Home Goat Invasion!!

-15 deg F this morning and the forecast isn’t looking too promising either.  Looks like these three chaps get to hang out in the house a bit longer!

We aren’t really the kind of family that enjoys indoor pets/animals.  When we first moved here, we tried raising our kitten as an indoor cat.  He hated it and wanted so badly to live outside.  We caved and outside he went.  So, besides allowing newly hatched ducks/chicks to adjust to their life outside a shell for a day or two, we don’t have any indoor pets.  Until this week.

Enel, Tata, Imin have joined our family, in the house, since the night of their birth (their mother refuses to care for them) last weekend.  Overall, they are pretty fun(ny) to have around.  While there is the occasional accident (from a loose diaper) that we get to clean up and the nibbling and nudging at your legs when they are hungry, I think it has been a memorable week for our children.

Maybe for the goats too!  This is the three of them, all piled up under the kitchen sink after I turned on the blender to make up a smoothie for breakfast!  Poor things were terrified..  No puddles though!

Not to mention the air compressor and miter saw I am using upstairs while trying to complete some more attic progress.  When I first started, they started maa’ing like little babies every time the compressor kicked in.

Then there is their favorite hangout spot next to one of our forced-air heat vents..  If they are quiet and out of site, that is probably where you’ll find them.

Unless, of course, they are sleeping by the heat vent in the kitchen…



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Baby Goats (in diapers)!!

It has been an exhausting few days.  Last Saturday, Anna, our goat, gave birth to three kids.

This evening, Bella gave birth to two!  So far it looks like Bella will be an excellent mother!  Anna, not so much…

The first three were born to Anna.  This was her first freshening and it doesn’t seem that she really understood what just happened to her.  She left the new kids to fend for themselves, which has left us with the task of milking her and bottle feeding the babies.  The night of her birthing, we scrambled to get everything prepared in the barn and in the house.  Of course it was below zero (deg F) outside.  With Anna refusing to have anything to do with her three adorable kids, we brought them inside the house. After everything was in place, we finally made it back out to the barn at around 11PM to attempt milking Anna for the first time; first time for all three of us (Anna, Shelly, and myself).  After successfully extracting milk from Anna, we allowed the kids to stay up late so they could get in on bottle feeding the goaty kids.  Of coarse, they loved it.

We cleaned them up and set them up with a cozy tote to sleep in, but not before letting them play around on the kitchen floor for a bit.  If it was warmer outside, they would have remained in the barn, but we didn’t want to chance it.

It is pretty amazing how they are able to walk on day one!  Not only is it amazing, but it is also pretty cute!

Enel:  He looks just like his mother Anna.

Tata:  We are told he looks just like Bilbo’s sire.

Imin: He looks just like his father Bilbo.  He also looks like he is ready for bed!

After plenty of play time, we found a cozy tote for them to sleep in, in the basement for the night.  I think Shelly and I finally made it to bed around 1AM.

Today we had to dig out some diapers and let these kids run and play in between their sleeps.  Nothing more hilarious than watching a diaper wearing goat running around and playing with children, all while trying their best to stay upright!

I think next year will will do a better job at timing when we allow our buck to hang out with the ladies.  Right now, March/April goat babies sound really nice!



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Walk with me as I take care of the winter morning barn chores…

Looking outside the ice covered window, I can see the glorious sun peaking up through the trees.  Looks like a beautiful morning!  A quick glance at the weather shows its a cold one.

Better head to the barn and check on the animals.

Time to suit up.  First the bibs, coat, balaclava, boots, and mittens.  Yes, mittens today, for sure.  Five minutes later, I am finally heading out the door.  The door knob turns a bit harder than usual.  A flood of fog simultaneously rushes into and out of the doorway as I open the door.

Our barn water line froze up somewhere in the ground between our house and the barn earlier this winter, so I head on over to the house spigot with two 5 gallon buckets.  Hey, it beats getting water from the bathroom tub like we had to do last winter!  Two buckets will be enough to top off the waters, as the animals should not have gone through too much water since yesterday’s evening chores.  The spigot turns hard.  Very hard.  Careful not to break it, I apply a bit more pressure.  Earlier this week, I had to use the hot air gun once to thaw it out, even though it is a frost-free spigot.  It begins to rotate!  Steaming hot ground water pours out, a good 40 degrees warm.  Both buckets get their turn under the spigot, making plenty of cracking sounds as they disagree with the extreme and sudden change of temperature.  While I wait for them to fill, the sun gleams through the smoke coming from our chimney.  Our house exterior covered in snow and ice.  Winter beauty?

The buckets are full and I head off to the barn.  The ground moans and complains under my boots.  Absolute stillness in the air makes every crunching step sound that much louder.  You know it is cold when you breath in and your nose starts to freeze shut.  The warm moist air from your breath rises from your mouth and condensates on your eyelashes, making the involuntary action of blinking voluntary, a fight to prevent your upper and lower lashes from freezing together.

I check on the chickens and rabbits in the barn. Chickens are good.  Rabbits get their food topped off.  Their waters are frozen solid, no surprise there.  A few whacks against the floor breaks all of the ice free from the crock so I can refill them with fresh liquid water.  All good on the water and feed front now!

The goats are enjoying some hay in the comfort of the barn, non to eager to step foot outside.  That barn window I installed this fall gives them plenty of light to soak in.  The compost on the floor is starting to amass.  This is a good thing for the goats (not so much for me this coming Spring).  As it sits on the floor and decays, it generates heat to keep the goats a little warmer through the winter.  We also apply generous amounts of straw, it almost looks cozy, if only they didn’t have that bad habit of always soiling their bed!

Only the cattle and ducks left to tend to.  I’m still warm.  Hope you are hanging in there.  There is sure to be some coffee, tea, or hot cocoa in the house once the chores are complete.

Looks like their water is frozen to0 🙁

Lets fix that with the ice chisel and top it off for them…  Here comes Yavanna the yak for some treats.  She looks like a natural in this cold, she’s even sporting a frosty white beard (I probably am by now too).

“I’m ready for my treats!”  Who could say no to those big eyes!

I toss a bale in their feeder and give them each some grain.

Last but not least, we better check on the ducks before heading in.

Like the yak, the cold doesn’t seem to phase them.  After all, is it ever to cold outside for a duck bath??

If I have extra water, here is where I like to run to the sledding hill and toss the extra out.  Would be a shame to let that water go to waste.  Worse still would be letting it sit in the bucket and allow it to freeze solid, leading to another cracked and useless bucket.

Time to run those buckets back to the house so they are ready for later, now it’s time to warm up!  Just watching those ducks in the water is making me cold!


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The Harvest is On, and so is the Roof!

With the days getting shorter and lows are already in the 40’s.   I’m left thinking, where did summer go?  I know I am not alone.  This summer has been busy, both at home and at work.

Here’s a quick recap of the goings on here at our little farm.

A few weeks ago, our kitchen counters looked like this:

Now substitute the zucchinis above with canning jars, tomatoes, and apples.  That gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like now!  Harvest season is here!

Last weekend we processed some of our ducks and one of our troublesome roosters.  We now have less drakes than hens and the hens no doubt would tell us thank you if they could talk.  We are currently at 9 hens and 2 drakes, versus 9 hens and 11 drakes…

This weekend involved a little less gore and a lot more cores.  Apples!

We have one mature tree that produced very well this year (and lots of little ones that will start producing in a couple of years).  With our family of six, we were able to completely pick it clean.   All of the scraps and bad apples were sent straightaway to the goats and chickens.   We turned the harvested apples into apple sauce using our food mill and the rest went through the peeler to be frozen for pies, crisps, and apfelpfannkuchen.  The weather this August has been amazing, so we did most of our apple processing outside on our stainless table.  Besides the occasional bee, this was a nice way to keep the stickiness outside of the house.

You can’t make apfelpfannkuchen without eggs.  Our last batch of chicks for the summer have begun to hatch this weekend.  It was a small late summer test batch.

Do you smell something?  We do.  That would be Bilbo our buck.  Last year he was a bit too young to share with us the joys of owning a male goat in the late summer.  This year he isn’t holding back.  Stinky?  Check.  Acting strange?  Check.  “Happy to see us”?  ..ahem..  Check.  The rut has begun.

Speaking of Bilbo.  Last week, our little buck was not feeling too well.  He must have ate something that didn’t sit well with his gut and he came down with bloat.  Bloat can be deadly in goats, so we immediately began treating him after we noticed his large stomach and loss of energy.  First came the oil syringe, some red cell, and then we followed up with a shot of Vitamin B.  After treating with oil and red cell for two days, he came though and is back to his normal self, sans the aforementioned effects of a buck entering rut.

We can’t forget about the house roofing project we have underway.  I cleared some branches that were hanging over our house so I could work on the roof with a little bit of headroom.  Stephen treated the goats to the freshly cut foliage.

With harvest season upon us, we did still manage to wrap up the house roof.  Fascia and soffit still in progress…



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Converting a [Free] IBC into a Goat Feeder and Dealing with a Chicken Thief

You can do a quick search online for hay feeders and you will get a plethora of ideas and options.  Some are quick and easy to put together with various items you can find laying around or after a quick trip to the lumberyard.  Others are available for purchase and can get rather expensive, some options even ranging in the $1000-5000 range.

I had a few quick project specs that the system had to follow.  The feeder has to hold several square bales (aka idiot cubes).  We bale with our neighbors and neither of us are currently afforded the luxury of a larger tractor that can move round bales, nor the baler itself.  Square bales are easy enough to handle and work fine for the scale we are farming at.

(Good neighbors are priceless)

The feeder needs to protect the bales from rain and snow.  The feeder also needs to hold the bales in a way that would prevent too much waste.  It also needed to be cheap (or in this case, free).

One solution that kept coming up in my search results was the use of an IBC as a feeder.  Great!  Last summer, a bear trapping friend of mine had an IBC that he was given in which was previously used to hold molasses.  He had used up the remaining molasses and I gladly took the IBC, knowing that at some point, it would come in handy.  I originally thought I would use it in a hydroponics or aquaponics system, but until I figure out how to economically keep a system like that from freezing in the winter, that will have to wait.

I grabbed a drill and drilled out a hole on both of the “longer” sides of the IBC.  I then took my reciprocating saw and cut out both sides, using the hole I drilled as the starting point for the saw blade.  Once cutting was done, we pulled the IBC, now a hay feeder, into the pasture and loaded it up with bales.  As you can see, the goats instantly loved the new feeder!

So, over the last two weeks, we have had several chickens go missing (in particular, two stubborn hens that did not want to roost in the coop at night).  Much to my surprise, when stepping out to do evening chores, I was greeted by one of the probable suspects, sitting right there on our patio!  He (or she) turned tail and prepared to dispatch the dreaded spray.  I turned tail and ran into the house, quickly closing the door and running for my .22  Once I had the .22 in my hands, I ran for the door and quickly took a shot at the skunk.  Hitting it in the chest, it returned the favor by using the last of it’s strength to crawl under our deck and die (someday that deck will be converted to a patio!!).  Nice!  With no way to get it out, let alone seeing it in the dark, and with heavy rain on the way, I had no choice but to leave it there until the following day.  Even with the rain coming down hard, the smell wafted into our bedroom all night long.  Oh joy!

When we pulled it out from under the deck, take a guess at what else came out with it.  Chicken feathers!

Onto bigger animals.  Our yak has settled in nicely.

We were a little worried after she seemed to be taking the initial adjustment pretty hard.  Yavanna (the yak) and Blacky (our steer) seem to have become friendly.  Daisy (our Holstein heifer) and Yavanna on the other hand, well, let’s just say, my fence is getting stress tested!  I need to get some additional electric put in, but until then, I am hoping the head butting between her and Daisy subsides (which it seems to be).  It was definitely a good idea to slowly introduce her to the cows, with a physical barrier separating them.  Our fall beef may have gone through some unwanted tenderizing.


So what else has been going on at our farm?  Strawberries!  Lots of them! About 1-2 heaping flats a day.  Happy strawberry picking season!


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Prepping for a New Septic

Unfortunately, our county implemented a sewer inspection and replacement law before we purchased our house.  Yay, more government overreach and encroachment onto private property!  Also, a lot of job security for any licensed septic installer.  I smell corruption..  Anyway, the short of it is, is that all septics installed before a certain date (and some after) are to be replaced at the counties discretion.  That includes our perfectly functioning septic (of which they did not even bother to come out and inspect).  You may recall, part of the reason we moved out here was to avoid the new sewer and water upgrades (again, probably unnecessary upgrades) we would have been forced to flip the bill for in town.

We pick and choose our fights and I could see that this one was again, a losing battle (if only there was a way for other like minded individuals to connect and stand up together, the block-chain is coming!!).  We called up several area contractors for bids.  They came in, in the range of $8,000 to $13,000.   We chose a bid and got on the waiting list with that contractor (20+ others were apparently already on the list before us).  Once we found out the new septic was inevitable, we began squirreling away the funds to cover this new septic without debt.

After starting this process almost a year and a half ago now, ground finally breaks this coming Monday.  That takes me onto preparing the site for equipment.  The sewer is tucked back behind our house and next to our woods, making it difficult for the contractor’s heavy equipment to gain access.  To clear a path, I had to trim up some of our beloved white oak trees.  Out came the ladder and chainsaw.

As I was cutting, I kept thinking to myself, what am I going to do with all these branches.  I don’t want to just toss them in the woods.  Only a few of them were thick enough for firewood, the rest would be fine for a bonfire.  But, they were so full of lush green leaves..  That’s right, we have goats!

After that quick ah-ha moment, I tossed the branches into the goat pasture and they took to them like flies on a cow or.. chickens on our favorite flowers.

After about an hour, their work was nearly complete!



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Sprained ankle, snowmen, bees, and windows, scratch that… A window!

After a few weekends interrupted by work, we have returned to a bit of normalcy, and progress at home!

Last weekend we had some friends over.  He brought his chainsaw (thank you for your help!)!!  Time to cut some more wood.  Somehow I still find it enjoyable, even thought every inch of my body hurts after I am done.  We took down a few large dead trees, including a very sizable maple that was hung up in a pine and oak tree.  I’d say that was about the toughest tree I have ever had to take down.  It took us a while, but we got it, only one sprained ankle later.  Thankfully, it must have been a minor enough sprain that I was back to walking normal after a few days.  

We finally put up our second goat paddock (you can also see a bit of our firewood in the background).  This will be a welcome addition to our farm.  We would like to get another up next year, allowing us to rotate our goats around three paddocks and help naturally manage parasite issues.

Winter made a surprise comeback last Monday on our farm with a couple inches of snow.  Thankfully it melted that evening!  That didn’t stop the kids from enjoying it while it lasted!

This last weekend, we started out with a run to pick up our house windows.  Unfortunately, after waiting this long, they were the wrong size!!  We ordered 5 feet, 2 inch tall windows by 2 feet 6 inches wide.  What we got, well, 52 inches by 26 inches.  See the problem?  Yeah, sort of a depressing start to the weekend to say the least.  Thankfully our kitchen window was sized correctly, so we framed accordingly and installed the window above the sink.

As you can tell, the new kitchen window is a significant upgrade compared to the old and tiny window pictured above.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a finished picture of the new window just yet, so you’ll just have to wait to see it until the next post 🙂

Saturday morning, Stephen and I took off to Mann Lake, located in Hackensack, MN to pick up our bees!  We are fortunate enough to have one of the countries premier bee suppliers located only a little over an hours drive from our farm.

This is one of two bee packages we picked up.  Driving with several thousand bees in the back seat was a little intimidating at first, but I guess I just took each turn slowly, cautious not to let them tip over.  All it would take is that can on the top to slip out of the box and there would be bees everywhere.  You may think you are not allergic to bees, but it is a common fact that 500-1000 bee stings will kill any person, regardless of whether you think you are allergic or not.

I am sure that will be a road trip Stephen will never forget!

I put together a stand to get our hives above the grass and then introduced the bees and their respective queens to the new hive boxes.  It was amazing how calm the bees were for me once I gave them a few good sprays of sugar water.  They seem to have taken to their new homes.  I will need to check on them in a week to see how the hive building is going and to make sure the queen has started laying eggs.  For the most part, I will just get to let them do their thing now.  I should only need to check in on them every 10-14 days or so and make sure they haven’t outgrown their new space.  We also started putting together two bee traps, more on that later.

What else have we been up to?

Yes, I know, I jump all over the place.  With so many fun projects to tackle, how could I not!  I couldn’t resist!!  I had to put steel up on at least one barn wall.  We decided on the north chicken coop wall.

While I still need to install windows, re-roof this lean-to, and add additional length to the eaves, it at least gives us a glimpse of what we have to look forward to seeing out of our house windows.

Bonus!  Stephen has hit the project ready age!  While Shelly and I set the kitchen window, he was busy pulling apart this old deck on the side of the house!



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Farm Babies

It is that time of the year again, spring is in the air, okay, not really.  It is actually snowing out right now, yeah, but it will be here soon, right?!

We are starting to see some signs of spring in the form of farm babies.  Here is a quick rundown of the new life on our farm so far, with more to come!

Our momma rabbit had her first litter of kits for the year!  They are about three weeks old and are getting a nice thick coat of white fluffy fur.

Our cat Maggie just had a litter of four healthy kittens (two of them look like their father!).  These little kittens will be available for adoption later this spring.

Bella the goat is getting closer, but still no babies 🙁  Crossing our fingers it will be soon!

Next batch of baby chicks are in the incubator….

Our ducklings have been introduced to our first batch of chicks in the barn and seem to be thriving!

The chicks and ducks seem to have adjusted quickly together, as you can see!


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Project: New stairways (and an ER visit..)

Saturday was windy, but Sunday turned out to be gorgeous.  We had highs hit 50 deg F.  Much of the snow is gone (if only for a few days before winter makes its return later this week).  Let the outdoor activities commence:

  • We let the goats out to free-range for most of Sunday and they loved it!
  • Our nine-year old managed to put together our trampoline all by himself.
  • We assembled our new utility trailer and hauled a couple of loads of firewood from the woods on into our wood bin to start drying out for next winter.

The nice weather also makes working on house projects involving dusty saws much more comfortable!

This weekend was all about working on our two stairways.  One set going to the attic and one to the basement.

The old stairs heading up to the attic were a bit scary to say the least.  A trip up did not guarantee you would make it up.  Each time you set foot on one of those steps, you could not tell if the cracking (Note: not creaking, cracking!) and groaning would be that steps last. They had to go.

The attic stairway went pretty smoothly but took most of Saturday (a testament to the fact that I am not a carpenter by trade).  I tore out each step, one at a time, building the new steps upward, in the old steps place.  All of that scrap wood will heat our house this week.  I used 2x10s and lots of reinforcement underneath the steps.  As we are not installing carpet, I also added plenty of R13 underneath the steps to act as a sound barrier.  This will hopefully dampen the inevitable noise our children will bring once they are allowed to enter the attic.

Here is a before and now comparison:

And going up the stairs:

Onto the basement stairway.  Here I attached bead board and framed up the wall to the right of the stairway (the basement portion of the wall).  This was one of those areas in the house we did not want to look at (or at least pretend it did not exist) when we first moved in, so we did not take any before pictures.  Let’s just say, you would not recognize this part of the house if you had seen it before..  The space was dingy (no windows or light).  It had lots of holes in the plaster walls and half century old newspapers haphazardly glued to the ceiling.

Here is an in-progress shot, before the R-13 was added behind the bead board.  I added 2×4 framing every two feet to attach the bead board to.

The bead-board will eventually get painted.  For now, the coat of primer will have to do.  It turns out I had not even one inch of bead board to spare, cutting it a bit too close for comfort, but completing the job.

Under normal circumstances, framing a wall is a relatively easy task.  With a remodel on a house like this, well, it takes a bit of unconventional thinking to get it done.  The space in the stairway is really limited and we keep a fridge and freezer downstairs.  So in other words, every half inch matters.  The fridge and freezer will inevitably need to come up some day.  Once the drywall is on, we will have about 31 inches of width.  Just enough for a standard fridge or freezer!

Needless to say, all was going quiet well, until noon on Sunday.  With the beautiful weather on Sunday, we had planned to enjoy the outdoors for a bit and grill out for lunch.  That ended suddenly, burgers still on the grill.

As noted above, we had let the goats out to free-range.  They had been enjoying a good meal by some ornamental grass planted near the woods.  The grass is tall, making it a great place to hide and play as a kid.  Our kids were enjoying the goats and playing in the tall grass.  My wife was grilling and I was cutting some boards for the stairs.  Suddenly our youngest comes running to the house, both hands covered in blood, completely red.

He had grabbed onto the grass while playing and sliced open his pinky.  Yes, the grass is that sharp!  Myself and another one of my boys had a similar, though less crippling experience last summer.  Shelly prepared the vehicle while I tended to and examined the wound.  It was deep.  We made the decision that glue would not fix this cut and he and Shelly were off to the ER.  He was a trooper and handled the stitches without being put to sleep, snuggled in the safety of his mother’s lap.

Five stitches and about five hours later, Shelly and I finally had a moment to stop and breath.  Even with the occasional emergency (there have been plenty of others), we would not trade our lives or our children for the world.  As long as we have energy to expel, we will always have children around our home.  Whether they are our own by blood, foster, or adoption, this crazy life is the life we have chosen (Psalm 127:3-5, Matthew 25:40).  Emergencies and drama inevitably follow, but so do blessings, comedy, and joy.

I am pretty sure a weekend can never go quite to plan, especially with children around, but at least everything came out okay in the end.

– Jeremy

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