, but all the women in the group are especially sympathetic to her plight.  I think we are going to have to get rid of her.

I think the problem is that we didn't regulate their milk enough to begin with.  Next time we'll need to do a better job of it. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Raising chickens with goats

I have seen from my next-door neighbor how raising chickens and cows together are a perfect match. The chickens learn to stay away from the cows so they don't get trampled, but they pick through the feed that the cows drop, eating what would otherwise get wasted. Chickens will even pick through the cow manure looking for fly larvae, supplementing their diet with extra protein. With enough chickens, your fly problem will be reduced significantly. However, they can't dig deep through the stuff, so chickens aren't going to solve a growing manure problem for you.

What about goats? You are going to have a few more challenges mixing chickens and goats, but you will have many of the same benefits that you do with cattle when they share the same yard. Here are a few issues that you will want to think about when considering combining your flock and herd:
  1. Goats are high-energy, curious, and adventurous eaters. While it may be OK for the chickens to pick through the alfalfa that you feed the goats, you don't want the goats to get into the chicken feed. Goats will abandon their own feed in favor of the higher grain content from chicken feed. If you feed the chickens where the goats can't get access, this should solve the problem. In addition, I doubt that the goats would bother the hen's eggs, but it is probably safest if the goats don't have access to these either.
  2. Both goats and chickens can spread coccidiosis to each other, a parasite that comes from picking through their manure. It can be devastating to both kids and chicks. This is the biggest reason why chicks are often fed medicated feed as a precaution while they are under the biggest danger (3 to 7 weeks). From the Goat Handbook, M. C. Smith; Cornell U., Ithaca, NY, "...although most goats carry coccidia and will have positive fecal exams, normally only the young kids become sick with coccidiosis. Deaths and stunted kids result. Raising kids separately from adults, keeping pens clean and dry, preventing fecal contamination of water or feed, and, in some herds, continuous preventative medication are necessary to prevent the disease. It is neither possible nor desirable to completely eradicate coccidia from the adult goats. A low level infection with the parasite serves to keep these goats immune to the disease."
Over all, I think that the benefits of raising chickens and goats together outweigh the challenges.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thinning the herd

We've had quite a few kids sold in the past week or so.  I think we are down to 1 female now, but none of the males have been sold.  We also got rid of the goat that didn't get pregnant this time around, known by some as Little Red.  Diane also sent out an email she received from someone stating that they had 2 goats they would give to us.  They are none milking goats, but if someone knows of anyone wanting mature goats, these are freebies, they will even be delivered. 

We are going to start weaning them starting Monday so we will start the full milking schedule again.  We milked them with the machine yesterday, but several of them are so empty from the kids that we didn't get more than a few drops.  I am glad that it is warming up though, I'm just hoping that this Spring weather continues to get nicer and nicer.

The kids are starting to eat solid foods.  You can see them nibbling on everything they can reach.  It is kind of funny to see all the kids climbing through the holes in the manger to eat on the bale of hay while all the Nanny goats are fighting over whatever remains are left in the manger itself from their feeding frenzy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Well thanks to Marc I now look like a Big, Tough sissy boy, I just hope everyone in my -Ballet- & -how to cry on the inside- classes, don't read this blog, it could really ruin my reputation.

I hope things start to dry out and it stops raining and snowing, there's no way you can tell it's spring.

Everyone is doing a great job and I know we all appreciate the help, it makes the work load light when we all pitch in.

Some of you need to be flogged with a wet noodle, giving your milk to the pigs, what's wrong with you, you know they sell that for $12.00 a gallon, when and if you can find it, those are going to be some expensive pigs and I don't think they even appreciate it.

I was just thinking how great it has been this last year, we all got to have the great experience of owning and caring for the goats and having raw milk (by the way Marc said he was going to be posting some great information on raw milk and also some great research done on the benefits vs the dangers of raw milk and the benefits of goats milk over cows milk, so if you don't see it just ask him for it) and we eliminated most of the drawbacks of owning and caring for the goats with the co-op, I hope everyone appreciates only milking once a week, believe me the other way is not fun. I was thinking we really should co-op more things, we all have talents, abilities, skills and personal access to opportunities that we can provide to others, by combining all these we really could have access to some great things, kind of like the -toy share- philosophy. This really is a great asset for all of us, for example if you ever need a new vehicle, I have started to go back to attending the wholesale sales through out the U.S. and I can get great deals on vehicles, I know that others of you have other talents and access to opportunities in other areas, this is a GREAT concept and we really need to take advantage of it. So whoever is going to buy a nice new boat (-wink wink-) you should open it up to everyone and co-op the costs.
Well any way, thanks, Trent
-----(I think this is a great first contribution from Marc and Diane )

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grabbing the Goat by the Horns

Yesterday, we disbudded the baby goats.  What a nasty job that was!  We have a little tool that works pretty much like a soldering iron.  I didn't take any pictures as my hands were busy holding the things down but here is a site that looks like is uses the same tool we did and went through the same process.  Trent, Janina, Diane, and I were the ones there with Trent doing all the mean stuff.  I used to think Trent was a vicious, cold hearted killer, and the way he efficiently went about the business of burning the horns, then deftly wielding the knife to cut off the caps, reinforced that.  Then I looked up, a little daunted at meeting the eyes of someone who could inflict such pain and suffering on these cuddly little animals with such detachment.  The tears on his cheeks, frozen from the cold wind howling through the slats in the barn on this overcast and dreary day, made me realize that he was feeling as much pain in his heart as those poor little goats were on their heads.  I believe Trent just maintains a hard and forbidding facade to hide the fragile and tender soul he has on the inside.

It isn't as bad as branding, castrating, and de-horning, cows but whereas cows are ugly animals, those baby goats are kinda endearing.  One of them sounded just like a little person that was hurt.  All but one are complete.  The one we didn't debud has got other problems.  We think he is blind.  He had gunky eyes since the time he was born and it looks like his actual eyes are getting cloudy.  He doesn't really react to sudden movement in front of his eyes either.  We're not sure what is going to happen with him, but we'll see how things work out.

In other items, it was our turn to feed the pigs yesterday and with all the snow we've had, it is easy to see that the electric fence is working just fine.  There were not any tracks, either the inside or outside, that came close to the fence.  I did walk the perimeter to make sure that it was clear of snow and wind-blown branches, this is something that should be done every day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Broken Families

The baby goats are at the point where we are trying to sell them off. Within the first few hours we got a buyer for one of them. She was going to get a boy goat, but little Trident, a female and friendliest of the bunch, kept nuzzling her legs until the lady said that she needed to get her instead. We're hoping that the rest sell as quickly.  We are going to start weaning them from their mothers next week as well as de-horn (disbud in goateese) them this week.

In other news, we are having 2 other families try out milking the goats to see if it is something they are willing to commit some time to.  This would bring the number of milkers up to 7, 1 for each day of the week, which works out really well for everyone involved.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Preparedness Fair

Our area had a Preparedness Fair a while back and one of us put together a booth to show what we have been doing. There was some good information on the benefits of Goat Milk(we'll add these to this blog) and some details of how our group is handling the duties. There were several people who expressed some interest in our group. I think we are going to let some of them give it a go to see if it is something they would have some commitment to.

Expanding our Interests

In addition to these goats, most everyone in our group is coming together to try out hog raising. We're not too sure how well it is going to work out but we have the highest hope for a harvest of ham and bacon in the fall. Some of us spent some time earlier this week getting a shelter and fence put up, and then last night we met and did more to complete it and also moved the pigs to their new home(they had been staying in the small shelter where we first had the goats). There is some final work to be done before it is as we have envisioned, but it is mostly complete.

We are running some electrical fence around both the inside(to keep the pigs in) and outside(to keep predators out) and that is the piece that is taking some tweaking to get complete.

As a kid we had pigs and they stank to high heavens, so luckily the location we have is up on top of a mountain outside of town. I'm hoping this works out well, ham and bacon win out over goat milk every time.

Frolicing Friends

Now that all the goat kids are up and active it is easy to see why people buy baby goats. They are pretty fun to watch running around on their spindly little legs, exploring their new homes. It seems like most of them got the shape of their heads from the Billy Goat we had we had earlier, which is to be expected.

They do seem to get tired pretty quickly but when they start growing a little more I'm sure that they will get past that. They are all nursing off their mothers. Some were worried about that for a bit, but nature knows what it is doing and all is well.

Baby Goats!

There hasn't been much activity for the past few months as the goats were no longer milking. But now that winter is coming to a close and all the goats are having their kids, things are starting to pick up. Our first nanny goat to give birth lost all 3 babies. We're not sure what happened as they were found after the fact, but since then there has been much more concern and attentiveness by the group. Over the last 3 weeks, all the pregnant goats have delivered. So we now have 13 baby goats running around.

Here are a couple pictures of the second goat to give birth. It was a regular festival-like atmosphere. She had 3 babies in about 30 minutes. Most of the kids seemed pretty fascinated by the whole process.

Here is the actual birth of the first goat.

The group has been spending a good amount of time with the animals, making sure that they are all ok, feeding well, and just generally having fun with the baby goats. We are hand milking the goat that lost her kids and plan to start weaning all the others in another week or two. We hear that it takes about 2 weeks and then we should be able to move them to a bottle. At approximately 4 weeks they start eating real food, at least that is about how long it took last time. We are still new to this goat ranching stuff, but with 1 year under out belts we are learning.

I'm not looking forward to starting to fully milk them again, but some have been really missing having the fresh, cold, goat milk to drink.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Getting ready for the kids

We need to start feeding about a pound of grain per goat per day starting about the middle of February. If you have any ideas how to do this the most efficiently I would like you to share them. Right now what I have thought of is just put each one on the milk stand and feed them, this way we can make sure each one gets their proper amount. Let us know your ideas and we wish Janina the best with her marathon run, don't know if anyone else is also running but best to all of you crazies.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Great job All

I just wanted to tell everyone what a great job you have done this whole year, I know sometimes groups can have little quirks and tiffs but everyone has done a great job with spreading the work and accommodating everyone's differences in opinion at times.
I for one really miss the milk, I know some of you don't feel the same way but if you watch Food Inc. or Fresh the Movie or read the Omnivore's Dilema I think you might change your mind, not only is the milk better for what it does not have in it, it is great for what it does have in it, if you do the research you will find that about the only thing "milk" in the store and our milk have in common is that they are both kind of the same color. I know the billy goat kind of messed with the taste but with a little tweaking next year I believe we can totally eliminate that and keep the sweeter taste all year. Thanks for the great work and help all year and now we can look forward to the kids coming, they are always fun to have around.

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's a Dry Country!

We have finally dried up the goats so no more milking for the next few months. I must say that it is quite a relief to me. Now we just need to feed them, but that seems like nothing...load a little hay up in their feeding bin, fill the water, and bam! it's Miller time.

We are planning on the goats delivering in the Spring and we may have 1 or 2 more people join our group. That would be about perfect(or as perfect as it can get) for this setup. We also don't expect any capital costs this year so that will be some additional saving, which is what this is all about anyway.

The Lame Goat is moving around just fine now. I don't notice any limp in her anymore. In fact except for the giant joint (looks like someone who pops their knuckles a lot) you would never know she was in mortal combat and nearly slaughtered by a fierce predator. She still hasn't regained her place in the pecking order yet though. Might take some more time for that to happen.

I did take the pump and bring it home to keep it out of the weather, we don't really want to have to buy another one of those if a little shelter will help keep it in tip top shape. I might be underestimating it's hardiness, but taking up a little shelf space is worth the peace of mind to me.