Raining Cats and Dogs and We Got a Dog!!

Several years ago our old farm dog, a husky mix named Quixote, went to spend his final days as my daughter’s pampered house pet. Quixote passed away two years ago at 13 years of age. Since then, we have gone back and forth about getting another dog…hubby wanted a house dog and I said, “Too much trouble with the Day Care.” So we remained dog-less and seemed okay with that.

Two weeks ago in the middle of a severe storm, I glanced out my office window to see a puppy dash across my front yard and crawl under the porch. We coaxed him out and brought him inside to dry off. We called our neighbors to see if any of them had gotten a new puppy. In the past two weeks, we have posted on pet sites, called the Humane Society and checked the newspaper lost and found. We came to the conclusion that someone took a drive on that rainy afternoon and dumped him just below our house. We are the last inhabited house and it is not likely that a puppy this small could wander so far from home…AND be wet but NOT muddy.

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We named him Moshe (mO-sha) which is Hebrew for Moses because we pulled him out of the water….TWICE. First on that rainy afternoon and the next day when he toppled head first into the pond while trying to figure out who that dog was in the water.

 

 

IMGP4052Moshe seems like a pretty smart little fellow and has even assumed the role of guard dog for the chickens. He is growing like a weed and learning new things everyday.

We weren’t looking for a new dog but it looks like this one is here to stay. I am thankful we didn’t get a cat!

Spring is FINALLY here!!

Probably the longest winter I have ever experienced is finally over!! When I posted last month, we were still dealing with snow and freezing temperatures. The past week, the weather took a turn for the better and we are now able to work outside and enjoy some pleasant days.

Spring clean up and pre-planting has begun. This past weekend we moved the laying hens and our two roosters from the big coop to the orchard coop in preparation for the arrival of 125 meat chicks. The orchard gives the layers plenty of room to run and scratch…with the added benefit of the chickens gathering bugs that are attracted to the fruit trees.

orchard

 

 

I was able to do some garden cleanup last week. I weeded the asparagus beds and several empty beds…soon it will be time to plant peas. The garlic is up and I found some spinach that wintered over and is greening up nicely. YUM!!

spinach

 

The daffodils are really beginning to open up and add some color to the flower beds. It’s always a delight to finally see green and growth after all these long months.

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I’ll be posting more on our 2015 projects soon…keep watching for updates on the goats, the new garden beds and a surprise addition to the Ridge.

For the Love of Animals

I have a confession to make. I’m pretty soft when it comes to animals. This is not always a good trait to have if you’re trying to run a homestead.

I get a little squeamish during violent scenes in movies; I’ve always blamed this on the nurse in me. If someone (or something) is dying, my adrenaline kicks in and I want to stop the bleeding, establish an airway, support respiration – in short, I am “programmed” to support and preserve life. Taking life is something that I know, intellectually, is sometimes appropriate; but emotionally and psychologically I don’t do well with war, murder… or butchering.

Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much problem with chickens in this regard; I’ve always been of the opinion that chickens (and turkeys I suppose) are basically vegetables with heads. When you chop off a chicken’s head, or stick it’s neck, its muscles spasm, but the head kind of gives you this look like “hmm…I think something just happened…did something just happen?”Any higher life form, however (dogs, cats, goats, cows, pigs, and pretty much every other farm animal) are a different story. These animals are able to form relationships, they obviously think, learn, and remember, and I tend to get rather attached to them.

On the other hand, I am pragmatic enough to realize that death is a part of life. Animals die so that I can live; pets age and reach the end of their lives, as will I, and all those I love. I cannot afford the luxury of keeping many animals as a hobby; most of my animals, even my pets, have a purpose. Cats catch mice, dogs warn of intruders, herd the other livestock, and defend property; the barnyard animals provide meat, milk, and eggs. (The Cockatiel and Parakeets serve no purpose other than to look pretty, but that’s another story altogether.) Some of my children, on the other hand, experience animal affection differently than I do.

We experienced this first hand this past week when our daughter visited; our daughter has a dog named Quixote, and therein lies a tale.

My wife and I got Quixote when Y2K was a big buzzword. While I have always had (and loved) dogs, my wife is not as much of a “pet” person. My previous faithful dog, Wolf, had died of a stroke sometime before this, and we had been dog-less for several years. It seemed like the homestead might benefit from having a dog around if Y2K turned out to be any kind of event, and so, being the pragmatic person that she is, my wife acquiesced to the procurement of a new canine. The dog was supposed to be “hers”, but (first big mistake) in a fit of selfishness I, and several of my children, overruled her choice from the litter we visited. My wife selected a bouncy, lively little pup; the rest of us felt sorry for a little fellow who kind of just sat in the corner by himself. And so Quixote came to live with us.

Quixote was “free to a good home.” I loved Quixote, and while he was never as smart, or as obedient, as my former pal Wolf, he did OK. He never lived up to expectations as a watchdog (he wasn’t all that bright, and could not discern friend from foe), defender of the farm (he was pretty much a big chicken), or herd dog (he was the wrong breed) and so he was just a pet – but he was pretty good at that. One thing that my wife and I agree on in regards to animals is that we don’t practice anthropomorphism. People are people and animals are animals. We are not some animal’s mother or father, aunt or uncle. We are people, they are animals. We can love our animals and still keep the relationships clearly in mind. This was true with Quixote as with all our animals.

Well, the years passed, and we noticed that Quixote was slowing down; his hips were getting stiff, he was getting blind, and he was just generally deteriorating. My wife and I, not being ones to invest hundreds of dollars in preserving the life of an aged beast, were inclined to have Quixote put down.

Enter my daughter, who came home for a visit and learned of our plans. She decided to take Quixote to live with her instead, and we agreed. That was over two years ago.

Quixote came home for a visit over thanksgiving. He has had hundreds of dollars worth of very good veterinary care, including the removal of his eyes, drugs to ease his pain, help his digestion, and a host of other things that I probably will not be able to afford, should I need them, for myself when I am aged. Quixote has had a stroke, and one back leg is very stiff and frozen. He cries when he lays down, cries when he gets up, and often cries at night in a way that makes it clear he is in pain. He struggles to walk and stumbles over the smallest obstacles. My daughter (and my son in law) tends to him, gives him his medication, cleans up after him, takes him out in the middle of the night (sometimes several times) and protects him from her two boisterous boys.

We offered to keep Quixote when my daughter left, and pay to have him humanely put to sleep. I think she considered this very seriously, but in the end she chose to take Quixote back home with her. You see, Quixote is a dog to us, but to my daughter he is part of the family; worthy of the same care, attention, and investment as any of her children. My daughter knows that Quixote is nearing the end of his earthly existence, but she cannot (yet) bear the thought that his life would be prematurely terminated by an act of her choosing. And while I do not share my daughter’s perspective on the quality of life issue, I can certainly understand her reticence in making that final choice. And when the time comes, I’ll be finding someone else to “harvest” my meat goats for me.

Goat update

It’s been more then enough time for these goats to have their kids, and they have changed a bit. I guess they aren’t actually pregnant. Sort of feel like we got really ripped off. 5 of them died from worms or some other weird thing and the two supposed pregnant ones, aren’t. Grr… Lot of money involved here for not much of what was supposed to happen.

2011 Farm and Garden Planning

This week I started preliminary planning for the 2011 garden season. I have been doing some research in an attempt to make our garden more productive. Using last year’s garden plan, I mapped out the garden for 2011 making sure that crops of the nightshade and cucurbit family will not be planted in the same beds this year. This also gave me an opportunity to inventory my seeds and make a list of things to purchase. I was also able to mark dates on the calendar for starting seedlings, direct seeding to the garden and transplanting seedlings based on our zone and the specific needs of the particular vegetable.  I started several kinds of cruciferous vegetables in our planting rack.

seeds in cups

This year I am trying individual cups

We have had several guests lately that we were able to pick their brains about additional tips for saving seeds plus proper times to prune and spray our fruit trees. We are thankful for all of the helpful resources gleaned from our community of gardening friends.

I have also been researching chickens and trying to decide which would be the best multipurpose breed for starting our sustainable flock. I am seriously considering Brahmas. Roosters weigh in at 12 pounds and the hens are good layers and good setters. I will  be ordering them for shipment in mid-April.

The 100 Mile Challenge, Garden Preparation

Paula read a book, Animal Vegetable Miracle, in which the author discusses the 100 mile challenge – eat only foods produced within a 100 mile radius of your home. I think we’re going to try this.

Last night Paula bought a large stand mixer with dough hooks – something she’s been wanting for a while. After shopping many brands she chose an Oster model FPSTSM5102. Seemed like the most “bang for the buck.” They were on sale at WalMart for 89.95, but there was one on the shelf with a label on it that listed the product and model and had a price of 79.95, so we saved an additional $10.00. She also is researching a yogurt maker.

It’s time to start preparing for the garden already. We’re going to invite some friends over for dinner who do “seed saving”. My goal for this year is to get our chickens, and our vegetables, to reproduce themselves in a sustainable fashion.

A breath of fresh air for the chickens

I let the chickens out today. The temp here went up to 50 degrees F. The coop smells really bad like ammonia. I’m going to have to clean it soon. Normally the ammonia doesn’t get too bad due to the cold temps but when the temp goes up like this the coop floor starts to “ferment”.

The chickens have been pecking at each other and eating their eggs. I’ve always said that chickens are just “vegetables with heads” but I’m beginning to wonder if they get bored…

Ready to move the chickens

Got the "winter" chicken coop ready today – we’ll be moving the laying hens from the little coop to the big coop tonight. I put plastic over the windows (cuz I didn’t get the windows done – again.) Ryan worked on the electric. Grandma and the kids pulled up the old chicken wire in preparation for putting up the new run. Grandma and the kids (and Shelli) also worked in the garden, bringing in a little more harvest and cleaning up a little more.

Final Beef Totals


Our final expenses for the beef totaled $2705.18 and our total poundage was 1408. Our end total was $1.92 per pound…not bad for “scrub” cattle. Next year perfection.

Cows are done.

Meat pickup is Wednesday. We’ll bring it home, weigh it, and portion it out, and then those that bought a portion can come pick it up Wednesday night. If you can’t get the meat Wednesday you need to let us know so we can make other arrangements, as we do not have enough freezer room for all this beef.