Saturday, November 28, 2015

Goats, Winter Quarters

So today, Steve moved the goats into the big barn, where they will spend the winter.  This makes it more convenient for us, because we can drop hay from the loft directly into their stall, instead of lugging it from here over to the goat shed, plus the new paddock  gives them lots more room.

They look tiny next to the big barn.

They are checking out the new digs, including a fun stone wall for jumping and climbing.

The chickens are already in the lower barn level for the winter, and the geese will be moving into barn too, so everyone is all together.  This also reduces the amount of snow shoveling we have to do....

The "white house" shown here is currently only used for storage.  We have decided to make modifications to it, and use it for animal housing. Either a goat shed, or the cow barn.  Thats a project for next spring.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Homestead, Year One

The old shed

The new barn

Wow, it has been almost exactly a year since we moved into the old house here.  It has sure been a whirlwind year, starting with the blizzard on the day of our arrival last year, and then the power outtage that lasted several days.
I got to thinking, trying to list what we have done so far.  I am sure there are small projects that I wont recall, and the ongoing tasks of gardening and soil building and planning, planting, maintaining, etc., cant really be summed up by a few lines on a list.. but here goes...its all from memory, so might get dates not exactly right.
Moved in. This is worthy of mention because it took several attempts, because the moving truck couldnt negotiate the ice after the blizzard.

Installed new wood stove
Bought firewood, but it was wet and fròzen (see blizzard comment above)
Cut down, bucked, hauled, and split two dead trees for burnable wood.
Bought a snowblower
Bought maple syrup evaporator (used, homemade, cheap)
Dismantled 13 raised garden beds and stacked and split them up for burning for said evaporator.
Purchased 6 layer pullets, the start of our flock.
Made a makeshift "greenhouse" out of the chicken run, where the pullets could live for the winter.
House before

House after

Endured.  Read lots of gardening books. Did lots of garden planning. Shoveled lots of snow.
Steve installed TV antennae.

Colors of fall

Endured even more.
Set  taps on 10 maple trees.
Showshoveled a path to get to taps, and tromped it down with snowshoes.
Began collecting sap.
Set up seed starting area inside, a strange seasonal juxtaposition with the sugaring operation.

The evaporator

Full swing into maple sùgaring: collecting, storing, boiling, canning.
Planted a couple hundred various garden seeds inside, with grow lights.
Received order of new chicks., 26 of them.

Flowers by front walkway

Finished sugaring.
Spread manure in garden, readied for planting.
Installed temporary garden fence
Chicks move outside.
Baby goslings arrive
Planted 5 apple trees

Garden gets going in earnest.
Second garden area tilled and raked.
Permanent garden fence installed.
Built new mobile chicken coop. Move the flock into that.
Set up electric netting fence for chickens.
Goslings move into old chicken coop.
Old shed gets demolished to make way for new barn.
Having to use crutches full time due to knee injury.
Small dog fence put up.
Bat exclusion doors put up to rid attic of bats. We hope.

Apple bounty

Apple peel feast

Stripped wallpaper, repaired walls, painted walls, ceiling, and trim in 3 rooms inside the house.
The BBB (big barn build) gets underway. We will live with heavy equipment for the next several months.
Planted raspberries, strawberries, blueberries.
Brought home the goat brothers.
Repaired , replaced rotted siding and sills on house.
Dug out massive thorn bush by front sidewalk, weeded, mulched, made pathway, planted flowers.
The radio tower finally taken down and hauled off

Future farm security team in training

The Alarm System, fully activated

Started painting entire exterior of house.
Dug up entire front flowerbed, mulched.
Dug up stumps in yard.
Cleared fenceline and stonewall
Removed weed trees and thorns.

Painted barn boards by the hundred!
Painted all the small animal sheds
Canned, froze, dehydrated, made jams, preserves from garden goodies
Installed new fence by stonewall
Repaired foundation on house
First eggs from new chickens

Mmmmmm... sweet corn stalks.

Paddock area raked and seeded
Spread dirt and seeded grass in backyard
Barn finished, mostly.
Start selling eggs to neighbors and farm store

The new Barn in Fall

Driveway paved
Gravel added for turn around
Big hill cleared
Small front hill stumped and cleared and tilled, bulbs and perrenials planted, bark chips spread.
Woodshed finished
Wood splitting begins
Lower woods area begins to get cleared.

Miss Dixie

Electric finally installed in barn
Bought a calf.
Greenhouse started
New walkway for main entrance.
Moved chickens into barn for winter.
Begin installing small paddock for calf
Build temporary stall dividers for second stall.

And that brings us to now.  I know theres more stuff, but seeing the list, no wonder we are tired!  And I dont mean to say we did all this by ourselves. The barn was built by our neighbor, and all the tractor work also.  And lots of other things.   But we have certainly had a hand in most of it. Almost all the gardening was me, almost all the firewood hauling, splitting , stacking was Steve.

So what will Year Two bring?  There is still lots of clearing to do, and more fruit tree planting.  But the biggest task will be fence building.  I think 2016 will be THE YEAR OF THE FENCE.   Stay tuned!

Garden area before

Garden area after

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moving the Chickens Inside

So, in preparation for winter, but a bit ahead of schedule due to my upcoming surgery, we moved the mobile chicken coop (Meals on Wheels) into the tractor bay of the garage.  It was a tight squeeze, only about a half inch clearance.   This is mainly so helpers taking care of our critters while  I am unable, wont have to deal with slogging through mud or snow, or turning the electric fence on and off.   One inquisitive hen is already trying to plan how she can get past the barriers we put up to keep them contained in this one corner.

Originally, we planned to put them in the greenhouse for the winter. Nice solar warmth and free fertilizer for next year.  However, the greenhouse isnt finished. It is built out of reclaimed storm windows.  The solar collecting power of glass is pretty amazing. Even with the sides completely open, it is warmer in there behind the glass than the surrounding area.
Once this is finished, that back wall will be insulated and painted black , and I will use some thermal mass collectors as well...

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Evidently its true what they say. "Chickens are a gateway livestock. "  
You're sitting there one morning, drinking your coffee, enjoying some nice farm eggs  and toast for breakfast, and you get to thinking, "it sure would be nice to have a glass of fresh milk  and some butter for this toast. "

And next thing you know, you have brought home a cow. 
So here she is, little Dixie MOOn, mostly jersey, with a little holstein thrown in, possibly some Gurnsey.  She is a week old right now, and very very cute.   Sorry for the bad photos.
Long story, but we first picked her up earlier this week, and she came down with a respiratory infection and some scours .  (diarrhea for the non farmers out there) so we took her back to the farm, and they are getting her all fixed up, and we are picking her back up next weekend after I am out of the hospital from my knee surgery.

We will be bottle feeding her raw milk, so her diet stay as close as possible to what nature intended. Probably for at least two months.  Then, slowly adding hay and grains as she is weaned.

Now thats a bottle!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Goat Pen Improvements

 Why did it take so long to do this?  Seems like some tasks, even relatively simple ones, just get put off. I dont know why.
Anyway, after trimming the goat boy's hooves today (another task that was overdue) I decided that we really needed to do something to cover up the bare (muddy) dirt in their pen.  Mud isnt good for any critter, except maybe the pigs.  The goat boys had too much mud caked inside their hoof walls, which can cause hoof rot.  So after cleaning and trimming their hooves, we hauled up some wood chips and spread them out in the pen. Their shed is layered with deep straw and wood shavings, so its fine, but the outside pen needed some upgrading.
 While we were doing this, we decided to pile up a few big rocks for them to play on.  Goats instinctively like to climb, and it will also help keep their hooves worn down.
It was immediate goat games on the new rocks.  Whoever could command the high position was King of the Hill.
 First it was Waldo.
Then Henry. 

Looks like it might be an ongoing game. Of course, I missed Henry doing running leaps and mid air twists onto the new rocks...but that was pretty cute.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wild Goats

 So here are the two impressive looking bucks that escaped from a farm in a neighboring town and have been roaming free for several months.  All attempts to catch them have proven futile, even using tranquilizer darts. Evidently, goats can withstand a dose that would kill a cow!

 These beautiful, but wary guys would not let me get closer than about 25 feet. They were wandering along the road just down the hill from us and a neighbor spotted them, and drove up to ask if we were missing any..( Evidently, because we have goats, folks immediately think any loose goats must be ours). I quickly grabbed a bucket of sweet feed, which always brings my boys running, to see if I could possibly lure them closer, while waiting for the owner to arrive. They were curious, but too wary.  If they had ever been tame or handled much, their months of freedom in the forest had erased any tameness they had.
I am not sure of their breed... maybe a mix of alpine and nigerian dwarf.  Judging by their horns, these were older, mature goats...Bucks smell REALLY strongly.... and these guys were no exception.... you could smell them 50 feet away.  Buck taint is not a pleasant smell, though maybe a female goat would disagree.

The owner arrived, and sadly, I believe they had no choice really but to dispatch them, as they would not have made it through a winter, and any "natural"death, by freezing or starving, coyote pack, or mountain lion, or being hit by a car, would be prolonged....a gunshot was a quicker, and painless end.  It was the right thing to do, but still sad, and I left before the deed was done.

All of which goes as a reminder that when you bring an animal home, and enclose it with a fence, you become responsible for that animal.  These guys were not protected. It makes me awfully sad.
 Here are my two NOT at all wild goats- fat, friendly and safe. I came home and hugged them.
Meanwhile, the flock, guarded by Floyd the rooster, and watched closely by me when they are out, enjoyed some time scratching around in the yard. Dont plan on having nice flowerbeds if you have free range chickens.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Winter warmth

Getting the firewood split and stacked becomes serious business in late fall... we are always preparing a year in advance, meaning the wood we are working on now is really NEXT winter's fuel.  It takes a year to really season and dry. This late in the year we are always chancing snow and need to get the wood under cover.  
The woodshed is starting to fill up. A lovely sight.

 But there is still lots of work to do.

Monday, November 2, 2015


First sketch is of a new calf belonging to a fellow blogger. His name is Raylan. Those of you who are fans of the series Justified might get a smile out of the name.

 And this is Miss Marley with her goats. And they ARE 'her' goats.  She loves them.  Here she is licking little Henry, who seems to enjoy the attention, while Waldo waits his turn.  She seems to know it is her job to protect them.  They seem to know she is their protector.  This kind of instinctive interaction between animals is amazing to me.   Nobody taught them this.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Walkable Walkway


Yay! We completed the front walkway today.  It was originally very old asphalt, that was cracked  and heaved up and very difficult to keep ice free in the winter... besides being just UGLY.
So we had the front end loader guy dig out the old asphalt. We used some patio blocks, and edged them with old bricks we found on the property here that used to be part of an old chicken house.

And then we were able to use a reclaimed granite slab as a new step up to the front door. That sucker was HEAVY.

We were hurrying to get this project done before snow, and then hurried even more to get it finished before my knee surgery so I might actually be able to make it into the house.

Planning Chart