Category Archives:Livestock

Predator Alert

The weather is getting nicer with the arrival of spring, which also brings the arrival of local predators.

Generally I try to lock up my chickens just after the sun sets. However, by the time I finish cooking and eating dinner, I look up it is already pitch black outside and the coop door is wide open.  A flood light in the yard has done a great job of deterring predators since we got our chickens, but we had an unexpected visitor the other night.

My husband had just finished putting my oldest son to bed, and he headed out the door to lock up the chickens. Getting ready to open the back door, he watches as 4 of my 5 chickens walk out of the coop and stand a few feet away as a possum waltzes in.  Luckily, this possum was not in a vicious mood (other possums I have come across have been quite defensive). Taking a 2×4, my husband gently nudged the possum out of the corner of the coop. He asked me to go take a look at it in case it was sick (it was just playing possum).

I got outside and followed the footprints around through the snow just to make sure he/she wasn’t still nearby. This possum was determined to bed down somewhere because the footprints went all around our 4 car garage before coming back to the coop. After being evicted, the footprints led out to the pasture and into the tall grass.

I convinced the girls outside that their coop was empty, and found one Marge in the nesting box. I’m just happy none of the girls were hurt during this, but we now make sure we don’t leave the coop open after dark.

For tips on protecting your flock from predators, check out the learning center at www.backyardchickens.com.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/category/predators-pests.28/

(No affiliation)

New Year Homesteading Resolutions

With only two days left of 2017, my reflection on the year and my resolutions are more focused on improving my homestead (and in turn, improving myself).

Here are a few of the things we want to improve:

 

The Garden

2017: This past year we built garden beds with cinder blocks . This worked out great for weeding, and was much more manageable than when we had our garden at ground level. However, with our pasture being overgrown right in the area of our raised beds, it was a lot of work mowing between the  beds and getting close enough to get most of the grasses cut was a pain.

2018: We plan to mulch between the beds so we don’t have to mow; and instead of fencing off each bed individually (to protect our plants from the chickens), we will fence off the entire perimeter. And we will add an extra bed this year for corn.

 The Goats

2017: Last year we acquired two meat goats. One we lost to a respiratory infection; the other we had to butcher about 2 months sooner than we would have due to goats being herding animals. We also believe the goats we got were cross breeds so they did not grow as much as we anticipated.

2018: I would like to pursue breeding our own meat goats, which would require a larger flock and winter quarters.  Currently we have a three-sided lean-to that at least kept the goats out of inclement weather. We also would not be able to rely on just pasture for the winter months so we would need to budget for food rations. In the meantime, I think we will definitely get at least two more meat goats for 2018.

The Chickens

2017: I went through about a month period where I thought my girls weren’t laying. Unfortunately this winter, cleaning out the garden bed around their coop, Fendi found a stash of eggs (maybe 12) that I hadn’t found. My girls were inconsistent not only with laying in their nesting boxes but also with where they were laying outside the coop.

2018: I’m hoping my girls will start laying again at the end of January like they did last year. In order to keep them laying in the nesting boxes, I’m going to try getting wooden or ceramic eggs to keep in each box. I think I will also put rubber matting of some sort in the bottom of their nesting boxes to see if that helps with cleaning.

The Harvest

2017: We discovered a few things growing on our property that we did not plant. We have two large patches of asparagus that I did some harvesting on, but the weeds were quite difficult to control in the summer. Also we have a lot of wild grape vines (not producing fruit) that spread all over the asparagus “beds”, these were also hard to control and keep from snuffing out the asparagus. In that same area is an older Elderberry bush that we didn’t know was there.  The fruit trees in our yard bloomed this year (they didn’t the previous year), and it turns out they are apple trees! We didn’t really get out to harvest them although I’m sure they would have made great baking apples.

2018: I plan on harvesting the asparagus again this year, and maybe move a few of the plants to a more containable area for weed control. If we can get to the Elderberries before the birds and wild animals, we hopefully will get a larger harvest for either jam or syrup. If the apple trees bloom again (we are thinking they are an every other year breed), then I will be sure to get out and pick apples. With the increase in raised garden bed space, I’m hoping we get a bit larger harvest in things we use more often (last year we had quite a few more peppers than we needed and not as many tomatoes as we would have liked to do some canning. And canning more of my harvest is something I really want to work on in 2018.

What are your homesteading resolutions for 2018? Comment below!

Escape Goat

It finally happened! Our black goat has escaped the electric fence; surprisingly it took him 3 months.

Goats are notorious for getting out of their pens. In the wild goats climb trees to get tender leaves. My goats love when we cut off little saplings as treats. We converted our horse fence to keep our two goats inside. But of course my curious and more friendly goat, decided it was time to see if that grass really is greener on the other side.

Leaving the house to walk to the bar, we noticed our goat running to us expecting some maple leaves. He escaped the enclosure three times, and made a visit to our neighbor’s house while we were gone.

This was a problem; I don’t think everyone in town would be as good-humored about wild goats roaming around as my neighbor. I had to do something!

After putting him back in, I hid behind a tree to spy on him, and that little stinker just leapt through the wires in the corner. The electric shock doesn’t affect you unless you are touching the ground. So I added more electric wire to form a net on the lines he was jumping through.

Again, I walked away, but watched him investigating the corner. Within 15 minutes, he slipped underneath all of the wiring in that corner.

This time the escape artist was in for a surprise visit with a curious Fendi! She scared him so much that he tried to push under the gate back into the pasture- she was just sniffing his butt wondering what kind of dog smells like that.

Seeing that my netting wasn’t going to keep him in, I moved some T-posts from the garden and placed some chicken wire, just in the corner he kept going through.

So far it has kept him in…. I am hoping that he doesn’t think to try the rest of the fence.

Fencing for the future

When you have about 4 acres of pastureland, what do you do? Fence it in for that future horse, of course! And what a start for our journey to farm-dom.

When surveying our property, we had intended to fence in the entire parcel. The cost, however, was pricey at this time so we opted to fence in about an acre for our first horse pasture.

After getting a few (far above what we were thinking) quotes, we pulled up our britches and said, ‘Hey we can do this ourselves!’

In several trips to Blain’s Farm and Fleet and Menards’, we acquired 15- 9′ corner posts 8″ diameter, 35- 8′ posts 4.5″ diameter, and 34- 6’6″ metal T-posts.

We rented a post driver and a skid steer with a bucket that came in handy to move a burn pile that was composed mostly of roofing shingles.

We only had the heavy equipment for the weekend so getting all the posts in was the priority. Our neighbors had a Saturday morning wake up call to the sound of pounding posts. Ear protection is a must, for both driver and helpers!

Once we had measured where all the posts needed to be the post driving actually went quickly, first all four corners and fence gates, then the middle posts.

We used nylon mason line to rope around the posts making sure we were putting our fence up in a straight line.

And unfortunately we had a post driving mishap. 

This picture is of a broken post, and the post we set next to it.

We bought 5 spools of high tension coated wire 1320′ each of electric and non electric wire.

I recommend that if you are doing any kind of wire stretching with cable wiring that you purchase a wire de-reeler/spinning jenny. We didn’t buy this at first, and we had a lot of issues getting the wire uncoiled efficiently.

This is a spinning jenny- you put the spool of wire on and spin it off.

We started out with just 5 wires 12″ apart, two hot (electric) and three cold. We have added two lines of electric Polywire at 6″ and 18″ since deciding to purchase two meat goats before we purchase a horse. Springs were required to install the Polywire so we used the old springs from our broken washing machine!

These new lines will come in handy because this one gate is over a dip in the ground.

Stretching all that wire was definitely what took the most amount of time, weather permitting.

The last thing we have to do is get new hardware to transfer the 6′ gate from the pig pen to the horse/goat pen. Then we will be ready for our boys to arrive in June!