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The Frankenstein Bug

In 2011, I started working a night shift job. One night, I was cleaning as usual, when I encountered a bug that looked like it had been through a nuclear attack.
This sucker had legs built like a grasshopper, but it’s body looked like a centipede! Beastie looked something fierce! My knee jerk reaction was probably what most of you would have to this elusive creature. I killed it!
Later, I became curious and looked up what on earth it was that I had found. It turned out to be a house centipede. They come out primarily at night, and they are shy though in a state of confusion and fear may rush at a person. It’s ok though. They aren’t aggressive. No more than a regular honey bee. They only bite if you give them reason to think they are about to die.

Despite their ferocious looks, the house centipede is a great bug to have around. They take out one of the few creatures that really might survive a nuclear attack.
Their favorite snack? The cockroach. So, moral of the story, if you see one of these hideous looking creatures, just leave it alone and know that one more of them means several less cockroaches.

Why a barn cat?

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Cats are admittedly adorable, and entertaining to watch. However, most people prefer to keep a cat inside. So why keep a barn cat? After all, there’s rat poison or rat traps that can be used to control rat and mouse populations on farms right? And if not those, maybe a dog like the rat terrier?

Well, yes and no. My family tried that route and we found that at least on our homestead, traps don’t keep up with the amount of mice.  As for the poison. That would work except for the fact that the mice eat stuff in our garden too, and we have dogs. We also live near a road, so for us personally, turning the rat terrier out wasn’t really an option.

Putting poison out in the garden meant a few things. First, there was a chance of a dog finding it and eating it before we could stop them. We have had a few emergency vet visits because of that. Our dogs are dearly loved and the most painful death I ever witnessed in a dog was from rat poison that we found out that the dog had eaten and it was already too late for the dog to be saved.

Secondly, there is the fact that when it rains, if there is rat poison out in the garden, protecting the plants, the rat poison is being dissolved into the ground. The plants will then suck up some of what made up that poison.

Thirdly, if mice ate the poison outside and we didn’t find them, another animal could find the dying or dead mouse and accidentally poison itself by eating that mouse. So, we decided to get a cat. This has been working out splendidly. The only thing that I question, is if one cat will be enough to get rid of as many mice as seem to be in the sheds and gardens.

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Taffy caught himself a swift and ferocious clump of grass while he was learning to stalk and hunt. Look at that goofy tongue sticking out!

Since getting Taffy, and since he learned to hunt, we have been seeing a drastic decline in the mice and sparrows on our homestead.

If you have a barn cat, what led you to decide to get one? Let us know in the comments below.

Turkey Season On The Homestead

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It’s turkey season on the homestead. Not in the way that most of you would assume I mean when I say it’s turkey season, although if I remember correctly it is also turkey hunting season. No, the reason why it’s turkey season on the farm right now is because we have oodles and caboodles of baby turkeys called poults hatching.poults

Just about a week ago, as a matter of fact, we had a clutch hatch. Unfortunately for them, since they were being hatched in an incubator,and they had already incubated in the egg for a while, we incorrectly guessed how fresh their eggs were.

So, our poor poults hatched out a few days ahead of when we expected, and went splat on the floor of the incubator. Don’t worry, they weren’t hurt. However, the floor of the incubator is slick. So, these poor babies were unable to get their legs under them to learn how to walk and ended up splay legged.

In the past, we always used to have to destroy splay legged babies. But then we learned a trick. Hobbling! Yup! Very similarly to how you would hobble a horse only there are two hobbles per poult rather than just one. We will be sharing in our turkey course exactly how we put them on. Actually, these youngsters are featured in a video showing exactly what we do to fix splay legs in very young turkeys. They are all looking great a week later and no longer have their hobbles on.

This Is Why This Year Will Be The Year Of Chicks

IMG_0848This year, we are revamping our buckeye flock. The flock that we have been keeping has learned to roost in the trees and has been brought up sleeping outside their coop. We decided that the easier way to transition birds to sleeping inside would be to sell the older birds and hatch babies.

Right now is hatching time.  We’ve had our new flock hatch out.

When they are full grown these babies will be wonderful meat and layer birds. The reason why we chose to raise chicks instead of training the older birds is because with the babies, we will spent less time working on their training. Our older girls are more set in their ways. When they went to new homes, the new homes could create new habits because they were now in a different environment, not like what they were used to.

Buckeye hens and rooster

 

Ewe won’t believe this

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Ewe Won’t Believe This

Most of you who follow my blog probably remember this little guy who the dog brought home during really cold and nasty weather. His name is Bucky and he is a little Katahdin ram.

We used to keep Shetland/Merino crosses because we love to work wool. The trouble was that because we have several jobs going, we don’t have time to keep up on spinning and using all of their wool. However, we love sheep! They graze a different section of the grasses and weeds than our goats, horses or calf do, plus they are delicious when they are cooked correctly.

We hadn’t been planning on more sheep any time too soon because of our literal wool gathering habit. That all changed when Commando showed up with his *ahem* present.

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We had to then locate the lamb’s owner( which wasn’t a super easy task) and offer to buy the lamb. Fast forward a few months. Being a Katahdin, Bucky won’t require shearing because he has hair. Then there is the fact that we bottle raised him so he is super sweet and friendly.

Yup! We have officially fallen in love with him. He stays as a breeder. So, yesterday, we acquired two something specials.

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Yup! We got Bucky a couple of girlfriends. We are officially back in sheep. They aren’t as tame as Bucky. As a matter of fact, we had an attempted get away today. Thankfully my dad and I were able to bring our stray lambs home.

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How to learn homesteading without losing your mind

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Homesteading is a wonderful and sometimes complicated thing to know how to do. There are so many things to learn! We learned it the hard way. Over decades, we learned how to garden, as my great grandparents did during the depression years in America. My father began learning to raise chickens as a boy and he honed his skill as he grew up.

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Later, when we were living in the mountains in Mexico, he learned how to raise rabbits for meat to help the people there provide themselves with much needed protein. When I was 14, we moved back to America. We had to learn how to garden in the soil of the high desert of central Mexico where I lived from 7-14 years old, the cold rain forest type climate we lived in until I was 6 years old and later, the pine barrens of New Jersey with it’s sandy loam. Now, we are gardening in Oklahoma.

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When we moved to Oklahoma, we got into dairy goats. This was a huge jump for us. Goats don’t lay eggs obviously so learning to deal with kidding was going to be a huge task. Fortunately for us, since we were determined to become more self sufficient, we were able to find a mentor for learning to raise goats. Later, we also branched out into raising our own beef, and wool on the homestead.

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Each thing that we have learned is wonderful. But there can be a steep learning curve. You need to find or get a good mentor if you want to be successful raising a significant portion of your own food.

But, I have some very good news for those of you who want to learn, but have not been successful at finding a mentor. Homesteadingedu launches tomorrow. Our website is http://www.homesteadingedu.com and we will mentor you in all the things we know. We can teach you everything that I’ve previously mentioned plus things like making your own yogurt from store bought milk and making a yogurt start without having to buy any yogurt. We have many many classes coming up on our website.

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Home made goats cheese

It’s Affordable
Our classes are $9.99 a month or $99 a year. Tomorrow is when we start the first few of our classes and more will be regularly getting added. Learning to homesetead without a mentor can be very time consuming and difficult.  Come join us, and make homesteading easier for yourself!

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Kids in perspective

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George McLaughlin, one of the homesteaders at Homesteadingedu wrote an article that he asked me to share with you all. Sorry that it has taken me a while to get this posted. We’ve been battling for the lives of some sick kids lately. Here is the article:

Kids in Perspective

Kidding season has arrived! Our family both looks forward to it, and… dreads it. We have a love hate view of the arrival of all the baby goats, and, any other ruminants, at this time of the year.

They’re so cute, what’s there not to LOVE?! They’re adorable. They’re entertaining. They are totally dependent on us too. Cuddling a kid while feeding is really therapeutic in some ways. Plus, this activity makes for some precious photos!

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There are some real challenges to the arrival of kids. They are often born when we would very much like to be sleeping. Sometimes their birth is drawn out. One day when we were still fairly new to goats, we had a doe appear to go into labor around 4 PM. Most of the family sat out there, in the barn with her, in 20 degree weather, until nearly midnight, as we observed her contractions. Wrapped in blankets, we were still FREEZING cold! Finally, around midnight the doe got up, looked around at us, as if to say, “Well, thank you for the company,” stretched, yawned, and… went to sleep. The kids didn’t arrive for another day or two!

Kids poop a lot. Sometimes they catch one off guard. Fairly frequently one will be bottle feeding a warm, snuggly kid only to discover that “the warm” wasn’t just body heat. Kids leak, spatter and spill milk all over their caretakers. I usually set aside some work pants, just for chores, and, during the days of kidding, those pants go into the laundry, not because they look stained and dirty, but rather because they STINK!

As kids get older, they pass from the cute and cuddling stage, to what we call “the obnoxious stage.” They become more demanding. They have almost no manners. When hungry, if they don’t have a bottle stuck into their mouth, they often bite! The other day I wore dark trousers and a navy blue sweatshirt while bottle feeding the kids. When I went back in the house, my wife laughed at me, commenting that I had little muddy hoof prints all over me, as well as bits and pieces of hay!

I don’t mind the cold. I even tolerate rain and sleet pretty well. But there’s something about being out in “it” for several hours and then coming into a warm house, after dark. Within minutes, I have lost all desire to go back outside. Yet, when we are caring for kids, it’s often precisely that time when I need to carry out a bucketful of bottles and spend the next half hour, or more, bottle feeding! Kids are inconvenient!

Yet, in spite of all the disadvantages, we would be really sad not to have kids born on our farm every year. You see, we have a small dairy. We even raise most of our own meat. We earn an income from animals we sell. On almost a yearly basis we even sell a milk goat in milk, often to someone who is just starting out with dairy. Without kids we couldn’t do any of this. Whenever we have kids, whenever I work with them I can’t help but think “these are the future.” They represent future prosperity, for me, for my family, and also for others. They represent the future of our herd. Particularly when I consider a new little doe, I think about the many potential gallons of milk and production that she represents. Kids are simply worth the expense and inconvenience!

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There’s an analogy to be drawn between these kids and “the other kind” of kid: human kids. When I consider this, apart from the potential “product” of the two differing kinds of kids, everything else is analogous. But with human kids both the negatives and the positives are exponentially greater.

The Great Shepherd happens to LOVE children! We should too.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5

Even if we are not at a point in life to bear them, I believe the Lord would have us to support and encourage those who do, as well as pursue that which promotes their well being.

The inconvenience of raising children lasts much much longer, and it is much more than raising livestock. The commitment required is much greater! Human kids can encourage or discourage us so much more than “goat kids.” The cost of raising human kids is immense. The stakes are much higher! Yet the potential for good is also far greater. It requires much diligence, expense, pain and inconvenience. Yet, in most cases, the rewards are greater, both for the parent and for society. There is a biblical proverb which states: “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” (Proverbs 14:4) Simply stated, the idea is “Where there is no mess, there is no profit.” This principle is true in animal husbandry. It’s true in regard to human families. And, it’s even true in regard to other things, like business ventures.

I don’t believe it’s coincidental that the Lord chose a shepherd to write the psalms. Caring for the flock and herd, one can learn a whole lot both about life and God’s own heart.