Improvements On the Farm

This year has been a year of working on home improvement projects that have fallen behind. It feels so good to finally be accomplishing a few goals from previous years that we hadn’t gotten to yet.

House Roof

Two years ago we had a bad ice dam over Fiona’s room which caused damage to the outside wall of her room. Our homeowners insurance covered the repairs to the room but not the roof. The construction company that fixed the room told us we needed a new roof.

We went from shingles to tin.

At the time that was not possible, so every time it snowed Trenton would head up there and shovel the roof off so we didn’t have another ice dam. In northern Wisconsin we get a lot of snow so he would climb the ladder about once a week to shovel. Last year he slipped on an icy spot and almost slipped off the roof. I had to shimmy up there to toss him a rope which I looped off the chimney so he could get off the ice he was on without sliding off the roof. We decided that this year the roof was getting done.

Thankfully interest rates are low right now and we were able to refinance with a lower interest rate. Since we were switching over from shingles to tin we decided that we could do a roof over. The construction company framed over the roof and we also had them build eves over the sections that did not have any overhang previously. The tin came in and they started laying it out while the kids watched their every move. They were completely fascinated by the work going on. It took them about two weeks to finish the roof but it looks great! As a bonus they vented out the attic better so it is now actually usable space. We have been reorganizing the house and I look forward to my new attic office space, the girls will be moving in together soon, and Lucian will have his own room.

Bathroom

Sliding Barn Door

We have been remodeling our bathroom for two years now! I finally made an executive decision to have the same construction company work on our bathroom. Trenton is very handy but we both discovered that bathroom work is over our head. The crew came in and put the sub flooring in, laid vinyl, refitted the toilet, installed the tub and shower surround, put drywall in, taped and mudded, and hung the new door. They also shimmied into the crawl space to find out how the exhaust fan above the shower was vented. Apparently it was vented into the attic space above our room which is very bad. They cut a whole into the roof so they could vent it out properly. That leaves us with paint, putting up wainscoting, and trim. Skills we can handle. We have been sanding and coating poly on trim for the last few days. The walls are primed and painted. It is inching closer to being done and I am so excited to see the room finally progressing.

Barn Roof

Finally!! We have had the tin for this project for four years now. I asked my cousin Jake to come out and help Trenton put the tin on the roof labor day weekend but that didn’t quiet work out. Jake went to help a stray cat out of the road and it sank it’s teeth into his right hand. Cat bites are worse than dog bites and his hand swelled up and turned red. He needed a few weeks healing time which gave Trenton time to put roof jacks up, get ladders set and get all the materials ready to go. Jake came out Friday afternoon and Aunt Candy watched the girls while Lucian and I were at school so they could get it done. Only the top tier of the barn needed to be done so they were able to finish it by dinner time. It was very high up and the new tin was pretty slippery so I am thankful for a cousin who will help out with big projects for the price of fish fry and a few pumpkins.

This year has been great for wrapping up big projects that needed to get done. I’m looking forward to the next big rain so I can watch rain slide off the roofs instead of through them!

Now it’s time to work on pumpkins for the fall!

School In 2020

I know the main conversation topic this year has been COVID-19 and so far I have been swerving away from that topic because of several reasons.

  1. It is controversial- Everyone has a strong opinion and wants it to be heard.
  2. It is the most talked about subject right now and I occasionally want to hear about something else.
  3. There is so much information and misinformation circulating that it is hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

School is one topic that includes COVID-19 talk because it involves small children sharing their germs together. School children have always been good at sharing their germs but this year the germs have morphed into a more serious problem.

Using Lucky Charms to learn about graphing.

This March we suddenly became homeschoolers and it was an interesting experience. Lucian wavered between liking school at home and not. He liked being able to finish most of his work by lunch time which left his afternoons free and clear. He did not like having to do the work to begin with because he wanted home to be home and school to be school. I still worked half the week which left Trenton in charge of 2-3 days of school depending on the week. He discovered he does not have the patience to be a teacher and according to Lucian, “Mommy didn’t give Daddy good enough directions which made him frustrated.”

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems was a big hit this spring.

I liked homeschooling but I only made up half the week. This year our school age children are 3 and 6 which is a completely hands on age group. Also this year I have been getting more requests to teach in school in various capacities so I may not even be able to devote half the week to homeschooling.

This year my sisters and our families got together to discuss our plans for the upcoming school year. We each prepared a list of pros and cons to discuss before we each made our own decisions. Here’s an abbreviated list:

Pros for attending school:

  1. Teacher led instruction may be more effective.
  2. Separation of siblings/grade levels will be less distracting.
  3. Available resources for interventions (math, reading, speech, etc…)
  4. Socializing with peers and other adults.
  5. Parental sanity. (We love our children but a little space is nice.)

Cons for attending school:

  1. Health concerns due to higher risk of exposure.
  2. Safety concerns with identifying parents in masks.
  3. Developing anxiety from constant reminders to: put mask on, wash hands, social distance, etc…..
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These items are just a few on our collective lists. Our discussion went back and forth for and against. Good points, bad, and a whole lot of I don’t really knows. There are no right or wrong answers this year and both the school systems and families are going to have to be flexible.

Out of our three families we ended up with one for school, one for remote learning, and one still undecided.

The Jungle Garden

This year I decided to experiment with optimizing my space in the garden. Rather than having wide rows that our big 26″ rear tine rototiller could fit down I planted my vegetables closer together to maximize our small garden space.

I have two vegetable gardens this year. One is about 4 ft. by 8 ft. and the other is about 5 ft. by 10 ft. and the pumpkin/squash patch is in our big garden this year. My idea was to plant short rows close together and hoe them regularly rather than run the rototiller every time the weeds started to take over. I thought shorter rows would be easier to manage than longer ones and with closer rows I could still plant as many vegetables as I usually do but in a smaller space.

Discoveries I made this year:

The Tomato Jungle
  • Shorter rows are easier to manage.
  • Closer together rows work well for some plants.
    • Radishes, onions, lettuce, peppers, and corn worked well to have the rows closer together. I planted 4 short onion rows and two radish rows about 6″ apart which worked out great because the plants don’t take up much space. I planted my lettuce about 8″ apart and my corn rows about 10″ apart. Having short 4 or 5 foot rows makes it easy to access the plants.
  • Closer rows DO NOT work well for some plants.
    • Mainly my tomatoes. This year seems to be a great year for my tomato plants because I have two sun sugar cherry tomatoes that are almost as tall as my sweet corn. The tomatoes have taken over the whole middle of one of my gardens and I have no idea how I am going to harvest the tomatoes when they ripen. I planted them in short rows about a foot apart and they have turned my garden into a jungle.
  • I inter spaced my corn with snap peas. Every two corn seed I planted a pea seed. The idea was to have my peas climb the corn stalks and use them as support. This would have worked out perfectly except my peas grew faster than my corn. I am planning to keep this planting arrangement next year but the corn needs about two weeks in the ground before I plant peas.

Overall our harvest has been great this year compared to last. I have been picking zucchini, summer squash, lettuce, kale, green beans, and peas. I have been enjoying the best vegetable stir fries from my own garden. My cherry tomatoes are almost ripe and I have peppers coming in. Soon we will have a ton of sweet corn. I’m going to be freezing green beans this weekend and I might even try a recipe to pickle a few.

For the most part I am happy with the garden this year but I am baffled about how I am going to brave my tomato jungle to harvest them. I really want tomato sauce and I have an awesome recipe for spiced tomato jelly from one of my book club ladies. It’s going to be a challenge but I am looking forward to the produce.

Jackson

My horse Jack AKA: Jackson or Jackass depending on the situation, is getting up there in age. He turned 24 in March and for the last two years he has been getting a little touchy with his health. Seeing him struggle a bit has me feeling a little nostalgic so I’m going to share a few memories of my brown eyed handsome man.

Jack, Lucian and I in 2015

My parents own a dairy farm and although all of us girls wanted a horse the right one never came along. Until one day we came home and a colt was waiting for us in the heifer barn. My great uncle John bought him from a horse jockey and dropped him off. Jack was about 9 months to a year old when he came to us. He was a playful colt and liked to pull my sister’s hair, pick the cats up by their tails, and throw his jolly ball around. We couldn’t pasture him in with the cows because Jack hates cows. He would chase them around until they broke through the fences so Jack was by himself.

Jack 2020

Although we loved horses we knew nothing about training one. When he was about 2 1/2 “riding” lessons started. Jack became somewhat of our local bucking bronco for friends and relatives to try their hand at. He had this habit of rearing really high until his rider tumbled backwards. I remember all the rodeos we had in his pasture and shake my head now. It is not how you train a horse but I know better now.

Around the same time a neighbor’s mare showed up and she ended up staying. Thankfully Isabel was trained to ride and she became the first horse I rode on a regular basis but we never really liked each other. We tolerated each other. So one horse turned into two, then three, then four, and soon we had five horses. Jack was turned into a gelding when he was nine and there are many days where he still has the temperament of a stallion.

He was nine when I left for collage in Montana. I met a great couple there who took me under their wing and taught me about horses, their behavior, and how to work with them. A year later we took a road trip and brought Jack to Montana. I boarded him at my friends house for the next three years while they helped me train him. We had a lot of adventures while we were there and Jack turned into a great trail horse (mostly). He rarely spooked even when we kicked up Mule deer and ran across rattle snakes. He would go up and down ditches and step over logs without trying to jump over them. We had a great few years there before we moved back to Wisconsin.

Blaze and Goliath

Back home to the north woods of Wisconsin Jack met back up with his fist love, Miss Isabel. Isabel and two of Jack’s sons, Goliath and Blaze, still lived at my parent’s farm. While I lived there I worked with them on ground work and was able to sell Blaze to a lovely girl. She was one of the flag girls in the Spooner Rodeo a year later and I was so happy to watch them gallop around the arena. Jack and I spent many hours exploring the various logging trails in the area. He impressed me a few times with his ability to gingerly step over various brush and logs that most horses would balk at or freak out about. Not to say he was always good. Half the time I had to fight him for every inch of ground to leave his darling Isabel behind. Jack has a tendency to be stubborn and tries to muscle his way in whichever direction he wants to go.

Jack has been at our hobby farm since 2012 when we bought it. Until last year his only pasture pals have been the goats which he pretends aren’t there. He doesn’t bother them, like cows, but he doesn’t like their company either. I think he has been happier or at least more engaged since we brought Melody home last year. Unfortunately he has been more difficult to work with because she is here and he feels the need to show off for her and act like a 5 year old stallion some days. He’s been getting better now that my sister has been riding with me and it is nice to go out with someone again. Jack and I have only been having solo adventures for the last 10 years now.

His health has been in a slow but steady decline for the last 3 years. It started with a gum problem that made it hard for him to eat. After we were able to heal this problem arthritis in his joints made riding a bit more difficult. His arthritis is easily managed with exercise and bute (phenylbutazone) which is a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before and sometimes after a ride depending on how far we travel. He has also become increasingly picky with his water which causes him to become dehydrated. For the last two springs he has been getting mites from somewhere which we treat with ultra boss, a pour-on insecticide for livestock. This year during his spring vet check I was told he has developed a heart murmur. Weight retention will be harder and he may start to tire faster. If he starts to tire easily our riding days will be over.

Keeping weight on him this summer has already been a little challenging. I think the hot, hot week we had a while ago was really hard on him and he definitely slimmed down in a short amount of time.

I hope we have several years of riding adventures left but he has always been better with kids than adults and will continue to be a great teacher for my kids.

Jack and I have been together for 23 years. There are many adventures, arguments, happy moments, and pissed off ones (on both sides) in those years. He is a hard animal to get along with but he’s mine and I love him.

Selling Goat Kids

Goat kids are the cutest animals I have come across and I love to snuggle them and watch them play. I would love to keep them all but I can’t. Sometimes this can be a hard concept for the kids and myself on occasion, but it is a reality of farm life. We cannot keep every animal on the farm. Each year we sell the kids from our goats Nora and Fauna.

We sold one of our goat kids this weekend and my son and I had to discuss all the reasons why we sell the baby goats.

  1. We would be overrun with goats if we kept them all.
    • I decided it would be fun to do a little goat math to see exactly how many goats we would have if we kept them all. We have had the 2 does for 7 years and on average they each have 2 babies a year. So 4 babies a year times 7 years equals 28 goat kids. Add the two nannies and the buck and we would have a herd of 31 goats by now!
  2. There is not enough pasture to feed them all.
    • Before the addition of another horse our grass was able to maintain one horse and three goats. That’s it. Our soil is sandy and does not grow thick enough to maintain too many animals. I could feed hay year round but that would be super expensive.
  3. It costs money to buy hay for them.
    • I have to buy hay for the winter. The sale of the goat kids pays for their hay for the year. In order to keep the goats I have to have revenue coming in to pay for them which is where the sale of the kids comes in.
  4. Too Many Goats!
    • I like having goats but when we occasionally decide to keep a doe kid for longer I realize I like having two goats and only two. When we have more they seem to get into trouble and cause havoc to my fences and garden. I’m not sure why one extra goat is a catalyst to trouble making but it is.

I do enjoy having the baby goats but after they are a few months old I am ready to see them go to new homes. Lucian is my sensitive child and he still gets upset when the baby goats leave. Fiona waved goodbye after we loaded the buckling into the buyer’s truck and she was good to go. We still have two bucklings left and I hope they will sell this weekend. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer.

Using Goat Milk

On our small hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. When we first started our small herd we did not realize how much milk one little goat can produce. Nora is our best milker and in the summer she will produce roughly a gallon of milk a day. If we are milking both goats that is 2 gallons a day which turns out to be about 12-14 gallons of raw milk a week. What in the world do I do with all that milk?

A few ways to use goat milk:

  1. Drink It- If I were a good homesteader I would drink the goat milk but to be honest I don’t like the taste. When I milk hot, sweaty goats I smell hot sweaty goats. Cooling the milk fast helps to mellow the goaty flavor but when I drink the goat milk I taste hot, sweaty goat. No, Thank You!
  2. Bake- Although I do not like to drink the goat milk I bake with it or use it to make creamy soups. The goaty flavor that I taste when I drink the milk does not transfer into other foods when I use it to bake with.
  3. Make Cheese- Making cheese is a great way to use large quantities of milk. There are many different types of goat milk cheeses that are absolutely delicious. My favorite is a spreadable cheese that is delicious on crackers.
  4. Make Soap- I can make a large amount of soap with only a little goat’s milk so making soap does not use up great quantities of goat milk but it is one of the nicest benefits to keeping goats.
  5. Freeze it For Later- There are some days in the summer where it is too hot to make cheese or I’m too tired at the end of the day so I freeze the milk for a later day. The milk will stay good in my freezer for about a year which gives me time to process it or sell it to other soap makers.
  6. Feed it to the Pigs- This may sound wasteful but it really isn’t. The goat milk helps my pigs put on weight faster and saves me a little on the cost of feed. I make sure I raise pigs at the same time I am milking goats because occasionally a goat will put her foot in the bucket and I don’t want to waste the milk. Also the pigs love whey which is a byproduct of making cheese.
Fiona adding dandelions to Nora’s collar

Milk Sharing

Milk sharing is when you separate the goat kids from their mother, usually overnight, and milk once a day while the kids nurse the other portion of the day. Last year Penelope was a newborn and it was the first time I tried milk sharing. I loved having the option to only milk once a day. Usually we wean kids off in the early summer and sell them in June but last year we shared milk with Fauna’s kid and sold her in the fall. I was worried we would get a lower price for her because we were selling her out of season but the price we received for her was competitive with previous years.

This year we are milking more regularly with Nora. She had two bucklings and we are getting ready to sell them so they will need to be fully weaned before they can go to new homes. She is being milked twice a day now and we have a nice amount of milk coming in without it being overwhelming.

Our other nanny had triplets, two does and one buck. We are milk sharing with her because my aunt is planning to buy her doe kids in the fall. Her kids are three weeks younger than Nora’s so we have just begun milk sharing with her. Soon we will wean off her little buckling and continue milk sharing with the two does. Milk sharing will help her kids grow bigger through the summer than they would on just a grass diet and it will bring our influx of milk down to a manageable amount.

Milk, Milk, and More Milk!

I have been milking goats, making cheese, baking, and freezing milk for the last few weeks and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer!

Enjoy a Little Spreadable Cheese

1/2 gallon goat milk warmed to room temperature

1/2 cup lemon juice

Salt

Warm the goat milk to room temperature and add lemon juice. Stir until curd forms and whey starts to turn yellowish. Strain through cheesecloth or butter muslin. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the cheese seems too dry add a bit of goat’s milk until it is the desired consistency. I like to add fresh chopped chives and sweet basil to my cheese spread. Keep refrigerated.

Into the Gardens

The gardens are finally growing nicely and even though our growing season is just getting started we have been busy. This year we have two small vegetable gardens, one pumpkin/squash patch, an herb garden, and a new wildflower patch. The goal for this year is to do better with the gardens. Last year we let the gardens slide a bit but this year we have really been working to keep up with them.

Vegetable Gardens

This year we rotated the majority of our vegetables from our large garden to two smaller, newer gardens. Instead of planting widely spaced rows for the rototiller to go down we planted shorter narrower rows. My goal is to keep the weeds down without having to entirely break the soil up. I was also going to mulch the garden but I’ve been able to keep up with the weeds by just hoeing the rows on a more regular basis. I have found it is easier to manage when the rows are shorter and the gardens are smaller.

The biggest drawback to closer rows is that it is harder for the kids to help in the garden without stepping on plants. The simplest solution I found to this problem was to give the kids the pumpkin patch as their garden. The two small vegetable gardens are mine and the pumpkin patch is theirs. This has been working out great because it is hard to damage a pumpkin plant, they are easily identifiable from the weeds, and there is plenty of room for the kids to work without trampling delicate plants.

Lucian also has a small “garden” of tomatoes that he has been taking care of. We grew our own starter plants this year and ended up with more tomatoes than I had room for. We planted our tomatoes then put some in at my mother-in-law’s and we still had half a dozen plants left over. Lucian wanted to plant them around the outside of his sand pit so he took all the extra plants into his care. I helped him put cages around them so when his cousins visit his tomatoes aren’t squished but other than that he’s been farming his own garden.

We are working to get fences up around the gardens so we can start letting the chickens out again now that our spring fox has moved on. I have three reasons for needing fencing around my small gardens.

Our new Welsh Harlequin ducks.
  1. To keep the goats out! I do not have a deer problem I have a goat problem. Goats love broccoli!
  2. To keep the chickens out. Free range chickens are nice to keep the bugs and ticks down but they will also decimate my garden if they are allowed to get into it.
  3. To keep the ducks in. Ducks will eat the slugs and potato bugs that chickens won’t. If I put the ducks in the garden for an hour or two at a time they will keep the bugs down without destroying the plants.

Herb Garden

Row of Calendula

I have been adding all kinds of plants to my herb garden this year. The new plants that I have finished putting in are calendula, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and basil. I am also going to move the comfrey out of my herb garden because it gets too big and falls over onto the other plants and crushes them. The bees and butterflies enjoy this plant which is good but it is right next to my deck and I’d rather Penelope not try to grab a buzzing bumble bee through the deck rails. I’m going to put it behind the garage where it will still feed the bees but won’t destroy my other plants.

The biggest challenge of my herb garden is keeping the grass out. I could mulch it which would help but I like to let the chamomile and borage reseed themselves. That way I don’t have to replant it every year I only have to weed around the new plants as they pop up in early spring.

Wildflower Patch

Fiona wanted flowers and so we planted flowers. Trenton tilled one swipe with the rototiller to break ground in the yard in front of our screen porch and Fiona and I spread a few packets of wildflower seeds. We also planted a little of everything else I had lying around. It became a patch of fresh earth to dump all the old flower seeds in. I am very surprised by how well they are growing. I have no idea what all the plants are but there are a lot of them. I weeded out the grass for the first time yesterday and got a look at all the different types. I believe it will be a beautiful flower patch in another month as long as I can keep most of the grass out of it.

First Garden Harvest

Pickled Radishes

The first plants ready to harvest in the garden are always the radishes. Since I always seem to plant more radishes than I can use fresh I decided to pickle a few to see what happens. Last year I planted white icicle radishes and experimented with pickling them. The results were not bad but they were a little weird. This year I planted regular red radishes and tried a different recipe. We’ll see how they taste but they already look much prettier than last year’s experiment.

Spring Updates

Spring is a time of change on the farm and I thought it would be good to write a little update.

Kids (The Human Kind)

Lucian finished school this last week which is nice. As the weather has gotten nicer homeschooling has gotten a little harder. We all wanted to be outside working. Although we did work on school work out on the deck a bit I found it was harder for him to concentrate because he was busy thinking about everything else he would rather be doing. Homeschooling was a fun experience and while I have a few fun enrichment activities for the next few weeks we are ready for summer break.

Fiona is my horse girl and while it makes me happy that she loves the horses, the girl has no fear. I’m afraid I’ll turn my back one day to find my 3 year old riding Jack around the pasture giggling hysterically. My darling Penelope is 15 months old already and the vast majority of my time is spent chasing her around. Since she has started walking her and Fiona have become partners in crime and if you know my eldest daughter you know that’s a scary thought.

Goats

Nora and her kids have been acting funny lately so while the vet was here to check horses I had her check on the goats too. It started with her kids frothing at the mouth and screaming like they were in pain for a few minutes. These episodes would dissipate but then a few days later they would start again. I thought it was only effecting the kids until I saw Nora foaming at the mouth a few days before the vet came out. She was not screaming in pain but she was foaming, coughing, and snorting like she was choking. We did a little research and landed on frothy bloat which the vet confirmed while she was here. She recommended we give them a goat probiotic to help line their gut and help dissipate the bloat. Frothy bloat is caused by many different things but she said it usually happens when they ingest too much clover. This started after we began feeding out new round bales so I’m guessing it was something in the different hay. The only oddity is that the other goats didn’t have a problem too since they were eating the same hay.

The kids (the goat kind) are doing well now. I had a little difficulty with Fauna’s triplets a few weeks ago. I didn’t catch that the little brown one was not getting enough to eat and was starving. I have everyone out on grass now and have been separating the kids so the little one has her own mommy time. She is doing much better and playing and running with her siblings. One of Nora’s kids is limping a little but I’m guessing he twisted something and will be perfectly fit in a few days. I made a video of them playing around in the pasture.

I have been milking every morning and have been making cheese every other day. Right now my favorite cheese is a fresh cheese that uses lemon juice to curdle the milk. It is awesome on crackers.

Chickens

I put the pullets from our Easter hatch-out in with the adult chickens this week. There was a little incident the first day where one chick tried to crawl under the fence and somehow got it’s wing stuck. We were able to wiggle her out without injuring her or cutting the fence. I am still waiting to see if our setting hen will successfully hatch out chicks or if I am going to have to toss out nasty eggs. I think she had one break under her recently because she smells pretty bad. It has been about three weeks so chicks should start hatching any day now. I’m going to give her one more week before I toss the eggs out.

Horses

The horses have been getting a workout this year. My sister Sam and her kids have been coming out at least once a week to work with horses. They are groomed, hooves cleaned, lunged, and ridden on a regular basis now which is great.

Last weekend the kids rotated working with the horses and shoveling out the lean-to. The horses did great! Melody has vastly improved and is getting desensitized from kids. She was ridden around the pasture by a handful of future horsemen and women and she was very attentive to her young riders. I rode double with the younger ones on Jack alongside Melody. My sister, Sam, has been riding out on Melody with me and Jack into the big hay field next to our property. She definitely needs the practice and it’s good for Sam too. Jack however, is getting tired of little rides and is ready to go farther out. I’m hoping by next week we can go for a while because he is getting bored and he was never very patient.

The horses had their once a year vet check last week. Melody has a little arthritis in her front left leg but it will be easily managed with exercise and a little Bute. Jack on the other hand has developed a heart murmur. He is 24 years old now and over the last two years he has started to get a little touchy with his health. The vet assured me that she has known horses to live perfectly well for years with a slight heart murmur but we are now watching him closely. We are still able to ride him but if he starts to tire easily or is lethargic he will become a pasture pony. I’m hoping we have a few more years to get out and about before that happens because I have had him for 23 years and don’t particularly want a new riding horse.

Ready to Ride

Spring has sprung which means it is time to start riding my horses again. Last year at this time Penelope was 2 months old so I didn’t really ride. I have a good support system but it was hard to go anywhere when my newborn infant refused to drink from a bottle. My horse is also not trustworthy enough to take a passenger with until he has been ridden all summer long.

Before I saddle up in the spring I work on groundwork:

brown and black leather horse saddle on white and gray animal

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Stop/Go Signals
  2. Leading
  3. Grooming/Foot Work
  4.  Lunge Line Work

Jack is 24 years old now but he still needs a short review of the basics before we get started. If I were a good horsewoman I would ride all winter but I don’t like to be cold. This means feisty springtime horses for me.

Last fall we brought home a new horse, Melody, and I didn’t have a chance to ride her before it became cold. We worked on ground work with her before the weather turned but I didn’t get out for any rides.

This year is turning out to be a good horse year. So far I have been working with horses at least twice a week and each horse has had two little rides on them. While both rides were difficult because of recalcitrant horses I still had fun.

Horse lessons with my niece have also resumed for which I am grateful. She is 9 1/2 now and has grown more confident with groundwork but more skittish with getting on the horse. I have been having her work with Melody most of the time because Melody is half her horse. Our lessons always start with groundwork and I have a general outline of what we work on for the first few lessons.

  • Lesson 1: Grooming, foot work, gate safety, and leading. During this lesson I get the horse from the pasture while she learns how to open and close the gates safely. Then she learns how to groom her horse and pick-up and clean hooves. Lastly I have her lead the horse while I walk alongside her to give pointers. While they are walking around they work on stop/go commands, turning, and maintaining correct position next to the horse.
  • Lesson 2: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, and leading. This lesson is basically the same as lesson 1 with the exception of learning how to properly catch your horse. Melody is a little hard to catch and sometimes likes to run away so it is good practice for my niece.
  • Lesson 3: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, and saddling.¬† We repeat the basic horse care skills from lesson 1 at each lesson. Lesson 3 adds lunging which is a simple way of both establishing dominance and exercising the horse. We also went over saddling Melody to fit her to the saddle we would be using on her.
  • Lesson 4: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, saddling, bridling and riding. Most lessons are a review of previously taught skills with the addition of one or two others. During this lesson my niece completed most of the skills from lesson 1 on her own. After lunging Melody we saddled her and I took her for a ride in the hay field next to our property. When we got back my niece worked on mounting. She was nervous about this part but she did it. I led Melody while my niece “rode” her . As she gained confidence I let her ride while I walked next to her offering advice. Aurora Melody

The next lessons will include more riding skills as she grows in confidence and builds muscle. It is also her job to help clean the barn where the horses have been housed all winter. I’m hoping with a little work she will gain muscle tone which will help her when getting on and off the horse.

After my ride on Jack I let each of my kids, nieces, and nephews take a little turn on him. Jack is a temperamental Appaloosa who thinks he is still a stallion but he is GREAT with kids while Melody is skittish and has a proclivity to bolt. At our last horse lesson my nephew was a bit put out because he wanted to ride Melody but I wouldn’t let him. While he likes the horses and will occasionally brush them or take a little ride on Jack he hasn’t shown an interest in being involved with the lessons. He would rather play on the trampoline or on the hammocks which is perfectly fine but if he wants to go for an actual ride he needs to do the work. Riding is the fun part but there is a lot of work involved with horses before you get to that.

We’ll see what next week brings but I am looking forward to each lesson!

Tricky Kids

On our small hobby farm we only keep as many animals as we can take care of. That being said some of the animals are easier keepers than others. For example, we have two goats that we breed so we have milk and we sell the kids later in the summer when they are old enough to be weaned.

Goat kids are about the size of rabbits with long legs when they are first born. Over the years we have had kids die but with the exception of the kid that died last year it is always within the first two days of life. During these first two days they are very sensitive and require close monitoring.

Like newborn human babies it is important to:

  1. Keep goat kids warm.
  2. Make sure they latch on properly and are drinking milk.
  3. Be sure they pee and poop, at least the first time.

Nora is our oldest goat at 8 years old. Out of our two does she is the better mother. She cares for her kids so well that I never really have to worry about them at all. She keeps them warm, makes sure all of them are eating, checks on them if they are yelling, and enjoys her time with them.

Fauna is two years younger and a pain in my butt as far as kidding season goes. Some years are better than others but every year there is one kid that she just doesn’t care for as much. I usually have to bring one into the house for a few hours to warm it up and bottle feed it. She is the goat that needs constant monitoring for the first few days until she gets accustomed to her kids.

kimg0852This year she had triplets again! There is one black and white doe, a creamy buck, and a red doe. While they were all born healthy there were a few touchy days to keep them that way. She has larger teats that hang down pretty far so the babies were unable to find them for a first feeding. After about an hour or so they were still not having any luck and were screaming for milk so I bottle fed each of them a few ounces. New babies will rapidly weaken if they don’t get milk every few hours.

Two hours after that I checked on them again. They were still having trouble and making noise which was upsetting Nora, the other goat. She is our better mother and she wanted to check on Fauna’s babies to be sure they were okay. Fauna stood nicely while I maneuvered her babies to help them latch on. This worked while I was on my knees and elbows angling her teats in place but not if I moved. So I milked a little more into a bottle and fed all three babies again. The next time I checked on them two of the kids had it all figured out but the little red one had not. She was also by herself away from the heat lamp so I fed her again and moved her under the warmth.kimg0855

The next day she was weaker and more lethargic so Trenton and I took turns going out every hour or so to bottle feed her a few ounces and try to convince her to nurse from her mother. Unfortunately, the other two were hungry little buggers and Fauna was getting annoyed with her kids and didn’t want to stand still anymore. Thankfully, the little red one has regained her strength and has figured out how to nurse from Fauna so I don’t have to bottle feed anymore.

Soon Nora’s kids will be big enough that we can start milk sharing a bit to have a little fresh goat milk in the house. Fresh goat cheese on crackers sounds delicious right now!

kimg0860On a side note goat kids are little escape artists. Fauna’s kids are moving around enough now that they have figured out how to get out of their pen to say hello to Jack, our horse.