Bringing in the New Year
Another year has come and gone. 2017 went out with a bang with the birth of triplet doelings from Alita and below normal freezing temperatures. We are back to bundling up like mummies, hauling water and breaking ice morning and evening. In spite of complaints from Alita and John, the babies are spending a few nights in the house due to the cold and learning to eat from a bottle.
Its always fun to reflect on the past year, to remember our blessings and all we have learned and accomplished along the way. We continue to slowly check things off the list, but somehow the list continues to grow.
It will soon be one year since we switched to soy free chicken feed. Our chickens are healthy and thriving on the mix, and we plan to continue along this path. It does require some creativity to ensure they have a balanced diet and plenty of protein. This is not as much of a challenge during the warmer months because they have access to natural sources such as bugs and worms. In winter, we give them plenty of meal worm treats and add organic fish meal to the mix.
2017 was a year of bucklings here at TRF. We had five does give birth to eleven kids, and only four were doelings. We kept Autumn, and brought in our sweet Diva to the herd. Maybe 2018 will be different, since we are starting out with 3 girls.
Construction projects for the year consisted of installing two stock tanks on the hilltop, tearing down the old sheep shed, moving the hay tent and building a new area for the boy goats. The old sheep housing spot was cleared for a future pond.
2017 was a good year for the garlic crop. Many were sold, and some were replanted for next year.
Baby goats meant plenty of milk, caramel sauce, cheese and soap.
We hosted a kids with farm animal photo shoot, attended our first 'farmers market' as a vendor, and held our first soap making class.
We are thankful for another year of doing what we love, learning new things and sharing along the way. My goal for the coming year is to 'make things easier' as much as possible for living on the side of a hill. Thank you for sharing our adventures. Happy New Year!
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the tent shed did not work out. It collapsed on one end after a stormy, windy night in November.
With winter just around the corner, we had no choice but to build something quickly, and this time, we decided to make it a permanent structure.
They worked morning till dark and even in the snow, and finally it's done.
The final step will be a gutter and downspout on the back to catch rainwater, and remove the tent.
More Soap and other things
A cold rainy weekend is the perfect time to make soap. For me, soap making is therapeutic. I can focus my attention away from the stresses of daily life and be creative. A big part of the fun is formulating and trying new recipes, always looking for the perfect combination for whatever purpose I have on my mind. I was in the mood for holiday scents, and simple colors. This session, I made five different batches of soap and some lotion bars. Some of these will make great Christmas gifts.
Zebra - Facial bar
Made with face friendly oils including rice bran, avocado and sweet almond, and scented with tea tree, peppermint and carrot seed essential oils, this soap was divided and layered in a loaf pan with charcoal and bentonite clay. I've wanted to make this for a long time and can't wait to try it.
Oats, Milk and Honey
This one is a repeat favorite I keep trying to perfect. It has chopped oats and local honey added along with the goat's milk. Honey is a little tricky to work with and always makes the soap batter hotter than usual. Against my better judgement, I used a loaf mold and, even in the freezer, it gelled in the middle. It may look a little different after curing for several weeks, but even if its two tone, it will be an awesome soap. I cut these into extra large bars.
Cloves and Orange
I had a couple of firsts with this recipe. For the first time I used olive oil pomace, and as advertised it caused the soap to thicken more quickly than usual. It is colored with natural tumeric, another first, giving it a rustic orange color. Along with the clove and orange essential oils, it smells and looks like gingerbread. It also gelled in the freezer even though it was in a flat pan, but only adds to the rustic look. It will be a hard, bubbly soap.
Using one of may favorite basic recipes, this one is swirled with french green clay and kaolin clay, and scented with eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint.
I like to keep a simple white on hand for some of my customers. At first, I wasn't sure what to call it, but after cutting a few it reminds me of cream cheese frosting on a cake. It is scented with clove, mint, lavender and eucalyptus (seems to be the theme for the day). It is made from another simple but tried and true recipe.
I hate to waste things, so periodically I take the shavings from all the soaps I've made and trimmed up - to smooth and improve its appearance - and melt them down. The scents from so many varieties mixed together don't always work out so well, so I added some Almond Biscotti fragrance oil at the end. It doesn't look like much, but it is still usable soap. I usually give these away, or think someday I'll use them to make felted soaps.
In addition to soap, I made three scents of lotion bars in Christmas and winter molds. The white one is scented with Turquoise fragrance oil, one is Almond Biscotti fragrance, and the other is mint, clove and orange essential oils. The gold flecks are from the chamomile infused sweet almond oil.
Earlier this week, inspired by my hairy oldest son, I decided to try making beard balm and beard oil. So far, his reviews are positive. Since the oils used are a little expensive, I will make these as needed, so if you would like some as Christmas gifts, let me know.
In between all the soap making, I was grooming Callie, chasing Bailey who learned how to get out of the fence, taking does to the buck for dates, and finally putting gravel in the walkway. I even managed to salvage a few boards of barn wood for a future project.
Garlic Jelly and Cheese
Two things I have a lot of lately is goat's milk and garlic. Since May, much of my time at home is spent milking and making cheese. We've experimented with a variety of cheeses, from soft cheese and yogurt to coffee creamer and hard cheeses. I've made lotion, and froze all I can for future soap. This is the view inside my refrigerator:
And my kitchen is a cheese factory
And then, there's the garlic. Besides the usual uses in cooking, we've made garlic powder, and recently discovered Garlic Jelly
The recipe, adapted from the Ball book of Home Preserving was a success. It will be great on a bagel with some fresh goat cheese!
Soaping 101 Class
Today, Carmen and I taught our first Soap Class at the Gallipolis Artisan Shoppe and Studio. A good time was had by all :-)
Carl the wayward buckling
Inside the barnyard is a delicate balance. Routine is not only expected, but required to maintain happiness and health of the inhabitants. A zone of comfort and a pecking order exists among species and within individual groups in which they learn to co-exist. When a new member is introduced, or an old one leaves, or when a change occurs in the environment, even with the best intentions, the equilibrium is broken and chaos ensues until a new normal is established. We try to maintain balance among the herd as much as possible, but sometimes change comes out of necessity.
,The time had come to move the buck herd from the small and over-used paddock they inhabited on the hill into the large pasture, and to separate Carl, the young buckling, from the does before we had accidental breedings. Carl is one of Sasha's twins who was retained to bring her excellent milk genetics to some of the lower generation minis. His brother was wethered and kept as a companion.
The new pasture has plenty of browse for the goats, and room to roam. In the old area they were housed, the rickety OSB shed had outlived its usefulness. It was the same building that had been built as a temporary shelter five years ago, taken apart and moved, put back together and added on for a wintering and lambing area for sheep. It had seen better days.
In preparation for the move, two large stock tanks were installed to serve the horses and the goats. Since goats are notorious for getting out of fences, additional wires were added, taking it from six to eight tight and closely placed strands. Still having no barn on the hill, a temporary shelter, although not ideal, a shelter-logic tent and an A frame dog house were built in the new paddock. Sturdy feeders were installed along the fence line. In the end, one piece was missing, although had been discussed and we know now was vital, a holding pen inside the paddock to introduce new animals.
The first move was to herd Daryl, Primrose, the guardian dogs and friends from their old home across a few feet of grass to the gate of the new pasture. At first, they enjoyed the shady hillside overlooking the old shed, pondering this new place wondering and why they could see their old home but not reach it. Eventually, they learned their way around up and down the hill, and found their new comfort zone.
Soon after the move, on August 5, Buttercup, the large wether from the doe pen, took a walk up the hill to join the boys. Daryl greeted him, and once they figured out between them where he stood in the pecking order, all was well. Next, to join was Carl, the young black buckling who also needed away from the girls. This is where things went wrong. Once inside the pasture, Carl looked around at this strange new environment and bolted. He took off running as fast as he could go, down the fence line until we could see him no more. Thinking we might get him to come back if he had a familiar herd mate, his wethered brother, we quickly went to fetch Eugene. Another bad decision. Eugene followed suite, but popped through the fence to the edge of the woods. Luckily we could still see him, but he wouldn’t come to us.
Coming to the rescue, John brought their dam, Sasha, on a lead to hopefully draw them to her. Eugene came happily and stuck by her side. We led them all around the pasture up and down the trails calling for Carl, but there was no sign of him anywhere. For several days, we looked for Carl, hoping he would find his way home. Posts went out to the neighbors who were kind enough to look and watch for this lost little buckling.
To add to the confusion, the next morning Bailey, the masked Great Pyrenees, appeared out of the fence at the bottom on the hill with the chickens and does. A secured area was built using 4X4 goat panels to hold her temporarily until we could get this problem figured out. Next, Daryl and friends, all but Tator and Primrose, were on the wrong side of the fence. Luckily they were close by and easy to catch. This new fence was not doing its job.
Loose areas in the fence were found and tightened, and the wires were electrified with a solar charger. Problem solved. Eugene was back with the does and other kids, and there were no more escapees.
Time went on, and the hope of finding Carl was all but lost. The old shed was torn down and the fencing that had previously held them in the old paddock was removed. This would be the future site of a farm pond and recreation area for the farmers.
August 31, 26 days after the disappearance of Carl, he appeared back in the fence with the rest of the herd. We will never know how far he traveled, or how he found his way back, but there he was, a little thinner but on his feet and with good energy and appetite.
Welcome back Carl!
It has been a busy couple of weeks, so this post is a summary of what you may have been watching on our facebook page.
It all started on March 5 when Alita gave birth to twin bucklings. These healthy little guys are growing like weeds, and had their horns disbudded a few days ago. These guys will be wethers, and wonderful pets. They may already have a home in waiting.
Two days later, 21 chicks hatched out of the eggs in the incubator. They are now brooding in the garage in a 4X4 enclosure we built floor to ceiling (to protect them from the cats). So far they're doing great and starting to get a few feathers. They are of mixed breeds of easter eggers (blue egg layers), an assortment of brown egg layers, and bred by potentially three different roosters who are welsummer, maran and a blue andalusian. Needless to say, the hens will lay interesting colors.
Next came Moonbeam, right on time with triplets. two girls and one boy. Friday evening, while we were preparing her stall in the maternity ward, she was busy getting ready. I went to check on her in the other side of of the barn and the first baby already out. I grabbed a towel and dried it off while she had the second. Thinking we were done, I took mama and babies to their warm stall. A few minutes later, she was pawing the floor, and out came a third. Naturally, this was the first night of what seems to be the coldest week we've had all winter, so her babies spent the night in the house with cats on guard duty.
Moon has been a great mama and for a shy girl, she has been very easy and cooperative to milk. One of these girls will stay on the farm.
Monday evening (3/13) I arrived home to find Starlight cleaning her twin girls, already standing up and starting to dry. She was already in the maternity ward and on kid watch, but I missed the excitement. I am very lucky that so far all of my girls have had easy deliveries and required no assistance.
I'm teaching all of the kids to take a bottle in addition to being with their mama. Bottle feeding, even if part time, will help with their transition to a new home, and keeps them friendly and sociable.
When the time comes, Starr with be available for sale as a "doe in milk". She's a good girl, but I have to be realistic about how many goats I can keep. She is friendly and full of personality, and would make a great addition to a small farm. Both of her daughters will also be for sale.
Flower's babies came the next day, on the night of 16 degree temps. Her babies were my most anticipated since she is a 6th generation mini nubian, and bred to Daryl who is also 6th generation. These two little boys spent a couple of days in the laundry room being bottle fed due to the cold and needing a little extra TLC.
They are purebred, 7th generation mini's and will make excellent herd sires to a lucky farm.
Sasha will be last to kid, due any day now.
It all started with a phone call from a potential customer looking for soy free eggs. He said he wanted them for health reasons, and asked if I had any. My chickens free range and eat plenty of bugs and worms, but they are also supplemented with commercial chicken feed. That evening I reviewed the label on my feed. Ground Corn, Processed Grain By-Products, Soybean Meal, Porcine Meat & Bone Meal. Definitely not soy free. So, two main questions came to mind. 1) What’s wrong with soy? And 2) Where can I find soy free chicken feed?
Many of the common foods we eat have been featured at one time or another in an article or study as being bad for us. Coffee, dairy, eggs, meat, etc. etc… I don’t usually fall for these diet and nutrition fads. My usual rule of thumb is moderation and to the extent possible, avoidance of artificial food (i.e. artificial sweeteners and margarine). This idea of soy being bad was news to me, but sparked my interest to learn more.
The arguments for ‘benefits’ and ‘risks’ of soy are abundant as evidenced by the list of references below. I highly recommend reviewing these and others if you find this a topic of interest. I found the evidence of soy risks to be most convincing.
Raw soybeans are toxic to humans and animals, and soybeans are listed in the FDA’s poisonous plant database. Soybeans contain multiple anti-nutritional factors and toxins that require fermentation or other similar processing to make them edible. One of the most frequently discussed risks of soy is that most soy today contains phytoestrogens, which are estrogen mimickers in the body. In large amounts, this could cause an increased risk of breast, thyroid and other cancers, and other hormone related problems. In males, it could cause reduced fertility and promote feminine characteristics.
According to ‘the whole soy story’ by Kaayla Daniel, years ago the Chinese considered soy inedible and used it as a nitrogen source for the soil. It wasn’t until later (2500 years ago), the Chinese learned to make soy a food source through fermentation (miso, tofu). Soy began to gain popularity in the US in the 1930's, promoted by John Harvey Kellogg and Henry Ford. It was later promoted as a health food for people trying to avoid meat and dairy. The rest of the soy story is history, mass production, and great marketing. In the late 1990's, scientists developed genetically modified (GMO) soy plants designed to resist roundup used to kill weeds and certain bacteria.
Other interesting facts are, soy is listed as one of the top 8 allergens and is found in a large majority of processed foods and its by products are found in most commercial livestock feed.
Now, the most important fact to me is that soy is not a natural food for chickens and is not healthy for them. Yet, it is used in nearly every commercial chicken feed – including all that are sold locally – because it is a cheap protein. The soy used in chicken feed is a byproduct after it has been processed for oil, then the leftover fiber is roasted. Chickens are omnivores – not vegetarians - and require a significant amount of protein to be healthy and productive. Since adding meat products to chicken feed is not always feasible, soy was the next and cheapest alternative.
Enlightened with this new knowledge, the quest for soy free chicken feed began. I searched google, and called local feed stores. Two brands were discovered, neither available in stores, but could be ordered and shipped for triple the cost of my current feed. This was not economically feasible and would have made the cost of my eggs nearly $10 per dozen just to break even. My chickens are worth a lot to me, but I also have to be practical.
Since purchasing commercial soy free feed was not an immediate option, the next solution was to formulate and mix my own feed from a local feed source. After researching poultry nutrition and finding several recipes from others who had done the same, I called my favorite feed mill. They were very willing to mix my formula for a minimum 500 pound order. Having 70 chickens to feed, that was no problem.
My first batch included wheat, peas, oats, black oil sunflower seeds, corn, alfalfa, calcium, flax seed, kelp, Poultry nutra-balancer, and a side dish of fish meal. Peas and fish meal were primarily to replace the protein lost from the soy.
The new feed was gradually introduced by mixing it with their old feed in increasing percentages over a two week period. A couple of observations were, 2) they didn’t seem to like the peas in dry form and 2) the powdery additives were left behind in the bottom of the feeder. Both of these problems were solved when offering them fermented feed. (Fermented feed is using the same ration soaked in water for about 48 hours).
When it was time for a second order, I realized too late I did not leave enough time for the mill to prepare before I was to run out of feed. (Some of my ingredients were not regularly stocked and had to be special ordered). To get us through to the next batch, I bought a bag of their former commercial feed and put some in a feeder. To my surprise, the chickens did not want to eat the old soy filled feed. They crowded around the new colorful feed and avoided the soy. This, alone was encouraging. Another observation was, it was although it was January and days were not getting longer and the weather had not changed, I was now getting about 25% more eggs per week than previously.
I’m sure the recipe will be fluid and change depending upon season and nutritional needs, and as I learn what works best for them. Now that the weather is getting warmer (in February!!), they are being given more access to free range and search for bugs, worms and their favorite treat, frogs.
Making my own feed is more work and a little more cost, but so far, it seems to be working for me and my chickens.
The whole soy story, the dark side of America’s favorite health food, Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN., 2005.
The Hidden Dangers of Soy, Dianne Gregg, 2008.
Connor's Sweet Sixteen
Sixteen years ago, I was given the most beautiful gift of my life. At the age of 37, I had two children, and according to my life plan, my childbearing duty was done. I had joyfully completed years of baby nursing and toddler chasing, and while I loved those years, I was now ready for adventure. His father and I had taken up running as a hobby, bought a camper, and traveled around the east coast racing in half marathons three or four times a year. Physically I was in the best athletic shape of my life.
Alas, God had another plan for us.
Throughout the pregnancy, I continued to run. At six months pregnant, I ran my last 5 K of the season in under 30 minutes, and won first in my age group. Of the three, this was my easiest pregnancy. I did a lot of research making sure running was healthy for the child, and found that it was highly recommended as long as the mother was used to running and stopped when there was pain. As a matter of fact, I read studies that babies born of mothers who ran during pregnancy were healthier and had higher IQ’s. I knew in my heart and still do that this little boy was very special and destined for something great.
He is my only brown eyed child, and looks like my little (now big) clone. He has a sweet, loving disposition and not a selfish bone in his body. He can be funny, talkative, or quiet and thoughtful. He takes in everything around him, analyzes it and comes up with own ideas. He is like a sponge, soaking up knowledge from everywhere. At sixteen, he, at least to me, seems wise beyond his years.
As a young child, his favorite things were matchbox cars – he collected about a million – and legos – at least two million. Before the age of three, he was able to recognize cars and trucks on the street by their make and model. This always amazed me, and I figured it was something he got from his dad. Legos were one of our favorite things to play together. First, he and I would put the sets together according to the instructions, with Connor always correcting me when I messed up. Then, when he was tired of playing with it in its factory design, he would take them apart and build new designs according to his imagination. He built them into airplanes, race cars, houses and forts with creative flair. Connor loved to be social and play with other kids, but he was often happiest playing quietly in his room for hours building legos or lining up his matchbox cars.
Connor has experienced many challenges in his young life, some good and some not so good. When he was ten, his father and I parted ways. This was a traumatic time for him. I worried, because he was so quiet and refused to talk about it. His life has been split between two homes, and he has seen the ups and downs of relationships and new people being introduced into his life, for better or for worse. He watched as his older brother and sister grew up and moved out on their own. I always tell him I learn from my mistakes, so he will turn out perfect. And, for the most part he is.
Four and one half years ago, June 2012, we bought some land, which we hoped would become a farm. In August of 2013, we sold the house he grew up in and left his neighborhood of Applewood subdivision, and moved into a small rental house in Proctorville while we planned and built a house on the farm land. At first, he was not happy about this move. His fear was moving away from his friends and his familiar surroundings. He was not so sure that farming was for him. He didn’t have a place to ride his skateboard, and video games and TV seemed so much safer. Over time, he has made new friends and realized he didn’t miss the neighborhood kids much anyway because everyone was always busy with their own lives.
Joining 4 H five years ago opened doors and opportunities to learn about things we didn’t know existed. Each year, he has raised Market Chickens and entered them in the fair. The first year was a learning experience, but he still managed to win first in his age group, and fourth overall for best chickens. During his second year, he won Showman of Showmen in the junior division. In addition to chickens, he has gone on to experience other projects such as dog obedience training, shooting sports and goat showmanship.
The farm has given Connor experiences that he would otherwise never see. We raise chickens for eggs and have even hatched a few of our own. He has raised and bottle fed lambs, goat kids, milked a goat and drank fresh goat’s milk. He knows all about deworming, vaccinating, hoof trimming, and many other vet duties to keep the animals healthy. He can grow a garden, bale hay, use a screw gun and a saw, and chop wood with an ax. He has learned responsibility and the value of hard work. He knows where our food comes from, and that blood, birth, growth, health and death are all parts of farming, the food chain, and the circle of life.
And so, the boy who was once my baby is now a young man entering a new and challenging phase of his life. Mama is not as smart as she used to be, and farm chores have become a bit of an inconvenience. Cars, girls, college classes, weightlifting, and plans for the future fill his mind and occupy his time. One day, maybe I will get smart again and he will remember all those valuable skills he’s learned. Still, I am a proud mother who is grateful to have been given this son, a beautiful gift and a second chance, and thankful for each day as I watch you grow. Happy Birthday, Connor. I love you with all my heart. Mom
My name is Christy Franklin.