Archive for April, 2010

Sir Loin the Protector

April 26, 2010

Emma, our newest lamb to the farm, has been by herself since the day she was born.  We bottle fed her so she had human contact every day but she didn’t have any animal friends.  Emma’s been down in the pig pen since we weaned her so she could be close to the group of animals she would eventually be living with – Britches- the Boer goat, Sir Loin and Edward- the cows…

and Sage and Rosie- the sheep.

The problem with bottle fed babies is, when they see a human, they think they need to “talk” with them and convince them to come and spend time.

I have to say that Emma is the LOUDEST sheep we’ve every had!  At first it was quite comical.  She could bleat the loudest and longest of any animal.  Only problem – she wouldn’t stop and it would go on and on.  One time  Emma did have her head stuck in the fence so the incessant bleating was warranted but that’s not the norm.

I’d had it this last week and asked Mae Mae to put her in with the other animals, it was time.

Mae Mae told me that as soon as Emma entered the other pasture, Sir Loin took her on as his own.  Any time Britches tried to get close, Sir Loin would get in between and push him away from Emma.  Britches finally got the hint and left her alone.  That night, Sir Loin tried desperately to be close to Emma so they could sleep near one another but Emma kept running away.  Eventually, Emma settled by the group and Sir Loin was content.

When it was raining the other day, Emma was in this small shed we have in their pasture and Sir Loin was guarding the entrance.

I find it fascinating watching how animals will interact with one another, especially different species.  More than once, I’ve seen the older cows protect the younger animals, no matter what type they were.

One time, a stray dog got into the pasture and the younger goats all ran to the biggest cow and got underneath him while the cow was swinging his horns at the dog!

Emma still goes a bit ballistic with her bleating when she sees a human exit the house but at least it doesn’t last as long anymore.  She has other animal friends and that makes life a whole lot better….

and she has Sir Loin who has taken it upon himself to protect her and watch over her.


Lady Banks Rose

April 21, 2010

I love perennials – the plants that you put in the ground once and they come back year after year.  I’m a “no muss, no fuss” kind of gardener and perennials suit me well.  Okay, I’ll admit I will buy a couple packs of pansies and petunias now and again for the constant color, but by and large, perennials are still my favorite.

This year the show has just begun and once again, I’m awed by the beauty of some of these flowers.

This a Clematis and this is the first year it’s bloomed.  I do love Clematis but they must be babied the first year or two to get them established.  Once they’re established, however, they are gorgeous!

This another variety of Clematis – they’re a climber.  I believe this one is the Nellie Moser variety and these bloom first in the season.

Clematis like a hot head and cool feet – meaning sun on most of the plant but a cool, moist, shady bottom of the plant.  It’s good to place this plant behind another plant.

Another favorite of mine are the Columbines – I just love the shape of the flowers and petals.

I have different colors – this mauve is so beautiful and dainty.

Columbines love the shade to partial shade and they are an early bloomer.

This year I added to my collection of colors with a purple one and a native Columbine which is orange and yellow.  The native is supposed to be a prolific seeder – I’m hoping so, so I can share with friends.

This is a climbing rose – Blaze, I believe.  When I first planted this rose, it was in an area with a lot more sun but now it’s too shady.  I’ll move it in the fall to a sunnier spot.

And of course, the Dianthus are a faithful friend, reappearing year after year in greater abundance.

The greatest show of all in the spring comes from my Lady Banks Rose.  It’s huge and has gotten so in a short amount of time.  This year I pruned it heavily to make it go where I wanted it to go.  To help with perspective, the top of this “bush” is about 9-10′ tall.

When I realized how “wild” this rose is, I decided to create an arbor in the vegetable garden and to train the Lady Banks to grow over it.

I’m so excited because what I’d envisioned is actually starting to happen.  I love to create “nooks” and rooms in my gardens.  I thought this one in the garden would be a great spot to rest when it gets hot from working.

Wouldn’t this be an inviting spot to sit and rest with a cold glass of tea in your hand?

And when you look up, this is what you see 🙂

The blooms on the Lady Banks are so dainty…and this rose is thornless!

There are thousands of blooms on this plant.  As far as I know, this plant only comes in yellow and there’s a white one.  Zone hardiness: 7-9

Though it’s a short bloom – about 2 -3 weeks in the spring, the show it gives is spectacular!!

Chickens: from Chick to Pullet

April 18, 2010

Our chicks have been outside in the brood box for the last several weeks.  I’ve been turning the light on at night for them so they don’t get chilled.  The chicks will “tell” you when they’re hot or cold.  If they’re too hot, they will spread out from one another, put their wings out to the side and pant like a dog.  If the chicks are too cold, they’ll group together very tightly trying to stay warm.  When they’re small, sometimes they will crush the ones on the bottom of the pile.

Our chicks are close to the pullet stage, aka the teenage stage.  They’re starting to get their adult feathers and they look a little funny with big, smooth feathers and baby, fuzzy down.

Once they are fully feathered, no more down, they are ready to be put outside.  Ours will go into the chicken tractors to be moved around the pastures.

When the pullets are close to 5 months old, they will then graduate into the hen house.  It’s important when putting new hens into an established group, that the new group being introduced has at least 3 hens.  Trying to put in a single hen can be harmful in a big house – the new hen tends to get picked on, sometimes to the point of injury.  If there is an injury, put vitamin E or any kind of ointment that is goopy and sticky.  Hens hate getting it on their beak and will leave the injured bird alone.

The hens in the house will establish a new pecking order, including the new chickens into the order.

It’s quite the phenomenon to watch how the hierarchy is established in the hen house.  And every time you introduce new hens into an established group, they start the pecking order all over again!

Growing a Better Tomato

April 18, 2010

We’ve waited patiently, or not, and April 15th has finally arrived.  No, it’s not because we’re so excited about doing taxes, it’s because we can finally plant all of our warm weather plants!  The winter visions of red, juicy tomatoes, vine-ripened cantaloupe, crisp cucumbers without the waxy outside, squash of all varieties…these may now become a reality.

I’m asked all the time if I start my plants ahead of time.  My answer is, I try and seem to always fail miserably (I’m not patient nor attentive enough).  My preference is to start most of my warm weather crops by direct sowing.  That means I wait till it’s warm enough and put the seeds directly into the ground where I want them to grow.

I do buy transplants for tomatoes and peppers.  I tend to buy a lot of the Roma and paste varieties since I can tomato sauce for winter use.  That’s a lot of sauce for this family!

Because tomatoes are a very popular summer veggie (although, they really are a fruit), I thought I’d add a few pointers for growing tomatoes.

  • DON’T buy the tomato cages you find at the store.  They have a serious design flaw.  When the tops of the plants are full of tomatoes, they become top heavy.  The tomato cages aren’t able to hold the weight and they fall over, often snapping the tomato plant.
  • Make your own cages.  Invest in a heavier gauge wire fencing and create cylinders to place over the tomato plant- they should have a 1 ½  to 2 foot diameter.  Use long pieces of rebar, driven into the ground, to secure the cylinder cages around each plant.  Make sure you’re able to get your hand through the squares on the fencing.  There’s nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect, juicy tomato and not being able to get to it.  As the plant grows, pull the branches through the fencing to help spread it out.
  • Before you plant your tomato plant, strip the main stem of ½ to 2/3 of the little branches – starting at the base.  Plant the tomato deep in the ground, leaving about 2” of space before the first set of remaining leaves.  Tomato plants are fascinating in the fact that they grow roots from the main stem wherever it has contact with the soil.  If the plant is deeper in the soil and there is a greater root structure, the plant is stronger and more secure. The increased amount of roots allows for more nutrition to be used by the plant resulting in a better yield.
  • Be sure to keep the lower leaves on the plant from touching the ground which leads to a greater chance for disease.  Snap off the lower branches – the plant will be fine.
  • If you find that you have brown spots on the bottom of your tomatoes, there are a couple of things to look for:   1. Are you watering from the top of the plant?  The water accumulates at the bottom of the fruit and sits there causing it to rot.  2. Too much water, either from you or just a lot of rain, will cause rot.  3. There could be a calcium deficiency in your soil.  If you’ve taken care of the water issues and you’re still having problems, side dress each plant with some calcium.  Side dressing= adding fertilizer or mineral to an individual plant by putting a ring of the substance around the plant at the drip line – where the rain or water would fall off the plant and onto the ground.  This way you’re assured the substance will be worked into the soil.
  • Tomatoes require quite a bit of water so sometimes it’s tricky not to over water or give too much at once.  A great idea is to take 2-liter  soda bottles and cut off the bottom.  Pierce the cap with several holes and replace it on the bottle.  Bury the bottle, cap end in the dirt, and fill the soda bottle with water.  It will slowly release the water into the ground making water consumption much more efficient for the plant.  Also, it will give time for any chlorine to evaporate from the water if you’re using city water, and the water will be warmed by the sun – a much preferred temperature by the plant.
  • Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family which is toxic.  The tomatoes aren’t toxic but the plant (stem and leaves) is so don’t feed it to your livestock.  Animals can eat the tomatoes, however.

The time and effort put into your tomato plants at the beginning of the season will certainly pay off…and when you take that first big bite from a sun ripened tomato from your own garden, it will seem like no effort at all!

Catching a Swarm of Honeybees

April 18, 2010

While the rest of Georgia is sneezing and rubbing red, itchy eyes, the honeybee is at the height of blissful activity!

Our cold, lingering winter caused a late pollen flow and it came on with a vengeance.  Yesterday, I took a Homestead Tour group into our bee yard.  I explained to the children how to watch for the pollen sacs on the bee’s legs.  Their excited, “I see it, I see it!!” was wonderful.  One little girl turned and looked at me, “I’m allergic to that pollen.”

Because the bee activity is almost at a frenzy this season, the potential for swarming has increased.

It’s important to keep a watch on your colonies to make sure they have enough empty frames to keep them busy.  With the increase in brood by the queen, the space in the hive must be checked constantly.   When the outside frames of the super are being worked on, it’s time to add another super.

Take out the brood frames and cut queen cells and you’ll buy yourself some more time.  Unfortunately, when a colony has made up its mind to swarm, it’s only a matter of time and there’s very little that will keep them from going.

I was told to walk through the bee yard around 10am every day and watch my hives – I would be able to tell if the bees were going to choose that day to leave.  If the bees are thinking of swarming that day, you would more than likely see “bearding.”  “Bearding” is when the bees hang out on and over the edge of the front porch to the hive, like they do in the summer when it’s really hot.  This isn’t a fool proof sign but it’s a pretty good indicator.

It’s a good idea to keep a nuc on hand for catching swarms.  If you don’t have that available, a cardboard box will also work temporarily.

A swarm is very eager to find another residence quickly.  The bees are fairly docile at this point and easy to catch if you can get close enough to the ball of bees.

To catch a swarm, place the nuc box underneath the swarm of bees and hit the branch, causing the “ball” to fall into the box.   The queen will more than likely be in the middle of this ball and when she’s in the box, the rest will follow.  Place the top on and leave the nuc box on the ground.  The rest of the bees will be drawn to the nuc by the queen’s pheromones and they will march right on inside.  Place 5 frames in the nuc box right away so the bees will know they’ve arrived at home sweet home!

You can transfer the bees at that point to a new hive body or wait a couple of days if you need to get a new brood box ready.

Best part about catching a swarm???  Free bees!

In the Beginning: Part II

April 18, 2010

I got to thinking about our journey of homesteading and realized that if you didn’t “know” Dave and me b.c. (before children) then you really couldn’t have a full appreciation for our journey into homesteading.

When Dave and I met, I was living with some friends in the same town where I’d gone to college.  Dave was working on his Master’s degree in Piano Performance and was in his last year of school.

I’d graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Education and I was filling out applications to get my Master’s in Speech Pathology.  I was also planning a 3 month backpacking trip across Europe.

Instead, I got engaged and tossed my plans aside for a later date.

I remember talking with Dave about children.  He’s the youngest of 3 and has 2 older sisters.  I’m the oldest of 4 and have a sister and two younger brothers.  Dave had never been around children and I had done a ton of babysitting.  When he asked me how many children I’d like to have, I said 1, maybe 2.  He was happy with that answer.

Dave had grown up in the typical suburbs of the Portland, Oregon area.  His dad, Bob Ball, was General Manager of a radio station for all of Dave’s growing up years.  Dave’s mom, Barbara Ball, was a Child Psychologist in the Portland school system.  She started her own developmental testing business in the early 80’s and still runs her business today.  Dave was a soccer and basketball player and of course, music was a huge part of his growing up years!

I grew up in a Navy family and we moved every 6 months for the first several years of my life.  My family settled in Connecticut when I was 7 years old.  My dad left the Navy and became an airline pilot for American Airlines.  We lived just outside of New York City.  We didn’t live in a suburban neighborhood but we didn’t live in the country either.  When I was 16, we moved to NH, not far from Boston.  This time we lived in an historical district because our house was built in 1806.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom and our family was very much into sports and shopping.  We lived on 3 acres but we didn’t keep any kind of farm animals.

When Dave and I started our life together on November 29, 1985, he was working at a radio station in Seattle, WA.  Soon afterwards, I was working in customer service for a large mortgage company in downtown Seattle.  We were a corporate couple with 2 cars, no children, and debt, living in an apartment on the outskirts of the city.

The thought of homesteading wasn’t anywhere on my horizon.  My knowledge of animals consisted of dogs and cats, hamsters and parakeets,  one session of horse lessons for a birthday gift and some trail rides.

And then we had a baby…

Dairy Goats: Dealing with Ketosis

April 18, 2010

Our kidding season here at the farm has come and gone and left us with 5 beautiful baby goats – 3 males, 2 females.  Now the fun begins and we spend countless hours watching and playing with the new kids.  They are so comical, especially when they realize how much bounce their little legs have.  They seem to skip around the barnyard, kicking out and jumping up every now and then, very pleased with their accomplishments.

For the most part, the births were uneventful.  We missed two of the does kidding, they did it on their own.  Maggie was the first to kid and she had a rougher go of it this year.  She’s still recovering…

Maggie ended up with ketosis which is fairly common in goats who deliver twins.  It was more likely with Maggie since this was the first time she’d delivered twins.  All her previous births had been single births.  She’s having a hard time keeping up with the milk demand of her two little ones.  Maggie is doing better though she has not completely recovered.  We’re still supplementing the babies with a bottle so they’re not solely dependent on their mom.

Ahh, the joys and learning opportunities of homesteading… and I’m not kidding!!

Ketosis (also called Acetonemia) is the result of the high carbohydrate (energy) demand of multiple fetuses in late pregnancy. The kids require an increasing amount of carbohydrates the last trimester. Does bearing twins have a 180% higher energy requirement than those with just a single fetus. Does carrying triplets have a 240% greater energy requirement. When this demand exceeds the supply, fat is metabolized into glucose. The metabolic needs of the kids are met at the expense of the dam; this is what causes the ketotic condition. To complicate matters, multiple fetuses produce more waste products, which leads to the doe becoming toxic if she does not flush them from her system.

Sign for Ketosis:

The doe eats less or stops eating completely.


Separation from the herd

The doe may be slow to get up or may lie off in a corner.

Her eyes are dull.

Sometimes blindness

Muscle tremors & seizures


Head pressing

She may have swollen ankles

She may grind her teeth.

The doe may breathe more rapidly.

The doe’s breath and urine may have a fruity sweet odor. This is due to the excess ketones, which have a sweet smell.


Prevent excess body fat during early pregnancy and increase the caloric intake in late pregnancy with a little more high energy feed (in moderation). Try to eliminate stress on the doe if at all possible.

After kidding increase grain as the doe’s milk production increases.



Oral glucose/sugar:

Molasses & Karo syrup (corn syrup). Mix 2 parts corn syrup to 1 part molasses.  20 – 30ml every 2 hours. This tastes much better than PG and thus is less stressful to administer.

Propylene Glycol: Propylene Glycol is an appetite suppressant and it inhibits rumen bacteria, so do not use unless the doe is off her feed.

3-4 oz (90-120ml) 2 times a day, for 2 days, and then 1-2 oz (30ml-60ml) 2 times daily until the doe is eating normally.

10 – 20ml every 2 hours

Personal Note: Ever since my scientist father pointed out that Propylene Glycol is extremely similar in composition to Anti-Freeze, I tend to avoid it if at all possible.  I still with other, less harmful sugars.

Nutridrench, Goatdrench: 2 oz. 2 times a day

B-Complex: injections to stimulate the appetite.

Probios: to stimulate the appetite and keep the rumen functioning.

Children’s Chewable Vitamins w/ extra Calcium: If the doe will eat them, feed her 2-4 a day.

Rescue Remedy: Helps to reduce stress levels.

Lavender Essential Oil: This is an aromatherapy treatment for stress and depression. The doe may get depressed if she is not feeling well. Also, the drenching of Propylene Glycol (which doesn’t taste very good) can be stressful on the doe. Lavender has a calming and mood lifting effect. Place 4 drops of oil in three different places in the doe’s stall twice a day.

Even through it is the treatment for Milk Fever, I have found that it is also helpful to give:

Calcium Gluconate:

8 oz. given orally. Repeat 5-8 oz, three times a day until the doe is eating and symptoms are subsiding. 

SQ Injections of 40-60 cc of Calcium Gluconate. The injections should be broken down into at least 4 injections in different sites. Do not give more than 10 cc per injection site. The injections should be given slowly.

Once the doe has regained her appetite, increase her grain ration so that a relapse does not occur.

*Thanks to Fias Co Farm for their information

Sheep Shearing

April 14, 2010

Our Sheep Shearing day dawned into a beautiful, crisp morning.  The weather was perfect as we hustled around getting the last minute details taken care of before our guests started arriving.  As with any farm, always expect the unexpected.  When Mae Mae went to the goat barn to do her chores, she discovered that Abby had had her babies out by a tree.  I was working in the garden and heard Mae Mae’s squeal of delight as she ran over to the see the new kids.

Abby was fine but the kids were a mess!  It was a very chilly morning and they were wet, covered in dirt, and shivering.  Change of plans – forget the garden and take care of the new babies.  I carried them quickly into the barn and put down new straw.  We rubbed them down with towels and cleaned them off.  Mae Mae took care of Abby, we made sure the kids nursed, bedded them in the straw and headed off to finish our other chores.

We needed to get Sage and Rosy into the holding pen before people arrived.  They get skittish in all the commotion and I wanted to avoid that potential problem.

Finally, we were ready to go.

While we waited for others to arrive, our guests took time to get acquainted with the other baby goats.

I love watching the delight on the children’s faces as they hold the babies.

Marbles decided she’d like to check out the human baby!

Yes, there’s a lot involved in getting ready for an event but as a family we’ve agreed it’s all worth it.  We love to watch the faces of our guests as they share in this experience with us.

These children were brought to the farm by some of our friends and this was their first time seeing farm animals.

What a privilege to share with others the daily or yearly happenings of the farm.

Sage was first to be sheared.  Her fleece was beautiful this year.

After the sheep are shorn, I give them their yearly shot.  I figured since they’re down and restrained, what better time to do it!

See kids, you’re not the only ones who have to have shots…

A naked sheep!  Must feel so good to get out from under all that wool.

This is a full fleece.  Rosemarie shears in such a way that it’s all one piece.

I handed out wool to everyone and asked them to smell it – education is greatest when a lot of the senses are involved.

Some were a little more eager to “smell” than others!

This little fellow figured out where the cameraman was hanging out…

Priceless – a whole new world opened up for this little one at our farm.  What a joy to be able to provide that opportunity for him.

Rosie was next – she’s a big sheep.  Mae Mae wasn’t sure she could hold her down.

Her fleece, too, was just beautiful and it was obvious she’s been well fed!

That is the downside to the wool.  It’s hard to know how much weight the sheep are carrying because it’s hidden by the thick wool.

But shearing day reveals all!

The look on this young gal’s face is precious as she buries her fingers into the wool…

It’s providing an avenue for discovery and learning that motivates me and makes all the work so worthwhile – the reward of watching the children.

The questions that are asked…

Casey was the last one to be sheared and this was her first time.  It’s a good thing she’s the smallest because she certainly squirmed around a lot!!

But Rosemarie got the job done and, once again, made it look so easy.

So now I have 3 more bags of wool to be carded…

and spun.

And the sheep?  Well, they’re going  to be busy the rest of the year working on their wool for next year’s Sheep Shearing Day!

UGA Vet School Open House

April 9, 2010

I must admit, we’re very fortunate to live so close to UGA.  Each year they open up the Vet School to the public and this year we were finally able to attend.  I was quite impressed.  The event is coordinated and run by the Freshman Class as one of their first year projects.

The day was beautiful and the crowds were huge!  The entire Vet School campus inside and out was full of all kinds of exhibits and demonstrations.

They had camels, llamas, a zebra, and various farm animals outside in pens.  The kids could take a tour of the hospital for large and small animals – fascinating.

This horse was hand painted to show the inside on the outside!

The first time I saw this cow, I was a bit taken aback until I understood how vital this cow is to other ruminant animals who’ve been through surgery.

For more information on a “fistulated cow”, look up this link:

Squish found a new friend and boy, is he cute!

It was a little warm on this day and the water was very good – we held his ears for him so they wouldn’t get wet 🙂

The Vet School put on all kinds of demonstrations throughout the day.

One of the demonstrations was showing how dogs were trained to retrieve birds.

This little 5 month old is a Flat Coated Lab from Denmark.  She’s being trained as a field dog and they brought her out to be socialized.

They had agility demonstrations with all types of dogs and skill levels.

This little Chihuahua was not fond of the teeter totter, mainly because it didn’t have enough weight to get it to tip!

Into the tunnel and out the other side…

I do believe the trainers got just as much exercise as the dogs!

They also had a demonstration for “Fly Ball.”  If you’ve never seen this canine sport, you’re missing out.

The dogs (most all of them are mutts) run over jumps, slam into a board at the end – a ball pops out , they catch the ball in their mouth, turn and run back over the jumps.  It’s a relay sport and there are 4 dogs on a team.  It’s a fast sport and very exciting!  The dogs love it!

This little terrier was in training and had a hard time remembering to go over the jumps on the return.

Not a problem for this one!  He was just so excited to have the ball 🙂

We had a great time at the Open House and will certainly be back next year.

Thanks Freshman Class – you did an outstanding job!

April and Uno – the new kids on the farm

April 7, 2010

Meet the new kids in the barnyard – April and Uno.  These 2 are hilarious and right from the get-go, they had a ton of personality.  April was born first, a bitty little thing, but full of vim and vigor!  She will not be outdone by her brother, Uno, who is about 1/2 again as big as she.  Together, they make quite a team.

Don’t be fooled by their age.  From the moment of their arrival into this world, they were full of discovery – riling up the other animals in the barnyard, evening getting Annie and Casey to play follow the leader.

Don’t be taken in by the cute face and kissable lips…

Or the precious little heart shaped nose and floppy, fuzzy ears…

Or that innocent look of “who, me??”

Inside these little ones lurks all kinds of mischief and fun,

and if you don’t believe me…

Just ask Annie – she’s already exhausted from trying to keep up and they’re not even a week old yet!

So when you see these 2 come running – beware.

They’ve more than likely annoyed someone with their antics.

And no use squealing to their mom cuz she’ll just reply,  with the shake of her head, “Well, you know – kids will be kids.”

If you stick around long enough…

and cuddle them when they’re tired from harassing all the others who live with them,

and kiss their sweet, innocent faces, stroke their soft fur and run their  fuzzy ears through your fingers…

you’ll find yourself laughing at their antics and your heart will be smitten…

and you’ll be defending them and smiling at them and saying things like…

“Well, you know, kids will be kids!”