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Jul 2016

Most visited this week:

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

How to help chicks during hatching

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Moth pupa in the soil

Automatic chicken door

Jul 2015

A year ago this week:

Goat meat taste test (and envy over apples)

Harvest sickle field test

Successful persimmon grafting

Battery powered chainsaw cleaning

Jul 2014

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Harvesting carrots

One hour to dig and two hours to top, clean, and sort.

Total yield: approximately forty pounds.
Posted Fri Jul 1 12:52:57 2016 Tags:
Dining goats

Oh the drama of farm life! Mark downplayed Aurora's illness when he posted about her earlier this week. Personally? I was convinced she'd be dead every time I trotted up to the goat barn to check on our baby goat.

Whatever it was came on overnight. When we put her in the kennel at evening milking, our doeling was spunky and happy. When I came to get her out twelve hours later, she was standing against the back wall, listless. Her head was cocked at an awkward angle and her whole body looked sore. She wasn't interested in eating and wouldn't even nurse from her mother. Bad news.


The vet guessed it might be a heavy parasite load, mostly based on Aurora's age and the fact she's a goat. To be on the safe side, he shot her up with selenium + vitamin E, vitamin B-12,  a painkiller/anti-inflammatory, and a dewormer. Then he sent her home and told us to feed her half a cup of yogurt per day until she started eating on her own.

Rushing goats

That turned out to be quite a challenge. In fact, that first day I was so terrified that I couldn't figure out how to get her to eat anything. But after a good night's sleep I remembered the big, needle-less syringes I'd bought as part of our kidding kit. Yogurt mixed with some goat milk and a bit of Nutri-drench was just thin enough to squirt down her throat if Mark restrained her and I pried open her jaws. By the dinner feeding, Aurora was starting to look a little less pained and a little more normal.

But 48 hours after her symptoms appeared, she was still in very bad shape. Proving that our goats are pets rather than livestock, we rushed Aurora back to the clinic at the vet's earliest possible convenience. This time, our doeling got an anti-coccidiosis shot, two types of injectable antibiotics, a different dewormer, more vitamin B-12, and a corticosteroid. The vet also sent us home with followup shots for the antibiotics and a big jug of amino acids/electrolytes/vitamins.

Mother goat

If you've seen me in real life avoiding doctors at all costs (except for my sweet sister...who I see in a nonprofessional capacity), you'll know I'm leery of unnecessary pharmaceuticals. But I was terrified of losing our dear doeling and was thrilled to have the vet inject Aurora with everything under the sun.

Goats on a log

To my delight, something worked. We hadn't been able to get Aurora to eat on her own or nurse for two full days, but on the way home she was already nibbling on Mark's sleeve. Six hours later, she was ready to go out and graze with her mother and bounce about on logs. The next day, we stopped squirting yogurt down her throat because Artemesia's udders proved that the doeling had drunk a pint of milk overnight.

I'd feel better if I knew for sure what had been wrong with Aurora. I think it's quite possible she was weakened by her brother's weaning --- Punkin is much more adamant than his sister, and I think she actually got more milk with him present because he was better able to pin their mother down better. (Artemesia is starting to think her kids are big enough to eat greenery and not visit the milk bar all the darn time.)

Goats in the woods

Or the vet may be right and it's my own fault for not forcing Aurora to eat her copper bolus when the rest of the herd was treated last week. I hadn't thought she was at as much risk of worms due to subsisting so much milk. But it's easy to see how intestinal parasites can explode when gut bacteria are just starting to figure out the transition from milk to grass and when kids haven't yet learned not to eat off the ground. Aurora will definitely get her copper next week once her system is back up to snuff.

I'd be curious to hear from other goatkeepers. Based on the data above (and especially the speedy bounce-back time), any ideas what was wrong with our little goat? And, for everyone else (especially Kayla and Jed), thank you so much for sending your healing wishes in Aurora's direction. It's wonderful to have you on our team.

Posted Fri Jul 1 05:52:52 2016 Tags:
Anna wearing sun hat pruning tomato plants

Anna noticed the first signs of blight on some tomato leaves today.


We might try a propane weed burner next year to see if it has an impact on the size of the blight spore population.

Posted Thu Jun 30 14:58:13 2016 Tags:
Urine on the compost pile

All of my reveling in off-farm manure aside, one of my big goals for the next few years is to close our homestead's fertility loop. As the heaviest amendment, I'm working on compost first, although mulch will likely go on my game plan eventually.

Bowl of berriesTo that end, we're being much more frugal than we have been in the past about making sure every little bit of nitrogen ends up back in the garden. Urine is definitely the low-hanging fruit and I'm always thrilled when I see Mark "nitrogenate the compost pile" (as he calls it).

If you want to learn more about our fertility sources so far, check out Soil Amendments for the Organic Garden, which is up for preorder and will be hitting kindles in three weeks. Enjoy!

Posted Thu Jun 30 07:29:13 2016 Tags:
vet visit number two of the week.

We took Aurora back to the vet this morning for another check up.

She'll get fed a mixture of yogurt and her mother's milk until she starts feeling better and eating on her own.

We also got some take home shots for tomorrow and the next day.

Posted Wed Jun 29 15:09:09 2016 Tags:
Goat segregation

So, the good news is that I realized on weaning day two that one of our goat pastures had chicken wire around the base that could keep Punkin in. Once our buckling was able to nose his mother through the fence, he calmed down quite a bit. He still wouldn't take a bottle or drink out of a pan, but I'm putting him in with Artemesia some nights after his sister gets locked in the kennel so his gut doesn't have to completely change over from milk to grass cold turkey. I figure within two or three weeks, he'll be thoroughly and safely weaned.

Working with goats

The bad news? Between Punkin calling "Mama!" and Artemesia hollering "My baby!" relentlessly on day one, our mile-distant neighbor became convinced Mark was guilty of spousal abuse. The neighbor in question came over on his four-wheeler with a pistol at his hip the next day to check on us...which was actually pretty sweet, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to run over to check on the visitor the way I usually do because I was knee deep in the bee hives, so I left the guys talking for about ten minutes before showing up. I
hope our neighbor believed that no one was being murdered over here and we simply have a couple of unruly goats...but I guess we'll see if Mark's been kicked out of the good-old-boy network or not.

(Yes, this is the equivalent of calling the cops when you live in the country.)

Posted Wed Jun 29 06:39:23 2016 Tags:
tie down vines of berries
Securing berry limbs so they stay off the ground and keep growing.
Posted Tue Jun 28 15:38:55 2016 Tags:
Row cover

When it comes to bad bugs in the garden, a stitch in time definitely saves nine.

Japanese beetlesLast week, the first Japanese beetles showed up in our garden. I pick intruders once or twice a week at this time of year, simply dropping the beetles into a cup of water that I later pour into the chicken tractor. Since these beetles set up mating territories when they first appear, if you snag the early birds you'll end up with little damage later in the season.

Cabbage worms are a bit trickier. I mostly try to avoid them by not having crucifers in the garden during the summer months. This year's early broccoli was perfect since we harvested nearly all of the heads before the voracious caterpillars showed up. But I wanted to plant brussels sprouts early to get a head start on the winter growing season. What to do? How about covering up those beds with row-cover fabric to avoid the bug problem entirely?

If you'd like to learn more about my low-work, completely chemical-free pest-control practices, I hope you'll check out my book The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. Hopefully your garden ecosystem will be more complete and your harvests more abundant after the read.

Posted Tue Jun 28 07:02:28 2016 Tags:
Anna holding Aurora at vet office

Aurora was not acting like her normal happy self this morning.

We took her in for a vet visit and she got a vitamin shot with some vaccine boosters.

She's feeling a little better and might just be feeling the switch from Mother's milk to weeds and leaves.

Posted Mon Jun 27 15:57:32 2016 Tags:

Tomato bushSeveral of you were concerned about chemical contamination in our horse manure. Luckily, we live in an impoverished area where excess chemicals aren't used that often simply because they're expensive. Here's my previous post on the topic. If our farm was located in Lexington or northern Virginia where pastures are weed-free and perfectly manicured, I'd be much more concerned.

That said, whenever you find a new source of organic matter, it is a good idea to test it out before going hog wild. Luckily, we found out about this year's horse manure from a homesteading buddy and he got his dump-truck load a solid month before we did. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let his tomato plants speak for themselves. In fact, when I asked him what he thought of the fertility source, he sounded like a born-again organic gardener. "All the years we've been gardening," he said, "I can't imagine why we didn't add manure to the soil!" So it sounds like the manure isn't only's turbo-charged!

Posted Mon Jun 27 06:50:24 2016 Tags:

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