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 :-)


Monday, August 10, 2015

The Days all run together...

On the farm my days all run together... I never know what 'day' it is! Especially during the 'perfect storm' homesteading months... when garden upkeep meets harvest meets prepare garden for fall/winter gardens...
an Average day on the farm....

Have strong coffee... put my 2 little darling goats (yes yes goats again! doing a post on that later!) in an over grown pasture or woodlot to avoid parasite issues...
let out around 100 free range birds... watch as they chase, fight and start to forage ... check to make sure everything is as it should be... dogs in place... nothing dead or sick! as livestock illness can sneak up on ya! especially with goats... this is everyday..
then... what foods have to be delt with.... today tomatoes have to be dehydrated... 

winter squash have to be cured and stored.... theres SO many this year!!!!! over 21 cushaw in ... siminoles and TN vining are starting to finish too!
Had to pick the garden... at this point I'm becoming very very burnt out on the garden and preserving!!! So I have to 'pep talk' myself!!
pink eyed peas may have bombed this year (for the first time ever!) but whipperwill peas are making up for it!
Also had a huge bag of late provider green beans ready... a bunch of white velvet okra,,, asian melon, butternut squash and a few more tomatoes (tomatoes are almost done in by blight now and I'm wishing I had taken the time to plant a few late tomatoes to get me into fall) 
Meanwhile ,, in and out of the house to check the fat back I had started rendering in the crock pot... we use leaf lard for cooking... fat back for soap making. Our AGH lard is such a huge blessing and part of our food independance... and cosmetic independance too! All our soaps, shampoo and laundry detergent are made for our lard!
And meanwhile every trip in as I suffer from garden burn out I give a look to the beautiful cloud of angora fiber I'm itching to spin!!!! I did NOT like raising meat rabbits... nor did my husband... but I loved raising angora rabbits for the short time I had them..time management was the issue with them as they are fairly high upkeep!!..but much like the goats I had approached it all wrong. Will revisit Angoras later.. and post on it :-)
Balance on the farm... work/joy..... so hard to obtain but we're getting better Praise God!!!
Shelled some fresh whipperwill peas for dinner while downing an afternoon goat milk latte' ! Cant wait for dinner....
Out to do half my watering feeding chores.... and throw the geese some not prime tomatoes,, they love tomatoes!
Then back in to make some Cushaw cornbread to go with dinner... and finish straining my lard.. lovely bunch of cracklin's ....
Back down to the barn to milk Sugar and feed Gumdrop.. cut some tree branches for them and put them in their holding shelter for the night.. 
Back up to the house to strain the milk and wait for it to get cool enough to put up the poultry and waterfowl...
Then back up to finally eat dinner... which thankfully my husband cooked! Fresh catfish, whipperwill peas, cushaw cornbread and rainbow tomato...
perfect way to end another crazy busy day on Gods Blessing Farm.

Now for today...whew,.... just thinking about it I'm overwhelmed! which is why I took time to blog and sort of gather my head! and pep talk myself into getting ready to sweat while dust and dirt stick to me, get bug bites,  wade through itchy weeds and the thick humid air..... must focus on that high yield fall garden goal and filling the root celler for winter!
 I love it.... or certainly couldn't do it.... after all, I'd rather be busy than bored! somedays, especially in late summer I'd like to be less dirty and sweaty everyday!.. I'd certainly like less bug bites! Summer gardens are rough!!!!
My husband and I sometimes talk about what the heck we would do if we didn't do this... there are other options for us... we sure don't have to farm....but we did realize a major problem...after truly clean eating very healthy for these years...our taste buds don't like store bought foods...
and store bought or restaurant foods tend to make me extremly sick... or just leave me tired. 
yeah,, farming has trapped me! lol! I'd have to track down a farmer who's into growing vegetables , eggs, raw goat milk and meats like we do.... which we don't take the easiest road when it comes to raising our foods... quality over quanity here. And who the heck would I find to raise a true lard hog for me! Its hard enough to find someone to buy a feeder piglet from of our limited acceptable breeds. Which is primarily why we breed them ourselves. 
yeah... trapped now... for my health and the happiness of my taste buds....

Many blessings to you all... time to get to it!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Third times a charm...Or is it 3 strikes and you're out!

Well... They are back... Again.... 
And I'm praying and hoping that this time our approach will work!
Dairy goats... A main component of my dream farm..ah... As we know 'dream farms' or ' dream anything doesn't always work out. We built so much of the farm to accommodate dairy goats!
And every bit of what we built for goats has worked out to accommodate other livestock.
When you're raising over 90% of your own food priorities are very important and high input livestock had to be taken out of the equation. 
However... Our land is very much ' goat land' ...a few Weedy pastures.. Steep hills (which about killed the sheep I tried to keep!) tons of wood lots .. Many very over grown , wild and beautiful! Wouldn't trade my trees or hills for the most perfect pastures in the world!
Perfect pastures are good for sheep and cows...
Goats need weeds and over grown wood lots to be truly healthy .. It keeps them from getting barber pole.. Provides them with their natural high mineral foods and good stemmy fiber keeps their rumens working. All this also means no or very little feed bill making them economical..instead of an expense burden!
Pasture breeds barber pole , doesn't provide fiber or enough nutrition...
So here I am with great goat land and no time for goats.... Ok.. I had 30 goats! Lol!!
Way to many for the amount of fencing I had... Talk about breeding barber pole...
And a feed bill through the roof!
So bye bye goats! Incoming.. Sheep!
Then the dairy sheep bit the dust on my non sheep friendly land!
There's a lot to be said for getting the right kind of livestock for your land! It will make life with livestock somewhat easy.. 
So we brought in fainting goats... I had high hopes.. They are much hardier and easier to handle... They cost nothing to feed on my land... They could be milked as I had before..but much less milk,, less maintenance 
But it just wasn't right... I still felt like I didn't have time for them either... And i didn't 'love' the fainters... Dealing with animals is much easier when you truly love keeping them...It's as important as having the right natural resources for them... 
Anyways.. I had brought in 4 does and 2 bucks... Still To much to manage and keep up with! 
During this time I had struck up a deal with a couple of people to trade eggs for goat milk.. I do have a soap business and milks make the best soaps! My milk allergy doesn't allow for much milk but I can tolerate raw goat milk well in small amounts.. So , yes! Perfect deal!!
Then one of my sources needed all her milk for a new farm project she wanted to  try... All good... I have another lady with good milk... But she proved to be less than reliable when I needed that didn't work out either.
Now what!
Remember how I kicked chickens to the curb.. Ducks were more economical , easier to manage and worked way better as egg layers here and we liked their meat better...
Yes...all that... But missing chickens I brought in a few silkies , expecting to raise them and probably sell them because chickens really don't make sense to keep when something else works so well for the same purpose..

To my surprise they are the perfect chicken for our farm!!! Extremely economical ,, very easy to manage .. Good layers of small eggs and the most excellent chicken meat I've ever had...
Winner winner... Yum chicken dinner!
Now since my good experience with those chickens I have attempted to bring in other breeds I liked... They do not work as well as the silkies for us...

So with knowing this... One victory reintroducing a animal.. And then another fail... 
Why not try my first love livestock again.. Small dairy goats....
So I searched and found a doe in milk.. Big priority .. Easy to milk open orfices.. Got no time for hard to milk!!
Didn't not want a huge producer.. Didn't want any bred for show or papers.. Just bred for easy milking and easy to keep..
Found her! And bought her daughter too! Hoping her daughter has the same easy to milk udder!
2 does... That's it! A buck will be brought in for breeding and then he can leave....
All young goats they have will be for our food. Which we really like goat meat! One of our favorites .. Even though they don't yield as much as lamb we like it way better.

So far... So good....I have 2 holding areas for over night keeping.. One for summer, one for winter...
During the day they browse one of the over grown pastures or wood lots... I have more food here than 2 two mini goats ever consume!
At night Sugar is milked and I put them in the summer shelter area with some cut tree limbs to hold them over til morning...
No need to feed hay till everything has died late October or November probably...
It does take extra time to manage them but it's a small enough amount of time I can spare in exchange for milk, some weed control and meat.
And Ofcourse maybe some nice pelts! Kid leather is so nice!

This gives me hope I can add back a couple of my favorite rabbits.. Angoras.
The only rabbits I ever liked!
I'm a spinner and crocheter .. Angora is my favorite fiber .. And it's so hard to find good angora wool!! And Harvested to my standard...
So it's a venture I'm willing to try with a couple to see if it works...
Different approach... 
Picking 2 buns up this weekend so we will see how this venture goes! 
Well I hope!

More of this subject later...
Many blessings!