Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Continued... The beginning.

Since I am off this weekend, I have a chance to catch up in between fall Kidding. I have around 20 does very pregnant, most are Nigerian Dwarf goats, some are Boers and Boer percentages, and a couple are Nubians. The Nubians were bred later, so should not kid until next year.

It is COLD this morning... 40 degrees, which is pretty nippy to the southern folks. I have yet to turn on the heat and am happy to have my Icelandic Wool Socks on my feet and some wool caps to wear to the farm. I had better hurry up and finish my sweater. It is from my sheep. I have hand spun the wool and knitting as I go. I have the wool of Saxon, a cream colored icelandic ram, Havvah, who is spotted gray morrit (her roving is a gray brown), and have incorporated some of the Cheviot Lamb wool as well. I have the body and one sleeve finished. The second sleeve is past the cuff, so hopefully will have it finished in a couple of weeks.

I stopped the sweater when I came across an easy mitten pattern in Countryside Magazine. I had to try the pattern and now have a pair of mittens to wear out to the farm. I had to change the pattern slightly due to my big hands. The pattern is in the Nov/Dec 2008 edition on page 88. I love this magazine, it is a Homesteading & Small Stock Journal.

Now, back to the beginning. Who am I and how did I come about being a farmer. I grew up in Armada, Michigan on a farm. My dad was a cash cropper. We raised Corn, Wheat, Oats, Soy Beans and Navy Beans. Our farm was very rocky and my first memories were my sister and I picking up rocks. I mean more rocks then you could imagine. Every spring, more rocks grew in the fields. Our entire drive way has about 6 foot of rock base, placed by hand by us. My brother drove the tractor while we worked our behinds off.

I had a horse living at a neighbor's house, horses drew flies and mom said NO HORSE, so I made arrangements (stubbornness already showing) for him to stay at another farm. I bought the horse through barter, mowed grass and shoveled out stalls. My dad gave me oats and corn to feed him and straw from the oat & wheat fields. I only had to purchase hay, which was cheap then. I raised rabbits and did my own butchering and sold to neighbors. This financed the horse and horse shows. I also showed the rabbits in 4H and my dad took me to rabbit breeders to get good stock. The breeders always gave kids a break on the price of quality stock, so I pass this on to kids who want to purchase goats now. I usually give them a $100 break, depending on the base price of the animal. Anyway, I had great rabbits, joined the rabbit association, read the standard and bred accordingly. My rabbits where never beaten. One year at our Armada Fair, I took 22 rabbits of different breeds, ages and sexes. I put only one rabbit in each class and came home with 22 firsts, 2 Best of Breeds, 2 Best Opposite Sex and Best in Show. That year my quarter horse gelding also won Grand Champion Gelding. It was a mighty good year and paid the feed bill as well. I truly believe 4-H should be every kids goal and kept me out of trouble, teaching me how to work, be responsible and make money as a kid. Allowances did not exist for me and if I wanted money to do things, I had to work for it.

From kid hood I was suddenly out of high school and heading to college. I wanted to raise livestock on the farm and my parents would not go there. I was not interested in cash crop farming and even then (80s), the outlay of money verses payback was crazy. The more corn my dad raised, the cheaper it got. I remember when a 100 bushels to the acre and above was just possible with the new corn hybrids. The corn stalks where over 12 foot high. We would stand on the pickup and the other of us kids would go into the field and shake stalks until we found that really tall one to dig up and put into the tallest cornstalk contest at the fair.

Anyway, farming was out for now. I headed to college to be a Veterinarian. I had worked with my local Vet, Dr. Krause in Armada and would go on large animal rounds with him almost every Saturday. I dehorned dairy cattle, a bloody mess really, helped with calf pulling, mastitis, retained placentas, horse colic cases, wormed horses the old tube way and that is just the beginning. He later hired me to clean kennels and help out while I was attending junior college. I earned an Animal Technician degree and later went to Michigan State (MOO U) for Veterinary School. I worked at MSU Veterinary Clinic as an Animal Technician while attending college. It took 3 tries and a 3.8 GPA to finally get accepted. By then I had had enough of school and it was impossible to work and go to Vet School at the same time. Burn out was an understatement!

One cold Michigan Day, I said the hell with it and headed to Florida. I stayed with my aunt and grandmother while I decided what to do. I was done with college for awhile and wanted a bit of adventure. By this time I had a BS in Animal Science, which does not get you to far in the city. I tried different jobs and was told at a Veterinary Clinic I was overqualified for the job. So, what to do... Go into the Military. Yeah, I went with the Navy, why you ask... I wanted the Air Force, but their weight requirements did not match my frame. Being 5 ft 8, with shoulders and bone structure to throw hay bales, did not allow to make weight, which was 12 pounds under the navy requirements. So Navy here we go...

Boot camp was a breeze and I was shocked at how out of shape these women where. Most were younger then I, wimpy and whinny, Ugh! Anyhow, the Navy was OK, since I had always had my act together. It was a bit annoying with the hurry up and wait. I met my husband in the military and we were married. We went from Orlando, Florida to Great Lakes, Ill. Yuck! Great Lakes Naval Base is the coldest cold I have ever experienced. The wind chill factor off the lake froze your nose hairs as one tried to breath. We had to take our car battery in the house at night, or our car would not start. One did not dare lock your car door, or it would be frozen shut for the winter. Michigan was cold, but this was like the artic !! Dressed in Navy Wool, with layers of wool, that wind cut you like a knife. Frost would build up on the inside of the house windows an inch thick. Come spring I was pregnant and ready to head to California with my Husband. I put in for a discharge in order to keep the family together. My son Tim was born in San Diego and was just an infant when we transferred to Charleston, South Carolina. I was a stay at home mom and going crazy. Once my son was a bit older I was working for a Veterinarian in Charleston as an animal technician. I worked on small animals and got to do some work on the carriage horses who pull the tours around Charleston. My boss was afraid of horses and could not understand why she was so hyper around them. The carriage horses are the ultimate tame horse and she would have them dancing around to give a vaccination. Once she sent me over there by myself and I was in and out, no worries, no stress, no problem. When the owned asked for me to return without her, she never let me go back.

While in Charleston, I was over the college burn out and wanted to try something else. I went over to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston to find out what my options were. They mentioned Pharmacy School and how part-time, one could make X money. I said sign me up. This was the late 80s. I graduated with a BS in Pharmacy in 1991. I worked at several hospitals in the area and when my marriage went south, worked part time in retail to make extra money for the divorce. I have been on my own ever since and raised my son, not ever meeting another compatible man. I have dated and such, but things just did not work out. That sole mate was just not meant to be...

Ok, we are over it... Now, as a Pharmacist and financially independent, off we go. We go from Charleston, SC to Pa for an internship to Selma, Alabama to run a hospital. To much ambition and drive, make for a boring lady. After years at the hospital and busting butt, I found out the hard way, how one makes themselves no longer useful once you fix everything. Lesson learned, never kill yourself for anyone but yourself!

I left the hospital and went into retail. A different world, people and the public can be tuff, but most are good people, but one grumpy jerk can mess up your day. I like retail because you are not bothered on your off time and there is NO CALL. I have been in retail now for 8 years. Somewhere during this transition, I started getting homesick for the farm and living a more natural, healthy lifestyle. I lived in a gated subdivision within the city limits. There is woods and brush between homes and it is very private. What could I sneak into the back yard? A cow, even a Mini Jersey? When I priced the Mini Jersey Cattle, the prices of $5000 was insane. How about goats? Yep, that is how I started in goats, two bred Nigerian Dwarf Does (pictured above) in my back yard. They were quiet and each had a baby doe in January. I milked them, one being my Blue, the cover girl to my soap products, the other her witch sister Bell, who is no longer here, but sold to another farm.

This was my humble beginning in goats. I later moved the goats to a friend's farm and expanded my herd. I fed his horses and helped on the farm to keep the goats there. The goats also cleared brush and were tame enough to allow farm access where they wanted to go. They always came a running when called in at night. Blue is now some 5 or 6 years old. She is the only horned Nigerian Dwarf I have. I milk her on occasion, but have some other does who milk more and I prefer to go with the production girls. I learned to make soap and lotion and cream. I made it for myself, due to my dry skin. I bought a book, The SoapMaker's Companion, by Susan Miller Cavitch. The very first soap I ever made was her White Chocolate Mousse Soap on page 31. It has olive oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, etc.. It is an easy light colored soap and the cocoa butter makes it smell like chocolate. I took that formula and changed it a bit for my Cocoa Butter Soap. The only draw back to this book, is the formulas are in grams and folks hate to do the conversions to ounces. I suggest getting a scale that will do both and no worries.

I really hate it when some twit emails me and wants my soap and lotion formulas. DO I LOOK STUPID? Some of these formulas have been played with for some time. There is no way I would give up the formulas without serious dollars. Common sense is not what a lot of folks have. Some folks do not want to read and experiment on their own. All I can say is, sorry and shame on you.

Enough of all that... I enjoy the soaps and lotions and have made cheese as well. But, due to all the Government Regulation, which chokes us farmers on a daily bases, I only make it for myself. I can sell raw goat milk for pet consumption, but can not sell it for human consumption here in Alabama. Most of my milk is frozen and used on bottle babies or for myself. My son claims he does not like goat milk, but when he comes, I buy a half gallon of cow milk, pour it out and switch it with goat milk. I must make sure the date is close, because he checks the date to see if I have fooled him. Tim can not tell the difference, other then it is a bit creamier.

After the Nigerians I bought a couple of Boer Goats to try. I like the meat goats because, yes, I do eat goat meat. But, I don't like to butcher and send them to Reed's in Clantin, Al. But, they need to weigh between 70 and 100 pounds in order to justify the $55 fee. The Nigerians full grown as bucks only get to about 70 pounds and the bucks are strong tasting. So I wether (neutered male) a Boer or two every year and have them processed into steaks, chops and hamburger. Yum! It is some of the most healthy meat, no growth hormone or antibiotics. I raised them and know exactly what they ate and they were teated well and on pasture with grain supplement up until the end. The meat is even marbled.

I have one Boer Breeding buck who is going to the butcher next week. He had an infection in his testicle which has left him sterile. We are not sure what happened to him. He was with 3 does and his testicle blew up like a balloon. I treated him, took him to the vet and we had treated him for 2 months. The vet determined he was done as a breeder. None of the 3 does he was with became pregnant. We had to wait for all the drugs and antibiotics to clear from his system before sending him to Reeds. He will be made into Brock Sausage. The strong buck taste is cut by the spices. It is wonderful sausage, made with real casing as well. It is not always easy to send your goats to their end. This buck I raised from a baby and showed him at some Boer Shows. He is almost 2 years and almost 300 pounds and a baby. He is a big smelly baby. A friend will take him to the butcher, I can not do it. That is one of the bad things about farming. One has to do things we don't always want to do. I can not justify feeding a buck or even if wethered, a 300 pound goat. I need the space for a breeding group of sheep. This buck will nourish the family and he had a very good life. I have his full brother, The Rock, his father and his mother is pregnant again.

October of 07 I was able to purchase the 40 acres of farm land and from scratch am putting the Farm together. We started moving goats over in March 08 and that is where this story ends.

I will talk more about the sheep at a later time. Now I need to get a million things done and I have to go back to work Monday. Yes, I work full time and farm full time. I would not have it any other way...