Sunday, November 16, 2014

Goats Gone Wild: First Aid on the Homestead

Accidents can happen at any time which is one reason why it's a good idea to know some basic first aid. When you live in a more rural area, this is especially important because you may need to deal with a situation before you can get help. Not only do we have to think about how to deal with accidents that can happen to people, but we also have to be able to handle those that happen to our four legged friends.

As you probably know, goats can be difficult to fence in. Bell is no exception. She is constantly getting out of her fence and night before last she thought it would be a good idea to break out again. Unfortunately, this time she seems to have caught her back foot in the fence and broke her leg. My husband had gone outside and found her wandering around but noticed immediately that something was wrong.

This was about 9 o'clock at night and otherwise she seemed to be fine. There was no blood and the skin wasn't broken which is a good thing. We decided the best thing we could do was make a splint but out of what? Well, craft sticks worked well when the chicken broke her leg so why not?

These are the large wood craft sticks that you can buy at any craft store. We taped four of them together to make it good and stiff and give it some bulk.

Next we wrapped duct tape from one end to the other. You know what they say, duct tape fixes everything! We tried to make sure the ends were covered well and padded so they won't rub against her.

Now we had to get it on. With flashlights in hand we traipsed back outside. The Oldest had been out there holding Bell and keeping her happy with some feed while we got everything together.

Hubby aligned her leg and held the splints in place while I wrapped them with Vet Wrap. If you don't have Vet Wrap yet I suggest you either check online, your local feed store, or your local Tractor Supply store. It's only a couple of dollars per roll and is definitely something you should have in your first aid supplies.

Ideally I would like to take her to the vet but unfortunately we just don't have the money right now. If it had broken the skin then I would suck it up and take her but in this case we are going to try and take care of it ourselves. 

Overall I think it turned out rather well. We checked on her again the next day and it seemed like it was holding up well. She was lying on it and getting around pretty well. Of course right now she doesn't want to put any weight on it and she's also not very happy about being confined to her pen.

If you've never taken a first aid class I highly suggest you take one. Not only can it be useful for you and your family but your livestock as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Winter Predictions

As the cooler weather moves in we always wonder what the coming season will hold for us. This has particularly been on people's minds here, as Oklahoma is not known for its calm and accommodating weather. We had an extremely mild storm season and a moderate summer. The weather has been so nice that most people think it is inevitable that the proverbial other shoe will drop this winter.

Today we rely on our local forecasters to tell us what to expect when we walk out the door but for years man has turned to nature for clues as to what to expect for the next few months. Most people do not take these practices seriously anymore but they can be fun and it's always interesting to see if they will turn out to be true.

Recently I saw a snippet on the Farmer's Almanac where a lady said she checks persimmon seeds every year to see what they foretell for the coming winter. When you cut the seed in half you will see one of three things. A fork, a knife, or a spoon. A fork means you will have a mild winter. A knife means it will be bitingly cold and a spoon means you will have a lot of snow. She said she had never had all of the seeds that she cut open show the same thing and they were all spoons!

We have some persimmon trees down the road from us so we thought we would check our persimmons and see what we got. We only cut open a few but they had spoons. The Farmer's Almanac is not predicting a very snowy winter for us but the persimmon seeds are telling a different story. So what predictions are you seeing where you live?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finally! A bathroom!

This is a momentous occasion for the homestead! Finally, after four years, we will once again have a full bathroom. I cannot even begin to express my excitement at the idea of having some privacy and a door that actually locks! When you embark on an adventure such as this, you know you will have to make some sacrifices and compromises. Some you expect and some you don't but you never truly appreciate some of the little things in life until you have to do without them for a while.

It took us a little while to get the area cleaned up where the new building would go. We decided to place it at the end of the shed so that we wouldn't have to go too far to get to it. We considered placing it behind the one we are living in or at the very end of the building with the porch facing the road but we felt that it would be too inconvenient when the weather is bad. We decided against joining the buildings because they have different roof lines and you never know if we will want to move the building at some point in the future. 

I first saw one of these buildings when I went with our new neighbor, Karin from Rancho No Dinero, to look at some buildings or her property. A building of this size is listed as a "playhouse". The outside dimensions are 8x12 but the interior is 7x7. When we first saw one of these buildings she commented that it would be perfect for a bathroom. I agreed and it set the wheels to turning in my little brain.

We wanted a painted building because the paint lasts longer than the stains put on the building. We ordered this one and had to wait two weeks for it to be built. In the pictures the paint looks gray but we had it painted a taupe color with almond trim. We also went with a metal roof to make it easier for collecting rain water. The building on the lot had a wooden door but we went with a steel door so that it will close easily and it has a lock!

As you can see from the picture above, a shed is brought in on a flat bed truck and it simply slides off into place. Once he has the building on the ground it can be leveled. We thought we might need to have some blocks to level the building but he brought some scrap wood from the plant that was used to bring the building level. 

He used a standard jack to lift the building and of course checked it with a level. As you can see the backs of the buildings are not even. We did this so we wouldn't lose the window on the larger shed by looking out and only seeing a wall. 

Of course, no sooner was the building of the truck than the kids had to go check it out. 

 Here is a picture of the inside from the doorway. As you can see, it isn't very large but it will do very nicely for a bathroom. We can put a standard size tub in it with a vanity and the composting toilet. Like so many projects on a homestead, this one will be completed a little at a time. It will take a few months before it is done 100% but hopefully we will be able to put it to use even before it is completed.
And here she is! The latest edition to the homestead. eventually we would like to build a deck between the buildings with a cover. We left about four feet between the buildings so we can get to the air conditioner and it will also give us a place to stack firewood close to the door. Stay tuned for updates. Hopefully this little project will show you how you can convert a shed into more than something for storage.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Garden fencing and spring planting

With the warming weather we are finally able to get back outside and start doing some work. Of course one of our big tasks is to get the garden started. For the last few years we have struggled with a way to fence off the garden to keep the chickens and other critters out. We may have finally figured out a way with the use of pallets.

A few months ago I finally found somewhere that we could get a lot of pallets. At first we were going to use them to build a goat pen but we decided to use them to build a fence for the garden instead. They don't look the greatest but they are functional and that's the most important thing.

This is the view from the inside of the garden. As you can see, it needs a lot of work and the pallets aren't that pretty but we think they will work well to keep the birds out. We are using T posts to secure the pallets. Hubby is screwing the pallets together and then adding a T post that is screwed into place for added stability. Oklahoma wind can be brutal so anything we can do to make it stronger is a good idea. We are also doubling the garden area this year so the entire thing will be enclosed with this fence.

You may also be wondering why we are turning the pallets so that the "good" side is on the inside of the garden instead of the outside. Well, when we decided to use the pallets for a fence an idea I saw on Pinterest popped into my head. I have seen pictures of people using pallets as planters by standing them upright and filling the slats on the bottom the pallet with dirt and planting in them. I know it will be a matter of time before the chickens figure out that they can fly up and roost on the edge of the fence and then hop over into the garden. My hope, is that if I plant the outside of the fence with things they can eat, they won't be so tempted to try and break into the garden.

This is the outside of the fence and as you can see, the open slats will make for some great planting spaces. Hopefully they won't eat everything on the outside of the fence and there will be some left over for us.

We have not gotten all of our sand plums planted but the ones that we have gotten in are already beginning to leaf out. We are so excited and we are hoping to be harvesting plums from these trees in a few years. They are native to Oklahoma and tend to form thickets so in some areas we will be using them to help create a living fence.

Sand Plum
We also planted a pear tree this year and it is finally beginning to bud out. It is a Kieffer pear and can reach heights of 15 to 30 feet with a 20 foot spread. This is, of course, a young tree but hopefully we will begin to see some fruit production in a few more years. It is also supposed to be a fast grower and may grow up to 25 inches per year.

We planted this tree downhill from the garden. We are thinking about turning this area into a small food forest area until we can do more planting further back on the property. I plan on heavily mulching this area and taking some steps to build up the soil fertility here. As we add plantings I will keep you guys posted.

As you can see in the pictures, things are slowly beginning to come to life. There is still a lot of work to do and hopefully this will be the start of many new developments.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Building an A Frame Level

Ever since we moved here I have wanted to make an A frame level. I learned about this when I took a Permaculture Design Course and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Ok, so maybe not the coolest thing but it is pretty neat. So what do you need an A frame level for? If you want hold water for as long as possible on your property and you want to direct the flow of water, you may consider building a swale. A swale is, at its simplest, a ditch. One big difference between what we think of as a ditch and a swale is that a swale is built on contour. This means that you are following the natural curves of the landscape because this forms the path of least resistance for water. The A frame level lets you find the level places along the area where you want to build a swale so that you are building on contour.

The level is actually pretty easy to make and can cost you nothing if you have some spare building materials lying around. I used two pieces of 1x2x6' pine to make the legs of the frame. You can tie or nail the pieces together but we opted to use screws and wing nuts so we can take it apart for storage.

So here is a pic showing the frame before we put on the crosspiece.

Next we added the cross piece and again used screws and wing nuts. Hubby was checking to make sure everything was level.

Before we added the plumb bob, which you can buy at your local home improvement store, hubby marked the center of the cross piece. When trying to find your center mark you should place your level somewhere that is as level as possible. Mark where the feet of your level are on the ground and then mark where the string is against the wood. Now flip the frame so the feet are in each others footprints. Mark where the string is again if it is in a different place. The center of these two marks are your level.

We were lucky and the string was in the same place both times. Here is a picture of the plum bob hanging in place.

Next we had to test it of course. It can be a little tedious but you can see in this picture how the line begins to curve. If we were preparing to dig a swale, we would continue to measure the length of the swale and then dig along the line we have marked. You want a swale to be slightly uphill from where you want to hold the water. The bottom of the swale should be level so the water will stay for as long as possible. When you dig, the dirt should be placed on the downhill side of the swale to form a berm to help with water retention.

Not many of us will ever need an A frame level but for anyone who has ever wondered how to make one, there it is! Now I just need some heavy earth moving equipment.