The Power of No

Last year was our first venture into livestock. It’s been a learning experience and I encourage everyone to at least try it at some point. We were blessed by our first goat purchase being out of someone’s backyard, they were very helpful and informative about what is healthy and what is not, and yes, theirs were healthy.

We’ve bought other goats from commercial operations, turns out we bought some problems but nothing debilitating. We’ve bought from other midrange production farms that took hours to get to but provided quality doelings (not yet bred girls) at a reasonable price.

This recent experience was different. Text the guy from Craigslist, he confirms most of our questions. Good price and good deal. So we load up the kids, drive the hour out there. Find we find out the seller doesn’t live here, he just bases his sales here because it’s close to Fort Worth and brings his stock down from Oklahoma.

Friendly guy, very happy to talk about his animals and his extensive experience and credentials with livestock. Hail-fellow-well-met approach to selling.

But as we listen, we hear about his problems with his herd. How the worms are always there and no one can get rid of them. How this pathogen is always there too, but these ones are healed up…nope, nope, nope.

When you run your own operation, you are responsible for what comes on the property. The easiest way to prevent pestilence in the pasture is to never bring it onsite. After watching the final doeling emit a bloody stool, we said no, thank you and left.

It’s a good word, the word No. I hope my son’s and daughters learn it early. Better to make a round trip and pickup pizza (when did a large pizza get so small??) on the way home then bring hours of problems and death back to the home.

Wood Chips – Biomass in a Truck

You have that moment when you look at your phone while it is ringing. You don’t know the number calling and it’s a neighboring area code. Me, I hit the screen call button and move on. Maybe you answer it to talk to Emily about your car warranty expiring.

The next instant after the caller hangs up, a Signal note comes through from one of our wonderful neighbors: “hey I gave your number to a tree service looking to dump mulch they may be calling you soon.”

As fast as possible I call that number back, and sure enough, Bright Tree Service answers and is happy to drop a dump truck of mulch. They are six minutes away.

Where are we going to put a dump truck of mulch??

Right on target!

It’s a lot of mulch. I figure 3-4 hay bales worth of volume. Restoration agriculture takes advantage of bio mass from outside sources, particularly when it’s low cost. Free is very low cost. This saves on fuel consumption, landfill waste, and squandered natural resources. Here at the farm it will help preserve water, build soil, and provide hours of high quality exercise while we move it about.

Racing the sunset with mulch

We had planned on buying $140 worth of mulch this month to use in the garden. Not only did a tree service dropping it off save the cash, it saved three hours worth of travel and unloading time.

Using mulch to fill in the low spots. This is an attempt to reduce weeding this year.

Stymied by the Velocity of Water

In the fall last year we put a lot of work into pulling the shingle roof off the house. Insurance wouldn’t cover it and it was just waiting for a storm to destroy it.

I installed a metal roof with a radiant barrier underlayment. I am looking forward to seeing how the energy savings stack up this summer. If nothing else it’s nice to not worry about a roof for the next 50 years.

Copper rooftop, meet eggshell gutter.

The project was to install gutters on the roof top capture the water running off the roof, rather then water carving deep channels under the foundation. The plan is to harvest the water into a rainwater collection system and use the sweet, sweet rainwater for the garden and livestock applications.

A whole line of gutters installed.

First line of gutters installed and…nope. Not going to work. The water coming off the rooftop is moving so fast is just zips right over the top of the gutters.

The next phase of this project will be building out the eves with wood to increase our installation surface area, and then moving the gutters up closer to the actual rooftop.

Truck Bed Gardens

Winter passed and spring is come…and of course we’re scrambling to get the garden prepared.

This is part of our new strategy, the truck bed garden

There are some really incredible gardens and gardeners out there. We see them on the YouTube and talk to them when they are our neighbors… we’re still on the front side of the learning curve.

Sprouts waiting for the frost to go home

If you are too, now is the time! Muck up some dirt, throw down some lettuce seeds and embrace the beauty of managing creation. God put Adam in the garden first for a reason.

Protect the Hay!

Previously we talked about Hay bales representing a great store of value over the winter and bragged about how much hay was in the barn. Since that time all the goats have decided the green spring grass is no good and they want to tear up all the unauthorized Hay bales. It’s great fun.

Imagine if this was a marshmallow, where would you start eating it?

Wood is pricey right now and we have stacks of pallets bought cheap on Craigslist last year. Time to put them to work.

Nothing like a lovely lady working to spice up the foggy morning

This was one of the good days in life. Kids played, all the materials were on hand, clear objectives and smooth work flow. Finished the whole side of the barn by lunch.

Come on goats! Beat this!

After that we hung gates on the two ends of the barn to finish isolating it.

We’ve never had so many compliments for the quality hayfork before this morning

Nursing Success!

Momma Marbles has successfully accepted our bottle buckling and has turned out to be the most nurturing momma we’ve worked with. After putting them together in their bonding pen, we held her still for a bit and helped little guy get busy. It worked and then kept working, and now they’re just free ranging the back yard and nursing freely.

Turned loose in the yard.

Those pallets behind them will turn out to be useful for the next project… fencing in the pole barn from nefarious and untimely hay consumption. Pallets are cheap and lumber is really expensive right now!

Habitat for Grafting

The snow melted off and we’re excited for spring, and the baby goats (kids) that are coming soon.

Sadly one of our first time momma’s gave stillbirth twins yesterday. Marbles seemed healthy otherwise and has given no indication of any pregnancy problems. Now though, we did have a problem.

She is fully ready to nurse twins but no twins to nurse, and we are on the clock to figure something out. There are three options:

1. Do nothing and hope she doesn’t develop mastitis (infection!)

2. Do something. Do the work of manually pulling her milk several times a day.

3. Find a bottle baby goat to graft onto her.

We chose option 3 and found a very nice couple a few hours away on Craigslist l. We loaded up the kids and picked up Mr. Mutton, a bottle fed buckling 9 days old.

Visible from the kitchen window, right between the deer target and the bike

Part of this process is setting momma Marbles up in a small space that doesn’t make her feel isolation but does keep her with the baby.

So we took a pair of gates, a t-post and some heavy zip ties to make a partition.

Using a stone under the white gate helps it swing in and out freely.

Rock on
Pro tip: Heavy duty zip ties from Grainger.

The Marbles and Mr. Mutton grafting project is ongoing, more to come on that!

Hay Savings

Joel Salatin talks about having hay on hand as a high yield savings account. He’s right. We had our pastures baled over the summer before any livestock set foot and came away with 16 bales at $22 each. Our friends from BA Agriculture helped line the bales up in the pole barn with their tractor.

Mostly through winter

This last week of feeding unlimited hay has used up 3 bales, at current winter rates that’s $65 per bale. We should make it through the whole winter using about 5 bales and have hay for the next two winters as well.

Hay guys

Going into 2021, working to figure out a square bale solution. For our plans human sized solutions are needed. The round bales look rolly, but they aren’t. It’s a huge labor to move one around, and we have no way to sell them as we can’t load up someone’s trailer with it. Square bales may cost more but will fit our purposes, and agricultural antifragility, much better.

Travelers in the Night

The snow tells stories of the past. Tales of travelers and expeditions the full length of the driveway.

Something fluffy this way came

It appears to be a footprint in three parts. The investigation led to a father and son. The witness testimony was eager but ultimately without merit.

Sullivan and Ashok remain unavailable for comment
A foot print not in three, but in four parts

Folks, were dealing with rabbits here. Crisis averted and the mail wasn’t here anyways. Back to your normally scheduled programming.

Keeping Up With the Freezes

The fog this morning is bio-based

It’s been holding steady well below freezing for 3 days now. I’m a Texas boy, this is new and strange. One of the problems we noticed quickly is the animals water freezes over, so you have to go break it open.

A different kind of Golden Corral

It doesn’t sound daunting or tedious until you have to suit up for the cold. I freezer burned an earlobe on day one without enough head coverings.

Better then the ax. Better then the sledge. It’s the mattock.

The best tool so far is the mattock from EasyDigging. Normally a good hand tool for people of all ages in the garden, it’s become my go to for opening water portals. Then there’s steers like this that don’t want the easy water, they’ll get some on their own.

It’s a seldom seen steer-marine in the wild

Through it all, I’ve been impressed by the Anatolian Shepherd, Sullivan, having the least amount of concern about the cold.

Sullivan ponders why the food keeps appearing
Tell me again, how does this keep us warm when we climb on it?