Meet Apollo

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So we dropped off the goats Lulu, Leia, and Pixie-Rey. My heart was broken the entire car ride. Lulu, being used to transporting, took the car ride with stride. Pixie and Leia, who are only ten months old, were compliant, but clearly cautious. Being together, I think, was helpful.

But let’s backtrack this process some. Friday night we took the kids to my husband’s parents for a sleepover. After dropping them off, my husband took me out to dinner at one of my favorite places–ever. We had sushi at Cafe du Japon. If you’re ever in Daytona Beach, Florida and you love sushi, you have to go there. If you want hibachi, don’t go there. They don’t serve it and they have no inclination to help you out other than to recommend you go somewhere else if that’s what you want. I love going there. It was very nice to go out, especially knowing the next day I was going to be dropping off my three favorite goats.

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My worries immediately diminished the moment we arrived. There is abundant space and nature to devour. Lulu got off the truck. The puppy we ended up picking walked over to her to greet her. She immediately headbutted him. He backed away calmly and no one charged at the goats. I knew she was going to be fine and she was going to keep watching the girls. There were two puppies to choose from. Both puppies were already working with chickens, goats, and cows. One puppy chose to kind of do his own thing, the other was a little more involved, choosing closer distancing within the herd. I chose the more involved one over the more aloof one.

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So, here’s Apollo. We plan on getting his younger sister from the next litter.

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LOOK. AT. THAT FACE! We took him home and gave him a bath. He was pretty stinky from being hard at work. When we got home we took him to briefly meet the ducks, geese, chickens, goats, and mini donkeys. Everyone responded with caution, except for the chickens. Apparently they have zero instinct left in them. The donkeys did charge at him, which was expected. Some clever placement and finger snapping kept their focus more on me and what I wanted them to do. They did respond to me if I was displeased. Apollo, wanting no trouble, just stayed away from them. The goats stared at him, but didn’t respond much other than that. The pilgrim geese hissed at him but he ignored them, pretty much like everyone else on the farm. He’s 11 weeks old and obviously can’t be left there alone by himself. He won’t be trustworthy until around 2 years of age. Exposure, training, and consistency are key.

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While investigating the back, Apollo found the duck pond. I researched this breed extensively. I never thought to look into water. Apollo jumped right in… We watched to make sure he was safe and could find his own way out. It didn’t take long; Apollo got out and imiddiately regretted his decision. That had to be cold, even for a pyrenees.

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So the baby got ANOTHER bath. And we took him out. I know I’m someone out there is going to disagree with our decision.  He went to PetCo to get a tag, my husband’s parents’ to surprise the kids and meet their dog, and out to dinner. The majority of his time will be spent at home, but we don’t want him to hate people. We have people visit the farm and I know routine will help him adjust to that. During his time in the field, the only attention he is getting is from training. But it is my belief, for him to be my working partner, he needs exposure to me as well and I don’t mind forming that relationship with him.

Sunday morning rolled around. After breakfast, I took Apollo out to see the animals through the fence and I did a perimeter check with him. Then he sat on the porch with me while I enjoyed my coffee before the human family woke up. Ghost, our husky, tried to get him to play but Apollo just ignored him. I figured once he gets over this mellow stage and wants to actually romp he’ll  appreciate Ghost’s enthusiasm. I’m told he also may not. Which is fine because so far Apollo is pretty good at just walking away. Ghost just gets his heart broken everytime Apollo ignores him.

We took Apollo to Tractor Supply because we learned on his first night he can escape the gate to his pen. His pen is set up next to animals without any direct contact. So they can see, smell, and hear each other, but can’t touch. The chickens will fly in there on occasion. Which is stupid on their part because they’re a prey animal, but I still love them. We put Taz, our Weimaraner, in the pen with him. Taz has zero issues with the animals. He doesn’t chase them or anything. He’s also very calm and friendly and figured that would be the best doggy role model for him on the farm sicne he’s our first Great Pyrenees and doesn’t have another one to learn from. So, we got the pen ready for the two new residents. And it rained–all day. It was annoying. We finally got the chance to bring him to the animals and it started to pour. At the downpour everyone–including the puppy and all farm animals–ran for cover. So we found out the donkeys may hate Apollo, ubt not near as much as they hate rain. Every animal we have hates the rain except for the geese and ducks.

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Their first night in the pen was a successful one. Apollo was not happy about me going to work after our morning perimeter check on Monday. He’ll have to get used to it. My husband informed me that day he did well.

We’re looking forward to seeing the dog he grows into. In the meantime, we’ll be updating his training on the blog and our Facebook. Does anyone else have experience with these giants?

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Trading on the Farm

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Hi, everyone!

I want to be a little informal today and honest. I can’t stop thinking about goats. This is our first year using our own bucks to breed our does. And I’m so excited! We don’t show goats and we own mixed breeds. The purpose of our goats is to have a supply of goat’s milk. So we have mixed dairy breeds (Nigerian Dwarf, Nubian, Lamancha, and Toggenburg).

We had our first goats born on the farm in February of 2018. Buttercup had four kids. One buckling (who looked like the sire) and one doeling (who looked like Buttercup) didn’t make it. The other buckling (Snoopy) and doeling (Leia) were very lively and healthy. Lulu had three kids–two bucklings (Darth Vader and another one we sold) and a doeling (Pixie-Rey)–who were full of energy and still very healthy. Out of the five goats born, we sold one.

We do plan on getting a cow in the future. So after much consideration and tugging on the heart-strings, we have decided to sell every goat except for the two Nigerian Dwarf does. I may get one more Nigerian Dwarf doe, but I’m still on the fence for having a buck. If I have a male on my property at all, it’ll only be one–and a small one at that.

Cow aside, we’re also working on the greenhouse. In that greenhouse I’ll focus more on making my oils, tinctures, and soap (it’s going to be an impressive structure). We’ll be growing plants year round, mostly hydroponically.

Saturday, on December 1, I posted the goats for sale. I cried a little, too. I spent a lot of time with them Saturday and Sunday. I loved getting my nuzzles and kisses in. All of our goats have amazing temperaments. My boys, Vader and Snoopy, are the most affectionate on the farm. They always were. Over the weekend we were able to work out a deal with another homesteader. It’s a really beneficial trade and I’m a hot mess right now with sorrow and excitement.

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Photo by Shane Kell on Pexels.com

It’s a good deal for the goats, too. All of the does are going to live on one homestead in exchange for two Great Pyrenees puppies. We’ve wanted this working dog on our farm for quite some time now. I’m going to miss my goats, but I kept as many together as possible in exchange for something else we truly needed on the farm. And I can’t really complain about it. I love trading. I love being able to provide something that someone else needs and be able to get something that I need in return. So much middle work is eliminated in the process. We’re getting a male when we drop off the girls on the 8th. I’m working on a couple of other deals for keeping the boys together, if at all possible.

Oh, and the kids don’t know about it. They know we’re rehoming some goats, but they don’t know about the puppies. They’ll have to get used to the idea that the dogs stay with the farm animals as we do have three pet dogs that stay in the house (and no more after these three).

So in the next two years, we’ll get to document our livestock guardian journey on and off with everyone. Maybe I’ll get start actually using videos.

Now I get to do one of my most favorite things to do with new animals: think of names.

What are some good male/female combos? I was looking at names from Beatles songs, but doesn’t Artemis and Apollo sound cool? What do you guys think?

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Calvary Christian Academy

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Christian Cavalry Academy in Ormond Beach took a field trip this summer semester to visit our farm. We’ve never been a field trip destination so we were naturally excited.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Upon arrival, students and staff were able to view our animals while we cooked and served breakfast casserole and chicken sausages. The kids seemed to enjoy the food greatly and some even expressed surprise at the meat coming from a chicken.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

As food was being eaten, students were brought into the back to view the processing and packaging rooms. My husband led that mini tour while I spoke with students and staff about the farm.

 

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

We made sure everyone had enough to eat and we quickly ran out of sausage.

 

After eating, students were given the opportunity to meet with some of our hens. The students were very gentle and compliant when shown how to hold a hen without scaring them.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

After meeting the hen, my husband took groups of students to view our hydroponic garden. I stayed behind to show other groups of students our goats. We talked about how the plants use water to grow and how we take care of our goats. We discussed milking and cheesemaking briefly.

The students got to meet Willow, my classroom bunny. I was helping handle the rabbit so I was unable to get photographs since I was playing photographer that day.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

We discussed how donkeys are sentry animals and help protect and alert the other animals of intruders.

 

We want to extend our thanks top Cavalry Christian Academy to visiting our farm. We greatly enjoyed getting to share how we live with everyone and educate young minds, at least a little bit, about where food comes from.

 

Fallen Baby Birds

Hi, everyone! I really want to talk about something that happened recently on our farm that I know some people have experienced, even if they don’t live on a farm. It’s something that really tugs on maternal heart-strings and if one doesn’t know what to do, the scenario becomes quite nerve wrecking quickly.

Baby birds. The fact of the matter is they do fall out of nests. And some of them do indeed die. And it is gut wrenching. Since moving out here my emotional skin towards the circle of life has thickened, but I still cannot get over the loss of a child, even an animal. Even a wild animal.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

This is Taz. He’s a Weimaraner. And he steals babies. He has never hurt a baby animal, but he does take them home. Our first year out here he found a baby softshell. He brought it to the front door and I was able to move it to a safe location away from our huskies.

We’ve had him sit with sick baby goats so they don’t get lonely. He’s very loyal and stays close to anything in distress or ill. When I was nearing the end of both pregnancies, this dog was attached to the hip. When my husband used to work nights and we were alone, Taz would always be by my side and the first to stand guard when he’d come home, only to quickly return to a friendly stance once he knew it was just daddy coming home.

We got him right after my first miscarriage. He was attached to me from day one, but I think that’s just his temperament. He truly feels it’s his duty to help.

He’s also an idiot though and there is no doubt in my mind that he had some part to play in today’s events. I went out into our garage and there’s a small pile of old train tracks we had for trains that toddlers can ride on. My kids are too big for that so it’s just sitting there. I saw wings flutter to the top then just drop down. Next to the pile? Taz. “What the hell did you do?” I asked him and he wagged his tail. Jerk. About thirty minutes earlier I remember him hanging out by some of our trees and a mockingbird striking him. He didn’t even flinch. He just sat there. I hoped the thing could fly as I lifted the train tracks it was trapped in and all it did was hop. Crap. As it was hopping, Taz was trying to herd it back into the garage. Double crap.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

So I scooped the baby bird up. It had its flight feathers, but still some baby fluff. I looked at its face. It looked like a grumpy old man. The chirp it cried out only gave me the final confirmation I needed. Taz had abducted a baby mockingbird. I HATE those things. But, it was a scared baby. I went outside near the trees that Taz likes to hang out under looking for a nest. I was unable to find it. I saw a full-grown mockingbird watching me pretty closely, unusually quiet. I approached one particular tree that agitated the bird. It came swooping toward the tree and landed half a foot from my face. Judging by the size, it could very well have been the mother.

Because I have no shame in talking to animals like they’re humans I scolded the bird “You lost your kid. Seriously? Do you know that if one of the huskies got it, it would be dogfood right now?” The bird chirped angrily at me. I didn’t see a nest. The baby I had was a hopper, but it wouldn’t be long before it took its first flight. There was no way I could provide for its needs, with me being a complete stranger at this stage of its life.

So, what did I do?

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I brought the bird back to the tree I was hoping the nest was in since mamma bird was angry at me being there.

Then something happened I never saw happen. The baby bird took off out of the tree, fell, then ran to the neighbor’s yard. Mamma bird was even more upset. Taz got worried and watched his baby leave. We’re working to make sure the thing is fed and hopefully he’ll interact with other birds still and take flight. Normally, birds reunite, but I think there was just too much going on and the baby panicked.

I mainly wanted to share this experience because most people think that if they see a baby bird they should leave it alone because the parents will not accept a baby bird that a human has touched. That’s not true, in fact if you know where the nest is you should pick that baby up and return it to its nest.

If you do return a baby bird to its nest know that there’s a good chance that you won’t see a parent return right away. Most birds do not possess the bold demeanor that a mockingbird does and will hide until they’re sure it’s safe, especially if they saw you handle the baby. It doesn’t mean they won’t return though. Resist the urge to keep peeking into the nest. Let mom–and sometimes dad–do the job mother nature intended.

What do you do if you can’t find a nest, especially if the babies clearly don’t have their feathers in yet? This is actually easier than my little runner this morning. They don’t really move. It’s possible they got knocked out by a strong storm or even just wind. If you have a hanging planter, you can take it and create your own little nest. Use natural materials like the parents would. Needles, dried leaves, mulch, etc. will do. Create walls like a nest with the natural material and put the bird–or birds–in it. Hang the new nest as close to where the previous nest may have been as possible and leave them be. Hopefully the parents will find the new nest, especially when the chicks start chirping for food.

In most scenarios, it is best to try to keep the babies with the parents as much as possible. Birds are quite sensitive and even though we mean well, the traumatizing experience of being moved can be enough to kill a young chick. When you find a baby bird, always try to return it home. Resist the urge to take over and care for it like it’s your own. It’s not yours and they’re not the easiest of animals to care for, especially when young.

Hopefully this post was informative and you’ll know the basics of what to do if you ever do find a fallen little one.

Growing up on the Homestead

Botany & Wildcrafting Course by Herbal Academy 

My husband grew up in close proximity with Amish communities. He was exposed to good food and understanding where food actually comes from. He did not personally work a farm the way that we do now as a family. I grew up with a family dog and store-bought food. We did grow our own vegetables and dabble in herbal medicine, but that was it.

The choice to switch to a homesteading lifestyle was based on our children. We wanted them to eat well, learn empathy, and work hard. When my children talk about their home life in school, the common reactions I hear from other adults range from “That’s amazing” to “That sounds like… a lot.”

It is a lot. And it is nonstop. My daughter failed one of her first small social studies assessments because she argued that people do make their own food today, not “long ago.” The teacher told her that people do not make their own food, they buy it at the store. My daughter was pretty adamant that the teacher was completely wrong. We both had to explain that the general population buys eggs, chicken, and other dairy products from the grocery store. Not everyone makes it or trades with other farms. Despite the fascination or harsh judgements made by other people, our children are growing into–we hope–healthy and enlightened individuals.

Talking about homesteading life often sounds less desirable than it truly is. There are bad days. There are horrendous days. There are scary days. There are breakdown and cry all day while you’re still working days. But most days are good, happy, and fulfilling.

I am going to showcase a compilation of what homesteading life looks like on the best of days because I feel those don’t get talked about enough.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is dandelion wishes.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is finding the occasional fairy egg.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is when new animals stop by your property just to say hi (not our cat).

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is hugging a 6 hour old goat.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is homemade remedies and bad handwriting.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is fresh and rejuvenating.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is full of 4 in the morning surprises.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is about more than one family sharing space.

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Homesteading is good food.

I didn’t grow up on a homestead, but we’re very thankful for the opportunity for our children to live this way. They help every way they can. There is a lot of hard work, but there is plenty for them to thoroughly enjoy as well.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you, if you click the links and make a purchase.