Monday, January 27, 2014

Is It Still January?

Not much to say. I'm tired of January. I'm tired of cold. I'll stop complaining now.

Jeff brought home deer Friday. We spent the weekend butchering them. Today I need to can the stock.

The meaty birds are getting huge and eating way too much. They need to be butchered, but with the bad weather coming, I don't know when we'll get it done. Two of them went lame and I had to butcher them on Saturday. They were the smallest of the bunch and came in at 3.5lb and 4.5lb. I'm thinking the rest of them will be around 5lb.

It looks like we'll be having more ducklings too. I'm not sure what this mama is thinking setting eggs in this weather, but more power to her, I guess. I hope the ducklings make it when they hatch. 

Oh, and do boys ever stop making noise? My goodness, it's not even noon and I feel like pulling my hair out with all the sound effects and musings that have nothing to do with school. 

This winter needs to end.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pigs to the Processor

The Porcine Princesses are finally gone! I estimate that they lost about 15 pounds each over the last two weeks with the miserably cold weather we'd been having. I threw dry bedding in for them as much as a could, but with all the rain, they were basically living in a swamp. Some days, if they hadn't rooted out a dry spot, there was no place to throw the bedding. Note to self- do not have pigs ready for processing during deer season.

I was able to get off to my sister's in Savannah this week. Thank you Mom and Dad for holding down the farm so I could go. This meant that I missed the departure of the pigs, but it was nice to have a couple days off. Their new house is lovely and her kids have grown so much. I've missed them.

We made it to a yarn store in Savannah- Wild Fibre. There's a check off the ole bucket list. They have Thursday night "Wine and Knit". I wish they had something like that here, I'd be there with bells on. I picked up two skeins of merino sock yarn and am itching to get started with them. I've been slightly obsessing over patterns, but should probably just stick with this one I found that worked.

I'm nearly done with my first pair of handmade knit socks. They aren't the most beautiful thing in the world, but they're warm and they fit. The pattern I used has a little ribbing along each side that keeps the sock snug. The first sock I tried would have fit the elephant man.

I used some less expensive wool yarn from Hobby Lobby on these. The next pair will be with my fancy yarn. I'm not going to lie, I feel a bit ridiculous spending $30 and 40 hours on a pair of socks!

My new friend has two sheep and has dyed and carded their wool. She just needs to figure out how to spin it. It would be really fun to do some of these projects with local wool.

Onyx's back feet have been bothering her for the last few weeks. I don't know what the problem was. She kicks the stuffing out of me when I try to do her back hooves, so they were a little overgrown, but nothing bad. I managed to trim them up over a couple of days and spray them well with blu-kote. She seems to be doing much better now.

Less than two months until kidding starts! I can hardly wait.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Year with Asher- Lessons from a LGD

Asher has been with us for a year now. He is a Great Pyrenees which is a breed of working dogs bred to guard farm animals. They're one of the more popular breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) in the United States.

I read so many things on Great Pyrenees when I got Asher, I was sure I was going to mess him up somehow. All kinds of advice from "Don't get one if you don't have large dog experience" to "You need to get two". And of course, acting in my typical way, I, Kristin, with no large dog experience (and little dog experience in general) brought home a puppy. Here are some of the things I have learned in the last year.

1. Don't overdo it on the internet. Remember, people with good dogs rarely post on forums, it's the people with the problems. If you spend too much time reading, you'll become convinced that problem dogs are the norm. They aren't. Most of these guys are born knowing what to do.

2. Do get a dog from working stock. The first night I brought Asher home, I put him in his own stall away from the goats- he was so tiny I didn't want him hurt. He dug out overnight and has been with the goats ever since. You want a dog with that instinct.

3. Don't get a Pyr as a house dog. While some people have had success with that, most of the problems I've read about stem from the dog not being able to do what he was bred to do. 

4. Teach him to walk on a lead and teach him early. You don't want to be that owner being dragged around by a 100+ pound dog. Also teach him to get in the car. I failed on that last bit and it took me 20 minutes to shove him into the car to go to the vet. I couldn't even bribe him with sausage.

5. A Pyr off a lead is a disa-pyr.  These guys consider any territory they can get to their territory. If you're not careful they'll be guarding the neighbor's place too. And the people on the other side of them. And the folks 3 doors down.

6. Apparently they guard deer too. Ash was out of sorts for 2 days when our neighbor shot us two little does that had been eating our garden.

7. All the garbage you read online about not interacting with your Pyr pup is just that- garbage. Love that puppy. Teach him manners. Don't move him into the house, but don't ignore him! You want a well adjusted dog who likes people. If you have kids, be sure the dog is around your kids and their friends. A lot.

8. These guys are not going to win awards for obedience. They are not giant fluffy Labradors and you can't expect them to be. A Pyr will only come when called if he thinks it's the right thing to do. Teach them to sit though. It helps them know you're boss.

9. Stuffed animals don't stand a chance.

10. Puppies should be around kids and lambs. Asher truly blossomed as a LGD when our kids started arriving. He led us to a doeling that Phoebe had birthed down in the woods. We may not have found that kid in time if it hadn't been for Asher.

11. He will chase your chickens. I guess sometimes chickens just need to be chased. It keeps them in their place. We can't have mutiny by chickens, now can we? Some people warn that you may lose a few chickens before your LDG learns. Asher has never killed a chicken. The few times he actually catches one, he likes to pluck a few feathers and give it a good bath. It's okay for dogs to be dirty, but chickens must be groomed.

12. Will my LGD puppy ever bark? Be careful what you wish for! Asher didn't bark until he was about six months old. He rarely barks in the day but he does a good bit of barking throughout the night to let anything lurking know he's on duty. When you're lying awake at 2am listening to him go off, remember, you could be waking up to dead goats. It helps to have understanding neighbors. Or no neighbors.

13. Spend some time hand feeding him while he's young. And make him sit to get his food. Asher lets the goats know in no uncertain terms that they are not to get near his food. His barking, growling, and snapping can actually be a bit scary, though I've learned that he would never actually hurt one of his animals. Just be sure he knows that you are allowed near his food. He can't think that he's above you in the hierarchy.

14. If he thinks he's a goat, don't disabuse him of that notion, you'll just hurt his feelings. 

15. They do not like baths. Legs wet, body dry. He may never get a real bath, but he doesn't smell bad. That coat of his seems to repel everything.

16. Speaking of that coat. Do not shave it! That coat keeps him cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also protects him from bites from the nasty creatures he's guarding your farm against.

17. All animals in the barnyard are his animals. Not yours, his. Don't be picking them up and trying to take them off anywhere. That's just not acceptable. I suggest locking your LGD in a stall when you're trying to catch a goose to butcher or send kids off with their new owners.

18. Trust your gut (as long as it's served you well in the past) and trust your dog. You may not understand what he's doing, but believe me, he has a reason for it. For the longest time, I'd discipline Asher for snapping at the goats as they would come out for milking. Finally, I realized that he knew the order in which they are milked and he was helping to make sure other goats didn't butt in line. Boy, did I feel bad for scolding him.

19. They eat much less than you may think.

20. Pyr's have the best smile. But Asher doesn't seem to smile for pictures. Just like my husband....sheesh. 

I'm sure I'll think of other things to add to the list. This has been a great year raising my first (and gigantic) puppy. He's gone from 8 pounds of fluff to 108 pounds of guarding power. And he's still a teenager! He's been a wonderful addition to our farm and I hope to have him guarding our farm for many years.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside

As I ventured out of my bedroom this morning, I noticed this strange, bright, yellowish stuff on the floor. Oh, my goodness! It's sunshine! I haven't seen that in weeks it seems.

I got just a hint of it last night as I was trying to prepare the critters for a gusty, bitterly cold night. See the very tops of those trees?


And that's where my excitement about this day ends. It is cold out there. Bitterly cold for Georgia. And windy. And I don't own a winter coat.

I am very glad I brought the citrus in last night and I am considering rearranging the sunroom so that they can stay in the remainder of the winter. My very own orangerie.

It's a shame that the processor has had too many deer to  come get my pigs. The Porcine Princesses are really on the huge side now and have to be miserable out there. Their pen is a mud pit with all the rain we've had. I try to throw them dry bedding when it's cold, but I know it's not enough for them. They really need to go to freezer camp. I pray the processor can come get them next week.

And now I must layer up and brave the elements to care for my cold and beloved creatures. Stay warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Counting Goats Before They Hatch

My plan this year is to keep a doeling from each of my Lamancha girls, breed them in the fall, and evaluate who I am keeping next spring when they kid. This plan is going to require another buck to breed the girls since Magnum will be their sire. It is also going to require my children's understanding that we are goat herders not goat hoarders. To get the most milk for my effort and the most bang for my buck, some goats are going to have to leave the farm.

Magnum still has Ike to keep him company, but I really, really don't need an Alpine buck no matter how pretty he is. My goodness he is pretty. I hope he doesn't have to end up at the butcher.

Things didn't work out with Westley last year, but his owner said she had several breedings that may interest me. I think my first choice would be a buck from this doe:

Second choice is this dam:

Both are bred to Westley.

And now we pray our plan comes to fruition. Have a lovely (soggy, grey, cold and dreary) day!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To Milk or Not to Milk

At this point, I'm getting about a quart of milk a day from 3 goats. It's enough to meet my family's needs, but it seems ludicrous to spend so much time at it each day for such a small return. I need to get all the girls dried up in the next few weeks anyway so I'm debating stopping a bit early.

Fawn, April, and Moses moved to their new home yesterday. I miss their sweet little faces, but we will have a new batch of kids in a couple months. Ike cried like a baby when he found himself left alone in the buck pen, so I moved Magnum back in with him.

He was happy to have some company and the two of them set about bloodying one another.

Onyx seemed upset to see her little girls go and was very, very affectionate last night. She no longer has anyone to cuddle up with at night and no friends in the barnyard. She's too bossy to be friends with any goat but her own offspring.

I am surprised to see how beautiful she's gotten in the last month or two. She has really filled out and turned into a lovely doe. She even seems to have grown into her feet. She always had very long pasterns and I had to take special care to keep her hooves trimmed properly so they didn't cave in. All of a sudden, her feet fit her body! It's a shame her udder is uneven because of the mastitis she had when I bought her.

My neighbor brought us a couple small does Christmas night. Poor Asher was beside himself all day. These girls must have been part of his herd too. I reduced them to backstraps and stew meat and learned that skinning a deer is easier to skinning a goose!

I spent last week trying to knit my first sock. It ended up a failure. Chalk it up to a learning experience.

Even though my tension was correct at 8 stitches per inch (okay, so there is that part in the middle where my tension loosened up to 7.5/in), the sock came out really, really wide.

I looked at some other patterns and found that they called for considerably fewer stitches to be cast on. The pattern I used called for 64! I am trying a pattern with 56 stitches now and size 1 needles instead of size 2. I hope this works! I have so many hours invested in this now I'd like to actually get a wearable sock out of it.

Wishing you all a happy 2014.