Monday, June 14, 2010

cow vs. goat

Taking this online hand milking/ cheese making and the goat soap making course is making me wild to get a goat or 3.
This weekend I bought some goat milk from the grocery store. Just to see if I could drink it. I think I've had goat milk at the farm before but that would have been 20 years ago easy.

It has a very distinct smell but it was much sweeter than cow milk. I can drink it (although I'm not sure I would put it in cereal just yet. But the best part was Nathan LOVES it. Like L-O-V-E's it. He insists on getting to drink the "special" goat milk and won't touch his regular milk right now.-Which is great news for when we get goats, that he'll drink the milk. But bad news right now since the goat milk from the store is double the price of regular milk.

So I'm all hyped up for getting goats and then I read this article about keeping a dairy cow in Mother Earth news. I still like the idea of cow milk better , but I assume that's because I'm more accustom to the taste.
However goat milk seems much more versatile. In terms of cheeses and the soap. Both of which I think I would be able to sell at local farmers markets.

I did like the article in Mother Earth. and thinks it's worth a read. But I do think their stats are a like off in the "annual Budget for keeping a Family Milk cow." as they quote the "Value of milk available for human consumption:$3,000 to $ 5,215"
1) I don't believe my family spends 3000 a year on milk- I could be wrong but that seems awfully high. so...
2) The rest of the value would come from being able to sell that milk, and the excess that your family is not able to consume, which I think would be more difficult than selling goat milk. Since Cow milk is available literally everywhere how would you be able to compete?

So although at some point I would love to get a cow, I really still think we'll start with goats and go from there.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

drive by egging

It sounds worse than it was...
actually we were out for a drive on Sunday afternoon, and I noticed a place a little up the highway had a few alpacas, Lamas and on closer inspection goats out in pastures around the front yard. Plus they had a sign that read

"Eggs 3 dollars a doz.
Bunnies 15 dollars
Kittens 10 dollars"
After we we're done our little tour around, I convinced Chris that we needed to pull into their driveway. "we'll just stop to buy some eggs, and that'll get us in the door to ask a few questions!"
There was a kid (and by that I mean a boy probably around 14- because I'm old now and everyone who's under 25 is a kid to me) who was coming out of one of the gates when we pulled in. I asked him for some eggs. and as He ran to the house to retrieve them I made a big deal of Nathan wanted to get out and see the goats. As I paid for the eggs and watched Nathan receive goat kisses through the fence (yuck). I pepper the kid with questions. About how much they ate? If they were always in this pen or rotated around?
I was surprised when he said the goats (4 of them) would probably go through an entire bale of hay in a month. - those huge round bales! At least in the winter. I'm still trying to work out the math on that. But if those bales are about 100 dollars, and there is probably 5 months a year minimum that they need to be fed from a bale...adding this up...I'm not seeing how raising goats or sheep is really economically feasible. There's really no room for a profit, if you pay for hay and feed...but a baler is huge money too!
I'm no math whiz, and I am taking this on the estimate of a 14 year old...but I'm getting a little worried these animals may just be more pets or really expensive lawn mowers.
oh... and the bunnies they had for sale?
Soooooo cute. I was hard for me to put it down.
and Chris is no help "as long as you look after it" was his only comment.
but I had to be practical. We have no cages and were really not set up for rabbits yet.
and after taking to the kid a little longer I was also very concerned about their breeding "program" if you could call it anything of the sort.
He informed me that there should be more bunnies from 2 different rabbits before the end of the month. "yep, we have new bunnies about every 30 days"
ummm...that's not exactly reassuring. Especially when I said we wouldn't be taking a bunny today he started to try and sell me on a kitten. ( I think the kids probably get their spending money from these animals because he was sure convinced I should take some animal). He told me that they were keeping a few of the newest kittens, but he'd bring out the ones that were for sale and again there would be more kittens in a few weeks.
And all I could think was, your keeping kittens from this batch? are you getting rid of the male that fathered the kittens?
And I started to have serious concerns about inbreeding from this operation, that the kids were probably in charge of.
But it was interesting to see. And I think I'll probably do drive ins like that again.
So be forewarned if your in our area and don't want to see me pulling into your driveway with a million questions don't bait me by putting out a sign that your selling anything. Because I've decided that's like putting out a welcome mat. Especially if you have sheep, or goats or even alpacas. Your just asking to have me roll up one of these days!

Yay the garden is fenced

Chris spent most of the day at a course in Edmonton. but when he got home I insisted that we needed to fence off the garden.
It's not pretty. I'm not even sure it's totally functional. But it's done.
I needed to make sure there was at least a visible barrier for the dogs, so that they wouldn't go tearing through and smash all the poor tender sprouts. -Let alone what else they might do in a dirt pile!
He used a lot of the stakes and chicken wire that were already pieced together and obviously torn down from the previous owners- but there wasn't enough there to go all the way around???? So we broke out the 2 rolls of chicken wire we'd bought and never used for the chicken coop, and the 2 steel stakes I bought this spring- as well as some re bar that was lying around.
Like I said it's done. but it's far from pretty!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

tail feather envy

The boys and I spent an hour or so at the bookstore in Edmonton Tuesday night while Chris was doing his trucking course.
This funky looking like guy is a puppet that was in the children's section of the store. I have to tell you I'm in love with peacock feathers.
I may have to do some research and find out how hard it would be to keep a peacock around just so I could collect all the molted feathers.
I know that's kind of a stupid reason to want an animal, but I'm in love with the beauty and the rich shiny colors in those feathers. I know a ton of people use them in crafts. I'll bet I could make some cash off them at a farms market taking the feathers to sell -the ones that I'm not hoarding for myself that is. - and that's a whole nother you have to treat bird feathers in some sort of solution to make sure they're not carrying mites or ticks or anything before you'd want to bring them into the house?
more things to research I guess

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Wild Goose Chase

A few weeks ago I mentioned my "evil Friend" the goose who had laid eggs on our hay bale?
And how I was unsure what the fate of those eggs had been?

Looky what was in the dug out
Hiding- or trying to.
I have to tell you these babies still aren't as fluffy and cute as baby chickens. But I was still in awe of the discovery.
Our dugout is in the middle of our field and the deep slopes on the 2 sides make it impossible to see from the house. Since it's quite a distance from the original hay bale I didn't think they would have gone there. And when I stopped seeing the geese at the little pond out front I figured even Mama and Daddy were gone.
But Sunday driving down the highway ( the dugout is more visible from the road) I spotted Mama and Daddy and a suspicious amount of yellow fluff surrounding them. That evening I took the whole family and my camera with the zoom lens attached to go investigate.
The parents took off into the field as soon as we arrived, probably trying to lure us away from the babies. The little ones slide down the banks and swam as far away from us as they could get.
Then one of them started entertaining us by swimming closer and repeatedly diving under the water. When we looked up for the others a few minutes later they had disappeared.
This started the Goose Chase in the field.

We would briefly see the grass moving around one of the adult geese. Then one of the big ones would go in one direction the other in the opposite direction and the babies would be headed in a third direction usually for some place with the most ground cover. Like the trees.
Mom and Dad would be honking the entire time. Probably telling them where to head?
Once they were in the field and trees they was impossible to get close enough to snap another picture of the babies.
Clever creatures were doing and excellent job of evading us and distracting us to the direction of travel.
I was rather amused. They are obviously not geese that have spent any time in the city being hand fed. We even took some dried up bread crumbs with us- but couldn't get close enough to even try to tempt them with it. - that was a new experience for me. I'm used to geese in the city parks that are so bold they'll nearly bite your hand trying to be the first one in line for bread.

How to Build a Wall in Your Backyard (article)

Oddly I came across an article in Esquire magazine about how to build a stonewall in your backyard.
Considering I think we have about a million field stones I can't help but imagine how amazing an 18 inch or so wall would look lining the driveway up to the house.

I'm sure Chris will kill me when I tell him of this new brilliant (and free) plan. Since it really isn't about the cost of materials, but I'm sure the back breaking labor of moving the stones is going to get me in some hot water.
Ask A Landscaper: How to Build a Wall in Your Backyard

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Information overload

Thursday was another wet and rainy day around here. And I couldn't take it! Feeling trapped in the house, we somehow ended up on a little road trip. Traveling to the next biggest town?City? about an hour East of here.

Oddly we came across a coffee shop that had a basement full of used books. Mostly for a dollar or 2 each.

these were my wicked scores from the shop...

The New Complete Great Pyrenees by Paul Strang

And Raising Sheep the modern way by Paula Simmons.

I've been devouring both these books in small doses ever since I got them (funny with 2 small kids I can no longer sit down and read a book cover to cover).

I find the Complete Pyrenees book so interesting because although we own 2 dogs that are at least 1/2 Pyrenees each, I've only gotten my information about the breed from websites or blogs...and I never have time to read any website in it's entirety. So to have an actual book that I can flip through and find answers in is awesome. Plus the index to look up specific's one of the things I miss most about not always having books as your resources any more. Although the Internet is usually more convenient and faster for researching ( and way less heavy than boxes and boxes of books when you've moved as many times as we have) Some times it's nice to be able to scan an index and start from there. Not having to know what your looking for specifically.

The sheep book is a wealth of knowledge that I want to absorb like a sponge. I finally got my answer to how many sheep per acre!!!

The answer is 4 sheep per acre if you have good pasture and 1-2 per acre if you have poor pasture. In case you were wondering.

My mind has been running in overdrive as I read about fencing, and the importance of buying sheep that are prone to twins lambing.

I have been concerned about the state of our fences for quite awhile and wondering how much repair and or extra wire would have to be added before we could introduce any animal especially sheep to the pastures. and I read this...

"Sheep quickly learn to jump sagging fences...If you wait until they have the jumping habit, they may still do it after the fence is repaired. One jumper can set a bad example and should be sold, or slowed down by temporary "clogging" until retrained."

"Clogging" is strapping a piece of wood around the sheeps front ankle that gets in the way to prevent it from jumping- who knew? not me, I've never heard of it. (of course tonight I'll probably have some strange dream of sheep jumping over the moon in actual clogs -like the big dutch wooden shoe kind)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How does your garden grow?

We have a small Forest in the front window (still)
I'm pretty pleased almost everything sprouted. And I'm dying to put them outside, but since we had snow Saturday night I'm thinking I might wait at least another week. I'd be awfully upset to lose everything after tending these little ones for 5 weeks already. But I'm also worried they are out growing their little peat moss pots right now.

The plants on the left of the picture. Are tomato plants. the tallest ones. I felt pretty smug at Canadian tire a couple of days ago they were selling plants about the same size for 4 dollars each.

I Have 28 plants that size that cost me less than 2 dollars in seeds. I felt good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

class is in

Remember me mentioning how excited I was about Herbal maid fiber farm and Kathy's online classes?
You can see the previous post here

I started the first 2 classes today.
I'm taking a Goat Hand milking and cheese making class
as well as a Goat milk soap making class.

No we don't have goats yet.

But all of the course is sent in e-mails that can be saved for later reference.
Even if I can't participate in making all these fabulous looking treats right now (although I may post an ad on kijiji to see if anyone sells fresh goat milk in the area) I still think that just reading all of the information will help it sink in for when and if we get goats later on.

In fact Kathy has a guest instructor teaching the soap making, and she buys her supply of goat milk from local producers it doesn't sound like she has goats of her own either. So I don't feel quite so strange in doing this.

Such a productive weekend

My Dad came for the weekend. Nathan was in heaven. He adores my dad, his Grandpa Zoom. But Dad is great to have around for productivity.

Chris rototillered the whole garden. Now it just needs a quick wire fence wrapped around to keep the dogs out (as you can see)

Dad cut down the dead tree in the front yard.

It was crazy cold rain all weekend it even started snowing Saturday night so we focused most of our energies inside. We got to work on this wall in the garage.
(Above is the before picture)

We found a bunch of Styrofoam insulation sheets in one of the barns. we got to work cutting and fitting the pieces in between the studs. I spent most of the afternoon out in the garage with Chris helping to measure and cut all the pieces. It was funny to see how well we can still do projects together when there's no kids in the mix. By the second or third piece we got in we had a rhythm and routine down and start whipping through them faster and faster. It was a flash back to how well we could get things done TOGETHER before kids were around. We were a good team.

We found pegboard sheets on sale at one of hardware stores for 2 dollars a sheet a few months ago. So Chris screwed all of those to the wall over the new insulation. It has mad that whole space so much bigger and brighter looking. and so much more usable and accessible.

And Dad brought a bunch of my paintings (that I did in high school) we got them hung and screwed into the walls in the stairwell to the basement.

Dad also managed to get a threshold cut to size and screwed into the door frame of the mudroom entrance (so happy about that there was a quarter inch gap in the bottom of that door that created the biggest coldest drafts ever). And the boys managed to get the fridge that died a few months ago finally out of the kitchen. It was just to big and too heavy for Chris and I to do it.

They were all tiny jobs, but just stuff on the list we never managed to find time for. It felt great to get so many crossed off all in a weekend.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010



There are some blooms coming through.

The lilacs are starting to bloom in the front yard.

I've got the perfect jug that I can't wait to fill with all the beautiful flowers as soon as there are enough open.