Life Has Its Own Plans Sometimes

It’s funny how life is sometimes. You may have the best of intentions in trying to do good things and life just steps in to give you a learning moment. We’ve been trying really hard to live more sustainably and to be better prepared for the future. That’s a lot of the reason we moved to where we are and why we are doing the animal thing and the other efforts that we’re documenting on this site. The hard part is that it takes a little money to do these things. I’ve been doing some side work in the evenings to help pay down debt and pay for some things that we’d like to have for our farm. We are due for a fair size check at the end of the month. We recently paid off our credit card (again) and had decided that we were going to use the money on buying all of our bee equipment, we were pretty excited.

Well, shortly after we made that decision, our truck broke down, both sets of cars need at least two new tires and a broken thermostat upstairs is going to cost $200 to replace. All these lovely life events combine together to zap that extra money that we wanted to use for the bee equipment. We’re grateful that we had the money to cover all these issues, it would have ended up on the credit card if it weren’t for that check. I just wish that working hard could go towards what we planned not trying to fix stuff that shouldn’t be broken in the first place. Sometimes you wonder if life is just against us or that we’re being punished for something. But I know that God doesn’t work that way. He absolutely cares for us and is mindful of us but He’s not going to cause my truck to break and most of the time He’s not going to prevent it from breaking. We need to learn how to make our way in this life without Him having to carry us the whole way. We need to involve Him in our lives and our problems but realize that he expects us to do everything that we can. I also think that He’s very ok with us having bees, we just need to prioritize and make sure that we’re using what He gave us the best way we can.

What Have We Come To

My oldest daughter was feeling pretty gross today so my wife took her to the doctor at 4. That meant that I was supposed to be responsible for getting dinner together for the family. I know, scary. We picked a bunch of raspberries Friday before the frost came and I didn’t want them to go to waste. So I made some German pancakes with raspberry syrup, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner. The whole time growing up my dad would make waffles for us if mom wasn’t around to make dinner. It always turned out pretty well, although there was that one time that he tried to warm up Dominoes pizza that didn’t turn out so well. Maybe he should have stuck with breakfast.

My mom made German pancakes for our family for as long as I can remember but we called them funny pancakes (because of the bubbles). We started making them for our kids and they dubbed them silly bubble pancakes. They absolutely love these things and we usually have to double the batch because they scarf them down.

The raspberry syrup recipe came from here. It worked out pretty well except the blender didn’t stay sealed when I tried to blend the hot berry sauce … what a mess, tasty but a mess. The corn starch clumped pretty badly too so I don’t think I’d mess with the corn starch next time.

Take a look at our beautiful raspberries. Ever since I was a young boy I’ve loved raspberries. My Grandma Cloward had a ton of raspberry bushes in her garden and I would spend hours stuffing my face. I definitely need to increase my number of raspberry bushes.

Yeah, I’m With The Goat!

This is the story of picking up Leila from the fair on 9/13/2012. We had arranged with Bruce from Rusty Gates Ranch to pick up Leila from the fair at 9pm. I was not super excited to drive down to Salt Lake that late but I guess you have to follow their rules.  I realized as I was getting off the freeway in Salt Lake that we didn’t have Bruce’s phone number so we could meet up and I didn’t even have his name. Amber had arranged to meet him on the thirteenth and had forgotten to get his information. So I tried to use Dex on my phone to look up his information. That was hard and obviously wouldn’t work because we didn’t have his name. We did remember the name of another lady that kknew Bruce and tried to find her number. I found a number with the same name but it wasn’t her but I ended up having a lovely conversation with that lady about goats. I decided that I would just try to meet Bruce in the goat barn, I kind of remembered what he looked like but I for sure remembered what Leila looked like.

I’m now at the front gate, telling one of the gate workers that I bought a goat and need to pick her up. I really didn’t want to pay for another fair ticket and I wasn’t sure what the process was for removing an animal from the fair. The gate worker was super nice but didn’t have any answers for me. He called his boss over and he didn’t know either. So the boss called his boss to find out where I was supposed to go and to do. The whole time I have a Bluetooth headset in my ear with Amber on the call. She’s making lovely comments to “help” figure things out. The gate workers finally decide that if I want to drive my truck “closer”, I’d have to go further down the road and take the goat over to the area next to the stadium. If I wanted to, I could walk Leila through the fair and just leave my truck where it was. It seemed pretty silly because to get my truck “closer” would actually require more walking from the goat barn to the truck than just leaving it, so I opted for leaving it. They let pass me through without having to buy another ticket, sweet. Ten bucks saved!

I finally make it to the goat barn and see our cute little Leila in a pen and was relieved that she was still there. I didn’t see Bruce anywhere around but I do see our friend Nita a little way away. I ask her if she’s seen Leila’s owner (remember that we still don’t remember his name) and she asks where their pens were. I point over to where Lelia was and she gets a weird look on her face. She tells me that the Petersons’ son had a bad accident early that day and they had left.  Amber, who is still talking in my ear via Bluetooth, starts to freak out that she’s not going to be able to get her new baby. Nita has phone numbers for all the goat people at the fair so she gives me their number so I can figure out how we were going to get our goat. I try to call the Petersons but  just get their voicemail so I leave a message saying sorry about their son and requested that they call me when they get a moment so that we can talk about Leila. Right when I hangup, another lady that was helping Nita says “Leila, I don’t think Leila was Petersons’ goat”. Long story a little less long, Nita had had a long day and didn’t really see where I was pointing and just assumed the worst and that Petersons were the ones I was supposed to meet. She felt bad. She tells me that Bruce was Leila’s owner and that he was around here somewhere. Probably just went to get something to eat. So I  have to call the Petersons again and explain the misunderstanding, again via voicemail.

I decided to hang out by Leila’s pen to wait for Bruce. As I was giving Leila a scratch behind the ear and talking to Amber via Bluetooth, a lady came up to me and started drilling me on goat trivia. “Why did these ones not have ears”, “Why do those ones have really long ears”, “Why have so many different breeds?”, “Do you really milk goats?”, and on and on. I’m not sure why she thought that I would have answers for her. Two years ago I wouldn’t have. I must have gained some kind of goat aura in the last little bit. Her hubby was either in a hurry or embarrassed by her questions because he kept trying cut his wife off.

Bruce finally showed up with some dinner in hand. We exchanged money, Leila’s registration papers and contact information. We were all set and he said “Ok, just put your collar on her and you’re ready to go.” And I think “Collar, what collar?! No one said anything about bringing a collar!” When we saw Leila last week, she had a very nice collar on her but she didn’t have one now. I start to look around for something that I can use when I see a red scrunchy on the ground that some little girl probably dropped as she was looking at the goats. A little embarrassed, I grabbed the scrunchy and slipped it around Leila’s neck. I’m about to start out when Bruce says that he wants a moment with Leila. He tells her that he loves her, that he hopes she’s happy and to treat us right. It was very sweet. I hope to be that attached to our animals.

I then begin my trek through the fair with my 100 plus pound goat through the fair. I don’t think I’ve ever been so popular as I walked through the fair with Leila and her scrunchy. Everybody that I walked by was in awe that there was a goat at the fair and I’m sure that they were also impressed with the skill and awesomeness that I exhibited as I walked Leila. I heard so many whispers, “That’s a goat!!”, “Wow, look at that!”. I didn’t want to go anywhere without a goat in the future. It was pretty cool.

Unfortunately the walk came to an end and I had to get our Leila into the back of the truck. I hadn’t thought this far in advance but Leila was really heavy and long and I wasn’t sure how to get her in the back of the truck. I tried to give her a heave and it didn’t end so well. Luckily there was a good samaritan close by that saw my first attempt at goat lifting and offered to help. I let him take the head while I had to confront her nether regions. Up she went and right into the cage we borrowed from a neighbor (thanks Chad). She was not too pleased to be in there and she was less pleased as I drove down the road. She quieted down as I hit the freeway, or I just couldn’t hear her due to the freeway noise.

I got home about 11pm and let Leila check out her new home. She seemed pretty pleased with the place and Amber was super excited to have her new baby in the back.

Getting Started With Your Own – Laying Chickens

So you want chickens, do you?! It can be very daunting to start a new animal hobby. We’ve started new animals a couple of times and each time I was super worried that I was going to kill my new pets due to my lack of knowledge. Hopefully this post will give you a great start and you’ll be able to learn from our mistakes.

First thing that you need to do is decide if  you are going to raise chickens for eggs, meat or both. If you want just meat chickens, you’ll have to look at a later post about that. Laying hens are pretty easy and if you want them for meat when they’re done laying (about three years), you can do that too. Just keep in mind that chickens that are three years old are not going to be the roasting type, they’re better in soups or put in a pressure cooker.

I have absolutely loved having chickens. They were our first rural animal. They are super easy to take care of and require the least amount of work of all our animals.

Items You Need:

  • Chicken Coop
  • Feed
  • Water
  • More Knowledge
  • Chickens

Chicken Coop/Run:

Chickens don’t need a big fancy coop and they don’t need to be super expensive. We spent $300 on our first coop that could hold 8 to 10 birds and I think we paid too much. Check your local craigslist or other online classifieds for good deals. Also check your local farm store, IFA and Cal-Ranch for us. You need to decide how many birds you want. The size of the coop will depend on the number of birds you want. The standard is 4 square feet of coop space per bird and 10 square feet of run space (check here). We fudged this a little and did not have any problems. Just realize that these ladies poop a lot and a lot. Many birds in a small space will lead to a big mess for you to clean often and they will get agitated with each other if they don’t have enough space.

A coop should have a nesting box or two. When we bought our first coop, we were excited to see that it had 6 nesting boxes and thought that would be sufficient for our 8 hens. We soon learned that all 8 birds only used two of the boxes and they chose the hardest ones for us to get at. We closed off four of the six boxes. In our current coop we have six boxes again with 13 hens and they all share just two boxes again. Silly girls. Sometimes we see two of our fluffy butts in the same box.

Also make sure that the coop has a roosting bar. Our first coop had a couple of different levels of bars and the ladies fought and fought  for the highest bar.  Our new coop has a single bar so that they wouldn’t fight as much. They still fight for the spot closest to the wall but it’s not as bad as before. Also keep in mind that the hens like to snuggle, especially in the winter. They don’t need a ton of roosting space. Beware of the area below nesting boxes. Chickens do most of their #2 while they are roosting. So keep the area clear and put something underneath to catch it so you can just remove it, scrape it and return it.

You also need to make sure the coop has ventilation but not drafts. Chicken don’t need heaters in the winter, at least in Utah, but they don’t do well if they have cold wind blowing directly on them. If you do put a heater in with them, they don’t climatize as well and if you lose power to the heater you could lose your babies.  Because chickens are such awesome poop machines, the ammonia can build up if you don’t have good ventilation. That ammonia is not good for the girls or you.

For our current coop we found a used firework stand in the classifieds and paid $150 to have it moved from SLC to our house. It’s not the prettiest but it’s big. We converted the right side to a chicken coop and the left side to a shed/milking area for our dairy goat.

Feed:

Feeding chickens is pretty stinking easy. We just buy layer pellets from the local farm store. You can make your own if you want. They don’t eat a lot either. For just a couple birds, a single bag would last at least a month. You can buy a plastic or metal feeder to put the feed in. We built the current one we’re using now out of wood scraps. Make sure that the feeder and waterer are not under where the chickens sleep, they will poop in their own food and water.

Example

Water:

Nothing too special about watering your chickens. Just get a waterer and try to keep the water as clean as possible.

More Knowledge:

If you have any kind of question about chickens, feel free to ask a question on this page or look at backyardchickens.com. I had to scour backyardchickens for months to feel comfortable enough to get our chickens. They have lots of useful information.

 

Chickens:

Now for the fun part, choosing your chickens. This is my favorite part. There are so many different types of chickens. Each one has their own unique traits. Try to pick chickens for your needs. There are people down the street from us that get 25 birds of the same breed every year. I like having the variety of different birds.

If you want to research the different breeds, I’d recommend going to the Chicken Breed choosing tool at backyardchickens. They have a lot of breeds listed. Watch out for the chicken math. Last year we were supposed to get five birds and ended up getting 15 new birds.

I’ve always picked up my birds from the local feed store in the spring but you can order them online from places like Murray Mcmurray or you can hatch out your own eggs using an incubator. The eggs should come from someone that has a hen that is “contact” with a rooster or order them from online. I’ve never done the incubator thing so I can’t give you any advice on that.

Once you have your babies, you’ll need to keep them contained in a brooder box. Chickies aren’t very good at keeping their own body heat so you’ll need a heat lamp to help them out. They also a need a special chicken feed called chick starter. It’s typically medicated. After six weeks of being in the brooder, they’re ready to get out to the coop. Depending on the breed, I’d expect them to start laying at 4 to 6 months old.  Every time that we move our babies out to the coop we are very tired of being chicken mamas.  However, every spring we are very excited to have new babies.

Please feel free to ask any questions or correct me if you have a different opinion.

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A Bun In The Oven!

Literally a Bun in the Oven! Haha! I am talking about an awesome artisan bread baking in the oven. So yummy! I was chatting it up with Cody’s cousin’s cute wife, Jinger and she was interested in my whole food approach that I am trying to implement on our homestead. Basically I try to not have processed junk in the house. I make lots of things from scratch. This includes bread. I found an awesome no-knead artisan bread on Theitaliandishblog.com that I love. I also make honey whole wheat and french bread. I’ll post those recipes eventually.This recipe is so great because you mix everything together and then you can stick it in the fridge and just take out a bit of dough when you want a fresh loaf of bread.

 

This is what you need:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated fast acting (instant) yeast (Iuse SAF yeast)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all purpose white flour ( I substituted 2 of the cups for wheat flour.. still amazing)

Just mix it all together, cover it loosely and then let it rise for 2 hours on the counter.  Then you can cut off a chunk and let it sit on your pan  for a half hour or toss it in the fridge.  You can let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days and just pull out what you need whenever. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more it takes on a sourdough taste.   Which is awesome because I can never get sourdough to work for me.  It can stay in there for up to 14 days.   Again, just let it sit for a half hour and then bake. Oh, and make sure you take a sharp knife and put some little slices in the top.  It helps release gases while rising, and it makes you look like a pro!

When you bake it, fill up a pan of water and put it on the bottom rack of your oven.  This will give your bread that thick crusty crust.  Yumm!

Put your pan of water in and then bake at 450 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.  Or until you have a gorgeous golden brown loaf.  The website I got it from says that it makes four, 1 pound loaves.  But I usually make two, 2 pound loaves because I have super hungry kiddos.

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of my beautiful loaf before half of it got devoured.  Oops!  It was soooo good though and it made the house smell amazing.  So, I dare you to try this recipe!  Your family will thank you for it!

I Feel Manly Today

You know, there are certain days that I don’t feel too manly but today is not one of them. Over the last couple of years we’ve added several new animals to our collection but all of them could be together and enjoy each other’s company quite freely. With the addition of our little Puck the goat, we no longer could let all of them join in the fun on our wonderful farm. Puck had to stay away from the pigmy goats or they would die horrible miserable deaths during pregnancy because his offspring are too big for the little bodies of the pygmies. So to protect unwanted deaths and pregnancies, we created a second pen. The pygmies and sheep still could use the shelter in the other pen.

That worked fine until we got our new Leila goat. She is supposed to eat the real good hay so her milk doesn’t taste like weeds but we didn’t want the pygmies to eat the expensive hay. Thus we needed another separation. We decided we’d keep Leila in the pen by the shed and the sheep and pygmies could stay in the pasture. The only problem was that they didn’t have any shelter out there. A wet goat is not a happy goat. A wet cold goat is a dead goat (pneumonia). We found a guy that had pallets on KSL for a dollar piece and he had four of them that were 6 feet long instead of the typical 4 feet. We put three of the six foot pallets together as the the sides of the shelter and used a four foot one for the front. Put some plywood on the top and voila, a pretty cheap shelter. It’s nice to be able to put something together like this. I’m not super skilled in wood work but this I can do.

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Breasts? … Why Yes, We Have Plenty

I don’t know if you really can have enough breasts but the title sounded really funny to me at the time. We just slaughtered 21 meat birds. It was a neat learning experience. We ordered these cute little fluffy babies from Murray McMurray Hatchery. They had great reviews on backyardchickens.com and the reviews about their Cornish Crosses were pretty awesome. These little babies can grow from cute little chickies to very large breasted chickens ready to slaughter in only 6 to 8 weeks.

We ordered our set of 25 birds for June 24th. They arrived all cute and fluffy in a little cardboard box. We were very pleased that all arrived alive and looked very healthy and active. We only lost four birds due to unexpected circumstances. We lost two to certain someones, I won’t name names, placing water containers on their poor little heads, I guess they’re just allergic to not breathing. The accidental deaths of these two babies made the culprits feel  pretty bad. We lost another two because our cute little girls decided that they didn’t want to take care of the chickens that day and they died either from dehydration or being trampled by the other babies. That was a fun lesson for the girls because we made them clean up the dead chickens (ie throw them in a garbage bag) with their bare hands. Kyrah was not too phased by the whole thing but Aliyah … that was another issue. There were tears, stomping of feet and other such theatrics (they’re so creepy, etc.). She finally was convinced that it was important to do. Hopefully it was a good learning experience about being responsible.

So 21 birds survived to the big day which ended up being four big days because it apparently takes awhile to kill and process 21 birds. We were grateful to have the help of my  siblings (Derek, Kristin, Spencer and Kami) with the slaughtering and skinning. Even my poor sweet wife helped on the day that it was just us. She still blames me for the chicken lungs that she has nightmares about. So next year, I will do the killing/skinning. She will do the processing (cutting the meat into parts).

It was quite incredible to see the size of breasts on these birds. They were easily seven inches long. I know of few people who’d be quite jealous of these shapely little ladies. All without any drugs, surgeries, or all natural supplements ;). The legs were huge and really didn’t have as strong a dark meat flavor than other chicken that I’ve had. Which is great for my sweet lady because she no likey the dark meat. The meat was incredibly tender and just all around fantastic.

By the time I was done with the final bird, I was very tired of blood, feathers and guts with the occasional poop being flung at me by chicken death throes. I was wavering quite a bit on whether we’d do another batch next year. However, after seeing a fridge full of fresh, healthy chicken, I’m pretty convinced that we’ll do it again. We learned a lot of what not to do this year and hope to have a few less water containers on poor undeserving chickie heads.

Here We Go

We finally got our farm website up and going. We’ve been on our little farm for almost three years now but we just barely got around to putting up our site. My day job is a website developer and you’d think I would have been more “gun ho” about getting started. Oh well, here we are.

Our goals with this site are:

  • Document our farm history (it can be hard sometimes to remember exactly when the buck did his duty with our doe)
  • Share tid bits and tips that we have learned on our way. Neither one of us have had much rural exposure before moving out here. So plenty to learn and share.

Feel free to comment, share your experience or just say Hi. Thanks for looking at our humble farm/website.