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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Christian had been planning on attending our seminar. But when he was suddenly faced with a housing screw-up, we invited him to join us for however long he wished to stay. Will and I had been talking about the possibility of taking an apprentice for a few weeks during the summer but had not reached a decision; we don’t have time to babysit a person who doesn’t know how to work or want to bother to learn. But Will had previously shared an apartment with Christian while both worked out in teaching positions, so he knew him well and the decision was easily and quickly made. We’re so fortunate to have this energetic, pleasant young man here on the homestead. Today he and Will are hauling rotted manure onto our orchard where they are spreading it around all of the trees and bush cherries while I do less interesting but knee-healing appropriate stuff indoors. (Bah! Humbug!) The knee still hurts like crazy but is getting better every day. I can even sleep at night with little pain.
And I’m watching our cow, Lace, as she is building a huge bag prior to calving. I wonder if I could talk her into lying on her back to milk her? What a beautiful cow! We are so glad we finally got her bred! Hopefully next time won’t be so trying.
We’re wanting to get onions in the garden but the tiller broke down a couple days ago. The wheels turned but the tines wouldn’t and it seemed bound up. Will tore it apart. The gear and bearings that turn the tines were worn, shot, and torn up. Luckily, we found a place online that had parts (Partstree.com) and we quickly ordered them. They’re on the way so we’re waiting and doing other things while we wait. That’s homesteading! — Jackie
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
And a few days after arrival, we face the not-so-nice job of disbudding all of those cute kids. As horns are SO dangerous to both the goats and people (due to accidental bumps), we never leave horns on any of our goats. And it’s really paid off. Yes, it’s a stinky job with burning hair and not fun as the babies holler. But in minutes, they are nursing and in an hour they are playing like nothing unusual ever happened.
I’m always glad that job’s over. But we still have another unpleasant one — castrating the baby pigs. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be doing that in a few minutes. Again, unpleasant but necessary. (Boar meat often has a nasty smell on cooking as well as a bad taste called “boar taint.”) Buyers don’t want to buy baby boar pigs.
I’m running around today doing all those odd jobs I won’t be able to do once I have my surgery tomorrow. Whew! — Jackie
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
I have a small chicken tractor with just two hens. The roost nest is in the back furthest from the open “run” area. My hens like to get back in there and sleep in the roost box which creates a problem with chicken poop building up if its not changed every other day. My questions are, when would you throw away an egg due to it having manure on it (Say a hen messes once or twice directly on the egg) and the other question is how do I keep them from using the nest box as a sleeping location? They do have a board that they used to roost on until the rooster died that I had in there with them.
No, don’t throw away eggs with manure on them. This is common and eggs are easily washed with plain old warm water. Hens using nesting boxes in a chicken tractor is a very common happening. Usually the only remedy is to make the coop larger and put higher roosts as chickens usually prefer to roost high and will then quit using the nest boxes to sleep in. — Jackie
Canning on a rocket stove
So, I’m getting ready to make my move back home to Canada. Starting to pack up the boxes, etc. The finances are going to be pretty tight until I find a job up home. With finances in mind, I was wondering about alternative heating methods for pressure canning i.e.) wood stove, open fire, etc.; Searching the internet, I found this video on test canning with a rocket stove: http://youtu.be/17tKFDo97Fc
Would using a rocket stove (I’ve built one before) be a do-able source of heat for pressure canning? Along with the question of course, safety and prudence come into play as well — constant monitoring to make sure the correct pressure is maintained, etc. Reading over the comments to the video there were some questions on safety, ruining your pressure canner, etc.
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
While you can home can on a rocket stove, as seen in the video, I’d rather not. It’d be real hard to adjust the heat to vary the temperature when you are canning. You can certainly can on a wood stove with a flat top. I canned on my kitchen range for decades. On a kitchen range you can slide your canner a bit to the side to slow down the rising pressure or slip it back over the heat when you need to give it a boost upward. With the rocket stove, the heat needs to be regulated by the amount and kind of wood you have burning — very difficult. Also there’s the stability issue. A heavy canner can be dangerous on top of a rocket stove. I’d skip it. Or go with a table-top propane two or three burner and just use your small tanks to fire it and re-fill between canning operations. — Jackie
Monday, May 6th, 2013
All our snow is gone and the ground is drying up nicely. What a relief. We breed our goats to freshen in late April since by then the snow is gone and the weather is nice. Luckily, the “girls” didn’t have their kids until last week so they were born in pleasant weather. Now it’s mid-sixties and they’re out running with their mammas and enjoying the sunshine. One small twin buckling was born weak so I brought him in and put him into the wood box. (The wood box sees more baby animals this time of the year than it does wood!) He’s doing well on the bottle and is starting to run around outdoors. He’s pretty much potty trained; I feed him then take him outdoors where he does his “business.” Our friend and neighbor, Jerry, came over at feeding time (about every 3 hours) and asked to be able to give baby his bottle. Both of them enjoyed it a lot! Jerry used to raise goats and has a soft spot in his heart for them.
Meanwhile, Will’s been working daily on the rock wall behind the wood stove. He’s finally got all the rock up and is starting to grout in between them with mortar. It’s slow and fussy work, but it’s coming together very nicely. He jokes that after reading a stonework book that “he did everything wrong” because he placed the stones too far apart, but we both like the way it looks so we’re still happy with it.
I go in on Thursday for my knee surgery (torn meniscus) and hope it goes as well as the surgeon says it will, complete with quick recovery of the total use of it again. Right now it sure is a pain (pun not intended!). I went to sit down on a plastic bucket to milk a goat and OMG did it hurt! And our cow, Lace, is making a beautiful bag. All I could think of is “how am I ever going to milk a COW?” Hopefully, I’ll be all healed up by the time she freshens. — Jackie
Friday, May 3rd, 2013
I haven’t had any problems with varmints in the 37 years living in the countryside, except in the last 2 years we lost our dog, we have a plague. We had to relocate 5 raccoons last year, chase away 3 coons, 3 possums, and 4 skunks and now a fox in broad daylight killed 2 of our chickens, so we are down to just 4. We have 4 indoor/outdoor cats as pets and was wondering if there was any repellents we can use against the varmints that won’t hurt our cats. We lost our dog 2 years ago and was thinking if we got a new dog, it would take care of the varmints. Any thoughts on our plague Jackie?
Lisa From Michigan
Things like this seem to run in cycles and I’m not always sure why. Sometimes it’s the weather – too dry, too much snow, etc. making hungry wild critters look for easier pickings. Other times it’s reproduction cycles in local wildlife; sometimes there just are more babies, maybe again due to weather being extra nice some years with more survival.
No, there aren’t any repellents that I’ve seen or used that work. A good, large, homestead dog is a great asset to the place. But he must be trained, not just allowed to run at will. He needs to learn to stay home and protect “his” family, animals, and poultry. Cats also can become prey to wildlife. Owls, coyotes, and even foxes will sometimes take an adult cat.
Live trapping certainly helps, but be sure to take the critters at least 5 miles off to release them, totally away from other homesteads or farms. They will come home if you don’t. As for the fox, you may have to shoot him/her if it continues to show up during the day; that’s getting pretty bold! Chasing wildlife away seldom helps matters if they have killed poultry; they’ll just come back when you aren’t looking. I’d definitely recommend getting another dog. It’s probable that your late dog kept the wildlife where it belongs, in the woods. Hopefully your new guy will do the same for you. Please have the new dog neutered so as not to contribute to the overpopulation of puppies that often grow up to have a very miserable life. Neutering will also help keep the dog at home, not out running looking for love. — Jackie
I have about four or five boxes of Sure-Jell Certo Premium Liquid Fruit Pectin for homemade jams and jellies. The use-before date is 16 Jan 2010. Is it still useful for jam or jelly? Can I put it to another use? I overbought and then had health problems that caused me not to make jams or jellies for a few years. Thanks for the help.
Usually, older Certo and Sure-Jell will work fine for jams and jellies. I’d give a package a try and see how it sets up. If it behaves itself, I’d just go ahead and use up the whole batch this year…just to be sure. I’m sure you won’t have trouble making four or five batches of preserves! — Jackie
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
With temperatures in the high sixties and not freezing at night, our three feet of snow has been melting fast. And yesterday for the first time this spring, I walked in our orchard. How nice that was! All of our trees look great with no winter kill that I can see. But there were vole tunnels made of dead grass that used to be underneath the snow. We never saw a vole all winter, but they were down there anyway. Luckily, we had wrapped screen around all of our fruit trees so they didn’t eat the bark on one of them. Whew!
Now that the sun is out, we are nuts to get started with all we have to do. Early this morning, Will set in another layer of rock on the wall behind the wood stove. It’s nearly up as high as it’ll go and we’re getting excited. I think it looks great. Once it’s done all the way up, he just has to go back and fill in the spaces between the rocks with mortar and finish it off.
Then this afternoon, our friend Erik came over and he and Will started laying up more sheets of metal on the barn roof. We had seven long sheets, left over from fall when the snow had halted their work. So up they went! They did have to trim two inches off the sheets so Will now knows the exact measurement for the next order. When we get the cash…
But the barn’s looking good! And because the snow’s melting and the ground’s drying, pretty soon we’ll be able to start cutting boards with our little Hud-Son portable bandsaw mill. We still have some to cut for the hay loft floor, then more for the side walls. We’ll have enough boards for the front porch roof too. The only cost now will be more decking for the floor, and then the shingles and water shield for the roof. And we do have two bundles of shingles left over from the addition. I’m getting pretty excited to have it getting that far toward DONE.
Ahhh, isn’t spring great? (Oh, I do have to have surgery on my knee, but it is supposed to be minor and heal quickly to a pain-free normal knee. I can’t wait to get that over with and get on with gardening.) — Jackie
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
I was wondering what type of potting soil that you used, and where do you get it. I just tried Home Depot for Pro-Mix and they do not carry it. Is that the kind that you use? And I was going to put my tomatoes into containers. What would I use for that?
Check a local greenhouse/nursery for Pro-Mix. I used to get mine in Helena at the greenhouse out past the turn to the VA hospital (Ft. Harrison). Can’t remember the name; it’s on the right side; big place. I use it for transplanting seedlings, too. — Jackie
Drying up a cow
Our Jersey cow is pregnant and ready to calve the end of May. We have been trying to dry her up for a month and she just isn’t. Some days we are milking some of the milk out of her, like 2 qts a day just to relieve her some as she gets so full. Is there something I am missing on doing this? What else should I do? She normally gives us about 3 gallons a day, sometimes more but we thought we should dry her up so the baby could develop better since she is due fairly soon. This is only her second calf.
To dry a cow off, just stop milking her. It’s the back-pressure of the milk that causes her to stop producing it. If you keep milking her, even a little, she’ll keep producing. She needs a rest and time to produce colostrum for her next calf. She sounds like a nice cow! — Jackie
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
We got 18 inches of blowing and drifting snow just recently, and winds up to 40 mph! And that was on top of the foot or so of snow that hadn’t melted. On the first day of the storm, Will brought in two little piggies that weren’t getting enough milk and/or were getting chilled. (We can’t run a heat lamp down in the farrowing shed because we’re off grid and the batteries won’t stand it.) The wood box was cleaned out due to Will working on the rock wall behind the living room stove, so I added a couple of old towels and put the piggies in it. Now I’m giving them a bowl full of calf milk replacer every 2 hours all day then getting up at night a couple times to feed them. At first, they seemed chilled so I filled up a gallon apple juice plastic jug with hot water and gave them a hot water bottle to cuddle up against. Now they’re warmed up and doing fine.
The little black and white boar was real scared and aggressive when I first picked him up to feed him. He’d bark at me and scramble to get away. But he quickly figured out that being picked up meant getting fed. Now he jumps up, right into my hands when it’s time to eat. We called him Jumper, for good reason.
Now we’re set to get another 3-6 inches of snow. Bummer. I got out my copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, to read. At least we don’t have it that tough! They were twisting hay to keep warm and ran out of food. We still have firewood and plenty to eat. But winter does get long…
The newscasters are calling this “The Relentless Winter” and it’s the most snowfall in Minnesota’s recorded history for April. — Jackie