Welcome!

In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!

May

May
May and I enjoying some sunshine
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Pigs. Need I say more?

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, May 24, 2010 0 comments

I had read, before we ever got our pigs, that they could be a problem with our chicken population.  When our four boys arrived we noticed a bit of interest and a couple idle bites in a chicken's direction here and there.  But the laying hens are fast, so the pigs never got more than a couple feathers out of the encounter.  We decided that between the damage they were doing to the floor in the barn, the potential snacking that would be at the chickens' expense, and the lovely smell, it would just be best to keep them in their own shed, in a seperate fenced-in pasture.  This didn't solve all our problems, unfortunately.

First off, I have to say that the damage to the barn has halted completely, minus the one time they got out into the other pasture, went into the barn, and ate all the grain we had.  Second, the smell is nowhere near as bad.  They keep their shed very clean and, thanks to the amount of space they have to move around in, only on occasion do I get an offensive odor wafted in my direction when out by their pasture.

The only thing we haven't been able to halt is the snacking.  Yes, the snacking at our chickens' expense.  There is one spot under a gate where the chickens can squeeze under and if they aren't smart enough to figure out how to get back they are, eventually, picked off.  So far not a single laying hen has been the victim, I'm not sure they could even fit under the gate, it has always been one of our almost two month old chickens.

Two or three times we have come home to find a carpet of feathers in the pigs' pasture.  They were like crop circles, once one showed up out of the blue another one did, then another one.  Then last night our neighbor's daughter stopped by to bring us some food scraps (for the pigs of course) and a few muffins (for us, yippy!) and as we were admiring the new baby goats she asked me if the pigs had a toy.  I wasn't really sure what she meant but as we neared the gate I saw the tell-tale feathers next to their water trough.

It was a horrifying sight.  Two of them had legs hanging out the sides of their mouths as they gnawed through the bones.  The other two had something as well, I tried not to look long enough to identify the body part.  I apologized to the neighbor who was probably sorry that she stopped by on her way back home, although she seemed relatively unphased.

That night Kyle and I discussed the impending downsizing of our pig herd.  We are looking forward to sending Bricktop off to our local animal processer more and more as the days wear on.  He is large enough and he gets the majority of the food.  Hopefully once he is gone we'll be able to focus on the other three, so they will grow faster.  Honestly, this is a great experience but I'm just not sure we want to get pigs again.  There are plenty of people who raise pigs, and I'd rather buy pork from a local co-op than deal with these guys again.  Chickens are so much quieter, they don't eat as much, they don't tear up your land, and they taste delicious.  I love chicken.  But then I think of bacon...oh bacon...

Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

New Additions

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9 comments

Friday morning I went out to check on Chutney before I went to work.  I had noticed the night before that her tail ligaments were getting pretty soft so I didn't want to miss the day that they actually "disappeared".  Much to my excitement they were nowhere to be found.  She seemed rather content so I felt confident that she wouldn't kid that morning but I had no basis for comparison to say if she would start going into labor before the end of the day.

I arrived at work at 7 o'clock and immediately started scrambling to get any pertinent items finished.  I had shipments to get out to our manufacturers that I knew couldn't wait until Monday so it wasn't until around noon that I was able to get back home to check on Chutney.  She was calmly munching on hay on the platform in the barn.  After a little while of pacing between the barn and the house waiting for something to change, I decided to open the door to the front paddock that we had fenced off for this occasion.  This way I could sit on the front porch and be able to see the goats.  Sure enough the girls were psyched to get out front where the grass was long and the low tree limbs had yet to be stripped of their leaves.

I tried to busy myself in the house.  After cleaning off our dining room table, which is our catch-all for anything and everything when we come into the house, and starting a load of laundry I decided I couldn't stand it anymore and went back outside.  I sat down in the grass within the paddock and started reading.  I needed to get my mind elsewhere or I would go crazy.  Chutney wasn't progressing at all and I was getting impatient.

The hours dragged on and still no sign from our little doe that she was even thinking of going into labor.  I went to bed restless, worried that they would be born during the night and something would go wrong.  At 3 o'clock in the morning I trudged out to the barn, the air was so warm and I was relieved that the babies would not come into the world in the middle of a hard frost.  I quietly opened the door and found Chutney lying in a bed of straw on the floor, my heart jumped up into my throat at the thought that maybe she was going into labor.  Alas, nothing.  I walked slowly back to the house, enjoying the mild weather, the darkness and quiet of the early morning hour.  But I needed to get some sleep.

Two hours later I gave up on my attempts to "sleep in", got dressed, and headed back out.  I kept wishing I had the same calm patience that my husband has.  Chutney still hadn't started going into labor, but when I felt her tail ligaments I noticed that I must have been wrong yesterday in thinking that they were 'gone' because they were certainly nowhere to be found this time.  She would kid before Sunday, of that I was certain.

Throughout the morning Chutney was obviously restless.  She didn't want to leave the barn, she continually cried out if someone wasn't in the barn with her, she didn't want to eat anything, and her udder was large and hard.  It appeared she was getting ready.  After hours of waiting I got annoyed with myself and went with Kyle to the gas station to get fuel for the lawn tractor, I had to stop hovering.  We got back and I checked her again, still nothing, so I went back into the house to warm up some apple cider before I went back into the barn to continue my surveillance.

Upon my return I found her lying on the floor of the barn and she was obviously pushing.  I ran out, and yelled to Kyle who was mowing the lower yard.  He saw me and calmly waved his understanding and slowly started making his way up the path to the barn.  I don't know how he can be so calm.  I ran back to the barn and arrived to see the front hooves and nose peeking out.  Chutney was about to become a mother.  Two seconds later a tiny, slippery kid came out and I cleaned its face off to be sure it could breathe before I stuck it in front of Chutney.  Her instincts kicked in amazingly and she immediately set to cleaning the kid off.  I was so proud. 

I took a closer look and announced to Kyle that we had a doeling!  Hooray, our herd has officially expanded.  But man this little girl was tiny, if they're all this small she's probably got five in there.  After a few minutes the doeling was relatively dry and started wobbling around trying to find the udder to start nursing.  Kyle went back to mowing while I tried to help her steady herself and nurse but Chutney was restless.  I wrapped the doeling into a dry towel and started rubbing her because she was just shivering and Chutney was distracted.  She kept lying down and getting back up, she started pushing again and I ran to get Kyle as he had asked me to do.  Thirty seconds later we got back in the barn and the second kid was on the ground.  I quickly cleaned of the face again with some paper towels and plopped this significantly larger kid in front of Chutney to get her cleaned off.  From the size of this baby I assumed it was a buck, but no, a second doeling!  These two look just like Chutney, same coloring with only slight variations on the white patches.  How cute.
Shortly after the second doeling was born a third practically shot right out.  This one was just as large as the second doeling but was a dark brown color.  I hoped it was a buck, but it just wasn't in the cards this time, a third doeling.  Chutney was still working on cleaning off doeling #2 so I cleaned off doeling #3 just enough to be able to move around until Chutney could get to her.

Once everyone was dried off we moved them over to the heat lamp (Saturday ended up a little too breezy and cool for newborn babies) where Chutney could get fresh water and hay and the babies could nurse without getting cold.  Within ten minutes all had nursed successfully and quickly fell asleep under the watchful eye of our new mama-goat.

Everyone is doing great and we are just as proud as can be with the new additions to our farm.  The doelings, who we named Poplar, Juniper, and Willow, are already bouncing around and climbing on anything and everything they can get their hooves on.

So in about one more month it will be May's turn but until then I'll be trying not to spend all my free time in the barn holding baby goats.  =D

Chutney is getting close

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, May 14, 2010 0 comments

Her tail ligaments are just about gone and have softened considerably since last night.  So I think we'll have some new additions to the farm within a day or two.  I'm home early from work so I can keep an eye on her.  Keep her in your thoughts, please, she is such a little goat with an enormous belly- hopefully her labor will go smoothly and we'll have a healthy mama and baby goats by the end of it.

Herding pigs

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, May 7, 2010 3 comments

Well last weekend we moved our pigs into their new area where they could get fresh grass and more shade from the surrounding trees.  We dug down into the ground where there was already a bit of a ledge to make them a cave-like shelter.  Using only a couple piers, 2x4s, and more of our salvaged metal roofing we attached a roof and called it good.  It was pretty awesome if you ask me.  It took the pigs some time to get used to it but you could tell they loved all the fresh, tall grass in their new enclosure.  We had been using the new electronetting that we got from Premier 1 Supplies that was originally intended to move the goats around our land.  It was looking like it was going to work pretty well, but we all get delusional at times, right?

The electronetting is not a good idea for pigs that can root into the ground.  Pretty much our boys would root away right next to the fence so much that it would get buried enough to short out the energizer.  So multiple times we found Boris or Freddy loose in the yard.  Luckily they never would go far and were easy to get back into their enclosure but it was starting to make me nervous.  We have neighbors and the last thing I want is for one of our animals to do damage to someone's property.

So last night was the last straw.  After eating dinner we went out to check on the goats and the chickens and saw Freddy down by our garden eating away at the clover.  I unplugged the energizer for the fence and we pulled up some of the stakes and corralled them back into their original pasture.  I'm wicked disappointed because we wanted them to tear up the land under those trees and get rid of the pricker bushes.  Also, we had wanted to plant some root vegetables in their old enclosure to feed the pigs later this summer.

We'll stop at Johnson Farm and Garden tonight to pick up some fiberglass posts, insulators, and more electrical fence tape to divide up their pasture so we can hopefully get something planted and growing out there soon.

I can only imagine how long Freddy had been out, though.  On our way back in from the barn we saw some hoofprints on our driveway and they certainly didn't belong to either of the goats!  So it looks like he had a nice little after-dinner stroll.

Counting down the days

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, May 6, 2010 2 comments

Whoa nellie!  Am I the only who noticed the coutdown this morning?  We're down to just a week and a half or so until Chutney kids and I have to admit that over the past few days I go out to the barn wondering if I'll be greeted by a bunch of babies.  I've heard that goats are pretty much sticklers for being on time with this kind of stuff, but its just so close and I can't help myself!

The poor girl just keeps getting wider and wider.  I'm certain she's got at least two in there.  I just hope there aren't too many more than that.  Of course, if it is just two, I'm pretty sure they're going to be pretty big kids- and I worry about my little mama-goat.  I just want her to have a relatively easy delivery and healthy kids.

The closer we get to her due date the more I am thinking that I am not ready yet!  Ugh.  I still have to order our disbudding iron (there are way too many little children that come here for us to leave horns on playful goats) and get paperwork/registration stuff ready for new additions.  I have no idea where to even start.  We don't even have a herd name yet!!!  We still need to work that out as well as get a tattoo number/code so we can register the kids once they arrive.  I need a step-by-step manual or a Registering Kids for Dummies book.

On top of that we need to get a new set up for the chicks in the barn.  After moving them out there a couple weeks ago they've been thriving.  It's nice to see them outside in the grass and sunshine instead of shut away in a brooder somewhere in our workshop.  The only downside is that there are 70 of them, which produces a massive amount of chicken poop in one area.  Sure they go outside on occasion but most of the meat birds would rather just laze around in the barn.  As a result the straw is pretty well soiled and we've started seeing more flies in the barn.  Not the optimal conditions for newborn baby anythings!

So this weekend we'll be spending some time cleaning out the barn from tip to tail and hopefully construct some better solution for the meat birds so they don't have to walk up and down a ramp to get in and out of the barn.  I'm hoping for a temporary shelter out in the pasture as they'll only be with us for another few weeks.

So anyways.  Does anyone have any good suggestions for a herd name?

Its official: I'm an idiot.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Saturday, May 1, 2010 4 comments

Well folks.  Its been a while since I've had to admit to doing something truly idiotic.  At least...as far as I can recall.

Today started out to be pretty normal.  We fed the animals and even set up our new movable electric fence that came in the mail yesterday.  So the goats and the chickens have been enjoying a little bit of exta special grazing/browsing which I think they are really enjoying.  We're finally going to be able to move the pigs out of their pasture, into a new spot where they can help us dig up all the pricker bushes while we grow pig food in their old pasture.

Kyle took off around 8 this morning to go help his sister do some demolition in her house in preparation of a new addition and I started getting another batch of syrup ready to refill the bee's feeder.  While I was waiting for it to cool down I spent some quality time over with the girls.  Chutney is just so ready to pop.  I'm glad she's only going to have to wait another two weeks or so because the poor girl is just so uncomfortable.

After a while I tested the syrup and the temperature felt good so I grabbed my beekeeping equipment and headed down the hill with the pot of syrup.  All was pretty quiet at the hive and I slowly donned my veil and gloves.  I removed the cover and pulled out the bucket that holds the syrup and started checking things out.  They're making good headway with the comb-building.  Had I brought down the smoker, I would have loved to take a better look at everything but it's tough to really handle a piece of wood covered in bees when they just really don't want to let go.  So I figured I'd leave that for another day.

I set the inner cover back on followed by the feeder.  Once the top was on and the buzzing subsided I stepped back and enjoyed myself.  I couldn't help but think how relatively easy this was going so far.  Thats about where my brain stopped working.  Much to my dismay I realized that, once again, I had forgotten to tuck my pant legs into my boots!  While the first couple times I did this it didn't prove to be a problem, this time was certainly not the case.  Sure enough I had a bee crawling up my leg.  This is where I lost all ability to reason and think like an educated person whatsoever.

I tried in vain to keep calm and resisted the urge to strip off my pants then and there.  While, sure, I had underwear on, I live here and I don't really need to have everyone and their brother (possibly even coworkers, bosses, you use your imagination) see me in my tighty whities!  I quickly untucked my shirt, unzipped my pants, and willed the (undoubtedly confused) little creature out.  But I couldn't see a damned thing with my veil on (see where this is going?) so I carefully inched myself a few more feet away from the hive (still pretty freaking close, though) and quickly pulled off the veil.

I don't think I had it off for 2 seconds before I realized that I had a mob of bees hovering around me.  And bees, being the curious creatures that they are, like to check things out.  SO one landed on me.  Not just anywhere, either.  The poor thing landed on my chin- I freaked- she freaked- I tried to carefully brush her off (which probably wasn't quite as slow, calm, and careful as it should have been) and she stung.  Of course my first reaction was to get the stinger out and, as I'm thinking of how I'm supposed to scrape it out of my skin instead of pinching it which would release the venom, I pinch the freaking thing.  Yep.  I am a college graduate, and a beekeeping moron.

So here I am, pants unzipped, jacket off, veil on the ground, probably not even ten feet away from the hive and I've got a bee sting on my face.  It hurts, nothing unbearable, mostly just a numb stinging feeling (no duh, right?) so I decide I should get up to the house to get some benadryl cream and check things out.  I take stock, can't feel the bee in my pants anymore (thank god) and slowly walk up the house.  I get on the porch and hear this frantic buzzing noise.  Sure enough, thanks to my brilliant revelation to take my veil off to see the freaking bee in my pants, I got a bee stuck in my ponytail.

So I sit down on the porch and put my head between my knees in an effort to keep my hair off my neck where this poor bee could just decide to call it quits and sting me, too.  It took something like five minutes of strategic jacket placement to get the bee something to hold on to in order to free itself.  As soon as I could tell it was released I looked back to be sure it was free from my jacket and fled into the house where I quickly applied the benadryl and admired my very first sting as a beekeeper.

I mean, sure I was kicking myself in the butt for being so irrational, but I guess I'm glad I got the first one overwith.  And I can guarantee  that I won't be forgetting to tuck my pantlegs into my boots anymore!