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Monday, February 9, 2015

State of the Homestead

Our winter has been relatively mild. It flip flops between freezing weather and warm. This week it's warm.

This is about the time I get busy. There are seeds to start, gardens to clean, and preparations to make for upcoming births. But we've had a few births already!

Rabbits: It was impossible to find another Blue New Zealand buck. We lost ours through an accidental escape.

We finally decided to go for mixed breed bunnies. Our original plan was to have pure blue New Zealands so we could sell them to 4H clubs and to people who prefer pure-breeds, but since we never found a Blue locally, we decided just to raise rabbits for our table and not for sale.

We found Frodo. He's a mutt (a New Zealand cross), but he's friendly and manageable.

Ruby, our white New Zealand, and Belle, our blue New Zealand each delivered six and five bunnies respectively. Each of them were excellent mothers.The bunnies are healthy and rambunctious.

They were born during a freak cold snap but we prepared ahead of time and super insulated their enclosure. Everyone made it fine without a hitch. I used to go in there just to get warm myself.

Chickens: The Marans must've heard I was planning to put them on the chopping block because they all started behaving again. Not one has been eating her eggs. 

Unfortunately, I will have to replace the black Australorp. They are way older than I should've let them go and their egg production has gone into decline. I'm just waiting for them to start laying enough eggs for me to incubate. The only one who's staying is the rooster. He's a well-mannered boy and still does his job.

The only other breed I have left are two Americaunas, a rooster and hen. I think the hen stopped laying all together, but I'd like to sell or give away the rooster because he's gorgeous. He's a nice bird too. There's not a mean bone in his body.

Goats: The girls are pregnant, but I'm not sure when they'll deliver. The boys got in with the girls on two different occasions on someone else's watch. (I had been sick.) Since the deed had probably already been done, I allowed the boys run with the girls earlier than I had planned. I'm hoping it'll be a March delivery, but there's no way to know until they get closer to the date.

The big news--and sad too--is that we might be getting out of the goat business for a while. After the girls deliver and the babies are weaned, we're thinking of selling the whole lot. We'd like to do some traveling while we're still young but I have no one fearless enough to walk into the goat pen. They're a little intimidating to the uninitiated and I don't want to burden anyone. They're not mean, just pushy--and stubborn. If you're not used to goaty ways, it can be overwhelming.

We've managed to rig up a feeder to auto-feed for four days at a time, but that's no good for longer trips. I hate the thought of selling them, but I haven't been able to come up with another solution. If we do sell, we'll probably get smaller dairy goats when the time comes to get goats again. With any luck they'll be more docile and less intimidating. 

Bees: No, not yet. Greg and I were looking into it. We estimated it'll cost us upwards of $500 to get started properly. He was willing to invest, but I think we have too many projects for this year. With it being his first year of retirement, I'd like to see how our cash flow lines out before we start something new.

I'm really surprised Greg is interested in beekeeping since he was deathly allergic to bee stings as a child. He's since gotten stung as an adult and didn't get as strong a reaction so I'm hoping the allergy has dissipated over the years.

Garden: I still have spinach, bok choy and last year's onions and garlic in the garden, but it's time for me to clean out the beds and get them prepped for planting. I've started a few seeds already. I'm also going in with a friend of mine to buy whole flats of tomato and pepper seedlings. She gets them wholesale so it's win-win for me.

My new onion sets will go in the ground this week, but I'll wait until March 1st to plant my potatoes.

I have a full time helper this year so I'm hoping it'll be a more successful garden year. 

Energy: My helper also has a project of his own. He's been researching vertical wind generators. He's come up with some pretty interesting ideas. Wind generators are very popular in Texas and there are so many different designs available. He wants something he can build and install on his own.

I'm all for anything that will help defray the cost of electricity. It's one of our biggest expenses.

All in all, 2015 looks promising. Is anyone planning a garden this year? What's your favorite fruit or veggie to grow? Do you know anyone allergic to bee venom?


Mike Keyton said...

I might plant a geranium or two 😃

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Try not to overexert yourself, Mike. LOL!

I do like geraniums though. They're my favorite flower.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

As a PE teacher, I seldom had a class without at least one student allergic to bees. It's very common.
Too bad about the goats but I see your reasoning.
We're so far from planting season. Still snow on the ground and lots of cold on the way yet.

Stacy McKitrick said...

No planting for this city girl. We do have a pear tree in the backyard, but it draws a lot of wasps (and worms), so I stay away and don't eat any of the pears. I'm thinking it should just be cut down. I really don't know what we were thinking when we planted the thing.

Angela Brown said...

Dont' know anyone with a bee allergy, but my Chipmunk's seasonal allergies have been nothing short of crazy with the constant weather changes.

I'm not much a gardner myself. But I'm thinking doing something smally with Chipmunk would make for a good science experiment and experience.

Rebekah Loper said...

Planning a garden, but things are slow going at the moment. It seems like every time there's a nice weather day, I get stuck in the house dealing with something else.

If I were closer to you, I'd be tempted to take that rooster off your hands... oh well!

I wish I could take some of those goats off your hands, too, but while I think I can easily fudge the 'only 6 chickens' rule the city has (hello lots of foliage to hide them...), I don't think I could get away with goats >_<.

Re: bees (which I'm HOPING to add in this year or next, myself. Because we can have up to 4 bee hives per 1/4 acre in the city, but no goats, go figure...), you should look up top bar hives. The research I've done says it's significantly less expensive to get started with hives that way, and easier to maintain. I've found this site particularly helpful:

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: Some days it seems spring will never come, but it always does.

Hang in there. Winter can't last forever.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Are they the web worms? They're pretty easy to get rid of.

I can't help you with the wasps though. Them and I are mortal enemies.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: My brother is/was allergic to bee venom. He nearly went into anaphylactic shock if it weren't for my sister who knew what was happening.

Re: gardening
That's a great project for youngsters. It doesn't need to be very elaborate. My mother used to have us put a bean in a paper cup to watch it grow.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: I wish we did live closer! You'd be welcome to the rooster and probably a couple of hens too. :)

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

for the table!! wha wha

I didn't want to know that.

sniffle sniffle

Rula Sinara said...

I love reading your state of the homestead posts! And what cute bunnies and a gorgeous rooster. I just planted seeds in starter pots/indoors for the veggie garden. I'm zone 6b so it'll be awhile before they make it outside. I love getting seeds started though. It makes me feel like spring is around the corner.

Anne Gallagher said...

I want to do a garden, but Monster child doesn't want anything but watermelon. Which is fine with me, but we'll be sick of it before the last one is picked.

The bunnies are cute. And the rooster.
Sorry I can't help with the goats. I'm not afraid and twice as pushy.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: There, there.

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: Spring is just a few weeks away for us. Your seedlings will be a good size to replant once your spring hits.

Maria Zannini said...

Re: I'm not afraid and twice as pushy.

This is probably why I'm so well suited for goats. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

I feel tired just reading all that's happening on the ranch. I think a bit of travel and a break sounds perfect -- and well-deserved. Have a wonderful 2015 :)

Shelley Munro said...

Our local library just did a free talk on beekeeping. I've often thought it would be fun to keep bees. A honey supplier keeps hives on my father's farm, and the honey is in big demand. They can't work out what the bees are eating to produce such great honey.
Hubby has just planted beets, lettuce, basil and carrots. It's still very much summer here so they should grow quickly.

Maria Zannini said...

re: I feel tired just reading all that's happening on the ranch.

I laugh every time someone says that. This is normal for us. I sometimes wonder what it'll be like when we have nothing to do.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I've been doing a lot of reading on honey bees. It's amazing how the honey takes on the characteristics of the flowers in their environment.

I still have a lot to learn, but it's been fascinating so far.

Diane Carlisle said...

I'm just imagining your next trip out of town when you have the bees but have found a buyer for the goats, "Gee, honey, what WILL we do with those bees?"


Love your animals!

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: Greg says I can't bring the bees in the house--which is fine by me.

I've been stung in the past. It's not fun.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I wish you luck with all that. I have a black thumb, so no gardening for me, and I only keep the useless kind of animals. :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've got a good handle on everything. YES, do try to travel. It's great to do for its own sake, but it also gives you a good perspective on being home. You learn to really appreciate your place and work.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: I have plenty of those kind of animals myself. And one who's more trouble than she's worth.

We like to say that we wouldn't give a nickle for Nana, but we wouldn't give her up for a million bucks.

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: It's been a long time since we've had a vacation. Locally I'd like to do San Antonio again, but I'd also like to visit family and friends in Chicago and Ohio.

Crystal Collier said...

My youngest sister absolutely loves gardening, and I might too if it weren't for allergies. Unfortunately in the last couple years I've become quite allergic to pollens, which makes turning working in the yard a challenge. One day they'll come up with a serum that completely stops allergies and I'll get out there again. =)

LD Masterson said...

Nope. Still can't do it. The bunnies are so cute and they have names and I remember Happy, the bunny I had as a pet, and then I get to line "...we decided just to raise rabbits for our table..."

I know, I'm a soft-hearted (soft-headed?) idiot.

Maria Zannini said...

Crystal: I hear you. In the last two years I've been getting sinus headaches, something I never got before. Some days it's too painful for words. Wish I knew what changed.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I'm sure people in China think we Americans are nuts for seeing dogs as family and not dinner. For me there's a big difference.

June said...

Oh wow. I had no idea you have a farm! Decided to follow you home from Jackie's blog. What a surprise! :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh my, you have quite the little farm going. I have rabbits for the table, I need to get some new hens. Mine got old and then I was sick so we waited. I want a couple of lambs for the table. Haven't gotten a line on them yet. Around here it's cattle and pigs, sheep? What you want with them critters Ma'am? LOL! I've worked with dairy goats and actually considered a couple but...too much work right now.

Still too cold right now to put in anything for the garden. We'll get the ground prepared in March. This year we're doing barrels of potatoes. :-)

Enjoyed the post and pictures.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Maria Zannini said...

Hi June: It's just a small farm. Since the food we raise is primarily for us, we call it a homestead.

Glad you stopped by!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Sia: A fellow farmer! Huzzah!

Pigs were popular when I lived in east Texas, but here not so much. I think it's the feral hogs that make them so unpopular here. They can destroy an entire field in one night. We've been lucky.

In north Texas, it's horses, cows, and goats, although I've seen a few nearby ranches graze small flocks of sheep.

I'm adding your blog to my feed. :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

Aww! If i lived near you, I'd totally take care of the goats for you. Alas.
And damn those bunnies are so cute. Don't think i could eat them.
And that is a handsome rooster

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I know you would! The goats are really not a bad sort--just focused. Ha! Their prime motivation is food. Rattle a bucket of feed and they'll follow you anywhere.

Raelyn Barclay said...

The bunnies are adorable.

The whole animal/farm thing definitely makes travel a challenge. I hope you find someone to hold down the fort.

Ref: garden
We still have Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli. We lost our Tomatoes and Peppers to a freak frost.

I need to prep the garden, too.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: Travel is next to impossible. We'll have to wait and see.