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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Informed Consumerism

I highly recommend everyone be an informed consumer. It is so easy to go about our lives not looking at the ingredients of processed foods and just pretending that there is no problem, nor will there ever be a problem, with our food.

This is NOT the case. There is a huge problem with our food, and it is all thanks to Monsanto and the mad scientists that made their "super crops" a reality.

Doesn't it sound like the plot from a bad B-movie from the early 90's? It does to me! It would have been called something along the lines of "Mutant Crops Attack."

I would also highly recommend buying organic, GMO-free AND local when possible (if you are like me living in a very rural area - this will not always be possible, sadly enough).

Photo courtesy of RawforBeauty.com

Please watch this 17-minute video. It is less time than a sitcom on television and it will help everyone see what is happening with our "big crops" in today's world - especially those of you who may not have your eyes and ears open yet. I understand, truly I do. I was an uninformed consumer for a long time. Then I had children. More importantly, I had a child with severe allergies. I have to look at everything closely. When does she thrive best? When she eats fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic. When does she do poorly? When she eats processed foods that contain any soy, corn or canned tomato products. There isn't a coincidence here... Just watch the video and see for yourself.

Our Common Roots GMO Video

Farmers also need to step up. Not just farmers, who I know have a massive heartache ahead of them while trying to get away from Monsanto (watch the Food, Inc. documentary to see the pressure and force with which farmers are harassed by Monsanto and their goons), but also land owners who allow farmers to use Monsanto products on their land.

There is nothing more disappointing to me than listening to someone complain about the corn products that effect them so negatively, followed by the revelation that said corn products are grown on their property. It is beyond my ability to understand how someone makes everyone around them suffer for their own health problems and then reveals that they earn an income (the amount may be miniscule, that isn't the point) by growing (or allowing it to be grown) on a piece of land they have control over.

If each and every land owner does not take a stand, all of our land has nowhere to go but down. These GMO crops are spreading like wildfire due to the wind and natural pollination by local insects and birds.


There was an article just written about a GMO wheat being discovered growing in Oregon, when there has been no GMO wheat crops approved yet to be grown in our country at all. Now there is a huge investigation being done in several states.

If you watch the video, you will also learn that crops are being found in Canada, where none were yet approved to be grown. All thanks to mother nature doing what she does best...

Another wonderful point in the video is that our honey will also be affected. I hadn't even considered that before. This is why I open my eyes and ears to everything. I can get so focused on one point that I forget the other portions that will suffer too.

That is my 2-cents on the issue. I highly recommend being informed, not just for yourself but for the future of all living creatures. You are free to decide if it is worth it to you, but please at least take the time to watch the video to see if it is something you might, just possibly, think you want to be informed about.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chicken Hatching Fun!

Our chicks began hatching Sunday afternoon! It has been so exciting! There are 11 hatched so far, out of 20 eggs total (a few I think were duds - but because this is my first time I left them in there, checking regularly that they weren't smelling funky and rotting, just in case I wasn't seeing what I thought I was seeing when I candled them).

A Rhode Island Red rooster breeding with White Plymouth Rock hens is called a Red Sex Link. The cockerels should be yellow-er in color when hatched, and the females may vary more, but should all be more red than anything else. So far, I know which ones are which. The full RIRs are the ones with the darker stripes down the back - that is what all the RIR chicks looked like that we got last year. Can you see which ones are which in the picture? Hint: There is only one full RIR so far (in this picture) and one cross cockerel.

Here are two more that have only recently hatched.

I have a feeling only 1 of the remaining eggs in the incubator might possibly hatch now. It has pipped, and I've heard it chirp a few times, but it still hasn't emerged. The others I haven't even seen rock, let alone pip. They may all be duds.

*Soon to come - picture of the 11 chicks currently in the brooder, just as soon as the Little Man wakes from his nap. He's currently sharing space with them for a day or two while we build a door for the shed that will hold the brooder outside. Pictures will come of that soon too!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Steer on the Homestead? Could be!

It looks like a steer could be here in the near future. I have very little beef left in the deep freeze, and the elk and deer have also dwindled down to nothing but ground (and I am looking forward to buying pork fat from the butcher so I can make lots of sausage! Posts to follow).

I grew accustomed to having beef on a semi-regular basis, so we decided to go ahead and go in on half a steer with my husband's best friend. I like mixing the ground beef with ground deer and elk since those two have very little fat in them.

That is a Scottish Highland breed. The last one was called Steve. I think we'll just call all soon-to-be-dinner cattle Steve from now on. The girls always referred to any beef we had as Steve when we were eating it (they only met that steer once, but it stuck with them). We ate Steve stew often during the winter months. Tasty!

(See, to prove my point my 6 year old just walked over and said "Oh, is that Steve?" LOL!)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time is of the Essense... or not.

It never fails. Once you have children, you lose a lot of that "me" time that was once found in abundance.

Well, I went that next step and took away even more "me" time so that I could provide fresh, organic eggs and [raw] milk to my children on a daily basis. My poor toe nails are more un-polished than polished these days (and by un-polished, I mean there is paint on them - but it's chipped so much that more nail is showing than is not, hehe).

Don't mind the crooked toes - I have a tendency to run into things and break them. My girls take after me, poor dears.

I don't regret it, but I do realize that sometimes I don't look much like a woman, let alone a woman who cares what she looks like. I don't necessarily believe this is a bad thing, but having moved to my wonderful State from California, where everyone cares about that sort of thing, it's still an odd state of being sometimes.

I tend to go to the post office wearing a raggedy, torn up shirt (or flannel) over Carhartt or Dickie's pants (or holey jeans, if they aren't holey in any "wrong" places yet). The lovely thing about the oil-field town is that there are other women there who look even dirtier than me. But the truly nice thing about it is when the nose-in-the-air women are out and about and don't look too thrilled to see my outfit. Makes me smile every time. I work hard and I have no shame in that. I don't want to look all gussied up daily because then I wouldn't want to get my hands dirty (or my shoes, which are usually covered in goat poop, chicken poop, horse poop, rabbit poop, prairie dog poop, and every other kind of wild turd to be found in our desert). I'm also not the gussied-up type.

Some days I would love to dress up and get all fancy - and then I remember that it takes a lot of work to get that way and I appreciate my life even more.

I love being a backwards girl. I was always a tomboy, so this is nothing new for me. There are just less people around to judge me for it than when I lived in California.

My house is the same way. Especially in the summer. There will be dirty dishes galore next to and in the sink, dirt clumps on the carpet, and rocks in the kitchen every summer. We have things to do and little time to do it. Because this is when my house will always be the messiest, this is also the time of year we have the most visitors. Irony. Gotta love it.

I make no apologies or excuses. I do not say "please excuse the mess" when people arrive. You either deal with the mess or you don't visit. Either one works for me. I prefer to be outdoors when I can be comfortable while outdoors; in Wyoming that isn't very often.

Now, if only I could get my 3 month old to cooperate so I could spend even more time outside right now... Things to do, things to do... Naparoo, naparoo...

Rebekah Teal is a former city-girl-turned-farm-girl who writes for Mary Janes Farm magazine and blog. She did an article for the April/May issue listing 6 "riches of country living that I've discovered." #4 just happened to be about how her looks no longer mattered like they did in the big city. #6, neighbors who are ACTUALLY neighborly - even though they don't live nearly as close as the neighbors in the city! I've only recently started getting this magazine, and some of it is a bit too frills for me, but there is a lot of good information too. Don't be surprised if I share a tid-bit here and there for you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fromage Blanc - i.e. fancy cheese name for easy cheese

After reading a blog post on The Prairie Homestead a few days ago, I decided to take her idea of using fresh milk to make this cheese: fomage blanc.  It is very simple and easy. I just used a fresh half gallon of milk from yesterday's morning milking, added some rennet and mesophilic culture, put a piece of cheesecloth on top and held it in place by the half gallon jar band (I used a canning jar). This morning it was ready to be drained for 6 hours.

The half gallon jar I had the milk in for 24 hours; draining the cheese into a pitcher.

I'm going to use it in place of cottage or ricotta cheese in lasagna when my in-laws arrive this weekend. Mmmm mmm good!

The completed cheese after it's been chilling in the fridge overnight (next to some homemade fresh french bread my neighbor gave me yesterday - it was delicious). I might have to make more fresh cheese now so I can eat it and still have some left for the lasagna!

I could use the leftover whey to make ricotta. I think that I will set this one aside and use it for cooking. I will be making salisbury steaks (actually, they've already been put together and formed, just awaiting a thawing from the freezer) and mashed potatoes. The whey will be good in place of milk in the potatoes and gravy. Yum!

For the full instructions and measurements to make fromage blanc please go to Jill's recipe here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Is Upon Us!

Spring is here! In Wyoming that means blizzards every week and Interstate shut-downs so that the rest of the country will have to wait for their goods to arrive a few days later than expected.

Goat pens full of a snow drift that makes escape easily done. 04.10.2013

For the first time ever on our homestead, that also means baby livestock born right here on our land. My Toggenburg dairy goat, Tallia, had her twin doelings on April 7th around 7pm. They are both very pretty girls. One resembles Tallia more in the face and personality, the other resembles her goofy dad, Claudius.

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with the heartache of losing Tallia almost 36 hours after giving birth. There are a few things that could have gone wrong, including Milk Fever or a possible tear in the uterus while giving birth... As we didn't have an autopsy done, I will never know for sure. We lost her just as a blizzard blew in from Canada and we found ourselves bringing the kids in the house for almost a week. We couldn't risk losing the kids after already losing Tallia.

Goat kids keeping my 6 year old company while she does school. 04.10.2013

This meant I had to get a replacement dairy goat or we would quickly run out of the milk that I had frozen last fall and winter. I contacted Harmody Alpines, where I got my Toggenburgs last summer. They were looking for a good home for an 8 year old Alpine who had just kidded, so off I went to Colorado. While I was there, I decided to bring home a 3 week old buckling Alpine to breed my doelings with in the winter. I would have preferred to stay with the Toggenburg breed, but her only Togg was a dry doe - and she wasn't for sale anyway.

Nivasha is a great girl. She's very large compared to Tallia, but Tallia was only a yearling when we brought her home. I am getting just over a gallon a day from Nivasha! I was lucky to get just over half a gallon on a good day from Tallia last year. This is not uncommon for a yearling doe. She would have given us more milk this year had she lived. I will miss her dearly. She was not just a goat, but my employee. She provided a service to our family for shelter, food and water. That is how I see the dairy goat.

Claudius, on the other hand... His once-a-year service makes it harder to explain away the cost of feed. We will be attempting to fence in the rest of our acreage this summer, if we get a chance, so that he can browse all summer and cost us less in feed. He will also have a friend, unless we sell Claudius before Prong (the Alpine buckling) gets old enough to join him. I named him Prong because he is the coloring of a Pronghorn Antelope. Very pretty! I think that Prong and the Togg girls will make for some interesting kids next spring.

The doelings are named Ginny and Daisy. My 6 year old daughter named them. I am not sure where she came up with Daisy, but Ginny was shortened from Ginny Weasly. Yes, she is a Harry Potter fan.

Daisy saying hi to Huck. 04.14.2013

Ginny thinks standing on my ottoman trying to eat a burp rag is a good goat maneuver. 04.14.2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Around the Barnyard

It has been awhile since everyone got to see the animals around the homestead, so I thought I'd share some of the spring happenings with you.

She sure does love the camera (just look at those bulges!). 03.25.13

A very pregnant Tallia. She is even bigger today (4.05) however it is raining so I can't go take new pictures outside. 03.25.13

Tallia has still not kidded. She is due by Monday, as the latest average. After that, she will officially be "overdue." Hopefully it won't reach that point, the poor gal is huffing and puffing as it is. The weather is supposed to get nasty on Monday and Tuesday, so that is probably when she'll kid. :p

She is extremely lovey-dovey while she is pregnant. I hope it will stay this way, but probably not.

Healed up very nice! 03.25.13

Damsel (the Great Dane) is a much happier girl these days. After she got stitched up she got a huge bulge of fluid just above the wound. It took about 2 full weeks before it finally started oozing the fluid out, having re-opened a stitch or two (just enough to release the build-up) and is now pretty much healed. You can see the little section there that is a bit red, that is where she oozed.

Claudius and Paws are taking a break from all the gals. 03.25.13

Claudius and Paws (the Basset Hound) are just Claudius and Paws. Nothing really new with either of them. Paws was barking at the chickens today, out of the blue. No idea why, but I yelled at him. We can't have dogs barking at the chickens or they won't lay eggs.

Doo-to-dooo. Just walking along here, claiming my territory. 03.25.13

Claudius will be a much happier goat when/if we are able to get sheep fence up around the entire acreage so that he can run the 35 acres that Whiskey currently has run of on her own. Huck did get the uppermost strand up this past weekend, so we'll be getting Ruger and putting him in the pasture permanently (unless or until he figures a way back into the herd, the turd).

"Why are you taking pictures of my ladies? Huh?!? Huh?!?!" The D.I. has gotten an attitude since spring arrived. Little turd. 03.25.13

The chickens all made it through the winter! Hooray! I'll be buying an egg incubator this weekend so we can incubate 10 eggs. We were hoping to use a broody hen, but alas, none are displaying any broodiness so we have to do it on our own. We only want 5 more layers, so we are doing 10 with the hope that no more than half with be cockerels. Those ones will become dinner very quickly. We have an old tin shed laying down on it's side out there (that the wind randomly changes position of twice a year - it's very odd) and Huck said we'll stand that up, get it staked down and use it for the brooding house. Can't do the chicks inside this year since we no longer have a "vacant" room. I'm glad. Damn dusty birds. We also have a leaky water troft to use for them to be in and stay warm with wood shavings on the bottom. Sometimes it really does come in handy to have all the junk lying around here :p I still look forward to getting most of it gone. As usual, we have plans to get it all cleaned up, but we also have to build a few things... Priorities, priorities.