The Next Big Thing

It’s starting to get busy around here!  I hope to soon update you all on the goats and our newest additions, chickens!! For right now though my head is underwater.  Fishy, fishy water.  Our latest project on the farm is setting up an aquaponics system (more on that in a bit).  We spent this past weekend setting up a greenhouse that will provide shelter for the system.  It is a 10X20 temporary hoop house with plastic sheeting for winter and a sunshade for summer.  This will provide shade and airflow during the deep heat of our Texas summers, and warmth and protection during the few freezing days of winter.  The greenhouse will allow us to expand our growing season to almost year round.

To set up the greenhouse we first measured out the spacing for the base of the aquaponics tanks.  Then we needed to dig holes to fit square pavers, back-filling with sand to ensure level footing.  This was by far the harder job of the day and took a couple hours.  Finally, we set up the frame of the greenhouse under supervision of the goats, of course!

Not the most flattering angle for Pickles, hopefully there are babies in there!

Our system is being delivered this week but will have to sit and wait until after the holidays to be set up.  In the meantime here is a little info about aquaponics and the company we purchased our system from.

So, what the heck is aquaponics?  Here is my short answer:  Aquaponics is a combination of Hydroponics and Aquaculture. Hydroponics is a method for growing plants without soil, using only water and added nutrients.  Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic animals and plants in controlled environments.  These two concepts are combined to create a system where aquatic animals and food crops grow symbiotically.  Basically, there is a big tank that holds fish, catfish in our case, and a bed for growing plants.  As roots develop, the fish water is oxygenated and as the fish poop, the plants are fed nutrients.  This is a very basic description but I am sure AK will chime in shortly with way more information.

We have been working closely with a company out of Boulder,CO

They have an amazing team who helped us pick a system that would work best for our needs.  The best news is that they will be flying out early in the year to install our system in return for filming it for their own website!  We are very excited to work with this company and get our system up and growing.

 

Bringing Home Baby(s)

We have just completed our first week (and a few days) of being goat owners.  Has it really just been a week?  Wow, it feels so much longer.  It has been a week of laughter, fear, joy, and tears.  And this is just the start of our adventure.

We chose to go with a dwarf variety of goat for so many reasons but the main one being that they are adorable!!! Our plan for the goat factor on the farm is to produce dairy so we chose Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. They are known to be easy to handle and their milk is said to be sweeter than a large goat. Being new to goats and new to dairying, we thought it would be a good idea to start small.

The first few days were a struggle to get the kids to take a bottle.  They had never had one and had no idea that the weird tall animals shoving gross plastic things in their mouths were actually offering warm, delicious nourishment. Our doeling caught on quickly and soon she was sucking down the ozs as if it was the last bottle on Earth. Our buckling on the other hand was leaving me terrified and in tears. He would not take that bottle. The Hubinator would have to crouch over him and brace him in his arms while I pried open his little mouth, shoved in the nipple, and clamped my hands around his face. It was horrible. He was barely taking an ounce. One lunch time feeding I just sat in the pen and sobbed because I could feel his little ribs and backbone but could not make him understand that I was giving him what he wanted. In desperation I skipped the next feeding hoping that he would be ravenous. It wasn’t as magical as I had hoped but between the two of us we did get a whole 4 ounces in him. The next morning I tentatively made up their bottles and went out to the pen. I fed our doeling first figuring I would have another struggle with the little man. All of the sudden, here he was, jumping on his sister’s back and trying to grab the nipple out of her mouth. I picked up his bottle and he latched right on and sucked down the whole thing as if he had been doing it all along!!! I then cried tears of joy. The moral of this story?  Keep at it, they are stubborn little buggers but they will get it and when they do get it, you better hold onto that bottle for dear life!

Let me introduce our little guys!

Jameson_introThis cutie pie is Jameson. He will be our one and only wether (more on that later) but as he is a twin we didn’t want to separate him from his sister so, he’s my little buddy.  Since we took him out of the car on day one I have been picking him up, cuddling him, petting him, and generally trying to bond with him. This has made him easy to handle and a very sweet little guy.

Pickles_intro3This little milk gurgler is Pickles.  She is a silly, kick up her heels kinda girl.  She has been a strong drinker since day two (day one was a little off for both) and the Hubinator has taken her on as his baby girl.  She hasn’t been cuddled as much because hubs is just not much of a cuddler but, I have been picking her up and playing with her feets and generally getting her used to being handled.

These two kids are the first of our herd and having them has already taught me so much. I feel a bit like a new mom and worry every night when I put them in their shelter. I worry every morning when I let them out. I worry if I am outside and don’t catch a glimpse of them after a few minutes. I am excited to see them becoming more agile, I feel pride and sorrow when I let them out in the morning and I swear they grew some over night. I am guessing some of this is how new moms feel, never having human kids of my own. I know it will get easier as we add more to the herd and have a little practice but right now it is a bit overwhelming.

Today marks another milestone in our goats lives.  We are taking them to the vet to have their first round of vaccinations and hopefully learn how to give them vaccinations ourselves.  Goat farmers are a self sufficient bunch, farmers in general are, and we can’t be running off to the vet every time someone needs a vaccination.  Especially when we begin breeding our does.  We are also having my little man wethered or castrated.  We do not plan to use him as a buck for our herd and like I said, we did not want to separate him from his sister.  So “off with his nuts”, not to be crass.  I am fearful because I do not want him to be in pain but I know it is the best thing for him and everyone will be much happier this way.  Speaking of, it is about that time.  Fingers crossed that momma doesn’t cry and I will fill you all in on the gory details next time!

We Got Goats!

We have some big news, folks!  One of the farms we have been waitlisted on for goats, gave us a call yesterday.  She had a few surprise births over the weekend and now has a set of male/female twins and a buckling that are available for adoption.  Well after the initial “Oh Shizz, this is really happening” reaction, we gathered ourselves and came up with a few questions to ask before saying yes.  Questions were answered and deposits were made.  We pick up our new kids, our first goats, next week.   AAAGGGHHHH, yes, this IS really happening.  Excitement and fear settle in.  My husband at one point said to me “Hun, smile.  Remember, this is a good thing”!  Oh right, I’d forgotten briefly.

Now it’s time to kick things into high gear.  We have been slowly piecing together our penning area, thinking we had plenty of time, and have moved the proposed spot three times.  This past weekend we built the feeding pen, a 10X10X6 dog run.  Boy howdy, let me tell you! Chain link is not fun to work with in 98 degree heat. However the problem solver in me really enjoyed getting the kinks out.  A couple hours and some stiffened claw hands later, it was built.

Wrong spot but at least it is built!
Wrong spot but at least its up!

 

Not only did we get our first goats yesterday, luckily, our shed was delivered as well.  We plan on using an Arrow 10X8 galvanized storage shed.  Down the line we will install sleeping shelves but for the moment, we will spread a thick layer of straw on the floor.  We also plan on using some pallets to partition off sections, you know, for “privacy”.

arrow_shedI had plans to finish unpacking the upstairs this week however, that is going to have to wait.  I will be spending the next week running around to farm and ranch stores collecting everything we need for these kids.  Oh yeah and,  Husband and I will be putting up many many yards of fencing this weekend.  Our farm life begins!