Saturday, June 28, 2014

Making it Work....Animals on the Homestead

Let me preface this with this disclaimer:

My view on the stewardship of animals may be different from yours.  That is ok.  I respect that.  I ask you to please respect my views as well.  Although these posts are meant for encouragement and information, this one in particular isn't all sunshine and rainbows.
Well, with that I jump into my next topic, animals.  It was going to be on homeschooling, but after an *AwEsOmE* conference this weekend I wanted some time to digest the immense amount of information that was shared with us.  And since this topic is very, very much in the forefront of our family's minds I thought I would write on that.

This is my view on animals:  God designed and made them.  He put man (humankind) in charge of them.  We are stewards of them.  They are here to glorify God, show God's handiwork, to help the earth in it's cycles, and to help men.  Being a single income family of ten, we can't justify spending $100 for a vet visit on animals, generally speaking.  What I mean is, if they break a bone, then sure, we will go and get them fixed up.  But if an animal gets sick, we try to fix them up at home.  In the past, long before our wee homestead, we had faced vets that wanted us to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in tests, with uncertain outcomes.  Some of those were on cats that we 'rescued'. We do not have the ability to pay for uncertain outcomes.  We care deeply for our animals, and as such we try our very best to give them the best we can to *keep* them healthy in the first place.  This past week showed that we have failed in this area this year.  A mix of having a new baby, lots of rain, and lots of extra outside activities.  We learned our lesson that prevention is truly the best approach!!

Just like the health of my family I am always trying to learn more about the health of animals.  Because when you actually need that information, there is usually little time to act.  I would encourage anyone starting a homestead that you do your research first.  It's a lot more fun to learn about feed, or housing your animal, but learning what to do should they become sick is just as important.

Over the years we have dealt with many a sick animal.  We've had a few sick chickens die over the years, and each time we learned more and more.  We have been slowly building our animal medicine cabinet.  This 'medicine cabinet' contains conventional and alternative medicines.  Just like with my family, I prefer to treat our animals with natural means first.  The exception to this is when we need to worm our goats.  I have yet to be successful in keeping to the weekly herbal schedule to be chemical dewormer free.  That is my goal though.

We've added diatomaceous earth, some herbs, and an injectable antibiotic to our stash of goods.  The most important thing to do when an animal gets sick, is to act quickly!  I can not stress that enough.  Goats can go down FAST.  I've had friends go out for the morning feeding, nothing noticeably wrong, only to go out mid afternoon to find a dead goat.  Usually the first sign of one of our animals being sick is their lack of willingness to eat.  Sometimes they will just eat some of their food.  For those with goats you know that any goat who isn't inhaling their food is cause for concern :-)

Since worms are a problem with goats, particularily during certain times of the year (I find the early spring and early fall are more problematic), you will want to have an action plan in place before you even get goats.  I have heard that the herbal remedies are effective, but they must be given weekly....every week!  We are learning that we need to rethink our feeding routine as the goats were trying to nibble up any remaining chicken feed after they had been fed.  Goats get worms from the ground.  

We have been known to baby chickens.  We had our whole flock, save the newcomers who brought the disease with them, come down with a very deadly illness.  I would say half of those who gave their advice said to cull them all.  The other half said to try to save them, but they had all lost at least 75 to 90% of their flocks!  We did all we could and didn't lose any!  But it took a LOT of time to care for them.  

But really, the best medicine isn't medicine but prevention.  Learn the best way to keep your animals healthy to begin with.  But sometimes that isn't always possible though.  Our neighbor has a wonderful set up for his goats.  For years he never even had to deworm his goats.  Never had a need.  And then a couple of  years ago all the goat owners in the area were plagued with huge worm outbreaks.  He was surprised to come home to a dead goat.  And two weeks later another dead goat.  All because of worms.  We can't possibly be prepared for every scenerio, but learn the ones that your area are more prone to, and pray that you can learn on a gently curve there after!

I know this post has been a bit hap hazzard.  I apologize for that.  On father's day we lost one of our best milkers, Lilly.  We had an outbreak here on the homestead, with what is looking like coccidia.  That is what the tests are showing so far.  We had about 5 goats come down with it, all the rest got over it, except Lilly.  Some of the kids (baby goats) are dealing with it as well, but are doing well thus far.  And this is where prevention is much better than treatment!  This year I failed to keep on top of the things I know that can interfere with our animals' health.  Not intentionally!  But, learning the hard way is, well....hard :-(  But we press on, knowing that we are doing the best we can, and are making the changes needed.

In an attempt to make this a little more 'step by step', here are the things that I feel we, as keeper of animals, can make things work:

::  The health of your animals all starts in your planning before they even arrive to your homestead (or house/apartment...).  Why are you getting that particular animal?  Which animal or breed is the best for your environment.  Case in point, we had a man call us after seeing our ad for the baby goats we are selling.  We welcome newbies, but this one has NOT done his homework.  The conversations went along these lines:

Man:  So can I keep the goat in a pen?
Hubby: (*knowing* that goats need a *goat* companion) Do you already have a goat?  They need a goat mate to keep them company.
Man:  Well we have a dog.  Can the goat be kept in a pen?
Hubby:  What kind of pen?
Man:  It's a dog pen, the goat will be in with our dog.  It's about 10 feet by 10 feet, concrete floor, with a dog house.

There are so many things wrong with that situation it isn't funny!  This man clearly does not know anything about goats.  Again, I welcome newbies, we all have to start somewhere, BUT you need to know what you are getting into when getting animals.

::  Not only is every area different in terms of potential problems, BUT there will be differences within your own land.  We learned this the hard way as well.  Are there drainage problems on your land?  Too much shade, not enough shade?  Do you have any poisonous plants that you need to take care of before your animal comes to live on your property?

::  Talk with other animal owners.  I've talked a ton with a friend of mine who owns goats before we got ours, and over the years.  I have a friend who talks with me about chickens as they are just getting into them.  Don't do this alone.  You can avoid a LOT of mistakes or problems before they happen by talking with others about their experiences.

::  Decide how you are going to handle problems when they do come up....because they WILL come up.  For us our first action is natural alternatives if I feel we have the time to use them.  Otherwise I reach for the conventional treatment.  Animals have the ability to act normal until they are VERY sick.  Other animals "know" when an animal in their herd is sick.  They may try to 'do them in', or neglect or avoid said animal.  So when an animal shows signs of sickness, the animal quite possibly has been sick for some time (or had the development of the illness going on for a long time).

::  You can't possibly buy all possible products in anticipation of a possible problem.  Know that your medicine cabinet will grow over time.  But talk to others to see what they recommend they keep on hand at the get go.

::  Become observant.  This will be a *great* skill in keeping animals.  If you can get to the animal before they are "obviously" sick, you will have a much better outcome.  Learn how your healthy animal acts in different situations.  Observe their body language. Observe what healthy looks like in regard to their eyes, coat/feathers, feet, skin, mouth, etc.

  As an example, I knew something was wrong when our male goat started shaking at feeding time.  Everyone thought it was the cold weather (he has a short coat and it was winter time), or thought he was just really excited to get his food.  That didn't sit right with me.  He didn't do it at other times, and it was only a light tremor.  But I just knew something wasn't right.  Everything else was looking fine, so we took a wait and see approach.  Well, weeks later, and almost about to die, we realized it was tetanus!  (The vet didn't think it was tetanus either, so sometimes you just have to go on your gut feeling).  We ran out to get the medicine, and within 2 hours he was showing signs of getting better.  To this day he's a little "off" from that experience, but he is alive, active, healthy and gives us lots of cute baby goats (mostly females at that!).  By "gives us" I mean his contribution to the whole process :-)  Ha, ha!

::  When you have an animal go down do all you can to learn *why* they did.  For example we had our goats come down with coccidia this past month.  The vet said for us to schedule a meeting so they could come out, test, and then give us a program for worming and medication.  A lot of people we interact with will leave it there.  Thankfully they also wrote to us that they will evaluate our property to figure a plan for our herd to keep this from happening again.  You want to know how and why your animals got sick, so you can change what the circumstances that got them sick in the first place.  Medications are only a stop gap.  They can get your animal back to health, but they will not keep them there if you don't address the source of the problem.

::  With the above being said, there are some natural supplements/foods that can be given on a regular basis to help your animals become more resistant to the germs/worms that they encounter in their environment.  I encourage you to look into such means as they will pay dividends in the long run.

::  Animals take time.  It takes time, energy, and money to keep them healthy.  But it will take time, energy and money if they are sick, with the unpleasant possible outcome of a dead animal.  With this recent experience of losing our goat, I know that I NEED to make it a priority to make their herbal remedies on a regular basis.

::  Animals need housing.  Look into what you have on hand, what will work for your number of animals, the make of your land, and how you believe you will be feeding them (your routine).  After NOT doing that, I can point out a lot of things I would change to make things work better for us now.  But, again, some things you can only learn during the experience, not beforehand.  Ugh.  We've had to do things on the cheap.  This means we have some not so lovely structures on our property.  Maybe over time we will be able to improve them, but for now we have to make them work.  Once you have your animals living in their housing you will be able to see any shortcomings.  One thing off the bat I can say....make sure you have natural light that can reach inside their housing.  Sunlight is natures disinfectant.  Use it!!!  If you have poor drainage, find a way to make it better.  Germs love wet, dark areas.  Not only can this be in the housing, but outside of it as under their water buckets.  We got one of ours off the ground, but the chickens jump up on it.  That means we need to put "buy chicken waterers" on the grocery list soon.  Chickens will drop dirt into the water from their feet.

::  Don't be afraid that you won't get everything right from the beginning.  You probably won't!  But don't let that stop you.  Be open to learning.  Be open to having to change things up.  Think outside the box.

::  Enjoy the process.  I won't lie, that can be hard to do at times.  But when I see what I've learned and the things my children have learned, it has been worth it.  Even if I have to rewash half my laundry because someone let the goats into the area where the laundry line is!  Oy.

There are so many aspect of animal care (as evidenced by the number of books out there on the subject) that I can't possibly touch on them all.  I hope this list of ideas and some of our experiences can help others.  If you have a question about how or what we do, don't hesitate to leave a comment.  If you have some great ideas of how you have handled some of the situations I've talked about above, please share!  I would love to hear about it. 

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Runner's Camp coming up....and I'm a bit nervous

Come Monday I will only have Aubrey and Merida during the morning hours!!! How weird is that!?!  I am really excited for the kiddos as they are really excited to have fun and see some old friends.  At the same time, I'm a wee bit nervous for Jonah and Jed.  Not so much for Jonah, though it will be interesting to see how he handles being away from me.

But Jed.  Oh boy.  I believe that the benefits will be really good for him, but I am nervous for the potential cons to his experience.  The way Runner's Camp is set up is that all the kids are separated into groups by age and gender.  Jed will be in the seven year old group.  He will be 7 the first day of camp, and then he turns 8 the following day!  Oh, my!  Eight!  Anyways, there are few 'issues' I can see that may (hopefully NOT) come up.  Jed is a couple of inches shorter than Jonah, who will be turning 6 soon.  So Jed will probably be the shortest one there.  Obviously someone has to be the shortest in each group, but I think he will be REALLY short.  There is nothing wrong with being short.  I personally do not care if my kids are tall or short, thin or not so thin :-)  But, that is not the case of what other kids might think.  Not only is he short, but he is very, very, very thin.  He isn't very strong, and definitely not fast, nor does he work hard at physically demanding things.  If those things were not enough to bring possible "bullying", then we have his speech issues.  At eight, all the other kids will be able to be understood, but Jed will not be.  (Knowing that, we have Moira signed up as his group's helper.  Each group has a group leader and two group helpers.)  Moira will be there to help translate.  And then if that doesn't do him in, he has two adult teeth coming in behind his baby teeth.  So he has two rows of teeth (he's been to the dentist who believes we should leave his teeth be as he feels that the growth hormones made the adult teeth pop up sooner than his baby teeth were ready to fall out.)  I can really, really 'hear' something like "shark mouth" coming out of some kid's mouth.

So you may wonder why we even have him going to this camp.  For one, all his siblings have gone and he is very excited to be old enough to go as well.  I think that the leaders will be very good at encouraging him to try his best, and I am hoping it will inspire him to continue to give his best at physical activities.  I am praying that he is in a group of great kids who are going to look past those issues and see Jed for who he is....a boy just like them, who loves Legos, bugs, computers, riding his bike, etc.  Moira is great because she is really good at helping kids to see the good in others.  So this will be helpful in case there isn't a not so nice boy in his group.  Jed is behind in not only physical skills, but social skills as well.  He is progressing like any other child, but he started that progression late, so he is constantly 2 to 3 years behind his age for those skills.  But I know we can't always hold him back, so this camp is a way to put him out there, see what he can do, how he handles it, and hopefully through it all HAVE FUN :-)  But, being the mom, I'm still nervous.

We pick up their camp stuff this Saturday.  They each get a camp shirt, in their age group color, a backpack, and a towel. I will make sure to get a picture of them all on their first day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Whoa! How did this happen?

How did we go from here.....

 Moira as a baby.....toooooo cuuuuute!

  Moira at 10 years old.

Moira about 12 years old.

And then.....


We have THIS:::::::::: (scroll down....and yes, this is to be dramatic :-)  You all know I love some drama)

Gorgeous!  Unbelievable!  How did this happen?

Notice her lovely hair.  We dyed her hair with red food coloring, for a temporary new look.  She has wanted to dye her hair ends for a while now, and we got around to it last night.  Then we went outside for a little photo shoot. Moira did the editing for the picture.  Pretty amazing!

Off to get ready for that conference!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Some randomness

Still haven't gotten around to finishing the homeschool post.  Some day, really!  Maybe after the Charlotte Mason conference this coming week!  I'll be all inspired :-)

In the meantime, I thought I would post some random things.  Mostly because that is how my life feels right this moment.  I suppose 'random' isn't the correct word (though it will certainly apply to the pictures :-)).  Lots and lots of stuff going on. Since I have a very full day ahead of me, I will be quick about it all (Ok, for all you who really know me, you can stop laughing now....about being quick).

::  Shopping day today!  But lots of other things going on....not sure how it will all get done.
::  Big girls leaving for two days for a birthday party, where they get to go to a water park.  Hey, no fair!  Teasing!  Do you know how many times I have to tell my kids that life is NOT fair?  A ball park figure would be 1,237,799,335.4 (yes, a decimal, because there are those times when I can't get all the words out).  Oh, and that figure is per day.
::  Have lots of food preps to do to get the family and myself all set for the conference I am going to.
::  Aubrey came down with a fever, and gunk two days ago.  Praying the baby doesn't get it.  And, more selfishly, praying she doesn't get it so I can still go to the conference.  Hey, I am being honest.  The last time I went to a homeschool conference was 14 years ago.  Since she is coming with me I won't be able to travel with her if she is sick.  She doesn't like car rides when she's healthy, there is no way I'm taking her if she's sick!  If she can't go, I can't go.  That would be a bummer.
::  Trying to make it to July 1st without the AC.  This week will test our resolve.  It's been hot a few times in the past two months, but now the humidity got turned on.
::  A bunch of "must do's" on my radar....things like get to the chiropractor, get back on the staight and narrow with healthy eating (as in going grain free all the way), helping the kids stick to consuming fermented foods....basically quite a few of us are suffering in varying ways with health.  Not fun. Discouraging.  Too many times I've come to just say, "Forget this all!  I'm out of here!"  Nothing like cooking healthy foods and still being sick all the time.
::  Isabella got her driver's license!  Everyone off the roads :-)  She was SO nervous for her test, but it was quick, and she passed the first time.  Phew!
::  The girls have been having fun writing letters to new pen pals.  My sister had about 500 pen pals growing up.  Ok, she only had maybe 150?  Correct me if I'm wrong, dear sister :-)  I was telling my kids about their aunt and all her pen pals one day, and they declared that they must have pen pals too.  We found a site that looked ok, and went for it.  Recently we got word of a facebook group for finding homeschooled pen pals.  It's a new group, so it's small right now, but I think it will grow in time.
::  Flannery and Saoirse spend lots of times working on making model horse stuff.  Things like tack and elaborate barn set ups (made out of popsicle sticks).  They also make lost of videos with them too.
::  I think I will be declaring that this summer will be a "Real Summer".  I've at least been threatening it :-)  By 'real', I mean sans technology.  I know things have gotten out of hand when my usually bug searching guy doesn't want to go outside.  Oy.  So out goes the computer, in comes the old fashioned summer!  Playing.  Outside.  All.  Day.  What a concept :-)

Ok, see, I made my list like a mile long.  But before I leave you, I will also leave you with some random photos:

 Yes, this is totally blurry, but I couldn't resist Merida's face!  Such a cutie.  I don't have many pictures of myself with my children, and I want to remedy that!  I have a tripod, now I just need to get a remote so I can take some pictures with me in them.

 That my friends is a baby dreadlock.  Oh, I'll wait till you pick yourselves off the floor.  In case you are new here and you thought you were reading a blog of a conservative Christian homeschool mom of many....well you are!  Truth be told I have a funky side that walks to the beat of a different drummer.  Life around here has been a wee bit on the serious side, and a wee bit out of control.  So I did what I do best in those situations.... I create.  I didn't have any yarn to crochet with, no sewing machine to sew with, and so I did something with my hair.  And, yes, I think dreadlocks are cool.  So there.  It's out, I feel so much better now :-)  Three of my daughters thought it was cool, and said they wouldn't disown me.  One daughter saw this picture and was aghast and said she wouldn't be seen with me :-)

 Look at that smile!  I could just eat her up!  This little babe can now roll over front to back, and back to front.  A record in our house for this young!

 I did manage to wrangle bug boy outside.  Though he's been making excuses about needing to go inside.  Silly boy.  Time to unplug.

Multicolored rocks.  Aubrey making a collection on the bridge.

 Chickens are silly creatures.  Eggs.  In the woods.  Oh,  yeah, that will work!  Funny thing was that while one of the chickens was sitting here laying her egg, there was another one, a few feet away, squawking at her to hurry up and get up so she could use the same spot.  How many spots do we have like this around here?

A typical mess, on our non-typical floors.  A sneak peak of 'after' from our rug-pulling-up day!  LOVE the clean-ability of this floor.  The boys even played with playdough on here, and it's all good!  Vacuum, wipe if needed and go!  All clean :-)  That's my kind of floor.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Still here, and something creepy

I have not forgotten about my new series.  I actually have another post in draft.  The only problem is that it was getting long, and wild, so I was putting it on hold to figure out what to do with it.  I'm such a slacker :-)

Merida has found her footsies!  Too cute!!!!  She puts everything in her mouth.  E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  No, I am not over doing it with the wording.  This child is a crazy girl :-)  Today in particular she has been so fussy.  Not her usual self at all.  But, without the wheat she is sleeping so much better.  She is back to 7 hours stretches at night.  Looking forward to when it goes back to 8 to 10 hours.  But the past two days she has had a 3 hour nap in the morning.  Wow!  I don't know what to do with myself :-)  Oh, yeah, I guess I should be working or cleaning or something.  Hmmm, what a concept.

Actually there has been a lot of work done. I need to show you all what we did in our family room.  I still have not taken proper after pictures.  Plus Jeremiah and I put together the kiddos next semester school schedule.  That meant downloading a lot of books to PDF.  That was Jeremiah's job :-)  I just had to figure out which books were going to be read on which days.  Then I made up a summer schedule.  We are going to be schooling through the summer.  Summers here can be on the hot side (that is an understatement).  Humid and hot.  We usually school in the morning, and have free/outside time in the afternoon.  That will not work for summer.  So I flipped things around so that we do morning chores, then have outside time.  We come back together right before lunch for our school together time, lunch, then individual lessons (while the boys have nap/quiet time).  I'm pretty excited to see how it will work out.

So now the creepy thing that happened here last night.  I wanted to preface this part of the post, but wasn't sure how, without it getting really long. So the short of it is this....we believe there is a spiritual world, and angels/demons that come and go between the two (the physical and spiritual).  I and some of the kids have had some interesting things happen in the past.  Like little boys (different ones) that would always look to the same corner of our room.  Sometimes scared.  One of them was finally old enough to talk.  I asked him what he was looking at.  He said, while pointing to the same spot, "the bad man".  Um, yeah, ok.  I tried to see if there were shadows that might make it look like a man up in the corner of the room, but nope.  There have been other things, but last night was a wee bit different.

It was time to put Merida to bed for the night.  I took mental note of where everyone was, only because if one of them is in my bathroom and they come out while I'm trying to put Merida down to sleep it can mess things up.  This is a fast process, not one I go searching around for everyone, but just kind of pulling up a mental tab as I walk towards my bedroom.  Everyone was accounted for as far as I knew.

I was rocking the baby in the rocking chair as she nursed to sleep.  I was thinking about what I should tackle after I put her down.  With the conference coming soon, there are a lot of little things I know I need to get on top of.  The baby was asleep in my arms, and I figured I'd give her another minute or two before I put her down.  And then, clear as day, there was a young girls voice that said, "mommy", right behind me.  I would say about 2.5 feet behind me.  I freaked!  I turned around FULLY EXPECTING there to be a girl at the end of my bed, maybe trying to scare me. We like to prank/scare each other in our family.  But though I don't mind pranks, scaring mama is a big no-no.  At least if you don't want a black eye or something!  I didn't see anyone, and instantly figured maybe one of them was under the covers on my bed, again, trying to scare me....though the voice was not muffled, as if coming from under a blanket.

There were no bumps in the bedding.  There was NO ONE in the room besides Merida (who is sleeping and can't talk anyways!) and myself.  Our window was open, but the voice most certainly did not come from outside.

I put the baby down, prayed, and thought some more about this voice.  I decided to walk out of the room to see if someone was on the computer that may have been the source of the voice.  No one was on the computer.  Jeremiah was out back, asking the girls what they were up to.  Two of the girls had gone out back (far from my room!) and he went out to see what they were doing.  The boys were in their bedroom, at the other end of the house.  Though when I heard the voice they had been in the living room, right outside my door.  But they were rough housing, and no one was upset, needing to call out mommy.  And the voice most certainly came from behind me, not from the front, which is where the boys were.

Needless to say it was really freaky!  I am hoping there won't be a repeat tonight.  We shall see.

I have a little boy begging to get on the computer, so off I go :-)
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