Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Good, Bad, & Ugly

Better late than never I suppose for this Homestead Barn Hop post. Sorry again about the lack of the weather gets better I'm afraid that may be a running theme around much to do in good weather on a homestead. We haven't even had the chance to do more than till the garden space, so needless to say I doubt our garden will be as grand this year as we had envisioned. We went away for a few days around Easter, then came back to a very busy time here on the little homestead. In the last week, we've added 5 goats & 26 Freedom Ranger meat chicks , then traded out one of the goats & lost 8 laying hens and 2 of the FR chicks. Anyway, I'll start with the good stuff and my favorite, our LaMancha goats! I'm still trying to adjust & get used to a new routine...seems like a lot of things are getting ignored/pushed further down the list these last several days. I'll say one thing, I've never appreciated a glass of milk like I do now and I'm gearing up to start making cheese & hopefully yogurt. I actually did make a batch of soft cheese which wasn't too bad and then a few days ago I went to a friend's house to learn to make mozzarella & farmer's cheeses.
So, here are our milkers...Raindrop is the black one (isn't she beautiful!...just love her markings) & Dreamer is the white one. As you can probably see by the difference in their udders, Raindrop is an incredible producer (was giving the breeder nearly 2 gallons a day) while Dreamer is just ok (2-3 qts/day), though she is capable of much better as our breeder suspects that the lady who had her didn't start milking her when she sold her buck so production naturally fell since she was only nursing her little doe.

We actually had an older doe (Dark Rain) for the first few days prior to getting Raindrop, but she became depressed & was getting battered by Dreamer which caused her milk production to plummet, so we took her back to the breeder who was nice enough (though reluctant since she is favorite or hers) to give us Raindrop instead. Raindrop is a bit feisty so she is a good match for Dreamer in that way. She's a bit of a challenge to milk but is slowly improving in that department so I think once she gets used to her new home & us that will be better as well. Her milk production has gone down a little as she adjusts, but its still great so we're no complaining!
Other members of our little herd are two young does & a young buck. We're decided to call this one Sweetheart because that's exactly what she is...she rode the 1 1/2 hour drive home from the breeder on my lap & is just as sweet as can be...loves following me around as I do chores. And of course she loves her 2 bottles/day.

Our other kid doe is Dreamer's. She was extremely skittish & wanted nothing to do with me or any other human for that matter. She was never bottlefed which wouldn't be such a bad thing except that she was obviously never handled either. So, almost immediately I separated her from her mom & started bottlefeeding her (she's old enough to be on just one bottle/day). It was a bit of a challenge to get her to take a bottle the first time but it has become much easier & I don't have to chase her down & hold her anymore. She's still cautious but seems to be warming up to me. We've decided to call her Star Gazer (Star for short) because she black with little bits of white here & there that remind me of stars in the night sky.
Finally, our buck, Jack Frost (though I'm considering calling him Pig because he's such an eater & his belly is always round). Yes, we're those crazy new goat people who choose to ignore the advice about owning a buck when you're just starting out. Actually we'll likely have two bucks since he'll need a companion & one of our local friends wants to keep one of her buck kids (wisely, just not at her place, haha). We may only keep the bucks through next season's breeding, but we'll see (can you tell I'm not looking forward the the rut stage!).

I'll do a more detailed goat post soon, but wanted to introduce them for now.
Other additions were the arrival of our Freedom Ranger chicks which will be our first try at raising meat birds. I went in on an order with some other local homesteaders so we ended up with a total of 102 chicks. We're talking about getting together to butcher them assembly line fashion and looking into building a chicken plucker together which would certainly save some time/effort. We started with 26 chicks, but unfortunately one died from being squeezed a bit too hard by the kids then a second ended up getting a bloody butt that the other chicks kept picking at. I separated it when I discovered it, but it still died. Since then though all remaining 24 are thriving & growing, so I'm hoping we won't lose anymore. I originally had them in what will be our homeschooling room which is nice & sunny, but as evidenced by the first chick's death, it was too easily accessible to the kids. So, I moved them upstairs into a locked bedroom. After 4 days the smell was more than we cared to have in the house, so yesterday they found a new home in the garage. They made it through the night just fine & we're certainly happy to be rid of the smell!
So, we've covered the good and a little bad, now onto more bad & ugly. About a week ago our 2 dogs escaped their enclosure & went on a chicken killing spree. Most days we just let our chickens from both coops free range together on the property since that saves us on feed costs, reduces bugs, fertilizes the ground, & makes for healthier eggs. Unfortunately that meant they were easier prey for the dogs. I wouldn't have been so upset if they had just eaten a couple of chickens completely, but its extra upsetting when they just kill for sport...I was also upset because among the dead were a few of our best layers & also 3 young hens that had just started laying. What's worse is that because I was alone with the kids (seems that is always the case when bad things happen around here) and because we had somewhere to be, I couldn't get the 8 dead chickens processed & into our freezer...instead they just went to waste in the garbage bin (though some were not salvageable anyways because the meat had been bit into which made me concerned about bacteria)...I certainly could have processed them later & fed them to the dogs, but that just seemed like rewarding them for their bad behavior, so I opted not to do it. Two other chickens were hurt pretty badly, but they seem to have recovered ok. Interestingly, despite the fact that the chickens were free ranging from 2 different coops, the dogs killed 4 & wounded 1 from each of the coops. Unfortunately, they've spent much of the last several days either locked in the house or tied up until we can get a new enclosure made escape proof. Here are the naughty culprets, our standard schnauzers...

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