Thursday, March 31, 2011

Milk Jail

Matilda-Cow's milk.
This took about 10 minutes at the most!
Last night I placed Matilda-Cow in jail so her babies (both old enough to be off milk) couldn't sneak up behind her and drink. 4-H neighbor had suggested I take the babies off her, and since she knows what she's doing, I took her advice.

I woke up at 7 this morning because I couldn't sleep well and rushed the kids off to the ranch by 8 to find that Matilda-Cow's udder was HUGE. It was pretty hard and being that I had babies of my own once, I knew that meant she had a lot of milk in there.

I got her on the stand and gave her an allotment of grain mixed with alfalfa leaves (so she had to work for the grain). She fussed during the udder washing process but when I started milking, and mind you it was a million times easier than before, she just relaxed and let me do my thing--for as long as I needed to.

I couldn't believe how much milk came out of her. Nearly a small mixing bowl full which came to exactly one quart. I had to stop on the way home and get some quart jars for milk storage. Right now we're freezing all the milk collected to save up until we have enough to make soap, cheese, and even butter.

Fig Trees

Today Farmer K and I planted two beautiful fig trees which are able to bear fruit soon. This is the last of the trees to go around the Gigantic Garden. I love fig trees for their massive leaves, the sweet musky scent they give off when I walk by and brush against their leaves, and for their mild fruit.

The pallet picket fence is still not complete partly because the kids are on spring break from school and trying to accomplish projects with all three in tow is not an easy feat. My small generator wasn't cooperating the last time I used it, halting mid-cut. Hubs got it to start but it soon petered out and neither of us could wake it up again that day. I did add another brace to the fencing to keep it sturdy while it waits to have the last bits added.

We have several new bean sprouts popping up all over and garlic shoots are pushing through the ground.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We Have Eggs!

First two eggs from our leghorn hens.
I went out this morning to feed and water the chickens, and just inside their coop on the hay were two bright white eggs. One was smaller than the other and slightly blocky in shape. I've read that first eggs are usually small. They were laid by our leghorns, one of the most prolific layers with a yearly average of 280 eggs per year. I'll have to watch my step when I go out there from now on.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We Have Milk!

Milking Tsica. Not much in there!
Over the weekend we spent a lot of time out at the ranch. I planted two nectarine trees, worked some more on the pallet picket fence, and, with the expert help of my fantastic 4-H neighbor Angelica, we discovered that the two does Hubs bought have indeed NOT dried up.

They have milk in those udders. Not much, but we were told if we milk twice daily, the girls will fill up again and keep making us a steady supply. They were not happy about the fondling of their mammary glands, so there was a lot of noise and kicking, but they soon got used to being touched with the bribery of pellets and grain.

This morning Angelica stopped by again (my goodness can I adopt this girl?) and offered up her services. We collected about one cup of hairy, dirty goat milk. No, we didn't drink it. This is what I will call "test" milk. I do that a lot, don't I? The test before the real thing. There will be straining and boiling involved in the non test milk.

This is how they milk them in Greece.

This evening I came back to milk them all by myself. I'm no expert by any means, so I tried several different positions. The traditional sit by the side, the not so traditional stand by the side and keep the goat from falling half off the table, and the very traditional (in Greece) straddle-the-goat-backwards style which worked like a charm!

Matilda-Cow gives the most but she is also the least cooperative about the whole matter. She kicks, she moves from one side to the other, grumbles and groans, stares back at me with wide frightened eyes, and at times won't even touch the bribery grain she's so bothered by the process. Straddling her helped solve all that. She calmed and no longer kicked.

For me, it was much easier to milk that way since the position of my fingers was far different than trying from the side. I know half the problem is my lack of experience, but in a couple weeks I think I'll be a pro!

Matilda-Cow: "What is she doing to me?"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Urban Chickens

Barred Plymouth Rock in my lap.
As many people long for the taste of home grown food they know the origin of, urban chickens are growing in popularity. Many cities allow backyard chickens but not a rooster. If you're interested in keeping chickens, check with local ordinances to see if they're allowed. Here are some interesting facts about keeping chickens:

  • You don't need a rooster to get eggs. Hens lay without the help of a man in the flock, but if you can keep one, you may get more eggs than not.
  • Chickens need protection from city predators such as dogs, cats, and even hawks. Ours live in a huge, completely enclosed run. The biggest danger to them is the cats that roam our streets.
  • Martha, Queen of the flock.
  • Chickens are voracious eaters. We feed our chickens scratch mix, egg laying mix, and a LOT of vegetable scraps from the restaurant (lettuce, carrot, zucchini, celery ends, cucumber and carrot peels.) They also like to eat any bugs they can get their beaks on. 
  • Eggs can come in many colors depending on the breed of the chicken. We have three Ameraucanas which will lay blue and green shelled eggs, two Barred Plymouth Rocks and a Black Cochin which will lay brown shelled eggs, and two Leghorns which will lay the traditional large white shelled eggs.
  • Feasting on restaurant scraps.
  • You can order chickens online if you don't have a local supplier. Although I recommend buying chickens in person so you can see what you're getting, you can order a variety of chickens and other poultry online to be delivered right to your door.
  • Chickens can be very personable. As with any animal, the more time you spend with them, the friendlier they will be. Our two Barred hens came to use when they were about three months old and still pretty small. They like to sit on our shoulders or heads and don't mind at all if we want to pet their soft feathers. The others came to us a bit older and as a result are all much more skittish.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seedling Pics

The first green bean sprout.
Too exhausted today to do much more than feed the goats and water the garden after yesterday's fence building.

But I did snap a few pictures of the new seedlings!

This green bean sprout is still all alone in its 50 foot long row. I hope the recent rain brings out the others.

The lonely zucchini sprout is lonely no more because a second albeit slighty crooked zucchini plant has popped up from the ground in the test garden...

The first zucchini sprout.
The second zucchini sprout.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "Before" Pictures

The "Gigantic Garden" has been quite the project to get going. It's taken about five weeks to fully prepare and fill with seeds and garlic cloves. This first post about it is intended as the "before" pictures since I hope in another month that it will be a burgeoning garden to be reckoned with.

Rows and rows of seeded garden.
Step 1. Trade mesquite wood with Frank the handyman for tilling services. Frank spent a  couple of mornings churning up the cleared area and mixing in composted manure. Sure, I could have dug it all by hand but I wanted a garden this year, not the next...

Step 2. Make a list of vegetables and herbs we use at home and the restaurants. Green beans, okra, basil, dill, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, more garlic, beets, eggplant and zucchini. For fun sow some sunflowers and zinnias at the edges. Plant all. That took weeks of morning visits.

Step 3. Water, water, water. Remember, we live in a desert! Mother Nature isn't going to help us out here with free rainwater because she's busy doing that in other places.

This is a fence made entirely of pallets cut with a jig-saw.
Step 4. Build a fence to keep out the children and large critters because they'll stomp on the seedlings and smash the neat rows before anything has a chance to grow! Free pallets are right across the street at the feed store and more can be found all over town if you care to ask. Recycling these heat treated pallets keeps them out of landfills.

Step 5. Add some trees around the edges. You might as well. There's a lot of space and shade will be most welcome in the upcoming summertime. I planted, plums, apricots, and apples. Later, with the help of my mini-farmer son, we added three blueberry bushes and two avocado trees. We've been advised against citrus by the neighbors since it gets so cold in the winter the trees tend to freeze to death. (I think I want a hoophouse in the future to combat that obstacle.)

Planting an avocado tree.

The first part of the garden was hand-tilled with a pick-axe. The ground is very soft after breaking through the hard top crust. Extremely different than what I was used to for Tucson. Everywhere else I've lived the ground was made up of tough clay strung through with coleche, a horrible gray material much like concrete. Not so here.

The small patch in front of the main goat pen is sort of a test garden that I planted before everything else to be sure the plants wouldn't freeze. Some died. Some survived.

In the two rows that didn't make it, I added dill seeds and cucumber seeds. Amongst the tomato and zucchini that survived, I added more dill.
The test garden.

Accomplishing this much so far makes me dream of watermelons in the summer and pumpkin patches in the fall. But I know at this stage, I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself.

To date one green bean and one zucchini seed have sprouted. There are so many more to go...

So Much More than Blue Eyes

Handsome, virile, and able to make
4 buckets of fantastic fertilizer in one month.
What's not to love?
Last night we had rain for the first time since the garden was planted. I figured when I drove up the place would be stinky, but it wasn't. I had it in my head I'd be cleaning up poo. Since Mojo lives alone (unless one of his lady friends is visiting) in his Love Shack which is a 10x10 kennel, I decided it was time to clean out his bedding. He had so kindly laced it with pee and poo for me. Goat poo is supposed to be very good for a garden. Everything I've read says it can be placed directly in the plot without composting as it doesn't burn the plants like other manures can. Mojo's pen cleaning chore yielded 4 five gallon buckets of poo and soiled straw bedding which covered approximately 200 feet of garden rows. Just think what the other seven goats can make for me...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Field Trip to Benson

Petunia aka Matilda-Cow
Sunday we decided to head to Benson to check out a couple of goats a lady was selling. A week ago they were in milk but dried up a couple days before we could make it out there. Nevertheless, we were still interested. Hubs wanted a couple of goats who have meat bloodlines in them for the obvious reason.

He was having second thoughts as we were driving because in the whole preliminary 'deciding to have some goats' process, we've seen some bad things: mistreated, sick looking animals that wanted nothing to do with people.

We had to take a little winding dirt road out to a remote property where we met with the lady and immediately, we were at ease. She had a lot of goats spread over a large section of fenced area, two Great Pyranese guard dogs, three cows, a huge Boer buck and everything was clean and well cared for. The goats hurried up to the fence to meet us and the kids.

Tsica sleeping with her head in my lap.
The first goat for sale that greeted us was Sprouts, now Tsica (not sure on the spelling since Hubs renamed her and it's a Greek derivation). She was very sweet and gentle and wanted to be petted on. Then we met Petunia, now Matilda-Cow. Again, very friendly and obviously well-loved by the children who lived there.

So here's the deal. Matilda-Cow had two baby does that had recently been weaned, but Hubs thought maybe they shouldn't be parted from their mom just yet so he asked if we could buy them as well. And so, two goats became four. Thank goodness we brought an extra large dog crate with us.

The two adorable baby does Canella and Vanilla.
 They are Matilda-Cow's daughters.
These goats are a mix of three breeds: Nigerian Dwarf, Mini-Nubian, and Boer. They are double the size of our Nigerian Dwarfs and they all have their horns. Every single one is an absoulte doll to spend time with, mellow, good-natured, and glad for any and all attention.

Our only concern is if Mojo will be able to perform his manly duties when the time comes. He may need a step-stool...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Trimming Hooves

When I first started reading about taking care of goats, I was surprised to learn that I would need to trim their hooves about every six months. I mentioned this to my husband who spent some time with his cousins' goats in Greece, and he looked at me like I was nuts. To explain, the goats in Greece pretty much free-ranged along the mountainside, running about wherever they wished. They were half wild things and naturally wore down their hooves by climbing across rocks and other surfaces that filed their hooves down.

Goats living in a limited space with no rocks to climb on will not wear down those overgrown toenails without help. I plan to place some cinder blocks in the pen for mine so they can climb on them and do some of the dirty work for me.

The other day I got a hold of Booger (omg by the wailing you'd think I was killing the poor little guy) and trapped him in my new stanchion table from He mellowed after he figured out there was free food. I gave him a long talking to and some pets, then did my first hoof trimming job.

Now, Dennis, the guy I bought my goats from, had made this all look super easy. He grabbed up Big Momma, plopped her on his table and snap-snap, nip-nip, he was lopping off chunks of hoof that went flying backward to be eaten by his dog. (Um ew. Dogs will eat anything.) He explained to stop cutting when I could see pink beneath the white, to cut evenly with the upper line of the hoof, and he made it look like any nut with a pair of hoof shears could do it.

Luckily, I was more careful, opting to gently place Booger on the table with both arms underneath him rather than grabbing him by the collar (which really freaks him out and tends to gag him). I managed to lock his head into the device and let him relax a while before I began. So um, I grabbed his front right leg and pulled it up. He wasn't in very bad shape. A little curling around the edges. Nip...pause...inspect, nip...pause...inspect...slow nip...itty bitty nip... Well, you get the idea. I probably should have cut off a whole lot more, but I figure I can try again another day. Booger ate all his goat pellets and wasn't bleeding anywhere. I let him go free and he seemed happy enough. I considered the whole ordeal a small success.

Maybe I can do this goat farming thing...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Our first goat, or the "test goat" as I was calling him, was not very encouraging. Booger wasn't tame or friendly and really didn't want to have anything to do with us. I attribute it to his traumatic capture when every goat in the pen had to be given a pelvic exam to find the one with the non-female parts. In his haste to escape the exam, he ran into a gate and knocked off one of his very cool curly-cue horns. He arrived at the ranch with a bloodied horn stub and a scared attitude. He bleated pitifully until the other goats arrived. Then he was a happy camper.

He lets us pet him a little now. He is the softest, tallest goat we have. Hopefully with time and patience, he'll let us walk him on the leash and scratch behind his ears. 

Booger, our first goat, a wether.

Big Momma

Big Momma was the matriarch of her prior herd at Sabino Creek Ranch. Because we have never had goats before now, I wanted a gentle doe who knew what she was doing. Big Momma is about three years old and has had kids prior. She was de-belled when I bought her, so I gave her a new bell shortly after she moved into the ranch.

She's the boss in her pen. Princess and Booger follow her all around. When Booger gets on her nerves she headbutts his behind or nips him to get him to move out of her way.

Big Momma's favorite thing to do? Eat.

Leashes - Not Just For Dogs Anymore!

Princess and the Boys out for a walk on the land.
Today after school we stopped by the land to feed the animals and take the girls for walks on the leash. Princess, by far, is the tamest goat of them all. She loves to walk and run with a little boy by her side. She doesn't like to go back in the pen though.

We hope we can eventually fence in the entire property so the little herd can have the run of the acreage. They enjoy nibbling on the scrub and finding mesquite bean pods as sweet snacks.

Behind these three is the beginning of the gigantic garden.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mojo and Big Momma

March 5, 2011
Billy Bob Mojo Frank and Big Momma retired to the love shack for an evening of goat loving. We hope to see some beautiful baby goats in about 145 days. This is the first mating so far. Hoping for many more.
Our blue-eyed buck, Billy Bob Mojo Frank.