Goats in a nesting box

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Our Nigerian Dwarf buck was locked in the barn, and decided to demonstrate his dominance of the space by taking over the turkey nesting boxes. For some reason, the nice straw on the floor was unacceptable, he had to take over the top of the box, so he could see across the barn while napping. I am surprised at how agile this guy is! He can jump walls, spools, fences and pretty much any other obstacle under six feet high, which considering how small he is, makes quite a sight.

goat on turkey brooder

His agility was on display to full effect when the females went into their first heat after the babies were born, and he and Patton broke into the barn by headbutting the large door relentlessly until thy got an opening. He hit the nursery wall at a full gallop and cleared the wall with room to spare, with one objective (or 3 really I guess, since I am not sure he was feeling picky about which girl, just A girl).  I happened to be standing next to the pen in conversation with my wife at that moment, and caught the poor guy in mid air (thrust).

He was not a happy goat when he realized he was making sweet goaty love to thin air while suspended in my arm over the pen. It took him a few air thrusts to figure out he was foiled, and boy did he complain! His tenacity paid off for him in the end as he did manage to sneak past us eventually and get to his girls. We will have to work out a better confinement plan next cycle.

Chalk that one up to yet another of the many continuous lessons we are learning here.

Goat Kidding

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We have had several births this year, our first full year of raising goats. We have a post about preparing for kidding, but we were hoping we were truly prepared. While our first two mommas gave birth during the night, the last one was a mid day affair, and it turned out to be a very good thing!

sashimi in labor

Sashimi, on the left in labor, is being attended to by her mom and her sister. It was very cool to see how they wanted to keep an eye on her and seemed to be encouraging her in the process. At this point in the deliver, I was not too worried, and feeling pretty relaxed about being a labor and delivery nurse for a goat.

sashimi - baby crowning

When the baby started to come out, we (my bride – Mrs. Blue Barnyard) realized there was a problem. She said the head and hoof were not lined up correctly and she needed to “go in” and fix things. Ok – so now I am not feeling so good about the whole goat nurse thing. I was convinced that nature was cool and would handle it, but she said it was time to glove up and help her out! I held the goat and kept saying nice soothing things to her to calm her down, at least that was my intent.

new baby

After the intervention, things went smoothly and a little beauty was born. Momma took care of her and it was pretty amazing to witness. Later, after speaking with our vet and describing the process, he confirmed that if Jess had not intervened, we would have likely lost the mom and both of her twin babies. I was quite proud of all the research and the cool calm and collected way she handled this.

baby-momma-grandma

This photo shows our youngest girl, her new momma and her grandma, all in one picture. It is so neat to see them all care for each other!

baby and roo

Adrienne was the assistant nurse with me, and was helping care for the babies through the process.

Patton, our Sanaanen Goat

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sanaanen-goat-2We got Patton as a rescue goat, to keep our Nigerian Dwarf herd sire Mattis company. He is a wether, and a gentle giant.

All he wants is attention and love, and he is quite the escape artist if left in the pasture too long! We have come to love this guy despite his shenanigans, and enjoy him following us around the barnyard like he is another one of our dogs.

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Categories: Animals Goats

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Preparing for kidding

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We know that our goats are pregnant thanks to the presence of a buck in their pen for the last six months. We had the vet out and he suggested that we save our money and not do the ultrasound test since we could see by the visibly growing bellies that they appeared pregnant. The Vet laughed and said that we could pretty well guarantee a happy kidding season in our future since we choose to pasture them together. So without knowing an exact due date we proceeded to prepare for kidding season.

  1. Jim built beautiful stalls within a larger pen inside the barn as a start. A place where we could house everyone away from the elements was very important to me. I picked out several lovely designs from Pinterest for him to see where I was gathering inspiration. Husbands love it when we do that don’t they? Pens, gates, and kidding stalls were what I was seeking ideas for.
  2. After that was completed a secondary pen was built using our 10 by 10 dog kennel panels on the far side of our barn. It worked out nicely that we could take down a previously used turkey pen and assemble the panels for the goats with a section saved for our roosters. This was done with shelters and large spools within the enclosure for our buck to be separated from the Mamas. He now lives there full-time with a doe we borrowed from another farm as company. It wouldn’t be fair to leave him out there all alone.
  3. The official “Kidding Kit” was put together and placed near the inside pen in a tupperware container to keep everything clean. There are plenty of clean towels, a trashbag and contents for the kit inside. We left the lubricant and Betadine in the house so they wouldn’t be overly cold when they were needed.
  4. Many books on goats – both dairy and meat goats were read. Each author adds details sharing how to prepare for the impending birth of your goat kids. They provide diagrams, photos and lists to help the novice learn. A few of my favorites are: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy GoatsThe Meat Goat Handbook and also many websites for goat health.ags2badga
  5. I reviewed our paperwork ensuring that all the does and buck have the appropriate certifications to make selling and showing the kids to be a smooth process. We had our American Goat Society certifications and paperwork in hand. Throughout the investigative process I realized that it would behoove us to seek dual certification through the American Dairy Goat Association.  The reason for this was the number of shows on the East Coast that I found for non-members of ADGS were smaller. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are a great milking breed so shows to share that and attempt to win awards only betters our farm reputation.
  6. Identitfy genetics and pedigree of our animals. Now normally I would say that this is something you should consider prior to buying your animals. We did this backwards so Jim and I began a family tree to show the pedigree of our goats. There were many templates and information found using google, however Jim ended up using PowerPoint as he is comfortable with the program and it is free. Many of the Pedigree sites had a fee. Using ADGA was interesting as I could look up the relatives of the goats we own! Through the process and reaching out to the breeders of our goats, we found out that there are champions in the pedigree so hooray for us, we lucked out.
  7. Physical observation – Now this comes as no imagesurprise that observing the normal behaviors of your goats is important; touching them regularly to keep an eye on the health and wellness. For example – now that we are nearing the time of birth, it is evident that the girls go from sitting to standing, rubbing their sides on the pen walls and exhibit opposite traits than previously observed. Raindrop runs away from me where she used to be the first to greet. Whereas Sushi comes to me, practically sitting in my lap where she used to be more standoffish. Much of the symptoms of labor have been noted in this article by Fiasco Farm. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/175781191678818226/

Review of pork butt/shoulder recipe

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Jim posted a great article about recipes for pork shoulder.. I decided to review one of the recipes posted.

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Below is our home -grown pork shoulder.

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The directions called for 8 hours of slow roasting at 250 degrees. I rubbed celtic salt and pepper all over the roast.

I chose to use my turkey roasting pan with parchment paper on the rack.

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It was very nice to have the house smell like a delicious roast all day. The roast was removed after 7 hours in the oven. You tent the roast with foil while pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees. Put the meat back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fat layer can get crispy.

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I was disappointed to see how much it shrunk! Something to take into consideration for the future. This roast fed 5 people, including our 19 year-old son. I think I will adjust our cut list to include larger roasts.

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This was juicy, melt in your mouth meat. It was served with cooked small multi-colored potatoes with butter and scallions on top. We also had a side of asparagus with fresh lemon on top. Great meal for a cold January night!

Homemade Suet

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imageI wanted to create some good calorie boosters aka boredom busters for our chickens and turkeys. Jim and I decided to use the fat from our butchered pig along with various grains.

I chose black oiled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, scratch grains and then filler. I found oatmeal pancake mix that had not been a hit with the kids as well as bulk oatmeal that has been around a while.

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I looked around online and saw interesting articles by folks who also were including herbs. I checked the cupboard again and found the oregano that I normally sprinkle in the food and dried dandelion for teas.

I cooked the fat down and did equal parts of all bulk ingredients of 1 cup of each with 2 TB of the herbs. Cooking the fat is also called rendering.

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All the ingredients were stirred and pressed into bread pans or whatever I had around.

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I can say that the thing I’ve learned now that I’ve shared these with the birds is that putting wax paper to ease the pressed and solidified cakes out of the pans is very helpful.

I pressed the ingredients into the pans and repeated the process a dozen times. In order to not have the fat stay sift, I stored all the pans in our garage where it’s below freezing here in NE PA in January.

The birds are getting a chunk every few days and the suet has been a hit.

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Categories: Pigs Poultry Projects

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Building Goat Enclosures

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20150211_170542When we got our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we had to build a shelter quickly, and they ended up with a small 4×8 shelter that has served us very well. We were able to pick up the house and move it to their larger pasture on the forks of our tractor and despite the moving and shifting, it has worked out very well.

Now however, we have been able to build a larger barn and plan to over winter our goats there, to facilitate the kidding process and simplify chores. We have attached paddock areas for the goats to get outdoor play time complete with climbing toys, but the objective inside the barn was to have separate birthing stalls and a means to contain them while in the barn.

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You can see in these (admittedly messy construction time) photos some of the details we built into the project. The coolest part of this build, it that we used oak board, harvest from our trees we removed to make way for the barn. We used a local sawmill and it was a good feeling to see the full circle for this lumber.

20150919_091501Each of our girls have their own stall, though as often as not they all pile in together. We will be adding stall gates to isolate them for the birthing. We are also planning to remove one of the wall boards to create feeding stanchions to better control what they are eating individually, but right now we manage that with buckets. The hay and straw rack on top is a handy addition that we use for storage as well as feed to keep things contained.

Lessons learned here include the fact that even little goats can climb! Note the photo of our buck on top of the wall. Overall we are happy with the result, but we will be making some updates in the coming months after we get a bit more time in to see what else we can improve.

Ham Hocks

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Hocks are not a typical part of a cut list people think about in the northern United States, but are an important addition to ask for on your list.  The hock is the middle portion of the leg, above the feet but not up into the ham or picnic roast.

When buying a whole of half pig, it is important to recognize that you are investing in a farm raised, healthy animal, but also to know that there are ways to get the most value for your dollar. Part of that is to learn how to use every part of the pig and the hock is no exception.

As the hocks are not generally a robust meat cut, but they are full of flavor, they are often used in bean and rice dishes or soups and stews for flavor building. I am including a few links here to get you started on using the hock, and I encourage you to try it out and include it on your cut list.

From over at AmazingRibs.com there is Hoppin’ John Beans & Rice. This is one that is relatively simple but rich and flavorful. I recommend it as a winter evening meal.

If you want to avoid the beans route,  I recommend looking for stew or soup recipes that you like, and substituting for example a ham hock for a chicken carcass.

You can also try cooking the hocks with greens or even sauerkraut for a different flavor and delicious combination. For these approaches, all you need to add is salt and pepper to taste, but I feel it is best to start with a smoked hock for best flavor.

Pork Ribs

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Ribs are almost a religion in many parts of the United States, and the world for that matter. There are those who swear by the dry rub, those who say the secret is all in the sauce, those who will say there is no other way than smoking on wood and any other permutation you might think if.

I love most ways they can be prepared, but I lean to smoked with a dry rub and finished with a sauce that does not over power the pork flavor. If you do not have a smoker, you can make do with a grill and a smoker box for wood chips. If you do not have that, you can use a grill and put your wood chips in an aluminum foil packet after soaking them, poke some holes in it and toss it in the coals or on your hot side of the grill. The ribs will mostly cook on the indirect heat, or non fueled side of the grill.

Please check out AmazingRibs.com for this part. I have linked to their site for other cuts, but they do such a good job on rib options I think it it THE place to start. Once you get a foundation there, feel free to experiment and search the internet for other options.

There are options for every taste. My main advice here is to not fall into any single camp or accept any one of the rib religions. Play around, enjoy them and take the time to search out hole in the wall rib shacks in your area or on your travels. Learn from them, ask questions and apply your lessons at home.

If you are still reading at this point, and not already at the Amazing Ribs site, go now to the recipe for “Last Meal Ribs: The Best Barbecue Ribs You’ve Ever Tasted!

Cooking a Ham

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The Ham comes from the upper hind leg of the pig and comes in many sizes depending on how you request your cut list, or what your local butcher may have. Bone in or carved from the bone will change cooking times and technique to some degree so pay attention to your particular recipe and account for this variation when preparing your own ham.

For smaller families or couples, it is possible to ask your butcher / note on your cut list to cut your large ham into smaller portions to speed cooking and spread over multiple meals. I recommend this approach where possible as it gives you the most flexible use of the meat and allows you to maximize the variety of ways you might prepare this delicious cut. Additionally, if you are ordering a pig from us, this will be a part of the cut list selection and you will need to determine if you will want your ham smoked or not, based on preference and taste. I am a fan of the smoked flavor and I go for that option for my family.

The authoritative primer on all things Ham

As you will find, I frequently link to or point to the site AmazingRibs.com for their recipes and ideas. I am not repeating that content here – they do such a good job I think it is best to simply go there and learn as I have. Please start with that to understand options and then build on it from there.

Smoked, Honey-Glazed Ham

At honest-food.net, there is a good recipe for smoked, honey glazed ham.  I am including this one as it is a nice foundation recipe that you can use to build from and tweak to your liking. The author bases his off a wild hog, but points out that you might use a variety of hind leg cuts with the same success. The article covers the curing as well as cooking and is a good reference to understand the process, even if you pick a different finishing technique. If you visit this link, please take the time to read the comment thread at the bottom of the article as I think that is as valuable a resource as the article itself.

Baked Ham with Rum and Coke Glaze

This is a no-brainer, it has rum in the recipe! Seriously though, this one is worth reading through and giving a whirl. It is not complex, but it is a bit labor intensive in terms of staying on the process with the glaze. I suggest sticking with the suggestion for the dark brown sugar and a dark rum for flavor when you make this one and use the real deal coca-cola, this is another place to not compromise.

Ham Slices / Ham Steaks

While not a link or recipe, I suggest adding some ham steaks to your cut list. I am a big fan of these for a hearty morning breakfast coupled with farm fresh eggs and potatoes. They are super easy to cook – pan fry in a cast iron skillet or even grill.  They will taste sort of like a cross between ham and bacon  and have a great texture to fill you up and get your day going.