Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sabbath Peace

 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...             Ecclesiastes 9:10

Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Random Thoughts and Updates

  * We need rain - haven't had any in weeks
  * It's way too hot for this time of year. The Gulf temperature is already 73.9 degrees. I'm concerned about the possibility of hurricanes this summer!
  *Now would be a good time to break out the generator and tune up. Hmmm - future blog!
  * Would you believe that the chickens are picking all the wax covering my shiitake holes!? I'll have to tarp as I go and then run chicken wire around the wood lot. You didn't think I was finished planting yet did you?!
  * After using everything from rope to dog collars to secure the gate into the milking/feed area, I found that a carabiner is the ultimate lock - especially since it can be opened with one hand!

  * Passover begins one week from today at sunset!
  * I haven't seen fruit growing on my nectarine and peach trees. Because the winter was so mild they flowered in December. In January we had two nights of temps in the teens. That's all - the rest of the winter the nighttime temperatures stayed above freezing. I'm afraid those two nights may have destroyed all our fruit for the year.
  * Remember when I said "Pick it before it bolts?" I didn't quite get around to it then, but my wonderful husband picked it this morning and brought a pan of greens in to his work both yesterday and today. You see, I love preparing the gardens. I love planting the seeds and plants. I love watering and watching everything grow. But when it comes time to harvest... I'm done. I just don't feel like it. It's too much like work. Isn't that bizarre?

  * I found a hay ring - and just in time too. When I got home with it Dixie was standing in the middle of the temporary hog panel hay ring in a bit of a predicament. I freed her and rolled the hog wire out of the paddock. It took me an hour to drive the 45 miles home with it. This is what i looked like coming down the road:

And on a final note:  Thank-you for all your kind words and condolences about Maude. I'm keeping a keen eye on the rest of my flock - worming this weekend and watching the pregnant does carefully. Maude's baby is doing great! Healthy, happy - surrounded by 12 other little cousins to play with and THREE surrogate Rottweilers who delight in keeping both his front and rear clean!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Planting Shiitake Mushrooms

 This is what I've been hinting at. We are making our first attempt at growing Shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms, also referred to as "medicinal mushrooms", are native to Japan, China and Korea and have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. Recently they have begun to gain popularity in the U.S.
They are a chewy, flavorful fungi and findings indicate that they contain properties that boost the body's immune system and lower cholesterol levels.  They are an excellent source of iron and have high levels of Vitamin B. They are high in dietary fiber and contain six minerals: manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper and zinc.

Sauteing for 7 minutes brings out their wonderful flavor and retains their nutritional properties.

I have wanted to grow mushrooms for years but had never quite gotten around to it until I was inspired by my friend and neighbor Duke. Not only did he instruct and encourage us, he also presented us with a gift of Shiitake spore to plant!

Here's how to grow them:
 * Shiitake grow on hard wood, so you need to obtain fresh cut logs. (we used oak, but you can also use chestnut, beech, alder,cottonwood...)
 * The best time to cut your trees is in the winter when the tree is dormant and has the most stored carbohydrates
 * Ideally logs should be unmarred with a diameter of 3-6 inches and a length of 3-5 feet

We found our logs already cut and some were slightly damaged. (Use whatcha got)  We then soaked the wood to ensure they would have enough moisture.

 * Stack your hard wood in a shady well-ventilated area.
 * There are several ways to arrange your logs. We used the X pattern. Duke stacks his criss-crossed in a square.

* Notice the logs are raised off the ground. This keeps insects and termites from damaging your growing medium.

* Next you need to obtain your mushroom spawn. It can be purchased either in a sawdust base or in dowel-like plugs. We are using the sawdust based mycelium - though I think the dowels would be easier.

 * Drill 3/8 inch holes in the logs 1 1/4 inches deep. Space the holes 10 inches apart in rows 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 inches apart.

 * Now you'll begin to innoculate the logs. That means you'll be placing the mushroom spawn into the holes so that the mushrooms can grow through the wood. Be careful not to let the spawn dry out. We pinched pieces of the sawdust medium and pushed it into the holes to fill.

* Wax is then used to seal the holes.

* The first "fruiting" will begin in 6 -18 months and can continue for 4-7 years.
* It is important that the logs remain moist and don't dry out. Duke soaks his logs in a trough periodically. We'll probably use a water hose or mister.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Documenting an Unknown Goat Illness

Day 1: Sunday
I saw him before I heard him: a brand new baby goat. I missed the birth by a matter of just a few minutes - he was still wet, partially wrapped in the placenta, and hadn't cried yet. Bob scooped him up and washed and toweled him dry. It was warm enough that it really wasn't necessary - the mom would have cleaned and dried him - and it was a bright sunny day, but he was born in a particularly sandy spot so it was nice of Bob to clean him . I was a little concerned because the mom - Maude - was lying down and not showing much interest. I would have chalked it up to exhaustion after birth, but usually new moms are overly interested in their babies, nudging and cooing to them, and we had had a similar disinterest from another nanny earlier this spring and it didn't end well. I tried to calm my fears and be extra observant.
 A bit later we went back to make sure the baby was nursing. the mom was still making no attempt to bond or to show the baby the direction of her teats. Bob and I worked to put the baby on to nurse and eventually he did. Maude seemed irritated - not in pain, but not interested in having him suck on her. She moved away and laid down often.
I continued  to check to see that the baby was nursing and because he wasn't crying I hoped that perhaps mom needed just a little more time to bond. After all, it had only been a few hours.

Day 2: Monday
Maude is spending more time on the ground lying down than I like. She should be up and fussing over her baby. The baby seems content though and is lying next to his mother. I assume that he is nursing while I'm not watching. She is somewhat listless and not interested in eating.

Day 3:  Tuesday
Ok, now I'm concerned and ask Bob to check on her before he leaves for work. He brings her fresh cut branches with new leaves before leaving for work - a delicacy, and he gives her two shots of Thiamine. After milking I go check on them and decide to take the baby away. He is sleeping next to his mom, but he isn't acting as though he's getting enough to eat (though she seems to be producing colostrum - not much, but sufficient.) By day three a healthy baby goat should be playful and he isn't showing much vigor. I force feed him a half bottle of warm milk and he drinks it all greedily. Maude still has not eaten and is not getting up on her own. By afternoon she is falling over onto her side and is unable to right herself. I know now that it is not a Thiamine deficiency, which is not uncommon in goats.
Because we had a goat that had these same symptoms once before I'm afraid of what's ahead unless we can accurately diagnose and treat this sickness.  Previously I researched everything I could find to try to help the goat but could not find a proper diagnosis according to the symptoms. We gave her shots of penicillin twice a day for two weeks, which eventually seemed to help, but in the end it was not enough.
The only thing I could find that was remotely similar was a necrotic udder mastitis which is caused by a bacterial infection, but Maude's udder is fine - no swelling, heat or cold, no hardness, and I believe the baby kept her drained so there is no engorgement, which are all signs to look for with mastitis.
I did find one illness called "Post pregnancy Disease" which, seemed impossible because it is generally caused by  poor feed and too much or too little grain. We feed our goats Perennial Peanut hay - the highest concentrated protein source for hay in the area, and what I believe to be the correct amount of grain each day, but because both of my milk goats began showing the same symptoms immediately after kidding I've decided to treat for Ketosis - the post pregnancy disease.
According to what I've read, there is an inability for some goats to take in enough calories to support both her and her baby(s). The signs are similar to what Maude is displaying: loss of appetite, dullness, separation from the herd, staggering (she isn't getting up to stagger, but she is falling over)...
 I've begun treating with a Karo Syrup/Molasses 2/1 drench: 20-30 ml every two hours. I'm also cutting more fresh tree branches and I'll give her some electrolytes next time I go out there. Thankfully she is drinking greedily.

I was so hopeful. I really thought that this might be the correct diagnosis and treatment - not only did I have the ingredients on hand, but I started it right away. Perhaps if we had given her a shot of Penicillin this morning...
Maude died tonight at 7:00 with her head in my lap.  Her baby is fine - bottle feeding like a champ!

Homestead Life is not always easy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homemeade Laundry Soap

This is my friend Mary Freeman. Yesterday she taught me how to make laundry soap.

When I arrived, Mary gave me the tour of her farm and home. She raises chickens (you should see her colorful coops!), rabbits, ducks, turkeys, donkeys and children, and her home is absolutely lovely.

Mary was kind enough to share with us the recipe and the steps in making laundry detergent.

 Here are the ingredients you'll need:

* 5 Gallon Bucket with lid
* grater
* measuring cup
* 2 qt pot
* stirring implements (2)
* 3 Gallons plus 4 Cups water
* 1/2 bar bath soap (we used Ivory)
* 1/2 cup washing soda - found in the detergent aisle
* 1/2 cup Borax - also in the detergent aisle (not found in WalMart)

Step 1 - Grate 1/2 bar soap

Step 2 - Combine grated soap with 4 cups water.  Heat and stir until dissolved - DO NOT BOIL

Step 3 - Pour 3 Gallons water into 5 gallon bucket
Step 4 - Add melted soap mixture
Step 5 - Stir in:
               *1/2 cup washing soda 
               * 1/2 cup Borax
Mix Well
 Cover 5 Gallon bucket and allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours

Stir before using
( laundry detergent will be the consistency of Jello)
Makes approximately 400 fl oz

Mary suggests using twice the amount you would normally use of your liquid detergent.

She insisted that I take the batch we made together - who would have thought it would be so quick and easy to make? I can't wait to try it.

Thank-you Mary for your gracious hospitality and excellent instruction! You've inspired me in more ways than one!

We'll be seeing more of Mary's farm and HOMESTEAD LIFE in future articles, and I'll be sure to post my opinion and cost comparison information on this laundry detergent as soon as I can, but right now, I'm afraid I have a sick goat to tend to.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ketchup Day

It's ketchup day today. Time to catch up on all the projects we began and all the other projects that were neglected this weekend. Though Friday got off to a slow start, we pushed HARD Sat and Sun. Lots of fun projects, lots of accomplishments. It is so exciting to see things coming together on the farm.

This is my husband's long week. That means he'll be working no less than 70 hours at his job from now until Sunday night. That means that I'll be Lone Rangering for the most part of this week. That's ok though, there are a million things I can do. We have a big building project in the works, a planting project I can work on, a repair project, the swimming pool looks like this:

  I've gotta go pick up a roll of rye and oats hay for my goats - I'll be using that to try to supplement the Perrineal Peanut hay until cutting time (which isn't until May/June).  There's watering, and cleaning, bottle feeding and laundry.  Which reminds me - I'm late for an appointment with my friend, Mary Freeman who is going to teach me to make homemade laundry soap today - stay tuned!

Not to mention we've decided to host a Passover Seder at our house in town in less than two weeks, so I'm blowing the dust off my guitar and getting in tune to worship The Lamb who was slain that the angel of Death might PASS OVER...

Oh, and yesterday....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Homestead Life Can be Frustrating

It's typical of homestead life. It's frustrating and maddening but it's fact - things break down. It seemed to be the soup of the day on Friday. I had so many plans - big plans - plans to accomplish many things and to transform this farm and cross off a huge list of TO-DO's, but it didn't happen.

  We started the morning draining the filthy, leaf-filled, mosquito larvae infested swimming pool. The plan was that I would pressure wash the leaves in the yard, ( a pressure washer works MUCH better that either a shop vac or a leaf blower for moving massive amounts of leaves) and then clean the outside of the swimming pool (also with the pressure washer) until the water drained at which time Bob would clean the inside of the pool.
  Right away we realized this plan needed adjustment. The wind was not going to cooperate and it blew the leaves right back at us. OK, so I'll rake throughout the week and get that part of the job done. Then, as I was washing the mold off the outside of the pool, the machine went on the fritz. Bob had to spent too much time assessing and repairing only to find that it needs the pump rebuilt - the pump check valves have rust in them - something he will have to do another day.
Then the sump pump we use to pump out the last of the water in the pool needed tweaking - and that took time. It just seemed that one thing after another used up our time and kept us from reaching MY goals for the day. I hate that. Thankfully Bob can and does fix almost everything around here when it breaks, but to me it seems that it expends precious time that could otherwise be used for building something - something I can't do. I can't fix things so he has to. But it is a real part of homestead life  - fixing things. Reusing things. Making things do. And more importantly, learning to roll with the changes.
It wasn't a total loss of the day. The swimming pool is drained, though be it, filthy, but a little bleach water and a scrub brush will fix that.  There was still time to rack the soaked logs.

figured it out yet?

 I canned 7 quarts of butter beans, made cheese and designed business cards today.
We didn't pressure wash anything, didn't build the garden house, didn't burn horns, didn't build bee boxes... ok, so I'm a little ambitious.

But God willing, there's always tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sabbath Peace

Jesus said, "This is how you should pray: "Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation."             Luke 11:2-4    


Weekly Random Thoughts and Updates

  * My sweet potatoes aren't sprouting as quickly as I'd like. I moved them out on the porch during the day.
  * Started the first roll of hay in our NEW hay net Sunday night. The last roll lasted 18 days - with at least one day's worth wasted on the ground.
  * Our daily temperatures have been 20 degrees above normal for this time of year - all week!
  * I heard the bug sprayer making the rounds Monday night. I'll need to keep that in mind when we go to check on our hives this weekend.
  * If I ever jump out of an airplane again I won't need a parachute - just give me chain link fencing and some bungee cords - they'll catch on anything!
  * Why paint cardboard yellow for catching  whiteflies when you can use bright yellow cardstock? Too easy!

  * Bob is off this weekend and we have LOTS of projects in mind - things like planting and  building, burning and bees. Oh, and inoculation.

Now why would we be hosing this woodpile?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hoof Care - Abscess

We found an ad for a Belgian draft horse on Craigslist and went to look at Dixie on Feb 11th of this year.  I never thought we'd even consider another horse, but my husband has decided that he would like to go riding with me - I couldn't be more thrilled. By no means, though, are we horse people. This is all brand new to us and we are learning as we go - like we do with all the other aspects of Homestead Life.
Unfortunately, Dixie had become lame that morning.

She was unwilling to put any weight on her left rear leg, and as beautiful as she was, the thought of veterinary costs for a horse with leg problems was unnerving - especially with our VERY limited knowledge. We decided to wait a few days and see how she was then.
Her owner took her to the vet to find the cause of the distress and she was diagnosed with a hoof abscess. Several more days went by until my farrier was available to look at Dixie, trim her hooves and give me her personal opinion.

Keely assured me that this was a common occurrence and that with proper hoof care she would heal and be just fine. Dixie became ours that afternoon.

This is what a (draft horse) hoof abscess looks like - this one was quite large.

Here it is - he's pointing to it - the hole on the bottom of her foot.

An abscess is an infection that occurs when foreign material - sand, dirt, gravel, or bacteria gains entry into the hoof. This material migrates to the sensitive area of the hoof and begins to fester. Pus is formed as the body fights this infection and as it builds it causes severe pain - thus lameness. The accumulated pus will travel the path of least resistance, and since the outer hoof wall will not expand, it will generally rupture through either the top of the hoof (coronet) or the sole (like the one in our picture). An abscess can be caused by a penetrating wound or by moisture and bacteria gaining entry into cracks along the white line (the separation between the hard, outer hoof and the softer sole of the hoof).

Once the infection was drained and we had Dixie home, her treatment consisted of anti-bacterial medication in her feed twice a day and soaking her foot in Epsom Salt ( 2 cups / gallon of warm water) twice a day for 30 minutes. We did this for two weeks.

It's been almost 5 weeks and today Keely came to trim her hooves again. Dixie no longer limps or shows any discomfort but she's still healing. To help harden the new growth of her sole I was shown how to apply Durasole - a hoof toughener.

I believe that regular trimming and diligent hoof care and  will greatly assist in keeping this problem from reoccurring.
The fact that we live in the sand and not in a wet, boggy area is also conducive to healthy hooves.

 Now it's time to call the dentist!

  Many thanks to Keely Bass, our farrier, for her help and expertise in this area!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Using Whatcha Got

 What time is it when 2 - one ton horses play in a rickety cow barn not built for them?

Time to put it back together until we can take it apart and remove it so that no horse gets hurt.

the following is a blog posting I wrote in 2009 about the initial building of said "cow barn". Many things have changed since then but the homestead advice remains the same - 
Use Whatcha Got. And so we did.

 I Knew We Saved Those Garage Doors For A Reason!

OK I’ll admit it. We’re scroungers. We collect stuff. We can’t drive by a trash pile without scanning it for treasures – and my husband has an eagle’s eye! Our home is mostly furnished with items we’ve either gotten from freecycle, garage sales or curbside. It’s amazing the things people throw away! My husband is a home re modeler, so oftentimes his customers will offer him furnishings that they are replacing – once it was an entire kitchen cabinet remodel complete with dishwasher, stove and microwave! You should see it, it’s gorgeous! I’ll tell you the story some time!
  Anyway, as a builder, my husband keeps “miscellaneous building components” with the promise that  ”He’ll use them some day.” I figure that if he allows me my fetishes, I can do the same for his. Thankfully, we have 40 acres on which to stash these so-called “treasures”.
About 4 or 5 years ago we replaced our garage doors, and they made their way to the farm, where they’ve sat, out in the weather, ever since.

 And two years ago, after rebuilding hurricane damaged fences, an entire trailer-load of 6 ft privacy fence made it’s way from Houston to our farm in Florida.

Well, low and behold, this weekend we decided to section off part of our pasture exclusively for our cow. She’s been living quite happily with our goats, but she’s due to calve in Feb. and then she’ll need to be milked, so she needs a little privacy.  Don’t you know, true to his word, my wonderful husband built Lily a cowshed and he used the garage doors and fence panels! And it’s not so bad. Believe me, I know white trash when I see it. I like to think of this as a politically correct  cowshed – “being green” and using what we have. Lord knows, we’re not financially wealthy, but we are BLESSED!  My husband can fix anything, build anything, reuse anything, and for that I am so thankful! Even if I do have to overlook garage doors leaning against a tree for four years!

 You know, I think I’d like a bigger goat shed in our breeding pen…and I’m sure, just last week, I saw our neighbors’ garage doors out for the trash.

 End of story.... Or was it?

 And You Thought I Was Kidding!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Whitefly Remedy

I'm having trouble with whiteflies in the greenhouse. My citrus trees are covered with them, and they're beginning to take their toll on the plants.
Whiteflies are similar to aphids: they are tiny white flies (duh) that feed by sucking the sap from plants. In the north they die off during the cold weather (though greenhouses still can have this problem due to the warm temperatures), but here in the south they are a year round pest. They are found on the undersides of leaves and fly into the air in white clouds when disturbed.
  Whiterflies attack the plant by sucking it's juice, causing leaves to turn yellow and fall, but they also secrete a sticky substance that attracts black, sooty mold which interferes with photosynthesis.

 Here you can see the curled, dying leaves and the black sooty mold covering them - in contrast to new, undamaged leaves above.

My problem is this: I would spray them with chemicals to save my citrus, but also in our greenhouse is a swimming pool filled with tilapia fish which are highly sensitive to pesticides.

Here's a solution that I hope will help - two homemade remedies that I plan to make and use this afternoon.

The first is Yellow Sticky Boards. Apparently whiteflies are attracted to the color yellow so I will paint pieces of cardboard yellow and coat them with a sticky substance. I have petroleum jelly on hand so I will use that - a homestead motto - USE WHATCHA GOT!  Then I'll hang these from the infested trees. Hopefully this will trap the adults.

The second is a homemade, insecticidal soap:
  *one gallon water
  *2 t baking soda
  *2 t dish detergent 
  *2 t white vinegar
Spray this solution under the leaves of your plants where the white fly eggs, scale and adults reside.
In order for it to be effective, each leaf must be sprayed.
Repeat every 3-5 days until  pests are eradicated

I'll let you know how it works.
And I'm open for any and all advice - always. About everything!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breeding Buttercup - Part 1

Meet Buttercup. She is our 2 year old Jersey heifer. A heifer is a young female cow that has not yet had a calf.   In order for a cow to produce milk, cream and  butter she has to have a calf  - the term is "freshen", so yesterday we took her to be bred for the first time.  To breed your cow each year you have three choices: maintain a bull on your farm, bring your cow to  neighboring bull, or have her artificially inseminated. We chose the latter. Fortunately, a friend that we buy hay from has a son who has been through AI school and  he agreed to board Buttercup at his farm for the procedure.

Just getting her into the trailer was an exercise in itself. You see, we made the mistake of not halter training her when she was a calf so we had no way to lead her in. We won't make that mistake again! And though she is a very friendly, bottle raised family cow, she had never been in a trailer before and was quite leery.

Add to that a herd of goats that also wanted to eat the grain we were coaxing Buttercup in with...
Eventually we did get her into the trailer.

This is Ten. She is a half Limousine, half Angus cow. She is the dominant, lead cow on the Beauchamp farm and she will be Buttercup's companion until bred.

Here are some things I've learned about breeding cows:
  * A cow goes into heat (estrus) about every 18-24 days year round.
  * There is an 18 hour window in which a cow can be bred. This is called "standing estrus"
  * Many cows will bellow and bawl frequently.
Poor Buttercup "moos" pitifully all day long!
  * During estrus a cow will become restless and will begin mounting and being mounted by other cows.

I was completely unaware of this phenomenon until one day while I was working in the barn, not paying any attention to Buttercup, she came up behind me and face planted me in the dirt. I wasn't hurt, just a little shaken, and in her behalf, she was very gentle - for an 800 pound heifer! It was actually quite graceful - she literally stood up on her hind two legs and gently put her front two hooves on my shoulders. I was caught completely off guard and off balance and went down. I now know to always keep a close eye on her.

This is why Buttercup will have Ten as a pasture mate.  When Buttercup goes into estrus, Ten will recognize this and begin to try to mount her. When Buttercup willingly "stands" to be mounted without walking away or turning and butting, this is called "standing estrus" and it is now time for her to be bred or inseminated.

When we left the Beauchamp farm yesterday Buttercup was too busy eying the other cows to notice. She didn't even say goodbye.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gun Control...

...Is Using Two Hands.

Amidst the multitude of activities going on at the farm right now - it's spring so we're swamped with time sensitive undertakings like: gardening, beekeeping and animal husbandry as well as necessary daily chores: feeding, milking and watering somehow, in the past week, we managed to take a little time off to do one of my husband's favorite things - poke holes in paper.
  Some friends came up last weekend, and my daughter and Rob visited on Friday, so we pulled out the 22, the 9 mm and the 45, and honed our shooting skills.

Bob is an NRA certified Range Safety Officer and is qualified to teach Rifle, Shotgun and Pistol handling and safety. He teaches and signs off on CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) Permits and answers questions and concerns about firearm use and safety in the homestead environment.

Our facility (that he built) is capable of supporting one on one instruction or classes up to 6 students.


We believe that everyone should have the knowledge of safe firearm use and Second Amendment rights. We provide the opportunity and experience to do that here at the farm in a safe, comfortable environment.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sabbath Peace

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.    Proverbs 16:24