Friday, July 22, 2016

My gift donkey didn't work but I'm still grateful

Remember Henna?? 
The big 'gift' donkey??
Well, Im very sad to say She didn't fit in here because she had issues with ducks and geese... Bad issues!! She wanted to stomp them!!
Huge problem since I use donkeys to help keep my poultry and waterfowl safe. They need to coexist in pastures and woodlots because 2 of the 4 areas and the new pasture has a creek or pond that the waterfowl can use better than any other livestock we have. 
Plus my ducks are so excellent at keeping the fly population down.. Nice for donkeys since flies tend to spread disease and make them so uncomfortable!
Such a sweet girl 😟 im sorry she didn't work out.
I'm still glad I got her , short time it was, I learned something about donkeys..
And I'm not just talking about her aggressive behavior to waterfowl . Which I admit, really caught me off guard because the other 6 donkeys I've had/have could have cared less about the birds! Who knew??!

Donkeys are such individual, thinking animals.. It takes some of them awhile to trust. 
All of them do not make good guards, or pets or whatever. And some of them do make excellent guards , pets and even excellent dairy animals! πŸ˜‰
They are just so different from donkey to donkey! And each one needs to be treated and evaluated as an individual. 

Henna had a completley different vibe about her and she much preferred my husband to me. 
Which also surprised me because the other donkeys have always prefered me!

So I learned from the experience and got more comfortable being around a much larger donkey in the process.
I'm happy to say I found her the most perfect home ,,, one without ducks or geese!!!

Learning experiences are always good..
Even if you learn what not to do!

Have a blessed day! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Farm Foodie

I know... I don't really like the name 'foodie' either. It sounds a bit uppity , maybe a tad pretentious , which my little country self Is neither!! 
But It's way better than calling myself ridiculously picky....
Add that on to my annoying food allergies... I'm just kinda hard to feed!
In Knoxville , Chattanooga and Especially Atlanta where I worked and played for years finding foodie type restaurants with very specialized appetizers and creative entrees wasn't that hard. As I got older and my food allergies got worse.. That was something different. 

 It's really not hard to make home grown food taste good at all.. But when you eat seasonally it can get repetitive at times and bore the taste buds a little. So here's A little summer foodie meal idea...

Every summer we get these wild current tomatoes that pop up everywhere. I have no ideal how they spread like they do! They are resistant to most of the things that wipe out my other tomatoes early. They have an incredible tomato flavor with a pop of well balanced sweetness!
But we can only eat so many tomato Last year I made a specialty ketchup wild tomato jam that just complemented our sweet potato fries so well.

I still have a few jars left so this year I wanted something different.
I had just made a big egg salad with my favorite white cucumbers , fresh dill and 12 big rich Muscovy eggs I found in a very hidden nest ( sneaky Muscovy!)
Rather than just eat with a sliced tomato on the egg salad sandwich for dinner .. Which my taste buds were telling me 'boring!!!' ...
I made another kind of savory jam that would complement the egg salad sandwich. 
So with a new very fragrant basil in the garden I made a small batch of 
Tomato Lime Basil Jam!!
It's Perfect... Any cherry tomato would probably work well in this recipe.
The recipe, I used the blue book preserving tomato jam recipe, added lime basil and lime juice. Easy!
I'm not in the mood to make bread..not in the summer.  It's just to time cumsumming ! And then I'll be stuck with a big ol' loaf of bread to try and eat the next few days.. 
Solution ... Pumpkin Biscuits! Now being southern I could eat biscuits all day long.
Adding pumpkin to them makes them healthier so I feel better about it when I eat them all day long! πŸ˜‰
There are still some Seminole pumpkins in the pantry farm last year. Roasted up, purΓ©ed with wheat flour, lard , little salt and baking powder ... Bake!
Topped with our own homegrown bacon custom cured by Bentons bacon in madisonville....
No bored taste buds! 
Muscovy duck egg and cucumber salad, on pumpkin biscuits with cured bacon and tomato lime basil jam ....
No , no bored taste buds here! At all!

I couldn't get anything this good in any restaurant we've been to in the last 6 years. So much flavor! And nothing to cause an allergy for me.

Farming pays off at the table πŸ˜€


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Don't look a gift donkey in the mouth

I'm happy to introduce Henna! 
A gorgeous bay colored jennet!
She is truly a gift... An unexpected , fell in my lap kinda gift that I almost refused!
She comes to me from a guy who bought geese from me a couple of months ago.. He liked my donkeys so he was inspired to get one to guard his cattle but it didn't work out..
So he texted me a couple of days ago and asked me if I would take her. He only had her for about a month or so.. Couldn't tell me much of anything about her...
I was hesitant ,,, it was so totally unexpected and I felt positive this donkey was probably a hot mess!
A crazy wild donkey is the last thing I want to deal with..I've got a crazy wild Jack already that needs loads of work and I'm training Rani's Jack colt.
But .... He said she was a big ol' pet ...and she looked so lonely and pretty in the picture he sent.
so off we went , we drive an hour and half north to check her out.
I'm so glad we did.... So I will not look a gift donkey in the mouth again!!
She's a sweetheart! And came right at a time I've been considering getting a couple of bigger donkeys. 
She's a lot bigger than the donkeys I've been working with.. 
If fact Henna is bigger than the donkey I sold last year because I thought she was too big!
I feel much more confident around donkeys now so I'm ready! With the  extra 4 acres my husband is fencing I have the room for some bigger donkeys.
My idea herd... 4 small standard Jennets and 2 large standard Jennets. 
Ofcourse a couple of jacks... Gotta have the boys since stud service is impossible to find here unless it's a mammoth donkey ... So not wanting a mammoth... 
At this time!!!πŸ˜‰
Henna still has a scruffy winter coat. She's 2 years old so she's never foaled. I am hopeful she will be a good addition to our dairy donkey herd.
Oh... And she's plenty big enough for me ride!!!
A little added value there. 
She will need some work and I'm so excited to work with her.
Hoping my husband can get me a corral built this month sometime ( please husband please!!!)
I've been working with my wild crazy Jack using some new techniques I've learned and I'm happy to say that for the first time since I've had him for these 9 months he let me pet him today!!! Really pet him!! Pat his back and all!
A corral would make things so much easier though! 
But back to the Jennets... And Henna..
Isn't she gorgeous!! 
On the sad side of this post .. I sold my mini Jenny donkeys😟
Mini donkeys have never really been what I wanted to focus on.. But I love them!!!
Small standards have been my personal idea homestead dairy donkey for us.
Mini donkeys are so great.. Just so nice and non intimidating! 
I can't keep them all though...We decided if I'm going to get some bigger girls the minis must go on to other homes. I'm very happy to say all 3 minis went to fantastic homes!!! 
A lot of good came from the minis!
Im very thankful I had them because A major thing happened with them.. And with my smallest standard Rani...
With them being small I wasn't intimidated and I gained lots of confidence working with them. I wouldn't be here getting into the bigger donkeys if I didn't start with them!!

The ever changing farm... 
Gotta be flexible. Gotta go with the flow..

The work load is heavy, especially this time of year! So it's nice to have livestock I gain so much joy from.
They really do make the farm a happier place for me.
So praise to God for leading me this way .. 
That's a huge blessing!

And I'm still thinking of how close I was to telling that guy thanks, but no thank you on Henna because I was afraid..
I seriously almost looked a gift donkey in the mouth! 

Till next time! Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dairy Donkey # 2 in the making

Yesterday Leeba finally had her foal!
A tiny jennet! And I'm still amazed everytime I look at her. How can anything be this adorable...., 
So Leeba is on her way to being dairy donkey number 2 here!
She's right on the edge of mini at 36.5 in.
Few inches shorter than Rani who is definitely a small standard.
Rani's jack colt Eli is almost 8 weeks old and wow! He is a handful!!! 
We are up to him being off his mom for 3 1/2 hours now and she is giving me a pint of milk on that 3 1/2 hour fill!!!!
That's how much I got of some of my Nigerian dwarf dairy goats for a 12 hour fill. So this is good! Very!
Plus she milks so easy! Easier than many dairy goats and dairy sheep I had.
Donkeys on the homestead aren't for everyone... Certainly dairy donkeys aren't for everyone .. But they are working out so well here. 
I feel like all the other dairy animals I tried that failed here for some reason or another have lead me to being more prepared for this dairy donkey journey on our farm. 
It's hard to realize that sometimes your failures are really getting you ready for something that's better for you.
I enjoy working with donkeys better than sheep,, which I enjoyed working with better than goats!
 God does work in mysterious ways.., I can promise you if 6 years ago someone said ,'you will be milking donkeys' I would have said that's weird and no way!! 
Honestly When we first started the farm I would have said that's weird and no way to dairy sheep! I think my experience milking sheep really helped open my mind to milking donkeys. What a journey!
Wonder if my dairy animal journey will ever lead me to milking yaks???!!!??! Or camels !! Water buffalo?? 
πŸ˜‚husband says NO! πŸ˜‚
There are limits to our climate , land and finances!!! ( dairy camels are like $8,000! So...Not happening!) 
I've really considered Zebu cows but with my cow milk allergies I'm not sure they would be the way to go even though they  are said to have A2A2 milk as opposed to A1A1 that most domestic dairy cattle have.  
I'm good with donkeys!πŸ˜€ plus it just tastes better than any other milk I've drank!
Also on the farm... My husband has been working for months on fencing another four acres. This started out as an area for his pigs but it's going to be way easier for him to manage the pigs on the front half of the farm... 
Which means that four acres .. With pasture, brambles, a few shade trees and a creek will be mine to use for the donkeys and geese!!!!
I walked over to the new area yesterday while my husband was setting fence post  since I hadn't seen it in a while. 
These two followed me up the road.. They want in the new area too!!! This four acres is directly attached to the main areas I use for the donkeys and geese.. So very convenient for me!
This is the bramble half up on a hill..
The pasture and creek are below ..
He's only got four more posts to set!!!!!
And then we've got to try to get some people together to get the wire stretched.
My donkeys and geese ( Muscovies too!) aren't going to know what to do with all this new space!
I couldn't be more excited! New foal, new donkey to milk soon and new pasture!
We just keep moving right along building up the farm... Projects one right after another!
Failure or success , as always I'm thankful! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Investment in a Lifestyle

When you buy a piece of undeveloped acreage you do not have a farm... You have a piece of land. You need to develop it into a farm.. You need Feed Buildings, barns, sheds, equipment , fencing and more fencing! 
Not to mention the cost of good livestock , building soil and possibly needing pasture improvements depending on what you want to raise. 
Depending on your vision , it may be a farm business or a subsistence farm or maybe a little hobby farm. Three entirely different things! With three very different paths and expectations. 

Year 1. Starting to build a herb garden up front no fencing anywhere

Year 6. The whole front is raised beds and fenced gardens. The entire house is also fenced now.

For us this investment in land was for a subsistence farm that would provide almost all our food and keep us out of the grocery store ( it does!) we want to grow our food, we enjoy growing our food (most days!) and we like living in the country. 
hopefully at some point, a part of it could be taken to the next level and create a viable small farm business. Yet, that business can't hinder us from our first priority. And it has to be run like a business not a homestead. That's another post altogether! 
Year 1 before we turned the land and started our first vegetable garden

Year 6. the same area is full of raised beds and the garden is extended about 4 times the original size and expands all around the house. Everything is fenced 

We often get asked about 'breaking even' on our investment in this farm.
Now I'm not saying for one minute it's not about the money... But with a subsistence farm model in mind it's more about not going broke building it for our choice of lifestyle. Kinda like building your dream house with a budget. 
Instead of home improvements like , a sauna or hot tub we use our money to develop the farm. We take No vacations..
Seriously a couple of thousand dollars for a week... Or a new fence that could last thirty years for donkeys & geese I can enjoy every day!! Our lifestyle improvements are different than most! 

When we purchased there was A little garage, no fencing or animal housing what so ever!

Year 6. The same garage area is the center of the livestock areas, barn, feed room, loads of fencing, multiple animal sheds all around. Tractor and other equipment.

Building and developing a piece of land into a farm does take a lot of money.. Even done on the hardscrabble hillbilly cheap ... It's not cheap.
No matter if it's just to produce your own food. Which sounds simple enough,, it's not and The investment in fencing , buildings and so many things that go into growing all your own food is no small task. After 6 years of solid working to develop our land we are still not done.
But that's fine, it's no different than some one who's lived in the same house for 10 years that's constantly upgrading it.

And Speaking of lifestyles ...Homesteaders get accused of being preppers all the time's not always one in the same thing!
Now maybe there's a little prepper in us but if it was all about that we'd been better off building a bunker and stocking it with 5 years worth of food!
 It would have been cheaper, a more practical plan for a prepper and not near as much work... Then we could have also put in a hot tub and took a vacation! Then the rest of our time would probably be spent collecting ammo and guns...learning krav maga and how to build fires without matches the real preppers lifestyle!
That actually doesn't sound bad ⚔
No break even there either , now....why do I need to break even on my chosen home and farm improvements??

Our farm is more about the lifestyle we are choosing to lead.. There's no  break even on how you choose to live.
You don't plan to break even when you buy a new car.. Or Break even when you buy the latest fashion statement handbag or shoes ....why would I break even on the new fencing we are building for my dairy donkeys? 
I was once asked by someone who just couldn't grasp why we chose this lifestyle (city gal). When talking about our daily routines on the farm she asks , "but when do you get to live your life?"
Really.... This is my chosen way to live my life.,.. That was a Weird question or maybe it's just me πŸ€”

Growing extra poultry or piglets to help you break even on the feed bill is an entirely different thing! You're trying to cut an ongoing cost here.. Much like clipping coupons. Selling extra livestock or excess produce. Selling extra hand made farm goods are really all part of a subsistence farm... Meant to cut ongoing costs. It's not a real farm business or top priority.
On the other hand , Investing in dairy equipment to start a real working dairy you expect at some point to break even and then make money. It's your job , not your lifestyle. 

See my point?? 

So to all you small subsistence farmers out there trying to provide your family with a nice country home and the best food possible ... 
If it's about the lifestyle you won't feel the need to break even..
You're simply living your life...
Your chosen way...
So give thanks to God in heaven for the opportunity and to all the men who died for America to be free so that you can live the way you want. 
Take nothing for granted ...enjoy this life you chose and built.
Always remember , you can not break even on a lifestyle. 

Also , if you don't like it.. Say, it's Not what you signed up for after all..
You can sell it all and maybe take up Krav Maga 😜

Be blessed beautiful people!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Homestead Happenings: Enjoying the Bounties now and later

I'm starting into that part of the season when gardening maintenance , harvesting and preserving start happening all at once. So about to get crazier around here!
One thing I'm thoroughly enjoying this year is our donkey milk many different ways. Last winter during a *treat yo'self* visit to the grocery store ( this is when we buy things we can't grow like coffee and chocolate! Or fruits I can't grow like sweet cherries) 
I notice over ripe bananas on sale crazy cheap! So I bought them ALL 4 bags of them! Chopped them into chunks , put into gallon bags for the freezer so I can add them to our melon sorbet when melons come in this year. Makes it more ice cream like.. But without being sugary and unhealthiness ...And in my case cow milk should be avoided really at all times!
It's been SO hot lately I decided to try a banana donkey milk smoothie.. 
Since over ripe bananas are sweet and donkey milk is naturally sweet too it was more like a banana milk shake!
I'm not complaining!!! But I really gotta start looking for more over ripe bananas on sale to stock pile! 
With it being so dry I was afraid we wouldn't get any wild blackberries but they are here!!!! If it doesn't rain they won't be here long though...
So it's that time of the year to go out , fight ticks , ants and torns all for this fabulous fruit! Which I really need since an evil fruit maggot destroyed ALL of our blueberries this year 😑
Blackberries are so easy to can.. Freeze.. Eat all in one sitting! Lol
Nothing quite like a hot blackberry cobbler in the winter though... So I'll try to restrain myself and not eat them all!
My first year growing spaghetti squash.., success!!!!!!!
Four plants have produced 11 squash! Some big some little but I am thrilled!!!
And planting more for a late crop since the seeds I have mature at 88 days I have time! Wonderful thing about winter squash... It's naturally preserved for months just the way it is! I don't have to do anything but pick it and put it in a dry area.
These are spring planted onions. They don't get near as big as my fall onions. But I needed to go ahead and pull them because the bed they were in didn't get mulched and was over run with weeds.. Weeding at this point would have pulled them up anyways.
One of our favorite soup seasonings is dehydrated onions so five trays later these were all chopped and drying out.
Early Cucumbers have been booming this year.. We've ate them alone, infused water, made cucumber and goat cheese sandwiches, cucumber salads.. Even cucumber humus dip and a cucumber avocado salsa.... All delicious. 
Feed quite a few to the animals too!
2 years I started juicing them and freezing them in ice cube trays so I could use the juice in specially soaps and lotions I made. Worked out well!
This year I'm freezing for that and because a cube of cucumber juice in a glass of water is really refreshing!
I'm also going to try to make cucumber jelly when I have more time this winter!
A quart of dehydrated onions and almost a gallon bag of ice cubes. Not bad for the days preserving!
I so enjoyed the bounties of goose eggs fall, winter and spring...
I miss them terribly .. Sure the chicken and ducks eggs are yummy .. But the goose eggs are like donkey milk... Just so darn extra good!
Speaking of chicken eggs.. Some are hatching under broody mommas this week!!! I love silkie chickens! If only all livestock was as easy as them! Lol
Extra Roos will be processed we do like our silkie chicken meat a lot!
So there will hopefully be plenty for us through the winter. 
Love this breed... Though I don't need for the typical silkie standard. More for utility .. My rooster is not a tiny foofoo guy! 
As usual we have so much to be thankful for on this farm.
The work is so hard and I do have to remind myself it's worth it...
Ok, I don't have to remind myself it's worth it when we are eating!! Lol

Be blessed πŸ˜„

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My Organic Donkeys 😍

Maybe you think I'm crazy Because I milk donkeys ,, yes, you read that right , I milk them and I drink it!
It's light, sweet, refreshing .. Unlike any other milk I've tried.
Not only is it a really fantastic excuse to have lots of these awesome creatures on a subsistence farm like ours, 
It's a health food that's been used for centuries to nourish , heal and beautify. 
From this beast of burden comes such a wonderful gift...,
Donkeys fit in here better than any other dairy animal I tried... Though not trait bred here in the USA for dairy, I still refer to them as my dairy donkeys because that's what I will be trait breeding them for. 
They have such an easy way about them..the girls are such a joy to work with.
I look forward everyday getting up to see them!!
It's important that I keep them chemical free as possible since we drink the milk...
And I use the manure on my garden , which I prefer to keep organic. 
Compared to other dairy animals I've managed the donkey is easier to keep chemical free. 
But It's summer and equine in general draw flies which require sprays...that are full of chemicals...
Honestly the flies barely notice my traditional colored donkeys but 
They absolutely harass my spotted ass ..
So I came up with a fly repellent salve that also has skin healing agents for her and any other of my donkeys that are bothered ... My husband has also used it on some of his meishan pigs ears with great success! 
I have to apply it once or twice a week.
Works fantastic !!!! 
And if you'd like to try it , here's the formula :

Fly Repellent Salve 

8 oz. of comfrey infused olive oil
1 oz. bees wax
1 tsp. Cedar essential oil 

I melt the bees wax in the comfrey oil using a small crock pot.
Once melted remove from heat and add cedar oil.
Pour into tins or 4 oz. jelly jars work well. 

Having a fan in the barn also helps keep the bedding dry and not as attractive to the flies.. My little silkie chickens eat fly larvae and my Muscovy ducks chase and eat flies right out of the air! Very entertaining! Lol
All these things help keep the flies down to a minimum so I do not need to use chemical sprays. 
Little extra work but worth it since I'm depending on the milk as a healthy food source and the manure as nutrients for my organic garden. 
I also have to take into consideration my poultry and our honey bees which may be sensitive to the chemical sprays.
They are often in the same areas with the donkeys.
Hope you find this formula useful 
And have a very happy day!