Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nigerian Dwarf Goats for Sale

This is Itsy, the larger of the two does. She is the mother of two bucklings and one doeling.

This is Bitsy. She is very small yet easily raised three kids.

The doeling in the foreground is out of Bitsy, and the one in the background is a real beauty out of Itsy.
Another doeling out of Bitsy.

Here's Itsy's beautiful girl. We call her Cloud.

This is Bitsy's buckling. He is a real character and definitely the most animated of the three.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This is a boy who knows where his food comes from

We take animal slaughtering very seriously and the kids are on hand to help or watch if they so choose. So far Eliza has chosen to opt out, but Scotty has been a willing and thoughtful helper.

Here is our outdoor abattoir, or chicken slaughterhouse.

Scotty helps to bring in the chickens and keeps them calm

and he has begun to learn how to eviscerate them. Here he is working with Crystal, our most faithful helper on butchering day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bee swarm capture

Our neighbor recently discovered a swarm of honey bees in a tree on her land. Chris and the kids were out camping that day, but fortunately I had an empty hive and a couple of fine helpers and was not only able to capture the swarm but got some great photos taken of the process!

The swarm was in a small tree and the neighbor didn't mind if we lopped off the whole branch. I felt kind of guilty topping the tree that way but it really was a great way to capture the swarm with few losses.

I approached the tree with the loppers and quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to cut the branch AND hold onto it at the same time but luckily my helper Stephanie was willing to do the lopping. Swarming bees are usually very docile so she was pretty safe doing so.

After we cut the branch I carefully lowered the whole thing into the hive. It was surprisingly heavy! I had placed a top bar with a honey comb on it from another hive into the new hive so that the girls would feel at home.

Next I cut off as many of the peripheral branches as I could so that I could close up the hive.

Then I added the top bars until it was shut tight.

I left the hive there for the rest of the day so that any remaining bees could find their way inside, then moved it over to our place that evening. The next day I pulled out the rest of the branch and let them make themselves at home. They were quite pleased and set about making new comb right away! I now have four hives and have harvested over four gallons of honey so far this season.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Recent livestock photos

I went out recently with the camera to snap some photos of the cows because they were looking particularly beautiful now that they had shed their winter coats. The pasture and sky were also lovely that day.
The sheep are spending the summer on the next door neighbor's pasture. This year they are sharing the pasture with two beautiful horses.

Here are the new goats, Itsy and Bitsy. No, I did not name them, and their names would have been changed in an instant were it not for the fact that I happened to mention them to the kids, who thought they were great and completely vetoed any renaming. In this shot they are both very pregnant.

The piglets are growing fast and learning all of their mothers' bad habits. They are small enough to get through the cattle panels and graze the irrigation ditches.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


As promised, here are some photos of our new livestock guardian dog, Bear. Bear is around 14 months old and he came to us from a farm in very rural Kansas where he was the faithful guardian of a flock of chickens. We chose to purchase Bear as opposed to a new puppy because he was already trained to work with birds and he was also good with kids. He does not disappoint! He has settled in beautifully here at the farm and he guards his poultry with great attention to detail. He even protected them from a ferocious toad the other evening. I caught the toad and reassured Bear that toads are welcome visitors on the farm, but it was pretty funny to see him snarling and growling at the poor toad.

Bear is a Great Pyrenees dog, a large breed that is historically used for guarding livestock. I became interested in this breed for several reasons, not the least of which was meeting Thistle, a Pyr owned by our farm friends at Sunflower River. Bear is a big boy--he is about 105 pounds right now and will grow a bit more. A nice thing about Pyrs is that they don't eat very much relative to other breeds so even though he's big, we are able to feed him well with bones, organs, and other meat products from the farm (chicken heads, etc). We have not lost one chicken to raccoons since he came home. He lives with the chickens but gets lots of love and attention during the day from people. We are just thrilled with him and will probably never again be without a livestock guardian dog, at least for as long as we have livestock.

Here he is hamming it up for the camera:

Here he is meeting Sylvia for the first time. This gives you an idea of his size and his love of people.

Oh, and he works sometimes too! Here he is patrolling the chicken yard for invaders.

Latest kid doings

We had Chris and Scotty's usual birthday steam-up again this year. Scotty is 9 already! We kept it a bit smaller this time but some new friends came from our homeschool group in addition to other friends and family and we had a great time. Of course we had the steam tractor running with steam hoist rides.

We also tried a water balloon launcher this year.

We finished it off with the ever popular potato cannon.

Earlier last month, Eliza had two friends over to celebrate her new bedroom. The girls had a great time making stop motion animation videos, playing music, dying eggs with natural dyes, and visiting the animals.

Eliza was thrilled to be able to show the girls her new loft bed.

Meanwhile, Scotty has become quite a skilled tractor operator and he has really started to help out around the farm. Here he is hauling a load of compost up the driveway.

Later he drove along while I shoveled the compost into one of our garden beds.

He also pulled the trailer and hay loader for us the last time we picked up hay. It's really a thrill to see--he can even make the turns and line up the loader properly for the next run. In short, the kids are doing very well!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Our first litters of piglets were born a few weeks ago. These are special births because they are American Guinea Hogs, a rare heritage breed that is near extinction. Through the efforts of several enthusiastic breeders around the country their numbers are climbing, which is a good thing because this small, gentle breed is a real treasure. The piglets are the size of a soda can at birth and are unbelievably cute.

Here is one of the moms a few days before farrowing. This one had 8 piglets!

More cute little babies for the kids to hold.

Less than one day old!

Monday, June 08, 2009

A quick getaway

After the long and difficult start to 2009 we decided to try a little mini vacation, which we felt was much deserved. Of course, our version of a vacation does not involve much rest! It all started when the place in my heart for a dog that had been vacated by Hank three years ago was finally filled when we decided to get a livestock guardian dog to watch over the chickens. Too many losses to raccoons (and events that resulted from those losses) convinced even Chris that a LGD would be a useful addition to the farm. The dog will warrant a post of his own, but for now just know that the dog I found for us was located near Pratt, KS, a 9 hour drive from home. Never missing an opportunity to turn an errand into an adventure, I felt compelled to see what else was going on in or around SW Kansas and lo and behold I found the annual steam tractor show in Pawnee, OK just a couple of weeks away!

So at the end of April we set out for a "quick" trip to OK and KS, squeezing in two half days of steam engines between three long days of driving. We picked up the dog on the third day and by day four we were home.

The weather was horrible at the steam show but the sight of up to 10 steam tractors all under steam at once, driving around the grounds, was well worth it.

On day 1 we were totally unprepared for the thick mud, rain, and brutal wind. We only lasted about an hour. By day two we were ready for anything! This was Chris' first major outing since his injury and he did amazingly well given the conditions.

This little quarter-scale tractor (I think) was Scotty's favorite. He talks about it all the time to this day.
This Minneapolis engine was Chris' favorite. They had it running at full steam which was quite impressive I must admit.
It was a nice break between a tough winter and a busy farm season. Chris and Scotty are talking about going back next year!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Interesting but not surprising

The kids spend their days on the farm moving from one activity to the next, often on their own initiative. A couple of weeks ago Chris came upon this scene:

Note the safety goggles and ear protection. Apparently it hadn't occurred to Eliza that a shirt might be a good idea too.

I'm not sure what they were doing but it certainly looks interesting! They do seem pleased with the results.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Farm progress

Several times recently I've gone out with the camera to document the status of the farm but I'm so bad at keeping up with the blog that most of the photos become outdated before they get posted. So I'll just give you a summary of what's been going on here the last couple of months.

Here is a shot of the greenhouse in March after I managed to get some greens planted.

In April we were visited twice by students from the UNM Sustainability Studies program. These folks were wonderful to have here and they were terrific help. The first time we planted potatoes, worked on the solar panels, and worked on the rainwater catchment system on the greenhouse.

When they visited again two weeks later we planted the sweet potatoes in the greenhouse and continued the catchment installation.

We really enjoyed talking with these students and their instructor and hearing their thoughts and ideas on sustainability. Here we are discussing the merits of aquaculture.

Meanwhile we have been following the progress of the pig pregnancies with much anticipation.
The girls are very friendly and just love having their bellies scratched so it's easy to get them to lie down for a belly shot.

This is Aelita about three weeks ago.

And here she is just before she farrowed. I know the feeling!

Of course it wouldn't be springtime on the farm without lambs! We have 10 little bouncy lambs on the ground and there is a possibility for a couple more. The lambs have formed a little gang and they roam around together looking for trouble in the early evening. One of their favorite activities is to "hop on pop" in which they jump on and off the ram.

Stay tuned for new piglets, Bear the dog, and a little road trip.