Friday, December 11, 2015

Its time to put the "Me" in Meishan

Angie and "Mojo" our best AGH Boar

 Pigs......Who would have figured. When we started this journey almost six years ago I don't think that pigs were a major component in my wife's "master plan" (and this whole thing was her idea). . I know the idea of being a hog breeder wasn't in my consciousness at the time. Flash forward to today and the homestead hog has become a pivotal part of our subsistence homestead model. Notice I said homestead hog. Not the highly muscled standard commercial breeds that fill the aisles at Kroger or even Whole Foods.Not that chicken eating ,fence destroying ,don't turn your back on, mega swine.Not your "new white meat" close to fat free stuff most of us visualize when someone says pork chop.. No for us the homestead hog is above all a red meat lard style carcass hog. Its a hog that's a good barnyard citizen that uses our land not abuses our land.For us to achieve the goal of raising ,growing , gathering or hunting the highest percentage of our food possible (currently about 95%) that success depends in many ways on our pigs and the fats they provide us. To that end we have to date chosen the American Guinea Hog exclusively as the backbone fat and meat supplier in our model.  And its working well. You see our subsistence model is based on feeding us first.Cost offset or even positive cash flow have been subservient to the subsistence goal. Oh I know everyone tells you how their little homestead is going to  grow all their food,make lots of money so they can quit their job, and be the Norman Rockwell nirvana they imagine. Yes we talked like that too.Until reality set in. Feed yourself or farm business quickly became the choice forced by both available time and resources.So today we feed ourselves. Phase one complete....
Now phase two.
How do we take certain components of what we do and make them profitable? Because while we have driven cash flow off of our farm we are just offsetting costs not covering them. Oh and if you are reading this and you are in that Norman Rockwell phase let me give you some advice. Don't quit your day job.
So how do we take something we do and not lose its value to us while increasing its value to the bottom line?
Once again the pig is where we turned. Specifically one of the oldest domesticated breeds of hog in the world. The Meishan Pig
                                     Meishan Pigs at The USDA research center in Nebraka

The Meishan pig was once the focus of an intensive study by the USDA, Iowa State and The University of Illinois beginning in 1989. This study spanned over a decade. You see the Meishan pig is a Chinese hog breed that has been selectively bred to produce high levels of succulent fat for thousands of years.They are also unique in that they are a "hyper productive" .While most heritage hog breed have litters of 4-8 piglets and Commercial breeds target 10-13 Meishan routinely have 15-18 piglets.One Meishan in the USDA study had 28 piglets in one litter.They also enter puberty in 90-120 days as opposed to the 6-10 months of many breeds. It took years of negotiations and literally millions of dollars to bring 33 Meishan sows and  some Meishan (among other) boars to the US. The pigs proved that their hyper-productivity could increase the productivity of other breeds.The rub was that Meishan are a lard carcass and the crosses had increased levels of fat.Remember in the 90's the USDA (the same people who told us Crisco was good for us) were trying to create the super lean rooting machines we have today.The poor Meishan was deemed to have outlived its research value at one of the research facilities and around 2008-2010 the Iowa State herd was dispersed. The remaining herds at the University of Illinois and at the US Meat Animal research center remain sequestered from the average farmer still today.The Iowa State herd was scattered,some were completely lost ,some watered down by other breeds.In fact the lard carcass genetics of many breeds (AGH, Old Line Berkshire,Large Black etc) also fell into disfavor and entire breeds were almost lost. The drawing below is a representation of what Berkshire hogs USED to look like..
 But today everyone from the foodies to the Paleos are driving the resurrection of pasture raised fat. Restaurants and charceuteries cry for fattier red meat pork in a world of dry white wallboard that the USDA grading systems of pork have given us.And those surviving breeds like AGH are poorly suited to American butcher cuts.Plus slow growth and small liters make them poorly suited to many small holder economic models to sell pork. . If there was only a breed that could be crossed with other breeds that wouldnt result in small liters (perish the thought we could get larger ones)but still give higher levels of healthy sweet and delicious fat.
Oh if we just had some Meishan.
Well after over a year of research and long term deposits...Gods Blessing Farm Does
                                                Angie meeting "Chiyo and Pumpkin"
 Yes all the herds traceable to the original stock were not lost. But its taken a long time to research, locate,,negotiate and obtain our first certified pure  Meishan stock traceable directly to the original USDA herd. On December 10th 2015  our boar "Mr Wu" and 2 unrelated gilts "Chiyo" and "Pumpkin" joined the family here.
                                                                   "Mr. Wu"

Now if you had told me six years ago that I would make the effort,and the investment to obtain pig genetics I might have laughed you out of the room. Alas homestead planning rarely follows the homestead path. But the preservation of Meishan Genetics(which are almost irreplaceable in the US) calls to me.Yes I have a vision but mostly I have a gut feel that these pigs are too important to be lost.And no I dont run a museum I run a farm. At the end of this journey I hope and I am gambling on the idea that these pigs can improve many different breeds that can benefit the small holder.

                                              Chiyo and Pumpkin chowing down on turnips

So this project begins.First to establish our herd. Then to begin the search for the compatible breed crosses.First up will be our "American Meishan" project which will attempt to breed a productive lard carcass cross that offers the benefits of both breeds while staying inside the homestead hog template. Then to take our herd and work with the best of other breeds to evaluate compatibility.And finally if the concept proves viable we will be continually looking for lost pure Meishan genetics wherever they may be found.
                                                           Mr got work to do...
 But before you think I claim this as original thought its already being done in different places at different levels. There are already forward thinking breeders using Meishan(along with other lard breeds like Mangalista) to fix the pork the USDA "improved". Our efforts are a small drip in a tidal wave of a pork revolution that has already quietly begun.I hope we are good stewards of these and all of our animals. And that is part of my daily prayers to the Lord. Looking forward to keeping a log of the journey.  Thats all from Gods Blessing Farm today.....
                                                               Chiyo  says Hi!

Monday, November 30, 2015

To all the livestock that didn't work... I still loved ya!

Yes... We've been through the livestock.. Just about every breed of goat available in America , 5 breeds of sheep,, so many chicken & duck breeds , a couple of different hogs, many breeds of rabbits and so on.. Searching for the right animals and/or breed to fit our land and climate with the lowest input possible and greatest use of available natural  resources...

 Ha! And livestock that I can put up with!  

2015 saw a couple of animals make their exit..

Utility pigeons being one... Turkeys...And then goats.. Again!

There are many pros to keeping meat pigeons... And Ofcourse cons like any other livestock I could get into .. But overall they are pretty great!

 .... On a personal level that may or may not effect the individual that wants to raise them... the number one reason for me to let them go was because we grow all our vegetables and grain corn .. So summer is a very bad time for us to have to drop everything and slaughter something.. any animal that isn't born in the winter or spring and has a 6 to 8 month grow out is a management problem. Pigeons tend to be very prolific in the spring and summer eggs take 2 weeks to hatch , then squab are ready to eat in 3 to 4 weeks... They are super fast to process but I don't like anything to take away from my garden and preserving in the summer... And when you get 4 or more ready at once that does take some time! 

Another reason..

 I just can't keep all the poultry I would like,, with bringing chickens back because I needed more egg layers something had to go. The pigeons happened to be in an aviary that would be perfect for my silkies...

I need my egg laying ducks too ( we love eggs!) and my geese certainly aren't going anywhere! So on the list of most needed poultry they needed to go..

I do admitt I miss them....I really miss them.. Their cooing and bathing .. Such beautiful birds! Birds I searched for years to purchase,,, it was a little heartbreaking for me to let them go..But I have to realize I can't keep ALL the livestock animals and breeds.

I'm 1 person .... With 24 hours a day like anyone else.

I do think I squeeze a lot of of my days when I really try but animals will take ALL your time if you let them! 

Which is why... One more time, I say , buh-bye to goats.

Y'all little time stealers just don't work out for me...true I have 'goat land' plenty of browse and hills.. But you guys are drama queens.. Even the most laid back of goats still find their way to trouble here... So annoying are goats to me... And I love them,, I do! But I do not like owning them at all!

I brought them back after being very very happily ruminant free all spring and summer.. 

Seriously it was bliss not having goats or sheep here to deal with!!!

But...always a but!!!  late summer it was obvious we could not keep up with the weeds !!! Geese don't eat weeds once they get to big and fiberous .. And there are areas I just do not want pigs in!!! Not that most pigs are awesome weed eaters but they can help... Not much but some.

My husband can't give up days of his time in our busiest season to weed wack our acres!! A lot of our land can not be mowed at all ,, it's way to steep! So we need something to eat those weeds and be useful . 

Plus, Fresh raw milk is nice to have... I can do without goat milk on a regular basis , that's not a big problem. I seriously do not need as much milk as daily milking goat gives even with the goat milk soap business ... Nor with my milk sensitivities should I consume that much. Regardless... I bring goats back.

 The weeds were such a problem !!! A big problem... So the goats go to work eating weeds.. At a much pickier slower pace than I would like , but still, it's something! My farm was turning into a jungle!

And then... I bring in one of my all time favorite animals.. Donkeys!

 With the addition to the farm of donkeys I can let go of goats again!!!! Yay!!! far..... Donkeys are great weed eaters and I do get along with them way better. My rough land works fine for them and They are much lower input for me and fill more roles here. Example: they don't need a guardian .. They are guardians and I want to get away from using high input dog guardians.. So that's a good fit...

their feeding requirements are less demanding (The larger donkeys eat a lot of forage and hay but still do not require the higher quality legumes and grain most goats need to be productive... However I've found the small standards and minis eat very efficiently!! And way way less) and finally 

The mass amounts of manure they make is amazing for my ever growing gardens! 

So I think.... I hope...I Even pray that donkeys may take the place and job of ruminants here! 

They may have other uses too.. Riding, pulling, packing, milking and in some countries (also now legal in the USA meat) but that's another post in the future perhaps.. Lol! Can you tell I'm beyond excited to have them here!! 

Do not misunderstand though...

Goats are great useful livestock for the right people and farm!! Just not this farm ...

And I come to turkeys... Back and forth I went on keeping them.. My husband even really liked them! And he's not really into the poultry at all. 

The turkeys are wonderful , interesting , beautiful birds  like pigeons. They are certainly tasty and easy to process too!

Ultimately they had to go , because again, I can't keep all the poultry I would like too! Managing 4 separate flocks of geese, chickens and 2 flocks of ducks.. Nope! No time, no space for breeders. 

I was going to make time and space but they kept getting into my garden.. And that was the end of that!!!

Turkeys must go :-( 

I brought in a few other chickens to try.. We will just say Bantams & utility silkies are by far my number one choice for my chicken flock. 

So I'll just have to miss the chickens that didn't make the cut, turkeys and the pigeons .. Goats.. I will probably not miss them... But I will enjoy buying local fresh goat milk when I can and ha! watching others put up with them ;-)

Have a wonderful day and God bless!!! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When the low tunnels come out ...winter is here

We had our first hard frost a few days ago so I decided to pick the last of my carrots and a bunch of mustard & turnip greens that I didn't want going to cover...
But even with it getting down to 20 here my other uncovered beds were fine!
It's amazing how cold hardy some of the greens are!
Went ahead and covered this bed.. Just in case!
Last year I had 3 covered beds with more variety. This fall I couldn't get my cabbage, kale and collards past the rabbits and I couldn't get broccoli past the cabbage moths... Next year we have plans to try and avoid these pests..,
But for this year I'll have to make do with mustard and turnip greens .
I may try sprouting some cold hardy veggies in the green house .. See if I can get some variety going!
Plus it's an excuse to grow something..
At the end of summer I'm so tired and burnt out from the garden and harvest I can't imagine having to prepare ground and plant anything else!!
but within a couple of weeks I'm ready to plant again, wishing for spring ...
Our wood cook stove is finally here!
One of our goals on the farm is try to eliminate using the central heat .. It only makes sense to get a wood stove also set up for cooking. Put that wood to good use!! This stove also has a water tank for hot water should I ever need it.
It's early thanksgiving morning as I write this .. Our dinner will actually be tomorrow night. Really looking forward to cooking because I grew a heritage turkey this year...we grew almost everything that will be on the table!! 
Only four little ingredients had to be purchased!!
I am truly thankful... 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting ready for spring in the fall

Every summer crop has been harvested and the plants killed by frost now.. So preparing for our next spring garden is happening!
Empty beds must not stay empty for long! Putting to bed my raised beds that aren't being used for fall/winter crops are important as fertilizer ... Because in a sense this layer of straw mulch .. Or whatever I mulch with is part if my fertilizer as well as it keeps my topsoil in place and all the micro organizims and earthworms safe and happy! 
Well nourished soil grow nourishing vegetables!! 
Through out the winter other things will be added to the beds.. Layers of chicken, duck or goose bedding and manure,, perhaps a layer of cardboard ,,, layers of donkey manure are sure to be included! 
Dead Leaves are excellent! Layers of egg shells and coffee grounds make their way into the garden also...wood ashes we collect are great for carrot beds !  Everything contributes to well balanced soil. 
Plus all this moving to cover and add matter to the beds through the winter keeps me from getting out of shape and lazy come busy spring and summer! Very important! I get lazy so easy if I allow myself too. 
Another favorite activity for me on the farm in the winter.... Reading up on my favorite and new garden books.. Taking notes and Studying different varities that may work well for us here.. Garden planning!! Yes I do think these things are fun! Lol
This is one of my favorite gardening websites...

It's such an organized site of farming for optimum nutrition...keeping in mind that a healthly vegetable can't be grown in unhealthy soil.. No matter what it is...
And livestock can not produce a healthy food if not fed a healthy diet in the first place. 
I read so many articles that try to make farming for nutrition so complicated ... It's really quite simple in theory .. Though maybe hard to achieve given the modern farming ways most have embraced. 

Meanwhile my fall greens gardens & carrots continue to thrive ... 
I admit to going way over board on the mustard greens....that's ok ,, the geese eat them too! And I'll be experimenting with some green kraut recipes!
Garlic making it's appearance!! Once it gets up a few more inches I'll be giving it a layer of leaf mulch on top of the duck manure compost I added to this bed. 
So even things feel like they are winding down... There's still plenty to do!

It's a chilly today... During the first really chilly days I have to make chili Ofcourse!!
So that Along with some corn chips and rosemary pumpkin humus.. Perfect fall dinner! Fall and winter mean more time to experiment with recipes!!!

So Along with obsessing over next years gardens...Before the madness of spring hits next year , I'm hoping to find time to make lots ginger beer and ginger champagne ... I want to make Real Hominy from our hickory king corn! 
and crochet up some of my handspun yarns I've made over the years. 
I'm going to try my very best to enjoy the slower pace of winter this year.. As slow as it can be here anyways! 
Try to take time and be thankful for all these blessings that are so abundant in my life!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Farm stuff!

Best sweet potato pie ever!!!
We've been chowing down on all the small and damaged sweet potatoes from our harvest since they won't keep very long... Not a bad thing since sweet potatoes is one of my very favorite foods!
I've made a lot of sweet potato pies over the years but this one!!!!
The secret ... Rosemary in the cornmeal crust and using duck or goose egg for the filling... It's a wow moment !
Everything used to make this pie was grown on the farm except the cinnamon.
Very simple recipe with tons of flavor...

GBF Rustic Sweet Potato Pie recipe 

•1 1/2 cup cornmeal ( I use fresh ground white hickory king dent corn)
•1/4 cup of honey
•2 tsp. rosemary
•1/2 cup lard ( preferably leaf lard from a real lard hog will give the best results) 
•enough cold water to make it moist 

Mix and press into a pie dish that has also been rubbed in lard to prevent sticking. Cook until lightly browned at 400.

•2 cups cubed sweet potatoes 
•1/2 cup of honey
•3 ducks eggs or 1 goose egg
•3 tbsp of leaf lard
•2 tsp of cinnamon

I smash the potatoes not purée because I like a chunky 'rustic' type pie.. After I smash them I add all other ingredients, mix well , pour into the crust and bake at 400 for 20 minutes then reduce to 350 for about another 15.

I'm so proud of my pilgrims for laying in the fall!!! Here's a pilgrim goose egg by a chicken egg.
If geese laid eggs all year I'm not sure I would really keep any other birds.. 
Well maybe a few for variety ! I do love the poultry!

And I love my angoras!!!!
Smokey girl is almost ready for another trim!!! Sweet, calm when being groomed.. Just a darling to deal with. Her adult coat is coming in beautifully! I'm very pleased with her lack of matting up even though I have not been as attentive with grooming as I should have been lately. Can't wait to spin it up!! 
Added more donkeys to our farm.. A jack and jenny.
Sweetest jenny I've ever been around and she's the most perfect size!!
Not to big, not to little .. My husband calls her the 'goldilocks donkey ' cause she's just right! So is the jack! 
My first girl is a bit larger.. She will be trained for me to ride if I ever get time!

Farm life is good... But so not looking forward to doing all my chores in the steady pouring rain. Blah! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Just another day in the life of a subsistence farmer in Tennessee

Ahhhh... The homestead, simple life...
Not exactly :-)

I've been trying to make down time each day this read one of the hundreds of books I have.. Or take extra time for grooming some of my fiber livestock... But that doesn't always happen ...
We also try to plan day trips or date nights once a week so I have something to look forward to.... Not bring on/staring at the job site (aka the farm) is important for stress relief ... I don't care how healthy you eat and how much exercise you get ,, if you're stressed you will make yourself sick! We do good sticking to this for a few weeks...
But day trips and date nights Dont always workout either....
Like We had planned to get out of town today... But since we went to look at donkeys yesterday we kinda made a half day trip out of it...still I was looking forward to *really* getting out of town today!!!! 
But that's the way the cookie crumbles...
And back to the homestead work...
It's a beautiful fall day....and garlic needs to be planted before the rain comes in tomorrow night... So I planted a large raised bed of garlic today... And....

I canned mushrooms! A friend gave us about 8 lbs of mushrooms from the local mushroom farm.. These will be a nice treat to add to soups this winter!

While those were processing I melting and strained the bees wax from last weeks honey harvest!
Looking forward to making some body butters & balms with this!
Then Shredded some cabbage and filled up the crock ... Sauerkraut on the way!
Regular chores... Takes me around a hour to feed and water all the livestock im in charge of.. ( around 60+ birds right now, 6 angora rabbits, a donkey, llama and a goat.. For now!) 
Yeah,,About an hour if I hustle...And IF I don't stop and spend extra time with the donkey or llama.. Hard to do! I try not to though.. I like to get through all the chores then go back and mess with them later! :-)
I have got to downsize more of my poultry !!!!!!!!!!

Thankfully my husband is making dinner tonight!
Cause I'm pretty tired.
For now though, I'm gonna go brush the llama and the donkey!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Honey, mulberries & turkeys

It's been a long time coming... Our first honey harvest! 
The honey bees have been one of the most expensive ventures here on the farm so far and fairly difficult to get going.
But it's a missing link here.. Very worth the expense and work. A very important part of what we are trying to accomplish. Just over 3 gallons of honey here and it should last us around 6 months... Longer if we are a tad greedy with it!
All the credit goes to my husband on this one . He's totally in charge of the bees and has done a good job with them.
Oh the turkeys ... Big now,, only 3 left... And it's fall... So their time is running out :-( 
I'll be sad to not have turkeys but I know my limitations (usually!) and breeding another species of bird does not fit in with 2 separate silkie flocks , 3 separate goose flocks and 2 separate duck flocks!
They sure are pretty...
Here's the most amazing fruit tree we've ever planted ! It's a mulberry tree... It was a little stick when we got it and now look in just one season!! I wish I had ordered more ! If the 2 I ordered get through winter ok I will!
This tree was even nice enough to produce a couple of mulberries... Just to let us know how delicious they are!!
Pretty much every thing we eat comes from our own farm now...
For all the endless effort , hard work  and defeats.
The rewarding victories on the plate ..
Improved health , knowing our animals are treated wonderfully and the way the food tastes ... 
It's worth it :-)

I'm amazed at how many days I spend dealing with food from sun up to sun down .... Planting, preparing , preserving, breeding, feeding , protecting ..., seems incredible that it takes this much time to produce food!
But I've never in my life been more appreciative of food... And Never felt more blessed to have it! 

Enjoy the fall... Winter is so close !!
Be blessed :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A reason to have donkeys..

I think donkeys,, like Geese, are a much underutilized animal on the small farm.
With all livestock we manage here I need multiple reasons to keep an animal.
There's a lot a donkey can add to a farm!
Donkeys can be good guardians for at risk livestock , they can pull cart or carry a pack,, you can ride them, use their manure for the garden that they pile up in an easy to pick up manner!
 they are good eaters of weeds that not even my goats will eat . Providing the valuable job of keeping the pastures from being taken over by noxious weeds.
And .. Important... I LOVE them! 

But maybe , most importantly , you can milk them .... For what some people believe is the healthiest milk available for human consumption ....
So... Introducing Amaris... Which in Hebrew means ' given by God'
Not like the goats or sheep I've milked...milking a donkey sounds a bit more complicated ,,, But that's ok because the health benefits of the milk are outstanding. And you won't get a ton of milk , but you don't need to drink a ton for the benefits !
And this is the number one reason I'm bringing them to this farm!
Good health is priceless...and as active as the farm requires us to be so we can feed ourselves it becomes something I think about often.. Staying healthy and doing everything I can to be able to farm as long as I can! And provide my family with the healthiest homegrown foods around!
Now, I'm not the healthiest girl .. I wrecked my digestive system years with junky inflammation causing foods before the farm.. I can't tolerate cow or sheep milk well... Goat milk even has to be in moderation. 
To be honest I would like nothing more than to be able to replace the dairy goats with dairy donkeys! I find donkeys very calming to be around... Cute as they are , goats drive me crazy!!! But Since donkey milk isn't good for cheese making I'll have to keep a couple of trouble making goats around , which will be good for future guardian baby donkeys to be around.
Back to the donkey milk!
Just google it! Donkey milk sounds quite amazing... And Not as uncommon in some country's as the States.
There are actual working Donkey Dairys in other countries!

I've got my first jenny .. Searching for a second jenny and a gentle jack now...
Jenny's are pregnant for about a year so it's a long wait... But I think I will enjoy the wait :-)

I look forward to this project and being able to work with these gentle , smart and very useful animals.

Given by God.. Like everything else I have..and I am ever so thankful!!!

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!!!!) The main gardening season can be brutal but its so very rewarding because the health benefits of growing all our own organic vegetables and grain corn are the most important thing here and have improved our health the most! So I'll take that brutal work and love it!
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 , most needed and most productive for our land and natural resources.
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 find 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 ! (I have way more now!)
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 than an lgd. 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 to our farm 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! Sure they 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. They have horrible parasite issues, birthing issues are common, mastitis and just in general not the hardest livestock out there for the southeast! The climb on fences, head butt things.. scream for me like a 2 year old wanting to be feed every single time they see me!!! Always trying to break into the feed room... oh I could go on about the management of goats!! 
I don't think cows, yaks, camels or water buffalo are a dairy option for us...I tried dairy sheep and they did horrible here!
so goats it is! For as long as I can stand the adorable trouble makers! haha!

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...