Farm Heroes and the New Chicken Yard, Greenhouse, and Shed.

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Emily, Shyanne, and Peep (and Maryjane in that little baby bump)

We started our farm when the girls were young teenagers.  They spent hours in the chicken coop with the new chicks, cooing to and naming them.  Tempers would flare and they would take their own time out among the soft chirping and fresh straw.  My youngest daughter and I (along with dad and Reed) have plans to go in on a farm together in the next few years.  We dream of two houses, one land, a barn, a large community plot of garden, animals, greenhouses, a view.  A Farm Air B&B, hot farm fresh breakfasts, coffee on the porch.  A small restaurant on site to serve high end dinners with a set menu with room for four couples a night.

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Emily and Ayla

But right now, everyone is busy.  The kids have their own lives.  So, it was incredible to see them all show up at the front door in the un-forecasted snow to help us create a functional farm back yard.  We certainly could not have done it by ourselves and our gratitude is overwhelming!

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We live on one third of an acre.  We have fourteen chickens and a very large dog.  Our eighteen month old Great Pyrenees doesn’t require a lot of room for running (he spends most of his days sleeping under the elm trees in the dirt or on the pink futon in the living room (which is covered in dirt).  I have a lot of room for the chickens but wanted to increase their yard to reach the piles of branches so they could play and have more space to roam.

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I also desired a greenhouse which I received last week as an early birthday present from my friend Tina.  This would require a fenced in separate yard to increase my garden space, and keep the puppy out.  This space will end up having a pond and waterfall with a tea ceremony setting.

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Doug purchased a shed to house all of our yard items and tools and try to make sense of our back porch which has become overwhelmed with debris, broken chairs, tables, tools, and market items.

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These things came in a million, zillion pieces.  A roll of field fencing to top it all off.  And two not-so-handy parents.  Enter the children riding in like heroes to our farm story.

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My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane’s dad came.  Bret is amazing and he will always be one of my kids.  He helped Doug build the shed.

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Reed

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Emily’s long time boyfriend Reed (Ayla’s daddy) and I started on the greenhouse.  It got incredibly complicated and when Jacob (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) showed up, he took my place.  They got it built and it is perfect!

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Doug and Shyanne and Bret then started on the fencing and quickly got two areas partitioned off.

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My granddog Lupo enjoying the new shed.

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The chickens enjoying their new yard.

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And my new greenhouse and garden.

Six cold hours later we took the kids out for sushi to celebrate Reed’s birthday and to thank them for helping us make the next phase of our farm dreams come true.  This little urban farm sure has lots of space and opportunity.  But it always feels more like home when the kids are here.

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Farmgirl Inspiration

Hello March, it’s nice to see you.  January and February can be the very hardest time of the year for farmgirls.  We have our gardens, our farms, our animals, our preserving, our home making, our crafting in the fall in anticipation for the holidays, we have our cooking, and our entertaining, and our pleasant fatigue.  Then there is January and February…hello March, it’s nice to see you!  Thank the Lord you’re back!

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Even though it is still cold and there is ice on the car and tomorrow it is going to snow, it is March and all things can come anew now, in my mind and in nature.  I have plans!  Oh glorious plans, and guess what?  I figured out a way to make them manifest.  My son texted me yesterday and said he would come help with the fencing.  I found an affordable way to get the outbuildings I wanted.  Yes, my gardens are about to take on some marvelous expansion and changes.

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Field fencing is a farmgirl’s friend because it is easy to put up and can be taken down if needed.  I am expanding the chicken yard.  I am fencing off another part of the backyard for a greenhouse, raised beds, and space for a rooster.  Doug isn’t thrilled we have a rooster.  But I think one in seven wasn’t bad!  I also have ducklings on order to pick up in April.  They are honest-to-god worthless (few eggs, eat ten times more than the chickens, are noisy, splash water everywhere), but dang, they are so cute!  The greenhouse will double as night quarters for the trouble makers and Captain the Rooster.  None of them can jump or fly up on things, so plants will be safe and the added humidity from the ducks’ water antics will create a nice space.  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t like ducks either?  I just look at him like I don’t speak English.)

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A shed is going up to fit all the yard tools in, which will make room for some outdoor furniture and hanging plants around the back porch.  Listen, y’all, I will do before and after pictures when all this is said and done, but right now it looks like a hundred and fifty pound puppy dug holes to China, ate all the outdoor pillows, destroyed a huge dog bed, and threw some trash around.  (Actually, that is what happened.)

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In the front yard, a large archway will have pumpkins and other climbers growing up it.  Add in a few twinkly lights and I will have an enchanted garden for sure.  I have added a couple hundred feet of gardens.  The stalks of the roses are all turning green.

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There is a loom downstairs.  I have friends that can show me how to use it.  I have always wanted to learn how to weave.  I painted a box with a lid for my son’s long time girlfriend for Christmas.  It has a dear clasp and longs to be filled with secret treasures.  I painted a scene from a vacation they took on the lid.  I would like to do more of those.  Maybe set up my sewing machine.  Craft ideas come to mind.

Inspiration to farmgirls is like medicine.  Maybe even breath, if I am not being too dramatic here.  What are you inspired to achieve this spring?

Farm Days (goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and trucks)

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Our little snow globe over here is thick with fog and freezing drizzle this morning.  Hopefully it will burn off soon.  We have a very large space of pasture that we are fencing in.  It has five rows of barbed wire around it, it just needs to be sectioned off from the rest of the ten acres but this goat and sheep mama is rather paranoid.  Coyotes!  Lambs and goat kids escaping!  It wouldn’t be hard.  My old greyhound will skirt under the wires if he feels the need to run five miles.  So pasture fencing will surround the space giving the adorable ruminants room to spread out and more grass to eat.

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feeding time

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This is the last week that the babies get bottles.  I am not sure who will be more devastated, the lambs or Maryjane!  She considers it her farm work.  As soon as we pull into the drive, scarcely awake from her groggy nap down fifty minutes of country roads, she jumps down and starts jabbering away about lambs and milk and bottles.  Nothing the untrained ear would understand, but I can see her excitement.  We may have a new baby next week from our friend’s farm, our own goats are due here in a few weeks and there will be plenty more bottle feeding opportunities for our mini-farmgirl!

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We are getting ducklings this week and today we pick up our farm truck.  Good thing since we need fencing!  This fog makes me want to join the cats though.

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Time to throw back another cup of joe and get to my farm chores.  I leave you with a lovely quote and a wish for a joyous day!

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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.

Twila giving Isabelle ideas of things they probably oughtn't be doing.

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.