Tuesday 11 June 2024

Busy as a Beaver

So back on May 15 the vet came to give the goats a physical their first vaccinations. On the 17th Star had developed a very swollen lymph node in her neck right above her left wattle, and the vet told me to monitor but it's likely just a reaction to the vaccine that will take 4-6 weeks to go away and considering the booster 4 weeks later will likely re-trigger the reaction, it'll be end of July or beginning of August before it goes away. Thankfully it hasn't gotten any worse at all. She's eating well and it isn't growing. It's hard to see and harder to photograph. Just think of sore throat "swollen glands" but if it was under your ear to it stuck out more.

The company we contacted to clear the trees around the rock wall came to do the logging while I was still fussing over Star's possible illness. They did the job I asked for in the 3 days they quoted and now I have a 25ft swath of cleared land between the rocks and the forest. There's still a lot of work to do there before I can do any planting or anything but the first big step is done for that area.

Seems the chickens were also low on calcium so even after their worming treatment there were still some egg issues. Pretty sure I have it sorted now.

The weather is starting to get a little warmer and sunnier so the potatoes are sprouting and the greenhouse is taking off. I've started my canning planning for this autumn and put down the deposit for our local pork. We went through the 1/2 hog too quickly so I ordered a whole hog and plan on canning stew chunks, stir-fry strips, ground meat for sauces & nachos, pulled pork in bbq sauce, etc so the freezer can be just for the stuff you really want to cook same day like bacon and pork chops.

I tried to make some yogurt with the goats-milk but I'm pretty sure I tried to run before I could crawl with that one. Made a lot of mistakes and didn't really have anything to show for it except a lot of dishes and some compost ingredients. The pasta I made went a lot better. I'm finally narrowing in on a good gluten-free recipe I can make and store dry for easy meals.

The first harvests from the greenhouse were really just thinning plants that were too close together.

A squirrel has decided to find out what the blue-jays have been eating and came right up on the deck a couple times. I have seen a few rabbits around and they have no interest in the trap so I've decided to just not worry about them. The rabbits don't eat my garlic or potatoes and that's really the only thing growing outside the greenhouse this year so ** shrug ** whatever.

Since the vet mentioned that both goats are a bit thin and both of their coats aren't ideal, I did a feed recalculation. Star is definitely getting as much of the feed as she's supposed to but she'd not taking advantage of the mixed minerals available free choice to them. Her previous owner mentioned that she was giving her copper and selenium supplements and both of those in excess blocks the absorption of zinc which is a key mineral in weight gain and coat condition so I got them some supplements and we'll see how that goes.

The fridge in the kitchen died so we had to get a new one. it was from 2005 or 2008 so it wasn't that surprising but it was annoying.

We got the power company to come out and move the light for us. It's so dark on the deck now that I can't take a photo at night. Love it. Here's a view standing near the greenhouse and pointed down the drive way.

The gravel guy came and redid the driveway last week and it's looking great. Everything is settling into place nicely and it should be good for a long while. :-)

I re-found a wooden puzzle company that had puzzles I wanted for a while but couldn't justify($100+ each!). Seems I wasn't the only one because they were having a going out of business sale (~$10 each) so I got a bunch. We've only opened one so far but I love them. The pieces are so odd and whimsical and it just adds another layer to puzzle building.

The more recent harvests from the greenhouse have been phenomenal and the greenhouse still looks empty! It's going to be VERY productive once I really get going with it.

The glass in the basement doors has finally been replaced with the frosted glass I specifically requested. The living room window is getting repaired this week; hopefully that will stop the heat leaking right out it all winter.

I'm working on designs for the wall in the barn and for a proper compost set up. I hope to have built both before this autumn.

Shadow is doing well but has taken to waking me when the birds start singing, at sunrise, or when the rooster crows, whichever she notices first. This means 6am at the latest. I wanted to sleep until 7:30. This is not fun.

Wrapping up this post with a photo of the goats enjoying a hike.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Tiring week

The greenhouse is sprouting.

Most of the days I'm opening the windows just to keep the greenhouse from hitting 30C, but almost all of the seeds I planted have sprouted and the first batch of radishes is on their second set of real leaves.

For three days the goats couldn't go out and the chickens had to be fenced into one place because we had some guys here cutting down trees. This worked well with the timing of the chicken deworming. I started the chickens on their deworming medicine and that went as expected. They're not 100% back to their old selves yet but they are all laying again.

The guys did what I'm thinking of as "the first pass" next to the rockwall. All the trees are chopped down, the big logs can be stacked for later uses, and all the lil branches got chipped into oblivion. That is, except for the willow trees that I specifically asked them to leave behind. They're great for soaking up water and I wouldn't want to have to start from scratch when I need some willow cuttings.

The vet came to give Star and Honey their checkups and vaccines. He said they're both a bit thin so increasing their food would be a good idea. A day and a half later I noticed a small lump about the size of a pea in Star's neck. Seemed like a swollen gland so I contacted the vet's office to see if this was a known side effect of the vax or a possible problem. They said it was a possible side effect and (being Friday) I should monitor over the long weekend and they'd check in Tuesday. 

Well, Star's temperature and lump remained unchanged but she's feeling crummy and not as hungry. The vet said that's fine and might last 2-4 weeks. Her booster shot is 4-6 weeks after the initial shot so we may have a goat who's feeling poorly for two whole months.  Honey's doing well and I'm glad we gave them their shots but .... poor thing. 

Oh, AND we clipped their hooves over the weekend which is like wrestling a preteen while clipping cat claws; Physically demanding and precision is required. 

That's all for now. Feeling kinda run down myself after all that noise and then worry.

Monday 13 May 2024

A month already?

Solar update:

May 1st was slightly cloudy but not raining and it was warm enough to have the heater off all day.

The first bill after installation hasn't come out quite yet but the billing cycle is complete so I can compare with last year's:

This year, March and April. (Solar connected March 26th)
Last year, March and April.

Next billing cycle will be even better because it will have been connected for the whole time, and we'll be getting into summer but wow!

Cat update:

Shadow is doing well but has decided that I must get up at sunrise so we'll see how long my sanity lasts. 🙃

Chickens update:

They seem to have a case of worms right now which is reducing their egg production to only 2-3 a day (out of the usual average of 4), but I've got them on the meds and they should be getting better within the week. Before all that, one day there was a tiiiiiiny egg. It was only 16g instead of the approx. 55g the blue ones usually are. This sometimes just happens and is usually called a fairy egg.

Greenhouse Update:

I've got the greenhouse finally all filled and planted. I also got the gravel guy who did the base to come and put another inch or two on top of the critter guard hardware cloth so the mouse that was looking for stuff before I even got the dirt in wouldn't be able to find the edge. 

It'll be a while before we see anything come out of the greenhouse, but the radishes are already starting to sprout. They're just 4 weeks from seed to harvest so we should get them first and often. I've had to open up the greenhouse a few times on sunny days because it gets up over 25C in there and I want to sprout the seeds, not cook them.

This was the original greenhouse plan. I'm working on making up an updated version with how I actually laid it out... but these are the plants that I'm growing right now.

I also got the potatoes planted with the garlic. There's some inter-planted and some just nearby, but all the outdoor garden is surrounded by electric fencing. I don't know if the deer would eat potatoes but I'm not interested in letting the goats make themselves sick. Star has a habit of taking a nibble out of just about anything she physically can.

Wildlife update:

On the topic of deer, they don't come around as often now that the goats are here. A momma deer tried to stomp and snort at the goats one day and I came out and stood with the goats telling the dear to leave until she did. Only really see one or two young deer occasionally now instead of the 7-10 deer herds that used to roam through. It's a good thing. Deer can carry a lot of things goats can catch so I don't really want them being friends or around too much. 

We did spot a rabbit this week. I was certain we only got 2 of the 3 locals last year but we stopped seeing them. He must have been hibernating through the winter. I'll put out the trap this week and hopefully be done with that for a couple years at least.

Goat update:

The goats are mostly staying indoors, with a few field trips through the week, so I do my best to bring the outdoor indoors by clipping fresh branches for them to nibble on. We go for hikes through the woods and I'll sometimes sit outside while they roam the yard, but I can only really give them a few hours of supervision a few times though the week and still have time for everything else. I do plan to get a proper barnyard set up in the back of the barn, but until that time, this is the routine.

Other updates:

We've also contacted the power company to move the streetlight that's right by the house down the driveway a bit. As it is, we can't sit on the back deck and look at the stars because the ultra bright LED streetlight is litterally pointed at the house, AND the driveway is long enough that if you try to walk down it at night it gets REALLY dark about halfway down. We're moving the light to that spot halfway down so it peters out by the time it gets to the house. This way the deck lights actually have a job besides attracting moths, and we can have dark if we want. I don't know if this photo really does it justice but, trust me... it's bright.

We've also been out to celebrate my birthday and our wedding anniversary so it's been a busy but good time. I'm hoping to get the next post out before the end of the month. Until next time, stay safe and have fun. :-)

Monday 22 April 2024

It's been a LONG April and it's not done yet

Star and Honey (previously called Flossie) enjoying grass

SO, ........ Goats. Phew.

It's been three weeks of learning/practising milking and dairy procedures between supervising outside time for mischievous goats who really want to eat chicken food, so I have to have no chicken food out while the goats are out, which meant that the chickens were getting fed twice a day(and bothering me the rest of the time) instead of me just filling their feeder every few days........ and I wasn't sleeping well on top of it all.

Here's the garlic I had to put an electric fence around to keep the goats from eating it. Unfortunately the electric fence is only about 50 ft long so it it NOT big enough to fence the goats for even one day. I do have an electric fence coming for the goats but it won't be here until some point on the 23rd.


They technically COULD stay in the barn for the whole time (and will be the next few days) BUT I haven't finished the ventilation so it gets stinky if the door is closed the whole time and that's not fair to them and I have so many trees for them to eat, but if they're stuck inside they're only eating hay and also bored out of their skulls so they dash for the door at every chance..... you get the picture.

They're usually pretty well behaved and if I'm walking one on a leash, they don't even bug for treats much... But I can't turn my back for a minute.

All you can eat salad bar?The runaways were happy to see me

When I was rearranging some of the stuff in the barn and restocking the hay in the loft, Star decided she'd help herself to the bales in the truck, AND when I went inside for a bit Sunday, they decided that the trails through the woods held no interest but the driveway looked great, and I had to hustle down to the neighbour's place (usually a 5 min walk) to fetch them back. That's why they're staying inside until the fence comes. They won't co-operate with being put back in the barn in the middle of the day but I'm good at KEEPING them in there.

After all this complaining I do want to say that I really like them. They're interesting critters and I'm happy they're here....... I just guess I wish I had been less reckless in getting them before I had everything set up.... But that said, I didn't realize half of what I'd need/want to do before I got to know them.

For example, the current barn floorplan is not set up to house goats AND chickens at the same time. I'm gonna be buildling a wall to separate the back third of the barn for the chickens. I'll put a chicken door in the back wall and the new wall will have a human door so I can clean out the space as well as a couple chicken sized holes so they can hang out with the goats if they want to for warmth or whatever, but the goats can't get in the chicken area. The top of the new wall will be wire fencing for air flow. 

I'm also going to set up a basic water tank and drain so I can refill and wash the watering bowls more easily. To this end a neighbour helpfully donated and old tub from a camper he tore apart. I can wash anything in that, probably including a goat. :-)

(nts = not to scale)

I did a bunch of shovelling and got 1/3 of the greenhouse beds finished. The bottom half is cheap soil, sticks, and stuff. The top half is the nice potting soil mix. Nothing planted yet because I got busy with the goats and cheese making and such. The sunny days are about 25-30C in there. Night time is still down at 5C so it's not safe for frost tender plants yet.

I got the CUTEST little brush set so I could clean the milk gear and funnels and such very very well. The base holds them up and you can separate the drip cup so it's easy to clean. Makes me smile to see it on the windowsill.

For two whole weeks I was back and forth-ing with the solar tech support because the monitoring device wasn't configured correctly and wasn't getting any info from the solar panels on the roof. Everything was working. The power company was registering incoming power..... But I had no real-time data so I had no way to know if any of the panels break or anything.

These were from April 5th

On April 19th at about 1pm the device started recording data from the panels micro-converters properly so now I can show you some stats. :-) It was cloudy and raining on the 20th and the heaters were still on, so that's a good baseline for late April. Minimal sun, maximum usage.

So as you can see, even with the heaters on and a rainy/cloudy day, the panels still covered 1/4 of the usage. I'll find a nice sunny day to show you soon as well. In the mean time, here's some trees with a blue-jay on top for a nice interlude.

I've been doing a lot of kitchen experiments with the milk we've been getting from Star. A couple rounds of farmers cheese(aka drypressed cottage curds) and I made quark for the first time as well.

The farmer's cheese slices well and is kinda dry and crumbly like feta but is also firm and stands up well to heat. The quark is similar to very slightly tangy cream cheese.

I've also been working with the cream separator to figure out the best settings and process to get a good quantity of decently thick cream without over heating the milk as heat is one of the things that causes a "goaty" flavour to develop. 

I don't want to run the separator every day because the main separation core has to be disassembled into it's 21 components, washed, dried, air dried to make sure it's 100% dry, and then reassembled before putting it away. That's not even counting the other parts of the machine like the bowl and output arms.

I was going to tell you all about working on the goats hooves as well but I think I'll save that for another time as this is already so very long. For now I'll just say that they were a bit over grown(which is to be expected in spring) and I'm learning a lot(no injuries on me or them).

Okay I think we're all caught up for now? My cheese-making supplies that will help me make stuff like cheddar is at customs right now so I wound up passing 14L of milk and about 5L of whey to a local farmer who we got our chicken flock from and who we get pork from in the fall. She'll put it to good use feeding the pigs and I have a place to send all the whey from making cheese. :-)

Okay I really think that's everything now. Please enjoy this photo of Shadow (previously called Peppa) and the back end of a sunset.