A Peek at the Typical Week of a Farmsteader

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Some folks envy us.  Some folks think we are crazy.  Some of our relatives wonder if we work.  Some people come from all over to learn what we do.  If you ever wondered what life on a farmstead looks like, particularly for an entrepreneur, here is a small peek into a typical week.  If you are interested in farmsteading, we will teach you everything you need to know to make small steps towards basic self sufficiency and regaining your freedom by making your own schedule.  Just check out the Homesteading School link on the menu.  We also have a Certified Herbalist and Master’s Herbalist program to help you learn everything you need to know to care for yourself, your family, and the animals that will share your farmstead.

Monday: Farm day

Up just before 7:00.  Doug goes outside to tend to the animals.  It could be a heavenly sixty five degrees or a miserable twenty below, it makes no difference.  Isabelle must be milked!   I make coffee and when Doug comes in after milking the goat I strain the warm milk from the bucket and prepare him a cup of coffee with fresh goat’s milk and a bit of sugar while he feeds and lets out the chickens and ducks.  We then spend some time writing, reading, paying bills, relaxing, and planning the day.

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After breakfast we begin our work.  Farm day is also canning day.  Any harvesting that needs to be done is completed in the morning before the plants go limp from the heat.  If I needed a boost in produce I would have bought a box of tomatoes or something from my friends at Miller Farms Sunday at the market.  We have to be diligent with canning.  Our winter food source is our root cellar/basement and freezer.  Yesterday a flat of tomatoes became six quarts of ruby colored pasta sauce.  We have been out of sauce since March to my utmost dismay and I will be canning a lot more this year.  We will double the eighteen jars we put up last year.

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A large pot of chicken broth was also in the works.  I saved in a freezer bag all chicken bones and odds and ends of carrots, onions, and celery over the past month and threw them all in the pot covered with water.  I added large handfuls of herbs and a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer for an hour and a half.  This was pressure canned to make easy quarts of ready made broth.  This is a chore we do all year.

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Large bowls of green beans have been coming out of our garden and as quickly as we can process them, there are a bunch more ready.  It has been such a gift to be able to eat and preserve produce from my own gardens.

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Farm day includes any and all planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, bee hive checking, fence fixing, coop and goat pen cleaning, lawn mowing,  and transplanting.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Tuesday: Class and Cooking Day

Anyone who wanted to learn to can would come on Monday to help.  Folks that want to learn specific skills like soap making out of fresh goat’s milk, candle making in containers with handles so that you can use it as guiding light at night, cheese making with delicious goat’s milk and fresh herbs, etc. come on Tuesday.  Each week I teach something new and also stock up for our own family.

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Tuesday is when I bake bread for the week and make a batch of hard cheese to start aging to enjoy in the winter.  I also plan the menus for the week and start preparing what I am packing (breakfast and lunch) to take to the markets.

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Doug works on miscellaneous things pertaining to business.  Paperwork, filling orders, errands, and anything else I give him in the form of a to-do list is on Doug’s agenda.  Every other Tuesday evening he shoots pool and I quilt in the evening or we might opt to take a walk or watch a funny show.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Wednesday: Apothecary Day

This is the day we get all of our product filled for the farmer’s markets that week.  We make lotion, fill bottles, combine teas, and get the car packed for Thursday’s market.  People seek me out all week for help and call at all hours of the day.  We work with them immediately but the farmer’s markets not only help us bring in more income, but also helps us meet infinitely more folks than we would from our farm.  We are able to help many more people and interest people in classes.

I also teach a Master’s class in herbalism on Wednesdays.

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Wednesday is also the day that I make extracts.  I harvest herbs that are ready to be cut and place them in jars.  All of my new recipes are made with fresh herbs straight from the gardens and prepared on the spot where they will brew until this fall.

Thursday: Market Day

Doug milks early and we head off to Colorado Springs (a 45 minute drive) at 6:30.  We set up our tent, our tables, our wares, and talk, help, and promote until 3:00.  We then break down and reload the car and sleepily drive home, arriving back at the farm at 4:30.  A quick dinner is all I can come up and the rest of the day is slower.

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We watch our granddaughter, Maryjane, the light of our life, four days a week while her mother is at work.  We are the only grandparents that do not have a nine to five job and dad is still in school so we get the great opportunity of playing with our baby most days.  Even though she wears us out, she adds a light and an energy to this place that I never take for granted.  She is a great gift to us.

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In the evenings, every single day, at around 7:00, Doug heads back in to milk Isabelle.  Twice a day, no matter the weather or our plans, Isabelle must be milked.  It is nice to have a set schedule.  It also saves us money.  Every time we make plans to gallivant about, we remember that we need to be home at seven!

Friday: House Day and Prepare for Markets

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Friday we deep clean our house.  All laundry should be done by this day.  We fill product that we sold the day before in preparation for the markets and get the meals packed for the next few days.  We even may have the opportunity to go out to eat with friends or just sit under the elm tree with a book.

Saturday: Market Day and Class

We head to the local farmer’s market on Saturdays.  It is close to home and ends early so it is obviously my favorite one!  We see lots of folks that used to visit our store and friends from around town come by to say hello.

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Our herbalist classes are on Saturdays.  People drive from all over to take my course and learn how to turn weeds into medicine that can heal up broken ankles or get rid of a nasty infection.  The classes are always eclectic, filled with interesting and fascinating students.  The coming semester promises to be full and two of the students came all the way from New York.  Ethan and Stephanie drove an RV here to Colorado to stay and work with me on everything from homesteading, to farming, to being my apprentices in herbalism.  They are a tremendous help and lovely company.

In the winter and spring we trade off dinner at our house, Kat and Rod’s, or Rodney and Pat’s.  We call it family dinner even though Doug and I are not related but rather adopted into their family.  We miss them in the summer!  We do not see much of our families either and try to find times to call.  Summers here on a farmstead are very busy!  In the winter we are less busy.  We just keep up with all the housework and cooking, the filling orders and classes.  But we stay fairly close to home in order to take care of our animals.

Sunday: Big Market Day

This is our biggest market day and we pack more medicines and products in the car to cover what we sold Saturday.  We get up at 4:45 to milk and head out by 5:30 to secure our spot at the market.  The markets are non-stop talking on hot pavement and really wear us out but they are imperative to our survival as herbalists and homesteaders.

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We run our errands in town after the market on our way home.  The library or health food store might be visits we need to make.  We then go home and relax before dinner needs to be made and the animals cared for.

We again fall in bed exhausted.  There is no need for sleep medicine in this house.

Making Our Own Schedule

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We make our own schedule.  It is freeing and satisfying.  We work very, very hard but we also have the option to say, “You know what?  The floors aren’t getting swept today.  Let’s go hiking.”  Yesterday was one such day.  While Doug and Ethan ran errands in Denver, Stephanie, Emily, Maryjane and I took a beautiful hike.  I still got the canning done (finishing early this morning).  Last night Ethan and Stephanie came in from their RV and we all enjoyed dinner in front of a recorded “Last Comic Standing”.  Wine and laughter poured freely and we ended the night later than usual under the stars admiring the Milky Way and shooting stars.

This is why we farmstead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goats 101 (becoming a goat herder)

Our alpaca venture failed miserably, with a great financial loss, and two stubborn alpacas now working as lawn mowers somewhere in Limon.  I had to give them away.  I do love our chickens.  I adore the ducks.  I love goats.  I am smitten.

Our adventure started badly enough, a doe that wouldn’t come near us, would sit in the milk bucket, and give us dirty looks.  Katrina is so happy in her new home though, surrounded by baby goats, chickens, little kids, and even lets her new mom milk her without a stanchion!

Our other doe loved us tremendously, following us like a lost puppy, always wanting to help and snuggle.  She died in March giving birth.  Yet, our hearts were still in the game.  We were ready to be goat herders.

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Elsa was a gift from my goat guru, Jill, after Loretta’s death.  Jill had to move shortly after and also offered me Elsa’s mom, who is our milker around here.  Gentle and sweet, she is the perfect goat.  Amy and Rob adopted Katrina’s doeling that was born on the farm and adopted three others from Jill and have been boarding them here.  Six caprine comedians taking up residence.  They are a delight.  I highly recommend getting goats.

Here are some things you may want to know when contemplating becoming a goat herder.

1.  What kind of goat?

Fainting goats and pigmy goats are very good companions for horses and other pack animals that may get lonely in a large pasture.  They are fun to watch and are incredibly, ridiculously cute.  However, they are not really great as milkers and pigmies have issues giving birth.  They are more pet status then anything else.

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Nigerian Dwarves make really great goats in the city.  Denver and Colorado Springs now allow small goats, which Dwarves qualify as.  They are a sturdy, fun-loving breed.  They can give a quart or two a day of fresh, raw goat’s milk, perfect for a family homestead.

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Alpines, Saanens, Oberhasli, and Nubians are great milkers.  Large in stature (Isabelle is bigger than our greyhound), they have large udders and drop twins and triplets often.  Nubians have higher milk fat in their milk which makes very creamy cheese.  Turns out Dwarves have the highest milk fat but you would need four days of milk to get enough to make a good block of cheddar!

We started with Dwarves because they were easier to handle in my mind.  We ended up with a purebred Saanen and her daughter who is half Saanen and half Alpine.  They are very easy to handle.  I am coveting Amy and Rob’s Alpine that lives here.  She looks like a Siberian Husky and is gorgeous and adorably sweet.  I may be adopting one of my friend, Nancy’s goats.  When she passed away her goats were quickly dispersed but one has come around to needing a new home again.  She is an older girl but still a great milker and now that I am obsessed with making hard cheeses, I would like a Nubian.

Expect to pay anywhere from free (if someone is desperate because they are moving) to $200 for a non-registered goat and between $200 to upwards of $800 for papered, purebred kids.

Always get two.  They are pack animals and cannot live in singles.

2. What About Disbudding? 

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Remember my story about the bad goats at our friends’ house that were babysitting?  Made me not want large goats at all.  Or goats with horns.  One thing that Jill and Nancy did the same in their goat raisings was disbudding.  Seems mean, hold down a two week old goat kid while they scream bloody murder and set a hot curling iron looking thing to their horn nubs and burn it off!  But, on closer inspection, it is actually not what it seems.  Jill’s goat guru (do you think I will ever be called that?), Brittney, disbuds all of ours.  She showed us how they are screaming because they are prey animals and being held down means they are about to be eaten.  You’d be screaming bloody murder too.  The burning is only on the hard, nerveless horn endings and takes about ten seconds.  Done.  It doesn’t touch the skin and two seconds later the goat kids are running around playing again.  I appreciate not having horns stabbed into my hip if someone wants to play, or having them stuck in the fence.

3. What Do They Eat?

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Goats like a diet of pure alfalfa flakes supplemented with pastures of weeds.  Actually their favorite is trees.  They love giant, green, taunting limbs of leaves.  And tree bark.  After the trees are gone, they will reluctantly munch on weeds.  It is a fallacy that goats eat everything.  One would be surprised to know that they are rather finicky eaters actually.  They will eat about three quarters of the hay you set before them, sigh, and wander off to find a nice bush sticking through the fence from the neighbors yard.  They do not eat tin cans, or odds and ends.

They should also be supplemented (this can be set out in small bowls to free feed) minerals and baking soda.  Minerals they are missing and baking soda to get rid of bloat.  They will help themselves as needed.

Lots of fresh water is imperative, of course.

4. Playtime

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Goats love a good time.  We have several discarded tires that are stacked up along with an old, rusty keg.  Doug calls it Mount Kegel.  It is a playground of fun (and used to reach the higher branches of trees).  Goats are really fun to watch play.  They head-butt (good thing they are disbudded) and jump 360’s off of wood piles and feeding troughs.  One night Doug was in the pasture with them at dusk.  Goats are particularly silly at dusk.  He would run across the yard then stop and turn to look at them.  All at once they would all rear up and start hopping on all fours like giant bunny rabbits….sideways towards him!  It was the funniest thing I have seen in a good minute.

5. Pasture Rotation

We are in a fine, old fashioned back yard so how we do pasture rotation is by fencing off half the yard.  They stay on one side for three weeks, then move to the other.  This allows them the grass to start growing back.

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6. Housing

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I bought a simple igloo for the goats as their house on one side of the yard.  The old alpaca shelter consists of a covering between the chicken coop and the garage.  It keeps the rain out and there is a gate on one side.  Goats do not need an entire barn.  The igloo is weather proof and kept rather warm even on our below zero days and nights last winter.  They enjoy sleeping outdoors when the weather is nice.

7. Breeding

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This one I have not experienced yet.  This is what I know.  Boys are smelly when they get older.  When they want to get it on they pee on their faces and let loose an oily substance on their skin that makes them irresistible to the opposite sex (of goat).  Lord, they are maniacs.  So, we will rent a man.  Jill knows of the perfect date for Elsa and Isabelle come late fall and either they will visit him or he shall come here and we will have a rendezvous and come spring will hopefully have adorable new babies around.  Dwarves should not be bred their first year.  That is what happened with Loretta (on accident).  Only the large breeds can have sex as teenagers.  The Dwarves need to wait a year.

8. Births, Milking, and Bottle Feeding.

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I have only had one birth here at the farm and it was while I was at the coffee shop so I missed it.  I did a post on milking. Click on any of the highlighted words in this post to read the relating post.  I highly recommend bottle feeding.

9. Fencing and Keeping Them In.

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Remember last year’s babies were out running down the street, eating the neighbor’s grass, and running through the fairgrounds during a rodeo?  We had the fence reinforced with smaller field fencing before this new bunch arrived.  Twila was being terrible to the little ones, as she usually is, so we put her in the other yard.  A split second later she cleared a four foot fence and was back with the little ones.

“How do you keep a goat in?” I asked Jill before this whole goat herding thing started.  She replied that if a goat wants out, there is no stopping it.  If they are happy, they will stay put.  I have friends that use six foot fences, some electrified, watch for holes, and things that they can use as spring boards.  We have a three and a half, some places four foot, fence of field fencing.  The kids stay put.  There was a new hole in one though the other day and Doug asked real casual like, “Why is Tank in your potatoes?”  He didn’t wait around to see if anyone was coming to fix the fence, he just wanted those potatoes!  Be vigilant but also know that they will and can outsmart you if they wish.  Just give them more tires and a lot of hugs.

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I am by no means an expert yet.  I am learning by trial and error, from my goat gurus, and from lots of books.  The goats teach me most of all.  Goats, as with every other creature on earth, are all very different.  Each one has a unique personality.  We have found a whole new layer of joy by becoming goat folks.