Friday, November 14, 2014

The GunSpa - Day 3

Well, I have been home from the GunSpa for 3 weeks now. Practice makes perfect, so practice it is! I bought a demolition gun and ammo, because I will feel more comfortable getting used to carrying 100% of the time in the beginning knowing that a little monkey (that would be my son) isn't going to try to use my belt holster to pull himself up to me and cause permanent damage to anyone. The gun and ammo are bright orange, impossible to miss. These items will also make it useful to teach/train my kids in regards to carrying and safely handling pistols as well.

Day 3 at the GunSpa was pretty awesome. By the end of the day, I was bummed that it was over. I even made a note on the comments section of the survey they gave us at the end of the day that it would be nice if it was 5 days, like most of their other courses are. The simulation was fun, intimidating, but fun. It was good to know how many things could and would happen in that type of scenario - something to practice, practice, practice on my own here at home.

By the end, I left feeling more confident, knowing exactly what I was doing wrong and the correct way to do it to be more accurate and safe.

I highly recommend everyone to attend a course at Gunsite Academy. No matter how well-trained you believe you are, this course will teach you something more. Many people who attend Gunsite have been going for years, and they like to go for refresher courses or different gun style courses. This is especially great for those of us who had military training, but could use real-world knowledge that would be better suited to a home invasion or shopping center type situation. Not a tactical situation.

The other awesome part about the class was that I made some lovely friends there. These women were all great and we all came from different parts of the country and were able to share our own situations with each other. Some have already been a victim of some type of crime, others live rurally such as we do here, and still others simply need to feel safe when they are forced to drive through neighborhoods known for having "thugs" take advantage of a woman alone.

The instructors were all awesome people. Il Ling New's reputation is well-known around the gun world. It seems we don't get a single gun magazine issue without seeing her name at least once. Dave Harris and Jane Anne were also our instructors, and both had awesome tid-bits to add to what Il Ling was teaching us. There is also a Gunsmith on site to help with any and all needs, as well as gun rental. Really, I don't think it gets better than Gunsite Academy. The level of information alone was well worth the time and money, but the knowledge... priceless.

Gunsite: Ladies Pistol, Oct. 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The GunSpa - Part 1

My husband wanted me to feel more confident using my personal handgun to protect myself and our children. As we are the ones home full-time, he would feel better knowing I've had more training and feel more comfortable handling guns in general, especially my own.

So off I went to Arizona, in order to attend a Ladies Pistol course, at Gunsite Academy.

Maybe you are wondering why I titled this post "The GunSpa?" As I sat to lunch on Day 1, one of my fellow classmates commented that I was basically on a vacation after I told her the ages of my wee ones, and another classmate followed that up with "So you're at the GunSpa!" It stuck.

The course is three days long, and chock full of information. I'm currently writing this at the end of Day 2. I'm feeling both good and bad about Day 3. Tomorrow is a simulation run in a building - scary pressure going on right now that I've managed not to think about until I started typing this. Must.Ignore! The key is positive self-talk. My shooting is not horrible, but the pressure doesn't help it  ;-) I just hope my body isn't too sore from all the shooting we did today.

The other ladies are shooting 9mm and .380 pistols, which means smaller ammo AND lighter guns. Since I use a .45, and not a light one at that (though I do have my lighter one with me, however it kicks that much more because of the weight), my arms get worn out a bit quicker than theirs when we have to hold our arms out at ready position for a few minutes at a time.  I am actually renting a full-size version of my own pistol, as of this morning, because it doesn't kick as much. I have a bad built-in habit of flinching from shooting my 3" barrel .45s over the years. I'm finding that working against the flinching is my biggest obstacle at this moment. A pretty awesome tip I learned on Day 1 was that having a full-size version of a smaller handgun (be it pistol or revolver) will help keep bad habits from becoming ingrained.

I bring up the ammo size for those ladies out there who don't currently shoot or own their own gun. Most women do prefer 9mm and .380, and for good reason. I am in very good shape when it comes to my arms and upper body, thanks to tossing hay bales and bags of feed around, yet my gun kicks my butt over periods of time. I always start out good, and considering it is for self-protection I wouldn't be holding it out for an hour straight, so I know that it will get the job done. I do not switch to a smaller caliber because we prefer to stick with only a few calibers so that we don't have a huge variety of ammo that we have to make sure to buy. We seem to be the minority in that line of thinking; most people we talk to who are gun enthusiasts seem to want one of everything, we just aren't like that.

Anyway, back to the class. I have learned a lot, and not just in regards to shooting. Today we had a good long talk about mindset, in general. Not just when it comes to carrying a gun, being comfortable shooting and carrying a gun, so on and so forth. No, it's also about being more aware of surroundings and thinking of what we would do if something happened, be it a home-invasion, earthquake, fire, etc. It seems I was already doing pretty good, because I do that when I go places. Huck and I have also already discussed certain scenarios when it comes to our home.

I very much look forward to tomorrow. It will be a good day, and then I will be headed off to home again to see my babies early Saturday (and yes, by "my babies" I do mean my Huckleberry too).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This Is How We Came To Be "Farmers"

Have you ever asked yourself, "Where in the world did these two get the idea to switch from over-the-counter meds to herbal teas and tinctures, or to raise animals, along with their children?"

It was a bit of a journey; one that started back in 2008.

Fall 2012. Crazy how far we had come since 2008, when we first moved to our land!

I had been noticing more and more articles about what fertilizers and pesticides can do to people; along with a large push for local and/or organic foods to be purchased whenever possible. This came with tons of information about genetically modified wheat, corn, soy, and canola. There are more, of course, but these are the ones most prevalent in the U.S. [at this time].

The clincher, was when I read a book called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, that my dear friend Mrs. B sent me (along with the next 4 or 5 sequels).  Ms. Gabaldon is a wonderful historical fiction writer. She does so much research for her novels as to be almost tedious. I love her for this. In the first novel (of 8 now), we learn a lot about how people treated their ailments with herbs and spices.

Coinciding with my reading of the first novel, I was also working for a woman who would tell me all about the different herbs and spices she and her husband used to fix any bodily issues they may be having at the time. I would find myself skimming her herbal books while I was at her house, and finally broke down and bought my first herbal book, Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.

While reading, researching and overall learning about herbs, my husband and I purchased the 40 acres of land we now live on and as we got ready to have a single-wide put on it, discovered we were pregnant. I don't know about most women, but when I am pregnant, I am even more in-tune with my body than normally (and I've always been very lucky to be well informed about what my body is up to, normally). I was also dealing with a 2 year old who had off-and-on eczema. It took several months to figure out what foods were triggering her outbreaks, but we did eventually figure it out when I removed most processed foods from our everyday diets.

I started reading the 2nd and 3rd books in Ms. Gabaladon's Outlander series shortly after my second daughter was born; luckily she does not seem to have the same allergic issues as her elder sister. Raising two young daughters, already delving into herbalism, and now reading a book that included a ship ride (or many) between England, Scotland, France and the colonies, I began to realize that a dairy goat may be just the thing we needed! I'd never really thought about how people eat on a ship for 6 months, especially back before technology as we know it existed. Once I got the thought into my head, I started doing research and discovered that raw goat milk has actually been shown to be very good for people with food allergies, and could possibly clear up my eldest daughter's eczema.

Of course, if we are going to contemplate a dairy goat, then we should definitely think about our own chickens too, right?

Around this time I discovered that one of my neighbors also used herbs and spices for ailments, and had a dairy goat at several different points in her life. They had also had chickens and ducks when we first moved out here (though I never saw any of them - I am slow to make new friends, being the introvert that I am). So now we had our Storey books that we had begun collecting and first-hand knowledge at our back door [so to speak]. What could possibly stop us now?

We began cleaning up the property in March 2012 [having spent the entire winter reading everything we could get our hands on], in the specific locations we'd chosen for the goats and chickens, and no sooner had we completed (okay, the goat pens hadn't even been completed yet) we had baby chicks arrive via mail and we had picked up our breeder pair of dairy goats from Colorado.

Our first goats: Tallia and Claudius

Our first hens discovering their brand new home when they were about 6 weeks old.

The rest, as they say, is history... All thanks to historical fiction introducing me to new things before it was even a possibility!

Except of course, in the Outlander series, Claire's pigs are NOT very nice... and ours are as sweet as puppies... The hogs were also my husband's idea, and not mine - so I cannot take credit, nor give credit to Ms. Gabaldon, for that particular venture.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

June Gloom? Not on THIS homestead!

Things are finally mellowing out here on the homestead. We had two gilts born on May 17th, and then three [soon-to-be] barrows were born yesterday, May 31st. We also received goslings in the mail on May 30th. That should be it for new babies for 2014. The [goat] kid is almost 2 months old now, and we'll be butchering him up for a delicious, fall-off-the-bone, slow roast after a single day of resting in the refrigerator this coming week. The ducks are also going on two months old, but we won't butcher them until this fall, along with 3 of the geese (we ordered 6 total - 3 are Grey Africans and 3 are Toulouse. We would like to keep the Toulouse for good to keep bugs down, but that depends on how they do in general. Time will tell).

The ducks foraging next to their pond. They have a car hauler and itty bitty old bumper-pull trailer nearby to run under in case of overhead danger.

Goats grazing between the hog pens and the goat shed (you can see the pig feeder on the left, currently upside down to keep all water drained while not in use).

The frog showing off yellow flowers.

The owl showing off purple flowers.

"This is a hold up! Gimme all your grass, or else!"

Sunny on the right, Buffalo (just days away from farrowing) on the left.

The boy and the kid have a special connection.

Rowdy likes to shake hello.

The kid grazing.

Goats grazing next to the chicken "safe zone" and brooder hut..

One week old pigs.

A boy and his Basset. May 2014.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 Spring Fever

I had no idea that I haven't posted since July 2013! Yikes! Sorry I am so behind. I thought I'd at least posted some pictures, but it seems I was mistaken.

We are expecting some babies soon! Daisy, the goat, will be kidding any day now. Rooter, our 8 month old gilt, will be farrowing in about a month. Sunny, the boar, jumped the fence one day in January when she was in heat. Never underestimate a 250 pound boar and a snow drift that has melted/frozen over so many times that it is like a rock. Huck and I had to really put all our muscle power into removing the drifts from both sides of the fence. Talk about the workout of the month! It didn't work either. He was right back over that fence the following week, this time because he wanted their free-feed instead of waiting for us to come around and give him his breakfast. Luckily we were already selling and butchering pigs at that point, so we simply removed the feeder and started feeding the 3 left (this includes Sunny) every morning and night, along with Buffalo - who so kindly remained in her own pen.

We aren't sure yet if Buffalo is pregnant. She is much bigger, quickly approaching 500 pounds, so it is more difficult to tell if there are any little ones growing in there yet. I never once saw Sunny mate with her, though I saw him get a chance at Rooter several times that first day he jumped the fence. We can see for certain that she is going to farrow.

We may also have a pregnant cat, or two. You just never know with those guys.

Buffalo snuggling with Sunny in her hut. They are currently together in case she isn't already pregnant. Poor Buffalo. I do believe she is a bit OCD. The last time we removed Sunny from her pen, she did THAT to her hair. The trouble was, they were also beating each other up with regularity. If she is NOT pregnant, and does not get pregnant again this time, she will become sausage. She is supposed to be our breeding sow, but has shown no signs of heat so far (though that doesn't mean we didn't miss it).

Rooter: Why does this cold white stuff keep showing up? If you don't know her, you wouldn't recognize the baby belly she has going on right now. She is due in about a month's time.

Who wouldn't want to buy this handsome Alpine? He's up for sale! Go to the Sales page for details.

Look at Daisy's kid belly! She just dropped in the last 12 hours or so (you can tell because the hip bones suddenly become noticeable again). Her milk bag is also starting to fill out and the ligaments at her tail are loosening more and more every day.

Daisy just looks uncomfortable, poor gal.

Daisy's twin sister Ginny was saying "Hey, over here, over here" while I took pictures of Daisy. I separated them earlier this week so that Ginny wouldn't hurt the kid(s) when they arrive. Ginny is the "lead" doe, of the sisters.

Cat Alley! They like to hang out near the goats because of the mice that climb underneath my milk room and all the little birds that come in and eat up the yummies off the ground. They keep themselves fed, that's for sure!

Ginny: But I just wanted a nibble!

Ginny: Fine. No nibbles. Guh.

The bookends.

The chickens were looking at me like "Yea right, we aren't coming out til that white stuff stops showing up again! Or you throw out some more scratch, that'd work too."

A dog and his cat, errr, friend.

We have GRASS. Oh but wait, we also have more snow. Again. That's Wyoming for you.

I am Paws, the Basset Hound. Feel sorry for me.

She's all puuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Our loving kitty. The other two, not so much.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hog Haven

The time came, and we finally got our breeder hogs! My husband has been salivating over this day for awhile now. He is a huge bacon fan. I also happen to have a daughter (the one in most of the pictures featured on this post) who loves all things pork, but won't eat other meat (other than boneless fish or shrimp, as long as she has LOTS of tartar sauce to go with it - just learned this little tidbit at dinner tonight). I call her my little porkatarian. They are both the happiest beings on our little acreage right now.

Meet Buffalo and Sunny (Buffalo is the bigger one - she's about a year old and due with babies at the end of August). Sunny is about 5 months old and weighs around 90lbs. Buffalo calculates to be around 300lbs by measurements - but I did point out to my husband that we don't yet know how a pig (ours in particular) carries pregnancy, so we don't know if the girth measurement might have boosted the approximate weight or not.

Buffalo seems to be thinking "What, my feet were hot."

This isn't one of our pigs. She is a 20lb weaner (just been weaned from mommy) pig that we picked up for someone that is West of us. She'll go to her rightful owners tomorrow. They bought her as a feeder pig, I do believe.

Same little weaner pig (I've been calling her Miss Piggy). This picture is to show comparison size versus my younger daughter in the picture above with our two hogs.
My husband has been working very hard for the past 3 weeks straight to build our hog pens. He had hoped to do it in June, when it would have been much cooler, but his employer had decided he should work from 5:30am to 6:30pm until the very last day of the month. The money may be nice, especially for when he has to take any time off work (he used his vacation after our son was born), but it left us with very little time to get the hog pens built. They will have nice, large areas for their living quarters. Sunny will be separate from Buffalo. She'll have the biggest area and pen, for raising her young.

Our year old hens are keeping cool in the shade. One of the Reds looks like it has a white stripe across it's back because it is wearing a "Hen Saver"

These are the chicks. They are now 9 weeks old, I believe. The white with black feathers has a White Plymouth Rock mom and a Rhode Island Red dad. Pretty neat, huh? You can also see the blue bands I put on the female chicks so that we know which ones NOT to hatch next year.

The chicks live next door to the year old birds so that when it comes time to add the 8 female chicks to the coop there won't be too much hub-bub. The cockerals will stay apart because they will be dinner at some point. The husband wants to free-range them without a fence - I'm thinking about it.
The chicks have about 7 or 8 more weeks before the pullets should start laying eggs. We can't put them with the older chickens until they can eat layer feed. According to the books, the layer feed has too much calcium in it and should NEVER be supplemented for chick starter/grower feed. Good information to know. So glad we read it again (for maybe the fiftieth time) when trying to figure out if we could start doing a 50/50 starter/layer mix for feed. I also had to switch my one year old hens from the organic feed to Nutrena pellets (antibiotic-free, but not organic). I finally concluded, after 2 months of mystery, that it MUST be the feed that has been giving them runny poop and making them pluck their back and wing feathers. I tried everything else, including putting "hen armour" on the birds that were getting themselves ready for the crockpot. I could never find any evidence of mites, lice or worms but still treated (with only all natural items, such as herbs and diatamacious(sp?) earth) and there was no change. Once we changed the feed (well, it's still a mix because it's only been 2 weeks and you don't want to change too quickly or you risk making them very sick) their poop went back to normal, they seem to be putting more weight on (they had started looking smaller), and the feather plucking isn't near as bad as it was. Hooray for small victories!

I love my Toggenburg does. Notice how they are laying out in the open while everything else is hiding due to the heat? They are not just heat tolerant, but very cold-hardy as well.

Here are the Alpines, hiding in the shade (you can just barely make out Navasha at the back of the shed and Prong is laying under the giant spool).
The goats are doing well. Prong seems to have stomach issues here and there, but I did a trial-and-error run with him and finally we figured out that probiotics fix the issue. I have decided to start my search for a future Toggenburg buck and will sell Prong next year, especially if the stomach thing continues. I am not being cold hearted, or huffy about pure-breds, I simply do not want to pass on any genetic issue that might possibly be a reason for his health problems. Since I am going to replace him, I might as well do it with a breed that is better suited to our weather than stick with these Alpines that don't seem to fair well too far in either direction.

My Great Dane guarding the hay (or maybe she's just keeping cool). ;-)

The Basset Hound guarding the chickens (or maybe he's just keeping cool). Hehe.
Here are the goldfish that keep our stock tank clean. A couple "water bugs" have taken up refuge and swim around in there too. They look like little sea turtles. We consider them part of the tank now too.

What do you do with the leaky tank that is no longer being used as a chick brooder and still has the wood shavings/chick poop in it? I use mine as a base to pour soil on top of and plant CORN seeds! Yum! Only been a month since I planted, and look how wonderful they are doing (though a bit crowded - more survived than I had thought possible. Is it true, is my yellow thumb getting a little greener?!?!?!).

Front view. You can tell that the left side is the first to get sun in the morning. By the time the sun starts setting, it hasn't shown on this side of the house since around 3pm (maybe earlier).

Here are the potatoes from the tub inside our bedroom. They started to grow all on their own, no water or soil, a couple months ago. I had forgotten about them being in the bucket to keep cool after I had my son in January, so they just stayed there rather than being put somewhere dark. Kind of neat to watch mother nature do her thing.

My husband has been hard at work making these hog pens up out of oil field pipe (very, very, very, incredibly heavy). He's doing the last little bits now and then we can move the hogs into their permanent home.