The goats have got to go

Their herd is too small for them to be relaxed about staying within sight of the fencing.  A herd of 3 is, in fact, too small to contain.  A few more goats and we might be able to rely on the shyer ones keeping the bold ones from straying too far or testing the fence excessively.

But it is not worth getting more goats to test the theory.  The sheep are perfectly contained and don’t test the fence or try to eat greener grass through the fence.  They are completely uninterested in doing such things.  The sheep are not low-grade stressors.  The goats have become such with their excessive wandering and pooping near the house.

So they’re going in the freezer at the end of the month.  The two young wethers will be very tender and delicious and the doe, despite her mediocre breed conformation will be muscular and tasty from all the diverse forage she runs around nibbling.

When all is said and done, we got $500 of brush clearing out of the goats, at what is likely to be a final cost of $700-800 for buying them, plus minerals and sundries and butchering costs.  They will yield 65-80lbs of meat (we are keeping heads and organs, so not sure what the final tally will be when that extra is added in).

It’s not great math, but it works for us.


Ewe never know where sheep will go

Saturday was a very challenging day.  My husband rented a trailer and set out to pick up four ewes to bring home as our starter flock.

The breeder had everything well set up and getting the ewes loaded went very smoothly, so that part was fine.  However, once he arrived home, things took a bit of a wrong turn.

The trailer was a smidge too tall for backing into our barn, so he stopped with it a few feet from the front entrance and opened it up.  The ewes were nervous and wary.  I slowly went up to them, talking to them in a moderate tone and encouraging them out.  They started to slowly come out, but my husband jumped in and thought that would speed them through the barn into the pasture on the other side.

Instead they rushed out in a wave and went around the trailer and his truck headlong into the neighbor’s lush pasture across the road.  We both just saw a bunch of dollar signs with horns go running off into the sunset.  It was most distressing.  However, my husband collected himself and went out to them more slowly and painstakingly herded them to the pasture, which we had not yet fenced off.

However, the ewes were very fence trained, so even though there was only some white string and a few t-posts strung up near the edge of the pasture, just before the boundary fence (which has a giant hole in it, and yes, it’s a very high fixit priority), they respected the string and just wandered around near it but didn’t test it.  The whole adventure summoned a neighbor we hadn’t met, who was happy to make our acquaintance and chat a bit.

After that, since the ewes were respecting the string, my husband was able to set up the paddock they are presently in with the goats and all seven animals are chowing down just fine.  These sheep are not interested in trying to escape, they are very mellow and relaxed and just eateateat all day.

The goats were nervous at first and two of them kept digging under the electronet and enduring the shocks just to eat away from the big horned things, but they’ve gotten over it and now everyone has their own little patch to gnaw down.


The grass is tall, but all four ewes are in this shot, eating the bottoms of the brown stalks. The goats were hiding morosely in the barn when this was taken.

Anyway, we now have four lovely Icelandic ewes of good breeding age and stock and that’s pretty sweet!

Homesteading Diary Thursday, September 5

We’re heading into what will likely be a high-octane time of homestead stuff for us, so I’m going to try to do overview updates a couple times a week to get in the habit. Here’s hoping!

Husband and me and sheep, yippie!: we checked out some super sheep and plan to bring them home this weekend.  We also took delivery of some hay, just a little bit (about 1/2 ton).  That should be adequate to get half a dozen small ruminants through the soggy/snowy winter.  We also are making some revisions to our fencing arrangements during this month and should have a very different (better) setup in October.

Goats: The goats are fine.  They hate the rain we’ve been having and noted their disapproval earlier this week by busting out of the fencing and busting into the hay because the barn was left open.  We rounded them up and put them back in their current paddock where they bleated angrily and ate uprooted potatoes.  Interesting side note.  Kinders LOVELOVELOVE juniper.  There is a bunch of research about using goats to clear junipers, but nothing that indicates a breed might prefer it to other forage.  Ours certainly do!  The literature expressed concerns about the oils upsetting their stomachs or promoting miscarriage but we haven’t noticed any signs of bloat and we have wethers with our doe, so breeding concerns are very improbable.  They just plain love juniper and seek it out preferentially.

Ducks: The ducks are fine, sleek girls at close to or their total adult growth.  I was cautiously happy they weren’t eating much feed, but since Tibby’s demise, it’s been the case that some other animals are eating some of that feed.  Mice and rabbits are the likely culprits, we’ve got holes everywhere the duck run has been since she stopped patrolling.  We are on a quest for a new barn cat or hopefully cats, maybe as early as this weekend.  The ducks haven’t started laying yet, but personal-use duck keepers on the old internets report laying about 17-18 weeks as a norm for Khaki Campbells, so we should see some eggs this month.  We started them on layer ration this week, a few days early, but they are capable of laying, so it should be fine.

Non-goat kids: Oldest kind of under the weather, youngest waiting for that first tooth to pop up.  Our oldest is likely to be able to gather eggs in spring, which is early for that kind of task, but she is physically gifted and can already carry a 3 gallon bucket of feed without spillage.  Based on past minor bugs, she should be ok by the weekend too.

Our youngest is exploring strange new worlds of somnambulism, crawling edition.  Did you know infants can crawl and sit up and walk along a wall in their sleep?  Now you do!  Thankfully cribs have been invented, so our youngest sometimes can be seen crawling in circles inside the crib like a puppy, eyes open and totally not awake and then FLOP to sleep.  It’s trippy.

Gardening: We dug most of our potatoes.  Yields were poor because we didn’t get all the plastic lining up before planting as I thought we had and that blocked the roots.  Not all roots can be bamboo-mighty, I guess.  The potatoes planted up by the house will not have this problem, they were planted where trees used to be.  Probably going to dig them up this weekend.  We ate the other ones, they have been a hit.

I think that’s it for now.  I’m pretty exhausted, we just came off a major period of both physical work and big illness in our household, and getting up to speed is also tiring.

Sustainable Economics–Firming up the Farm Plan

When we moved out here about a year ago, we had one idea about what homesteading would be like.  Life has shown us that idea is not going to work so great.  We hope to have more kids over the next few years, God willing, so that means for us, specializing and simplifying our plans.  What we can navigate while dealing with very young children is basically animals and nothing else.  Managing pasture and woods will have to be gardening enough for us.

I spent a lot of my childhood in rural settings, dealing with livestock and animal care, so I can bring the ability to plod outside in crappy weather and take care of animals when tired to the table.  I can also bring the ability to be calm and patient for the animals’ sake when there’s an issue that makes the animals frantic (like being tangled in electronet, but there’s plenty of other examples, like a labor needing assistance).  My husband has been finding that he can bring that calmness as well.  It’s very useful no matter if you have two or two hundred animals.

So the long and short is that we’re just going to buy vegetables from local farmers and focus on producing our own meat and eggs and (in a couple years if all is ticking along nicely) dairy products for the time being.  Toddlers can’t dig up animals and just might be able to help gather eggs.  We’re also going to start small and rely on natural increase for the most part, only buying a very few starter animals.