Escape Artists

The goats have arrived!!  Even though we were excited to get them, all we can do right now is shake our heads in frustration and misery.  What were we thinking?!?!

Ok, ok, it’s not that bad…let me tell you the story.

They arrived May 21st in the back of a mini-van and I was beyond excited.  Torran had just arrived home from Germany a few hours prior, so his physical enthusiasm was a little less, but I could see the excitement in his eyes.  We promptly carried the girls to their pen in the barn and the boys to their pen outside.  While Torran was barricading the outside door from the girl pen to their pasture, I was taking care of payment and getting more feeding instructions.  The ladies we bought the goats from were going to another goat farm in the next city so I asked to go with.  Torran said he’d be fine with the goats, but to hurry back.

 

Kitty, the shy, reserved one.
Kitty, the shy, reserved one.
The baby. We need a name for her still. Any suggestions?
The baby. We need a name for her still. Any suggestions?

Fast forward to getting home and I find Torran outside the boy pen and he tells me the little black and white buck was able to squeeze out of the pen but then just stood there crying to be let back in.  However, when Torran went near him he would run.  (He also mentioned the neighbor was in his field in his truck at that point and Torran was sure he was laughing at the shenanigans going on at our house!  Hey, I never said we really know what we’re doing on this journey.)  I don’t remember how he got the little guy back in the pen, but he did.  So at this point we know we’ll have to put them in the extra chicken coop in the barn while we fix the fence.  Have you ever watched someone try to catch a chicken?  Now imagine that, but with an eight week old baby goat.  Fast little suckers.  We ended up using a big piece of plywood to back them into a corner and then grabbing them.  It sounds easy, but there was a lot of swearing going on.  A LOT.

The boys. Both are about three months old. They need names still too!
The boys. Both are about three months old. They need names still too!

So the boys are now in the barn, secure in their temporary pen and we were looking at the fence trying to decide how to fix it.  I then went back to the barn for something and who do I see peering out the crack in the door?  Sophie, the two-year old female.  Apparently she’s a jumper.  Sure enough, we put her back in her pen (she’s leash trained and very friendly thank goodness) and went outside to peek in the window.  No more than thirty seconds later she’s out again.  Ugh.

Sophie, the escape artist.
Sophie, the escape artist.

Our focus then switched to the girl’s pen.  We added some 2×4’s to the fence to make it taller and that seemed to solve the problem.  It wasn’t very pretty, but at least we could go to bed knowing they were safe.

Torran ended up redoing the girls pen the next week (thank goodness he was on vacation) and it turned out great.  We only needed to do one adjustment because Sophie was still able to jump the new gate.

The girl's improved pen.
The girl’s improved pen.

Then our focus returned to the boys fence.  After inspecting it more, we realized it was all rotted and needed to be completely redone.  So that’s where we are four weeks later.  The outdoor pen is nearing completion and we are cursing less and less at the “damn goats.”

 

Original goat pen.
Original goat pen.
Bye-bye old fence!
Bye-bye old fence!
Digging one of 29 holes.
Digging one of 29 holes.
Progress!
Progress!
Almost done...
Almost done…
All the wood is done, now to attach the actual fencing.
All the wood is done, now to attach the actual fencing.

This whole experience was enough to tell each other NO MORE ANIMALS, we have enough to do as it is.  Well, apparently, we weren’t done adding to the farm family…

 

 

SOOOO Busy

I can’t believe it has been almost a month since my last post.  I’m sorry, but exhausted!  We’ve had so much going on here at the farm that when I come inside for the night I have just enough energy to eat, shower, and collapse into bed.

The pigs are growing!

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It seems like just yesterday they were small enough to comfortably carry.  Which brings me to transporting them from the barn goat pen to their new summer digs.  Torran finished putting up the electric fence and we put down some straw and placed their food and water buckets – it was now time to catch them.  We cornered them in a corner of the pen and I reached out, grabbed the back leg of one and lifted.  THE SCREAMING!!!  It was so0000 much louder than the first time we picked them up.  I had my arms wrapped around her belly and she was kicking and screaming and wiggling for her life while I jogged as fast as I could out of the barn and into their new pen. I’m sure the neighbors thought we were killing them already.  I got to the pen and set her down and she promptly ran away from me.  One down, three to go.  Back into the barn, I grab another and brace myself for the screaming and the struggling.  There I am again, trying my best to hold the pig as tight as I could so I wouldn’t drop it and running as fast as I could to the pig pen.  What a sight.  All the time Torran was smiling and smirking.  After the second one I told him it was his turn to catch the last two – he had yet to catch one; I did the catching and transferring the first time.  He did a great job and we both learned you can scare the sh*t out of something!

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A day later they were back to normal – chasing each other around the pen, loafing in the sun, and digging everywhere.  I knew pigs needed a mudhole and so I thought a swimming pool would be a great idea.  We bought one, Torran dug the hole, filled it with water and we both watched over the course of a couple of days how it filled up with poop and mud.  Ew.  Not such a great idea, so we removed it and were left with a nice dirt hole that suits them much better when it is full of water.  We gotta learn somehow, right?  Turns out that swimming pool will come in handy a month later…

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Piggies!!

The pigs are here!  Our little farm is slowly filling up with animals and it couldn’t be more exciting!

The garden is tilled and half planted, the youngest chickens are starting to lay eggs (although they are still small eggs – they’ll get bigger with time), and the pig pen is almost ready for the pig’s summer home (they are staying in the goat pen right now as it has hog panels).  Next to arrive are the goats – finally something that’s more of a pet than a food source!  They arrive on May 21st and we have a lot to do beforehand to get ready.  We need to get food, straw and hay, buckets, and animal crackers.  (Remember?  They love animal crackers apparently.)

In between planting the vegetable garden and taking care of the animals, we have been diligently working on destroying the weeds.  I did find a duck’s nest with 11 eggs in some of the weeds at the back of the property – no more weeding there until they hatch!

I’ve purchased a few new perennials.  Two clematis, a bleeding heart, jacob’s ladder, a butterfly bush, and a forget-me-not (which I always forget the name to).  Seventeen more to go!

That’s all for now…enjoy some pictures a video of the pigs!

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I’m So Excited…

 

As the Pointer Sisters said…

I’m so excited
And I just can’t hide it
I’m about to lose control and I think I like it

Spring is finally here!  That means flowers, vegetables, fruits, mowing, trimming, edging, mulching, baby animals, and on and on and on.  Really, all it means is WORK.  I always wonder if I’m nuts for enjoying this kind of work.  I mean, who in their right mind wants to dig in the dirt, shovel mulch, and pull weeds?  (The real test comes later when all the animals are here and I need to shovel more than just dirt.)

Back to the good stuff – I’m so excited to begin planting…anything!  The first thing I did was go to the nursery and buy a bunch of pansies and violas.  I had so much fun planting them and it officially marked the beginning of spring for me.

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I then went out and bought a Spiderwort plant and a Karl Foerster grass.  I planted those two perennials and I thought to myself, “Finally.  We’re home.”  (When we lived in Menasha I planted 31 different kinds of perennials.  I’ve been waiting to recreate that list for four years now.)  Such a good feeling.  🙂

Spiderwort
Spiderwort
Karl Foerster
Karl Foerster

After that, I was on a roll.  I purchased two new metal buckets and covered it in toilet cleaner for an hour.  I know, I know, you’re thinking, “what the h…?  Toilet cleaner eats away at the outside of the bucket, aging it nicely.  I did another smaller one with vinegar.

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I hung the larger one outside on a hook as a planter; the other is still waiting for its home.

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So far I’ve planted a yellow climbing rose, potatoes, three kinds of lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, green and purple asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.  All of the raised beds are done except for two.  They’re reserved for herbs and kale.  Today I’m planting lilacs, rose bushes, maple and oak trees.  We bought 25 of each from the county we live in.  Two to a hole means 50 holes to dig!  Think of me tonight – sore arms and back as I sit on the couch imagining what everything will look like in five years.  🙂

 

Weeds. Weeds everywhere…But We’ve Goat a Solution!

The one bad thing about having a farm is the weeds.  THEY.  ARE.  EVERYWHERE.  This year though we’re prepared to fight the battle instead of just acquiesce to it.

We’ve been outside pulling dead weeds from the driveway, by the barn, by the she-shed, by, and in, the goat and pig pens for a couple of weeks now.  We haven’t even started on the landscaped beds and I’m already sick of pulling weeds!  The one good thing to pulling dead weeds?  Fire.

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I think it took us an hour to burn all the weeds we pulled that day.  I wanted to throw them in a big pile and watch it all go up at once.  However, my calmer, more logical husband said we should do it little by little.  So we did.  Until I kept throwing more and more on it and he yelled at me.  🙂  *shoulder shrug*  What can I say?!  I like bonfires.

Anyway, this year we have a plan to deal with the weeds…GOATS! That’s right folks, we are getting some Nigerian Dwarf goats.  We don’t know how many (I’d like a small herd, but again, husband is much more level-headed and logical) or the boy to girl ratio, or if we want to eventually have babies, but we know we want them!

In my search for baby goats, I was referred to ERSA Acres.  The owners were nice enough to let me come and visit and I was instantly hooked!  Goat heaven!  I was even invited to come back later that day to see one of the mothers give birth.  I thought I would watch, but I was able to help towel off the second born kid.

Photo courtesy of ERSA Acres.
Photo courtesy of ERSA Acres.
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Photo by Amy McCarthy

We have eight weeks to decide how many we want and what gender we want.  Then we also have to decide what color to get – I’m partial to more white; Torran doesn’t care as long as it’s healthy.  That will be a hard decision because when I see them I want them all!  (UPDATE 4/10/16 – we are getting three girls and two boys!  I cannot wait until the beginning of June to welcome them home!)

We have to get all the goat related items for the barn, clean out their indoor pen and check over the fence to make sure they don’t escape since goats are little escape artists.  Oh, and I have to buy them animal crackers.  Apparently they like animal crackers.  So donations of animal crackers are welcome if anyone comes to visit.  Wink, wink family.  🙂

I can hardly wait…T minus eight weeks to go!

 

Third time’s the charm?

Apparently bad things do happen in three’s…my truck got hit.  Ugh.  At least now we’re pros at dealing with insurance companies.  This happened when I parked in my neighbor’s driveway to ask him a question.  He didn’t see me and backed into my passenger side door.  No big deal, I wasn’t mad.  He promptly called his insurance and it’ll be fixed soon.

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You know when you pay off a vehicle that’s when things start to fall apart?  I hope this isn’t a bad omen of things to come.  Maybe I should be a hermit and just not leave the farm.  Seriously.  When I do go out now I am constantly noticing people on their phone, not paying attention, or just driving like idiots.  Is this heightened sense of awareness because of the accidents or just because I am getting older and value my life more?  I have turned into that person that bitches about idiot drivers and I sometimes fantasize about just letting someone hit me so I can go ape shit crazy on them.  Anyone remember the movie Fried Green Tomatoes?  The supermarket parking lot scene?  “TOWANDA!!”

Is it bad to want to do this sometimes?  There should be a place where you can go to drive a car into other cars like in the video.  Similar to a demolition derby but one car at a time – but I bet people would think that’s too dangerous now.  We, as a collective society, are turning into a bunch of sissies.  Driving, texting, selfish, entitled, ignorant zombies.  Ok, I’m getting sidetracked and can feel my blood pressure rising (God, I’m getting old) so I’ll get off my soapbox now and go watch my chickens.  My non-driving, phone illiterate, blessedly ignorant happy chickens.  🙂

 

 

The Last Couple of Weeks

We haven’t been too busy around here.  We basically only came out of hibernation on the weekends since it was beautiful weather the last two weeks.  It really felt like spring and we were looking forward to the things we could get done outside only to wake up to this…

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Ugh.  I. AM. SO. SICK. OF. SNOW.

Torran got the tractor to start (yea!) and he was able to drive it into the barn.  Now he can tinker with it until it is time to till up the garden area.

Speaking of which, the garden is being planned and we have decided to till up the baseball diamond in the back yard.  We have no kids and we don’t have big parties (we are working on changing that) so there’s no real need for it.  Besides, Torran wants to put in a horseshoe pit – that’s waaaay more our speed.

We’ve purchased the supplies to start our seeds indoors and I’m starting to get more and more nervous because the business is finally moving forward.  I’ll be happy if I sell just a few vegetables this year.  I knew it will take a couple of years to really get up and running, and to remodel the barn for the store, so I have really relaxed expectations for this first year.

I am excited to grow nine varieties of tomatoes, seven of which are heirlooms (most of our plants are heirlooms and we plan on using only organic pest/disease/weed control).  Why heirlooms?  There are various reasons, but the big ones for us are they are they taste better and they’re open pollinated, meaning we can save the seeds.

I’m also looking forward to white cucumbers, red carrots, purple cauliflower, purple beans, and a popcorn that looks like glass beads (all heirloom)!  There’s so much more I can’t wait.  So nerve-wracking yet exciting; I don’t know if I want to jump up and down with joy or go cry in the corner.  This type of reaction is normal, right?  Right?!?!?

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In other news, our baby chickens (as I call them, they are 15 weeks old and not really babies anymore.  Technically they’re called pullets) have ventured outside for the first time.  Well, okay, fine, they were *gently thrown* outside; more of a small leap from my hands to the ramp and then a slight push to keep moving.  Yeah, that’s what happened.

After catching all 12 and “placing” them outside, we closed off their door so they’d have to stay out there.  That lasted half an hour – I’m such a softie.  However, they’ve been going out by themselves now and in the next few weeks (if it ever stops snowing) we’ll take down the separation fence and let them interact with the rooster and the hens.  I hope they don’t fight, but I know I can’t stop it. Maybe I should take a few shots before we integrate them.  Or ten.

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That’s it.  February was a slow month.  March is coming in like a lion so far (again, ugh, snow).  Hopefully spring arrives soon (come on March 20th!) otherwise I really am going to be really drunk and crying in a corner.  😉

Adventure or Nightmare?

Ring!  Ring!!  Ring!!!

“Hello?” I mumbled into the phone wondering why my husband was calling at 7:30 in the morning – maybe he forgot something on his way out the door.

“Hi honey.  I need a ride, I was in an accident and the Jeep is totalled.”

WHAT?!?!?!  I asked him what happened and then I asked where to pick him up.  I hung up the phone and ran around trying to get presentable…then I realized I hadn’t asked if he was ok!  I hurridly called him back – he was fine.  Phew!

Torran Jeep Crash
Torran’s poor Jeep.

He was making a left turn at a stoplight and the guy on the other side of the road turned on his blinker to turn as well…but didn’t actually turn.  He just plowed right into the passenger side of the Jeep at about 45 miles an hour.  At least both of them got out and asked the other if they were okay and then the police were called.  We have since learned that intersection is notorious for accidents.  Needless to say, Torran doesn’t take that way to work anymore.

That left us with one vehicle, so Torran took my Liberty to work for a week while we were waiting on a rental car.  The rental place hooked us up with a 2015 Dodge Ram – thank goodness because our driveway was still a sheet of ice and a car wouldn’t have handled it.

Thus started our adventure/nightmare of dealing with car dealerships.  The first nightmare was with a dealership in Illinois.  Torran had found a truck he wanted to look at so he called and spoke to someone in internet sales.  “Mara” said it would be ready for a test drive tomorrow morning.  We drove down there and we were pounced on right away.  The salesguy took us inside and told someone something and then promptly walked out the door.  Someone then told us “Mara” was out to lunch.  After waiting around for ten minutes we were finally told the truck “just” sold.  Torran asked why it was still on the website and we were told they were waiting on the title, but that they would be more than happy to show us something else.  Torran firmly said no and we walked out the door.  Turns out dealerships with websites will give you a false name and set something up so you come in.  Then, SURPRISE!  The vehicle is sold.  Interestingly enough, that truck is still on their website being used as bait.

We then vowed to stay out of Illinois and we went to a dealership in Kenosha – our second nightmare.  Torran test drove a truck, we agreed on a price and so the next day I went in to do the paperwork while he was at work.  That’s when the “douchebagginess” (my new word for car salesmen tricks) began.  The big trick was they only had one key but I could buy one from them for $300.  I called Torran and he said to leave, so I did.  Then Torran and the dealership started playing hardball by phone and I stayed out of it because, quite frankly, I was fed up with douchebaggy men and car dealerships.  Meanwhile, Torran found another place that had the truck he wanted and they were surprisingly nice – however, we knew the game they were playing.  Long story short – we never heard back from the second dealer and we bought a nice truck.

Fast forward a week and Torran, once again, called me at 7:30 in the morning.  HE WAS IN ANOTHER ACCIDENT!!!  What the hell!?!?  At least this time he was stopped at a red stop light and the car behind him plowed right into his bumper.  The car was totalled and our bumper and hitch was damaged.

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Our truck.
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The car that hit our truck.

We were not going to go through our insurance, so Torran called the other insurance company and now we had to deal with the douchebagginess of an insurance company that did not want to pay; they hadn’t even heard from their insured about the accident!  Again, long story short we are being mailed a check for damages.

Do I let Torran drive anymore?  Yes.  Am I going to be afraid next time the phone rings early in the  morning?  Yes.  Are we going to learn from this adventure/nightmare and go on living life?  Yes…but I will say this – Torran isn’t quite the same after the accidents.  😉

 

 

 

Oh January…How I hate Thee.

January, in my opinion, is the worst month out of the year.  It is cold, dreary, grey, rainy, snowy, frozen, boring, and miserable.  Just.  Plain.  Miserable.  This January was a little more exciting than others (but not in a good way to most people); running out of LP gas, the water pipes freezing in the barn, the driveway turning into a dangerous downhill skating rink, Torran totaling his Jeep, and dealing with the lowest of  lifeforms known to man – the car salesman.

One would think, “get out while you can!  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring!”  Oh no no no, not us!  We are stubbornly determined to conquer the setbacks that happen and to turn this little hobby farm into a money-making enterprise (at least making enough to feed the animals and us – we aren’t greedy).  Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned since we’ve moved here – don’t kill each other when the going gets tough!  This month has certainly taught us that.  We have learned to laugh in the face of disappointment, to smile at a challenge, and to snicker at provocation!  (At least after screaming into and punching a pillow.)  What keeps us going?  The thought of what can and will be.

One thing that will happen this spring is pigs!  Take a look at this little face…we can’t wait to see what conundrums we’ll face when they get here.  Not to mention the abundance of pork we’ll have in the fall (which we’ll be selling).

We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!
We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!

Another adventure that better happen soon concerns our hens laying eggs.  They are 27 weeks old and we were told they start anywhere from 24-28 weeks.  I go out to feed them in the morning and looks for eggs, but have been disappointed every  morning so far. Ugh.  I’m having a hard time being patient; I keep telling myself it will be worth it one of these days.  Patient is something I’m not, but the farm is helping me to learn good things are worth waiting for.

The rooster, on the other hand, has grown by leaps and bounds and is now crowing (which scared me when he first did it because I was not expecting it) and is trying to get his jollies off with the ladies.  Did you know roosters crow anytime during the day, not just in the morning?  Wonderful.

 

Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Animals need water and so I have been going to the other barn each day and filling up the chicken water buckets and lugging them back to their coops.  Until we lifted the handle one morning and it was frozen.  It was below zero out at night for a while and something like twenty below with the windchill so we shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were.  For the last couple weeks I have been lugging my trusty red bucket named Ralph (ha, get it?) from the house to the barn with lukewarm water for the cats and the chickens to drink.  I am happy to report I checked the well this morning and we have running water again!  Ralph is being retired for the time being.

Ralph, get it?
Ralph, get it?

So while I was lugging Ralph out to the barn I had to traverse our driveway…only our driveway was a SOLID SHEET OF ICE.

This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple days over 33 degrees.  It may look like snow - nope, ALL ICE.  Fun times.
This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple of days over 33 degrees. It may look like snow – nope, ALL ICE. Fun times.

While this could be good if we owned ice skates (I grew up ice skating but I don’t know that I have ever seen my husband ice skate…hmmm…future project slash dare).  Anyway, I am proud to report I have not fallen at all but I have wobbled a couple of times; I’m sure I just cursed myself, great.  I am hoping we can continue on with the warmer weather so the rink will turn into a mud pit…but that is an adventure for another time.

P.S.  Stay tuned for our adventure/nightmare with car salesmen – it will not disappoint!