Introducing New Goats to the Homestead

20150730-074051.jpg Meet our first goats, Jolene and Sunshine. We’re so excited about two sweet girls who traveled 4 hours with us to their new home beside our camper.

We thought the journey would never end. Yes, we were a little bit anxious to have these two! The dog kennel worked perfectly for transporting them. We feared they would soil the SUV we’d borrowed from a family member for the trip, but the girls kept their manners. They were silent as death, cowering from us as if we were the harbingers of evil things to come.

Shy Girl, Jolene
Shy Girl, Jolene

Once we introduced the girls to their enclosure, we added an old doghouse for a temporary, mobile shelter. They loved it…too much. Unfortunately our girls are very shy and untrusting of humans, reluctant to leave the safety of the house. The first full day was nearly 100 degrees, and our babies weren’t coming out to get any water. When we saw them panting, we made an executive decision to open their shelter and coax them outside.

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It’s been 6 days now and the girls still cling to their shelter a lot. We take the roof off each morning and make sure they get the day started with some water and something to eat. They’re gradually becoming more confident, coming out more and more on their own. And by the way, the electric net fence from Premier has been working great so far. I’ve seen our goats and cats “discover” the barrier, and it’s been safe and effective. We’ll continue to keep a vigilant watch over it in the coming weeks to make sure no animal (or human) gets injured.

WRD and I sit with the doelings often, talking and reading quietly. They get quite close to us, but are skittish. We’ve read in our research to offer them treats such as raisins or animal crackers. The girls have adamantly ignored these offerings. Touching them is out of the question…they won’t have it. I’m hoping they’ll warm up to us soon.

Things we learned about bringing home new goats:

1. Never assume your goats have had interactions with humans. Ask the owners and be prepared for shy, terrified animals.
2. Avoid eye contact and pursuing your animals. Subtle interaction is best. Just stay near and let them get used to your presence and voice.
3. Find out what the owner has been feeding them. ( we purchased several things we’d read they would like, only to find they prefer the same old, same old they’re familiar with!)
4. Above all, patience, patience, patience!

My New Writing Critique Partners: Jolene and Sunshine
My New Writing Critique Partners: Jolene and Sunshine
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Chocolate Banana Smoothie (No Added Sugar)

One of my favorite plants we’ve grown on our homestead is stevia. By far, it’s been the easiest plant to raise and harvest. I enjoy its leaves in everything sweet I make. In fact, I’ve even begun using it not only as a sugar replacement, but also a honey replacement–and y’all know I love honey! This week I created a new recipe that was so yummy I had to share! It’s a no-sugar, healthy treat!

Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothie
Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothie from My Ozark Life: Back to Our Roots Blog

Seriously, this was easy to make in my smoothie-maker, and it had no after-taste like other no-sugar foods sometimes have. Plus, it was made with some of the foods I can produce on my own property! Ingredients 1 ripe frozen banana (I peel mine the night before and put in a Ziploc in my freezer for the next day), 1 TBS honey, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/16 tsp stevia (I use one dried leaf, crumbled into a powder), 1 TBS cocoa powder, 1 ripe avocado, 1 cup goat’s milk. Put all ingredients into a blender or smoothie maker and blend until there are no more banana chunks. Then pour into a glass and enjoy! To me, it’s like creamy chocolate ice cream. I can’t believe how delicious something this healthy can be.

#dairy #goatmilk #stevia #smoothie #chocolate

Installing a Net Fence for Browsing Goats

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After researching fences for goats, we decided to invest in net fencing. It cost more, but will allow us to move our goats from place to place as we clear our land. We wanted to use an electric net, so hopefully the goats will learn not to test their boundaries. According to the customer service rep where I ordered our fencing, the Nigerian Dwarf breed is too small for the regular size fence, so she recommended poultry net. (I would not purchase poultry for larger goat breeds.) The net came in different lengths. We chose to buy two 100 ft lengths.

100 ft Electric Fence Net
100 ft Electric Fence Net

After looking at the fence, we realized we would need to select a smaller place for the goats to browse than we’d originally intended. They would also need to be located very close to our camper so we could hear them if they got caught in the fence. I’m told the goats will need careful monitoring while they adjust to their boundary.

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Clearing the area for the goats to browse proved to be more work than I’d realized! First we chose a perimeter where the fence would be level–no places for them to get their heads under. Then we had to cut tree limbs (that might cause problems for the fence), vines (that led to discoveries outside their browsing area), and remove some boxwoods (toxic to the goats).WRD Clearing the Way

At one point my husband joked that we could’ve spent the same amount of money to hire someone to bulldoze the whole area–to which I reminded him, “Could the bulldozer produce yummy cheese, yogurt, and milk?”

‘Nuff said!

At least we got a good workout from the experience, and we also got to see some of the property we hadn’t explored. We also saw what vegetation our sweet doelings will soon be munching, including blackberries and poison ivy.

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Installing the actual fence was fairly easy, and could be a one person job. I found that opening the fence was a little harder for my spaghetti-weak arms, but I’ll get stronger. (We will install a permanent fence with a gate eventually.)

I hope our girls will love their first home. We can’t wait to meet them and share them with you! In the meantime, we’re looking at ideas for their shed and feeding. Check back for more posts on that later.

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Home Remedies for Animals

Last week I shared about the adorable barn kitties we’ve started caring for on our new homestead. For about two weeks now, the threesome have been developing hair loss for what looks like mange. Vet bills can be expensive and since we’re trying our hardest to become debt-free right now, we can hardly afford the bills of three stray kittens! Therefore, I’ve been doing some research on my own and have come to the conclusion that I might be able to treat their condition from our own cupboard.

I am no veterinarian nor am I qualified to give medical advice of any kind. The following is my experience, untested by the FDA, and in no way recommended by myself or my blog. I’ve read several accounts of people using apple cider vinegar to treat ringworm or mange on cats. There are different opinions on how best to apply the ACV. Some say to use full strength, some say to dilute it with water, and some suggest using borax, mayonnaise, or olive oil, too. I’m a recent convert to all things ACV, so I thought I would give it a try.

I’ve been applying it full strength on the kitties’ bald spots at least once a day. Then I’m alternating with treatments of olive oil. The areas seem to be spreading less at the very least, and surprise, surprise, their fur is growing back! I understand that this is only a treatment for a symptom and not the cure for the underlying cause, but it’s helping. The kitties have young, weak immune systems, so I’m praying this will get better as they grow. If their condition worsens, WRD and I have already agreed to take them to the vet. We want to get this situation under control before our first farm animals arrive. I’ll let you know if this continues to work over time.

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And here’s the after:

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Unexpected Gifts

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We have only to look to find that God provides bounty everywhere.

In the mornings, I take long walks on the farm roads near our property–the earlier the better during the summer when it can be 90-100+ degrees by 8 am.  While work progresses on our homestead and building site, I enjoy these pleasant walks and getting to see the natural beauty that surround us.

Amid the sprawling acres of soybeans and wheat, some local farmers allocate fields for reforestation. Rows and rows of pine trees provide cool shade and a habitat for deer. I plan to ask the land owners if we can borrow some pine needles. Almost an endless supply awaits for our use for mulch. Another wonderful gift from the Lord.

Everything Has A Purpose

On our homestead, we want every animal or plant to serve a purpose, with the goal being zero waste. For example, table scraps become compost with the help of worms which we can also feed to the chickens which will feed us, etc. It’s a wonderful chain in our permaculture in which every being on our property should belong.

The White River Dude & I own two spoiled house cats. Do they serve a purpose? Well, maybe if that purpose is to wake me at 5am to tell me they’re out of food! But we’ve had them a long while and we’re kinda attached to them. Let’s just say they fall under a grandfather clause. 🙂

However, the barn on our land came with its own felines: a momma cat and her 3 newborn kittens. These semi-wild kitties are getting used to us. We feed them, pet them, allow them to come and go in the barn for shelter. And they’ll one day serve a purpose. In fact, not long after we started feeding the momma, we spotted her carrying a mouse. Yep, barn cats belong in our permaculture, too.

Ah, sweet success, one animal at a time.

Becoming Good Stewards

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Pecan Grove
Our Pecan Grove

This time last year, WRD and I were planning our future and dreaming about the homestead we wanted to create someday. Someday…as in some time in the distant years ahead. Now that day has already arrived. Necessity forced our hand. In order to help WRD’s disabled father, we’ve quit our jobs, moving next-door to him. Instead of purchasing the ten+ acres like we’d planned, we’re scrambling to build our self-sufficient farm on only three acres.

This isn’t necessarily a bad a thing.

The land tended by my father-in-law, a retired farmer, includes a pecan grove, several hardwood trees to shade our house, and a few great sunny spots for a greenhouse, a garden and raised beds. There are some ramshackle outbuildings, too, such as a weather-worn chicken coop and tool shed. Where some people might see overgrown and unkempt scrub land, WRD and I see POTENTIAL.

Household Debris on the Property
Household Debris on the Property

Obviously, we have a lot of work to do.

This is why we’ve purchased goats to help clear the brush where we plan to build our home’s foundation. In the coming days, we’ll fence in the area where we plan to build. We’re using electric net fencing which will be good (we hope) for moving the goats from area to area.

According to our research, good fencing is KEY to successful goat farming. It’s also the chief complaint of every goat owner. Goats will test their fences. In the coming weeks we’ll learn if our research paid off.

Future Herb Garden
Future Herb Garden Site