The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

archives for 02/2017

Sifting wood ashes"You have to clean out your ashes every morning too, right?" Mom asked me a few weeks ago when we were talking about daily chores.

"Well, actually, no," I answered. Due to our ultra-efficient wood stove, we really only get a couple of small scoops of ash even after burning a fire most of the day and night. Our five-gallon ash bucket fills perhaps once a month during an easy winter, or every two weeks during really cold spells.

Five minutes sifting out biochar and we're ready for another month of homegrown heat. Gotta love modern technology!

Posted Wed Feb 1 07:00:46 2017 Tags:
Wedge repair with a file.

Our fancy steel wedge is still in the process of being shipped.

Filing down the rough part of the notch made it useful for more splitting.

Posted Wed Feb 1 16:13:17 2017 Tags:
Goat eating kale

We've cut Artie down to two thiamine shots a day. She's not 100% healed --- she still spins when she gets excited. But she's able to eat and go about her daily business. So I've moved on to long-term rejuvenative care --- providing as much fresh greenery as possible.

The trouble with that plan is pretty obvious. It's early February. The world is brown. I've run through nearly all the easily accessible honeysuckle and have actually been scavenging more along my daily walk.

"Would they like kale?" Mark asked.

"Well, yeah, they'd love kale, but that's human food."

Mark gave me this look that made it clear he'd far rather have an angst-free wife than leafy greens with his dinner. So I started cutting the herd a bucketful of kale every day.

Bucket of kale

Aurora's having a hard time figuring out how to eat kale that's not attached to the ground. But Artemesia is older and wiser. "The leaves look tastier," she told me. "But if you start at the stalk, you can engulf the whole thing in one slow gulp."

Sure enough, the bucket was soon empty, my goat's belly rounder. Here's hoping a few weeks of fresh greenery will slow her circling a little more until this winter trauma is a thing of the past.

Posted Thu Feb 2 07:30:33 2017 Tags:
Napping cat

Huckleberry saw his shadow this morning.

Time for six more weeks of napping.
Posted Thu Feb 2 14:57:49 2017 Tags:
Listeriosis treatment

I didn't want to admit it in my previous goat post, but Artemesia is starting to trend worse again rather than better. The downturn began a few days after we cut out the penicillin...which leads to the unpleasant conclusion that she may be suffering from the more serious listeriosis (a bacterial infection) rather than goat polio (a thiamine deficiency).

Luckily, the vet is back in town and he was willing to talk to me on the phone rather than making us put our poor goat in the car and drive to his office. He suggested switching her over to a different antibiotic --- tetracycline --- and adding in an anti-inflammatory (banamine). Meanwhile, he told me that it probably didn't hurt her, but the dosages I'd drawn off the internet (7.3 mL of penicillin (300,000 units per mL) and 2 mL of thiamine (500 mg/mL) three times a day) were too high for a 73 pound goat. Instead, he says all she needs is 3 mL of antibiotic and 1 mL of thiamine once a day.

As the family's newly skilled needle jabber, Mark will be glad to learn we're down to two shots per day. I hope that Artemesia is similarly relieved by the change in drugs and starts back onto the path to recovery.

Posted Fri Feb 3 07:34:55 2017 Tags:
Used and broken ATV needs a new home.

Now that the Kubota has proven itself we need to find a new home for the ATV.

It's broken....our neighbor thinks it might be the timing belt.

The price would be cheap if someone thinks they can fix her.

Posted Fri Feb 3 15:31:23 2017 Tags:
Early spring vegetables

The first hint of early spring crops in the garden seemed like a great opportunity to finally learn how to cook an omelet.

Farm omeletI did a little google searching and discovered that my failures in the past --- omelets that stick to the pan and have to be scrambled to finish cooking --- were due to impatience. Sauteing the veggies normally then lowering the heat to medium results in a perfect omelet that can be flipped like a pancake then filled with Egyptian onion greens, bacon, red peppers, shiitakes, broccoli, and arugula. Yum!

Posted Sat Feb 4 06:47:29 2017 Tags:
Anna Busywork
Tax return

I've been spending a lot of time worrying myself sick over Artemesia's health. I don't really want to go into the details until everything pans out one way or another. So, instead, I'll share the best technique I've found so far to block out worries between hand feedings --- income tax returns.

Unfortunately, twelve pages only took a couple of hours since I'd crunched the business numbers in January. Now what kind of busywork will I come up with to keep my mind off a sick goat? I'm not quite desperate enough to mop the floor...yet.

Posted Sun Feb 5 06:41:07 2017 Tags:
Artemesia and Aurora grazing with Anna.

Artemesia woke up this morning feeling a whole lot better.

We had an early morning vet visit from Artemesia's super nice doctor.

I asked him if he's ever had a more remote patient while I was driving him in on the Kubota and he confessed we are the most remote.

Posted Sun Feb 5 11:40:32 2017 Tags:
Goats grazing honeysuckle

I thought the circling was bad. But watching my doe twirl in place was nothing compared to arriving with goat breakfast in hand Friday morning...and only having one goat meet me at the door. Artemesia was hidden beneath the milking stand, her eyes open but no other movement when I approached and begged her to get up. She ate a couple of pieces of carrots out of my hand after much coaxing. Then...nothing.

The next two days are a bit of a blur. After shots of an anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and two hours of crying (on my part) and sleep (on her part), Artemesia finally got to her feet. I was able to tempt her into eating a few carrot slices and honeysuckle over the course of the day by handfeeding her the way you feed paper into a shredder --- lining everything up perfectly and sometimes sending another piece through to dislodge the first if it gets stuck. But, overall, she appeared barely conscious.

The next morning, though, Artemesia was a little better...especially after I brought her down into the trailer to warm up in front of the wood stove. (It was eleven degrees outside, after all!) She still needed help consuming food, but at least her appetite had returned so she was interested in eating.

Unfortunately, by midafternoon, a heavy fever hit and she was down once again. This time, her head was burning up but the rest of her body was shaking hard. So I put her under my coat and held her for a couple of hours until the fever broke.

Napping goat

Once again, I walked her down to the trailer. It was nearly sunset at this point and I couldn't bear the thought of her freezing up in the barn all night while in her weakened state. But clouds rolled in and the temperature warmed. Meanwhile, Artemesia started feeling good enough to tramp around underneath the elevated sofa where we'd stashed her. She wasn't sleeping, I wasn't sleeping, and poor Aurora was crying up in the pasture where she wasn't sleeping either. So, at half past midnight, I limped my sick doe back up the hill and sent her to bed with her daughter.

I was afraid to check on Artemesia Saturday morning...but she actually looked a little better yet. I brought an armload of honeysuckle and she actually dived in and ate without assistance (although still slower than I would have liked). The vet came and gave her an extra dose of B vitamins plus a steroid, then took a fecal sample (since we both suspect worms might be wreaking havoc on her weakened system despite a dose of copper and, later, of Safeguard).

Sun goat

We'll have word back on her fecal sample today. In the meantime, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that Artemesia continues to improve. I feel like she's already proved the medical world wrong twice --- according to the vet, once a goat goes down she usually doesn't get back up. Artemesia has picked herself up and brushed herself off twice now, so I hope she's willing to settle in for the long haul of frequent honeysuckle feedings and a return to full health.

Posted Mon Feb 6 06:57:17 2017 Tags:
Kubota stuck in a rut.

I managed to bottom out the Kubota Sunday when I was driving in the doctor.

We determined today to start hooking up the Super Winch tomorrow so it will work on the Kubota.

Posted Mon Feb 6 16:03:06 2017 Tags:
Chicken pot pie

While my stomach healed this previous fall and winter, I devolved into the world's laziest cook. But now that I'm able to eat real food, I figured it was worth my time to cook up last year's old layers (who have been patiently waiting in the freezer).

Despite various other methods tried during our early years on the farm, I now cook all old hens slowly under moist heat before picking the flesh off the bones and using the former in various recipes. The classic is chicken pot pie, and this Epicurious recipe has become my new favorite. Except, I used homemade broth instead of storebought, shiitakes instead of button mushrooms, far more vegetables than they call for, goat milk instead of cream, and a different biscuit recipe baked separately instead of together. But, I mean, it's mostly the same. And it definitely hit the spot. Thanks, old hens!

Posted Tue Feb 7 07:12:47 2017 Tags:
Super Winch extension mount.

We figured out today the Kubota needs a hitch extension to pair up the Super Winch.

Posted Tue Feb 7 15:32:52 2017 Tags:
Shiitake mushroom bud

According to some book that has since faded into obscurity in my memory, the traditional Japanese method of reproducing shiitake mushroom logs is simple. Just cut a fresh log and set it beneath the old...and the fungi will move down to colonize the new substrate.

I decided to try a slightly modified method of that technique with a mini log in April 2015. To streamline the spread of mycelium, I placed a wet sheet of corrugated cardboard between the fresh and colonized logs...and sure enough the white threads of fungi soon clambered on through.

Now, seventeen months later, there's finally a tiny mushroom budding on my never-plugged log! Yes, that's nearly a year later than the plugged logs fruited, proof that the traditional technique is slower, if no less sure. Still, given the simplicity of cut-it-and-touch-to-an-existing-log technique, it seems to merit a repeat on a slightly larger scale.

Posted Wed Feb 8 07:52:11 2017 Tags:
Tomatoes in the Winter.
The last few tomatoes are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
Posted Wed Feb 8 15:33:19 2017 Tags:

I find it easiest to assess Artemesia's return to health by taking her out and watching her graze. Three days ago, she was so weak that it took a major effort to cut off leaves of wheat, oats, or grass. She ended up gumming most of them instead of eating them and soon gave up.

Now she's able to eat overwintered oats...even though still considerably more slowly than her daughter's gorging approach to grazing. She didn't fall asleep in the middle of dining on gathered honeysuckle either, which is also a good sign.

Grazing goats

Two days ago, Artemesia almost couldn't make it back up the small hill to her pasture after grazing in the yard. Only after I let her nap for a couple minutes at the midpoint did she finish the trek. This time, she still got tired near the end but soldiered on through...planning for an afternoon nap in the dry comfort of her barn.

All told, our poor, sick doe is looking considerably better. You can tell from her coat that she finally has enough energy for a little self-grooming. She's able to eat on her own when I gather garlands of honeysuckle for in-barn consumption. And she's even wiggling away from the needle during her daily shots (which the vet has recommended extending for another week to ease her back into full health). I'll continue to temper my optimism with caution until Artemsia is a dancing picture of goat vitality again, but I'm much relieved to see my beloved doe back on her feet and back in her life again.

Posted Thu Feb 9 07:34:50 2017 Tags:
Winch saves the day.

We got the hitch extension last night which allowed the Super Winch to slide into the hitch receiver like it was meant to do.

It pulled us out without much effort after I secured the cable to a tree.

Such a relief to have the Kubota out of harm's way.

Posted Thu Feb 9 15:55:16 2017 Tags:
Two goats

I've learned a lot from Artemesia's case of (probably) listeriosis. With 20/20 hindsight, I wouldn't have bred a goat who wasn't in peak health. I would have paid more attention when extra rations weren't enough to get her weight back on. And even though a fecal exam suggests worms aren't implicated after all, I definitely could have dosed our doe with B vitamins and perhaps some with other supplements as well to get her back on track early on.

House goat

But the biggest lesson learned is that two goats really might not be enough goats. Goats are herd animals, and I wonder whether having only her daughter around isn't a low-level stress that cuts into Artemesia's peace of mind.

More troubling is the question of what would have happened if Artemesia really had died. Aurora seemed to be independently content to stand atop her stump in the pasture while her mother circled for hours in the barn. But as soon as I led Artemesia out of the doeling's vicinity to warm her up by the fire, our littlest goat descended into a crying mass of "I'm alone and the world is awful!" Without her mother, we would have been stuck finding an emergency goat friend or giving Aurora away (tough when her mother had died of a possibly infectious illness) ASAP.

Honeysuckle leaves

Something to ponder if Artemesia bounces back and pops out a girl kid or two. In the meantime, though, my attention will remain riveted to the new leaves on the honeysuckle vines, which are providing such excellent goat fodder during Artemesia's rebound.

Posted Fri Feb 10 07:01:55 2017 Tags:
Grinding sparks.

One problem we had while hooking up the Super Winch was the hitch extension getting stuck when we slid it into the Kubota receiver.

It took two attempts at grinding off the powder coating on the top and bottom to make it slide easily into the receiver.

Posted Fri Feb 10 15:42:56 2017 Tags:

Now that I've let the cat out of the bag about my alter-ego, the time seemed ripe to add an author photo to Aimee's various bios. The trouble is...all of my photos look like homesteader-Anna rather than writer-Aimee. What to do?

Wig arrangement

Kayla came through with costumes, makeup, and even an enthusiastic niece to make the day even more fun. Add in Mark and his artistic eye and we soon had more photos than we knew what to do with.

Bio images

Time to narrow them down and give my alterego a face! I hope you'll drop by Aimee's facebook page and vote for your favorite.

Posted Sat Feb 11 07:45:57 2017 Tags:
Estwing sure split wedge

It took a little over two weeks for it to get here but it was worth the wait.

The new Estwing Sure Split Wedge design seems to require about half as much effort.

Now we can stop destroying our tree felling wedges and save them for trees.

Posted Sat Feb 11 13:56:37 2017 Tags:
Moistening potting soil

When I was in college, one of my student jobs involved helping out at the school's arboretum. There, I learned all kind of handy planting techniques, such as moistening your potting soil thoroughly in the sink before starting seeds.

Our first spring flat --- onions --- is now on its heating mat and ready to grow. Next up are broccoli and peppers at the first of March.

Posted Sun Feb 12 07:34:45 2017 Tags:
Estwing steel wedge close up.

The secret sauce of the new Estwing Steel Sure Split Wedge is the asymetrical placement of the wedge enhancers.

Posted Sun Feb 12 15:32:37 2017 Tags:

Sword with backgroundAfter a little manipulation with the GIMP, I think I came up with an Aimee author photo that looks like me...but with flare. A huge thank you to Willie Ellis for lending us his homemade helmet to turn a so-so costume into something special.

If you're in the area, you might check out Willie's facebook page to see the furniture he and his brothers create. They don't jut work with wood, they're blacksmiths too. So if you're looking for a medieval helmet...well now you know who can hook you up!

Posted Mon Feb 13 07:40:09 2017 Tags:
Super Winch wiring.

It was easy to use jumper cables to connect the Super Winch to the Kubota power.

Posted Mon Feb 13 15:31:37 2017 Tags:
Goats in the winter sun

Artemesia is still getting better, very slowly but hopefully surely. In the meantime, I've had a lot of questions about her hypothetical kids, so I thought I'd give you all the dirt.

According to the vet, if Artemesia lost her kids at this point (halfway through her pregnancy), we'd probably lose her. I assume that means there would be blood and other obvious signs of miscarriage, of which there have been none.

So, presumably she's still feeding miniature goatlings, which is probably why it's so hard for her to bounce back. If she does make it to term and pops out healthy kids, I'm seriously considering bottle feeding them (as little as I like that thought), so we can dry her off immediately and let her finish recuperating in peace.

In the meantime, I'm stuffing my favorite goat with as much honeysuckle as she'll eat and am thrilled that she's finally strong enough to consume hay out of the manger once again. Maybe by this time next week, a walk around the yard won't wear her out?

Posted Tue Feb 14 07:28:48 2017 Tags:
Cutting down a tree for Valentines Day.

The Oregon battery powered chainsaw comes through once again.

We cut down a Sycamore tree today to propagate more mushroom logs.

Posted Tue Feb 14 15:41:29 2017 Tags:
Male hazel catkins

The male hazel flowers are opening up, both on wild hazelnuts and on the hybrids in our yard. Finally, a good source of pollen for the honeybees who have been unusually busy during this warm winter weather!

Hybrid hazel budThe bush pictured at the top of this post is an unnamed hybrid from the Arbor Day Foundation. But, in the background, next generation named hybrids look like they might produce female flowers this year.

It's unusual for a plant to commit to female flowers before it makes the energetically cheaper males. But when I dissected one of the plump pink buds on the catkin-less plants I'm pretty sure I found stigmas (female flower parts) buried deep inside. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what these buds turn into. Maybe tasty nuts with thinner shells?

Posted Wed Feb 15 07:50:04 2017 Tags:
Carrying mushroom log
We cut out the top of yesterday's sycamore for mushroom logs.

The base will turn into firewood for 2018.
Posted Wed Feb 15 15:57:25 2017 Tags:
Aquaponic growbed

I'm ashamed to say that my fish started ailing right about the same time as Artemesia and my reaction was, "I can't deal with sick fish right now." Predictably, not dealing meant they all kicked the bucket, then rotted within the tank (I really didn't want to deal with them) and fed the plants for a while that way.

Now that the water's cleared back up, it's time to figure out what I did wrong and get back on track. I suspected the issue was pH since that was the one part of the water chemistry that was still swinging pretty widely before I introduced the fish. Sure enough, upon testing, I found the nitrogen had all been eaten up but the pH was a far-too-sweet 8.0.

Aquaponic celery

It's possible the high pH is just a remnant of the cycling process not quite being complete. In the past, I'd lowered pH with lemon juice, but Aquaponic Gardening suggests citric acid (the acid in lemon juice) is a bad choice since it kills the good bacteria in my grow bed.

This time, I just did a partial water change (15%) using rain-barrel water (pH 6.5), which brought the overall tank water down very slightly. Then I used two tablespoons of vinegar to bring me back to neutral (7.0) pH. Here's hoping the pH stays a bit steadier over the next few days so I'll feel comfortable adding back in fish....

Posted Thu Feb 16 07:21:10 2017 Tags:
Goat tire installation.
We installed another tire to help Aurora feel special and tall.
Posted Thu Feb 16 15:12:40 2017 Tags:
Cardboard mycelium barrier

We didn't order any spawn, so how do we plan to get fungi into our new mushroom logs? The idea is to riff off our recent mini-log success and see if we can get mycelium to run from existing logs into fresh new wood.

After bringing three sycamore logs home to our mushroom station, I soaked corrugated cardboard in warm water and layered the wet paper product on top of the fresh logs. Corrugated cardboard is a perfect environment for spawn, so it should tempt the existing fungi out of their old logs and into the new.

Shiitake logs

Speaking of old logs, we stacked three of those on top of the cardboard layer. I was careful to choose all logs of the same variety since I want to get a triple dose of inoculation rather than having different types of shiitakes fighting it out for the fresh wood.

As a side note, I fully expect the three old logs to stop fruiting as soon as they notice the fresh substrate beneath them. In general, fungi are either colonizing new ground as fast as they can or popping out mushrooms to spread their spores, never doing both at the same time. So if you only have a few logs, you might not want to try this at home --- your fruiting logs will be out of commission for as long as they're spreading spawn down below.

Of course, this is all hypothetical at the moment. Time to settle in to wait and see what happens!

Posted Fri Feb 17 07:16:09 2017 Tags:
Truck being winched up on to a roll back wrecker.

Our old farm truck broke a serpentine belt today.

Lucky for me that it was before I loaded it up with gravel.

It was nice when two people stopped to see if I needed help.

Posted Fri Feb 17 15:09:42 2017 Tags:
Daffodil bud

Our month-long goat rollercoaster is on another downswing at the moment. Artemesia was doing much better, with the exception of serious weakness in her hind end, earlier in the week. So the vet prescribed selenium (for the weakness) and recommended trying to take her off the antibiotics.

Within 48 hours, she was back to circling as best she could on her wobbly hind legs. The vet, once again, was out of town, so we put her back on antibiotics, hand feeding, and hope. If you've got some of the latter to spare, please send it our way.

Posted Sat Feb 18 07:10:37 2017 Tags:
Chain table update one year later.

We've been using the chain suspended counter for a year now.

The chains are pretty much out of the way once you get used to their location.

Posted Sat Feb 18 16:08:31 2017 Tags:

Holding a sick goat in your arms for a long February day is like experiencing a road trip as a child. You have a vague idea of where you're going and why, but no control over the route or how long it will take to get there.

If you're lucky, your seat mate brought some cud to chew and is willing to submit to the boredom of joint napping. Otherwise, it will be a long series of "No, don't eat my notebook. No, don't jump on your mother. No, just no."

Visiting chickens

The sights alternate between seemingly endless monotony and moments of surprising wonder. Like when the chickens travel far outside their usual stomping grounds and come to call.

You've never brought enough books. Or at least not quite the right books. But it somehow doesn't matter because you end up suspended in an endless now.

And if it's an overnight trip? Well, then you sleep fitfully and wake early, hoping today's road will be straighter, the path less windy, and the destination more clear.

Thank you all for the secondhand hope. It's much appreciated.

Posted Sun Feb 19 06:40:13 2017 Tags:
Baby goats

Despite a niggling sense of deep disloyalty, we decided Saturday that Aurora needs a new friend. So I called up the folks who were disbudding their Dwarf Nigerians at the same time Aurora's little horns were being burnt off.

"Any chance you have a goat for sale?" I asked.

"We've got several," they answered. "Come on over Monday."

Life goes on. Today we're taking a trip to see how those little cuties look all grown up.

Posted Mon Feb 20 06:17:45 2017 Tags:
June 2014 - February 20, 2017

We loved you, Artemesia. You were far more than a goat and I feel lucky to have enjoyed even such a short time as part of your herd.

May the honeysuckle be copious and the pastures green on your side of the fence. We'll never forget you.

Posted Mon Feb 20 15:02:19 2017 Tags:
Anna Oops?
Goat bridge

So, you know how they tell you not to jump into a new relationship right away after a very important breakup? That's extremely good advice. The trouble is that Aurora started screaming the minute we carried her mother out of the barn. For her sake, we couldn't wait. So we went to check out John and Jeanne's farm in Lee County.

Dwarf nigerians

I'd already cried a couple of gallons at that point, but was doing my best to put on a good face. Still, I have to admit I wasn't 100% as I picked out our new doeling from a herd of twenty contenders.


How can I be so sure I was off the mark? Well, when we got our new doeling home, she peeed...without squatting...and I realized we'd accidentally purchased a wether. Oops. Now what're we gonna do?

Posted Tue Feb 21 07:21:21 2017 Tags:
Gardening in the Winter.

We got a little closer to normal today after some late Winter gardening.

Thank you for your hope and prayers during this difficult episode.

Posted Tue Feb 21 15:29:58 2017 Tags:
Dirty feet

When life gets tough...I take off my shoes. The weather gods very kindly sent a Tuesday with high around 70, which meant bare feet and short sleeves were a perfect fit for the garden. After a couple of hours of sun and mud and frog calls, I was feeling astonishingly better.

Posted Wed Feb 22 07:34:44 2017 Tags:
New plastic pulley for Chevy S-10 truck.

The belt broke on the truck due to a broken pulley.

A new plastic pulley with belt and labor was 105 dollars.

Posted Wed Feb 22 15:29:59 2017 Tags:
Under the quick hoop

Lettuce isn't quite hardy enough to survive even a mild zone-6 winter despite quick-hoop protection. But the row-cover fabric produces a protected microclimate that pre-heats the soil for spring...while also growing quite a sturdy crop of dead nettle, chickweed, and speedwell.

Early spring weed killing

I've hand-weeded beds like this in the past...and it's a bad idea. One of my goals for this year is to think of smarter ways to handle body-breaking tasks, so I'm experimenting with two early spring weed killers.

Option A: (in the foreground) solarization, which I really don't expect to work at such a cold time of year. Option B: a short-term cardboard kill mulch, which I expect to weaken the plants within a couple of weeks and make them easy to handweed.

Perhaps Mark should pull out the flame weeder and see if we can come up with an experimental option C?

Posted Thu Feb 23 07:27:30 2017 Tags:
Firewood cutting with the Kubota.

We got a head start on Winter 2018 with some firewood cutting today.

To prolong the battery on the Oregon chainsaw we stop when the power gets down to one dot out of four.

Posted Thu Feb 23 15:05:31 2017 Tags:
Dwarf Nigerian wether

Meet Edgar, named after Edgar Allen Poe.

Skittish goat

Yes, we decided to keep him. In part, this was just the course of least resistance. By the time I'd stopped crying at the drop of a hat, Aurora had accepted the newcomer into her herd...although she's still chasing him away from any source of food unless I give her something more tasty to keep her occupied.

Floppy-eared goat

But, mostly, Edgar is part of my plan to change several of my goatkeeping methods to prevent another disaster like the one we recently lived through. While many factors were likely at play, I think my biggest management error with Artemesia was thinking I could leave a four-month-old kid with her mother and think the former would be weaned naturally before her high-production mother used up all of her fat and stored nutrients to feed a growing kid.

Now, I mostly fell into that trap because I was too sick to pay attention and didn't realize Aurora was still nursing. But I also didn't really have many other choices at the time. With only two goats in the herd, they had to stay together for the sake of everyone's sanity.

Tiny goat

Adding a wether gives me more options. Assuming we do find another doe to increase our herd to three, a kid or kids could be separated to hang out with Edgar while their mother recuperated from heavy-duty milk production. A boy kid could be kept around longer using the same technique without worrying he'd impregnate his mother or sisters. And I have a feeling that a herd of more than two goats will also be less scared of predators and more able to keep their cortisol levels low.

Yes, you read all that right. We're adding a boy to our herd as a nanny goat. Of course that won't be confusing. Right?

Posted Fri Feb 24 07:16:09 2017 Tags:
Meeting new goats.

We met some nice goats today as part of our effort to expand to a herd of three.

Posted Fri Feb 24 15:21:14 2017 Tags:
New boots

I adore Bogs boots, even though they only last a year under our hard homesteading conditions. Every winter, I buy a new pair and my feet stay dry until the next fall. Except this year, when one of my six-week-old boots developed a crack right down the middle. Yikes!

It was too late to get a refund through Amazon, where I'd purchased the boots. But Mark had the bright idea of going straight to the manufacturer. They have a pretty streamlined (if a little slow) system where you input your information, using photos as both proof of purchase and proof of defect. Then, assuming they agree that your boot broke due to manufacturer error, a new set of boots shows up in the mail with no further effort on your part.

I'm looking forward to twelve more months of dry feet!

Posted Sat Feb 25 06:50:26 2017 Tags:
Lost eggs under an old wheelbarrow.

One of our hens has been cheating on us!

We found this stash under a decommissioned wheelbarrow near the junk pile.

A definite drawback to letting the flock free range in the flood plain.

Posted Sat Feb 25 15:04:15 2017 Tags:
Catching fish

The pH in my aquaponics setup keeps fluctuating and trending alkaline, which left me with a bit of a conundrum. I have a feeling what I need is to put a few fish in to get the biology really working. But I'm leery of driving an hour to the fish store for finned friends who will likely end up dead.

Then I had a thought. We live in limestone country and our streams are quite alkaline. In fact, when I tested our creek water, I discovered it was actually sweeter than the water in our aquaponics tank (8.2 versus 7.8). Maybe some minnows would survive well enough to get my system up and running?

My first attempted failed miserably. No, not because the tank killed the fish. I captured one small minnow and didn't notice until I got the bucket home that there was also a hefty caddisfly larva who had come along for the ride. "Well, that'll be fun to observe," I thought and put the two together into a small container to let the water rise to room temperature before introducing them to the tank.


An hour later, the fish was gone. Apparently caddisfly larvae eat baby fish. See, I'm learning things already!

Anyway, I headed back to the creek and scooped up two larger minnows the second time around. I figured I could always put them back if they survive and I want to upgrade later. But, to my surprise, these minnows are less shy and more entertaining than the guppies were. So maybe my aquarium will turn into a native fauna observation tank?

Posted Sun Feb 26 07:06:18 2017 Tags:
mark Robins
Robins returning to the garden.

We noticed Robins in the garden this week.

It must mean they are breaking away from big flocks to select a mate.

Posted Sun Feb 26 13:49:18 2017 Tags:
Mini Nubians

While searching for a friend for Aurora, I stumbled across Michael's Mini-Nubians in Fall Branch, Tennessee. This mom-and-pop operation actually has a two-year-old, pregnant doe available that we could have taken home right away and Baby was definitely a sweetheart. But I was a bit leery of adding a horned goat back into our herd...and I really don't think I could handle the angst of a pregnancy right away. So, instead, we put down a deposit on one of the herd's unborn kids.

Old goat

We can't be sure who will throw girls, but our first choice as mother is Pixie, aka Green Gables Prancing Pixie. Pixie is a venerable old lady at nine years of age and her teats were rather tremendous for a mini (a good thing for ease of milking). But her major selling point is that she's a sweetheart --- I think she would have stood there and let me pet her for as long as I felt able.

Mini-Nubian buck

The father of most of Michael's upcoming herdlings this year is Green Gables Indian War Song. As you can tell from their official names, both parents are bred by probably the premier Mini-Nubian operation in the U.S., so it seemed like a very good deal to be able buy one of their offspring for $250 weaned.


Michael doesn't have a website yet, but I'd be glad to pass along your contact information if you live in the area and are interested in Baby (shown above) or in any of this year's kids. The latter are slated to be born in late March and will be ready for new homes in late June (or much earlier if you'd prefer to go the bottle route for $50 off the purchase price). Just email me and I'll email him.

For everyone else --- stay tuned for baby shots in about a month. No one will ever be able to replace Artemesia in our hearts, but I have a feeling Pixie's daughter could come close. Perhaps we'll name her Pixel?

Posted Mon Feb 27 06:55:48 2017 Tags:
Fixing leaking gas tank.

I parked the truck on an incline to stop a small fuel leak long enough to epoxy it.

Posted Mon Feb 27 16:32:08 2017 Tags:
Watching goats

For over a month, there have been no goat outings and no joy when I walked up to the goat barn (usually at least half a dozen times a day). So even though taking our new herd out to graze makes me melancholy now, it's also a relief.

Goats eating wild grub the way they ought to! Blue sky! Green leaves! Terror-stricken attitudes when a carefully trained dog walks by! Okay, so we could have done without that last bit, but you get the gist.

Goat reach

At least there's a new puzzle to keep me busy. Edgar came to us from a herd far too large for much human contact, so he has the aspect of a feral cat. It doesn't help that Aurora is quick to assert her herd-queen status and head butt him if he dares to eat anywhere near her regal presence.

So I've taken it slow. By the second day, our wether was willing to eat with me in the barn, by the fourth day he'd nosed my fingers in search of a handout. Day five saw me tentatively taking Aurora and Edgar out to graze in the woods --- no way could I catch the latter to collar him, but he stuck like glue to Aurora's side and was no management problem at all. Day six I petted him while he was looking the other way and Edgar didn't run off like a shot. Who knows what day seven will bring?

Posted Tue Feb 28 07:12:28 2017 Tags:
Making seed starting tables fit underneath new couch.

The new seed station makes use of the space underneath the elevated couch.

Posted Tue Feb 28 15:52:27 2017 Tags:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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