Friday, September 30, 2011

#104 - Farming Thoughts Less Foggy

Learning about farming is something we've been dedicated to doing this past year. Of course, I had always wanted chickens, then for years I began to feel the building drive to also own goats one day. But, I certainly didn't know one thing about chickens as of this past March, and today I know even less than nothing about goats.

Basically, I want goats so that I can mostly make goat products such as soaps, cheeses, lotions, etc., because the butterfat content on certain breeds are very high, the glycerin content is high, so this is the reason certain goat milk lotions feel so scrumptious to the skin. Since I go through gallons of lotion every year, it might actually be cost effective for me to learn to make my own body lotions from goat milk. And my daughters are hooked on a nearby farmer's home-made goat lotions, so it will definitely be something my family would enjoy. And soaps, oh yeah buddy...I'd love to be able to make soaps.

The farm portion of a goat class Deputy Dave and I took
this year in Houston. The 2nd portion of the class was a
field trip to this farmers two acre goat farm...I believe she had
around 30 goats and lots of chickens.
However, I'm beginning to realize that it might be great to ALSO have a few cattle. Initially, I'd been resistant to owning cattle because, frankly, I'm terrified of cattle. And yes, I am a Texan. Cattle are everywhere, even in downtown Houston on empty lots surrounded by business buildings because the cattle give the land an almighty agriculture tax exemption. I now realize that if we had our own milking cow, I'd know exactly where our milk came from and how long it had actually been sitting on a shelf before it goes on top of my Lucky Charms.

I got to milk this little beauty. My first time to ever milk
a farm animal and I must say that I felt very comfortable with the process.
Even though I was initially looking for the other two "missing" teats.
My oldest daughter is drinking unpasteurized milk from a reputable area farmer. Yes, this worries me...I can't help it. Unpasteurized dairy products can carry such danger, but she swears that her tummy issues are better since she's been drinking unpasteurized milk. I don't know enough about the subject to understand the value of unpasteurized milk, but I can't take a chance with drinking unpasteurized with my health condition. I'm glad Heather enjoys her milk. When she lived at home, she went through a gallon of milk by herself every three days, so she might need to get a cow one day for herself.

Anyway, Heather and her fiance go to this farm and they get their milk from the farmer's customer refrigerator and there is a jar full of money left sitting out for you to add your payment for the milk you are taking ---- all of it is based on the old-fashioned concept of "on your honor."

My daughter says that sometimes there is clearly about $200. in the jar and she thinks it is amazing that people are so honest in the country and that the owners have such faith in their local customers to allow them to fully trusting. I call that kind of honor system an example of pure country goodness.

The Houston area goat farmers new room to satisfy her
goat dairy inspections.
Again, since we have health concerns in our family, I don't believe we'll take any chances with drinking unpasteurized milk. Since I've been studying Farming 101 this past year, I've learned that there are several methods of pasteurizing, but one of the best and easiest methods I've learned about it to simply freeze the milk. Once the milk freezes, it kills any microbes and it doesn't affect the quality or taste of the milk once it is defrosted for drinking. Plus, it's easier to do than makes messes with pots and pans along with the time it takes to heat the milk...freezing also does not chance scalding the milk.

Our local farmer gal showing us a few products to help
with raising goats. However, we want to go for our organic
certification, so a lot of these products we will not be able to use.
Since my husband has raised cattle, he's more comfortable with the idea of them, but I will be gladly volunteer to milk the cow in order to enjoy the fresh ingredients we use so heavily in our cooking...milk, cheese, buttermilk, butter and such. We are a big dairy family.

As for goats, we will likely start with a few of them so that we can enlist their help in keeping the land clear. This forested area is difficult to keep clear of underbrush because of the terrain. Some areas are extremely difficult to get lawn equipment into, especially because we need a couple of bridges on the land. We have steep embankments, hills, creeks, thick forested areas, a ditch and impassable blackberry vines that have grown for who-knows-how-long without interruption. This will make having goats worthwhile. Once we get some proper fencing in place, goats will probably be one of the best investments into livestock that we can make right away. However, I am very nervous about being able to keep them fenced in and safe from predators.

As we go about our business on the land, it will be so very nice to be able to travel around on the acreage and to take a few goats with us for tying up in a zone for chowing down. I've seen several goats that are trained enough to be walked on a leash, like a dog, kind of strange, but it looks workable. I wonder how difficult this will be to accomplish????

Maybe we could work with our goats so that we could lead them by leash to the exact spot we want without too much herding difficulties. But, I'm positive that Howdy will be in full herding mode, no matter what.

So, I can imagine that each animal we raise will be suitable for a specific purpose. I'm also sure that each animal will make a gradual appearance on our little farm so that we have time to adequately prepare for each one that joins us.

I'm also sure that we will have no idea about what we are doing, until we are doing it.

Deputy Dave has also raised humongous swine, so I guess we'll raise more of these once we're on our land. Personally, I don't know how much space they require, but it seems as if they don't take much.
One thing is for sure...our family loves pork. Us Texans keep a side container of pork fat for cooking. Many foods are made more flavorful with a tad bit of pork fat added. We didn't need Emeril to clue us in to this fact. Texas understands the power of pork fat. But, I can't imagine what it must be like to eat farm-raised pork.

Of course, we'll have our chickens. We'll be raising enough chickens to also process for us to have fresh chicken on hand at all times. I dread processing chickens, but the determination in me to raise farm-fresh chicken meat is stronger than my fear. Besides, I can already smell Deputy Dave's home-made chicken and sausage gumbo...made with fresh ingredients from the farm.

We won't have to raise a ton of animals, just a few different varieties so that we can have a diverse food supply and so that we can be as self-sufficient as possible. It feels great to own enough land to raise farm animals and to have ample room to grow a good, large crop of veggies for our tummies to be happy. And, we will certainly be canning all kinds of veggies for year-round consumption. So, that's another entire area of learning that we must embrace.

A never ending job on the land...fallen branches everywhere
that need to be gathered and burned.
I must say that I am thoroughly looking forward to living on our land so that I during blackberry season I can pick berries every day and gather enough to can preserves for cobblers and jams to eat year round.

Years ago, we planted a couple of peach trees, a plum and a lemon tree on our land...they appeared to be dead for a couple of years, then, one day, we found the lower portions of the trees to have off-shoots growing nice and strong. Now, I don't know what this will mean for the trees health and production, but we left them there. Hopefully, we'll eventually enjoy their fruit...if they survived the drought. Of course, over this next year, we will be planting many more fruit trees throughout the land.

Our little young, so sweet, so free from the burden
of laying eggs. Ouch!
Years and years ago, my husband also had planted a pecan tree on our land in the memory of his grandmother and this tree seems to be growing nicely, but slowly. Maybe we'll have pecans one day from this tree. I can imagine making sugared pecans, pecan pie and having a bowl of fresh pecans lying out ready to be cracked and savored.

Howdy introducing himself to the foliage.
All of these possibilities are open to us at our acreage. Here in the city, the possibilities for any kind of farming activities are severely limited, for good reason, the city is the land of conveniences and purchases so you don't have to farm.

Living on a farm means that my master bathroom garden tub won't
need to be a chick incubator any longer.
Here in the suburbs with our city amenities, square footage is a commodity and it is limited. People choose to live in the suburbs because they don't necessarily want any extra space to maintain. They want a little space to call their own, small enough to easily keep under control and manicured. For many people living in an organized neighborhood, an association helps keep things in order, but I am thoroughly sick and tired of this arrangement. It was our choice to buy this house with the knowledge that association fees are applicable, but those same fees would go a long way on our land toward maintenance or bonus items such as a new chain saw!

So, the animal list for the acreage would be as follows:

1. Dogs...hopefully we'll still have Howdy around and he'll be ready for a girlfriend and a bit of breeding. The world definitely needs more Howdys and Howdyettes.
2. Chickens...I'm not sure how long our backyard chickens will be around, but maybe they'll be able to enjoy the bug goodness of our acreage and not be eaten by a hawk. We'll be glad to raise chicks and to continue savoring fresh eggs and to start processing our own chickens.
3. Goats...I think I prefer the Nubian breed (spelling?) because of their naturally high butterfat content production.
4. Swine...oink, oink salty goodness and big snout piggy business will be delightful for rooting out challenging blackberry vines.
5. Cattle...not many, only 2-3 for ongoing calving and milking and more farm fresh meat.
6. Crops...more land equals more crops which equals more food in the kitchen WITHOUT a grocery store bar code attached.

My mental list is growing. But, we'll start off nice and easy, building our little farm one step at a time. And, a little bit of stumbling is to be expected.


Mike said...

Growing up, we raised rabbits, pigs and a steer for eating and Mom had chickens. Pigs don't need much room. However, room depends on how fatty or lean you want them. I didn't care for the rabbit meat cuz they were pets to me.

I see Howdy was helping out with the drought.

LindaG said...

Something I have learned about raw goat milk.
If they eat poison ivy, you will develop an immunity to poison ivy through the milk.
It's great you have a goat farm near you. I was going to tell you of a couple blogs I follow, but since you are near the real thing, you won't need the blogs. :)

It's great you have a lot of property. We will be limited to how many trees we can plant because hubby wants to leave some open for pasture.

I call that kind of honor system an example of pure country goodness.

Used to be that way everywhere. I remember growing up and never locking doors and windows. So sad we don't have that sort of moral code any more.

It is both sad and annoying that the government has so many regulations on small farms. I suppose it's necessary for the same reasons we have to lock our doors now; but it is still sad and annoying.

Thanks for the tip about freezing raw milk!

Forage raised hogs are some of the leanest pork you will find. I am looking forward to that, too. Hubby's family raised their own hogs and they don't need much room at all, but do better if allowed to forage.

I dread the processing part, too. Best stuff to remember is - they are not pets. And, I have hubby to help me through it, as they ate everything they raised, so he has butchered chickens and pigs. I believe they used the sort of place that processes deer, to process the cows, but I'm not sure on that part.

Guinea fowl are supposed to be the best tic patrol around. Also, they will alert you to strangers - though you have a fine 4-footed patrol pack already.

Sorry for the long reply, Lana. :)

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

You can most certainly train goats to walk on a lead...Best to start with a bottle raised one, they are friendly and trusting of ppl...they will set the example for the rest of the herd also...Our Wether Boots is bottle raised and will follow at your heals without a second thought...He will be instrumental in training our Does to trust us.

I am so excited both he and our Doe Deenie will be coming home this week...Like you we have fencing issues so are limited in numbers for the time being as we only have one "small pasture - 40x60" fenced for our two...they are Dwarf Nigerians so this should keep them plenty busy grazing for awhile.

Be careful staking them out to forage because they will not be able to get away should a predator come after them...Predators as you have found out can also come in disguise of neighbors pets.

I need to put my wish list down in blog form again...Maybe this week I will find time :)

Blessings Kelsie

PS: Canned for the first time this yr and was surprised at how much fun it is...Even hubby was enjoying it.

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Mike --- I don't think I could eat rabbit meat. Deputy Dave has eaten every kind of meat under the moon, but that's because he had years of playing around with being on a cook-off team and going to wild game cook-offs while I was home with the kiddos, but I think I would pass on a lot of the stuff he'd eat. He'd try to bring some of it home for me to sample, but it never tasted very good to me...probably because it had simply been too long from cooking time. And Howdy is great for watering EVERYTHING, including the column inside the house which makes me ready to choke his hairy neck. But, it's good that he marks the territory on the land so trespassing animals will be on notice.

Linda --- you can always make comments and take as much room as you want, I always enjoy reading everything, you've taught me a lot. I'd always love to read to blogs you recommend. Send them my way and I'll be checking them out! As for trees, etc., that is a problem we'll have as well because some areas will have to be pasture lands, the trees will just make the area mucky. But, we have a couple of places that are somewhat clear...we'll see. I guess it will all depend on how much room each animals needs and on where we will have to set them up on the property. About the good old days with the safety and trust and honor was definitely different, I grew up never locking our doors or windows, but when I was a teenager, my dad gave us a speech on how we were going to have to start locking the front door every night. It was weird, but the windows were still never secured, so I don't think the concept had fully sunk in for a long, long time. And as for the farm animals, they will have to be seen as contributors, not as pets. But, it will still be hard. It was hard for me to eat the first few eggs we had gathered from our backyard chickens...but now it's no problem. I'm sure it'll be a hard process. I don't know how society has become so separated from their food source...I'm trying to close the gap and to teach the youngsters in our family. I hope it helps them to have more farm educated memories as they grow up instead of having memories like mine --- NOTHING but grocery store memories for our food.

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Kelsie --- Thank you so much for letting me know about the lead with goats working for you guys. And the predatory issue, I hope to be working in the same area as the goats for the grazing time and hopefully Howdy and a buddy of his will be nearby and ready to be on alert for anything wanting to get too close. I just wonder how he'll behave around goats. He's been so great with the chickens and we will be breeding him for more little helpful Howdys, but I do think we'll have an outdoor kennel instead of letting them with their dirt and hair have free roam of the house. In the country, our house would never be clean if the dogs were allowed inside. But, a big front porch will be a nice gathering area for both our dogs and us...I look forward to it. Back to goats, I've heard of people tying up their goats, but I don't even know how they do this, I guess with chain "ropes" so the goats won't chew through them. Even our dog, Howdy, can't be on a regular rope in the country --- when we were training him, we were afraid for him to be off of a leash for one second and he chewed through every single one of them, even the supposed chew-proof ropes. We had to go to a chain. But, that was for a very short time, he now sticks by my side everywhere without a leash. He is so wonderful. I am happy about the rest of your family getting to come home! And your canning experiences will be gold for this blog buddy of yours! I am thrilled about the prospect of canning next growing season. Hopefully, we won't be in a drought and I'll have a long season of tomatoes for canning for salsas, marina sauces, stewed tomato mixtures, etc. and whatever else I can make with tomatoes, I'll can it!

Charade said...

Last summer at the county fair, I fell in love with the Pygmy Nubian goats. The minute we're able to live on our country acreage full-time, I'm bringing one home! The youngsters who had the biggest corral of goats at the fair let me climb in with them - and I even got to kiss one on its forehead. Heaven.

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

The bathtub was hilarious!!!! said...

Charade --- those are the cutest goats on earth! One of my friends has a sister with 10 acres and she raises the little pygmy goats very happily. Such sweetness!

Stacie --- Yep, this was our first flock of chickens and it was still cold outside and Deputy Dave was still building the chicken coop. We took meticulous care of them and they really don't start having smelly poop, etc., until they are about 4 weeks old, until that point, it's manageable. However, they do get to the point when it would be impossible to have them inside. Yesterday, we had an escapee chicken make her way inside the was hysterical. My husband was actually trying to get her to round the corner to surprise me as I sat at my desk. Funny stuff.

Anyway, I'm glad we found each other's blogs. I know you are the wife of a Firefighter; I've been the wife of a Deputy Sheriff for over twenty years and his military wife for four years prior to that. It's been an interesting lifestyle, especially for living in the Greater Houston area. We are very much looking forward to moving to the country.