Monday, October 31, 2011

Baby Boom

I have heard that a sign of intelligence is being able to delay gratification. I have never been very good at that. The plan was to breed my does in December so they kid in May. After my spring break. After I take a trip to California to see my kids. When the weather is warmer and the rain is warmer. But all the girls have been coming in heat. The bucks are crazy with desire. The does are crazy with desire. It is chaotic. So I open a gate here and there and say "go ahead if you want".
And they want.
We expect a baby explosion the end of March.
You know what they say about best laid plans? They go awry.
We've gone awry...but no one's complainin'

Friday, October 28, 2011

What I did over the summer.....

Sometime this summer I was made aware of a contest over at Manna Pro to win a homestead makeover. To enter you had to submit a video of what you would do with the prize of $5000. I got all excited because my poor little farm could use a makeover. I need a new milking shed and a proper chicken coop would be nice too. So I emailed the farmer over at Herron Hill and asked her to shoot a video of me. She graciously agreed to write the script, shoot the video, edit the video, sit through countless hours of me flubbing my voice-overs, wrangle the children, goats, and pigs and then take a few more hours to figure out how to email it to Manna Pro before the deadline.
We had so much fun making this video. The experience alone would be enough for me but now I want to win for her too. Not really...I mostly want to win for me. But we did have fun. A lot of fun. We laughed a lot and you know how much I like to laugh. I won't be quitting my day job for acting anytime soon. Most of my attempts ended up on the cutting room floor but she came up with a beautiful video that I want to share with you and hopefully you will all "like" it...if you know what I mean.
So enjoy a peek into my world and feel free to "like" it and comment on the youtube channel of my video. The girls could use a new coop and I've been saving my new nest box from Pam and Billy just in case they get it.
A special thanks to the farmer at Herron Hill, a gal with many talents. She went above and beyond my expectations and produced a video my family and friends really enjoy.
If I don't win it will be a wonderful piece to show at my funeral someday.

My Happy Homesteader Video

Enjoy! I know I did.


I think I may have found the cause of Koo's problem by accident. A couple of days ago, I was cleaning the goat pen and had their gate open when Koo rushed in and made a beeline for their salt/mineral brick. He licked away on it as best he could. Llamas can't stick out their tongues so it makes licking on a salt lick difficult. He licked and licked and licked. Forever. I finally took it away from him as I was concerned about him getting too much at once.
That evening I googled "llama eating a lot of salt" and this article came up.
It hit home. Poor Koo wasn't getting salt. I didn't know salt was so important to him. He used to have access to the salt block but a few weeks ago I moved it undercover in the goat shed before the rains came and he could no longer get to it. I didn't know he even used it.

The next morning he was up to greet me when I entered the pasture. He followed me to the feed shed.

He ate his breakfast...with a little salt added.

"I love Google"

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Right Hand Man

My llama, Koo, is old. Although we don't know exactly how old he is we estimate him to be in his twenties. That's about how long llamas live. He has worn his teeth down and now has to eat a complete pelleted feed because he can't chew hay. Lately he has been going off his feed but then going right back on a few days later.
He has gone off his feed again and has not gone back on. He will eat some apples but that is about it. He is not in any pain or doesn't appear weak or sick but I'm worried about him. I'm not ready for this regal boy to cash in his chips.
He's been the guardian of my little herd for about 9 years now. He is a fixture in our neighborhood. One neighbor told me when she drives by and sees Koo she knows it's going to be a good day.
Today another neighbor dropped off a mash of beet pulp for him because she heard I needed some. That made my day...but he wouldn't eat it.
Some animals have a way of getting under your skin. Not only has he gotten under my skin but everyone that has ever met him.
Send good thoughts to my boy Koo. I don't know what I'm going to do without him.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Heart Goats and Fall

Fall is one of the goats' favorite seasons...with winter being their least favorite of course. Goats don't do rain and Washington has more than its fair share of that in the winter....and the spring...and the summer....and the fall. Wait that's all year. Sorry Texas. If I could send you some I would.

The goats do leaves though and Sunday was a good day to wander the farm and eat leaves and fir boughs that hit the ground after an early fall wind storm.

I call this photo Milk and Eggs...

Pepper Ann is happy to be out and about. After all my complaining about no one wanting her, a nice couple at the fair wanted to buy her and I wouldn't sell her.

The Tiny Giant poses on his favorite vantage point. Please ignore the ugly blanket thrown carelessly over the fence. That is the pigs' blanket...yes we have pigs in a blanket.

Yes, it's fall and you know what that means. Bring on the ladies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feed Your Children Well

Let's talk about food! School food to be specific. I have been working in a school for over 20 years so I think I have a pretty good idea what kids are eating and not eating. My school has been trying for years to improve the lunches and now breakfasts that we are offering our school age children. Gone are the days of feeding children a good meal to fill them up and get them through the day. It is now a business. Big business we have found out. Our P.E. teacher has worked for years on changing the choices that are offered to children but has run up against a brick wall at every turn. Long before Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, she has talked until she is blue in the face about offering only healthy choices. So far we have only managed to get them to offer oatmeal...but with a packet of sugar to sweeten it.
We know that kids like hard boiled eggs. How easy would that be to offer an egg, a piece of toast, and a white milk. But heaven forbid less children buy breakfast and their families feed them at home! Instead they are offered a coffee cake like thing, breakfast pizza, or my all time favorite is the corn dog with a rancid sausage inside. We have kids buying breakfast that have already eaten at home just to get the sugary sweet stuff offered at school.
Lunch is getting better I must say but the kids are still offered pepperoni pizza every day and some always make that choice, followed up with a chocolate milk.
We would like to have every child visit the salad bar and even if they don't eat it they are being taught what a balanced meal looks like. A lot of the kids at our school, sadly, never see that.
Not only are we feeding our kids the wrong things we are letting them eat all day long. Snacks have gotten completely out of hand. School starts at 9:00 and by 10:00 they are munching on their first, usually processed, snack. Did you know that you can perish if you feel pangs of hunger? No wonder we have such a problem with childhood obesity. Everyone is afraid of feeling hungry.
Last weekend in church, a young couple sat next to us with their boy who looked about 5. Not too far into the service the mom pulled out a string cheese and let him eat it. The noisy wrapper was heard crinkling while everyone else was praying. Eating in church? My mom would have killed me. Toys in church? All I got to do was doodle on the back of my program and make faces at my sisters when the choir hit a sour note.
As a healthy eating staff, we have been pretty passionate about change. It has been an uphill battle but if we persevere together we can, hopefully, change the minds of the higher ups and offer even our poorest children healthy choices. Recently, after helping a kindergartener wash syrup off his crayons and the desk after finishing his deep fried french toast sticks smothered in syrup, I talked to our principal and questioned the smothering of syrup and suggested that the lunch ladies didn't know the outcome in the class of all that syrup for not only the teachers but the custodian...not to mention the health of the child. He agreed that he would ask the lunch ladies if the syrup filled a nutritional requirement (really?) and if they had to serve it. He talked to them and they agreed to give the little ones less. The next time french toast sticks were on the menu the same boy happily munched his with no syrup.

The 4-H program was started when the county agents knew that the way to change farming methods was to teach the children. As an ex 4-H leader, I embrace that theory. Let's teach our children how to eat healthy.

Now don't get me started on the fact that it is just one more thing that schools are forced to do because parents are not!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Harvest 2011

My mother has a small apple orchard with one lone pear tree. Every year we have to harvest those apples and the one lone pear tree. To get this done without a lot of work on our part we have an apple harvest party. Friends and family are invited.

Food is served.

Apples are picked.

with a lot of posing

Pies are baked.

Cider is pressed.

more posing

Everyone goes home with a box of apples and a jug of cider.

This year was extra special because I had my kids home.

Oh no, more posing...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fil Does The Farm Tour

Today was the annual Key Peninsula Farm Tour. For the third year in a row Filbert has been an attraction at Gentle Giant Meadows Ranch, where Shire horses reign supreme. Filbert is the candy goat. He carries his pack of chocolates and tempts children (and middle age women craving chocolate) to look in his pack. Fil has always been a professional goat and has taken his job seriously. He is almost a celebrity and has appeared in our local paper. People remember Fil in his handsome brown, white, and black coat with his green pack and matching collar and lead.

This morning when I went down to load Fil he looked a little dubious. I could tell he was thinking, "hmmm it's the first of October. I know what this means"

And he ran.

I chased him all around the field until I caught him by the collar as he hurried by. We wrestled all the way to the car and I hoisted him into him crate. He muttered pitifully as we drove.
When we got to the farm and I let him out he shook with anticipation of a day of children getting in his personal space.
I know just how he feels.
He continued to shake a bit as we set up but after awhile he settled in and ate some hay that was sticking out of a feeder nearby. As the crowd started to gather I had to hold Fil while the kids came forward to select a candy out of his pack.
Then Fil got a taste of the chicken feed that the kids carried around in small bags to feed the chickens. He somehow forgot his fear and gently nibbled food from their hands.

He hardly noticed them digging in his pack for a chocolate and started to enjoy himself.

As the day wore on he started to relax and appeared to be, once again, taking his job seriously.

Then he got full.

It was like a switch was flipped and Fil was ready to go. Just like that. Time to go. Filbert drug me to the car and when I opened up the back of my Jeep he dove into his crate-the same crate I wrestled him into earlier that day.

This may be Fil's last farm tour. I will start taking applications from the other goats in the herd to fill the position of the candy goat.

Anyone want to apply?

How about you, Buttons?