Homesteading; The Good Life

otcp_wheelbarrow10_30_2014Homesteading; The Good Life

Life when you have a homestead is rich! Oh, it’s certainly a lot of work, no doubt about it, but the life quality is excellent! For example, right now on our farm, we are enjoying fresh tomatoes, green beans, okra, squash, corn, and fresh herbs for cooking.

We also harvested potatoes, onions, and garlic earlier. We will be eating potatoes for many months to come. The onions and the garlic will last almost until next harvest.

Another thing that we enjoy about homesteading, is that for about 10 months of every year we enjoy fresh milk and make our own cheese, yogurt and ice cream. We also have eggs, chicken, ducks, and turkey meat year round. Since we also raise goats, we have our own Chevron.

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Every two years, we raise a new calf and after two years we butcher that calf and enjoy higher quality beef than what you can get in the store.

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Sir Loin, our calf hanging out with his buddy. Spice is one of our milk goats.
Sir Loin

We also raise sheep and enjoy eating mutton. In the past we have raised wool sheep which give us the pleasure of not only having mutton, but also having fiber which we then wash card and spin to be able to use for knitting or crochet.

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Some of our flock with their lambs
We also raise our own honey, which helps with allergies because it’s local honey.

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As I’ve mentioned before, our extra livestock is money on the hoof. The livestock pays for itself, and it’s not a burden on our income and we also know what is in our food because we know what went into the animals.
There is also a pleasure in knowing each of the animals on the farm, and being around them. Raising livestock, while it is a lot of work, is also relaxing and rewarding. The same is true of working the land.

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What Animal Is It?

IMG_0845A few days ago I saw this video on Facebook: https://youtu.be/LAbSv0qiGhM

Of course as always there were people wanting to argue that the animal in the video is a goat. I can understand why they might think that. After all, sheep are woolly and goats have hair right?
There are different types of cattle, sheep, and goats. Not all cattle are good milkers, not all goats produce milk. There are even goats that aren’t prized for milk or even necessarily meat.

It takes time to learn about the different types, especially hair sheep. We even mixed up our ram, Bucky, with being a goat kid, when he was rescued by Commando until we saw his tail. They do have some similarities, and if you’re expecting goat kids then if a hair lamb shows up on your doorstep, you may not realize that what you have is a lamb and not a goat kid initially. Especially, if you don’t currently raise sheep.

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Bucky as a lamb.
So, how do you tell sheep apart from goats? The main thing I look at is the tail. How long is it? Does it stand up or does it flop?

Sheep have floppy tails that are often docked or cut short. They are all born with long tails. Wool sheep will likely have a short floppy tail because wool catches poop and it can cause health problems. So, they often dock the tails of young lambs.
Hair sheep on the other hand, while looking the closest to a goat, are kept with their tails long. Their tails come past their hocks. Note the docked tail on the back end of the ewe in the below picture and the long tails of her babies.

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Shetland Sheep which are kept for wool

Here is a link for or a picture that will show you what the hocks are on a sheep. https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/18/flashcards/699018/jpg/sheep_term1315582630148.jpg
Goats on the other hand, regardless of the breed, have short perky triangular tails.  Take a look at this picture which has both one of our up and coming dairy does, and our hair sheep ram Bucky. IMG_1513

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Notice the perky little tail on these goat hind ends, and the long hanging tail on the ram. Sheep tails always droop. They never get lifted up as high as a goat tail. Goats only droop their tails as a general rule if they don’t feel well, and then it’s clamped, not really drooped.

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Hopefully, this will help you in identifying if you’re dealing with a sheep or a goat if you have absolutely no experience with dealing with either animal.

´╗┐How We Got Into Goats

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One of our first bucks. This was Chief. He was pure bred Nubian.

When I was growing up, my mother had two hard and fast rules about the animals her children were allowed to have. No snakes, no alligators, and oh yeah there was a third and fourth one that I forgot about. No cats and no goats!

Mom hated goats because she had never had a good experience with goats. So, with that said, how did we get from no goats or cats to having a barn cat and a whole flock of goats and sheep running around? Well, it has been a journey!

I mentioned on this blog before that I spent my childhood in Mexico. Every year, my parents were required to take the three of us kids up to the States so that we would learn to speak English as well as we spoke Spanish, and hopefully we would stop mixing the two languages. While we were in the States, we would visit some friends of ours, the Blackwell family, who raised dairy goats. Their milk was so nice and sweet and creamy. They made the most wonderful goats’ milk ice cream for us. Their goats were so well behaved. It took some time, but mom was slowly relenting.

In 2001, my whole family had a huge change in our lives. June 13, 2001 we left Mexico and moved back to the States. We bought four acres in the state of New Jersey. As you may remember from a previous post on ducks, I had always wanted them but was never able to have them in Mexico. Now, in New Jersey, we had muscovy ducks, krainkoppe chickens, turkeys, and guinea hens. We also kept horses. Our fences weren’t good enough for goats though, we couldn’t afford fencing that would hold a goat and mom was still not sold on the idea.

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Krainkoppe Rooster

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Then August 8, 2005 we moved to Oklahoma where we now have 10 acres. When we moved here, the land was already goat ready. The fences were up and would hold goats. Mom had continued having positive contact with the Blackwells. In 2006, we got our first goats. They were just crosses but they were very sweet, one was an amazing milker, and we have descendants of one of those does still in our flocks today. Most of our brown goats are descendants of the doe named Chiquita.

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Here my sister and I are bundled up, waiting for Chiquita to kid. She was “just kidding” that night. Simply positioning babies, but she sure had us fooled.