Saturday, May 30, 2009

Building Projects

As I was painting some dressers for our bedroom the other day, I was reflecting on our first 1½ years on the farm. We knew we were in for a lot of work when we bought our farm. All of the buildings were in need of repair and the house was (is) a real fixer-upper.

We didn’t have any building experience so we’ve hired contractors for all of the big jobs. But we’ve done our fair share and have learned a lot along the way. The first “major” project we tackled ourselves was to build a chicken coop, then a duck pen, rabbit cages, a rabbit hutch, goat feeders, a fence around our yard, and a goat stand.

Then there are the projects that don’t require building in the traditional sense. Those would include building portable goat shelters, installing a hand pump at the barn to pump water out of the stream so we don’t have to carry buckets of water anymore, erecting electric fences, patching & painting walls, and refinishing dressers for the bedrooms and vanities.

It’s hard work but we have a wonderful sense of accomplishment when each project is finished, and we’ve learned a lot. Our future projects include building a goat shelter out of lumber from a recent demolition project and putting a roof on our deck.

I can’t wait to get a roof over the deck!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roosters in the Garden

Brett spent most of the day in the garden last Thursday and got most of it planted. Feeling good about it, he came in got a shower and we ate dinner and went to the awards ceremony at Ryan's school.

Upon returning home we discovered that we forgot to close the garden gate and 2 roosters were in the garden. They had eaten ALL the tomatoe plants and scratched up a bunch of seeds. Brett was seething.

Saturday morning, we caught 5 of the roosters and took them to the flea market and sold them. We kept the 3 with the nicest temperaments.

I wish I would have had a video camera to film Brett chasing those blasted chickens out of the garden.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Things They Never Tell You

Molly & her baby girl

All of our cashmere goats have had their kids. We had 14 kids from 8 does. Unfortunately 3 of the kids died. I think if we would have had prior experience at this, we could have prevented all 3 deaths. I spent a year intensively researching how to raise cashmere goats, but there is only so much you can learn from books, classes and farm tours. The rest you have to experience.

One thing I never dreamed I would experience is treating mastitis in a goat. Mastitis is an infection in the udder. I’m not sure if Molly has it or not, but she has not been letting her kids nurse. We did not realize that until we found one dead. I’ve learned a lot about how to recognize unhealthy kids this year.

Mastitis is a common reason that a doe stops nursing her kids. To treat it, I purchased a large plastic syringe filled with antibiotics and injected half the medicine into each teat. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be and the medicine only cost $5.20. I wish human medicine was so cheap!

We secured Molly on the goat stand and gave her a bucketful of oats. Ryan held one of her back legs up so she couldn’t kick. I injected the medicine while Molly happily munched on her oats. It didn’t seem to bother her at all. We bottle fed her doeling to allow time for the antibiotics to work. The next morning I milked Molly so her baby wouldn't ingest the antibiotics, then reunited them that afternoon. That was 3 days ago and mom and kid seem to be doing well.

We haven't named this baby girl yet. She is small and sweet, and she has the biggest set of lungs of any of the kids. She's LOUD! Leave a comment with your suggestions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Garden

We’ve had small gardens in the past – mostly tomatoes and peppers – but this year we’re putting in the “big one”. Well, at least it’s big for us. A neighbor man with a tractor plowed it for us. He only wanted $5. We convinced him to take $20 because he saved us A LOT of backbreaking work.

It is well fertilized since we strategically positioned it where we raised 2 pigs and kept the floorless chicken coop last year. We’ll also use natural fertilizer from our goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits and chickens.

We are planting tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, butternut squash, string beans, watermelon, and cantaloupe. If we have room, we’ll add brussel sprouts and other cool weather crops in July.
The fence around the garden is electric netting to keep the roosters out. Based on how fast they ate my hostas, they'd devour our new garden plants in a flash!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I haven't posted in a while because life has been BUSY! So here's a summary of what's been happening on the farm ...

Combing Goats
Cashmere is harvested by either combing it out as it sheds or shearing. We choose to comb. It took me about 2 hours per goat to comb out the cashmere and trim their hooves. I got much faster after the first few as I refined my technique. There is still a little bit to do, but most of them are done.

Renovating the Old Store
We have the original county grocery store next to our house. It was basically just a shell - no utilities, sagging foundation, old roof, etc. We've had contractors here for about 3 weeks working to fix it up.

To save a little money, I am the errand girl. Everytime they need materials, I run for them. Not to mention that I need to be on hand to answer questions and make decisions about how we want things done. I'm excited to get it done, but the construction process is a bit disruptive. Fortunately, we have a great contractor.

It will become a woodturning shop for Brett and a fiber studio for me. More details on that later...

I took a whirlwind vacation to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival and to Pennsylvania to visit family and bring our son home from college. It was a great trip but I was exhausted by the time we got home.
The festival was awesome and I bought about a dozen different kinds of wool and fleeces so that I could spin them to learn first-hand the differences between them. I'm not sure how many breeds of sheep there are, but there's got to be at least 50 - all with different wool. I am focusing on those with wool soft enough to wear against the skin.