Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Goose that Layed?

Check out how big a goose egg is in comparison to a chicken egg!

One of the geese layed her first egg. I'm not certain but it seems that
the larger goose, Big Boy, is actually a big girl and so is Silly Goose.
Angelica took the second egg to incubate it and see if there might be
a boy goose out there, not that anyone but me wants another goose.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Gucci Walk

Gucci likes to follow me around a lot in the mornings. But sometimes she goes off exploring on her own. This time she discovered something new to her: the shed where hay is stored for the goats...or for hungry cows who are big and strong and stealthy when the doors are left open.


She's a Woman of the World

Not entirely certain, but Ms. Cow appears to have a bun or two in her goatly oven. When the babes come along we'll have to ask them, "Who's your daddy?"  If she pops soon, then it was Mojo. If she pops later, it was Jorge...

Either way I'm not milking her anymore. She's all dried up and ready to make colostrum when the special time comes.

I love it when a plan comes together...

I've always wondered how much hay I could fit in the bed of my truck. This day's count was 14 bales and I think there's room for more. I was successfully able to back right up to the covered storage/milking area which made me super happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When Life Gives You Poo...

A load of Mojo's bedding and poo ready for the garden.
In case you haven't read the About Markou Ranch section of this blog, sometimes things go wrong in life. Just when you think you have your path clearly laid before you, when you think everything is going your way, things change. Often for the worse or in a way that makes you want to tear out all your hair and scream or cry. We look back on what has happened since we purchased our land and have many should-have could-have thoughts. We should have been living there by now, could have chosen to build a smaller house back then and might have gotten it done before the housing market crashed. But as the old saying goes, everything happens for a reason. It could be a divine plan. It could be that's the way the cookie crumbles and you have to move forward and make the best of what you're given. So this post is about what many people think is something gone wrong or something they don't want to deal with: POO.

First of all, poo happens. Everyone does it and when you have animals, you have poo. It can't be helped. Before you look down on all that poo, think about the positive side of it. Poo is loaded with nitrogen and natural critters that will make it biodegrade when given back to nature as it should be.

Our land has no septic or sewer system. We have no trash pick up. That means we have to do something with the many varieties of poo generated there. Something that isn't going to make problems or gross out our neighbors.

Goat poo is easy to deal with. It comes in tiny pellets, or berries, that dry fast and sweep up easily into a pile. Goats are messy eaters, dropping out the stemmy stuff they don't like in their hay. Goat poo mixed with hay bits is proving to be one of the best mulchy fertilizers I have ever used. I wheelbarrow loads of it to new garden sites and lay it in across the rows. It composts fairly fast and becomes humus rich soil that absorbs a lot of water and provides nutrients to seedlings without the use of chemical based fertilizers. And it's free but for a half hour or so of sweeping, loading, dumping, and tidying.

Goat poo bedding is in fact so desirable, that other people want some! Imagine that. Someone actually wants to take away poo. I gave some to my friends to start their garden in town. They said it worked great and they even came out and took trash bags full of it, shoveling it themselves while the goats supervised. My son's class started a garden for a science project and they, too, were quite happy to have a trash can load of goat poo bedding for their little plot. The teacher informed me just the other day that the garden is thriving and I should stop by and look at how well it has done thanks to the goat poo.

Gucci's Pies!
Cow poo is smooshy and generally comes packaged in a pie shape. Cows are very generous in the provision of poo that they offer. Many people are really disturbed by poos this large (horse poo is larger in my brief experience) but don't fear the poo! Celebrate it. If you've ever tried to keep a lush, green lawn, you are likely familiar with bags of manure from the garden center. It's cow poo that's been composted a little while. You bought them, didn't you? I have it for free every day, twice a day.

I manage the cow poo with a 5 gallon bucket and a flat bladed shovel. Right after I give Gucci her hay ration, I go on a poo hunt in her corral and gather up all her pies. I have a pallet compost bin set up nearby with two bales of straw stacked next to it. Here's a little secret most people don't know about poo. If you toss it in a compost pile and thoroughly cover it with dry organic matter (like straw) it doesn't stink or attract flies! Do this on a regular basis and you've got your own compost factory going.

Since cow poo is very wet, it's considered "hot" too hot to place directly in your garden. You'll want to compost it well to let it cool down and become dry and absorbent when blended with other organic matter. If you don't turn your compost pile on a regular basis and keep adding to it daily until its full, a good rule of thumb is to let it sit for a year. While that one is sitting, you'll be busy on others if you have a cow, of course.

Chicken poo is an anomaly. It comes in two forms: squishy-wet or dry. It all depends on what the chickens ate. They are not careful about where they drop their poo. Sometimes it's in the spent hay. Sometimes it's in the tree they roost in. Sometimes you are holding a chicken because they're so soft and warm and splat, the poo is on you. Like cow poo, chicken poo is considered "hot". Don't put it directly in the garden without first mixing with dry organic matter and letting it compost a while. Our chickens free range with the sheep and goats, so their poo is mixed automatically with hay bedding, piled periodically and carted off to sit in a new garden row until planting time.

Duck and Geese poo is high in nitrogen, comes in pelletish squishy forms and tends to end up in the pool they swim in where it becomes liquified. It's the easiest of all to maintain. Since it's so diluted with water, it gets dumped straight into the pumpkin patch twice a day. This is a trick I learned from Permaculture Soils, an educational video published by the Permaculture Institute of Australia.

Human poo is quite another story. Have you ever stopped to consider how much water is wasted when you flush a toilet, ever a low water use toilet? Water is precious here in the desert and daily people are flushing it down the drain, water that was treated prior to be drinkable. It's a strange way to deal with poo, because when you get right down to it, human poo is like the poo of any other creature. It's been made to go back into the earth. Rather than elaborate on this conundrum, I'd like to recommend this book as something to consider when dealing with human poo: The Humanure Handook. Find out more about it here:

Yes, that's right. Even human poo can be composted and given back to the earth. Imagine taking your own poo and turning it into a huge bed of roses. It might sound freakish and strange or wildly wonderful depending on your point of view. When life gives you poo, after all, what's best is to make compost...and garden.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gucci's First Day

This morning the boys went into the corral and petted Gucci up close.

Gucci watched me milk every goat this morning.
Ms. Cow and Pepper (above) were non-plussed.
Star was a little spooked.
Violet absoultely freaked out!

Later, Gucci and I went for a walk.
She admired the garden and probably wants to eat it.

After school, Angelica took her for a walk and introduced her to the wild
grasses and amaranth growing all over the property. It took Gucci a little
while but soon she figured out all that green stuff was for her.

Gucci's Arrival

Gucci came to live with us late last night after her pedicure. She arrived in the dark, riding in a trailer with her cow friends. It was a little scary getting that big trailer down our narrow road...

Here she comes!

Checking out the back of the property.

Checking out her corral.
Note the flashy fly mask.

We fed her some hay so she'd feel right at home.

She took great pride in ripping it apart.

Angelica gave a lesson on halters.

The water trough was inspected.
The kids and I spent the night to be sure Gucci was all right in her new surroundings. She walked around and taste tested for a while. We didn't hear a peep out of her all night. In the morning when I poked my head out of the camper, she stood by her feed bin and mooed twice to let me know she was ready for her breakfast.