Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Scavenged Goodness: A Mid-Century Bed Frame & More

All of the items you see pictured in this post were scavenged in about two and a half hours on Monday morning. Little Sister and I made two trips with the minivan and we scored big. I can't help but think: if we are throwing stuff like this in the trash then we are doing something wrong as a society. There. I said it. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Brother is going to get this full-sized mid-century bed

I need to make two minor repairs to the bed, including replacing a small strip of wood here (in the light spot) to hold up the slats. I also scavenged a piece of wood that will work just fine.
I found this Malm bedside table that matches our Ikea bedroom set. Big Sister is claiming it for her room.

I found a fully functional, not rusted bicycle that retails for $120. I will probably sell it since we don't need any more adult bikes. I also got three plastic Adirondack chairs to go around the fire pit. I hate plastic chairs but I have yet to find good wooden ones in the trash!

I found this "Pet Porter" (can you say "Goat Porter"?) in perfect but very dusty condition. It smells like someone's terrier spent 30 years smoking Pall Malls inside it but I think a good washing and airing-out will take care of that.

I also found a full-length folding table in great condition. Other than a couple of scratches on the top it is like new. If I don't keep this for potlucks and such I'll donate it to Little Sister's preschool.

This is the second homemade go-kart that I've found curbside. The great thing about these is that they have good-quality inflatable tires that make great wheels for chicken tractors (which are heavy and awkward to move). The kitchen cabinet on the right is in excellent condition. I may use it in the utility room or I might pass it along.

Excellent hardwire cloth for use in rabbit cages. This stuff is pretty expensive new.
Five long concrete blocks (raised garden beds?), a dishwasher utensil holder (mine sucks), 3 PVC pipes, an old Coca Cola tray (great for garden use), and a very clean Ozarka carboy for storing water (emergency preparedness!)

Lumber. I always find lots of good lumber. I even found 3 of the 4 posts I need for redoing our chicken run. This selection includes two by fours, one by fours, two by sixes, treated posts, and some smaller pieces.

Scavenge on, my friends.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Possum Attack, New Chicks, and More Useful Goat Functions

That's it.

I'm buying a pellet gun.

I'm going to the store this afternoon and I'm going to buy a pellet gun. Last night at about 9pm I was reading a book in the living room when I heard a hen squawking. Hens never make noise after dark unless there is something after them. So I tore outside in my house slippers, armed only with my heavy Mag-Lite flashlight with a fading battery. I made a bunch of noise as I came out of the house to scare off any big stuff (coyotes?) and high-tailed it to the coop. Puff, our ridiculous Silkie hen, was out of the coop and throwing herself against the chicken wire sides of the run. Poking its head out of the coop was a very fat white possum with a pink nose. The seventeen other chickens were still up on their perches above the possum's head. I hit the plywood side of the coop with my flashlight as hard as I could and the possum scampered out, climbed through a hole in the chicken wire, and hustled up a tree. Mr. Chanclas proceeded to throw giant rocks at it in a futile gesture of anger.

A baby possum we found a couple of years ago

Because Puff sleeps down on the floor of the coop (Silkies cannot fly at all so they cannot roost) the possum had grabbed her and cut a big gash down her back. I put her in a small self-contained coop/run to recuperate and to protect her from another attack. I closed the doors to the main coop tightly to protect the rest of my flock until morning. (I usually leave the coop doors open so they can go and come as they please. The coop is surrounded by a protected run.)

If I had a pellet gun then I'd have a big, dead possum for the kids to look at today.

I've spent the morning rehabilitating our chicken run to make it more resistant to predators. It's going to take me several days because I'm basically tearing down the old run and replacing it. In the meantime I'll have to move our whole flock to the portable chicken tractors where they will be safe until repairs are made.

In other news, the new chicks are doing great. Their wing feathers are already starting to grow in and they are noticeable larger than they were when they arrived. My improvised brooder has worked out wonderfully. Little Sister is only three years old (nearly four) but she knows how to hold a chick and how to care for them.

This year I found an excellent way to get rid of an old Christmas tree. Let the goats eat it. It took them a week or two but they completely denuded our little pine and now they are nibbling the tips of the branches and the bark. I wonder if it would make their milk taste like Christmas.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting for the Mail-Order Chicks

It's that time of year already. It's chick time.

The cat will not be present when the chicks arrive!
Today I'm walking around with my cell phone in my pocket because I'm expecting the call from the post office: "Your chicks are here." I ordered 15 red broilers (for meat), which my friend Erin and I are going to process together in 12 weeks or so when they reach butchering size. It's a joint venture this year, which will be fun. She helped us butcher last spring and it was so nice to have another set of hands to help. Somehow we've always been lucky to have extra folks around on butchering day.

I also threw two extra birds into the order at the last minute: a Buff Orpington pullet and a black Australorp pullet. My favorite chicken of all times was a giant black Australorp named BK. I once saw her snatch an entire sandwich out of a child's hand. I also saw her take a nap with a Great Dane. She was gentle and funny and a good layer. She was caught and injured by a coyote in our driveway and died in my arms. I think I'm still a little sad about that.

Buff Orpingtons are a very popular breed and are known to be good layers. Surprisingly, I've never had any so I thought I'd try one out. I ordered these birds back in January when my hens weren't laying. It was a really sad winter for egg production. I have EIGHTEEN chickens and was getting 1-2 eggs a day. (Of the eighteen, one is a rooster and one is of indeterminate sex, but still...) As soon as February began the ladies began to ramp up production and now we are getting 9-10 eggs a day. You would think that with all those eggs I'd have a huge surplus but so far we are keeping up. There is at least a dozen eggs in the refrigerator at any given time and that's the way I like it.
Plastic tote bin set up as a chick brooder

I have the guest room all set up to receive the new chicks. I am using the long plastic tote I scavenged in the trash last month as their home. I filled the bottom with pine shavings and then covered the pine shavings with old pillow cases so that the new chicks don't eat the shavings. Then I added the water bottle, a thermometer, the heat lamp, and sprinkled food crumbles on top of the pillow cases. After a few days I can remove the pillow cases and the chicks can be in direct contact with the pine shavings. I put a big tub of fresh shavings nearby for the daily cleaning that will need to be done.
Pine shavings for chick bedding
We have another poultry order that is scheduled for delivery on April 1st. That order includes 8 ducks and 2 geese. Big Sister is especially excited about that order because several of the ducks are hers to raise. Today I enjoyed re-reading my old post The Mail Order Poultry Has Arrived, chronicling our chick delivery last spring. It's starting to become a yearly family tradition!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Everyone Needs a Clothesline: From Scratch Magazine

Last year I wrote a blog post about how to hang a clothesline. Hanging a clothesline sounds like such a simple thing to do that you might wonder why it requires any instructions. But there are many terrible clotheslines out there (rusty ones, saggy ones, etc) and if your clothesline sucks you're probably less likely to use it. For the spring issue of From Scratch magazine I expanded on my clothesline tricks in an article called "Everyone Needs a Clothesline". Please check it out- it's on page 94 of the Feb/March 2014 issue.

From Scratch is a free, online-only magazine for the modern homesteader. It just celebrated its first anniversary and was started by a husband and wife team out of North Carolina. I've really enjoyed reading the back issues and watching the magazine grow.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Our Start With Dairy Goats: What We've Learned So Far


 These goats are funny. Their antics are entertaining, they're really soft and fluffy, they never bite or act mean, and they can leap into the air with all four hooves at once. I really can't find anything not to like about them. Even their poop is inoffensive.

We chose to raise Nigerian Dwarf goats because they are small (adult does are about 60-70 lbs), they produce lots of milk relative to their size, and their milk is high in butterfat. Our little ladies, Kiki and Clementine, are four months old now and will be ready to breed when they reach about 9-12 months of age

I got our doelings from another homesteader in the Austin area who raises Nigerians. I brought them home in my minivan when they were six weeks old. They had spent the first six weeks of their lives with their mamas and had never taken a bottle before. That was the first challenge. Despite my best efforts that first week they would not drink from a bottle. Luckily, they were already ruminating (eating hay and grass and digesting it) so they just moved right to hay and a small amount of sweet feed (a sweet grain-based pellet feed for goats). If I were to ever buy kids again I'd wait until 8-10 weeks of age to bring them home. That said, my goaties seem to be doing fine and they are growing well.

 The other challenge I've had is parasites. Goats, like all mammals (including us), are prone to parasites. Clementine got sick shortly after I brought her home and tested positive for strongyles and coccidia. Strongyles are a parasitic roundworm common in goats, horses, and other animals. As long as the goats don't have an overload of them, I'm not too worried about them. The coccidia, which is a protozoal parasite, is more worrisome. Goat kids can die of coccidiosis pretty quickly.After their initial parasite treatment back in November I made the mistake of not retesting them 10 days later. I waited until January to retest and Clementine tested positive for strongyles and coccidia again. Here's where I have lots to think about.

First off, there is the issue of drug resistance to the dewormer drugs. I do not want to deworm my animals willy-nilly because of the very dangerous prospect of drug resistance. On the other hand, I want to keep my animals in great health and don't want them to suffer with parasites. Clementine has not been sick lately, despite her parasites, but she is considerably smaller than Kiki and her coat is "rougher" looking. Kiki's coat is glossy and smooth and Clementine's is dryer and rougher. This alone can be one sign of parasites.

So I treated for strongyles and coccidia again and then ran another fecal test two weeks later. (It's $15 for a fecal test at the large-animal hospital down the highway.) The coccidia were gone (YAY!) but there were still a couple of stronglyes. I'll keep an eye on them but because neither of the goats appears sick I will not treat for strongyles again at this time.

Coccidia are spread in feces and once you have them in your soil they are very hard to get rid of. I hate that I've inoculated my property with coccidia and I'm hoping like mad that this won't be an ongoing problem for us. I suspect it will. The vet tech recommended sweeping up all the goat poops in the yard. What???? There are thousands of goat pellets in the yard and sweeping them all up would be a Sisyphean task (picture the goats pooping as I rake).

One note: neither strongyles nor coccidia are transmissable to humans so at least I don't have that worry. Chickens can get coccidiosis but it is not caused by the same type of coccidia. (WHEW.)

I'm considering buying a microscope so I can run fecal tests on the goats myself. Apparently it's not hard to do. I used to be a biologist so surely I could learn to do that, right? 

DIY fecal tests. Ruminate on that for awhile!