Category Archives: Farm Life

Goats Gone Wild!

 

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We have been using electric fencing to keep our Kiko goats in all spring and summer, moving them at least once a week or more often to make sure they have plenty of food to eat.  We don’t have goat proof perimeter fencing, some areas have no fencing at all.  We are working to remedy that problem, but have had pretty good luck so far.

Suddenly it was fall.  The leaves started to change colors into a beautiful world.   A beautiful world where the goat’s favorite foods (brambles and woody plants)  are losing leaves.  The goats suddenly had to be moved every other day, they would eat every edilble thing they could find, and fast!  We were watching the goats and their food supply closely, but one Wednesday afternoon when Travis and I went to move the goats, the goats were gone!

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Straw Bale Building

 

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When we moved to our homestead a year ago, the plan was to build a house sometime in the near future.  After a year full of building infrastructure and adding animals to our homestead, it’s time to focus on the house!  We did a lot of research, reading books, watching videos and talking to people in the area before making our decision on what kind of house to build.  Let’s start on another adventure, and build a straw bale house!  Since this is a new way of building for us and there is a lot to learn, we decided to start small and build a guest house first.  The idea being that we will get all of the kinks worked out before we start on our house.

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It’s Been One Year on the Homestead

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It’s been a year since we moved from our hobby farm just outside a city to our beautiful homestead in the holler!  We’ve gotten a lot done, yet the to-do list is still a mile long.  I have a feeling that the to-do list is going to be constantly growing as we think of more things to add and make improvements to what we’ve done.  We’ve learned a lot this past year and will continue to learn as time goes on. So what have we learned?

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We’re still plugging away!

 

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Busy, busy, busy!  Whew, it has been quite a summer so far.  Sorry for the lack of updates.  We have had our heads down working and writing after a long, hot day hasn’t been our priority, I’m afraid.  So, what have we been up to?  Hmm, let’s see…

  • Re-roofing: we finally decided to re-roof the very sad roof on the old farm house.  It was in really bad shape and was quite leaky.  We replaced the asphalt shingles with painted metal.  It turned out to be a fairly large job, due to the pitch (9/12) and the modifications we made.  We were aware of one rotted spot that we had to cut out, but then found another spot that really needed some help.  Turns out it was really the result of an old dormer that wasn’t really useful any more, so we removed it.  It was interesting to look at all the layers of shingles and then wood shakes under that.  I even found one wooden shake that still had the label on it.  In removing the dormer, we found a cool collection of old bottles, including one for “swamp water”.  We also found evidence, in the form of old plastic tubs placed around the attic, that the dormer had been leaking for years.  I guess that’s one way to “fix” the problem.
This shows the sorry state of the roof we started with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the sorry state of the roof we started  with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

  • Re-roofing, take 2: most of the buildings on our farm really could use some roofing work.  One building was in pretty good shape, but really needed some help for the leaky old tin, so we ripped into this next.  As the rafters were really bowed and in bad shape, we ended up replacing all the rafters with new 2×8 framing.  This really transformed the building into something useful.  We still need to re-side the building to make it really good, since it currently has many places you could throw a (bob) cat through!
This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

  • Gardening: Janelle has been very busy trying to keep up with a large garden this summer, between taking care of kids.  We are still learning plenty about the new climate, but overall the garden has been a great success.  We’re told it has been a weird year with far above average rain, so I guess we still need to experience a “normal” summer.
  • Broiler Chickens: We butchered broiler chickens the end of August. It is always pleasant to be past that chore and have the freezer stocked for the winter.  The broilers were a success this year, but next year should be better now that we have some infrastructure in place.  We used Salatin-style pens again and that was good, but I believe next year we will go back to a day-range model as it seemed that the birds really needed more space.
  • Grazing: Grazing is keeping us quite busy, given the number of animal species to move.  We are now grazing beef cattle, meat goats, meat sheep, dairy goats, and pigs.  It seems there is always some animal that needs to be moved.  As we move toward winter, the goal is to consolidate as much as possible to cut down on daily labor.
  • Planning house: We have decided to start building our house this fall.  After much thought, we finally decided to go with strawbale construction, using post and beam framing and straw as insulation (infill, not load bearing).  We are planning large overhangs and porches to prevent water issues.  Additionally, the outside will be finished in lime, which will help to keep the walls dry since lime finishes tend to draw moisture out.  The inside walls will be finished with a combination of natural plaster and drywall on some interior (non-straw) walls.
  • Guest Cabin: The house planning eventually turned into guest cabin as well.  This gives us a good opportunity to get some experience building with straw on a small scale rather than starting with a large project first.  This will be a two room tiny structure with just a bed and a bathroom, similar to a hotel room.

 

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The "toe-ups" are partially installed. These 4x4's will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The “toe-ups” are partially installed. These 4×4’s will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

  • Water: One big challenge on this farm is having water available in all pastures.  We are blessed with numerous existing ponds and running water in some areas, but we prefer to keep the animals out of the streams and ponds and pipe it to them instead.  This is an ongoing project that is going to take several years to complete, but we have started running some pipe.  At some point, we will rent an excavator and start getting at least some of it in the ground.  Wherever possible, we will make use of solar to pump out of ponds and gravity to deliver the water.
  • Shop Building: Since moving here, we have constantly missed the outbuildings we had at our last house.  Working on vehicles and other equipment on gravel or in the grass is really not very pleasant.  We will be building a simple pole barn structure to remedy this problem.  However, it has proven more difficult than expected to actually get someone to sign up for the work.  Any changes beyond the bone stock models they typically build seemed to cause great consternation.  At this point, we finally have a builder (a neighbor, yippee!) and are eager to get started, especially so we have a place to stack straw bales while building our house!  The next challenge here will be leveling a building site to get started with.  The best site we found is going to need about 4′ of cut and fill, so some more tractor time is in our future!

 

Spring Update

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Spring is a busy time of year on the homestead.  It’s time to start the outdoor projects that have been dreamed up all winter long.  This is the first spring on our homestead, which means a long to-do list.   Here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

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Purchasing an Existing Homestead

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We purchased an old farm in 2014 and are working on getting things up and running again.  This farm hasn’t been functional for quite a few years. The pastures were rented out for grazing, but the buildings have not been used.

When we were looking for properties, we were looking with our mind on permaculture design.  While any property can benefit from applying permaculture principles, there were certain elements we were particularly interested in.  Having water, pastures and trees all designed carefully is a high priority for us.  While there are advantages to buying an older farm with existing buildings, we are finding there are challenges as well.

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Raising Chickens: A Kid’s Perspective

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As a homesteading, homeschooling family, we try to include our kids in what’s going on around the farm.  Our son has been watching all this blog stuff with great interest.  He finally asked us if he could write his own article.  So, here is the kid version of raising chickens.  It is really quite interesting to see what things are perceived as the highlights (by this kiddo anyway).  Just to make things a bit clear, here is some background:

Chick Mobile: several years back, my husband built a brooder in the pole barn in CO.  It was roughly 4’x4′ and when he finished, he set it on a wheeled frame he used for working on arcade games.  It turned out to be handy to be able to easily move the brooder around the barn, so now our son thinks a brooder should be mobile… and hence the “chick-mobile”

Egg Mobile: we can thank Joel Salatin for this.  Joel is always so creative with his naming, so we called our first mobile coop an “eggmobile” as well.  Ever since our son can remember, we have moved our little layer flock around our property.

Scraps: all our plate scrapings and such are shared with the chickens.  Don’t worry, we provide plenty of layer feed as well. 

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Living without Trash Service

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Before moving out to the Missouri Ozarks, we lived just outside a large city on an acreage.  This meant that we had the privilege of a trash service coming out and picking up our garbage once a week and our recycling every other week.  We totally took advantage of this service, watching our garbage and recycling magically disappear week after week.  Sure, we fed food scraps to the chickens and had a compost pile going.  But the bulk of our waste was being carted away by a trash truck.

Then we moved to the beautiful Ozarks.  We live in an area that there is no trash service out here in the country.  Our trash no longer magically disappears.  In fact, we realized just how much trash our family of five made!  Holy moly!  It’s very common to see people burning their trash in burn barrels around here, so we tried it once.  It was effective, but it made Travis’s allergies flare up, he was stuffed up for days!   Not very pleasant.  So we decided to recycle as much as possible and try to get our trash output as low as possible.

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Chores with a Baby

Chores with a baby

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While Travis was driving back and forth from Colorado to Missouri, having adventures like this, I stayed home and held down the fort.  I did as much packing as I could and cared for my 6 year old and 6 month old.  I also took care of our rabbits, chickens and dairy goats.  I did chores twice a day, every day.  With a baby.  Alone.  For the entire summer.

It sounds challenging, but really it wasn’t.  My 6 year old is an animal lover and loves to help out, so she was easy.  How did I manage with a baby?  Baby wearing.

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Blackberries!

In mid-July, my son and I returned to Missouri to make further arrangements for our mobile home. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the wild blackberries were bearing.  We were even happier to see the abundance.  In total, we probably found 10+ acres of blackberries.  Some are very sweet and some are more sour.  I suppose much of that is a reflection of the soil in the specific area.  I think we’ll have to try fertilizing and mineralizing some to see what the result is.  Other areas are likely to become goat fodder. 🙂

 

I think my son and I must have each eaten in excess of a couple pounds of blackberries while we were there.  Yum!!  He was often suggesting “maybe we should take a break and eat some more blackberries.”

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