Warning: If you don’t like goats and/or birth stories (sometimes with photos of goat rear ends), you may want to skip my goat dairy entries. I’m not a vet or even a goat expert, but I've owned goats since 2013 and weathered 2 kidding seasons.
One of my favorite times of the year on the homestead is kidding time! Maybe it is because a goat’s gestation is 5 months (which feels looooong). Or maybe it is because goats can have just one, twins, triplets, or quads – who knows until delivery! Perhaps it is wondering what colors our gorgeous Nubians are going to throw this year. Or could it be because goat kids are simply the cutest baby animals around? (In competition with mini schnauzer puppies, of course!) But likely it is simply the miracle of new life and the hope of delicious goat milk to come on the breakfast table.
As I type, we are in eager anticipation of our spring 2017 kids. I decided to attempt to journal about our kidding time this year to keep records for myself for future years, to provide a reference for other goat owners, and to give people without goats a peak into our somewhat crazy lives. These journal entries will either resonate with you because you’re a bit crazy like me or make you think I’m crazier than you already do! 😊
We have four does to due to kid this year. 3 – Nickel, Llama, & Emma – are bred to our own buck. We have approximate kidding dates for them. We simply “ran” our buck with the herd and watched closely for the deed. (For the benefit of those not familiar with goats, some people – like us – put a buck in with their does for several weeks and allow nature to take its course. Others choose to watch their does closely and only provide dates with the buck when she’s in heat. This gives the owner an exact kidding date – 150 days from the date. Since here at Russell Homestead, we struggle to catch our ladies in heat, we just “run” the buck with the herd.) Our 4th doe – Oakley – we purchased when she was already bred. Her breeder told us she, like us, just ran the buck with the herd, and Oakley could be due anytime from late February into late March.
So, Miss Oakley has been driving us a bit batty around here with guessing when she’s going to go into labor. We did blood test on all the gals for pregnancy in January; thereby easing the stress a bit so we at least know if there is babies in there or not. Our first “kidding” season we did not blood test our girls. We spent much time feeling for kids & grasping for any signs that they were expecting. Alas, they were not, and what a disappointment! Not to mention a financial loss after feeding & housing open (not bred) does all winter long! Anyway, back to Oakley…we know she’s bred because we did a blood test on her. And we know she’s bred to her former owner’s buck (not ours) because we drew the blood before she was ever housed with our buck. What we don’t know is when. So, we are watching her like a hawk.
Saturday morning I found this in the goat pen (remember the warning – not all these photos are pleasant!)
If you are unsure what you are seeing in the photo, it is a string of mucous coming out of Oakley's vulva, which is typically a sign that labor is coming. Immediately, I put her into our fresh, clean kidding stall and checked her religiously all day Saturday. She passed a white mucous drop about 2 inches long and some more bits of yellow mucous. We were sure it was her mucous plug & labor was just around the corner. The temperature Saturday night was forecasted to be 12 degrees Fahrenheit. So, both my husband and I were SURE she would choose that night to have her kids. Goats have a thing for snowstorms, low temperatures, vacations – anything to make things inconvenient.
After 2 excursions out to the barn on a very chilly Saturday night, Miss Oakley remained the same. We checked on her all day Sunday. Late Sunday evening she passed some blood-tinged mucous. We got all excited and again checked her during the night on Sunday. Alas, she’s still pregnant. If you could see my google search records from the weekend, you would know I’ve spent lots of time trying to figure out what is going on! In our previous two kidding seasons, once things were moving back there, we had babies within 24-48 hours or sooner! According to other experiences that I’ve read online, the only thing mucous says for sure is that she’s getting closer. Mucous can come hours or weeks before labor; how that’s for a good delivery window?
Other than the mucous, she's doing fine - eating, drinking, & acting fairly normal. She did seem a bit overly affectionate (which can be a sign of labor), but nothing really alarming. Her udder is filling as it has been since January 28, 2017 (about 5 weeks ago from now).
So, feel free to join me on the waiting journey. I’ve got to go check Oakley now. For the 12th time for today, but who’s counting?
The whole concept of "freezer cooking" is new to me. In the past, my only form of freezer cooking was throwing a few meals in the freezer prior to one of my baby's arrivals. (And I rarely even did that.) So, when I heard a radio broadcast about how you can cook for one day and have entrees for a whole month, I was fascinated. Some of it made sense - you make all the mess and dishes at once, thereby maximizing your use of time. Some of it wasn't practical for me - dedicating a whole day to cooking with 5 kiddos ages 6 & under. Um, not happening. But I could take the concept and make some small changes in my cooking.
I don't consider myself a "freezer cook," but I am enjoying having quick meals in the freezer for those inevitable busy days when I don't have time to prepare an evening meal. What changes did I make to my cooking to have freezer meals on hand? I made 3 small changes.
1) Whenever possible, as I prepare the evening meal for my family, I make 2 or 3 meals and freeze the extras
2) Participate in a freezer meal exchange with friends (We each bring a freezer meal for everyone else in the group. For example, I may bring a 9x13 pan of lasanga for everyone. We swap and go home with a variety of freezer meals.)
3) Always keep my favorite freezer meal on hand
In regards to #3, here is my favorite freezer meal. I like it because it is simple, delicious, & stores in a quart Ziploc baggie in my freezer!
Cheesy Beef & Rice to Freeze
1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/4 tsp of minced garlic)
2 T butter
2 medium shredded carrots
1 tsp beef boullion
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp minced onion
1lb ground beef (or venison or turkey)
1/2-1 tsp salt
Directions: Brown ground beef and remove from heat. Add butter, carrots, & spices. Stir well. Cool slightly. Put into a quart Ziploc bag & freeze.
When you are ready to use it, thaw it and add 1 cup of uncooked long grain rice and 3 cups of water. Bake in a covered dish at 350 for 1 hour. Add 1/2-1 cup of shredded cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.
Thanks for stopping by & happy freezer cooking!
There are two appliances that I’ve been eyeing up this past year wondering if they were worth the space they took up in my house. I remarked about it a few times to my husband that I wasn’t sure I used these 2 appliances enough to justify having them, but it wasn’t until they both quit working that I had the opportunity to find out if I truly needed them.
The first was my dryer. Nestled next to my washer in my laundry/mud room, I rarely used this machine. I hang out my wash spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, I hang it by our woodstove in the basement. There are a few cloudy, rainy days in the spring, summer, and fall where I would toss my laundry in the dryer, but the majority of its life it sat in silence while my washer churned away washing load after load. When it stopped producing heat, we tried one simple fix that worked for a few more loads. When it stopped producing heat again, I told my husband I wanted to try life without it. So, off it went and we quickly filled the space with a new whelping pen for our miniature schnauzers.
It has been gone now for about half a year. Do I miss it? No. Not much. Since I do wash every day except Sunday, there are days when it would be more convenient to toss my laundry in the dryer. However, on those few days, I hang it in my basement. It doesn’t smell very fresh or dry very quickly in the basement, but it works, and the sun comes back eventually. Overall, I find I like the extra space in my laundry room more than I like the convenience of drying it quickly.
The second appliance that didn’t make the cut at Russell Homestead was a microwave. My kitchen does not offer a lot of counter space, especially in light of all the from-scratch cooking and canning that I enjoy. Because of the limited counter space, I’m always looking for something to move off my counter. The microwave we had was a large, old model. The day it turned on when I OPENED the door was the day I said “no more microwave!”
We tossed it unsure of how I was going to heat leftovers, melt butter, and do the many other small tasks I used it for daily. As I looked at the large empty spot on my counter, I decided we could make this work! And work it has. The only time I really miss it is when I have leftovers to heat up. Instead of a microwave, I heat them in a frying pan on the stove or in my toaster oven. These two methods take a bit longer than a microwave, but they provide a full heating through as opposed to microwave’s sometimes spotty heating. I also miss it for melting butter, but really it doesn’t take much longer on the stove. I simply have to make sure it doesn’t brown. All in all, I’m enjoying my counter space way more than the convenience of microwave. (Although isn’t it funny how other things creep into empty spots on the kitchen counter?)
Will I ever have a dryer or microwave again? Perhaps, but right now I’m quite content without them in my little (by American standards) house. Before you think of me as complete do-with-what-she-has-queen or hard-core-off-the-gridder (which I’m definitely not), let me insert here that my dishwasher stopped working a few weeks ago. While I cheerfully did without it for a few weeks until my dear Mr. Fix-It husband had time to repair it, let me emphasize that THAT ONE is staying. I’m not opposed to modern conveniences, but sometimes we need to evaluate if they are truly convenient for us. Is there a better way than the way it has always been done? In my case, my dryer and microwave weren’t worth the real estate they were taking up. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but right now I’ll strive for contentment with what I have.
Though we call ourselves “Russell Homestead,” we are far from the original homesteaders in our country who truly made-do with what they had because they had no other choice. We have choices, and I want to capture just a piece of that homesteading spirit by making do with what I have and living a balanced life.
I would be curious to hear if any of my readers have an appliance or modern convenience they have chosen to do without & why.
Thanks for stopping by!
IMPORTANT NOTE: My blog has undergone some changes with the addition of “Russell Ramblings.” “Russell Ramblings” is my weekly homeschool update. I have not been sending a notification email to those on my follow list for the “Russell Ramblings.” However, I decided for the convenience of all, I would update the way my blog follow feature works.
If you are currently following my blog, you receive an email when I post a general blog – not “Russell Ramblings” and not weekly puppy litter updates. If you take no action, you will continue to only to receive general blog updates. If you would like to update your blog follow feature to get updates for “Russell Ramblings” and/or the weekly puppy litter updates, simply click here to update your subscription.
If you would like to begin following my blog, click here.
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
Independent Field Representative