Friday, January 27, 2012

Playful Babies

It took them about 30 seconds to figure out how to jump up there.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tsica Growling

Short video of Tsica hogging breakfast.

More Babies!

This morning, Mamma Sheep finally popped out her two babies. We were starting to feel bad for her since her udder was ginormous and swollen so much that I could fit my hand in the dip between her belly and the balloon-like udder. The sides of it were rubbing on her legs and had worn off fur, leaving her skin pink.

I'm sure she feels much better now with two little ones to get that swelling down.

This little guy was just born before I arrived. He still had birth goo
on his back and his placenta was nearby. I was lucky enough to hold
him for a bit before he figured out how to run and keep up with Mamma.

If you look closely you can see his sibling. Not sure if it's a boy
or a girl since it's very fast already! Also shown is Teenager Sheep's baby.
See the difference in size?

Greenhouse Update

Here is a peek at some of the seedlings that have sprouted in the greenhouse. The weather here is still too unpredictable to plant in the garden. Most mornings there's frost on the ground.




Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Featured at The Arizona Daily Wildcat

Here we are in front of the greenhouse.
Image Copyright Rachel Gottfried
We've were interviewed by Rachel Gottfried of The Arizona Daily Wildcat about our ranch and garden. You can read her article about us here. We took her on a tour of the ranch so she could see the changes we've made to the Gigantic Garden, the seedlings in the greenhouse, and she got to meet the new baby goats and sheep.

She was intrigued by the pile of weeds and Christmas trees that we feed to our animals. They all love the weeds. The goats are still de-needling trees, with two more left to go. They've eaten well over twenty of them. I'm saving the trunks to build a rustic fence, possibly by the area I want to start a food forest garden beneath the mesquite trees.

This year, we plan to grow enough produce to supply both restaurants and possibly start a CSA (community supported agriculture) program to offer surplus produce and ranch products to future members. If you are interested in joining a CSA this spring, please email me and let me know. It's still in the planning stages so your input will help! I can be reached at traci_markou (at)

While the garden is mostly "sleeping" for the winter, things are really taking off in the greenhouse. Yesterday all the cucumber sprouts started poking their heads out of the dirt. The zucchinis are in the lead, and the tomatoes keep sneaking up as tiny sprouts that I have to get close up to see.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Baby Sheep of 2012

This morning we arrived to the wagging happy tail of the first Barbados Sheep of 2012 born at the ranch. We are fairly certain the mom is Teenager Sheep. Mamma Sheep helps out a lot though, even letting the little one nurse. But judging by her bulging sides, Momma Sheep still has a bun or two in her oven.

Mamma Sheep with her grandchild, Lamb Chop
Little baby Lamb Chop Just Born
UPDATE: 1-25-2012 Angelica has confirmed that Lamb Chop is a girl.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ms. Cow has Babies!

Cocoa Puff, minutes old
WARNING: Graphic Goat Birth Stuff

This morning a little after 9AM, Ms. Cow started making odd little noises and went to hide out in the goathouse area. Since all the other goats were eating, I figured it was her time to finally pop out her babies. Farmer K and I had a bet. He thought she had two. I thought she had three.

She couldn't decide at first which goathouse she liked better, the fancy new concrete one or the old school wooden one. She went back and forth between the two, pawing the ground. After I got a good look at her back end, I ran off to get some fresh straw for her nest. I loaded each area in case she changed her mind. She chose the wooden pallet house and made a few straining sounds before the first baby plopped right out, faster than I expected.

Cocoa Puff and Woodrow
Immediately she began the cleanup. She was still HUGE, so I knew she wan't done yet. Ms. Cow cleaned off her baby girl (Cocoa Puff) and when that little one was done, she strained a few more times and pop, another baby goat fell into the world, a very colorful boy (Woodrow).

Not long after that, my husband arrived and we watched Ms. Cow cleaning up. She made a few more noises, laid down and popped out baby number three. Another boy (Easter). All three learned to nurse and are doing well. Cocoa Puff is smaller than her brothers but an aggressive eater.

It took Ms. Cow about an hour to have all three kids. They were wobbly at first, but when I left the ranch this evening, they were out and about, checking up on the herd and learning how big their world is. The other goats are frightened of them and run when the babies get too close for comfort.

Ms. Cow is a good momma and calls gently to them whenever they stray too far. They're already curious and trying to climb things, like the large mesquite logs we keep in there as toys.

On an aside note, I looked back through the blog to decide who their daddy is because Ms. Cow had eyes for Mojo during her milking mornings on occasion. Based on the birthdate and the markings, Jorge is the proud pappa! Read about Ms. Cow and Jorge's wild fling here in case you missed it in August of last year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seeds are Hope

I often hear that things are only going to get worse before they get better, that the economy isn't done crashing yet. It's depressing, and frustrating, but I can't let all that stop me from hoping things will get better. In my opinon, if you can plant seeds; you can plant hope. Really, that's exactly what they are. Hope. Life. All tucked into a tiny shell to protect them from the bad things in the world until it's time for them to sprout and reach for the sunlight.

2010 was the year of insanely high hay prices. It made me ask myself why I'm even buying this stuff when I have unused land and running water. So I decided to do something about it. I asked my neighbor if he could drag his tractor in a large area that was fairly clear so I could plant my own alfalfa hay. And he did.

I fenced it up to keep the cows out using old fencing from where the workers replaced it with newer chain link. I whipped up a homemade gate from a corral panel and some rope in case we need to drive in there again. I ordered seeds. A whole big bag of alfalfa seeds. Thousands of little seeds of hope...

The other day I spread all of those seeds by hand. I did half the field in the morning and half that evening. I was going to make a seed spreader with an old milk jug, but it seemd silly when my hands worked just as well.

I haven't set up my hose and sprinkler yet. But the powers that be took pity on me today and rained on my alfalfa field. I don't imagine I will be able to grow enough hay to supply my animals from this plot, but I hope I can.

In other news, There are two tomato seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse. Spring is on the way!

First Tomato Plant of 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Paper Pots

When I went over to my friend's house and suggested we make paper pots, she and her mother gave me that look. I get "that look" a lot. The look that means I'm up to something odd and not necessarily normal, but with the potential for fun or usefulness. The look that translates loosely to, "Hm. What's Traci doing this time?"

The idea for paper pots came from a little permaculture book of ideas I had read a while back. Basically, you make old newspaper into pots to start seeds in. It's very simple and requires a cylinder shape like a cup or jar. I used a small canning jar.

Here are my helpers:
 In a couple of hours of chatting, we managed to crank out well over 200 paper pots. We even ran out of the newspaper I brought, but my friend pulled out another stack from her recycle and we were in business again.

I usually make pots at home in front of the TV when my husband is watching his favorite shows. I have a lot of nervous energy and sitting still makes me feel like I'm wasting time. So, I get to watch TV and get something useful done at the same time. It goes much faster with friends though!

Here are the instructions for paper pot making.
1. Fold a regular size sheet of newsprint in half lengthwise.
2. Fold one corner down at an angle.
3. Set your jar on the newspaper with the folded edge a little lower than the bopttom of the jar.
4. Roll the newspaper around your jar, starting at the straight end and ending at the angled end.
5. Stuff all the unfolded end into the mouth of the jar. Crease the edges.
6. Slide the paper off the jar. It will now be the shape of the jar but the inside will be all messy.
7. Push your jar inside to flatten and slide it off. Done!

Fill your pots with potting soil and set in your seeds. I place the pots in corrugated boxes because they are slow to degrade and also hold in moisture.

All of the boxes came from our restaurant instead of being tossed in the garbage.

This picture is the tailgate of my truck with all the pots ready for soil. Luckily, I had a willing helper with me that day, too! When working with kids always try to make the work fun. It gets done so much faster.

Farmer K and I had a competition to see who could fill their pots with soil the fastest.
He won this one, and was quite proud of himself as you can see by that grin.

We only have a few shelves left to fill in the greenhouse!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Holiday Goat Snacks

Trees are much closer to a goat's natural food than hay. Goats are mainly mountain dwellers in the wild. They like to nibble on woody vegetation. Bark is like a cookie for them. Our goats eat mixed hay on a regular basis, usually alfalfa and bermuda. When they're allowed to go roaming on the property, they eat up the hard weeds the cows won't touch. They'll stand on their hind legs to trim the mesquite trees, too.

Since the holidays have come and gone and so many people have so many pine trees just sitting about waiting to go to the landfill, I decided to do a little tree collection. Better in my goats' tummies than wasting away to nothing. The branches, after they've been denuded and dried, will be great in the fireplace. The needles are said to contain vitamin C and also be a natural dewormer for goats.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Greenhouse

Technically it's not done. It needs four braces added to the inside, but I figured I'd get some seeds started in the greenhouse ASAP to get a jump on the growing season. According to the directions, this model (purchased from should take two people approximately two days to assemble. It took me and mostly unwilling child labor about two weeks to assemble off and on. That's not to say two adults couldn't make the two day timeline. Most times I go to the ranch I have a lot of other chores to get done before I can spare time for new projects. Nevertheless, here is the greenhouse looking done and already starting to fill up with pots and seeds...

The side view.

Front view.

Turn your head to the side to see the pots full of soil.
Starting off with tomato seeds and zucchini seeds.
Here's hoping 2012 will have a bumper crop!