The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Sounds of a Peaceful Morning Milking

I've told you before how much I enjoy milking in the mornings. Listening to the birds, the goats, and just watching the world wake up for the day. Well, recently I took the camera with me and recorded a few more short videos. Just for you. So, without further ado, A Peaceful Morning Milking.

You will notice a metalic kind of sound in this video. I have just begun to milk, and the bucket is empty. Copper fusses at me every morning because she has to wait and be second in line. She just doesn't see any reason she should have to wait for her mother, One Stripe, to be milked first. If you milk more than one doe, and are consistent with your line up, you will find that they figure out their place in line, although at first the goats new to the milking routine will try to cut line. 


Now the sounds of milking have changed and Copper is on the stand. I was surprised at how well the sounds came out while taking these videos with my camera. Interesting. By the time I am about half way through milking Copper, the babies start to get restless because they know that they will get to have breakfast soon.


This was the first morning I noticed one of the kids up on their 'dog house' playing. This was originally our Great Pyrenees, Pearl's, doghouse when she was a puppy. Now we use it for the kids when we pen them up away from their moms at night. The first fresheners are still fussing at me because I didn't feed them out in the feed trough like I do on most mornings. This morning, I brought them in on the milk stand to eat individually. I have been doing this off and on for a few weeks now.


This video shows the kids 'escaping' the pen for breakfast. It's a little shaky here and there, but shows you the routine.


Now I have Lady Bug on the stand and I'm showing you how I feel the babies kicking. You can usually, but not always, feel the babies moving around when the does are about three months into their gestation. At first the babies are higher up on the side and up closer to the rib cage. Since all of the young does are due next week, their babies have dropped down and moved back closer to the udder. All of their tail bone ligaments are very loose, and their udders are growing out nicely. I handle the does a lot when they are on the stand. I want them to be comfortable so when it comes time to be milked, that will be the only new thing added to this routine. I show you how I get them comfortable standing with a little wider stance. This gives more room for the milk bucket and for me to comfortably reach their teats to milk. It is a matter of patience and repetition. After a while they will be comfortable and not resist the repositioning of their leg. 


This is Cricket. Here I show you how much I handle the does. At first they kind of cringe with all of this attention since they are a little skittish about being on the stand at all. But by this time they know they will get to eat while I mess with them. I've also trimmed their hooves once since I started bringing them in. It's much easier for me to have the milk stand hold the goat, and I don't have to bend over as much making it easier on my back.



Now for the switch over. I will take Cricket out and let Penny in. Penny is the most hesitant to come in to the stand, so sometimes I have to bring her in, but she's doing better. At first when these young does left the stand they were kind of lost and didn't know which way to go, but now they have figured it out for the most part. Penny is also like her mother, Copper. She will usually come in, turn in a circle, then jump up on the stand. It's funny how that runs in families.


I had to find an application to shorten the videos I had originally taken before Blogger would upload them. First I had to learn how to do the video on my camera, now I am having to learn how to alter them to fit into the blog format. You know, if we had never started this blog, we wouldn't have bought a new camera a year ago, and I wouldn't be learning any of this stuff. So, thank you for encouraging us in our blogging endeavors. We continue to learn much all of the time.


As I try to think of the things we do and have learned about goats so I can share them with you, it helps me to really think through everything. I guess that can go for just about anything we do. We have felt all along that the purpose of this blog is to share what we have learned so that it might benefit others in some way. I hope that is the case.

Until next time - Fern

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Daily Herbal Tea

For a few months now, we have each been drinking two cups of herbal tea a day. At this time, we are buying the herbs that we are using in our tea. We feel like this is a healthy addition to our diet. Here's why.

I start off with:

3 tbsp. dried dandelion root simmered in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes. I start this time when the water is still cold. This makes a decoction.

The benefits of dandelion root include:
  • liver detoxification/tonic
  • promotes good digestion
  • good for indigestion
  • good for arthritis
  • regular use helps reduce cholesterol
  • gentle laxative
  • good for psoriasis

After the roots have simmered, I turn off the fire and add:

1 tsp. celery seed & 1 tbsp. meadowsweet, which sits and steeps for 10 minutes. Seeds, leaves and flower parts are used to make an infusion, which is the steeping process. Since the roots of the dandelion are much harder and thicker, they need to simmer to release the desired properties.

The benefits of celery seed include:
  • helps reduce high blood pressure
  • good digestive; reduces muscle spasms in the muscles of the intestinal tract
  • purifies the blood
  • helps treat arthritis
  • has anti-inflammatory properties
  • stimulates thyroid & pituitary
  • clears uric acid from painful joints
  • acts on kidneys & is a mild diuretic

The benefits of meadowsweet include:
  • antacid properties
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory
  • contains salicylates like aspirin
  • diuretic 
  • calming for overactive digestive system
  • helps acid stomach, heartburn, ulcers, hiatus hernia
  • helpful for rheumatism & arthritis
  • clears sandy deposits in urine

This information has been compiled from several of my herbal books. Not everyone agrees with the effectiveness of herbs upon the body. You will have to do your own research and decide for yourself what is right for you.

Last year we began harvesting and replanting dandelion seed in the herb bed, just for this tea. I know many people see them as the bane of a beautiful lawn. Every time I see them I think of the benefits they are providing our bodies. We will continue to harvest the seeds and spread them all over the herb bed. They are already up and blooming this year, so it won't be long before the seeds are ready. Now I need to learn how to harvest and dry the roots for our tea, as well as start incorporating some of the greens in our diet.

May 2014

I have one meadowsweet plant established (I think, I haven't seen it yet this spring) and need to add many more to provide the amount we are currently using. 

October 2014, over wintered and is coming back out now

Celery seed may be a whole new challenge. I think I will do some more research and see if I can dry the leaves and/or stalks to use in the tea. It would be much easier for us to produce the plants than the seeds. My other research will include celeriac to see if it contains the same beneficial constituents as celery.

The lemon balm is just starting to come out now.
June 2014

We have some other things growing in the herb bed that I will be adding to a tea blend of our own. These ingredients will be chosen for the beneficial characteristics they have, as well as compatibility with other herbs. Lemon balm and peppermint are on the list for now. If I can get a good crop of chamomile and echinacea, I will add them as well. We're trying to cut down on the amount of herbs we buy, because we would rather consume those we can grow and harvest 
Peppermint, May 2014
ourselves. I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to growing herbs, harvesting them at the appropriate time, dehydrating to retain the most benefit, and usage. This is another dream come true. I have wanted to be able to grow and use herbs for many, many years. Now I am starting down that path, and it's wonderful.

This is just one more way Frank and I are trying to reclaim our bodies from the effects of the chemicals we are bombarded with everyday. I am grateful we still have the peace and freedom to do so. The more I can learn now, the better off we will be if it ever comes down to having to make do with what we know, have and can do. I pray it doesn't reach that point, but it sure looks that way more and more every day. Learn something important this week that will benefit your family should times get hard. It's critical.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Trouble Is Brewing - A Re-Post

 Hello Everyone, Frank here.

A little shy of a year ago, Fern wrote an interesting piece called Trouble Is Brewing. And it is. The pot just keeps on boiling, things continue to get worse everyday. Our government is unquestionably out of control. Most of us just sit around and watch it happen like we don't have a care in the world. We all need to pay attention, because the better informed we are, the better the outcome will be. If you wouldn't mind, take the time to re-read this article that Fern posted. Then if you have comments, please share them. I hope you enjoy this article. It's mind provoking and stimulates thought.

We'll talk more later, Frank


Folks, we're all in a lot of trouble. Things are changing so quickly in our country that it's literally impossible to keep up with everything. But there are a few things that are becoming very, very obvious. So much so, that it appears there is a planned or intentional means of upsetting the populace and putting everyone on edge, or worse yet, forcing us into a corner.

We Americans speak much of our rights. What are rights, really? Do we have a right to liberty? We believe we do, based upon the founding of our country. But that seems to be one of the things that is changing very quickly. Remember, you can now only have free speech if you can find one of those 'free speech zones'. If there is not one near you, you may have to travel a ways before you can express yourself, or you may have to apply for a permit to set one up closer to your location. That will decrease the need to burn more evil fossil fuels and decrease your portion of the carbon footprint, which is increasing global warming. Okay, so some of that was a little sarcastic, but you get the drift.

Back to our rights. According to the foundations upon which our great country was founded, The Declaration of Independence states "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." You notice the title of that document includes the word INDEPENDENCE not DEPENDENCE. This is one of the things that appears to be fading quickly into a distant memory. There are people that couldn't care less. There are those that embrace a full-fledged take over by a tyrannical government. There are those that only want their checks to keep coming so they can continue to talk on their free cell phone, eat chemicalized food and stare endlessly at their giant screen television and video games. Some people don't care that others rights are being stolen like a thief in the night. They can't even pull themselves away from staring in a zombie-like trance long enough to notice. There are even places that have made texting and walking illegal because it is such a problem. Rights come from God. I don't remember reading anything in the Bible that says people have the right to a cell phone. People have the right to the pursuit of happiness. Pursuit is an action, it requires work on the part of the person that is doing the pursuing. They do not have the right to take away my happiness to support their happiness. We have lost the true meaning of what rights are meant to be.

Another unfortunate side effect of staring at these screens all day is buying into the mantra that anyone who disagrees with some of these government tactics is a domestic terrorist or mentally unsound in some way. We have actually heard a high school counselor say that everyone that has ever been in the military has mental problems. Every single one of them. And this person is a counselor for high school students. Unbelievable, but true. 
It appears there will come a day when these two sides will have to choose. For the mindless millions now demanding their free cell phones and giant screen televisions, it will be an easy choice. They will do whatever it takes to never work a day in their lives for all of this 'free' stuff. They will do whatever it takes to continue enslaving the 'workers' so that they can NEVER WORK A DAY IN THEIR LIVES. So even if the SHTF, they won't know how to work anyway. Besides that, the working class folks OWE them the money anyway. It's one of their rights.....right? We've all heard of the experiments of how you can get good, decent people to do utter atrocities by threatening them or their families with harm. It will be no different this time.

It's amazing how it has now become okay for most, and unfortunately I now include most, politicians to lie, cheat and steal from the American people. If they have a microphone in front of their faces, they're lying. If they make a promise to The People, they will break it. It doesn't mean anymore than the hot air escaping from their lungs. Most of the political arena appears to be so deep into the pockets of major corporations or power hungry elitists, that it doesn't matter one single iota what The People need, want or demand. Not one bit. The People have become an expendable commodity, useful only to the extent that it pleases the Masters. If birds, fish and bugs can bring thriving industries to a screeching halt, regardless of the devastating impact upon the lives and welfare of The People, then what will they stoop to next?

I really think it is a matter of control. Gramsci had it right. If you try to force control upon a population in a conflict, they will revolt. But if you gradually take control of a little bit here and a little bit there, they will acquiesce. Like the frog in the pot, slowly waiting for things to cool off while it cooks to it's death. That's where we are. In the midst of cooking to death. The rights and liberties of We The People are being carved away one brush stroke of the pen at a time. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839) was right, 'The pen is mightier than the sword'. And it's writing us into a corner of slavery with a life devoid of freedom.

The recent treatment of the men and women of our armed forces is enough to bring us to tears. Then after that initial reaction, it angers and frustrates us to no end. Our once proud military is facing more downsizing; denied the opportunity to back up fellow Americans under fire; have been exposed for duties performed under orders when that exposure brought danger to their lives; mandated sensitivity training instead of spending their time training for battle and the protection of our country and assets abroad; and most unbelievably, the men and women that have signed an oath to protect us are now considered possible terrorists because of the training they have received. For the life of me I cannot comprehend the motivation behind gutting and demoralizing our military.

How many executive orders have been signed and implemented in the past, let's say, year and a half, since January 1, 2013? According to The White House, thirty (30). And since January 1, 2012? Sixty-nine (69). Now some of these may actually be in the
best interest of all of the country, but many of them are not. This president is not the only one that has employed executive privilege to further his agenda, many in the past have done so as well. It is just during this presidency the use of such privilege has increased dramatically, circumventing the democratic process of approval by the congress. This has been just one cog in the wheel that has increased the divisiveness in our country, and thus the willingness of people to get along all across the country. We have not been so divided in many years. The sense of working together for the common good no longer appears to be within the grasp of the common man. This sense of antagonism toward those that disagree with your agenda has increased the level of stress and discontent across all cultures, economic backgrounds and locations, and it grows more and more everyday.

Where is all of this leading to? I don't know. But I do know that it doesn't look good. The tentacles of control have slowly but surely wormed their way into the lives and minds of us all. It's now okay to be groped if you want to travel by air or go to a major sporting event, just to name two
venues in which TSA plies their wares. The national department of education continues to mandate the type of permissive education that teaches our children that anything is okay. Things that I will not specify here, are being taught to the youth of today that people would have been put in jail for when I was a kid. If you try to disagree or state a differing opinion you are labeled some kind of 'phobe' and a hate monger. We read a news story a few days ago about a 42 year old female teacher that gave a student a 4 minute lap dance for a birthday present, in the classroom, with other students video taping. It is beyond me how any adult, especially one in a supervisory capacity, would think this was an appropriate activity. Totally beyond me.

So, what do we do? How do we manage? Frank and I have talked many times about the things transpiring in our country, and what we keep coming back to is this. We need to be informed about what is happening, and with this knowledge we hope to make wise, informed decisions. Most events in this life we have no control over at all. They may bother us, or give us the courage and determination to live the best life we possibly can. But most
importantly, we can control how we react and deal with these events. We can evaluate information as it comes in, analyze the data, and determine the best choice of action for us, for our lives. That is what we are going to do. The best we can. It is all we can do. If we allow ourselves to get totally bent out of shape, we are no good for ourselves, each other, or anyone else. Some days this is a difficult feat to master, but our efforts continue to be focused in this direction. There is a scripture that says something like, after all we can do, God will help us with the rest. That is our prayer. Do all you can to maintain your honor, dignity and freedom. And remember, God is with you.

Until next time - Fern

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Kinds of Comfrey - Which one is right for you?

Back around 2009, when I began my serious research into what kinds of herbs I wanted to establish in a permanent herb bed, I began reading about comfrey. Well, we originally read about comfrey sometime back in the late 1980's or early 1990's in our first herbal book, Weiner's Herbal (this link goes to the new edition, ours is much older). So I knew when I started my new research, that this was something I wanted to consider. Well, I ordered a plant or root sometime in 2009 or 2010 and got started with one plant. I didn't do much but let it grow. I knew it was something I would eventually use, but my focus was on increasing my gardening, canning, goat raising and cheese making skills at that time.

Original plant, True Comfrey, 2011

Since then the goats, cheese and garden have fallen into place as more routine ventures, and my focus has again returned to the herb bed. For three reasons. As spices and seasonings, as medicinal herbs and as animal feed. A couple of years ago I began occasionally picking some leaves from my comfrey plant and feeding them to the chickens and goats since I knew they were very nutritious and high in protein.

New Russian Comfrey roots, May 2014

Last spring I ordered six new comfrey roots to increase the production of animal feed. Some day I plan to make comfrey salve as well. It's kind of an herbal antibiotic salve. But more about that when I get around to making it. These six new plants were planted at the end of the herb bed in an unused space. Lucky for the
The same 6 roots, September 2014
comfrey, a few years prior we had dumped a good amount of barnyard in this spot with plans to disperse it elsewhere, but it all  remained right there. I knew this would be a rich, loamy soil and had high hopes for these new roots. Little did I know they would grow and grow. Initially, I didn't intend on harvesting anything from these plants the first year because I wanted them to become well established. But after the leaves became profuse and two feet long, I started picking six to eight to ten leaves a day and feeding them to the chickens. The chickens loved them and got to where they would stand at my feet waiting for a leaf to eat.

With the great success of these roots last year, I ordered 20 more this year to extend my comfrey bed and production. I plan to incorporate the leaves fresh into the chicken, goat and pig (when they arrive) feed all summer, and hope to dry some for additional nutrition in the winter. The new roots have arrived, but for now they are sprouting out nicely in tubs waiting for the ground to dry up enough to work. They will also have to wait for us to kill and remove the brushy weed trees, briars and vines that currently reside in their new home. I will also add a deep layer of barnyard before planting to try to replicate the success of last year's new bed.

Original True Comfrey
New Russian Comfrey

I noticed last year that the new plants and the original comfrey were similar, but different. The original plant's leaves are much smaller and it is more prone to blooming. They are beautiful blooms, I might add. Because the new plants grew much bigger leaves, which provided more animal feed, I preferred this type of plant. I didn't take the time to look up any information about the two kinds, though, until I received a question in an email recently. I just love questions. They prompt me to do more indepth research and learn. It turns out that the original plant I got is a true comfrey. It propagates from seeds, has smaller leaves and tends to be taller, about two feet. The new plants are Russian comfrey. The leaves tend to be much larger, it flowers but they are sterile, and it propagates through root division.

Here is a better explanation from Horizon Herbs. "What's the difference between this plant [Russian Comfrey] and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)? The Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is a sterile hybrid that will not self-seed and is extremely robust and vigorous.  The true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a bit less vigorous of a grower, has more elongated leaves and (I think) prettier flowers, and does indeed make seed.  Although both types of comfrey (Russian and True) are useful for making medicine and making compost, in an ideal world one would use the bocking cultivar for producing large amounts of biomass for permaculture gardens, composting, and animal feed, and one would use the true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) for medicinal purposes.  Again, both types (and other species as well) are used interchangeably in agriculture and in medicine." 

The roots I bought last year and this year came from Horizon Herbs. I am very pleased with the quality of their comfrey, as well as their price. I have no affiliation with them, I'm just a satisfied customer. After reading the paragraph on their site about the two different types of comfrey, I'm glad I have both, one for animal feed, the other for medicine, but I can use them interchangeably

So the next time I went out to the garden, I took a closer look at the comfrey I planted last year. It is already coming up very nicely, and I have picked a few leaves for the chickens twice already. Guess what? Each of the six roots I planted last year have multiplied! Most of them by at least four or five times, meaning my plants haven't just doubled in one year, they have....what would you call it? Quadrupled or quintupled. If I had realized that, I may not have ordered so many new roots. I still would have ordered some, but probably not 20. With this multiplication rate, I will be able to have many more beds of comfrey and a whole lot more feed for my animals. What a great bonus!

I wanted to share what I have learned about comfrey, just in case you may be thinking of getting some, or like me, you may already have some, but didn't realize the difference. I guess this is one case where ignorance has been bliss. I had no idea I would be blessed with such an abundance by choosing a different variety of a specific plant. There are so many times that life can throw you a loop, and sometimes it pays to grab hold and see what that loop may hold. You may find a very pleasant surprise. 

Until next time - Fern

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gardening, Chickens, Goats & Organizing

Yesterday before the arrival of yet another week of possible rain showers, we were able to till part of the garden with the tractor. The day before, we went out with a shovel and dug around a little to see if we could possibly till it up. Some of it was still too muddy from the last few weeks of rain. Although this is not best practice, we knew that if we didn't take advantage of this small window of opportunity, it would be another week or two before the ground would be dry enough to work. 

 Before we tilled the garden I went out to dig up the wandering strawberries that had made it out of their bed and into the garden area last summer. I thought I would order more and use these to start another bed. Little did I realize that there were probably 50 plants that needed to be moved. The more of them I dug up, the more of them I found. Now I don't need to order any more. I think this is plenty for the new bed I have in mind. They too, will have to wait until the ground is dry enough to work.

Their new home will be back there by that fence.


I also pulled up the last few turnips that we have been eating on and feeding to the chickens all winter long. I really hated to see the last of them go. Since the place I have planned for a new turnip crop is still very muddy, I sprinkled a bunch of seeds in an area in front of the herb bed. I'm not sure how well they will do in the summer, but it is early enough that I hope to be able to harvest greens both for us and the animals into at least early summer.

Another turnip patch will be here in front of this shed.


We planned on getting our cole crop seedlings into the ground a couple of weeks ago, but the rain and rain and snow had other plans. The weeks long cloudy weather has also put a damper (pun intended) on the growth rate of the seedlings. They have grown rather leggy, but are still pretty vigorous. Because of that, I planted four or five plants together in the hopes that one or two of them make it. I prefer to have larger plants to transplant, but that just didn't happen this year. When I
went out to check on them this morning, they hadn't disappeared and most of them were upright and looked good, although rather small. A few of them looked a little limp, but that's to be expected. The carrot and beet seedlings are still quite small, which is okay since the area they are destined for is still very muddy.

Frank has been working on getting a few things out of the garage and more organized. He came up with this idea for holding some of the extra pvc we keep on hand, as well as some of the extra antenna poles we have here and there. Great idea, and very effective.

Today while I was dressing out our two extra roosters, he also put up this board to make a place for some of our frequently used tools. This area is under a carport that is attached to the garage. It will keep our tools organized and off of the ground. Once he got the places ready for them to hang, we also cleaned them all very well with the drill with a wire brush. It is simple, effective and looks great.

Yes, the roosters. We ended up with three roosters and 19 hens from last years young birds. Two of the roosters are Buffs, either Buff Orpington or Buff Rocks. The other is was red, not Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire, but some kind of red. Well, Red matured first, but one of the Buffs had basically taken over the hen house, causing a lot of daily ruckus and much commotion. Time to get down to one rooster. Besides that, we want to make sure that all of our eggs are fertile because come the first of May we will start saving eggs to fill up two or three incubators. This will give us meat for the table and replacement hens for a new flock. The cycle continues.

So, Eagle Eye Frank dispatched the roosters so we could have them for dinner. They were six months old and a little tough, but pretty tasty, too. I will put all of the left overs into a pot tomorrow and simmer them for most of the day to make broth and soup. That will make for an easy meal, which is good, because tomorrow we plan to butcher two of our wethers. We are out of red meat again, so it's time to replenish the freezer. Our plans are to dress them out tomorrow, hang the meat overnight, then, besides the hind quarters, we will grind, wrap and freeze the rest the next day.

This evening when we fed the goats we moved the does to a different pasture that has more new green to eat. Things are starting to grow quickly now, and even with that, the does had really made a dent in the pasture they were in. This will give the young does some good grazing these last two weeks before they kid. We also moved the 'boys', the billy and the wethers to a different pasture. The primary motivation for this was to escape the large mud hole that is right in front of the gate of their previous pasture. If we are going to dispatch two of them tomorrow, we don't want to have to drag the carcasses through a big mud hole to get them out. We will have to watch for a window of opportunity when it is not raining to kill them and bring them down to the garage. Then we will hang them under the carport to dress them out and wrap them in a meat bag so we can leave them hanging overnight in the garage. Once we get them down here, it won't matter if it is raining, which it probably will be.

Life's routines come and go with the seasons and we enjoy them all. Some are a little more work than others. Some make our bones a little more achy than others. Planting time is always a lot of work, sometimes back breaking work. Tending and harvesting, not so much. Raising animals is not generally a lot of work, although we do need to mix feed again. And then again, we would like to raise a whole lot more of our animal feed, which would entail more planting, tending and harvesting. I really admire our forefathers that raised what they ate, year after year. It is a lot of work to do the little we do. We are so much softer, and less skilled at it than they were. They did it out of necessity and we do it out of a desire to be more independent and less dependent. And folks think we're nuts for living the way we do. But that's okay. I usually think the same of them.

Until next time - Fern