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Monday, January 18, 2016

State of the Homestead

This blog has MOVED to
This will probably be the last State of the Homestead on this blog. But it'll be back on the new blog with more harrowing tales of scraped knuckles and black and blue shins. 

I sometimes wonder what it would be like not to have a single scrape or bruise for more than a day.

Goats: It's official. All the goats will be gone by this summer. We'd like to travel and it's too much of an imposition on friends to look after animals that like to knock you down for laughs. I'm going to miss these guys. The goats I have now are all young with no bad habits. 

Ray Charles is a little pushy but he's not mean like his father--may he rest in gravy. The girls are both pregnant. This is why I'll have to wait until their babies are born (and weaned) before I sell them.

We might get miniature goats once we settle down again, but time will tell. We would like to raise a pig or two. We've raised them before and they are relatively easy to handle as long as they have a sturdy fence. There is nothing like FRESH bacon. After one bite, you'd think you died and went to heaven.

And we're still in talks about raising a cow for the freezer. This is the only animal we wouldn't butcher ourselves. It's a big animal that needs to be processed quickly, so if we get one, we'll be sending him out to professionals.

Rabbits: We have new bunnies! Gray, black, and blonde. If one of the grays are male I'll be keeping him as future breeding stock. I think this year I'll sell Ruby, the white New Zealand, and Frodo, the mixed breed rabbit. 

Frodo is too small to mate with my girls easily, and Ruby is too big. Belle, the blue New Zealand, is just the right size. I like her temperament too.

I'm still on the hunt for another blue New Zealand, but still no luck. 

Chickens: Since we ran out of eggs too soon last year, we put a light in the chicken coop to encourage egg laying. Hens lay according to the length of day, not by temperature or season. 

I'm getting 10-12 eggs a day now. Plenty to share and to incubate. I'll start incubating eggs at the end of the month and will have chicks to sell by March.

I have younger chickens waiting in the wings too. They'll be my new layers for 2016. I'll be selling the 2 year olds this year.

Nana and Iko: Just recently, Nana started picking fights with Iko. Now this is stupid on two counts. #1: She knows that's unacceptable. #2: Iko outweighs her by nearly twice. 

She's lucky he's so laid back, but he's not a pushover. If he ever decides enough is enough he could seriously hurt her.

To save her from her own foolishness, I took her to the vet to make sure there were no physical problems. The vet felt this was strictly a behavioral issue. While we talked we came to realize I was the catalyst. Nana is so possessive of me she gets annoyed when anyone (including Greg) gets too much attention from me.

Now that Greg lives with me full time, she's gotten used to the idea she has to share me with him, but as an alpha, she refuses to allow any other dog to get between us. 

What to do? I got the names of a couple of animal behaviorists, but first I'm trying an experiment on my own. I've increased her training, keeping her at 'stay' longer, or telling her to move slowly when I say, 'slow down'. 

If I hear so much as a whispered growl, she immediately loses all rights to me for about 5 minutes. (Five minutes is nearly a lifetime in dog time.)

So far we've not had a single issue. Nana is smart. Border collies are like the Einsteins of the dog world. I stopped training her at basic commands, but I think I need to expand. She needs to learn I love all my babies equally, even the big two-legged one that hogs the bed she shares with me.

On the homestead: We've had a relatively mild winter so far. On days when it's pleasant, we've been getting ready for spring. The other day, we took down a damaged tree that was too close to the house. Greg cut them into logs, but we'll leave the splitting for another day. That's usually my job.


We've also cleaned coops and rabbit hutches, cut the asparagus bed down to 2 inches, and even built a new transitional mini-pen for baby rabbits and chicks.

Below is a few seconds of Greg troweling a cement floor for the transitional mini-pen.

Next week when it warms up again, it'll be time to turn over the garden and prep it for planting in March. My potatoes are ready to put in now, so there's no time to waste.

So what's new at your end? Will you put in a garden, or at least a little pot of herbs?

Have you ever had a troublesome pet? What did you do to solve the problem? I'm really hoping Nana is smart enough to grasp the concept of sharing. 

Do you have any big task ahead of you in 2016? 

Regular visitors at our front yard.


Darke Conteur said...

I love hearing about your gardening adventures during the winter. Get's me excited for spring.

Long and Short Reviews said...

Dakota is one of the smartest dogs I've known and she used to get into SO much trouble... so I taught her tricks (a suggestion from an agility friend with a Border Collie *G*). She has a huge number that she knows now above and beyond the typical (sit, lie down, roll over, sit up, shake). She also bows, crawls, naps, and knows her right and left paws, high five, whisper and more. It engaged her brain and really helped. So did agility (which I swear saved her from being rehomed) which border collies LOVE. You should look into getting a few obstacles: jumps, tunnel, etc. for your yard. It might help to both keep her brain busy and tire her out more. My $0.02 FWIW. (sorry for the biz acct login, but I'm too lazy to sign out and in and out and in again)

Mike Keyton said...

Nana and Iko Vs Maria, canine dominatrix 😀

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Fresh eggs AND fresh bacon?! :)

So far all of my houseplants are still alive. And the potted outside ones are, too. I might try getting some bougainvillea or allamanda for the patio - I love the colors.

betty said...

Sounds busy at your neck of the woods. Lots of things going on and plans for the coming months :) I'm thinking Nana will come to see it is in her best interest to learn how to share you and will learn to behave a bit better. Hubby had a dog when we were first married that he got from the pound. He didn't like a lot of people but was a great watch dog. Hubby did work with him to accept other people (I had no problem with him) but he still was very careful when people were over to make sure the dog behaved himself :)


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

you just stay too busy.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I need a rest after reading all that! Besides, it's way too cold to go outside, except I did to go to the fitness center. Even got a bit of running in today: from the fitness center to the car! :) Temps will be lucky to get to the teens. Brrr...

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Spring won't be long now. It's my favorite time of year.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne (L&SR): I think that'll be the best course for us too. It's like having an exceptionally bright child. If you don't keep their brains challenged they get into trouble.

I wish there was an agility group nearby but I guess we'll have to do it on our own.

Thanks for chiming in! I knew you'd have some experience with this. It's amazing how far Dakota has come.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: The vet asked who was the alpha in the pack. I said I was, and she laughed.

We've always raised the dogs to see us as alphas though. Nana probably thinks I'm super alpha only because I raised her alone.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

There was only one time when I had two dogs at once and they got along great. Too soon for me to think about planting though I'm worried that the lack of snow will cost me some shrubs this winter.

Maria Zannini said...

Madeline: I'm thinking of planting an edible front yard this year. Some veggies are really beautiful in flower.

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: We had a rottie like that. She was socialized at an early age, but that didn't stop her from being the best guardian we ever had. She trusted no one unless we said it was okay.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Ha! Wait until it warms up. Greg might decide to leave me and visit you in Florida.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Lately we work for three days and rest for four, so it's not a bad routine.

Today is kind of cold though so I'm sure we'll stay in and veg.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: It mystifies me because we've had a half dozen dogs at a time and they always got along--except for one short period when two of the males had to sort out who was on top.

re: snow
I can imagine. Snow is a great insulator.

Rebekah Loper said...

I need to get cracking on garden plans - I meant to start right after Christmas, and then all the layoff drama came to a head (which you can read about on the post I got up very late last night on my blog).

Our asparagus has finally gone from bright green to yellow (we didn't have a hard freeze until well into December), so I need to get out there and cut all the tops down too.

I'd love to plant potatoes this year, but I just don't have a good place for them that's well fertilized at this point. Unless I get out there and start consistently turning the compost pile.

Maria Zannini said...

re: compost
That's what I did last year. I added fresh compost to half the beds, particularly the potato bed since it needs to be mounded. The harvest was pretty good considering I used leftover potatoes.

re: asparagus
This is my first real asparagus bed so I'm anxious to see how it produces. I went through a lot of trouble to prepare that bed and kept it weed free. Now to see if my efforts are repaid.

Marlene Dotterer said...

I don't know how you do it all, but you have such a busy, productive life. It always sounds awesome. Love the videos!

We've been getting LOTS of rain (yay, El Nino!) and the temps have been cool. The rain trades time with sunlight and our new native plants are really loving it all. We've lost a few, mostly the milkweeds. The rest are bright and cheerful looking, slightly bigger in size, and hopefully setting down strong roots. Our two rain ponds are full of water and we get a daily treat watching a couple dozen birds bounce and flap around in them. Oh, and those annual veggie seeds I planted in my raised bed, that I thought the squirrels took? Nope - I've got fava beans and chard popping up and growing like crazy! *Happy dance!*

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: I'm so glad to hear your new plants are taking off! Rain is so critical at the beginning. Sounds like you lucked out with El Nino.

We had a problem with squirrels too in an out of the way bed I kept for sunflowers and soybeans. I finally gave up the plot.

Sandra Almazan said...

We've talked about raised beds, but this year we might want to focus on landscaping the front of our house, which desperately needs the help.

As for big projects this year, I already have my work cut out for me with my books. There are some smaller craft projects I'd like to finish, though.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Border Collies are smart! She's going to keep you on your toes teaching her new tricks. She'll re-learn her manners fast :)

I'm so tired when I look at your wood cutting. *salutes you*

It's the height of summer here, so as long as the garden somehow survives, that's good enough! but we did (finally) get a bit of rain last night which is a huge relief.

Angela Brown said...

Nothing cracking on any gardens, though I see your place is the place to be if the zombie apocalypse happens. Hey, I can learn some stuff lol!

As for dogs, I still don't know what to do with this energetic little terror we have.

Otherwise, got edits to do, a short story to write and a few sequels demanding they get written much sooner than later.

Lynn Viehl said...

I've decided to cultivate some citrus trees on our property this year; I have six sweet red grapefruit started from seeds of some beautiful fruit a friend gave us over the holidays. Of course if they make it I won't see fruit until I'm in my sixties, but I just felt the urge to try to add something I love from my childhood to this place. I grew up with a white grapefruit tree in the back yard and loved going out to pick my breakfast.

Our dogs squabble now and then, instigated always by our little rescue Poshie pup, who is particularly possessive about food and me. Our big male Sheltie is fairly tolerant unless she gets in his face when he's already agitated and in dominance mode -- then they go at it. I can usually break it up with a verbal command to stop, but if they ignore me I leave walk out onto the porch and leave the door open, and then they always stop fighting to follow me. I don't know why it works but it does.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's interesting about your dogs. They're so much like people.
I would LOVE to get another dog but I really worry--for the other dog!! My dog seems to hate ALL dogs. :( He's so anti social except with us.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: I really need to do something with my front yard. I've slowly been adding perennials. Some worked. Some haven't.

Looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labor for 2016!

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Rain is always a godsend to us, though last year we had quite a lot which is why the garden did so well.

re: border collies
It's been a week now and she's been good as gold. The day she snapped at Iko we had a freak cold snap and stayed indoors a lot. I wonder now if it had to do with being house-bound. I get a little snappy too when I'm cooped up. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: That one tree gave us a lot of wood. We don't use the fireplace a lot, but it's nice for taking the chill out of the air.

Your puppy is still a kid. It'll be a while before he calms down. In essence, you now have TWO kids. Congratulations! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: Good luck with the seedlings! If the original fruit is from a grafted tree you won't get the same kind of fruit, but you never know. You might get lucky.

re: squabble
I like the idea of walking out the door. I might try that myself. Nana can't stand to be left behind. Thanks!

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Some dogs, especially those who were raised as "only" children are really possessive of their owners. You're probably better off just having one. If she ever relaxes, you might try a puppy that's on the submissive side. She'll grow up seeing the older one as the alpha.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

We're still maintaining our home for elderly pets. No new ones on the horizon, thank goodness. They don't have much trouble between them nowadays, except for Polly occasionally rolling over on a cat, but that seems to clear up pretty quickly.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Oh that reminds me of an old rottie we used to have. Her and the cat were inseparable and used to sleep together all the time, but as she got older she had less control of her legs. One day she fumbled to her feet but the cat was tangled in between them. Sadly, Mr. Kitty ended up in a cast.

They were still friends but Kitty was wary of where he sat after that.

Re: We're still maintaining our home for elderly pets.
God bless you. :)

Diane Carlisle said...

Whenever I see videos on Facebook of little tiny miniature goats in cute clothing, hopping around and playing....I want one! Then I read your posts and go, "Nah...." LOL

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: LOL! Yeah, they're cute but still a lot of work.

Shelley Munro said...

I'm sure Nana will get the hang of things soon. We're still digging potatoes and the butter beans are ready to harvest. This year hasn't been very good for tomatoes, but the cucumbers and courgettes have over produced. We've been keeping friends and family supplied.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: It's interesting how the same crop can do differently every year.

Two years ago my peppers barely produced. Yet last year I had more peppers than I knew what to do with.