Monday, September 16, 2013

Deer Beware

Its hunting season again and Hubby couldn't be more thrilled.  On the weekends he is up at 5 and sitting in his tree stand.  The season opened last weekend and he has seen a couple deer but hasn't had the chance to shoot them.  I understand that people are on the fence about hunting.  But out here there are so many deer.  Daily I will pass at least one dead on the side of the road.  Deer can and do damage tons of crops.  Lots of farmers bring in hunters to help take care of the deer overpopulation.  Hubby hunts for the meat.  Its his way of providing for our family.   He doesn't take joy in killing but he does it because some animal will die for our food.  It might as well be a happy deer.  Since our budget is tight, it helps tremendously if Hubby gets a deer or two.  I personally have no desire to go hunting (although hunting is just as popular with the girls as the guys out here) but I am completely supportive of him doing it.  I can't understand why anyone would want to get up so early to go sit in a tree.  I guess I could if someone told me I would get free yarn out of the deal... Knowing me I would probably fall asleep in the tree because it was dark, cold and way too early...

I do think Hubby is a pretty cute hunter...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chiken Gangs

Farm animals are incredibly entertaining and funny.  I swear I can watch them for hours and not get bored.  A lot of people think that poultry are not very smart.  I beg to differ.  Last week I was milking the goats in the barn.  The geese share the pen with the goats and during milking time they come running in hopes of the goats spilling their feed.  This particular day a turkey had flown out of the chicken coop and meandered into the barn.  The barn is fenced in half.  The back half is for the goats/geese and has access to their outdoor pen.  The front half is storage and the milking station.  This turkey had the same hopes as the geese, but had an advantage as he was not penned in.  Right as he went to grab a bite of spilled food the goose craned its neck and gave him a warning nip. As if the goose was saying "thats my food!".  The turkey, obviously not getting the message creeped up again towards the goats feed and again got a nip from the goose.  Apparently the turkey finally got the message and ran out of the barn.  Only to return a couple minutes later.  With the chicken gang.  See the turkey ran to the coop, told all the roosters about the mean old goose in the goat pen and brought the two biggest roosters and a hen back with him.  As if he was saying "goose, you may be twice my size but I have the biggest and baddest roosters on my side.  Don't mess with me".  I am not sure who won the battle in the end as the roosters got distracted once they were in the barn and in turn the turkey did too.  I think they found some spilled cat food far away from the goose's reach.  Ill leave you to ponder and decide for yourself if poultry really are dumb...  For generations people have been talking about how turkeys are so dumb that they will drown in a rainstorm from looking up at the rain.  I highly doubt the validity of the story. I think turkeys are just curious.  And as long as they have the roosters on their side they will be just fine...

Saving Money on Animal Feed

The biggest expense in raising livestock is the feed.  This is true whether you are raising chickens, horses, goats, pigs or any other livestock.  We have been looking into options to reduce our feed bill.  And no, feeding the animals less is not an option...haha.  We have been trying to let the chickens out of their yard to free range when we are home (if we aren't home they wander over to the neighbor who doesnt share our love of chickens- so we are trying to be respectful).  They are so much happier when they are hunting for bugs.  We keep the feeders full in the coop so they still have access to their feed but they would much rather play in the hay in the barn or dig for bugs in the yard.

   We also let the goats (girls only, sorry boys) out to eat the brush if we are out in the yard.  The goats are super easy to catch if we need to put them away.  Goat herds always have a self appointed herd queen (the queen can change if they decide to challenge each other).  They will always be near the queen.  Our queen is Chai.  She ousted Latte for the position when we brought her home.  As long as we have Chai, Latte and Mocha will follow.  Chai is super easy to walk and its fun to see Latte and Mocha running to catch up with her.  By allowing them to eat the brush, they eat less hay (don't worry we still give them hay too but just less).  They always get grain at milking.  With milking goats you have to be careful that they get enough since they are putting so much energy into producing milk.  They love going out to explore and eat the brush. 

  The pigs already eat (drink?) the goats milk and sometimes hardboiled eggs.  They can't only have milk, so we started looking into other options.  I contacted a local restaurant to see if they would give me their food scraps.  Actually I contacted a bunch of restaurants and this one agreed, thankfully.  I believe technically restaurants and grocery stores are not supposed to give away their scraps or leftovers due to liability reasons and all that.  So I won't be saying where we are getting the scraps.  This restaurant does a lot of down home cooking.  So the scraps I get are the apple and potato peelings, cabbage, etc.  Not the leftovers from customers plates or anything like that.  I go to pick up the scraps in 5 gallon buckets and return the previous bucket (rinsed out and clean).  Today I got a call that they had 2 buckets!  That's 10 gallons of food I get for the pigs for free.  And 10 gallons of waste that is kept out of the landfills.  A win all around!  Family Z has also started saving their scraps for me too.  5 gallons will last the pigs a couple days.  Combined with the goats milk they are going to be some happy hogs!

  If you have animals, do you try to cut feed costs?  If so, what do you do? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Meet the Bacon(s)

After having a huge surplus of milk and wondering what to do with it, we started asking around what other people do.  It seems most people either 1. give it away or 2. raise hogs.  We opted for number 2.  Since we are already paying for the goat feed and hay, it would be a waste of money to just give the milk away.  We opted to get two American Guinea Hogs.  We got a female and a castrated male (don't want to have to worry about additional piglets).
   We spent Labor Day weekend getting their electric fence set up.  Until now they had been in their pen, but not with electric fencing.  This will not allow them to dig under the fence when they are rooting.  We made them a house out of straw bales and some free corrugated roofing we got from where else but craigslist.

  These hogs will eat just about anything.  To raise them healthy and frugally we are trying to feed them as much veggie scraps (I am even soliciting scraps from Family Z), cooked eggs (raw eggs are bad for hogs) and goats milk.  We did buy a bag of hog feed just in case one day we are running low on natural food.
  We have yet to name them... any thoughts?  I think it should be a food related name like Bacon or Backstrap... or something random like Petunia...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Baking Bread with Kids

Last week I discovered a bread recipe that claimed to be super easy- Amish White Bread.  I happened to have all the ingredients and set out to make a loaf.  I took all the ingredients to work with me.  While the baby took his morning nap, and the oldest was away at school, the three year old and I got our hands dirty.  J loves to "help".  Sometimes I will fill the sink up with soapy water and give him some plastic dishes to "wash".  I love watching him as he feels so accomplished when he is finished helping.  High fives are dished out all around.  Needless to say, he is an awesome bread making helper.  I would measure the ingredients and he would dump them in the bowl.  Yes, flour ends up on the counter and the floor too but it is worth the extra clean up.  J loved kneading the bread with me.  He helped oil the bread pans too.  This is not something we could have done if the baby wasn't sleeping.  I loved watching the dough rise and eventually turn into bread. We immediately sliced the loaf up and tasted it.  Yum!  The recipe made two loaves so I took one home for Hubby and I and left one for Family Z to enjoy.  I will definitely be repeating this recipe as it was easy and delicious. 
  This morning I sliced off a piece and had toast with jam that my mom and grandma made.  Love!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Welcome September

How did it get to be September already?  I know its not a surprise really.  September follows August every year.  I just can't believe that August is done and September is here.  I love beginnings.  The beginning of the week, the beginning of a book, and especially the beginning of a new month.  September is a good month in my book.  It is leading up to October (one of my favorite months).  September brings the promise of Fall.
  So in the spirit of it being a new month and all, Hubby and I decided to start a challenge.  For the whole month we are giving up the tv.  To you it might not seem like a big move considering how we get zero channels.  zilch.  not a one.  That said, we do watch a lot of movies and tv series from the library.  Hubby loves playing his video games so this is a huge thing for him.  I want to take this month and see what happens when we are not zoned out watching something on the tv.
  How did the first day go you might ask?  Better than expected!  I took a nice hot bath and started a new book (Start, by Jon Acuff).  I was worried that Hubby would be resentful so imagine my surprise when I got out of the tub and found him diligently working.  My grandpa had given Hubby a 1943 bayonet on one of our visits home.  Hubby is determined to restore it and had everything sprawled out on the table.  He didn't complain at all.
  Its amazing how when tv is not an option you can find other things to do.  We have a million and one unread books in the house.  I rarely start a new one because I don't have the "time".  Hubby usually watches tv to relax, but this evening found an alternative source of relaxation.  I will keep you updated on how our challenge is going.  But for now, goodbye tv!
  PS I forgot to mention that since I removed the tv, the living room also got a revamp.  The couch no longer needs to face the tv stand.  The room feels so much larger and more relaxing already!