Busy Spring Days

It has been some time since my last post and all I can say is that teaching full time is a huge draw on my time and brain power, but I am taking a little time tonight to work on a farm update.

It is finally getting warmer in the north woods. There are more days were the sun was shining, the temperature ranges close to 50 F, and the wind has been blowing most days. I wish I could sit in the sun with a good book but spring days are busy days and I have been enjoying the nice weather in other ways.

Maple Syrup

One of our accomplishments this spring was boiling sap into maple syrup. For about 3-4 weeks in the spring we tap the maple trees on our property and collect the sap. This year we tapped 22 trees and have currently harvested 120 gallons of sap. We have a system where we collect sap during the week and spend Friday and Saturday cooking it down into syrup. We usually complete 3 cook downs before we are ready to be done for the season.

Our sap boiler is basically a square woodstove with a holding tray for a large stainless steel pan that holds 35 gallons and has a spigot welded into it. There is a blower fan built into the woodstove door which keeps the fire hot but also means we have to put wood into it every half hour or so. As the sap reduces we add more to cook off what we had collected for the week which during our second week was roughly 65 gallons. After the sap cooked all day we filled the woodstove and shut off the blower fan so it could simmer through the night. In the morning we added more wood to get the fire back up and cooked it for a few more hours. Then we emptied the pan and brought the almost syrup in to finish it on the stove. With the use of a hydrometer we were able to cook it down to almost 2 gallons of maple syrup.

This year we experimented a little with making cinnamon flavored syrup. It tastes amazing! After funneling hot maple syrup into a jar we added a cinnamon stick to it, closed up the jar, and let it sit for awhile. That’s it, super simple and soooo tasty.


Our goat herd has fluctuated a bit over the last year. In June we bought a new goat from a large dairy and Fiona, my daughter, named her Lazy Daisy. We bred her to one of Nora’s last kids in the fall along with Britney who is a two year old Nubian/Alpine/Oberhasli cross. Lazy Daisy had triplets on the last day of March. She had two does and one buck and they look exactly like her and are extremely hard to tell apart. Since she had come from a large dairy where the milking goats start milking right away and the kids are bottle fed separate from their mothers we weren’t sure how well she would care for her kids but she is doing wonderfully. She is turning out to be a great mother and I haven’t had to help her with her triplets at all besides putting out a heat lamp for them as it is cold in our area.

Britney had two bucks a week later on a cold, cold day. We put out a heat lamp for her right away and tried to get each kid to suckle. They each struggled but I thought after a while under the heat lamp they would perk up. An hour or so later I brought a bottle with me and milked Britney a little in a bottle to get a little nutrients into them. Britney did really well for never having been milked before and she tried to stay very still when her babies were trying to drink from her.

The first few days were a struggle. Before and after school I tried to get each to drink from Britney if that failed I had them drink from a bottle. A few times I had to bring one into the house to warm up and bottle feed but they are finally doing well on their own. I also had to milk Britney twice because she was making more milk than the two little ones could drink and she was getting overfull and a bit sore.

I think she is turning out to be a pretty good mama. Even though her kids struggled more it was mostly because she had never had kids before and didn’t quite know what to do with them. She kept looking at them and me like she wasn’t sure exactly where they came from and what to do with them. I can relate because I felt the same way when I had my first baby.


Trenton built a beautiful new moveable coop for the chickens last fall and they spent a few months in it moving around the pasture. Unfortunately, shortly after we put all the chickens in it we realized we had too many chickens for that sized coop. In November we moved them back into the built in coop in our barn. Today Lucian started cleaning the new coop out so we can put the ducks in it. The ducks have a small coop and run by the barn. There are only two of them so they do not need a ton of space but we haven’t found a good way to clean out their yard yet so they need to move for a while. Their yard is mucky and full of a winter’s worth of duck poop. Their shelter is clean but their yard is filthy so it will be better for them to be moved elsewhere until we can come up with a new plan for them.


This last fall we lost our Haflinger pony Melody. Our remaining horse, Jack, took it very hard and was depressed for months. He spent most of his time standing in his pasture looking sad and lost. A friend of ours mentioned that they were thinking of selling their Welsh Cross pony, Blaze, because her kids had outgrown him. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a look and see what we thought about him. After looking him over and taking him for a ride we decided to go ahead and buy him for a few different reasons.

  1. Jack needed a friend because he was not doing well on his own.
  2. A smaller sized horse would be more comfortable for the kids to learn how to ride.
  3. He was trained to both ride and drive and has been a kid’s horse his entire life.
  4. We had enough hay for two horses for the winter.

Jack is not as fond of Blaze as he was of Melody but he is appreciative of the company. He is a nice pony who has taken the kids on a quite a few lead “rides” this winter. His only drawback is that he is hard to catch. It will occasionally take about 20 minutes to catch him but other than that he is working out nicely. It’s about time for me to start working the horses this spring and I am really looking forward to it.

Jack’s first meeting with Blaze.

One difficulty over the winter has been that our tractor is not working and to fix it is going to be a big undertaking. This makes it very difficult to put 900 pound round bales out into the horse pasture. Usually we end up tying a strap around one and dragging it into their pen with our truck. It works but it is definitely a pain.

Garden and Orchard

Lucian spent most of the winter chopping small trees out of our future orchard site and it is starting to clear out nicely. Trenton will be going in their soon with the chainsaw to cut the wood into firewood sized chunks. We are also planning to invest in woven goat fencing this year to fence in the orchard space so we can set the goats to clearing it out completely.

The garden is only in the planning phase and is still a distant thought. We did not get around to planting starters this year but we are going to cut out a few kinds of plants that don’t flourish in our soil so we won’t be purchasing as many greenhouse plants anyway.


Experimental Christmas Soap

This year has been the busiest, craziest school year in all the years I have been teaching. I am glad I was able to squeeze in a little soap making time over Thanksgiving break. Each year I make one or two batches of soap that I use over the year and that I give away as Christmas presents. I bought a few new, cute soap molds this year so I am now able to make 6 pounds of soap at a time. I usually make them in 2 pound batches because that is how much my soap bowl will hold and because I like to make a variety of scents.

My kids are young so soap making day is strictly a no kid time. Usually Penelope is in daycare 3 days a week while the other two are in school. I have the same breaks as my school age kids so there is no point in Penelope going to daycare all day while I am home with the other two. Fortunately the daycare center I use is great and they were willing to take care of all three kids for a few hours one day that week rather than one child for 3 days. That gave me two hours of kid free time to make 6 pounds of soap. In order to make that work I had to do a little prep work first.

Prep Work For Making Soap:

  • Pour goat milk into ice cube trays and freeze it. Then transfer the cubes into freezer bags when they are solid.
  • Clear everything off my table and cover with newspaper to help make cleanup faster.
  • Take out and set up my soap making tools which are a big glass bowl, kitchen scale, variety of smaller bowls, thermometer, immersion blender and all the soap molds.
  • Get the oils set out. I use a variety of oils in my soap such as olive oil, coconut oil, lard, sunflower seed oil, and castor oils.
  • Pick out what scents and additives I want to use for my soaps.
  • Set my son Lucian to grinding up oatmeal and powdering comfrey for my experimental soap.

This year for my experimental soap I picked out oatmeal and comfrey to try. Both oatmeal and comfrey are good for your skin and I wanted to try adding a little color to my soap but I’m not big into artificial additives. I thought it would be fun to try to color my soap using herbs that I grew in the garden this year. The soap making book I have, Pure Soapmaking, has a chapter on using herbs and other natural additives. A few of the herbs listed are very common herbs in our area so I thought it would be easy to try one out. My comfrey grows very well in our sandy soil and every year I collect some to dry. I set Lucian to grinding it up using a big mortar and pestle. It took quite a while for him to grind the leaves into a few teaspoons of the powdered herb but he had fun. He likes to help and he was bummed that I wouldn’t let him stay home to actually help make the soap. Each of the kids took turns grinding up oatmeal which was much easier for the littler ones. After we had everything ground up I put it into baggies for the next day.

Soap Making Day

I use a cold process method to make my soap which is why I needed frozen goat milk. I slowly add my lye to the frozen milk cubes and stir it often. While I am adding the lye to my milk I also work on measuring out my oils into my big bowl. Usually I am able to get my oils mixed together and warmed up slightly by the time I am done mixing in the lye. The goal is to mix the lye in slowly enough and stir it often enough that I don’t scorch the milk and to keep all the ingredients under 100 degrees F. I then add the lye/goat milk mixture to the oils and I use a stick blender to mix it all together. When the soap is to trace, or starting to thicken, I add the scents and other additives.

For the fist batch I made my favorite orange/clove scented soap using essential oils. The second was scented with orange and I added the coffee grounds from my morning coffee. This soap is a good scrubbing soap which is a favorite of my sisters. My last batch was my experimental soap. I added the oatmeal first and mixed it in. I was worried that I had put in too much but it turned out alright. I don’t always measure things like I should so I’m going to guess I used about 1/2 cup of oatmeal. Then I mixed the powdered comfrey which is supposed to color the soap a light green color. The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of powdered comfrey per pound of soap. We were only able to get about 2 1/2 teaspoons of powdered comfrey from what I had dried this year. That ended up being about 1 1/2 teaspoons less than I needed but I was surprised at how fast it colored the soap. Last I added lavender essential oil as a nice scent to my herbal soap. I used my new soap molds for my experimental batch of soap and am really happy with how they turned out.

Oatmeal/Comfrey Soap, Coffee/Orange Soap, and Orange/Clove Soap

The color is different, the oatmeal adds a nice texture to it, and the lavender scent is lovely. I think I will definitely make this recipe again although I will probably adjust it. I think a little less oatmeal and a bit more comfrey to darken the color would be perfect. Maybe next time I make soap I will try making a two toned yarrow and nettle soap which is supposed to turn out light yellow and green.

Sweet Melody

It has been a long time since I posted an update on the happenings of our small farm. At the end of August I started working full time at a local school. The position is funded by a special three year grant and is designed to help close the gap in student learning caused by the pandemic. This change in job status has made it more difficult to find the time to write about what we have been up to on the farm. I would have to say that this year has been a difficult year on our little homestead.

Melody, the Halflinger pony we got two years ago, died at the end of September. I have never seen an animal get so sick so fast as Melody did. The day we lost her I went out to feed them at about 9 o’clock and noticed that she did not come up for her grain. I saw her out in the pasture laying down and called to her again. She got up and came over but didn’t eat. She circled around and laid back down biting at her belly like it hurt. I immediately went on high alert because this is a major colic sign.

A few signs of colic:

  • Frequently laying down or refusal to get up.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Biting or kicking at their belly which is a sign of belly pain.
  • Rolling
  • Sweating

I finished my other morning chores then got her up and walked her around for a few minutes. I then called the vet to see if there was anything else that I could do for her besides walk her around. I also called my sister to come over to help take turns walking Melody and watching the kids. Penelope is two and did not understand why she couldn’t help me with the horses. The vet recommended giving her a dose of Banamine or Bute if I did not have the Banamine to make her more comfortable which would help get her on her feet and moving around more.

I only had enough Banamine on hand to give her half a dose so I measured out a half dose of Bute powder, mixed it in with some water and put it into a syringe. She was laying down at this time so I had the kids keep clear while I laid her head down on the ground and gave her both the Banamine and Bute orally as the vet instructed. Next, I brought them into the barnyard pasture which is closer to the house and yard so I could watch her closer. For the next hour and a half my sister, niece, nephew, and I walked her for 10-15 minutes and gave her a break for 10-15 minutes.

At the end of the last walk she appeared to have green watery stuff dribbling out of her nose. I gave her a break and called the vet right away because green watery stuff coming out of her nose is the horse version of mild vomiting. She came out as soon as she could and sedated her a bit to make her more comfortable and gave her medicine to help relax the smooth muscles of her stomach and intestines. Within a few minutes it became apparent that she was already too far gone and was close to stomach rupture. We put her down at 1 o’clock. Fighting to save her and watching her go was one of the most horrible and saddest events on this farm so far.

Jack, our other horse, was beside himself with grief. While we were walking her he walked behind her and when she was laying down while the vet checked on her he stood at her head nickering to her. He yelled and ran off when she took her last breaths but we wanted him to be there so he could understand why she would be gone. We left her there for a few hours so he would know and so the girls could say goodbye when they woke up from their naps. We moved him back to the farther pasture when it was time to take her away and he ran along the fence line yelling for her. He has been depressed since she has been gone and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him.

The kids miss Melody quite a bit. She was a great little horse with a sweet albeit spooky temperament. We called her our little hobbit mountain pony because of her small stature but giant feet. She was loved and will be missed.

Newcomer to the Farm

We were not looking for a new goat so soon after Nora died but we were forced to change the whole dynamic of our small herd with her loss. When we took a few of our remaining kids to a local sheep and goat sale we started chatting with a nice couple that were also selling a few of their goats. They have a large goat dairy a few hours south from where we live. While we were there they told us about a doe they were going to sell privately. We were interested so we got their information.

We decided it would be good for our herd to get another goat that is in full milk. Also Fauna is 8 years old and we haven’t decided if we are going to keep her much longer because of her lack of interest in her kids. Anyway we had a small family get together south of where we live and we picked the new doe up right afterwards. The owners of the dairy gave us a little tour of their farm and showed us their milking parlor. We shared a few goat stories before we loaded her up and headed home. The whole way home my daughter called her Elsa and the entire time we worked to convince her we were not deciding on a name before we knew more about her.

Once we got her home we discovered a few set backs.

  1. She is used to being in a barn all the time.
  2. She has never been out on pasture so grazing and browsing are new to her.
  3. Leading with a collar is a new skill.
  4. She does not like the feed we have and refuses to eat it.
  5. Hand milking is new to her and will take a little getting used to.
  6. She does NOT like dogs. There were no dogs at her previous home and she does not like them around.
  7. So far she has not bonded well with the other goats. They don’t pick on her but she doesn’t seem to be part of the herd either.

Basically she did not have enough stimuli as a kid and does not know how to be a real goat. Simple things such as going outside to eat grass and weeds are hard for her. She spends most of the time maaaaing at the gate because she wants to be let back into the barn. She is watching the other goats though and picking up on their behavior. Just yesterday she followed Brittney up onto the wooden spools in their pen and was jumping around on them like a normal goat. I’m hoping that she will modify her behavior to fit into the rest of the herd.

Over the past few weeks many of these issues have resolved themselves with the exception of numbers 6 & 7. She does not like dogs one little bit. We usually use the dogs to herd the goats into certain pastures and to bring them in at the end of the day if they are out on stakes. Rather than staying with the rest of the goats and heading to the barn she will stop and try to fight the dogs. This is bad. My dogs are working dogs and it is their job to bring the goats in at night. They aren’t aggressive with the goats unless they aren’t going where they are supposed to. Usually the goats and the dogs know what their jobs are so this is not an issue. The new goat is not working well with the dogs. When she doesn’t go with the rest of the herd the dogs snap at her which makes her try to chase after the dogs which in turn has the dogs trying to herd her more aggressively. Not good things. We have been trying to lead her in while the dogs bring in the rest of the herd. This is not necessarily the best solution because we want her to become integrated with the herd but we do not want anymore soured feelings to develop between her and the dogs.

My daughter has settled on Lazy Daisy as her name which fits her better than Elsa but time will tell how her personality will fit into our small hobby farm. Right now we are having a few difficulties but it has been quite a while since we brought a new goat to our small hobby farm. It will be interesting to see how she settles in over next few months.

Goodbye Nora

Nora was the first goat we purchased for our farm in 2013 and she has been the matriarch of our herd since. Nora went off her feed about a month ago and slowly declined from there. We called the vet and she recommended trying an injection of Vitamin B to boost her appetite, an injection of Banamine as an anti-inflammatory/fever reducer, and a probiotic to promote gut health. This treatment did not work so we tried sulfa tablets like we treated Fauna earlier this year. These treatments did not help. Her health went from bad to worse and the day after we returned from a short mini vacation she couldn’t stand on her own. She was able to get up with help and walk about a 100 yards to the barn alright. The next day was a Monday and the vet come out to do a more thorough examination of her. She gave her a few different injections and wormers to try to see if one would help. She also took a fecal sample to do a fecal egg count even though she didn’t think it was a parasite problem because I had just wormed all the goats a few weeks before. She thought she might have some sort of internal bleeding and we could only wait to see if one of the treatments would help. In the meantime I was giving her electrolytes to keep her hydrated and trying to feed her the best hay and grain to get her to eat.

While we waited for results she lost the ability to stand on her own for more than a few brief moments. Using girth straps that I use for saddling the horses we were able to rig up a system so she could “stand” and keep blood flow to her legs. During this time Trenton hurt his back so one of our neighbors and their son came out a few times a day to help me get her up and walking with assistance. On Wednesday we received the test results and the count was 4000 Strongyle per gram! That is astronomically high but knowing the parasite type allowed the vet to treat her in a more targeted manner. She prescribed two different wormers Valbazen and Prohibit (levamisole hydrochloride) Soluble Drench powder and to treat the whole herd with them. We did so right away and over the next few days her appetite increased and she was able to stand for longer on her own and to walk easier with a little less support.

I think a combination of high temperatures and not enough rain has made for a high parasite year. Pasture goats have a tendency towards higher parasite levels and as I learned after our third year of having goats the parasites will also become resistant to the wormer we use. Generally rotating wormers will prevent parasite problems. I rotate Safeguard which has 10%  Fenbendazole, Ivermectin, and pumpkin pulp and seeds as a natural wormer. Our system has worked well for the last several years and we have had no problem with parasites. Apparently not this year!

The increase of parasites this year did not seem to have any effect on the other goats. It could be a combination of age, higher susceptibility, or a different underlying health issue but Nora was hit hard. After treating her we were hopeful that she would get better because she was eating, drinking, trying to get up on her own, and walking under her own power, mostly. The vet recommended giving her a solid week to build her strength and see if she would be able to get up on her own. She was improving all week but after about a week and a half she suddenly took a turn for the worse and her appetite went back down. Overnight she took on a gaunt look and the next day we decided it was time to put her down.

It was an incredibly sad day. She was our lead goat and the other goats are a little lost without her. We had a lot of good memories with her and I’m glad for the time she was here.

Here’s a little poem for Nora. We’re going to miss our leading lady on our little farm.


The Boss Lady

Lover of chicken feed, apples, and bread.

Mother to all kids, goats or human kind.

Enjoyer of a good head scratch.

Hater of cats.

The Boss Lady

Will be missed.

Nora giving little 2 year old Fiona a goat ride. (No idea why she had a toy plastic hammer in her hand)


On our 5 acre hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. Nora is the first goat we bought and has been our more stable albeit noisier goat. We bought Fauna about a month after Nora and she is our roller coaster goat with far more ups and downs.

She is an 8 year old Nubian/Oberhasli cross that we bought when she was about 4 months old. Over the almost 8 years that she has been on our farm she has had 7 batches of kids. While dying is a part of farm life her kids do have a slightly higher mortality rate than Nora’s do. I took a quick look through the farm records and here is what I found out about Fauna:

  • Has given birth 7 times.
  • 4 sets of twins.
  • 3 sets of triplets.
  • Total of 17 kids.
  • 2 kid deaths.
  • 6 kids that I have had to take into the house to warm up.
  • 1 bottle baby.

Fauna is a great milk producer but temperament wise she is a prickly lady. This spring kidding season has been difficult for her and me. She had triplets again this year, two bucks and one little doe. Fauna was not letting her kids eat at first and we actually had to hold her this year which was a first. She also tried to headbutt me while I held her which has also never happened before. For the first few days we would check on them every few hours and hold Fauna so the kids could eat. After that she started to let them eat just fine. There is usually one kid she semi rejects that I have to bring in the house to warm up whether she has twins or triplets. The doe kid is the one she’s not favoring this year and we had to bring her into the house a few times to warm her up and get some colostrum in her.

Unfortunately when the kids were about a week and a half old we noticed that the little doe was looking bony and dehydrated. My son Lucian and I started to hold one of the bucks so she had an opportunity to eat but that didn’t seem to be enough for her. I had milk left over in the freezer that I thawed out so I could bottle feed her at least twice a day. Fauna didn’t completely reject her but she wasn’t looking out for her either. I used up our store of frozen milk after about three weeks.

Now I have been milk sharing from Nora to feed Fauna’s kid. Milk sharing is when you separate a lactating mother from her kids for a short time so you are able to milk her but her kids are still able to feed from her for the rest of the day. Nora’s kids are only 4 days older than Fauna’s kids but they are almost twice the size. I have been putting Nora into a different pen at night, milking her in the morning then letting her out to pasture with her kids during the day. She makes enough milk to feed the little doe, whom Lucian named Fantasy, about 10 oz. morning and night with a little left over to save for the days I have to work early and don’t have as much time for chores.

I have to say milking then bottle feeding has been a little more labor and time intensive than I would like. Also Fauna’s attitude has been deplorable this spring. Her kids are now 6 weeks old and I am just now starting to be able to let my own kids around her. She has been trying to headbutt them every time they walk by her pen. Penelope is two and for some reason she seems to be the one Fauna aims at the most. She also tried to headbutt at me when we were first getting her kids to nurse which is an attitude I do not appreciate. Her disposition has steadily been declining over the last few years and while we have had her for eight years this is still a working farm and it is time to cull her.

We have come up with a plan that I think will work well for us. We plan to sell all the kids except little Fantasy and one of Fauna’s buck kids. We will also be selling Fauna as soon as we wean her kids. I am a little sad to see her go but she is starting to become a hazard to my children so it is time for her to find a new home. The plan is to use the buck kid to breed Nora one last time in the fall as they are not related in the slightest. Then we will sell him in December before Christmas. Hopefully Nora will have a doe next year because I really want to keep her line going on our little hobby farm.

Easter Kids

Our little farm has two dairy goats that we have had since a few months after we bought our property in May of 2012. We bought Nora a two year old Alpine Oberhasli cross in August of 2012 and Fauna a 3 month old Nubian Oberhasli cross in September of 2012. Before purchasing Nora I had no experience with dairy goats. Dairy cows yes, but goats NO. I soon learned that while the milk comes out the same way they are not the same. Goats require a whole different mindset when it comes to feeding, fencing, and socializing.

Nora is the first goat I have ever had and over the last nine years she has consistently had her kids close to Easter. This year she had her kids on Easter which made a nice Easter present for us. She was acting restless earlier that morning. She would walk to the far end of the pasture paw at the ground for a while before pacing back to the other side of the pasture where the shed is. She did this for a little while before the two yearling goats we wintered here started to bother her. I put her in a different pasture where she immediate found a shady secluded spot to settle in. When I brought her a bucket of water a little while later she had already given birth to one baby. Lucian and I watched her and the new baby for a little while before we gave her some space.

When we checked on her a short time later she had two babies. One was standing and the other was still wet and resting on the ground. I’m glad she picked one of the few days we’ve had where it wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, and the wind wasn’t blowing. I left them out in the sunshine for a few hours before we brought them into the barn. I like to keep the new babies with their mothers in a stall for at least a week so they have bonding time. This ensures they are nursing well before they get outside and start wondering. I have also been keeping a heat lamp on them at night and during cold, wet days. I have started to put them outside when the days are nice, which is rarely. I put them into our buck/weaning pen which is a 10 X 30 foot pen that has pig panel sides. The small squares mostly keep the kids contained. (Baby goats are escape artists!) They really enjoyed playing out in the weaning pen during their first day out. Nora was definitely ready to get outside too!

First day outside for Nora’s kids!

This year Nora had two bucklings again. I was really hoping for a doe from her to continue her bloodline. She isn’t getting any younger and Franky was a great Toggenburg mixed buck. Oh well, hopefully she will throw a doe next year. Nora is a great mother and takes the best care of her kids. I never have to worry about them because I know she’s got it all in hand. Fauna is a different story altogether but she is a story for a different post.

A Sapping We Will Go

The end of February was so cold that the very idea of spring was driven from our minds. Then it began to brighten and warm up during the day and all of a sudden it was time to tap the maple trees. The days were warm and the nights were cold which makes for perfect weather to get the sap flowing in the trees.

I love sapping season. The warmth of spring is finally in the air and the cold chill of winter is working it’s way out. Another great aspect of sapping season is the exercise it takes to traipse around the woods each day carrying buckets of watery sap. Smelling the damp woodsy smell and sloshing through the cold creek on our property with the kids is a great spring past time.

This year we tapped about 20 maple trees and over three weeks of sapping we gathered roughly 160 gallons of sap. We made syrup in three batches this year. It’s a long process to cook down the sap so we decided to have cooking weekends. It worked out pretty well and we were able to keep the sap cool while we waited for our cooking day.

Cooking it Down

For each batch we spent about a day and a half boiling it outside in the sap boiler. Our system is not the most efficient but it works much better than doing it in the house like we did the first two years we decided to make syrup. It is basically a modified wood stove with a giant pan on top. The pan holds 35 gallons. The reason each batch took so long to cook down was that after the sap had boiled down a ways we would add another bucket to it. This cooled the boiling sap down so it had to heat back up. This may not be the best practice when boiling sap but for our first batch we had 65 gallons of sap that needed to be cooked down. Sap will go bad just like anything else and the shorter it sits the better

Each weekend for the last three weeks we boiled sap to make maple syrup. We cooked it outside in the boiler until it was close to the right consistency then we brought it into the house to finish it up. Last year we invested in a hydrometer, which measures the density of a liquid, this measuring tool cut all the guess work out of syrup making. Before buying this tool we would usually have syrup that was too runny or accidently make maple candy which is delicious but not what we are after.

Maple Syrup Yields for 2021:

65 gallons of sap = 14 pints of syrup

45 gallons of sap = 9 pints of syrup

50 gallons of sap = 10 pints of syrup


160 gallons of sap = 4 gallons and 1 pint of pure Maple Syrup!

We made more maple syrup this year than in previous years. We did notice a definite color variation in our last batch of syrup. This was because we collected later in the season when the maple trees were starting to bud out and the weather was warmer. We have been enjoying the syrup on our pancakes and waffles and we have also been finding different recipes to cook with maple syrup. I recently found a pumpkin/maple muffin recipe with maple frosting that is amazing! There will be plenty of jars of sweet maple syrup to go into Christmas baskets this year.

Our three batches of maple syrup this year. The third and last batch is a much darker color.

It’s Warmer in the Freezer

The weather this past week has been cold, cold, cold. It has been colder than average all over the country but here in Wisconsin its warmer in my freezer than it is outside. The average freezer temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below. The last two mornings have dawned a steady -35 F. Its both interesting and depressing to think that my freezer is 30 to 35 degrees warmer than it is outside right now. Keep in mind that is just the air temperature not including the wind chill factor. With weather this cold we are doing our best to keep inside most of the day except when we have to check on the animals or fill the fire for our outdoor wood boiler system.

In The Barn

Usually I let the goats outside everyday so they can enjoy the sunshine but with it this cold they are staying inside out of the wind. There is no heat in my barn but being out of the wind is crucial to the health of our livestock. The goats have been snuggling with each other to share body heat and I have been giving them extra feed to keep their energy up while their bodies work to keep warm. I also bedded down each stall with fresh straw so they are dry and can cozy down in their bedding.

The horses have a lean-to off the side of the barn that they can go in and out of through two regular sized doors. With the extra cold weather I shut the door facing the field to cut down the drafts through both the lean-to and the barn. While it has been this cold the horses have been getting snow packed hooves. This is when snow and ice build up in their hooves and instead of walking flat on their feet they are walking around on snowballs. This can occur when the snow is extra packy, their hooves are a little long, or it’s so cold that the snow is not melting from the bottom of their feet. Jack and Melody have been walking on snowballs every morning with this cold and every morning I’ve been having to chip ice and snow out of their feet. Not a fun chore when you can’t feel your fingers but it is bad for their feet and ankles to be walking around on snowy points.

The chickens are feeling the cold the most I believe. I had two of my hens die this last week. I believe one was egg bound and I think the other was an older hen that was not handling the harsh weather well. It has been a bit challenging to keep them hydrated when the water has a thin layer of ice over it about 5 minutes after I fill their dish. It is possible that she was moving slower than the other birds and she became dehydrated. It can be hard to tell with chickens sometimes what the problem is especially when I have a few older girls. We have not been getting many eggs lately mainly because by the time we get to them they are frozen and cracked.

The ducks are taking advantage of the heat lamp in their house. They are in their own space so they are the only animals that have extra heat. With only two ducks they would never be able to generate enough body heat to survive this frigid weather. The barn kitties have found the heated well pit and have been cozy in there. I did have to give Yowler a talking to because he was cranky that I had to cover his hole back up a bit. The cats wriggle into the pit through the gap between the pit sides and the lid which is fine until the hoses freeze, then not so fine.

The cold snap is almost over an all the animals in the barn are holding steady. We’re hoping for warmer weather soon because kidding season is just around the corner and it would be dangerous to have baby goats born in this cold.

In The House

Everything breaks when the weather is this cold. Metal becomes brittle and plastic is as fragile as glass. The pump on our woodstove broke during the deep freeze and Trenton had to race to collect a new one. He really had to work fast to get it fixed before the lines froze, the wood boiler overheated, and the house cooled down more than it already had. The house was down to 57 by the time he was able to fix it. I had the kids (who were also sick with a stomach bug) snuggled in our room with a space heater going. He was able to run to Menards, change out the pump, and get everything turned back on in about two hours. Thank goodness for my handy man. The kids have been staying inside while it’s this cold and resting so they feel better by the time it’s warm enough to play in the sun.

A Little Update

The morning started out at -32 at 5:00 am it is now 3 ABOVE at 4:00 pm and it feels amazing.

Wrap-Up 2020

This year has been an interesting year to say the least. Our little farm has been through a few ups and downs over this last year. Although going through a pandemic has made life a little different for us humans for the most part the animals don’t care. It is interesting to look back on the year to see what we have accomplished (or not) and put it into a list.

Farm in General

This year was our year of big improvements. Here is a quick list of our big projects:


Our kids have grow quite a bit over the last year and although they missed out on a few of our regular activities they have been handling pandemic changes with the grace of children. Lucian is 6 and this year he learned how to milk our goat Nora, improved his reading, learned how to shoot a bow, and is learning how to skate. Fiona is 4 and this year she started pre-K, mastered her colors, and mastered potty-training. Penelope is getting closer to 2 and this year she learned how to walk, run, talk, mastered the word “No”, and learned the joy of coloring. They enjoyed our trip to Washburn to play by Lake Superior and visit their Aunty Jessica while we picked up round bales of hay for the horses.


This year I was able to ride my horse almost every weekend June-August which was GREAT! I was hardly able to go riding at all last year and I missed it quite a bit. We worked with our new horse, Melody, and learned much more about her personality. We also discovered that Jack, my 24 year old Appaloosa, has developed a heart murmur which makes it hard for him to maintain his weight. (Check out Jackson) In early August we had a hot week and Jack dropped a lot of weight which is why I stopped riding him for a while. He is back up to his normal weight now and I’m looking forward to riding in the spring when it isn’t freezing outside.


This year between our two does we had a total of 5 goat kids. There were 3 bucks and 2 does. (Check out Almost Easter Kids) All the bucklings were sold when they were between 8-12 weeks old. The two doelings are still here at the farm waiting for their new home. I made a lot of fresh goat cheese which is delicious when spread on crackers. I was having trouble making other types of cheeses this year and will be investing in new cheese making supplies next year. Our son Lucian learned how to milk Nora and was an amazing helper. We decided it was time to sell our buck, Franky, a Toggenburg/Alpine cross. He was still friendly towards us but he was getting very destructive to our barn and fences. After Trenton had to rebuild his house for the second time we decided to sell him in December after we were done breeding. He was Lucian’s goat so he got his first ever pay check from the sale barn (minus trucking costs). Franky was 130 Ibs and he would have sold for $187.50 but he was a handsome fellow so he was bid on and sold for $243.75. It was more than we expected and too much fun money for an almost 7 year old so we put half of it in his savings account and he wants to buy a deer target for shooting his arrows into with the rest.


This year we incubated a batch of eggs at home due to the stay-at-home act. (Check out Easter Chicks) I usually hatch eggs at the school I substitute for as a 4th grade science project but things were a little different this year. We started with 37 eggs and I took 7 out that were either infertile or had stopped developing and 22 hatched but 1 died soon after hatching. Out of the 21 chicks 11 of them were roosters which I sold for $1 a chick when they were old enough to spot their combs. This may not have been the best homesteading practice but I didn’t want to butcher chickens this year. This fall our egg production was booming with the new pullets and my sister, who manages a golf clubhouse, sold about 4-6 dozen eggs a week from August-October. We had a few older hens die or were eaten by the fox who hangs around so our flock is holding at about 20 hens and 1 rooster.

We also added two ducks to the farm. We have tried ducks before and found them to be very messy and loud but we think 2 ducks instead of 10 is better. They are Welsh Harlequin ducks and we purchased one hen and one drake. The hen laid almost an egg a day between October and the beginning of December. I like having the duck eggs for baking and I have been baking an awful lot of pumpkin bread lately.


We bought two piglets from my dad in March and butchered them in October. We sold one pig to my sister to pay for our processing costs and the other is in our freezer. It is nice to have pigs while we are milking goats because there is no waste from dumped milk or whey from cheesemaking.


We lost our old guy Harley this March. He was a Lab/Rottweiler mix of some sort that came to us in 2012. Before that he was an acquaintance’s dog and before that he was in the humane society. He was somewhere between 13-15 years old. His passing was hard for us, especially the kids, and we miss him. Our other dog, Piper, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/German Shepherd mix, did not handle it well. She was very depressed and was not adjusting well. After about two months of her depression we brought home a puppy. Phoebe is a Lab mix of some sort and just like a Lab puppy she chews on everything. Piper is no longer depressed and back to being her helpful herding self. She is excellent at herding the goats and is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had.


Our garden was much more productive this year. I experimented with a different garden layout that didn’t necessary work out well. (Check out Jungle Garden) I canned two flats of 1/4 pint jars of tomato jam, which I had never tried to make before. I like it but I think I’m the only one. It was a good use for the cherry tomatoes when they were getting out of hand because I put all types of tomatoes in the blender and cooked them into jam. I also made a few big batches of tomato sauce and roasted tomato ravioli which is a summer favorite of mine. I was looking forward to one more batch of tomato sauce but the goats broke into the garden and demolished the last of it. I was not very happy with goats for a while.

Our pumpkin plants were huge this year and yielded a bumper crop of nice pie pumpkins. We cooked down and froze about 40 cups of pumpkin to be used for pies, bread, and soups this winter. We also cooked down roughly 10 cups of squash and froze about 15 quart size bags of green beans. I also experimented with canning dilly beans and pickled radishes this year. I like the dilly beans but do not like the radishes. I’m going to have to find someone who does. We missed out on apple picking this year so I only made about 6 half pint jars of apple butter.

Maple Syrup

This year was a much better year for syrup for us. (Check out Cooking Sap) Last year Penelope was a newborn and I wasn’t up to hauling her through the woods and Trenton wasn’t feeling too ambitious due to lack of sleep. This year we were able to cook down about 1 1/2 gallons of Maple syrup. It was enough for our family for the year and a little to spare for Christmas baskets. We will be syruping in March again and I look forward to early spring walks to collect sap.


This year has been a great year because we accomplished so much that we haven’t been able to get to in previous years. I have worked more in schools this year then I ever have. I have taken on three long-term substituting positions this year alone from February to April I taught Kindergarten, from August to October I taught 4K, and from November to March I am teaching middle school English/Language Arts. No matter how busy we are we are glad to have our farm which offers us stability and food for our family.