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Smallest wood stoves

Wood stove in a mobile home

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting

Pros and cons of duck eggs

Nov 2013

A year ago this week:

Living Fences

Low-Cost Sunroom

Wood-splitting warmup

Is comfrey carcinogenic?

Making a shade trellis

Nov 2012

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apple planting day

I was a little worried about having the goats grazing on oats so close to our new apple trees, but it seems like they're not interested in anything with bark yet.

Posted Sat Nov 22 15:15:08 2014 Tags:
Goats eating honeysuckle

So, my goats-in-the-woods experiment lasted all of about two hours. I let the girls loose, settled down to write...and soon heard Artemesia yelling at the top of her lungs. Abigail had circled around to the part of our boundary that has the lowest fence and had hopped right over, but our doeling's stubby little legs didn't allow her to follow. I guess it's a good thing that Artemesia is part Nubian since there was no missing her anguished yells as she was left Dwarf doelingbehind. Or maybe our doeling was just telling on her big sister? Either way, I pulled Abigail out of the garden before she could do any damage, then I stuffed both goats back into the pasture with the honeysuckle trees shown above.

For experiment number two, I decided to open the door on the far side of the starplate coop, meaning that our goats would have to walk through some rough terrain to circle around the fenced pastures and reach our core homestead. Sure enough, when I came back from walking Lucy, I discovered that our goats had decided to explore in the opposite direction. But Artemesia was yelling again, and I got worried (even though our doeling sometimes just likes to yell) and went to see what was up. No one was in trouble, but both goats followed me right home, negating that experiment.

Doe with horns

Next, I decided to try tethering Abigail on the far side of the starplate coop. I figured that Artemesia would stay close to her companion, and that everyone would be happy. So when I heard non-Nubian yelling I guessed that our doe must have gotten her chain hung up. Nope. Artemesia had decided to wander far afield in search of honeysuckle, and her big sister was having a fit at being left alone. So, once again, I stuffed the girls back into the pasture for safe keeping. I guess they're stuck eating hay now except when I take them out on monitored walks...unless I come up with another supposedly bright technique for letting them run wild in the woods.

Posted Sat Nov 22 08:06:06 2014 Tags:
post pounding

We transplanted some apple trees this afternoon.

Honey Crisp will be in the middle of Mr Winesap and Ms Red Delicious.

Posted Fri Nov 21 14:54:48 2014 Tags:
Frozen fava beans

There's something psychologically colder about nights that get down into the single digits. Or maybe it's not completely psychological. Gates freeze shut, my hands ache when I go out to do my morning chores, and the uncovered winter crops begin to die back.

Wood stove

Last year at this time, we enjoyed a similar cold spell, but the lowest low in November 2013 was 15. No wonder I ran through the firewood I had alloted for November 2014 by the middle of this month and have already started into December's wood.

Frosty dog

Everyone else on the farm is glad that we're due to enjoy a bit more fall weather this coming week as the current Arctic burst goes back where it belongs. But Lucy loves the cold, so she might be sad to see it go. Don't worry, Lucy --- there are many more frosty mornings ahead!

Posted Fri Nov 21 07:49:19 2014 Tags:
goat manger in action

Of course the goats wanted to be on top of the new manger.

The thin plywood lid was collapsing when they stood on it, which could be a safety issue if they fall the wrong way.

Adding some 2x4's for support makes it more standable.

Posted Thu Nov 20 15:38:31 2014 Tags:

Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy GoatsI know that some weeks it seems like all I do is talk about goats and books. So why not shake it up...and talk about goat books?!

When I first started researching goats, my first stop was Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. The Storey series is usually a safe bet for encyclopedia-style information on livestock combined with beautiful pictures, and this book was no different (although a little less in-depth than some). If you've never met a goat before and are only going to get one book, this is probably the one to buy.

But once I finished that beginner guide...I still felt like a beginner. So I moved on to Raising Goats Naturally. Deborah Niemann's book is also an introduction to goat care, but it's written in a more chatty, first-person fashion (a lot like my own books), which I suspect turns some people away. However, since I'm aware that all one-author books inevitably share that person's biases and Raising Goats Naturallyknowledge gaps, I enjoyed the honesty of Niemann's book and definitely pulled out some interesting tidbits that weren't covered in the Storey guide. Specifically, I learned that you should always breed miniature or partially miniature goats with bucks that are as small as the doe or smaller so that you don't have to worry about extra-large kids causing problems coming out. This and other factoids probably seem obvious to many of you, but I sucked them up happily, glad to have someone else's experiences to help me avoid beginner mistakes.

By the time I finished Niemann's book, I was starting to feel more like an accomplished goatkeeper...but I still didn't have goats. Since I couldn't move up our goat-arrival date, I settled on getting another book instead, this time Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. I'll admit up front that our two spoiled darlings arrived when I was only a Natural Goat Carequarter of the way through Coleby's book and my attention quickly turned to real, live goats, so I've still got a lot left to read, but I think that this book makes a very good addition to the beginning goatkeeper's long as you take the contents with a grain of salt. Coleby veers a little too far toward the personal-experience/no-science side for my tastes in a few spots, but most of her book walks a more middle ground. And she presents intriguing suggestions about how the prehistory of goats impacts their current needs, explaining that goats' tendency to browse on tree leaves means that the animals can develop mineral deficiencies when dining primarily on short-rooted grasses in human-build pastures. In turn, Coleby asserts that those cravings are what spur goats to break out of our pastures...which may be wishful thinking, but is worth considering.

I'd be curious to hear from our readers. Which other goat books do you feel help beginners turn into permaculture goat herders? Did I miss an obvious introductory text from my lineup?

Posted Thu Nov 20 07:23:57 2014 Tags:
hauling hay in the backseat

Riding in our backseat lately is a rough equivalent to an old fashion hay ride.

Posted Wed Nov 19 16:10:38 2014 Tags:
Roast brussels sprouts

We enjoyed our first and possibly only roast brussels sprouts of the season Tuesday, the combination of a new variety and an extremely wet fall meaning that the plants blighted instead of thrived. The experience made me think about how frequently home gardeners give up on a crop because of a single failure, when what they really should have gotten out of the experience was an impulse to figure out what made their plants refuse to grow.

For example, I often hear from folks who think carrots aren't worth growing, while for us the tasty roots are an easy crop. Well, an easy crop as long as I pay attention and make sure their seeds germinate during the summer heat. And as long as I locate the root vegetables in loose, humus-rich soil. So, not really an easy crop, but easy once you figure out what factors of your unique site are standing in the way of getting a stellar carrot crop.

Garden vegetables

Now that the cold weather has truly set in and most of you have nothing left to plant for the year, why not spend a few hours thinking back over your garden past? When you look at all of those luscious-looking pictures in the seed catalogs this winter, try to ignore the pretty photos and tantalizing descriptions. Instead, seek out the less sensational but more important notes on which blights each variety is resistant to and how well they do in other difficult situations that your garden will throw at them in the year to come.

And, as a reward, next year your garden will grow twice as well!

Posted Wed Nov 19 08:10:33 2014 Tags:
fixing Abigail's gate

Abigail discovered how to escape from one of her pastures today.

We think she used an edge on the other side of this stump to climb up and over.

Trimming the stump and adding a few pieces of wood might be enough to keep her in.

Posted Tue Nov 18 15:20:27 2014 Tags:
Goats grazing in the woods

Ever since we got goats, I've been building them a new "tractor" every day out of cattle panels. At first, that effort seemed very worthwhile, since I was moving the girls around to eat all of the honeysuckle off our fencelines and barn. But once I ran out of easy honeysuckle buffets, it seemed like twenty minutes of labor for half a belly of so-so food might not be as efficient a use of my time.

AbigailMonday afternoon, I decided to let the girls run out in the woods...and boy did they love it! If I don't have to ensure that the honeysuckle is all concentrated in one place, there's still quite a bit out there, maybe a few weeks' worth within a stone's throw of the coop. The question is --- will I regret letting our goats run wild outside our core homestead?

The worst-case scenario is that a trespassing hunter will think Abigail is a deer, or that the pack of wild dogs who roam through our woods will get past Lucy's defenses and try to eat Artemesia up. More likely (but only slightly less heart-wrenching) is the possibility that our girls will hop right over the chicken-wire fences that surround our core homestead and start chowing down on apple-tree twigs.

To be entirely honest, our goats have gotten out and ended up free in the yard a few times already. So far, they seem much more interested in oat leaves than in apple trees, so I'm willing to risk a few nibbles as long as I'm right here to catch them in the act. Chances are good that if Artemesia got loose in the garden, she'd just end up on the porch, as she has before, asking why we haven't come out to play, so I'll try letting them out into the woods for longer today. Here's hoping our goats aren't too capricious and that they behave!

Posted Tue Nov 18 07:45:41 2014 Tags:

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