Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sorry, no pictures.  But trust me when I say this has been an adventure.  A month or so ago, a friend encouraged us to actually spend money on something moderately frivolous.  Truth be told, we're total and complete tightwads so this is something that takes a bit of arm twisting.  We were thinking of the 2 gallons/day of milk we'd be getting with both Dulci and Helen in milk, our nice tax non-return (which I find ridiculous that we should get paid that much money merely for having kids) and decided it was time for a cream separator.

Now let me give some information here.  Unlike cow's milk, goat's milk does not naturally separate.  You can wait all week and not get more than a teaspoon of cream rising to the top of a quart of milk.  Centrifuge is the only way to really get goat cream. 

It arrived on Tuesday afternoon so Wednesday I was chomping at the bit to use it.  6 hours post-milking I had a half pint of cream, a very sore arm and shoulder, and an ENORMOUS mess.  It was a disaster.  I decided separating was not something for me to do alone.

This morning, after chores, Superhusbandman cranked while I poured.  We still splattered milk all over the kitchen.  We separated about 1.5 gallons and put the pint of cream in the blender.  And blended.  And blended.  And blended.  And got cream.

And now its late and we're due to be leaving soon to pick up our bees (another post for another day) so let me just say that another 5 hours of separating and blending and we still only have cream, but are hopeful for another go at butter. 

But not today.


 On March 18th, our first 2nd-generation FLhomesteader lamb was born.  Farmer girl named her Daisy.
 She immediately won the hearts of the farmer kids.
 At only a few days old, she and her mother, Esperanza, were mowing the lawn.  I tethered Esperanza just outside of Angel's zone and Daisy was completely free to roam anywhere... of course she stayed near mama.  This is giving Angel and Daisy a chance to get to know each other without Angel immediately mauling her new charge.
 And given that Daisy is free and Esperanza is tethered near the pretty patch, she did take the opportunity to snack on some calendula and strawflowers.  Thankfully she has a small mouth and doesn't eat much.  Farmer Boy 2 found it all quite entertaining.

And they are very well trained.  I merely unclip Esperanza's tether and she knows to go right back home.  Superhusbandman built another gate today so we now can keep the animals off that barren side for a stretch.  I have some cowpeas, sweet potatoes, and millet grass to be planting over there.  I'm hopeful for some fertility in there this year. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jonah and Julius

We had another birth on Saturday.  Husbandman and I were out working on the "Bachelor Pad."  I had been expecting Helen to kid for 2 days so when I saw her go off to a secluded area of the pasture and lay down, I knew it was time.  Without a sound, a little goat was born.  I gave her ample time to clean it off and it seemed as though she were done.  Later a friend came to visit and we took him back to see the new addition... and there wasn't just one but TWO!  Both of them are bucks and both are identical.  One has an ever so slightly larger grew patch over his eyes than the other.  So we put a collar on one... which Farmer Girl named Jonah.  The other is Julius.  Now if this over-sized collar happens to fall off, then whichever one gets the collar will then become Jonah.  The kids are doing well.  The first afternoon, one was markedly weaker than the other, but by morning I couldn't tell which one that was so they must be fine.  They are eating well and are almost ready for the kids to take over their feedings.  Helen on the other hand is not milking well.  Granted we're still in the colostrum phase, but we're getting just over a quart a day from her who previously has given over a gallon.  I'll be milking 3 times a day to see if that will help.  I'm hoping to milk her for about 9-10 months so I really need her to start strong.  
 Copper's Bachelor pad is now finished.  We "finished" it last week only to find him back with his ladies the very next morning.  We "fixed it" again and again he was back within 24 hours.  Now we think we have him trapped.  He's been there for about a day and a half now so maybe we're safe.  We put Doby in with him to keep him company.  They're enjoying the browse while it lasts.

We're still waiting for Esperanza to lamb.  Nina was sucking on her the other day so it must be soon.  Then our babies will be done for the season.  Well, until Doby kids which could be in June or so.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Florida and Kids

I recently got a comment that someone had purported Florida to be a bad place to raise kids.


Well, if that keeps the bozos away, then let them believe it!

I'm including this picture, sorry its sideways, to prove that our grass is perfectly safe for little one's feet.  Its a fight to keep shoes on them.  We DO have patches of stinging nettles and sand spurs, but those are PATCHES and kids quickly learn to stay out of there if they're not wearing shoes.  If you have a small yard, its easy enough to yank the offending grasses.  Stinging nettles are quite nutritious so I'm actually looking for some right now, but they only occasionally pop up in the garden and we've never had them in the yard.  And if they keep popping up despite yanking, sow some perennial grass seed densely and let that keep them out.

And is it too hot for kids?  Well, that all depends on your kids.  We have friends whose kids will play outside all day when the weather is scarcely over 40 and hate it over 82.  My kids look at me like I'm nuts if I drag them out with me on cold days.  In the worst of summer, we go out early in the morning to do chores but are almost always in by 11.  Farmer Boy 1 doesn't much care for the heat.  He's usually inside playing by himself when the thermometer tips 90.  Farmer Boy 2 would stay out at 110.  We also find ways to beat the heat.  Kiddie pools are a summer essential.  We fill it up every couple days and they usually splash around in there if I have extended work to do outside.  If its a morning where I'm merely doing the barest of chores, we'll be back inside before it gets hot.  Does it seem like we're always living inside to get away from the heat?  Well, maybe for 3 months or so, but the other 9 its quite comfortable to be outside all day. 

Gardening is a tricky thing in the heat though... you can't bring the plants into the AC.  There are some select things that really thrive in the heat.  Our summer staples are sweet potatoes (that we don't harvest until the first freeze), okra, collard greens, pole beans, cow peas, cherry tomatoes, and amaranth (for the greens).  Many herbs will need to be shaded in the summer to hold out.  I'm putting in a new herb bed just for that purpose right now.  We won't get the yields that our northern friends do, mostly because of those blasted nematodes I just wrote about, but also because of the sandy soil that doesn't hold nutrients.  But the key is finding the foods that work, not trying to force what doesn't work while the only thing growing is frustration.

But the biggest benefit I see to homesteading in Florida is for animals.  While the winter was hard on everyone else and I spent many a morning waiting for the hose to thaw, it certainly beats wondering if I have frozen goat kids or how to keep the waterers from freezing while I'm gone all day.  Our animal housing is minimal and they do fine.  Yes, we have a harder time with parasites.  No, some animals don't handle the heat well.  But its all things that are easy to work with.

Now, with that said, I'm a southerner.  My grandparents moved here for my grandmother's health when my dad was in high school.  My dad headed back north and met my mom.  They came back to Florida to thaw out when I was 2.  Despite divorce, neither ever left.  I went to college in northern NY, working on a farm there during my summers.  Then moved to a northern area of China after that.  I came back to Florida and don't regret it one bit.  There are things that are nice about the north, but I'm very familiar with the south.  I'm accustomed to sweating, not shoveling snow.  I'd rather run my AC for 5 months than my heater for 8.  I feel quite comfortable with the thermostat set at 82 but our winter temp of 58 is grueling.  Running through soft sand feels far more natural to me than trying not to slip on ice. 

And there ARE some places in Florida that I would NOT recommend for raising kids though the natives will sternly disagree.  I'm not big for cities so Miami and Orlando and much of the over-grown south Florida regions would be out for me.  But saying Florida is bad is like saying all of NY is bad because New York City has a high crime rate.  Anyone who's ever been to northern NY will find that thought preposterous.  But Florida is growing, in some places rather unwisely.  I can't say what it will look like here in 10 years.  Walmart is building a superstore (which I vow to NEVER step foot in!).  Whole new developments and neighborhoods are planned.  Things are changing and the only thing more certain than that are the taxes we'll pay on those changes.

But for now, Florida is home.  And its a nice one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Sprang

I always seem to find myself here when I have multiple other things that are more pressing, but alas, I'm here so I'll make it quick.  :-)

 Yesterday I had a positively glorious time playing in the dirt, with at least 1 little helper most of the time.  We ripped out most of the arugula and some older lettuce, kale, collards, and mustard greens.  The goats were happy to take the cast offs from my sweet helpers' hands.  We filled multiple wheelbarrow loads with compost and refreshed the beds.  One particular bed ends up quite shaded in the winter.  I've had it covered with a billboard tarp since November.  I peeled back the tarp to find grey beach sand.  Nothing more.  I've been planting and ammending that bed for 3+ years now, and its still basically beach sand.  Its also no surprise to see roots like these on the mustard greens.   
The little blobs in the roots indicate nematodes, a horrible menace to the Florida gardener... and very little to realistically to about them.
So after ripping out the old plants, adding fresh compost and mixing it in some, we transplanted- something the farmer girl has really come to enjoy.  I love having her little hands working with me.  Farmer Boy 1 enjoys it too, but the temptation to pitch dirt in the air is sometimes too much for him to handle.  FB2 likes to just wander around the garden carrying off any tools someone else is using. 
We transplanted an entire bed of cayenne peppers (hoping to trade the fruit for a drink concotion that is helping several friends and family members), a good number of bell peppers, the last of the big tomatoes and lettuce, Black Valentine pole beans, huckleberries, wonderberries, cucumbers and eggplant. 
What remains in the garden now for today's eating are collard greens and lettuce.  What remains for seed production purposes are a few old lettuce plants, arugula and bok choy.  Aside from what's noted about as recently transplanted, we also have yellow squash, zucchini, bok choy, swiss chard and peas in the still-growing phase.  There are still a good number of things not quite ready to transplant, but more about those next week.

Next we planted seeds:
For the pretty patch: cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, morning glory and sunflowers.
For the eating: Sugarlee watermelon, Chinese Red noodle beans, cherry tomatoes (lollipop, sungold, and chocolate cherry), and basil (genovese, cinnamon, and lettuce leaf).

On the animal front, we sold Rocie and Poncho.  After not being able to sell Willy after weeks of having him posted on Craigs List, I started early this round... they were gone the first evening.  Truth be told, I wasn't quite ready.  When I got the call that the buyers were on their way, I quickly rounded up the kids for a photo shoot.   How many beautiful mornings had the kids been in there playing with them and though I'd stop to admire the abundance of cute, I never grabbed the camera.  These pics aren't too great as the light was fading and the goats were hungry (hence eating farmer girl's hair), but its something. 

Esperanza is still big but not looking particularly "due".  Helen is bagging up more so my guess is she's the next birth.  We'll be spending all day on Saturday on the "Bachelor Pad" despite the huge amount of gardening work to do.  A place to put Copper after Helen kids is essential.  She's had way too many babies too close together.  If we don't get the new section fenced we will simply have to find another home for Copper fast.  She got pregnant 4 weeks post-pardum last time.
Back to work now.  Thanks for the break in cleaning.  :-)