Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Utility Livestock and Fun Livestock ... Fighting for a balance

I struggle with balance in this lifestyle!!! Its so hard to find the fun sometimes on the homestead (job site!!!!)
One thing that brings me the most struggle is the animals.
I love animals/livestock!
But I can't just keep a bunch of animals cause I love'em! Our subsistence farm model requires the animal be useful as possible... And as low input as possible.
I must learn to love the ones that are most suited and productive for our farm.
Sometimes there's no fun in that...
But other times...
Take chickens...I love chickens!!!!
Chickens eat a lot... don't lay well through the winter and if you free range their eggs can be impossible to fine some times....They are just not very economical... Especially the duel purpose heritage breeds that have been primarily bred for shows..They are annoyingly hard to manage if you free range! Flying into gardens.. and outside of the guardians fence lines, only to get killed off by a passing coyote ....
For a year I gave up chickens in favor of ducks ..ducks lay by 10 am and the mallard type breeds can't fly!  Plus Excellent eggs and meat! They eat less than the chickens I used to have ..only by alittle.
But I sure did miss chickens..... When selling all my high maintenance dairy animals and fiber animals I found I had time for a 'fun' animal! So yay! I'll get some silkie chickens!! Just 5 for fun !
They have turned out to be the lowest input chickens I ever had.. Super easy to manage! Produce great eggs on a fraction of other breeds I had.. early maturing layers (my utility silkies started laying around 4 1/2 months! And the meat , which is unique... Some of the best we ever had.
Now the silkies are a really low input 'fun' animal on the farm! ahhhhh.... balance :-)
Some of y'all may have read my articles on our livestock guardian disasters....ya dislike for livestock guardian dogs (but my appreciation for a good one!)
But even with a so called good one....I don't enjoy them.. 
 I do enjoy well behaved Llamas!! So after my first and only guard llama disaster 5 years ago I worked up my courage to try another one...
and ... its a fun animal!!! Llamas are beautiful and much more of a multi purpose animal.Not only used for a guard.. I can get fiber from them, use their manure for my garden.. I can train her to wear a pack and take her with me on wild mushroom hikes...
can't do none of that with a guardian dog!
yes! another good utility livestock 'fun' animal!!!
Oh my geese!!!! Heres a winner winner! If you've  read other posts you know I adore the geese!! Meat, large seasonal eggs, down , manure for gardens.. So entertaining! 
 I enjoy geese immensely!!! they are wonderful (the best!) livestock ever imo!
I could watch them all day! Incredibly useful and fun to keep.
I freely admit I hated raising meat rabbits... and my husband will also admit, he hated them too!
I also did not care for other breeds of fiber rabbits I tried (already did a post on that)
.... but these adorable... sweet.... calm English angoras and english angora crosses :-) I so love them!!!
When I got into fiber rabbits I was told not to get English or English cross... that the grooming was way to much work!!
Since I"m a very busy farmer I listened.... but because the french and german rabbits I tried where rowdy they really took twice as long for me to groom than a sweet English.
I need to raise my own fiber! After spinning awhile, Its just not as fun if I can't throw some of my own farm raised stuff into my yarns!
These guys.... very nice balance!
Outside of the grooming which I love with these rabbits.. I use their nicely piled up manure for my gardens and Ofcourse their fiber! If I should have to cull .. We do like rabbit meat. Very multipurpose here!
Bonus!  Because they are smaller than other angoras and meat rabbits I have no problem foraging and growing most all their food! Making them extremely affordable to raise. 

If you farm you know it's not all fun.. Far from it! 
 The goats we need for weed control & milk.. also a good meat and manure source! are cute and Fun to watch but they are so much work.. It's hard for me to find a lot of balance/fun with them! They are probably our highest input animals.. Especially from a management stand point.  
The muscovies are hands down the most amazing mothers! Sometimes hatching out 3 clutches a year! Very self sufficient and can feed themselves if you have the resources... Very good meat producers ,, decent seasonal egg production. Plus,, They are quirky and fun to watch! Friendly!! Beautiful!   
But a management nightmare!!! They fly!!
They fly very very well.... This is Not good. They are also escape artist finding any hole in the fence to squeeze through.. And even with a clipped wing I have watched them climb over a 4 foot fence..
Oh yes,  I don't really like pigs.... our AGH pigs are nice though compared to the other commercial and heritage breeds!!! No giant hateful pigs here! 
I do like what they give us!!! Rich red meat and lots of snow white lard! Lard has taken our sufficiently to a whole other level! I love it!
I'd rather have it than the meat... though the meat is incrediable... Being able to use the lard for so many things makes them a very useful animal! And very low input really.., atleast this breed is!
I've personally always had a thing for Kune Kune... and Kune Kune crosses!
They are abit different I've read ... But...

will they be a fun animal on the farm..... thats a hard one!
They sure are cute though!
Got a deposit on this girl.. Can't wait to bring her home !
Don't know that pigs ' can' be fun for me but our AGH lard pigs are sure low input and useful .
Working to find balance on our farm will probably always be a challenge! 
For now... I'm up for it ;-)

God Bless! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fall harvest... keeps on coming!

Just when I think the work is winding down...
More comes in!
My sorghum did I have a greenhouse full of it drying..
Most of the summer garden has died out but Peppers are poring in...
Muscadines came early!!!
And pears.... Our neighbors have the most awesome pear tree and they are happy for my husband to come and take them all!!!!
I've dried almost a gallon and half of them... Canned pear juice... Pear jam... Anise pears.. Honey pears... Vanilla pears!!!
Thank goodness for my future daughter in law !! I never could have processed 4 bushels of pears without her doing most of the peeling!
One more bushel to go.....
With the peelings and cores I'm making some vinegar ... Would be awesome to not have to buy raw vinegar anymore !

So much going on... And still so much to do!!!
So many blessings from the land.

I am so thankful ....

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The boys are back in town!

Well,, tis the season for goat love... This is Dakota .. A very very full of himself Mini Nubian buck. Comes from a good producing dam ,, love the sweet butterfat of the Nubians...pure bred Nubians never brought me anything but trouble and drama. A 50% Nigerian though! Yep, I'll take him! He's already bred Sugar ,, in Nov. Biscuit should be ready.. Jan . Little gumdrop should be ready..can't wait to see what this guy produces!
But... Then there's this....
One reason I don't like goats... A major reason...
The bucks stink SO bad!!
I mean,, gag!!!
And they are so gross.. Peeing all over their face and legs then trying to rub their icky head on anything and everything so it all smells like them!
But..,that being said...
 I'll take stinky over dangerous any day... 
I'll never forget the day that mean babydoll sheep ram hit me and knocked me painfully off my feet... Then backed up and hit me again!!! I crawled out of his pen .. I couldn't stand because of the shooting pain in my thigh! I threw the feed I had in my hand just as he was about to go for hit 3 ... 
That was a reality check...rams,, no matter how cute or how little can cause painful injury !
Or then,, the Friesian ram that busted through our very strong goat fencing to get to the girls! Glad I wasn't on the girls side of the fence when that went down!
I couldn't even go in with the ram to feed ,my husband had to build an air lock to lure him into so I could put hay out...
Not fun.., and kinda scary knowing how bad that babydoll ram hit me.. Knowing this guy would break bones if he hit me!

Yeah,,, I'll take stinky over potential injuries and damage to the property! 

So looking forward to goat kids though..
Praying for healthy babies :-) and healthy does with creamy milk!!

Proverbs 27:27

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Finding winners!

Harvested over 70 winter squash and pumpkins so far this year...and still more in the garden!
 And I found a new very favorite ...
Seminole pumpkin ...they are the smaller ones in the back if the gater here..
 Prolific, drought tolerant , poor soil tolerant and oh so sweet!!!!!! Sweeter than butternut...more like a sweet potato sweetness! With squash texture.... It will be a focus next year! We love them!
They are said to be great for storage ... We will see...
The geese have been the best livestock ever... I hope next years breeding season doesn't hold to much drama because these guys are great for a farm if you have enough grass.... Harvest day will be very sad.... But I will be so thankful... Just a very useful , low input animal.... Low input if you find goose drama entertaining :-) 
We've made a lot of progress this year..
My husband said he thinks we've made more progress this year alone than in the previous 4!
I think he's right!
We have learned so much more this year.
So much Praise to our Lord for keeping us healthy , so we are able to keep working this hard. 

Many blessings to everyone :-) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Those Charming Turkeys Troublemakers!

How will I ever bring myself to eat all these sweet turkeys!
I'm sure you've heard all the same things I heard before I brought turkeys this year..,
They are stupid, they are hard to keep alive, they eat a lot, they poop a lot ..
Well.. They do eat and poop a lot ... they aren't really stupid.. But they are very very curious.
I haven't had to much trouble keeping them alive. I bought 15 , lost 3... They did get coccidiosis even though I had them in a brooder with a wire floor! but Sulmet cleared it right up.
Did you know they are super friendly ...
And really just very sweet birds!
That they make all sorts for interesting vocal sounds.. Not just a gobble ! These guys have a whole vocabulary!

And they fly.... Really well :-(
Not a trait I like in a bird...
So 15,, lost 3 poults... Sold a trio..
I have 10 left.
And I'm so very very torn on keeping a trio myself. 
I know I shouldn't .. I have to many birds I want to overwinter already!
But my goodness they are neat birds!!!

Decisions ...

Monday, August 17, 2015

I only want Angora....

Much like the goats... for four years we tried to make meat rabbits work out... and we would have just enough success in between the failures to keep us going.
One of the major problems we had with rabbits was...well, we just didn't like them... (Angoras being the exception for me.. more on that in a minute)
now, the meat was good.. But not good enough to put up with all the trouble of raising them! The rabbits themselves werent enjoyable to take care of for us.. some were down right mean! We had problems with mothers not being good mothers! A major issue since unlike a goat I can't bottle feed a baby rabbit! We had problems collecting the manure... the manure is great for the garden,, its the urine thats stinky and really makes for lots of work if youre using trays or shoveling up urine soaked manure.
Also we felt like they ate to much for what we were getting in return.. they really go through the pellets! And good rabbit pellets aren't cheap! They have very sensitive digestive systems and can be picky eaters. Which makes foraging and growing their food tricky. 
Anyone who's says raising rabbits is easy or cheap to raise has clearly not done the numbers and has no other livestock to compare them too IMO!
I'm not saying they aren't useful livestock .. Just not the best for us perhaps...
We don't give up easy and in that four years we tried 6 different breeds of rabbits... none lived up to the 'hype' of all we had read in those pretty glossy magazines.

Then came the Angora! In 2013 I got into farm fiber production (raising it and spinning yarn) with the addition of the dairy sheep I tried (huge fail,, but I was bite by the fiber bug)
Fiber animals are as much work as a dairy animal! and then some really!! For many many reasons sheep didn't work out here.. And neither did cashmere goats...nor did alpacas! 
but late 2013 I got Angora Rabbits.... Angora is probably my favorite fiber to crochet and wear.
After much research I decided I would go for a dual purpose rabbit , French Angora. If this worked I wouldn't need to keep the American Blue or NZW or any of the other meat rabbits we had tried and didn't like! It would be perfect,, right!!! Oh... It's always so perfect in my head!
Angora Rabbits aren't real popular where I live so My very first rabbit was a french/english cross... It was love at first site!!! I adored this guy. He was so sweet and SOFT! 
I should have just accepted his wonderfulness ,, got another English cross and been done... but....
The French Angora is said to be the nicest for fiber and silly breed chasing gets me once again!
when I found them I went wild and bought several! (ok,, I bought way to many!)
 however, they weren't quite as soft as my cross boy...and really lacked the sweet temperment of my cross rabbit, which made harvesting the fiber not good! You will often read how 'relaxing' people find grooming an angora rabbit is... well, it is... if the rabbit is willing!!!! If the rabbit is not willing I promise its NOT a relaxing experience!!!
...and their ability to be 'plucked' made my life misrable with them! 
You see 'pluckable' angora is considered the 'best' because its supposed to spin easier, shed it brings more $ if you're selling it raw to other spinners...sounds nice right?
Problem: when its ready to be plucked.. if you're not there to pluck it for the next couple of days it all falls out and ends up in the stinky urine soaked manure! Not practical for this busy farm girl!
So for me, this was NOT the best type of rabbit!
 And since selling the fiber raw was never my intention ( I can't see that its any easier to spin if you prepare the clipped fiber properly) this frustration was totally un nessacary for me to deal with.

With the French not working out... ok, they were a Huge fail...atlest the pluckable line I bought were....But not willing to give up on raising my own angora and keeping the only rabbits I ever liked having..  I brought in German Angoras.. not pluckable and they give the most fiber of all the angora rabbits... they still grow fast enough to be an ok meat rabbit.. sound perfect?
major problem... their fiber isn't as soft as the French and certainly not as soft as the cross rabbit I had! Plus again, they lacked a sweet temperment I require so I can groom and harvest the fiber with minimum drama! And honestly at $100 plus for a rabbit I was going to have a hard time culling them for meat! 
A most hated trait.. When livestock is to expensive to eat...

So they were out... and in my disappointment and being in the middle of the over whelming spring garden season I sold them all to a nice lady in Gatlinburg... even my sweet cross( I totally regret selling him!)

We tried one more stab at meat rabbits (colored NZ) and then gave them all up. 

A year later I'm running out of Angora to spin... finding good angora to spin is hard!!! Most people who raise angoras are spinners and keep it for themselves... the other people raising angora are typically people who 'show' rabbits and do a terrible job of harvesting it! I've bought so much that was at best felting fiber... but it was still $7 to $9 an oz!

With no meat rabbits to bring me down... I remember how much I loved that first cross bunny... as I spin the last bit of his fiber my head starts to form a new rabbit plan...
A plan much like the reintroduction of the dairy goats and chickens.... by pass the silly papers , the expensive hyped breeds and registries.... don't over do it... just grow what you need and what you like... what works for me!
Well, that English cross worked best for me... his babies wouldn't have brought as much money as a papered french or certainly as a german and he didn't give as much fiber as a german...and he wouldn't produce fast growing meaty babies...
But he was best for me.. the best fiber and best temperament that made him a joy to work with, a joy to see everyday and his fiber a joy to spin and wear!
So with this learning experience behind me... I welcome Grimm and Smokey... English/Satin Angora crosses.

And they are very sweet!!!! And very soft, though I won't know for sure how soft until their adult coats come in.
And if I breed them and if their babies don't have nice temperaments and the super soft fiber I like they will be just as good to eat as the faster growing rabbit breeds.
Just keeping enough to keep me in fiber also allows me to forage for most of their diet and concentrate on what they like. The slower growers not bred for meat production tend to do better on forage anyways... My cross angora first time around sure did ..
Which means they should be healthier too.
Like all other homestead plans, it's all so perfect in my head. I'm sure there will be glitches in the plan... Hopefully this time around I can handle the glitches better since I'm only dealing with rabbits I truly like and believe will be a good addition to our farm and to my fiber stash!!
and dealing with them on a much smaller scale also... 9 breeding angoras took way to much time away from the other important farm projects.. After all this is a subsistence farm,, not an angora rabbit farm!
Wish me luck!!!
And Be blessed this beautiful week!
Winter is coming...

Late Summer Sensations...

August is being kind to us here in my part of the south. Late summer isn't usually so comfortable! 
But it's been nice,,, upper 80's , cooler nights...not to dry , not to rainy...
Still producing are ground cherries, late provider beans, loads of okra, asian melons, feild peas, winter squash and dent corn is finishing up... our larger shiitake mushroom logs are starting to produce now!
Muscadine are ripening so early!  Waiting on pears.... and hoping my brother comes through with some black walnuts!
Seasonal eating at its finest here.....
Okra fritters with zuchinni relish .. Field peas topped with shiitake mushrooms and onions.. AND with crispy pork cracklings!
Just....So.... Incredible!!! All everything grown right here but the salt!

Yes... Dessert! My Asian melons made into a tasty sherbet!! This was also incredible!!! Sweetened with a tiny bit of honey.. Wow! What flavor !
See I think seasonal eating need not be a lost art.. With internet and websites like Pinterest it's so easy to find recipe ideas with whatever you have on hand!
We may have okra or squash almost everyday in the summer season .. But I promise it's never boring!

Score for the week...,
Sale rack seeds!!! As low as 2 cents a pack! The most expensive was the seed tapes at 35 cents!!!

Carrots,, mustard greens and kale in the ground...and Planted some sugar peas today! My husband better get in it and get my new green house set up!

Still so much more to plant for fall! I want this to be my best fall/winter garden yet!

I say that every year :-)