I have little time or energy for writing tonight - but I managed to get some pictures uploaded from the past few days. We are enjoying our second week of eighties and non - stop sunshine. The gardens are off to a good start - with some of the young starts obviously a little stressed with the intense heat and sun - which is how our early summers tend to go. With the fabulous weather we have been outside non stop, mostly watering and still planting - although that is pretty much finished. We tilled a new garden plot - a former goat pen of five years. We pretty much planted into straight compost/ aged goat/geese/duck bedding.The kids and I have been home all day mostly every day, and have been able to let the chickens roam free, as well as the geese who follow us everywhere. We've also been getting the goats out for walks. I wished I'd brought the camera with us tonight, watching the does and doelings graze among the greens and run and jump, while the geese shuffle this way and that. Enjoy the pictures. We are hauling at least two hundred gallons of water daily and most of that is going on the gardens - craziness I know. I'm not hoping for rain - but that is what it might take for me to get a day inside cleaning and writing.
Well, I know I'm overdue for a post, but I wasn't planning on posting tonight, but I saw your comment Ginger, so this is for you :)
As those you who are local know, we've had the craziest spring ever - with winter weather and snow up until a couple weeks ago and then we've had seventies and eighties all this past week - just craziness. So, I'm getting the garden in later than ever. I spent all last week hauling wheelbarrows of compost up a soggy muddy driveway and up into the garden. One afternoon I managed to slip in the mud and the wheelbarrow full of compost I was pushing up hill fell back onto me, bruising my arm and neck- badly enough that I had a pretty stiff and swollen neck for a couple days. Then, the following day I was checking on the bees, wearing a tank top and skirt and I got stung by an angry guard bee on my already bruised and swollen neck. Needless to say, I didn't drive any where for a couple days, and I'm now suiting up.
As you can imagine, I've been in much of a panic where the garden is concerned. Thankfully my mother-in-law came up for a few days and has been spending her day with the kids and I've been able to plant from morning till night. As of today I was down to flowers, medicinal herbs and perennial re-arranging. However, we are putting in a new garden this year in the old buck pen that we have been clearing out. Some friends dropped off a tiller tonight and D is going to till about a thirty by thirty patch of ground that has had ducks, chickens, geese and bucks on it for the last five years- so we are talking fertile ground. I was going to put heavy feeders here, but then decided to put my heat lovers in the top garden. I'll be planting brassicas, beets, carrots and potatoes in the new garden.
In Goat news, Xanadu kidded. I don't have the heart to go into the details - but her first kid was upside down with it's neck back and I ended up calling the vet (crying) for the first time since my first kidding season. (Yep - I have the worst kidding luck ever.) We lost the first doeling - two for two this year - I've been feeling pretty down about that. On the upside, the second doeling was in the correct position and is healthy, strong, beautiful and sweet. Giving us two doelings this kidding season.
Here is Denali
Wild Roots Denali :)
Avery and I planted her garden yesterday. She planted three corn plants, three sunflowers (two of which are red), six snapdragons, three cherry brandy rudbeckia, one cabbage, one broccoli and three strawberries. We have yet to plant some red zinnias, which I started from seed but the aphids got - so now I need to buy some - cause I promised my girl red zinnias.
We currently have fourteen Cornish Cross in the house - and as you might be asking why not fifteeen, as D told the lady at the feed store, "my wife said fifteen was too many." There are also eight Welsummers keeping them company - all of which are ready to head outside. There are twenty some laying chicks in a protected outdoor pen. Daisy and Dilly are in a chicken tractor, but they are fast outgrowing it - so D is making me a special Goose tractor - which I'll share with you when it is finished. So far these are the most personable geese we've had. They follow us all around the property. For a while I was able to crouch down an call them within arm reach, but now they've learned that I'm going to pick them up and put them away - so they've gotten harder to catch.
We have been having the craziest weather ever here in the Interior of Alaska as well as the rest of the state from what I hear. Usually our snow is gone by now and we are approaching "Green Up;" the day that you look at the hills and they are spring green. Instead our temperatures haves been between twenty and a little above freezing for the last several weeks. Not only that but we've been getting snow almost daily for the last week. It has been very pretty; large white feathery flakes drifting down. If this were last spring I would be really down right now. Miraculously I'm doing alright, biding my time, knowing it can't last. I told the kids we are just skipping spring. Summer is going to come crazy fast.
I never thought we'd have to do so much work to hive bees. I shoveled a lot of snow to get these girls set up. Partially because I moved them from their previous home in the greenhouse, to a location at the top of our garden, going for out of the way but an early sun spot.We've been keeping busy between caring for our new doeling Dahlia, several flats of starts indoors, new chicks in the hallway and we've checked on the bees once now.
I turned in our fourth quarter work samples to the homeschooling office today, and that felt good to be done with "my homework" for the school year. I plan to continue lessons up through mid summer so we can take off for late summer and a harvest break.
I've been having fun in the kitchen lately. I don't know about you guys but I tend to get excited about changing our eating habits and I go through phases of this or that, but then I fall back into old habits. Six years ago I had gotten the books Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz Elix. Both of these books had me sprouting and fermenting our foods and trying to eliminate most processed foods out of our diet. Lately I've been noticing that we've been adding back in too many processed foods, namely white flour tortillas and Anne's mac and cheese have become staples for my kids lunches. I've also been making bread weekly that is more than half whole wheat and often has other grains as well, but it isn't sprouted or fermented.
I started reading some articles by Weston Price which led me back to reading through my almost forgotten cook books. As a result I'm trying to sprout or ferment most of our grain products again, with the hopes that our bodies will be able to digest, process and gain more nutrition from the grains we are eating. I've been playing around with some of my current recipes, granola bars, corn bread and tweaking them so that instead of making them on the fly I start soaking the grains or flour a day ahead of time. I also got a sourdough starter from a friend and today I made banana sourdough muffins - which the kids loved. Today I started soaking some flour to make homemade flour tortillas for tomorrow. I'm hoping to get in the routine of soaking and planning ahead before summer is in full swing. I'll share my recipes when they are fine tuned.
We had our first chicks hatch a couple days ago. I usually give in to the urge to set eggs or purchase chicks earlier in the season, but as we still have a few feet of snow on the ground and are having record setting cold weather, it has been a good year for a late start.
I was researching feeding chickens whole grain recipes before we ever brought our first chicks home. At the time I did not know anyone who fed whole grains, even the local organic farms nearby fed their chickens regular non organic crumbles or pellets, as at that time our feed stores were not even carrying organic feed. While some years I've broken down and started chicks out on organic chick starter, most years I've taken our whole grain layer feed, ground it coarsely and added a few other ingredients to it; a little extra fish meal for added protein along with a little of this and that from the pantry.
My feeding regime for both the goats and chickens is ever evolving. For example, I've been feeding my layers cracked corn, mostly because I felt like they probably needed the extra fat for the winters. And while, I'd done some research on corn several years ago and knew that there were concerns about it being a GMO feed, I continued feeding it, not knowing what to replace it with, or not feeling like I could afford to change it out for say, black oil sunflower seeds which are three to four times the cost. Organic corn is also four or more times the cost as the cracked corn I can pick up at Walmart. That being said, I recently came across some of the studies on genetically modified corn, and as a result have finally decided to eliminate genetically modified crops from both our diet as well as that of our animals, and will once again be changing our chicken feed recipe.
As far as feeding chicks; they eat much less than growing meat birds or layers, and I like to make sure they get off to a great start, so I'm willing to feed them higher dollar grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc, and other things in my pantry like red lentils and organic popcorn (just pantry supplies that I have an abundance of - but would quickly depleted if I fed to the adult chickens).
Instead of heading to the feed store to buy a bag of overly priced organic chick starter that does not resemble anything edible, I brought in a few ingredients from the barn and topped them off with what I had handy in the pantry. In the barn I keep local whole oats, local whole barley and local wheat berries, alfalfa pellets, black oil sunflower seeds, animal grade kelp and Alaska salmon fish meal. I brought in a tub with roughly 4 cups oats. 4 cups barley, 2 cups BOSS, 1 cup alfalfa pellets and 1 cup wheat. I also added a handful of each from my goat herb stash, comfrey, nettles and red raspberry leaf. From the pantry I added 1 cup Split peas, 1 cup red lentils (as that is what I had), 1 cup organic popcorn (again - what I had), and a half cup quinoa. Noah did the honors and roughly ground all this in our backup spice (coffee) grinder. When the grains were ground, we added about a quarter cup kelp and half cup fish meal to this mixture and stirred it in. Have I done the math? Nope, just eye balling. I know that the chicks have higher protein needs than the layers, so I keep this in mind. Diversity in grains and diet is also a plus. I do, do the math every now and then and I'll share the results in another post. If I remember correctly layer rations should be around 16- 18% protein, and chick starter should be closer to 20-22% - ish.
This might sound like a lot of work but it wasn't. I gathered the ingredients from the barn on my morning chore routine. It took a few minutes to gaze over my pantry and uncap gallon jars and pour out this and that. Noah spent about ten minutes grinding grains for me and then we filled up the chick feeder. When I look over the recipe, one thing stands out; I forgot salt. But it isn't that big of a deal. I can go back and add it, and even if I didn't, they'd be fine for a while. I do have fine chick grit for these chicks, although I haven't bothered put it in their brooder yet.
Other things I feed chicks: I don't bother buying expensive vitamin chick supplements or electrolytes. Instead I always fill the chick water with a clove of garlic (for parasites), as well as a couple teaspoons of our raw honey (vitamins and electrolytes). I also often put a couple drops of echinacea tincture (immune booster) and cayenne tincture (B vitamins and heart and circulatory booster). We feed the chicks hard boiled or scrambled eggs every day or two. I usually start setting out raw milk and greens for the chicks after they are a few days or a week old.
Other ingredients you may have in your pantry that your chicks will enjoy; beans,lentils or peas (coarsely ground), any sort of grain (wheat, buckwheat, kasha, kamut, oats, barley, rye, spelt) whether it is in the form of whole, crushed, cracked, rolled, bran, germ, sprouted etc., corn coarsely ground, seeds; poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower etc, grind the big ones... What else? I'm sure you guys can think of some things. I was cleaning out my pantry and found some outdated garbanzo bean flour and brown rice flour. I know from experience that the chickens don't care for finely ground flour, so I'm thinking I'm going to have to make some sort of gruel to get the birds to eat it, but instead of just throwing it out I thought I'd try and feed it off. While perhaps not the healthiest, I have been known to feed my layers stale chips, crackers, cold cereal or whole grain pasta that was too healthy for us.
Last I checked my whole grain mostly local chicken feed for the layers was costing around eighteen dollars a fifty pound bag. My random chick feed recipe is certainly more, but also much less than a bag of chick starter - organic or not. We have fed goslings and ducklings very similarly - even though you cannot feed waterfowl formulated chicken feed without giving your waterfowl too much protein. More posts on feeding the chickens coming, along with our new feed recipe for layers and our meat birds, and how much each are costing. If you are in the habit of feeding your layers, meat birds or chicks, crumbles or pellets, I encourage you to switch (gradually) over to whole grains. It is cheaper on your pocket book and healthier for your birds.
Zinnia went into labor on Tuesday night and kidded Wednesday afternoon; day 149 of her gestation. This kidding was much anticipated by myself, given that she has not been able to kid without assistance yet. I've written about all the uterine toning herbs I've been giving her in hopes that she could do it on her own this time. As much as I wanted to give her a chance to do it herself, I ended up going in once again as her labor seemed to be sporadic and again, not progressing as it should. When I went in I found two front legs upside down, no head. The kids were in the same position as last year with their necks turned back alongside their bodies - which has got to be the most frustrating and problematic kidding position and I just dread it.
As the kid was upside down, the neck was down to the bottom left and I couldn't even reach the head. I was trying to get my hand on the inside of the neck to pull the head around but just couldn't. I ended up panicking a bit and just pulling the kid out with the neck still turned back. It was a buckling and he was very weak. I revived him with cayenne tincture on his gums and chest and lots of rubbing and determination. The second and last kid was in the exact same position as the first and I couldn't get that head turned either. At some point I just don't care if the kids make it or not, I just want them out and I want the doe to be ok. Although once they are out I wish I'd taken more time to try. I don't know why I haven't invested in a head puller by now, but it is on the list for next year.
The second kid was a doeling and was in good shape.
Zinnia and her doeling, Dahlia, still a bit wet but standing.
Both kids, buckling on left.
The buckling was alive but not gaining strength very well. I had to pry his mouth open to squirt milk down his throat. For a while he seemed to be doing better and was starting to suck and nurse with help. I limped him along for two days before bringing him inside to nurse him, but he died on Friday morning. My guess is that something was damaged internally from the rough lengthy kidding. I had given him cayenne tincture several more times and it would give him a kick start but then he'd start to peter out again. So once again, Zinnia has one doeling to care for.
I'm beginning to think I have the worst kidding luck ever; in the past six years I've had three kiddings where the first kid or kids were upside down with their heads back, but then as Zinnia has been the culprit the last two times, I'm beginning to think maybe there is something wrong with her; maybe the shape or size of her uterus makes it prone for kids to be in the wrong position? I don't know. But I do know that I am not breeding this doe again. I want easy kidders. I don't even feel comfortable selling her to anyone. She is a beautiful doe, make lovely babies, she is a good mom and a good producer, but that is all the positive I can say about her.
I'm planning on milking Zinnia for a few months or more. I have
Zinnia's doeling Clary, from last year and she is beautiful. Dahlia
looks like she is also going to have lovely conformation as well. There is part
of me that wants to keep the Rose/Zinnia line in the herd, but I am
reluctant to keep kids out of a doe with kidding issues. I'd really
hoped that Zinnia would impress me with an easy kidding, but it was not
to be. When the kids are in a difficult position like that they cannot
come out on their own. I'd like to think that if they were in the
correct position she could have done it on her own, but I'm not keeping
her around long enough to give her another chance, she just isn't a
friendly or sweet enough doe.
Fortunately my next doe to kid is Xanadu; who has kidded four times and never had any difficulties - with the exception of her first kidding where she had a big buckling head first and it took the vet to get him out as I was inexperienced at goat midwifery. Xanadu is the sweetest most wonderful goat. The entire herd will be browsing in the woods, but Xan will be wherever I am. Over the years Xan has had seven bucklings and two doelings, one was Avalon who is a wonderful goat that I sold recently. I've always wanted Xan to have a doeling that looks like her - she has had three bucklings that have had her coloring. She is due May 19th and is huge already. She has had triplets her last two kiddings. I'm hoping for strong healthy kids and an easy labor.
I am a stay at home mom taking care of our two young children, a small herd of dairy goats, chickens, ducks and at times various other critters. We are trying to produce as much of our own food as possible on our eight and three quarter acres of boreal hillside forest. We milk our goats, drink raw milk and make cheese. We raise enough poultry to meet our egg and chicken meat needs. We are working towards growing enough vegetables in our short season to get us through our long winters. General interests include: herbal medicine making, preserving food through canning, dehydrating, juicing and lacto fermentation, baby wearing, cloth diapering, yoga, making my own lotions, cosmetics, home cleansers and anything else I can think of. Someday I'll make time for: ceramics, spinning, weaving and painting.
The here and now of our homestead is what I'm writing about. Compelled by a sense that we are participating in something significant, heading back to our roots... this is my attempt to share what we are learning along our journey. For those of you on similar paths, whether you are raising kids, a flock of chickens, a couple goats or run a farm, well I'm hoping to learn from you as well, so feel free to put in your two cents!