A little R&R?

‘Rest’ and ‘Relaxation’ are two words that, for the most part, do not exist in my vocabulary. Well, not in the traditional sense of the word(s). I find relaxation toiling the soil and tending to my goats and sheepies. Milking (a goat) and spinning wool is something that I love to do and is very therapeutic for me! Fiber’n is also very relaxing as my mind often drifts… usually with thoughts of the yet another project. 

But, the cooler temps and shorter days brings a few more MUST-do’s on the growing to-do list of chores around the ‘farm’ – preferably before the snow flies:

  • There’s harvesting the last of the garden produce (here in Michigan anyway) – canning, freezing and drying – to get you through ’til next Spring  and a new growing season. 
  • I still have to garble my stock-piled dried lavender that’s been accumulating in the drying barn for creating sachets, moth chasers and heavenly fragrant farm-made herbal sundries. 
  • Not to mention, preparing the garden beds for winter slumber – mulching and composting, amending and turning the soil, raking leaves, planting a few more bulbs perhaps?
  • Harvesting wild rose hips, evergreens, pine cones, etc to use to decorate the shop for the XMas holidays. BTW, for any locavores, my Holiday Open House is Nov. 13 & 14.

The flip side of gardening chores is all about the animals:

  • Drying-off my two milking goats; I take the winter off from milking (brrrr)and give ‘the girls’ a well-deserved rest. This will be our 4th ‘freshening’. Our dairy goats are seasonal breeders (similar to deer), coming into heat from Sept – Dec/Jan, approx every 21 days with ‘heat’ lasting for about 18 hours or so. Our Alpine doe, Schaherezade, was showing ‘signs’ of heat…so hold-on, drop everything and load her up to take her to our friend’s buck about 30 minutes down the road! Schaz was very ‘receptive’ and had a lovely little rendezvous with her buck-y boyfriend yesterday – boom bam slam! If she ‘settles’, our kidding season begins next April (there’s a 5-month gestation period for goats). Time will tell…
  • We hope to breed two more yearling does – Sweet Annie and Coriander. It will be their first freshening. So, we’ll keep a close eye on ‘the girls’ and watch for signs of their heat cycle too. 
  • Worming my sheep and dairy goats (the goats are done) is also on the to-do list. I usually like to wait for a ‘killing’ frost before I begin Fall worming – and hoof trimming while I’m attending to everyone and have a captivated audience.
  • Soon we’ll be changing out water buckets as necessary; I purchased an electric/heated water bucket for the goats last year that I’ll give a try this winter. I just absolutely dread busting out all the ice from way too many critters’ water dishes and hauling water buckets to re-fill each of them. While reduced water consumption in winter, it’s critical that all the barnyard menagerie has access to fresh water!

Did I mention Dennis finished building our ‘new’ recycled hay feeder for the sheep? It’s a bit bigger and better(?) than the first prototype. I don’t much care for the shingles – it adds weight & it’s heavy to lift (for me) to fill with hay – especially when my sheepies are all over my back-side trying to get the first yummy nibble of hay!

This is the ‘new’ sheep hay feeder. We reduced the spacing between the vertical slats to minimize potential stuck ‘lil lamb heads. (The initial feeder prototype is pic above.)

Finally, here’s a pic of our completed sheep shed and wind break that we constructed from salvaged/recycled wood.

Happy Day! Today is spinning day! Yeah!

Hay Feeder Revisited…AGAIN!

The recent ‘injury’ to my ram lamb Porthos’ little horn has taken me back to the drawing board – REDESIGNING the sheep’s portable hay feeder. While I’m not certain, I forgot all about my ram lamb – sticking his head into the feeder – through the hog panel – and catching himself on his horn buds! That’s certainly the most probable cause of his injury. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? BTW, Porthos is doing fine. I’ll have to get a pic of his head/horn so you can see…and we’ll track the progress of his horn re-growth.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…yet another reiteration of the hay feeder attributed to my hubby’s genius. Fundamentally, think along the scale of a really big bird feeder.

We removed ALL of the hog panel. No more heads getting stuck. We completely RECYCLED the ‘prior’ configuration and reused salvaged wood from my kids play fort that we’re disassembling. Rather than a plywood ‘lid’, I asked hubby if we could use something lighter and weather resistant? He chose a flexible corrugated-type panel.

The top is hinged which allows it to pivot to load hay. A peg/bolt holds it in place/closed.

It appears the sheepies approve. Now look at all that lush grass – they sure don’t need hay!!!

Hay Feeder Re-Visited!

It was a busy weekend with lots of household chores and necessary paperwork (ugh). Aside from the normal weekend routine, Saturday morning we found two of my 9-month old goat kid siblings, Sweet Annie and Slader, STUCK in the hay feeder! Both their heads in one square of the hog panel. It was easy enough to release them, but they couldn’t figure it out for themselves. Fortunately, they suffered no apparent injury…perhaps the fact that they’re siblings and spent 5-months in the womb together helped ‘calm’ them during this potentially dangerous ordeal!

I always check the critters every night before I turn in, and have had a pair of goats ‘stuck’ once before…but twice is tooooooo close for comfort!

So, drop everything, we gotta fix this right now. We put our heads together and came up with a re-design of our original hog panel hay feeder. BTW, the hog panel version worked well, reducing the amount of wasted hay enormously – and kept the hay out of the sheep’s fleece.

Before feeder…

After hay feeder picture…

HA! FIRST, we need a DIVERSION! The problem with bottle-babies is that they’re ALL OVER YOU!

“Animal cracker anyone?” From left to right, Corriander, Sweet Annie, Clove Pink, Slader, and Brutus (my Pygora). THANK YOU KATIE!!!

As I was saying, here’s the re-designed hay feeder…

We removed the hog panel, added wood framing along the top and used wood screws to fasten evenly spaced 2X2 slats or rails (left-overs from a prior porch railing project) – ya know, recycle, reuse, make-do!!

No sooner had we attached the last ‘slat’, when Brutus came up to check it out and WALKED RIGHT THROUGH IT  into the feeder!! O.K. We can fix it, just reduce the opening and add another ‘slat’.


All is well…..NOT!!! Sunday evening at about 6 p.m. I found Annie standing in the hay feeder!!!!

What…another slat? RIGHT NOW??? I sent Katie out in the barn to help hubby, cuz I knew better. Katie’s advice: It’s impossible to goat-proof anything! The slat spacing currently is about every 6-inches.

But, so far so good. No ‘stuck’ goats this morning!