guys make your own hay? --- Alice
No, but we plan to plant more
oats and Sunflowers this year.
A few Feed Stores around us
have already run out of hay so I had to drive all the way to Abingdon
to get these 9 bales.
People keep giving me soap. Do you think it's a hint?
More seriously, Donna and Jessica from Happy Goats Soap Company
recently sent us a sampler pack of their homemade products to try out.
I'm a hard woman to please when it comes to beauty products since I
don't like scented anything, but the duo came through with a
special-order bar of unscented soap (which you can buy on their website
by clicking the "Request Special Order" button). The soap does the
trick, providing a good lather but washing off clean while also
providing the gentle moisturizing action that goat-milk soap is known
Although mildly scented, I also immediately fell in love with their Minty Man No Shine Lip Salve.
I once had an awesome tube of lip balm from Aveeno, but everything I've
tried to replace it with (primarily Burt's Bees) has turned my lips
white and my husband off. Happy Goats' lip balm is even better than I
recall the Aveeno stick being, providing an invisible coating that helps
dry winter lips return to a happy state in short order.
Do you want to try your
own Happy Goats skin-care products? Donna and Jessica have a bar of rose soap
and a tube of lip balm with one lucky reader's name on it. Enter the
giveaway below to win!
How many bales of hay can our
little plastic shed hold?
We figure 9 with some space
I think I might add some
hinges to one of the doors that got a little wonky when the shed
Okay, so I could tease you with tantalizing tidbits from my newest ebook.
I could tell you that it's got recipes that will help you tenderize the
tougher cuts of pastured meat and to substitute wholesome vegetables
for grains in delicious recipes.
Or I could just set the
book free for one day only so you can pick up your own copy and give it a
read. (And, maybe, if you want to make my day a little brighter, you'll
leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you're done.)
Hmm, that second option sounds better for everybody involved. So, go download right now while it's free! Enjoy!
Our old farm truck is still limping along. Five months in the swamp and getting yanked out by a tractor necessitated repairing the gas tank and putting the universal joint back in after it fell out.
But we're still suffering from a short that drains the battery after a
few days of disuse. That wouldn't be so bad if the hood latch didn't
stick and require four hands every time we needed to open it.
Our mechanic repaired the
sticking hood latch, but was left scratching his head over the short. I
think I'll install a switch on the battery so I can turn it off when not
the best use for seedy manure? As I drooled over the combination of
straw, dropped weedy hay, and goat manure and urine in our goat coop,
these are the options I came up with:
- Try to get a compost pile hot enough to kill all of the seeds in
the goats' dropped hay. Pro: Much-needed compost for the vegetable
garden. Con: Loss of a lot of nitrogen due to the contents sitting out
in our rainy climate, plus a relatively long wait and quite a bit of
pile-turning. And, to be honest, I don't really believe I'd kill all the
seeds despite all the effort.
- Turn in the chickens and hope they scratch through and eat up all
the seeds. Pro: Maybe the compost would be weed-free enough for the
garden afterwards, and the chickens would enjoy the adventure. Con: I'd
either have to move all of the bedding from the goat coop to the chicken
coop (at opposite ends of our core homestead), or I'd have to move the
chickens to the bedding and hope our birds get along well with the
goats. And, once again, I don't really believe the result would be
the weedy compost under a kill mulch. Pro: A very easy solution, and I
do want to kill mulch a few new areas this spring. Con: I won't be
getting compost where it's needed most --- in the main garden.
- Deposit the kill mulch as a thin layer in the tree alleys,
then use chickens to scratch up any sprouting seeds so I can plant
goat-fodder crops there in the summer. Pros: This solution is even
easier than the last since the bedding would be used close to the
source, and I wouldn't even need masses of cardboard to cover everything
over. Con: The chickens might not kill all the weed seeds, meaning that
the area would stay unplantable (but would get some much-needed
At the moment, I'm
leaning toward the last option, especially since the whole point of my
new kill mulches this spring was going to be to make some spots for the
mangels and field corn I want to plant for next winter's goat feed. But
I'm open to suggestions. What would you do with a mixture of straw,
dropped hay, and goat urine and manure? I feel so rich having another
source of organic matter to deposit into our farm's ecosystem!
How did we get a hole through
a 4x4 next to a 2x6?
long 5/8" drill bit with a medium sized electric drill.
It should come in handy if we
need to use long carriage bolts again.
scanning the hillside for other sugar maples along my usual morning
walk, Mark and I discussed the possibility of planting some new maples
for tapping later in our lives. The hillside I walk past daily is a
perfect location for sugar maples --- a damp, north-facing spot --- and I
suspect the only reason sugar maples aren't currently in residence is
because the area was logged too recently for this semi-old-growth
species to thrive in the young woods.
But when I got home and
did some research, I discovered that planted sugar maples won't be ready
to tap for at least forty years. I consider myself a long-term
thinker...but that's really long term (especially given current climate
fluctuations and our location at the southern extreme of the sugar
maple's range). Instead, I started wondering whether the intriguing
experiments carried out at the Proctor Maple Research Center
might not be a better avenue to explore. The scientists in charge have
been experimenting with a high-density, pollarded maple operation and
have found that you can harvest up to ten times as much sap per acre
using high-density trees, with the initial harvest only seven years
after planting. Now that sounds like something I'd like to try!
big negative about this high-density maple system from a backyard
standpoint is that you have to use a vacuum system to get the sap out of
the trees. Timothy Perkins of the Proctor Maple Research Center kindly
wrote back to me within hours with answers to my numerous questions, and
he noted: "Vacuum is REQUIRED. You will get almost no sap without it.
In addition, the 'sap caps' are not commercially available. We are
working with maple equipment manufacturers now, and expect there will be
a product available for the 2017 sap season." I'm not too worried about
the lack of commercial sap caps --- it looks like something we can
easily cobble together --- and Mark suspects that we could also come up
with a backyard-style vacuum system using a breast pump (like we'll be
using on our goats) or a shop vac. Plus, I don't have to figure that out
until 2022, so why not go ahead and plant now?
Unfortunately, the system
is very new, so Perkins had less concrete answers for my other
questions. When asked how close together the trees should be planted,
Perkins said that his experiments utilized an already-existing nursery,
and thus he doesn't have solid data on optimal spacing. However, one
news article suggested a trees-per-acre density that would come down to
one sugar maple every three feet, which seems like a good start. In
terms of frequency of harvest, Perkins said that after the first seven
years of growth "you can harvest for several years prior to letting the
saplings 'rest.'" (And, keep in mind that like with other pollarding
systems, you'd also get firewood for energy and leaves for mulch out of
So will we be planting
high-density sugar maples this winter? I suspect Mark will talk me into
setting aside at least one experimental row, but first I need to do some
more research. "It would be best to plant high-sap sugar-content
saplings," Perkins recommended...so now I need to do a bit more research
and track down a source.
We really appreciate all the
helpful comments on the structual
strength of our new IBC water tower.
The truck has been in the
shop so we had to use the car to pick up some lumber to increase both
support and bracing.
I could probably haul twice
as much lumber if the back window could open and close.
operations in New England like to have all their taps in place around
the first of March. But we southerners can get a head start on the
season and tap earlier. As you can see, sapsucker holes in our favorite
sugar maple are already bleeding sap, so why let the tree's sweet juices
go to waste?
Interestingly, while I
was researching the timing of maple tapping, I stumbled across a study
in which researchers tapped some trees early (in late January or early
February), some at the March 1 time most traditional farmers aim for,
and some late. While late-tapped trees did
produce lower yields, both early and midseason taps netted the same
amount of liquid. Why? Early taps catch sap that midseason taps miss,
but those early holes tend to close up before the flow is finished and
thus miss the latest sap. So, it's really up to you when you want to
tap, and for us, earlier is better --- there's much less to do on our
farm in January and February than in March.
Mark and I had a lot of fun tapping our sugar maple
last year, and we considered expanding beyond one measly spile in 2015.
However, my usual morning walk goes past only this one sugar maple, and
I'm not sure if I have the gumption to check on trees daily if they
aren't on my normal route. Maybe if I get antsy waiting for Abigail to pop out some kids, though, I might expand my walks and our maple syruping operation.
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