Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dealing with limitations and healing donkey milk

It's so hard to go back to the grocery store to buy what you once made yourself....especially with an animal product, 
The taste is better... You know it's fresh and the animal was treated well... You know it's chemical and antibiotic free.. 
Because seriously , believe the labels???
Luckily raising your own meat isn't to hard if you have the right facilities , land, commitment to learn about the animal and the right kind of animal to match your expectations.
Luckily raising our own eggs is easy and I adore poultry and waterfowl ....
Dairy animals.
Totally different story!

The quest for farmstead milk from an animal that can live here without drama!
And without sucking all my time away!
A dairy animal , especially a high production dairy animal, is more than a commitment .. It's more like total devotion! Take anything that can go wrong with a meat animal and double it..
High production = lots of milk = lots of time sucking problems.
It has been a very long , tiring journey my friends! 
And yes, I have limitations! I can not have 1 group of animals take time from my other much needed farm chores and goals. 

If you've read my blog you know I've had so many breeds of dairy goats and tried so many different ways to make them work ... I just can't deal with them, their extensive health issues and their neediness!
You know I've tried dairy sheep which I loved so much better!!! But the wool is a pain to deal with, even as a spinner it's a pain to raise fiber animals for me because of our cedar trees , brambles and the humidity that can felt the wool right on the animal! And shearing is such a tiresome job! A good shearer is almost impossible to find...on top of I just do not have sheep land for a high maintenance wool breed sheep. Most wool sheep breeds are just as delicate as goats when it comes to parasites... A big problem I do not want to deal with!
And yes I tried katathins! The premier miracle hair sheep breed.. And I couldn't stand them! That's been several years ago ...
I do hear they have come along way... But the first 2 I had scarred me! I know many many people who milk them and rave about the milk. But I couldn't get near mine ! They were crazy and feral! 
Hair sheep meat is lean and that breed honestly tasted more like goat without the flavor. It was good.. Just not what I expected from lamb. Which I understand is the way most hair sheep meat tastes.

Since I'm sensitive to milk products with casin and really shouldn't pig out on them.. (Which is what I did with my lovely gallon a day dairy sheep) I really shouldn't have a high production bred dairy sheep anyways..,
Seriously , It was all SO good!!!! Sheep cheese had to be one of the best things I've made! 

So now what?? 
Dairy goats , dairy sheep.., 
And yeah, if you've followed my blog you know I now milk donkeys!! 
My *dairy* donkeys work beautifully here on our land,, also fill the need for a poultry guardian and do not suck my time away ... But...,

I can't make much with donkey milk in the way of dairy products because it lacks casin.
 It takes a long, long year for a Jenny to have a foal.. Then another six weeks before you can milk... And then you can milk for around 6 to 7 months.. The amount you get can vary greatly from animal to animal because they haven't been bred for milking purposes.
We more or less treat it like a medicine really ... It's worth the wait and the trouble if you have health problems!
It obviously can't take the place of the farmstead dairy products I want to have but .., 
It's incredibly healing!!!
And has worked wonders with my digestive problems!! 
After drinking donkey milk for almost four months now I can eat goat and sheep milk products again without pain!!!
If we eat out somewhere off the farm and I get sick , just 1/2 cup of donkey milk and my nausia goes away!
It's amazing!!! And so refreshing to drink!

But ,,, so now I can have cheese again..
After pretty much avoiding it for a year except in very small amounts.
And I still shouldn't pig out on it!
I have missed it so much..
Store bought cheese just doesn't hold up though 😟

After talking, talking and more talking we decided maybe try a cow.. A rugged small zebu cow!! They are about the size of my smallest donkey, can handle tough pastures , provide A2/A2 milk and a much needed lean red meat source! 
They do well in southeast heat and don't have the parasite issues of goats and wool sheep... It would be perfect!!!!!!

But I am so not ready for a cow...
Zebu heifers are expensive... Just not quite ready for that commitment to a cow. Next year if we have another barn built and a handle on how many donkeys I'll be keeping regular then we'll be ready!

But for now... It's St.Croix hair sheep..,
Lean red meat, and yes some people do milk them! And I will try! It won't be like my well bred dairy sheep with their huge capacity and nice soft udders.. But like I said.. I shouldn't pig out on cheese anyways πŸ™„
They Handle rough pastures and heat.. They Don't even need a shelter!! 
Though mine will have one. 
Low maintenance sheep if I've ever heard of one... They are supposed to do well eating browse and weeds and I have a plan to keep them from destroying pastures in the fall with they start to up root the grasses. 
Now I typically do not believe 'breed hype' but I personally talked to several people that have been raising them for more than 3 years. And I like what I heard... So here we go...

Hair Sheep.... Round 2....

Where oh where will this subsistence farm take us next! 

It's a wild ride!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A place for Quail

I've always thought of quail as something you raised for your hunting dogs or something people raised who didn't have a lot of land or restricted land that couldn't have chickens...
These are both reasons to raise quail...
But there are other reasons to raise this neat little bird...
They are easy to care for...,
And they are tasty.. For both Eggs and meat!
The eggs are nice , fluffy and light..I love them!
The meat is delicious! Not like anything else we raise. 
And they have to be the easiest things we've ever processed. 3 to 5 minutes per bird!! Total. 
 It takes me 12 to 15 to pluck a pekin duck on a good day , if we slaughter at the proper time before the big pin feathers come in....
and that doesn't include kill time or cleaning out the guts. Pekins and bantam chickens take 20 to 25 minutes per bird .. Not bad!
Muscovies and geese take Atleast 40 minutes per bird. Yeah, it's a lot more meat.. And when broken down its a lot of meals!
But sometimes it's nice to have something so fast to get in the freezer and not as dramatic to kill. Geese and Muscovies do not go down easy ☹️
Makes it harder and sadder to me ... 
But they can't all be breeders and to many males hurt the females. So it's part of life here. 
These little guys... Still makes me sad to kill anything but we are not vegetarian .. 
So these guys do make quick and easy meals. 
Let me start by saying though, they are not a low input animal!
Yes, I said they are easy... Especially if you just want them for eggs. They start laying at just around 8 weeks! Lay around 300 eggs a year.. Feed, water, gather eggs..simple.
The high input comes in with the feed.. 
They need fairly high protein food and eat quiet a lot , as most poultry does.
They can't really even be free ranged because they will fly away .. So all their food needs must come from you.
And they are high input if you want meat or replacement layers. They won't brood their eggs so you have to collect, incubate and brood Everytime you want new quail...,
So why quail for a farm that has no restrictions & plenty of land to raise lesser input livestock?
Besides being easy to care for day to day..
They are high output.. And from what I can see very Efficient!! Steady supply of gourmet meat and different tasting eggs from the other egg layers I raise..
Yes please!
Loads of eggs fit in the incubator.. So even if you just get a 50% hatch rate you should still have plenty of quail. Though I see most people getting 60 and up to 75% hatch rates. Incubating and Brooding birds isn't something everyone enjoys.. If you're one of those people quail wouldn't be a good fit obviously!
Always having to incubate and brood would become a huge drudgery if you hate it.
I happen to really like incubating and brooding baby birds though.. Especially in the winter when I don't have a lot going on here on the farm. 

So Fast eggs, fast meat... Outstanding taste.. Easy care...
All good reasons to give them a try!

Plus I'm able to make good use of all those rabbit hutches I've got!
We tried to raise meat rabbits for 4 years..I tried angoras for 1 year.. High input , high out put didn't work for us that time ... Hoping these will fit in much better! 
Time will tell ... More on them later πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ
Have a blessed weekend ! 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Here come the Guineas....

This year we found ourselves with only 3 Guineas... We've had Guiana fowl from the beginning. They were actually the first livestock I purchased for the farm! 
They are most commonly used as tick control and for 'watch dog' duties in the USA. Though they tend to be so loud all the time I'm not sold in the watch dog part.. Geese are way better at warning if there's trouble because they have specific shrill screams when there's a threat.. The Guineas just scream all the time!
For organic tick control the hype is real!! There is no better option than Guineas .
Guineas are very loud , obnoxious and tend to be pretty stupid.... They can fly ... But it takes them a couple of years to be able to fly well! So please don't believe all that you hear about them flying helps protect them from predators... Because They typically do things like fly over our fencing and can't remember how to fly back over .. Carrying on like they do , they draw in predators and get eaten...the females also become sitting ducks when they make their nest in the spring .. Typically making it in tall brushy areas , Ofcourse outside the fences.. She will not leave her nest and gets killed protecting it. Many years we've started out with well over 20 Guineas to only end up with 3 or 4 to overwinter. 
If Guineas would just stay inside the fencing with the donkeys & nite guards they would be fine! 

Last year we only had 4 Guineas so I bought in more and I think we had 17 mid summer... By winter we had 4 males☹️ by tick season we had 3...
I was determined to be done with Guineas and never buy more... Then I had several tick bites this year.. Including a bad tick bite early summer which looked to be this.....

Ok... I'll get more Guineas!  But I didn't want to mess with them this year.. I've got to many geese and Muscovies to deal with! I'll get some next year!
Then last week I pulled a tick off my little Jack colt... 
And then I read this....

So here I am with 30 assorted Guineas o the way... Since Guinea Keets typically aren't available until May or June and it takes a couple of months of brooding and raising they aren't ready to patrol for ticks until late summer usually. So I'm better off ordering them now at the tail end of the season so next spring they are ready to work! 
And Since I'm Not looking to pay over hundred dollars for birds and more in feed raising them to be predator food, this time I'll try having them pinioned so they can not fly out over fencing!
I'm getting them from this place... 

For those who may say pinioning is cruel..flying over the fence and Getting ripped apart by a fox or coyote or played with to death by a neighbors stupid running loose dog is far worse IMO!

I will also mention that if you have any neighbors they might not appreciate your organic tick control efforts! 
We have 35 acres and no close neighbors.. But our Guineas fly out of fencing and end up across a pasture and through a wood lot on our neighbors lawn .. Which that neighbor took us to court over them...because we could not control our Guinea under ' livestock at large' they pressed charges.
It was a huge waste of our precious time to deal with this...
And thankfully It was thrown out of court because our use for Guineas , organic tick control, didn't fall into the definition of livestock according to TN law. 
Our neighbor still has the right to shoot them if they are in his land though.. 

As you can see,, keeping Guineas just will not work out if they can't stay in our fencing... And it's my responsibility to keep my animals on my property.
I certainly expect my neighbors to keep their animals on their property too. 

So here's to jumping in with pinioned Guineas and hoping my organic tick control will stay in our fences to do their jobs!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I went looking for one Jenny (ok, maybe 2!)

I was in total panic mode as we made our way through Virgina last Saturday. My stomach was in knots.. I couldn't even eat my favorite chips I had picked up for the trip ( if I can't eat chips, something is very wrong!) 
My poor husband thought I was going to have a panic attack.. I thought I might have a panic attack!
It didn't help that I had 10 oz. of pure espresso either!
Five hours Up mountains , through the longest tunnel ever , almost all the way to the west Virgina line and down into a hollow to get to this farm for their donkey sell out..,
And when we walked into the pasture my worries and stomach knots melted away,,, I saw these beautiful , perfect sized girls! All coming over to check us out. Have I found an important part of my donkey dairy dream team???

You see I didn't mean to load up 4 new donkeys... I meant to find one Jenny..  Preferably with a young foal so I could milk her. So Orel and little Varda here below are what made me call in the first place!

I mean... Look at her little face!!! 
But I also left with these 2 lovely ladies...
Lior and Adiva... They were just to perfect.. Super friendly, beautiful coloring and that size I like!
Lior may be bred... Or maybe just a little fatty! I'm sure my jack will let me know before to long which it is!
And I love the rarer colored donkeys...
There's a lot of hoof work got to be done! 
Lior has to be on a diet .. Cause even if she is bred , she's chunky! 
And there will be lots of halter and lead training this fall!! None of these new girls are lead trained! None of them!!!
Luckily they already really like me and we are building trust. Donkeys need to trust you. If they don't there won't be much success in training! Thinking animals.. They are such thinking animals!
If all goes well I'll be milking Orel in 4 to 6 weeks!!! 

Huge blessing. To find the size donkeys I want to primarily concentrate on for our dairy donkey project. With color! 
Color is a pretty important part of what I'm trying to do here too! 
I am so thankful to have these gorgeous girls to work with πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

End of the summer in site!

It's been awhile since I've blogged!
This heat wave we've been having has taken a lot out of me! So has an annoying neck injury πŸ˜’ which between that and the heat wave I'm very behind on everything it seems!!
Well,,, and traveling over the southeast to find prospects for the dairy donkey herd!
Finding a donkey I can work with and fits what I'm looking for is no small thing! 
We've looked a lot, walked away several times but, it's not been all pointless...
Since having to sell Henna I've added a gorgeous young spotted girl we went to NC to get.
And another gorgeous girl we went to middle TN for! 
Yep! 2 more future milking donkeys!
I hope to build my herd to 6 to 8 dairy donkeys. Concentrating on more production in the fall and winter... Part of our ' take the farm to the next level' plan. 
That's another post ...
Back to donkeys!!! 
The girl from middle TN is older and was full of milk from nursing her 8 month old foal! So she gets a star for length of lactation obviously! 
Unfortunately the sellers didn't want to part with the foal so Nitzie ( short for Nitzevet) will dry up quickly! So I'll have to wait until next year to really milk her. What little she did let me milk I'm looking forward to it! She has a very nice easy udder to milk!!! 
She's also big enough for me to train her to ride. And She's a doll! 
Look at that fringe on her ears!! Adorable! 
She needs halter work and major work on her hooves ... But she was still an amazing find!!!! Donkeys like this certainly don't come along everydayπŸ€— if they did my 8 spots for Jennies would be filled! 
Just look at her! 
Kikhl is the new addition from NC. 
Also a blessing to find such a girl like this!! She's young. So I won't be breeding her until next spring . 
Also a sweet heart! She had some nipping habits , like most younger donkeys, but she's already learned not to do that... To me anyways! 
Once she's mature she will also be large enough to ride but it'll be awhile. She's got some halter and leading work ahead of her but she is catching on very fast!! 
Adore her.. She'd get in my lap if she could she's such a cuddly baby and absolutely loves hugs !
There's so much going on at the end of the summer. My April and May hatched Chinese geese are finally big enough to move to a larger grow out pen. 
I love geese! ❤️❤️❤️
Second only to donkeys ...
And on the over side of the farm another one of my husbands rare meishans had piglets!!!! Look at all those cuties.
I could never ever go back to other pigs.
I'm still in amazement at how quiet and nice they are! So docile ...

Out in the garden the produce is still rolling in... Mostly okra and peppers now. Still getting a few melons , tomatoes , squash and cucumbers. 
I harvested our first dent corn already, Lima beans, purple hull peas.
Pumpkins and winter squash almost ready to harvest!

I've been getting tons of canning done!
Carmelized onion and red wine pizza sauce, cucumber and green pepper relish , basil tomato sauce , green beans in duck broth, green tomato chutney, salsa verde to name a few things that are filling up the pantry this year!
And this... 
Salted Melon Jelly!
Best jelly I've ever made! Excellent way to capture summer in a jar πŸ™‚
So as you can see the blessings and bounties are many!
I'm ever thankful to God for all this and my savior for giving me peace in my mind to be able live such a quiet but challenging life. 
I'm very thankful. 

It's a hot but beautiful summer... But it's end is near. I'm looking forward to a beautiful cool fall! 
Cool weather to work with the donkeys,, fall gardens without weeds! Hopefully some fall goose eggs!!!! Oh I miss goose eggs so bad!!!!! 

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˜€