Homesteading tip : animals

One of my favourite things about homesteading is the constant learning. Nearly everyday you learnrn something new, be it from a book, online, a friend or just hands on experience. Sometimes it’s a fun learning experience, sometimes its a stressful one.

Today I want to share with you a little piece of advice based on my experience over the last few months: Do not take on too many different animals at once! Particularly if you are new to having animals. I grew up on a farm and I like to think I learned a lot over the years, but seeing is not doing. Just because my parents had goats when I was a kid, does not mean I am an expert hoof trimmer or that I know basically anything about minerals or eye injuries.

I believe that when taking on livestock that will produce for you, you owe it to that animal to give it the best possible care. And that means knowledge and experience. Luckily(?), we have a small barn, so I was only able to expand my chicken flock a bit and add 2 goats this year, but looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t convince the Mister that we should get any other critters this year. Things like to happen all at once and it can be scary when a lot of the things happening are first time experience for you! We have had goats for 7 months now and in that time, I have learned A LOT and still have so much more to learn. Things also like to happen all at once on a farm and so, over the summer, I learned about coccidia in goats, I learned to give vaccines and dewormer and all about Selenium and loose minerals. I learned a basic hoof trim, about absesses and leg and eye injuries and about disease testing. Most importantly, I got to know my goats, what is normal for them and what is odd behaviour. They enjoyed putting my patience to the test while we figured out what works and what doesn’t pasture wise and all the while we also dealt with a chronic ear infection and arthritis in our old dog. Long story short, you may bring home a bunch of new animals and have all smooth sailing while you get aquainted, but you could also have rough seas and stress and unexpected expenses at every turn which can often  be avoided with a little bot of experience and a lot of cool headedness. While I am delighted to be learning so much, I am glad the goats are the only ones I need to learn much about right now. I think I would feel extremely overwhelmed if, right from the get-go we had dove right in, getting goats, ducks, alpacas and ponies! Haha and peacocks and guinea fowl?

Basically my advice is simply to think about all that is involved with every new animal you take on. It’s a learning curve and you can save yourself a lot of stress and vet bills by taking your time to grow your farm or homestead.

On that note, here is a picture of my beautiful girl and the most recent learning experience she has provided me with : Eye injury care.

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Magda has been very rowdy and aggressive toward Gracie(our other goat) since the first big snowfall and drop in temps. As a result (most likely) she ended up poking or scratching or somehow damaging her eye. Notice how red it is? At first she hardly opened it, it was swollen and squinty and was runny. I asked around and did a not of research and then headed to the pharmacy for an eye wash.  Wiping the area with a warm cloth and rinsing with an eye wash saw her eye gradually improving and now today, 2 days after this picture and a week after the initial injury, her eye looks to be back to normal.

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Winterizing the coop

Winter weather has been upon us for about 2 weeks now. We had an awful wind storm and it seems winter blew in in its wake, and that’s ok because A- we like winter and B-I had just winterized the chicken run 😊 For once I did not procrastinate. Nobody likes to be out in below freezing temps trying to winterize!

My slack plastic masterpiece.
Despite the loose areas, everything but 1 small corner managed to hold up through a wind storm. I’ll do better next year!

Just this fall my dear husband treated me to a new and improved chicken run 😍 He knows how to make me happy! It is a walk in run, so no more crouched crab-walking to fetch bowls or eggs and best of all, it has a tin roof. Dry run and no snow means happy chickens and happy mama!

New coop
It’s a thing of walk-in, roofed beauty!! So lucky to have a handy Mister who not only puts ip with my chicken hoarding but also builds me things when I ask for them a few timesa, ❤

I could have gotten away with just having a roof, but I really didn’t want to end up with 12 chickens huddling in the coop all day, so I plastic wrapped the coop. I highly recommend that anybody overwintering chickens in below freezing temps do this! Not only does it keep cold wind off your birds,  but it also keeps out blowing snow and it acts as somewhat of a greenhouse, trapping the warmth from the sun in the run. This is a double bonus for us since the run runs(ha!) the length of our barn so it protects one of the outer walls from cold wind and the greenhouse effect warms that wall as well.

In -10c weather with a windchill of -15, the chickens water only got a thin layer of ice on it through the day and I’m pretty sure that if it had been sunny, there would have been no ice at all.

In addition to the plastic on the run, I am experimenting with a compost pile/deep litter method in the run this year. I have been slowly building a compost pile of used goat bedding in the chicken run. Chickens love working compost. Digging, scratching, pecking, doing what chickens do. This, in theory, should help speed up the progress of the composting and, again, in theory, give off some heat the way deep litter method does. I did worry momentarily about the gases the pile might emit, but if I’m being totally honest, my plastic wrapping skills are not very honed yet so therea plenty of air circulation, wether I want there to be or not.

So far so good. Aside from my huddly Bantams, everyone spends a majority of the day outside and if nothing else, the compost pile makes for a good boredom buster! I’ve tried to coax the gang out on nice days but snow is scary and cold and they much prefer to stay inside the door and soak up the sun from there.

Other winter prep I’ve done for the chickens is to start giving them a dash of apple cider vinegar in their water on a regular basis to boost immune systems and help prevent respitory issues and stock up on black oil sunflower seeds which I add to their feed daily. Black oilsunflower seeds are high in fat and protein which help the chickens get through the cold weather and molting. I also like to toss a handful into their compost pile for a little game of hide and seeds. Mwahaha see what I did there? Terrible word play. You’re welcome.

What is your favourite way to keep your flock happy and healthy in the cold winter months?

 

A journey through time

I’ve just gone back and read all my previous posts. Wow! What a trip down memory lane! The last 2 years were so busy with this big leap, buying this place, selling that place, raising our little monster-mash, moving, selling, renovating.. ppff I think I need a nap;) But all the chaos and work has paid off! Look how far we have come! We did sell our first place finally ( Huzzah!!) back in June and what a relief that was. Sad relief..but also happy relief…you know? Gosh I miss those pear trees though! We are well on our way to being well established farm wise, and in the house there’s only a couple of large projects left. I am amazed at and proud of all the progress we have made in the last year. In 2 days it will be a whole year since we moved in and I really did not see us being this far ahead so soon! Thank goodness for my handy Mr. who likes to get on a project and get’er done, because I am a terrible procrastinator. I am quite proud of myself however for planting and maintaining such a large garden considering I struggled so badly in our tiny garden before we moved. Crazy what happens when you aren’t planting in clay and stone baha!

Well, all that to say that I enjoyed reading back on all this! It was like reading an old journal, but less cringe inducing. If I never get another reader, all will not be lost because at least I enjoy it, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matter right?

Today was kind of gross! Weak stomachs beware.

So today was pretty gross in comparison to a normal day on the farm. It started out fine, we got up, had breakfast, went out to do the chores. All seemed normal still, until I got the goats to the pasture and realized my little Gracie (4 month old doeling) had the poops! Never a good thing, but I figure she overindulged in her new pasture. I was pretty weirded out by her mess though. Later, around mid morning when the Mr. came home, I went back out to check on Gracie and offer her some baking soda. Well, don’t you know , big old bully Magda wanted in on that action! I grabbed her collar to hold her away for a minute so Gracie would have a chance…and my hand felt wet. I looked and ugh…Are you eating? Finish eating before we go on….. So I look down at my hand and it’s covered in puss. So here I am with one goat pooping herself and one goat with a leaking abscess from where she got her vaccine. I was a little grossed out! I shouted back to the house to bring me some paper towel and peroxide and stood there with my 2 messy girls, feeling sorry for them and myself. Luckily I had just bought Blue Kote to have on hand and got Magda cleaned up and blue koted. It is NASTY how fast flies will sniff out the ickys, so the quicker she was cleaned up, the better!

After lunch I succeeded to get the kiddo to nap( !!!). It’s the first time in about a week that she naps. I have mixed feelings about this whole growing up thing!! Anyway, while she napped, I went out in the 35celcius degree weather to do some much needed garden weeding. One bucket of weeds in and I could literally feel the sweat rolling off my face and dripping, actually DRIPPING onto my chest. It’s a whole different kind of gross from my earlier adventures, but super gross nonetheless. I couldn’t believe it. I am so ready for this heat to take a hike! It’s all fine and dandy for all you air conditioned workplace/home people to say ”it’s better than the white stuff!” but come on out and weed the garden with me or build a pasture and we can chat about it 😉 I’m going to be darn excited to see the first pretty snowfall! Especially since the other morning my little sweetpea woke up talking about snow! I guess she had a dream about it? She just woke up chattering about her snow boots and making a snowman! Who needs this heat when I have my little sweetie to keep my heart nice and warm!

 

Oh and PS: I made a homestead instagram account! Follow me for a peak into our journey. I update there WAY more than here XP @littleriver_homestead

Journey of a skinny goat. Day 1

Our search for a 2nd goathas ended! After much back and forth and undeciveness on my part, we chose our new goat. She is a beautiful, albeit skinny little Alpine-Nigerian dwarf doeling. I was not especially thrilled with how skinny she and her herd mates are, but am chalking it up to the very bare pasture they were in. I hope I am correct in that asumption!

When we arrived home and I put a leash on Magda, she quickly reinforced my suspiscions by diving into the tall grass, taking huge mouthfulls! Poor girl looked starved. Wanting to avoid any potential bloat, I kept her moving along so she could sample a bit of everything, from luscious grass to wild peas, weed flowers, poplar, apple, and pine branches and weed trees. At first she wws extremely relunctant to move away from where she was eating, but she quickly realized that each step brought a new delicious mouthful. At the end of about a half hour of grazing, I was delighted to see that she looks much better with a belly full. She was dewormed prior to leaving her previous owners farm, so I’m hoping to see solid improvement by the end of one week with some intensive brush clearing duties.

She is a very sweet little goat, so I hope everything works out and I look forward to watching her settle in, get comfortable, fill out, and really become a part of our homestead!

Growing memories in the garden

I have a lot of childhood memories in and around my moms garden. From the little patch she gave me(and I did not maintain very well) to eating cucumbers freshly plucked from the vines to that time I got sent to my room for using the carrot rows as jumping obstacles one too many times. Of course theres also the countless tedious hours we all spent picking potato bugs, but even that I remember somewhat fondly(from the comfort of my for-now pickingless comfort). I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that it brings me such joy to see my own little daughter spending so much time out in the garden with me!

We had such a lovely morning out there together earlier this week! It was a gloomy morning, threatening to rain, so we dressed in our raincoats and boots to go do the chores and by the time we were done taking Gracie the goat for her breakfast walk, it had started to sprinkle. Not ones to shy away from some rain, I took the opportunity to get some seedlings in the ground and E was delighted to help dig the holes for them. I decided to get the last of the peas, corn and beans into the ground and when she found out I was planting peas, Oh my! Was she every excited! Peas are her favourite, so after I’d planted the whole row, I gave her the remaining seeds and showed her where she could plant them. I may need to do a lot of thining out later, but she was just so happy to help mommy!

Yesterday while I was weeding, she cane over and sat in a milk crate beside me and watched and asked questions. She’s only 2 so we agreed that mommy would be the one to take care of weeding for now! I’m constantly being amazed at how much she takes in! She knows where the spinach is, how to pick the chives and which plants are tomatoes! I know these are simple things, but they are big for a 2 year old! I just love when she reaches for my hand and we walk through the rows checking on progress. It may not last forever, but it sure makes my heart sing right now! I hope someday she will look back at her childhood and have lots of wonderful memories in the garden with her mommy just like I do!

Strawberry dandelion jelly

I should have known that setting out to make a simple dandelion jelly would take a spin. I am notorious for frollicking off the simple beaten path, in life and in recipes! So, this is what happened. I found a fun and yummy looking recipe for dandelion jelly on teaspoonofspice.com. The recipe promises a nice honey taste and consitency, so off I went with a bowl in one hand and my tiny tots hand in the other. We picked to our hearts content, and then I did the tedious task of cutting away all the green and keeping just the petals. Still on track, I put the pot on the stove, brought the water to a boil, popped in the petals and then took the first step astray with lime iuice instead of lemon. Next thing I knew I was deliberately keeping some petals in “for the look”, adding a few bits of dried orange peel and tossing in some fresh diced strawberry. If I had had mint on hand it would have been in there too.

While sometimes my cooking adventures lead down some funky paths, this one seems to have turned out really good! I am still waiting to see if it will set to a good jelly or not, but I hope it does. If it doesn’t it will still be a nice syrup to drizzle over waffles. Mmh!

If you’d like to give it a whirl, here’s my recipe. I tried it once, so I can’t make any promises!

3 cups loosely packed dandelion petals

4 cups water

2 tsp lime juice

Boil these together for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let steep for 15-20 minutes.

Strain out the petals and squeeze out any extra liquid. Keep a bit of petals to have float around the juice if you want. Add some orange peel if you want, but remove it before you add the strawberry. Return to stove. Add 1 box no-sugar pectin, bring to a boil and add 2.5 cups of sugar. Dice 4 to 5 large strawberries and add to the boiling mix. Continue to boil for about 10 to 15 minutes.

And we’re done. Had I had mint or mint tea, I would have added it during the last boiling stretch.

Let me know if you give it a try or have experimented similarly!