Friday, August 10, 2012

Sparkle Soup

Moving can be hard on little ones. The constant business of all of their big people, sorting, packing and moving boxes, never ending to do lists.... It can be down-right overwhelming. I've been trying to find a few fun activities that don't require any planning and hardly any time to put together specifically for Claire to do in the afternoons.

A couple of days ago after nap time I gathered together several things I still had in the kitchen and took Claire outside for some sparkly play time. I just gave her several small bowls of food colored water and a couple of different kinds of glitter along with some "tools" like eye droppers, syringes, bowls, measuring cups, ladles, etc. I was inspired by a post I saw a while back on Meg's blog

The minute I set out the supplies and started filling the tub with water a few big brothers appeared on the scene to "help" :-) 

It was a hit! They all had a wonderful time. I stayed out until the baby woke up from his nap and needed to nurse. Those 3 stayed outside playing with their sparkle soup water for almost 3 hours!
Ages that thoroughly enjoyed this activity: 2.5 years, 9 & 11 years. 

Linking up with the lovely ladies at Creative Friday and Friday's Nature Table and Happy Family Times

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How I stop goats from kicking while on the milk stand

As I mentioned in the last post about my goats, it was a really steep learning curve for me and the goats while I was figuring out how to milk and they were figuring out how to behave on the milk stand. I finally got the hang of milking after a week or so, but I was having to hold one of the goat's back legs and only milk with one hand. Since no matter how sweetly I asked them or threatened to make sausage out of them they still danced and pranced while they where in the stanchion. The excited children running around and the neighbours' dogs barking at the fence did nothing to help the situation. 

So I went to my friend Google and searched "how to stop a goat from kicking" "how to restrain a goat" "goat hobbles" you name it and I looked it up. Basically everything said that the goats would eventually calm down and stand still. A few sites referred to "goat hobbles" These were nylon straps that go above the goats knees and are supposed to prevent the goat from kicking, and they cost $20, plus I had to wait for them to get shipped to me. I kept mulling it over whether or not I should go ahead and buy the things even though I had read in several places that they didn't really work and were a waste of money, I was desperate! After nearly a month we still almost never managed to get any milk for ourselves. The dogs were getting fatter, but I was not about to give my family milk that the goats had stepped in! 

One day it occurred to me that I might be able to fashion a hobble of sorts myself. That morning as I led the goats out of their pen onto the milk stand I realized that it might just work using what I already had on hand. A dog leash!! It took a little bit of trial and error, but I finally came up with a way that works for us! 

My method of goat restraint should be pretty self explanatory from the pictures above. But just in case you need a written description of what we do, here it is: 

  • use handle side of nylon dog leash
  • place goat's hind feet through handle of leash, bringing loop of handle just above goat's knees
  • wrap leash around handle, initially I wrapped it twice to make sure it was tight enough to prevent goat movement, now as long as it is there they don't really try to kick anymore, so I usually only wrap it once. 
  • wrap long end of leash around far side of stanchion post, hooking leash back on self
  • in the last picture Larkspur the goat is actually kicking, and as you can see the milk is perfectly safe!
It only took two times milking with the "hobble leash" and the goats settled right down. The first time they freaked out a bit at having their legs restrained, but within 2 days they stood patiently while I put their feet into the strap and tied them up. No more kicking!! We finally got to drink goat milk ourselves! 

Linking up with the Barn Hop this week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vintage Kid's Clothes ~ Aqua Pinafore

I love dressing Claire in sweet vintage baby clothes. I have quite a few vintage children's clothing that I have collected since becoming a mama. I think I'd like to try posting pictures of them more often. This adorable little pinafore top came from my Grandma. I'm not sure if it had been worn by anyone else in our family before Claire, and since my Grandma has passed away now I will probably never know. 

Claire was collecting willow leaves in her little basket for the goats to eat. She loves "her" goats!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our new old farmhouse

This is the house that we are trying to buy! Isn't it lovely? I haven't been able to get any inside pictures of it yet because it is still being occupied buy the current owner. The house was built in 1918, and the gentleman that lives in it now moved there as a very small child with his family in 1936. We went out to see it again and finally got to meet him this past weekend. He took us all around the house and told us stories about everything and everyone having to do with the place. We will be the third owners of the house. 

Several things having to do with buying the old place are still a bit up in the air. There is another appraisal happening in two days and we'll know more after that. Very importantly, the old gentleman is selling and he has accepted our offer! So far so good! The house is quite dated and a bit run down on the inside so we'll have a lot of work to do once we are there to get everything in working order. But we are all very excited at the prospect of turning this small farm into our family's home-place!

 I'm a little nervous about the whole timing thing... we have to be out of this house by the 16th of August, and and we are still not sure when we'll be able to close on the farm house and move in there. (More and more often lately, around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, I lay in bed in just a tiny bit of a panic wondering if being temporarily homeless with 5 children, goats, dogs, and rabbits, is really as bad as I imagine it to be... I pray fervently that we don't have to find out!)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Milking the goats

Meet Daisy and Larkspur. They are Snubians, that means they are a cross breed of Nubian and Saanan dairy goats... mutts really. :-) When we were looking for a few goats to add to our family, these were the only two I could find for sale locally that were both in milk. They are both yearlings and this year was their first freshening (first time they have given birth). The had never been hand milked before I got them. Their previous owner left their kids with them to help develop their udders and had never trained them to the milk stand. I bought them 4 months after their kids were born. The lady I got them from told me that they were both already trying to wean their kids and she wanted to sell the kids as well. So I bought these two does and brought them home. 

My idea that first morning was to milk her while sitting on a tiny stool in the grass while she stood patiently chewing her cud allowing the frothy white goodness to come pouring out of her. I envisioned it would be just like the stories of goat herders in the Alps, like in the story of Heidi! I went outside imagining all the the wonderful milk I would be getting from my goats, the cheese I would be making with the excess milk that we didn't drink fresh, all of the picnics in the shade of a huge tree eating crusty homemade bread, smeared with fresh butter, and jars of fresh ice cold milk to drink with creamy goat cheese spread on our crusty bread while my children gathered wildflowers and made daisy chain crowns of them and danced around a maypole singing folk songs and... yeah it was going to be just like that! 

Well, that beautiful vision lasted just about 20 seconds! They were friendly curious goats, but they had not been touched or handled much before they came to live with us. The first day they were here, milking time came and I got my supplies together and took Logan outside to help me figure this out. I took a dog leash out with me, hooked it on one's collar and brought her out of the pen to milk her. 

I had to drag the poor animal out of the pen on the leash (they had never been trained to walk on a lead either) while she protested loudly.Then Logan held onto the lead while I situated myself on the little stool next to the goat. The minute I touched her she moved away. So I scooted the little bench I was sitting on over a bit, to be within reach and she promptly moved out of my reach again. We were both pivoting around poor Logan who was trying desperately to keep a hold on her leash while I tried desperately to keep a hold on her teats! We had left the milk bucket behind and at this point both Logan and myself had milk running down our legs and into our shoes. He was laughing so hard that the amount of help he was actually providing at that point was negligible. 

While the goat and I were orbiting my ever helpful son, he quipped "With people like us living here the neighbours don't even need to watch TV anymore. They'll just see us head out the backdoor and start popping the popcorn, and sit by their back windows to watch the show!" *After that I was afraid to look up, for fear that he might be right! 

After about 20 minutes we repeated the entire spectacle with the second goat... it didn't go any better than with the first one. If anything it was even more difficult because this one was more nervous after hearing her herd-mate protesting the whole time! We finally went back up to the house with a grand total of nearly one cup full of very dirty, stepped in milk, which I dumped unceremoniously into the dog's dish as I passed by. I called Rodrigo at work and told him that he needed to plan on making me a milk stand before that evening's milking time after he got home from work! 

My darling husband did come home and make me a wonderful milk stand. We had numerous books about goats and homesteading in general with plans for DIY milk stands. We looked at all of them and took what we thought were the best points from each and he built it for me. Two things I asked that he specifically include in the design were #1 that it have a back "wall" that way the goat couldn't move away from me while I was milking her. And #2 that the stand be made about 8 inches wider that the goats actually needed so that I could sit next to them while I milked. My thought was so I could lean my shoulder into the goat to help her feel calmer and hold her still while she was being milked. After having the stand in use now for more than two months I am very happy with these design choices! 

Within about a week's time of having the milk stand, the goats were settling into our routine. They realized that I had no intention of killing them when I went out twice a day to lead them out of their pen and onto the stand. They decided that quite liked the grain they got while being milked. I caught on pretty quickly that they would stand still (well, fairly still) if I only let them eat grain while on the milk stand. The rest of the day they have free choice of browsing and good hay.

During that first month I I read every book, blog post, or magazine article and watched every single video I could find, trying to figure out how to get my goats to stand still! There where several good suggestions, but none of them really worked for us. Mostly they just came down to this, "Be patient, eventually your goat will stand still on her own."  I'm not terribly patient and I was sick of never even getting to taste the milk that I was working so hard to get out, since the bucket (Or large stainless steel bowl in our case) was being kicked over and stepped in before I ever had a chance to save it. Finally, I figured out a way that works for us that I had not seen posted anywhere else. I had Rodrigo shoot a short video of how we do it, in the hopes that it might help someone else that might have the same problem! I am editing it now and I'll post it next week. 

*P.S. The aforementioned neighbours, who Logan predicted might be watching our crazy antics... Well at least 4 different times I have seen and heard various neighbours outside talking on their cell phones about me while I am milking. They lean over the fence to get better shots of what I'm doing. They have texted pictures of me milking to their friends and families, they have posted pictures of me on facebook... You know, I think they might miss us when we move! The rest of this neighbourhood is pretty boring compared to us... I guess they'll just have to go back to watching TV next month! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It finally happened...

We chose contentment, indeed happiness to just be here in our little house on our little piece of land in our little neighbourhood were we have lived for the past 6 or 7 years. We decided that since we were not really going to ever sell our home, that we would begin to "homestead" much more seriously right here in our little backyard. Rodrigo and I talked and planned for weeks and months, just how to best use what God had given us to work with here. We planned on how to make our large family feel most comfortable in the small confines of this house. We talked with the (oldest 3) children about these things too, we asked for their ideas and input about everything we were considering. We talked about what we needed to get rid of, sell, or giveaway. We discussed what we would need to build, buy, plant, or breed and raise to become as self-sufficient as possible.

We were positively sure that putting our house up for sale was totally pointless, because no one was really buying houses just now. Our house had a 6 month contract on it with the real estate company, and we had so many showings. For 5 months, at least once a week, sometimes as many as 3 times in a week, we would have to maniacally clean everything in the house, and make sure everything was totally spotless and leave. Everything was scrubbed, polished, dusted, and straightened to perfection or as near as I could humanly get it. And then a bunch of total strangers would go traipsing through our home, never to be heard from again. I hated it, but I knew that without all of those strangers snooping about my house, we would never get to sell it. But as the weeks wore on I felt more and more resentful at having to prepare my home for something that would never happen. Rodrigo encouraged me just to hang on and finish out our contract with the realtors, so I did... but I wasn't enjoying it a bit!

In the meantime we decided to go ahead and start really living here again. We began to implement our homesteading, self-sufficiency plan. We bought fruit trees, 7 of them, and planted a mini orchard, with room to add a few more trees next spring. We got meat rabbits and started breeding them to eat eventually. (At the moment we have 10 adult rabbits for breeding, several of whom are pregnant and one with 5 babies.)

We planted a bunch of veggies in the flower beds since all of our dedicated gardening spots had been reseeded with grass, to make our lawn more desirable to potential home-buyers. *rolling eyes* We made plans to greatly expand our gardening area next year!  And we decided to go ahead and get a couple of dairy goats!! 

Yes, I finally got my milk goats. We have been talking about it for ages, reading, researching, talking to people who had goats, and finally Rodrigo told me that he thought if I was ready to start milking them twice a day that I should go ahead and locate a few. No sense wasting our lives waiting for something that may never happen he said, better to live our lives that way we want right now while we are young enough to enjoy it, instead of waiting for "someday" only to realize that someday either came too late, or never came.  Thus Daisy and Larkspur were welcomed to our little homestead in the neighbourhood! (I'll post more about them soon! I love my goats!!) 

They lived in the backyard and slept in a little plastic "barn". Rodrigo was not happy with the "barn", and stated that the goats needed their own shed, purposefully built just for them. We spent a couple of weeks researching exactly what type of housing would be best suited to our needs as well as theirs. We wanted something large enough to house them, a place for milking, a few kids next spring, and even to house a small flock of laying hens that we wanted to get. (Remember, we got rid of our lovely chickens when we decided to put our house on the market? We thought having a flock of chickens in the backyard would scare off prospective buyers, Haha! We had tons of "prospective buyers" just no actual buyers!!) So materials were acquired and work was begun on the new goat shed. 

So basically everything we did, pretty much seemed purposefully designed to scare off any house hunters in the area. We still had showings, but in the 5 months that it has been on the market we didn't have one. single. offer. Not even a really low offer, nothing, zero, zip, nada! I didn't even care anymore, I kept asking Rodrigo if we could please just break our contract with the real estate company and get on with life. I was sick of having all of my books and pictures in storage. I was sick of paying (!!) to store books and furniture that we could be using. So a couple of weeks ago we had one last showing. A few days after that the realtor called Rodrigo. It was July 4th and we were picnicking with the kids at the lake. 

Rodrigo was out in the water with the children paddling them around in one of our inflatable kayaks. When I saw who was calling I didn't even answer the phone. I had no intention of cutting our fun short to run home and clean, for yet another showing! Rodrigo had the day off and we were celebrating! Later, after we were home that evening, I remembered the missed call. I told Rodrigo that he probably had a message from the realtor and that he might want to check it. No message, so Rodrigo called him up to find out when they wanted to show the house. I didn't really even like the guy, so I surely didn't want to talk to him! Ro got a funny look on his face when they started talking and went out to the porch to talk where it was quieter. He came inside in a few minutes and told me that we had an offer on the house!!! 

It had finally happened! Now, after we had decided that we would choose joy and contentment. We made up our minds to be truly grateful to God for all the wonderful blessings He had given us right here, and make the very most of those gifts. After we had invested so much more of ourselves (not to mention time and money!) into making this house of ours exactly what we wanted~ a functioning homestead. Someone wanted to buy it?!?! And so now we are in the midst of looking for a new place to call home, we had completely stopped house hunting for ourselves since we were sure we would have no reason to need another place! We close on this house on August 16th. So we are feeling a bit of pressure to hurry up and find somewhere to live! And to make things feel even more adventurous not only do we have a family of 7 people to worry about housing, we have 2 dogs, 2 goats (that must be milked twice a day!) and 15 rabbits to deal with now as well! 

What an adventure! 
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