Friday, June 28, 2013

Putting the goats to bed

Shortly after we bought the ranch last September Mike really got the itch for a new dog. Our pooches at the time were 13 year old blind Dharma the minpin and 11 year old dachshund W.D. While they are good dogs, they really aren't cut out (anymore) for the rigors of working a ranch.

After kicking the tires on a few breeds, he quickly decided on the Shetland Sheepdog. High on intelligence and energy yet small enough to grow up in the condo while we organize the move, shelties are perfectly designed for ranch life. They also have a strong herding instinct which we hope to take advantage of with our eventual herd of sheep and goats.

Well, the goats are here. They are friendly and funny and a real kick in the pants but not exactly easy to lead to the barn where we put them each night to keep them safe from predators. Enter Scouty the Wonder Sheltie...

After spending 30 or more minutes every night for the first week trying to get the goats in the barn while Scout waited patiently outside the fence, we decided let her in to see what would happen. It was pretty amazing! She went right in and started rounding up the goats and pushing them to the barn with no training whatsoever. Within minutes she had them all in the barn... and she LOVED it.

Now, a week or so later, the goats have learned that the barn is a safe haven from the annoying, yapping fur-ball coming through the gate and often file in before Scout even gets a chance to kick up some dust. We recently added a couple of new kids who don't have the routine down yet but it still takes less than a minute. Scout is definitely earning her keep!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

some days

I hesitate to write this.  But in the interest in telling our whole story here on the ranch, I must.  This past weekend was incredible.  We were still basking in the brightness of it come Monday.

Then the universe swirled us back to reality...

WD had to go in for surgery because of an abscess on her eye
-she looks like she has been in a prize fight
---and lost

My, less that 45 day old, tires are experiencimg rotation fatigue and have decided to periodically deflate for no apparent reason
-which is less than helpful when you live 30 minutes from a stoplight

Our Polish chickens took a beating from the other chickens, leading to a bloody skull parade in the coop
-which ended in another more permanent carnage
--Ruckus getting his first taste of fresh meat while our backs were turned
---which got him his first real talking to
----and my realization that it IS always the quiet ones

Little Scout
-in heat
--came running into the house, panting furiously, and appearing injured
---readily convincing me that she had been bitten by a snake
----to which I threw myself into a panic
-----as i realized i didn't have the flashlight app on my phone
------holding a squirming, panting dog under lamplight isn't as easy as it sounds
- repeatidly yelling "fucking metrics"
--while also cursing all of europe
---did my best to convert mgs to ccs
----because we only have a single syringe
-----which i am ashamed to say
------used to be filled with chocolate
-------some sort of marketing gimmick
--------my mother brought me on a lark from vegas
--------and is marked in ccs

one day sunshine
the next
in serious need of moonshine

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

outdoor shower {recycled pallets}

No clampett homestead would be complete without an outdoor shower.  This weekend, it will be used by friends who are camping on the property. But, it will also be used by us daily--our chores at the ranch are messy and dusty.

Mike picked up a mess of large and clean wooden pallets and immediately got to work. This design is his own and he put it all together in just a couple of days, with items we already had on the ranch.

I just love it!

I'm sure if you want to build your own...Mike would give you some pointers

Saturday, June 15, 2013

...and then there were five

One of the objectives on our ranch is to start a little dairy.  Our Nigerian Dwarf goats will produce delicious, sweet, high butterfat milk. But, because they are small, they produce small amounts.  We knew that from the start, and decided to stick with them.
one...because they take up less space and eat less than a full size goat
two...because they will be a manageable size when full grown
three...because they have a great disposition
and four...they are adorable

There are many varieties of dairy goat, bred for volume and butterfat.  Many dairies have a mixture of breeds in their herd.  Some stick to a specific kind based on what type of product they want to make in the end.  There are many schools of thought, and one thing to keep in mind is that milk enjoyable to drink, may not make the best cheese, and vice-versa.

We have decided to diversify our herd, but stay with smaller breeds of goat.  We found the perfect hybrid in the Mini-Nubian.  Full size Nubians can weigh up to 200lbs...but the minis won't grow nearly that large.  Mini Nubians are a cross between a Nubian doe and a Nigerian Dwarf buck. The first off-spring are called first generation.  Mini-Nubians are then bred with other Minis and as the generations continue they begin to look like a full size Nubian, except with smaller stature.  In theory (and mostly in practice), they will produce large amounts of milk, with the butterfat of a Nigerian.  They take up less space and eat less than a full size goat.

We were soon on the hunt for a few Mini-Nubian does.  Luckily,  one of our neighbors (if you call 20 minutes away a neighbor) had a couple of 5th generation doelings for sale.   It didn't take long for us to fall in love with them...and bring them home.

These little girls are slowly warming to us. They were a bit skittish on the first day, but they seem to be settling in just fine.  They get along with the other goats, and they seem to tolerate the dogs without a problem as well.

We have named them America (the larger doeling) and Donkey (the smaller brown doeling)

Welcome to the family girls!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

a little update

It has been 3 weeks since I last wrote.  Time is just flyin' by.  We have been very busy. Dawn risings (Mike), late night planning (Christy), training and tending.  Tomorrow is Mike's birthday and our wedding anniversary (it must be known that we have 2 anniversaries...our church wedding day--the 14th, and our big bash/repeat of vows day--the 16th). We will go out to a great dinner, and toast to the life we have...and then get back to work.

Since we last chatted, we have put 2 small barns on the property.  One has become the sleeping quarters for the goats, and the other the chicken coop.  They went up on Tuesday and have been such a pleasant addition. {More photos coming soon} We are slowly reclaiming the garage (which housed the goats, chickens and ducks), and are starting to use it for its "real" purpose---storing things. 

Ruckus and Rizzo spend their days with the goats, frolicking in the water bark Mike has built for them, in an effort to keep them cool.  Our days are well into the 100s, and we all are easily over-heated. Some afternoons you can find one of us, swinging in the hammock, hoping to get a bit of mist off the "water-bark" spray.  

The ducklings are just a week old, and we can begin to introduce them to pools of water.  They are too young to be left alone, as they can easily drown at this age.  They lack the oil in their feathers to be buoyant, that they would already have if raised by a duck mother, rather than a human one.  They enjoy emptying their water trough several times a day, making a smelly and wet mess in their brooder.  Good thing they are adorable.

We are finding it important to spend some time each day handling all of the animals.  They can easily become skiddish and/or unfriendly, which we do not want to happen.  While it is good practice, it is very time consuming, and  minutes can turn into an hour, in the blink of an eye.

We are still working on the plans to remodel the house.  We have gone through, what seems like, a million iterations, and are close to getting a defined plan and time estimate.  In the meanwhile, we are living a bit like vagabonds.  Currently our weaponry out-numbers our pieces of furniture. But, to be fair, when it comes to defending your livestock from predators, a gun is certainly more valuable than a credenza.  

Speaking of which...
We had a small coyote that was prowling around a bit to close for my comfort.  I had heard him yipping mid-day and as dusk approached.  The other morning, he was at our lower gate, and ran off as I pulled up towards him. Although country coyotes aren't nearly as bold as city coyote, I found myself reaching for the rifle when taking the small dogs outside (particularly when Mike wasn't home).  I thought this coyote might just be young enough to be bold enough to try something.  I know I could have shot him, if need be...but I found myself feeling a bit bad, when Mike mentioned that the coyote was dead on the side of the road yesterday. I should be grateful.

We are definitely not easing into this new life...we are charging at it full-force.  

And loving it dearly