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Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall Farm and Dairy Donkey updates

Yes... It's a warm one but Leaves are turning and it has cooled off enough for fall garden crops to take off and sheep breeding to begin!
This years late heat wave took a toll on my fall garden.. But God is good and we have lots of greens!
The silkie chickens have started laying eggs like crazy!! And I'm patiently waiting for more fall veggies and goose eggs again!  
I think all of my donkey Jennets have settled but 1 girl... Our jack may need to get a little taller to breed her!
I'm ok with waiting though! His coloring and temperament are something special!
So I'll give him more time..
I know this is an odd picture below...
 A donkey udder! 
Who takes a picture of that!
Someone who milks donkeys and that's me 😃
Rani is a 40 inch small standard donkey that has been a joy to milk. She is almost 6 months fresh now and still milking wonderfully this fall! 

I was told by a self appointed donkey milk expert 🤔 that a small donkey wouldn't give hardly any milk , be to hard to milk and not be worth my time. That the large standards and mammoths are the only donkey worth milking.
Well...,
He obviously did not know what he was talking about , seeing as how he hasn't milked all the donkeys of the world and probably underestimated the fact that I've got a few years of managing dairy animals under my belt. 
Small donkeys can be wonderful milkers and fill your needs for a much smaller feed bill! Tiny Rani has certainly filled our needs here!

By the grace of God, Rani is an excellent donkey I was able to purchase to begin with!
Along with careful and creative management I'm happy to say that Rani has given us so much milk there's not a day that's went by I've not drank some this summer and I have several months of donkey milk frozen stored up too!
I've also had enough to do some experimenting like making donkey milk fudge , truffles and ice cream!
I manage her like a dairy animal with special needs!! It's complicated but not impossible.
A little donkey giving a whole quart a day is a big deal! That's only what the big donkeys give! Right?
So wrong...
And her udder is so easy to milk out too!

I'm not saying every little donkey will give this much... Maybe Rani is special . I mean, I've not milked all the donkeys of the world either And the donkey hasn't been trait bred in this country to be a dairy animal so who knows what will milk well and what won't. 
I'm just saying it's not wise to give advice on things you know nothing about. It's very misleading. 
I almost followed that ill given advice. I would have missed out on a fantastic milking donkey and 
Leaping into bigger donkeys than I needed would have been a disaster for me at the time I was beginning this journey. Bigger donkeys need bigger barns, bigger pastures And have a much larger feed bill. 
Even my small and standard donkeys are hay burners! Sure they can have a low quality cheaper hay..but they need ALOT of it!

I love my easy keeper donkeys ...,
Rani's perfect , easy milking udder... 
Future dairy donkeys grazing on the rough ' no founder' pasture!
Now that my husband has finished this 4 acres my feed bill has been less than half of what it was for the donkeys. Winter is coming so it's a short lived break though!
Hopefully next year I'll have another 6 acres to add to it. 
Fall brings most of our Meishan farrowings to a close. We've farrowed 6 litters of piglets this year. 
We've sold all but 1 boar piglet from those 6 farrowings! 
He is from a lost line of USDA boars we are keeping to make available as a future breeding pair with a gilt piglet from a December farrowing we are expecting.

We will not be breeding Iowa state to Iowa state any more. The outcrossing to Illinois and USDA lines are producing  faster growing piglets. Genetic diversity is critical in this rare breed if it's to survive with the qualities it had when it was imported.

Our Future Meishan herd sire!
This guy is out of Illinois/Iowa state lines..
Ears for days...and wrinkling up fast!
This piglet is a wonderful product of the 2 long isolated lines crossed..
Minghou is USDA line Meishan... 
Piglets are USDA/USDA lines. 
Since we have in our herd distinctly different and documented pedigrees of the USDA unrelated lines we don't have to worry about inbreeding depression by breeding USDA to USDA. 
I'm very excited about these piglets!!!
Fall and winter are for fiber arts!!!
And I'm very excited about a sheep called Karakul...
This is some karakul lambs wool from Letty Klien, long time karakul breeder in Michigan. 
A breed I've looked at for awhile now...
A breed I hope will be a perfect addition to our farm next year..,
More on that later! 😀
Seasons change and the farm chores may adjust somewhat but there's always plenty to do on a subsistence farm!

Many blessings! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The long process of sheep to shawl

'Sheep the Shawl' that sounds so cool doesn't it? Much like the farm to table movement where people like to know their food comes from well cared for animals.
Fiber artist like me like to know their fiber comes from well cared for animals!

Processing raw wool into yarn and then crocheting is one of the few things I do in which I enjoy the process just as much as the end product. 
Even better is if I get to grow the wool on my own sheep!
It's a long process , so I better enjoy it! 
Picture above , My sheep Latte' is growing a gorgeous fleece!

Many times I enjoy the product I craft but not the entire process of crafting it!
 For example, I don't really like making jewelry but I love the product so I do it since it doesn't take to long.
 I love quilts but I hated the long, very long process of making them so I leave that to my mom and new daughter in law, who seems to have taken right up with all this creative process around her.

Producing a product from the raw fiber off the animal is more like a journey to me! A very interesting journey I never get tired of. 

I know many people that get into farming look to fiber as a way to make a profit.
A fiber business , with the right fiber animal, can be very profitable! 
The producer needs to understand the fiber and be prepared to make a big commitment to producing some great stuff though! Fiber artist are a picky bunch and raising fiber animal isn't the easiest way to go for most new farms.

Most sheep , cashmere goats, alpacas , llamas, yaks and camels only give 1 fiber harvest a year.
  A few breeds of sheep and angora goats can give two. Angora rabbits give around four.
A lot can go wrong in that year or six months waiting for that fiber to be ready!!
It's no small thing to grow an amazing fleece on a fiber animal!!
If fact I'm never sure what I think is harder....
Milking and care of a dairy animal or the care and growing of great fiber on an animal!
 Both take a lot of involvement, commitment and are no small expense!
I've not been very good at growing fiber animals on my farm so far. I've had some success but not as much as I would like! 
My humid climate here in the southeast and the brambles that line the pastures don't make it easy!
Then there's dirt, hay, wool eating pest,good fiber growing nutrition to take into consideration.
It's no wonder good fiber is expensive!

If you get past all that can go wrong and find yourself with some gorgeous fleece from your sheep then it has to be sheared with special blades and a powerful tool called a shearing machine..please don't try to use clippers 🙈🙈 I promise you they will not work!
If you're lucky maybe there will be a professional shearer in your area. Be prepared to help if needed though!

Once the fleece is off.. Shake it out, skirt it, shake it out and roll it up! Store it properly. Better like the smell of sheep because you're going to be covered in it!
I personally love that lanolin wool smell ❤️
Then it must be washed! Depending on how dirty it is I wash and soak a fleece 2 or 3 times.
Then spread out on a screen to dry for a day.
I love to watch the dirty wool transform into gorgeous clean fluff!

Now the real fun! 
If I dye the fiber, that's a day of color mess and drying on the screens.
Oh but it's so fun!!

Then prep for spinning! 
Picking and carding the wool!! Mixing with fun fibers like bamboo or silk!! 
A drum carder is best for this.

You can see how time consuming this is right? So far we have, A year growing it,
A day shearing and storing, a day washing and drying, maybe a day to dye and dry, a day to prepare and blend...
And then finally I'm ready to spin it into yarn!!!
There are so many options for yarn depending on the type of fiber you have! 
Fat and fluffy yarn.. Slick and smooth.. Or quirky art yarns!

After its spun then it needs to be plyed for balance and strenth.
Set over night.. Then unwind on the skein winder. 

I have yarn !! Finally!!!!
Now I soak the yarn in hot water and hang dry for a day to 'set'.
Then it's ready to whind into a ball!


after all this... It's ready for me to crochet into the final desired product!!  
Which can take me anywhere from 2 hours to 2 years depending on the project. 

Ofcourse with fiber the possibilities are so many..crocheting is probably my favorite thing to do with it right now but there's Felting, wet or needle!
Knitting , rug hooking, rug braiding and then there's weaving!
I do wish I liked weaving it's an amazing art!
I'm sure I'm leaving many things out that can be done and I just haven't discovered yet!

If you like crafting and learning there's a chance you will like some part of the fiber arts.
If you love animals and fiber then perhaps a fiber farm is in your future!

Just remember to try and enjoy the process as much as the end product because it can be a long one!!!

The Complexity of managing a donkey for milk

So you think you might want a dairy donkey? 
Donkeys are very wonderful creatures. 
Throughout history people have used donkey milk to drink for healing and for orphaned newborns.
 It's also been a prized ingredient for beautification of the skin.
They can be great livestock guardians on the right farm.
They can be pack animals, pull a wagon or even rode. 
And yes, they can give an amazing healing milk that is helpful to people with certain health issues or milk casin allergies. 
It's a wonderful dairy option on the farm for those reasons!
A multipurpose animal that gives milk! Sounds awesome, doesn't it? 
And It is, but let's talk about what makes them so different and possibly difficult to manage. All animals used for milk are not the same! 

They are very unlike our other popular dairy animals here in the USA.
First ,They are very inefficient producers of milk so do not be shocked to find donkey milk sells for $10 a cup if you wish to buy it. There are many reasons for this...

It takes a whole year , sometimes 13 months for a Jennet to have a foal.
Compared to a goat or sheep which only takes 5 months. A big cow only takes 10 months.
Most standard and mammoth donkeys give an average of a quart a day .. I've heard a few people get a little more and I've talked to a few who got much less. 
The donkey has not been trait bred in this country for dairy production so what they will milk isn't going to be as predictable as a well bred dairy goat with extensive DHI records and intensive line breeding on that trait. 

Donkeys don't need expensive high protein , fancy alfalfa hay or rich pasture. But they do eat a lot! The average donkey will eat 1.5 to 2% of its body weight a day. So an 800 pound standard breeding jennet donkey will need approximately 16 pounds of grass hay or pasture a day!
Compared to a large dairy goat that needs around 7 pounds of hay and feed a day and many can give a gallon of milk a day for 10 months or more. Yes, now you can see why goat milk is $10 a gallon and donkey milk is $10 a cup!
But there's more!
Once baby is here you need to wait 6 weeks before you can start milking. 
No taking the baby donkey away to bottle feed it cheap milk replacer so you can have all the milk like with a goat,cow or sheep!
The jennet needs to have her baby around nursing or she will dry up. You must share the milk with the foal throughout lactation in order for her to give milk.
Which also means if something horrible happens and the baby dies , yes she will dry up and you're out a lot of time and feed cost with no milk. 
Once the foal is eating solids and can be taken away it can only be taken for 4 to 6 hours at first. Donkeys do not have huge cisterns to hold lots of milk. She will be in peak production at this time. Taking the foal away for to long may decrease production and possibly hurt the Jennets udder.
The foal still needs a lot of milk itself at this point also!! 
So.. No being greedy with the donkey milk.
As the foal ages the Jennets production will decrease like with any mammal. 
They will usually milk for 6 to 8 months. 
Sometimes longer but production will be much less and not as nutritious at this point. If she's been bred back it's a good idea to let her recover and get in shape for the next foal too.
Keeping a jennet and gelding as guardians is easier to me than keeping a livestock guardian dog. As long as the sheds and pastures are big enough and you have a good source for hay they are the best depending on what you are having them guard. They are no more expensive than keeping a couple livestock guardian dogs but they do tend to need more room or they will turn areas into dry lots.
 However when you bring breeding into the program you have the added expenses of feeding more food to the jennet when she is heavy in foal and throughout lactation to get really good milk production. You also have the foal to feed. Which will be on the farm for atleast 8 months for lactation.
 
You also must keep a jack. An intact jack is no small thing to deal with! He can be dangerous at times.
He needs a pasture and shelter of his own when the foals come to insure they aren't hurt. He may bust through fences to get to Jennets in heat before you want them bred.
He will also be eating 1.5% of his body weight a day!
My jack above. He's a sweet boy , easy to work with but never for one minute do I forget he's a raging ball of hormones if the mood strikes!

The milk has been an amazing blessing to me. It's healed my digestive problems as well as many food allergies I had developed. It's light and sweet. The best tasting milk I've ever drank! I've used it in many dessert recipes and for iced lattes it's great!

But it's probably not going to fill all your families wants for dairy products.
There will be no thick yogurts or butter from this especially low in solids milk.
It's very difficult to make cheese from donkey milk. It must be mixed with another milk or you must have a special enzyme from a camel for it to coagulate. Then it's very very low yielding. Which is why it's the most expensive cheese in the world! Inefficient milk producers and low cheese yields!

It makes wonderful chocolate truffles, ice creams and fudge though for people who can't have regular dairy!
Below a picture of donkey milk fudge sauce I made to go over baked apples.
Donkey milks natural sweetness makes it perfect for desserts. I often add our high quality lard to the desserts to for texture and creaminess if needed. 

At the end of lactation when the donkey milk may not be as helpful to health issues it's a valuable ingredient in cosmetics and makes wonderful soaps and lotions! 
I've managed and milked goats and sheep. Neither dairy animal is what I consider low input or easy to manage.
They are more efficient at producing milk and easier to manage in many ways than a donkey. They are also very multipurpose in their own ways and very useful on a farm.
But for people who can not have casin proteins or have very special health needs I can not express how amazing donkey milk is. 
I certainly didn't go out looking to add dairy donkeys to my farm! 
I was totally lead to this special animal through several events and I have been greatly blessed by this healing milk.
Food can and does heal. 
God gives us healing foods. I believe this because I have lived it.
So no matter the complexities of managing a milking donkey it's been worth it for me. Completely worth it.
And I am so thankful I was lead down this not so easy road! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Pilgrim Goose, rare and perfect for a small farm

I mean no disrespect to the other goose breeds! 
I actually love all geese for their beauty , ease of caring for the adults and hardiness of their goslings. 
Not to mention their ability to turn grass into delicious meat, golden fat , rich livers and the best tasting eggs I've ever had!
Can't forget the down either! Best down on any bird is from the goose.
All geese excell slightly different in qualities but All geese are excellent multipurpose livestock! When you have a smaller farm like we do ( only 35 acres)
The Pilgrim goose is hard to beat has a lot to offer!

Ive had several different breeds and crosses.
 I settled on keeping Chinese and raising pilgrims for different reasons. 
Before I get into pilgrims here's my experiences with the other breed I keep for some comparison...
I absolutely adore my Chinese geese... They are so loud!!! So very,very loud! I personally enjoy their constant chatter and arguments. Many people do not! They are truly excellent 'watch dogs' and scream so loud when they see Hawks.
Most geese make good alarm systems.
I love their slender ,gracefull appearance and the odd knobs on their beaks!
Most of all I love ALL the eggs they lay.
It's a shame that people in the USA have bred this bird to primary be a show exhibit and not a utility egg layer as it was developed to be. They are the heaviest laying goose in the states but breeding for standard of perfection with no thought to egg production has meant their productivity isn't what it once was. 
Still they do produce a lot of eggs. They do not go broody and can be aggressive toward other poultry and each other! They are kinda barnyard bullies..
They are never aggressive to me or other people though.
They arent easily sexed unless you can vent sex them or wait until they start developing their knobs. They are worth keeping around and I enjoy them. Since I primarily want them for eggs, I don't plan to breed them every year. 
They are wonderful but I can see how they would not work for everyone.
They also need extra protection in the winter so their knobs won't get frost bite.

Now , The pilgrim goose. It is the calmest , quietest goose I've ever owned. It's a gorgeous breed and one of the very few goose breeds that can be sexed by color as soon as they are hatched. 
Which makes life very easy! 
Also , they do not fly.
Most domestic breeds don't but the other auto-sexing geese tend to fly better than Pilgrims.. Which do not fly at all!
My main line of pilgrims lay almost as many eggs as a Chinese but because they do go broody they don't lay as long.
They do have larger eggs. Not all lines of pilgrim lay well. Many lines have been inbred severely and are loosing productively as well as the sex link coloring and fertility. Sourcing out good stock can be an issue with this rare goose. 
Once you find good breeding stock this bird is a treasure!
They are medium sized , nice tempered geese. They won't share a nest or feed bowl with the other poultry but they don't go out of their way to be mean either.
They only honk alittle when they see me or if they get separated from each other.
They are protective of their nest and goslings but aren't near as aggressive as many breeds. So they are a great goose if you have small children because they do not attack unprovoked. They are excellent mothers and the ganders are good protectors of the goslings also. He will even stand guard in front of the goose nest while the geese are sitting. 
The pilgrim to me is the perfect sized meat bird.. Not to small not to big.
They never over eat if I have to feed pellets and if my pasture is good I do not need to feed extra. 
They don't need special shelters, a three sided shed is fine for nest making out of the wind and weather. 
They are a very low maintenance breed if managed properly. 

Honestly ,, Any goose is better than no goose at all!
If I had to choose just one goose breed it would more than likely be the Pilgrim.  
I've loved the other breeds and really like the Chinese because they are different and excell at egg laying. 
The pilgrim is the perfect package to me though... Very easy and a joy to keep. 

I look forward to goslings every year! 
Possibly the cutest baby poultry ever!
That's just a bonus 😉


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Low maintenance donkeys have some high maintenance needs

I've had donkeys for just over a year now. As usual with anything I throw myself right in , all or nothing! From a lone guardian donkey ( which is never a good idea to have a lone donkey) to a small herd of potential dairy donkeys complete with a stud jack and some girls with riding potential! 
I've taken on a few I probably shouldn't have. It's important to know your limitations! Bringing home an intact , mishandled Jack and an easily spooked large jennet was not the best thing to do!
I survived and learned from it but I sure don't recommend anyone that's new to donkeys try it! 
I have only been fortunate a couple of times to be able to buy a well trained donkey.
One that never runs from the halter.. Leads,, loads and stands nicely tied for the farrier ... I even had one that was trained to ride one time.
Once you've had a well trained donkey 
It's a pain to have one that is not trained!!
This is one of the things about owning donkeys people usually don't consider. Yes they are low maintenance for feed.. The standard donkeys don't need fancy grains and alfalfa hay and they don't need rich pasture.
They do, however eat a lot of that low quality hay they need! So if you live in a area that difficult to get hay please be aware of that. Low maintenance food does not mean cheap to feed!
Donkeys usually don't suffer from parasite problems as much as most livestock ( atleast mine haven't) especially compared to goats and sheep.
But they need more training and to be worked if you want a well behaved donkey for the farrier or if you need to load it for the vet Or lead it to a milking area! Especially if you plan to milk one, the jennet needs training!
They also need special hoof care and not every farrier knows how to trim a donkey properly. Equally important is not every farrier understands how to approach and handle a donkey, so they do more damage than good the next time they need hoof work. Donkeys are smart and remember when they've been mishandled! I've got 2 Jennys that have obviously been very mishandled. It's sad and it's a lot of work to earn their trust.

These are just a couple of things that make low maintenance , easy keeping donkeys a higher maintenance livestock at times. Their need for extensive training and special hoof care.  
Below here is Rani's foal .. I started halter training him at 2 weeks old! He lets me pick his feet up , he leads. We will be working on loading soon!
Who ever buys this guy will have a wonderful well trained gelding that's been raised around poultry and sheep. I want to help ensure the foals born on my farm get good homes.. Sending them out well trained is a good way to do this. 
As I've said most donkeys available are not trained and if given the chance I'd pay more every time and get one trained if I could. A $200 standard donkey not broke for anything or a $600 or $800 standard donkey perfectly trained... Or even the $1000 donkey trained for riding ..really riding ,, not just someone sitting on its back and being lead around . That's not riding that's more like packing a human!
Yes... It's a case of you get what you pay for! 
Unfortunately I don't have the choice of just buying the kind of donkeys I like already trained for the most part around here. So all the work ahead is mine to take on...

Below is the round pen for training and 3 of my donkeys standing tied. None of these donkeys were trained for anything when I bought them. My black jack on the left has been the easiest to train .. He halters, is leaning well, let's me pick up his feet, stands tied patiently and he now loads! 
I've only had him 2 months! He's very young and so is the jennet in the middle .. She has also taken to training well.
The Jennet on the right is much older and has been long neglected. She is harder to train. But she is leading very well, standing and actually starting to load some! She's a challenge though because she does not trust easy! In order to train, the donkey must first trust you.

Another thing to consider is the equipment needed for handling and training. I don't even have any fancy stuff here.. Just basics.. Halters, leads, brushes and other grooming stuff ,some farrier tools ( not really good ones but I'll be buying better ones soon because these aren't strong enough to trim the big girls hooves and to big for my hands) 
I bought a lot of this used... Still well over $200 of stuff.. And now I badly need a tack area for all this stuff!
Unforeseen cost that go with an animal can add up! Once I buy better farrier tools and possibly get into saddles , packing and riding gear that's really going to add up and require more storage space. 
I still consider donkeys low maintenance , but to make living with them more enjoyable and more healthy for them they do have some high maintenance needs that have to be considered.  
A particular large expense is a livestock trailor. I can't easily put donkeys in the back of the van like I can a sheep so we had to invest in a livestock trailer or rent one. 
Since donkeys are here to stay we bought a used one and it's made life so much easier! 

I hope this helps people looking to get into donkeys. To many times people underestimate the needs of these animals. It's better to be prepared than to get a big 500 pound or more donkey home that you realize your not up to dealing with. 
Donkeys are the most wonderful creatures and well worth the effort as they can fill many roles on a farm! 
They are a joy to work with when they trust you! And very easy to mantain once you know how to manage them. 

I'm still learning all the time! 
They are a huge part of our farm. Love my donkeys ❤️❤️

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Make mine Meishan!

Well... All three lines of Meishan have farrowed now!
Illinois state, Iowa state ( which is the most common line but all Meishan are rare) and finally the USDA lines!
We are very pleased with these pigs..
Our pastures haven't been damaged by them.. They are calm and so docile..
They only time they make a noise is when they heat cycle . If it wasn't for that I'd forget they are even here!
Seriously.. We have a total of 40 adults, juveniles and piglets on our property right now!!! 40!!! I can't believe there are 40 
And it's so quite ... Peaceful even!!
Well... Until the geese or donkeys or sheep see us! 😂 they are not so silent!
We are very very happy with the growth rates of the outcrossing if the Iowa state and Illinois lines! They are growing faster than the Iowa state to Iowa state breedings. The Iowa state to Iowa state is still growing faster than Kune or AGH though! Thankfully!! I hated the growth rate on those pigs.. 
And we are looking forward to seeing the growth rates of the USDA lines that have just been born these past two weeks!
This is very exciting to us having the last of the 2 research herds and being able to see first hand how all 3 lines compare.
Above .. Just look at that perfect Meishan face 😃😃

Maybe you think they are ugly .. Weird or just don't get it! But they are the 
only pigs I could ever tolerate now.
After raising AGH, GOS.. Couple of kune .. Looking at other breeds on farms I just couldn't imagine even putting up with any of them after these sweethearts!
Yes... I called pigs sweethearts!
Only these pigs though!!!

Gotta make my mine Meishan 😉
We are so very blessed to have been given this rare opportunity to work with this breed and to be able to save the last ones from the last 2 research centers so the breed may continue in the USA without all the extensive inbreeding that can happen when there are no records of the breedings. It's wonderful bonus to have such nice pedigrees on the USDA hogs!! Which we are able to pass onto others who want to be involved in this amazing pig! With 6 unrelated boars this breed can be saved , with proper management, from the perils of inbreeding depression which takes away from the wonderful qualities this hog brings to the table!
I never thought I could be excited about raising pigs ...
But watching this breed ,, seeing how different it is than any other pig I've seen..
It is exciting!!

Very blessed indeed!! 
They have even been good for our marriage .. Cause now I'm not constantly complaining about my husbands pigs! Lol! 😂😂😂
Great pigs,, fantastic low input livestock!

Happy peaceful farm days....

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Garden Winners and Losers

This year I had some outstanding harvests. Gardening is a huge part of our farm and food supply. 
For the last 6 years no matter how small something is always growing in my garden.
In the fall and winter there may be greens, onions , garlic ,spinach and carrots ... To early spring with mass amounts snow peas , carrots ,broccoli , more greens, radishes and kohlrabi .. To summers filled with tomatoes , cucumbers, melons, okra, peppers, squash , grain corn and more! 
This extra long Summer's end has left us still with peppers, okra, wild tomatoes and sweet potatoes not yet gathered..
Waiting for that first frost to sweeten the fall/winter greens! Spinach , broccoli, cabbage and hopefully Brussel sprouts!!
The garden is never boring .. It's a ton of work.. But boring?? NO! 
But it can be totally overwhelming if you have other things going on.. 
Like kids.. like dairy animals,,or like animals that need more attention & training than other livestock (donkeys!)
Maybe Like so many different hobbies ( I have to many hobbies!) .. Or Like a life! 
And no matter how good you think you are at gardening... There will be failures!
Every single year....
No matter how tried and true you plant the weather will rule your outcome.

Now this year , yes, I had huge harvests and lots of success .. 
But I also had loads of fails this year, mostly because I did a lot of experimenting ...never know till you try!

This year...
Winners: •little tyke cucumbers ( extra early hybrid) planted in wall o waters in March .. I was harvesting cucumbers in April!
•Red stripped greasy beans( hands down best tasting green bean I've ever ate,, we loved these! unfortunately so did the rabbits.. Next year I will protect longer!)
•paymaster dent corn ( a grain corn that can be grow on sub-standard soil,, needs another run because my goslings broke in and ruined most of it.. But it did produce even without the additional mid fertilizing I have to give other grain corn)
•red ripper cow pea
•Dixie Lima peas
•Bertha low Lima beans
•snow on the mountain Lima beans
•Charleston grey watermelon (amazing!)
•spaghetti squash ( 88 day , netted and planted extra early to avoid SVB. Planted late it couldn't hold up to the heat) 
•tender green mustard ... Love!
•dragon tongue mustard .. So hardy! But very hot and sharp! Needs frost to mellow the flavor. 
•glacier tomatoes ... This is an extra early , more cold tolerate tomato and only does good here ( zone 7) planted extra early! I start seeds end of Janurary and plant in wall o waters in March . 
Done right this plant will give you tomatoes by the end of May/first of June .. Which is way better than waiting until July for most tomatoes! They do die out end of June. 
• sugar Ann ... Great sugar snap peas! Early and long producing for a pea here!
 
Losers never to be planted again...
• any *new* specially bred OP tomato .. I devoted huge space to plant these new improved tomatoes .. none of them could hold up in the humidity here. Some never produced a single tomato , some produced a small amount of unimpressive tasting tomatoes! I'll stick with my 3 tried and true favorites next year! Maybe try one of the hybrid specifically bred for humidity! 
•mouse melons .. Hardly produced until late summer.. Took up a lot of space..Then they produced a load of tiny fruit and have an odd , unappealing texture. Nope!
• buttercup squash.., supposed to be more insect resistant .. Lol! Produce 2 squash and died from SVB!
• shark fin melon ... It's huge .. Grew and grew took over a huge area..and it's weird and it produced 2.. Never again!
• cassabanana ... No.. Just no!!
•triple treat pumpkins... A naked seeded pumpkin that's supposed to be good for eating and carving..Produced 3.. They were terrible keepers.. Not a lot of seeds.
So.. No...
•Job's tears... Used as a grain like barley .. They grew beautifully! Formed perfect seeds and then kinda molded ☹️ not good for high humidity obviously..,
•tiger nuts... Grew great!! Produced well..But what a pain to harvest and clean!!! Would be good in a food plot to draw in turkeys though 
•any variety of sweet corn ... Just no! They suck up a huge amount of nutrients , attrack pest like crazy and take a lot of space For very little food.. And are kinda a one trick pony compared to a good heirloom dent grain corn .. Which can be eaten off the cob in its milky stage or left to dry for cornmeal either way. Either one the Cobs can be used to make corn cob syrup though (which I made this year and it's amazing!) 
• flour or flint corns... They are just to attractive to pest here. And they typically only produce 1 ear per stalk. I like dents that produce 2 ears per stalk. For obvious reasons ..
• any snow pea but Norli ... I planted 4 different types this year. Snow peas don't exactly like this climate and must be planted very early to get a crop .. I plant in February.
 But most snow peas still yield to little for me .. All but Norli. I won't bother with any other again.
•runner beans... Did surprisingly well planted extra early but wow! They take up tons of space! Not worth the space for the yield for me. 
• fava beans... They are yummy and different but they yield low and I've decided they must hate it here. Only 1 variety I planted produced anything. I'd rather just have more snow peas anyways. 

I think that sums up all the experiments this year!! Except for the sweet potatoes which haven't been all harvested yet..

Next year I will more than likely stick with tried and true since I'll be milking sheep and cheese making again on top of planting, training donkeys , managing baby poultry and lambs! 

Hope some of you zone 7 gardeners find this helpful! 
Blessings for great future gardens!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

New plans for a favorite farm animal

Live and learn... An example of what the hobby farm glossy type magazines don't tell you...
Sure! They tell you to rotate sheep to minimize damage to pasture .. Because sheep naturally eat very close to the ground...
But none of my magazines or books told me the most important information...
The most important information I got about sheep management came from a long time shepherd ... But it was to late.. Damage was done... And on top of the limping problems and other issues I had already sold my sheep. 
Now,, With sheep back in the picture grazing management has to be a big priority to protect the pastures. I don't have acres and acres of lush pasture so I have to be careful..my donkeys also run the same areas . And donkeys aren't exactly easy on grass either!!! ( if you really like your grass and don't have much of it goats work much better.. If you can stand goats! Lol! I can't!) 
The grass these sheep in the picture below are feeding on here in 2013 was totally ripped out by the sheep and turned to a dry lot come late fall. 
Despite rotating my 9 dairy sheep ( that's right only 9!) between 5 areas!!! they still ripped up any grass come Sept./October when the sugars of the grass went to the roots...Where ever I put them they uprooted it immediately. 
I did not know this would happen and thought simply rotating would be enough .. It's not!
So now in the fall they will be run into a dry lot area to be over wintered. And also during droughts or during times when the conditions of the barberpole parasite are at a high.. A.k.a. death to the sheep!
Unless I actually want the grass ripped out so we can re seed an area!
Sheep... Are So not a low input animal!!
Especially dairy sheep or fancy big longwool breeds ( loved those so much! but totally did not work well here for various reasons...if I ever think I can figure out how to make them work I would try! I have to say Hair sheep do seem much lower input!) 
But what an amazing , useful addition to a farm if you can figure out how to make them work for you. 
How many animals can you get meat, milk , leather, tallow and even some even fiber from for yarn or felted material!! Lanolin too if you want to bother with it. And Don't forget all that poo/wasted hay fertilizer mulch that can be put on the garden without composting.
Not to mention the joy of seeing them, hearing them and smelling their wonderful lanolin wool everyday! 
Totally special livestock! 
Here's to hoping and praying I can make them work here! 
One of my new lacaune Friesian dairy sheep above 😘 gorgeous girl!! 
Many blessings!