Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There's Something Suspicious...

There's something suspicious about this hen. See how it is standing away from the others, how it's comb and wattle are so much larger and redder? This is one of the Light Brahmas we got from the feed store a while back. Six in all. Six that are supposed to be hens. Suppposed to be...

I saw something even more suspicious going on behind the sheep house. It involved an Australorp hen and this chicken. And let me tell you, it didn't look very innocent.

And when I picked up this chicken, it's voice sounded squawky, much like little Ricardo Rooster's voice... I'm keeping an eye on this one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday's Harvest

That watermelon and that cabbage are
already in our tummies! Peppers and eggplants
went to the restaurant. Okra will head to the fryer.

Planting Garlic

Garlic grows fairly easy here. We'd used up the huge batch we planted in the Gigantic Garden and needed to get some more in the ground. So yesterday morning after all my chores, I sat outside Mojo's area and peeled. And peeled, and peeled. Twenty heads of garlic took a while to get through. Mojo grew bored supervising me, sprawled across his spool-throne, and promptly began to snore. How undignified of him.

If you'd like to grow some garlic, all you need to do is get yourself some healthy mold free garlic heads. Peel off the papery skin from the outside. Pull apart the individual cloves being careful to leave their skin on. You can be neat and poke perfect holes in the garden ground and drop them in, or you can be lazy and dig one long trench to drop them in all at once, leaving enough space for growth. Water regulary and dig up once the tops of the leaves begin to wilt and yellow.

I like to wash ours and then braid the stems together so I could hang bunches in the kitchen to dry. You can clip one off as needed.


Peeling. It helps to have a bucket to catch the
papery skin to feed to the garlic loving goats.

Breaking off each clove, careful to keep
the skin intact so it will stay safe in the ground.

Best not to do this on a table with holes in it.
I'm sure you can guess why...

Lazy planting by digging a trench and dropping
the cloves in at intervals. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New-ish Goathouse

The old one was in pretty bad shape, and we're fairly certain now that Big Momma and Princess have buns in the oven, so I wanted the new goathouse up and running for business. It's made from free pallets from the feedstore, metal braces, screws, and rubber corrugated roofing. The new structure has four separate rooms so there might not be as much goatly bickering over space. I'd like to build up the floor by packing in some dirt so when the rains come again there won't be puddles in there.

Hubs and Angelica discussing the intricacies of roof attachment.

The rooms are located two on each side (North and South).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

Today my favorite teenager in the whole world came over to bake pumpkin muffins again with me. Remember those cute, little pie pumpkins in our patch? Alas, they are no more. We boiled them all up and converted them to mashed pumpkin for baking. The seeds were saved for planting and many are already in the ground (thanks to Farmer C's friend, Jaxon). They will probably be too late for Halloween, but they should be just in time for November pumpkin pies.

Angelica and I made a double recipe of these delicious muffins, so there were plenty for eating right away and plenty for sharing later.

You can also used canned pumpkin if you don't have garden fresh ones. If you'd rather have a loaf of pumpkin bread, bake 1 1/4 hours and do the toothpick test to be sure the center is cooked through. I like muffins because they're so portable and make a great single serving snack to grab on the go.

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

5 1/4 cups flour
3 tsp, soda
2 1/4 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
6 eggs
3/4 cups water
3 cups boiled, mashed pumpkin

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Build a dent in the middle of the dry ingredients and add all wet ingredients. Beat eggs and fold mixture together to form batter. Mix well.

Ladle batter into papered muffin pans and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Wobbly

It had a good, long life...

Originally I was going to remove the bad boards and repair the roof. But one tug told me this old timer was no longer safe to stand beneath for human or any other creature. A few more tugs and it was wobbling so bad I was a little afraid to stand in front of it.

Another good shove and boom, it fell down. Next I'll have to go through it, save anything worth saving, and then haul it away.

Oh and build a new row of goat pallet houses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mojo's Chicken Wife

I've been trying to capture this for a while.
This red hen used to escape every morning and wait
by Mojo's pen. I got tired of putting her back with the other
hens and decided to just let her be where she wanted to be.
I built her a rudimentary nest box and she moved in with her
goat husband. She often hangs out on his back.

Day Three: Construction

Today was the day! I couldn't wait to get out there this morning and see the final results. As if to make me appreciate how awful it is to have to milk in the rain, it's been raining for three days off and on and usually when I need to milk. I had moved the stanchion to the funny porch by the chicken coop to escape the weather. It's not a bad spot except the ground there is very soft. When I would sit on the stand to milk, my goat and I started slowly sinking! I kept moving the stand between milkings to keep it steady and level.

Back to the construction!

This morning the crew was hard at work when I arrived. They fastened the beams to the poles and had a generator going the whole time for their power tools. I went about my chores and finished up in time to watch from Muffy and DoeDoe's pen as the guys climbed right on top of the ramada roofs to fasten the corrugated metal to the beams. Talk about sturdy structures.

They finished up pretty quick, checked things twice, and packed up their tools to go. They asked if I was happy with them. Rather than look like a crazy person and start jumping up and down and screaming for joy I simply said, "Yes, these are great! I won't have to milk in the rain ever again." (insert big goofy smile here)

Here are the structures for you to check out:

This is the ramada for the cow.
This ramada will be a mult-purpose structure for milking,
hay storage, and a place to give the cow medical treatment
as needed. It will also be a great place to hang out if it rains! 

Day Two: Construction

(These photos are from September 13, 2011.)

Some days are just so crazy and busy that I can hardly find time to snap pictures with my phone. Please forgive me for the lack of pics!

Yesterday was one of those busy days. The crew came out in the morning and hurried to work. All the holes were dug and the poles set in with a lot of clamps to keep them in place. They measured and checked again to be sure they had them where they needed to be.

In the meantime, I was doing my morning chores and got a lot done, including four wheelbarrow loads of Mojo poo moved to the Gigantic Garden and some cucumber seeds planted.

I was hoping to hang out and get more pictures but after Mojo escaped and sauntered to the crew, I figured that was a sign I ought to get going. I tried some grain to lure him back home, but he wasn't interested in that. There's really only one thing on Mojo's mind. The ladies. So I got Star on a leash and sure enough, Mojo was happy to follow her anywhere, even back to his clean pen. Too bad I didn't let her hang out in his bachelor pad with him.

I was hoping to get back out to the land in the evening early enough that there would still be sunlight. No such luck. And there was a LOT of rain and stunning lightning. I snapped this pic from the safety of my truck, but if you look closely you get the idea. Here all the posts are set into the concrete and braced well with clamps and metal.

The ramadas are very tall and if and when I add some wall to this one by the camper, I'll have excellent potential for hay storage.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Magic with Scissors, Shampoo, and a Shower

This is what happens when you wash your golden sheep.
Surprise!
Muffy is actually white.
I have my very own poodle with hooves.

Day One: Construction

Do you recall what the one thing was that would stop construction of the ramada structures I want for my milking area and cow shade? It's a four letter word...
RAIN!

Yeah, that's right.
I piled my kids in the truck to take them to school and lo and behold the sky was gray and filled with clouds. Soon the lightning started. The rain began to splat against my windshield and I kept praying it wouldn't hit the land. It looked clear way over there. But no. A hazy rain fog settled in and I just had this bad feeling that things weren't going to work out. It is Monday after all and a full moon. John called to let me know he had to pull the crew out since the lightning was so bad and they were working with a lot of steel. I was sad, but what could I do?

He also said that the tree limb we had previously thought would be out of the way was actually in the way.


They did manage to dig one hole.


They've marked spots for more holes.


Here is the auger they use to drill the holes.


Here is their nifty wheelbarrow and hose.

Since the crew was gone by the time I got there and I don't want there to be any more delays that I could possibly prevent, I decided to cut down that huge limb all by myself. I've used my chainsaw before although not many times, and I will admit that I'm a little bit afraid of it (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).


Here is the offending limb.


Here is my girlie generator.



Here is my girlie chainsaw. 


I started in on that limb. This little voice in the back of my head warned, "Make this first cut a good one because you might not get a second chance." However, I knew it would be cool to cut the limb in several smaller, more manageable pieces. So I lopped off a huge chunk. Satisfied with myself, I began my second cut, feeling quite confident in my chainsaw wielding abilities. Slow and steady, I patiently did the undercut and clink.
The chan came off the guide.
(Note to self: Do not ignore the voices in your head.)

DRAT!

I did not have the proper tool to undo the bolt and refasten the chain...

But not to worry...

Thanks to my late father-in-law, I have one of these.


I admit, I was having some anger management issues.
And I had a strong, sharp axe.


Wielding an axe is hard work.
I had to take a break to haul away the first massive part of the limb.


There was blood, sweat...
and more anger.
I do not have time for tears.


And so I chopped the heck out of that limb with my axe.
And I won.

And my anger was managed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Muffy and DoeDoe

Saying Goodbye to Rocket
My test cow (aka Rocket the horse) has moved out. The two ramadas for the cow space and milking should be started tomorrow morning barring any rain. And I have two more sheep.

It all started when we went over to Angelica's house and helped move a couple corral panels to get ready for Rocket's move. I had asked to see the arena and the area where the horse would be staying.

Behind their house, next to the arena was a pen with wheels on it and two mixed breed sheep. One looked sort of like a Barbados with a bit of hair sheep in her as she had one fat dreadlock hanging down from the middle of her back. The other was a huge round ball of wool with hooves at the bottom and a spotted face. Not sure what she is, but she's definately a wool producer.

DoeDoe and Muffy
We later went to visit the landlord and asked about the sheep. He agreed to give them to me for free as well as their pen and a homeless chain link gate I can put to good use for a future pasture area. My plans of being able to rotate the goats and sheep are slowly getting along. I will need several more gates and a lot more rolls of wire fence and t-posts.

After the corral panels were in, Angelica quickly lassoed the sheep and we put them both in large dog carriers. The wool-ball barely fit inside. She was so big she filled in all the space and all we could see through the vent holes was globs of wool.

When we got them down the street to the ranch, we unloaded the non-wool lady first. Since we had her out I figured we might as well trim her hooves and her dreadlock. Then we put her in the old Milk Jail area. The wool-ball was entirely another story.

We lifted her dog carrier onto the little red wagon we have and wheeled her to Milk Jail. After setting the carrier on the ground, we hoped she'd just sort of come out on her own. She wouldn't budge. We tipped the carrier thinking she'd back out. No luck. So then Angelica took hold of the rear hooves and I grabbed the wool and we pulled and pushed and pulled and pushed. "Then I screamed. I see the head!" The wool-ball tumbled out. I congratulated Angelica for giving birth to a wool-ball and we both laughed. Farmer G was onhand to laugh at us too.

I got the scissors just to see if we really could get through that wool. I chopped and I chopped. Angelica was just dying to get a hold of the scissors so I relinquished my custody of them and that girl went to town!



Muffy before the Scissor Attack

Muffy during the massacre. It was like removing two sheep from her body!
Muffy after.
She needs a nice proper shave. We will have to consult someone
in 4-H that has real sheep clippers and knows what they're doing...
DoeDoe Smiling.
We can't be certain, but we think this sheep likes her new home.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Under Construction

I have 14 sixty pound bags of Quickrete in the bed of my truck. Why, you ask? I'm having a cow shade and a milking area shade built. That's right, I'm not building it, someone else is. Thank goodness!

It's still averaging 103 degrees during the day here and with humidity it's really wearing away my energy. But not to worry. I pretend I'm on a special diet plan called The Ranch Diet. Coupled with low calorie intake and heavy manual labor as well as sauna like temperatures, The Ranch Diet is sure to literally melt off any unwanted pounds you may be carrying around. I've melted off at least 25 already. Even though it wouldn't hurt me to melt off some more, I want the pros on my side this time.

The kits should be delivered this weekend and construction starts on Monday morning bright and early.

Whatever will it be like to milk in the rain beneath a roof (that's not a camper roof)? I can only imagine the luxury. Don't get me wrong; milking in the camper is entertaining, especially with no stanchion and children holding the grain bowl for the goats. But it's really not the most convenient location. Plus, the goats kind of like it in there and want to go exploring. The old Milk Jail worked all right, but my corrugated roof leaked and now that's a buck pen.

I've been busy cleaning out the designated area for the milking shade. Most days I'm dirt tired and properly melted, but I know in the end this is going to be SO worth all the effort. I figure it can be an extremely multipurpose structure. I can milk there, entertain ranch guests, have milking lessons, store hay on one side which will both block the sun and make hay delivery to the cow much easier, have a table and chairs for outdoor picnics, etc etc. Okay it's only a 12x12 but I can dream...

I promise to post more pictures as the construction gets going.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Test Garden Take 2

The season has started to change and I am so looking forward to fall. Summer was a scorcher. It burned up all the tomato plants in the test garden and the zucchini there had made as much as it was going to make. This morning, I cleaned out the test garden and readied it for fall planting with the help of my trusty neighbor ranchhand.

After clearing out all the vines and dead plants and placing them in the compost pile, Angelica and I piled on some extra goat bedding. The bedding will, over time, decompose and create rich earth loaded with water absorbing humus. This was the main reason I wanted goats. They are my compost and fertilizer makers.

Farmer G and I planted garlic bulbs, dill, cabbage, okra, and onion seeds. The only remaining plants in the test garden from summer are the green chiles, a few basil bushes, and one cucumber vine that may or may not survive.

Next is the pumpkin patch which had really been planted way too early in the season. We harvested all the pie pumpkins and a couple of gourds from the vines. There are still some good vines left that I will mulch around and then set in some new seeds to try for pumpkins in October--perfect for Halloween carving.

I have an order in to Johnny's Seeds for larger jack-o-lantern size pumpkin seeds. The giant vines are still going, but I haven't seen any fruit on them yet. I'm still crossing my fingers we might get one massive monster to carve.

The pumpkin patch needs a better border. I have one determined hen that escapes the pen and I find her each morning turning the soil all around the patch and on the sides of every path, making a big ol' mess!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Look Who's All Grown Up

When I first saw Jorge as a baby next door, I actually wondered where the heck he came from. I knew Angelica had two does, but no one was sure that Pepper was pregnant. She hid him well until the day he popped out. He was a cute little fella and he grew up fast.

Jorge waiting for his pedicure.
I bought him because I felt sorry for him when I was having a particularly bad day. He was all alone and crying every time I drove by. It was pretty pitiful. When I got him over to the ranch, all the other goats took pleasure in wailing on the poor, little guy. He ended up living with the two ladies closest to his age and eventual grown size, Vanilla and Canella as well as all the sheep. Until the day Lucky the Ram decided he was the big boss and started battling with Jorge. I have been told sheep hit differently than goats and can kill a goat if they tag him just right. So, Jorge has been in solitary confinement in the back pen that adjoins the lady goats area. He has his own pallet mansion and never has to fight over food. The scenery is particularly nice if you're a male goat. He gets daily love and attention from me because I really can't resist his cuteness. He thrives on pets and scratches and conversations about how handsome he is.

Jorge checking out what he's got going on back there...
It was his turn today for a hoof trim this morning, so I led him from his pen to the stanchion. I have to take him through the area where the lady goats are. He waggled his tongue at them and made his special moaning noises. He's turning into a manly goat. If you've never been around male goats (bucks) here's something you should be aware of. They have a special scent that attracts the females and it's musky and strong. Farmer C calls it the "stench of awesomeness" and Jorge is starting to bear it. If you pet a buck, that scent gets in your skin and doesn't wash off very easily. It might well be with you through several hand washings. Most people find the stench of awesomeness offputting, especially on a hot summer day when it's overly ripe. The scent glands are located behind his horns. He always wants me to scratch him right there, too.

Bucks also do something else lovely to woo the ladies of their kind. They urinate on their faces, drink their pee, and curl their upper lip. Oh so attractive. It's a good thing he was bottle raised and super friendly, and that he loves attention and has puppy dog eyes of cuteness.

I have learned I have to be careful when I take him for leash walks as sometimes he gets excited and the stream just shoots willy-nilly all over the place. One learns to step aside quickly in such scenarios!

Not an udder.
He has not shown any signs of aggresiveness toward me or other people, but finally he's able to hold his own in the goat world. He stood up to Tsica this morning when I had to take him back to his area. The only other goat that doesn't take her bossiness is Mojo.

I guess this means everything he's got going on back there is in good working order so far.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Test Cow

Test Cow
We had been searching for a cow and visited one place and emailed and asked questions of a lot of others. We considered a zebu, a miniature jersey, a dexter, and a dexter/mini-jersey cross. Most of the mini cows were far away and pretty darn expensive for us.

After a while, I kind of gave up on the whole crazy idea. My trusty ranchhand neighbor girl and I stacked the corral panels away for another far-off probably never to come day when cow dreams would begin again in earnest. And then, oddly enough, a cow found us...

We received an email from one of our restauarnt customers wanting to know if we were still searching for a family milk cow. Leery of a looming, giant cow of doom that could stare down at me and be a little scary I asked: what kind, how big, where at? Details. I needed to know more. But I wasn't getting my hopes up.

Turns out she is a Jersey.

Immediately I'm thinking EEK! HUGE COW! I don't know if I can handle a huge cow. When I was seven years old and fearless, yes, I could have. But not now that I'm all grown up and have more sense in my head.

We went to see her anyway.

It felt like fate, karma, the magic of the universe pulling together to bring us the cow we had longingly searched for. Happy, excited, and a little scared we piled into the truck and headed out for this new and wonderful adventure.

Until we got lost.


And lost again.


And even more lost....
We drove along a dirt utility road forever. We called the lady at least ten thousand times. She probably thought we were nuts. I can't blame her. The directions she gave me were very detailed. I can only blame myself and my loose interpretation of street names vs. real objects like Cattle Tanks. But I digress...

Frustrated, tired, fearful that this whole journey might be some sort of wild goose chase, we almost turned back and gave up. But the lady came to to find rescue us on her ATV and guided us back to the dirt road of destiny and straight to her home and many, many well-cared for animals. There were geese running free. I heard chickens. Goats! A bull, a Toggenburg buck. A child who shared her goat-kid with us. And cows. More than just one. But there in her own area was Gucci. She was um, kind of big. Not as big as the other enormously massive giganticly huge cows we had met before. She was quiet and minding her own business with her fly mask on to protect her secret identity.

We got to pet her, and rub her all over and talk to her. Gucci is soft. She was taken to the stanchion so we could see her damaged teat and inspect her and learn about her. My husband kept saying she's not that big. I agreed. She was a good size. Not a goat size, not a gigantic Holstein size. And then she took her fly mask off. And everyone said, "Aaaaaaaaw." And we all fell in love with her.

Gucci

And we want her to come live on our ranch.

She was born at a dairy and has one bad teat--much to our good fortune because that is how she was purchased by her current owners. Dairys cull animals who are not perfect for milking. A cow with three functioning teats is just fine for a home milker not interested in showing at fairs or anything like that.

First we have to get a nice spot all ready for her.

If you have read this blog a while you'll know I like to test things before I try for real. Rocket, the visiting horse, has agreed to be my test cow. Daily, she inspects the corral area for me and lets me know what needs to be trimmed and moved out of the way. She has shown me that the goats are good entertaining company next door and the water and food are located in a convenient area.

I need to reinforce the corral panels at their junctions with t-posts. (Got those today in the back of my truck). I also need to trim off some more mesquite limbs to make room for the coming cow hotel.

It's funny how we have had this property for several years now and I never noticed before how shady and tranquil this one spot is. Rocket the Test Cow has shown me at least three good lounging spots perfectly shrouded from the sun by mesquite trees. I hope Gucci will like it here.