Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Gardening In Layers

Mulch is nothing new to me. I’ve used it for years. I never thought of it as gardening in layers until I came across a book on gardening called “Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza.

It isn’t that I don’t have lots of books on gardening. I do. The library display of gardening books was too tempting. Besides, I like lasagna.

Except “Lasagna Gardening” isn’t about growing lasagna ingredients. It’s about gardening in layers as lasagna is assembled in layers. This is right up my alley.

"Lasagna Gardening" is gardening in layers
Few if any gardeners enjoy days and days of weeding. Tilling is hard work. “Lasagna Gardening” explains one method of eliminating both. It also goes over different vegetables, herbs and flowers grown using this method. The best part is the way this method enriches the soil to improve gardening success.

Beginning

The first layer in a lasagna garden is newspaper. Those were the days when people subscribed to a daily newspaper. A good substitute is cardboard.

The purpose of the paper or cardboard is to block grasses or weeds from growing up into the garden. No weeding!

Does it work? Yes, it does. I’ve done this for years. The problems involved include obtaining enough cardboard (The local feed stores get a supply regularly on the pallets of feed.) and weeds creeping up between overlapping pieces or at the edges. As the paper breaks down, some strong weeds like tree seedlings can grow up through it.

serious gardening in layers begins with newspaper or cardboard
Serious mulching to prevent weeds begins with a weed barrier. “Lasagna Gardening” suggests newspaper. I have easier access to and prefer cardboard. In the past I’ve topped this with mulch hay. After reading this book, I will be adding more manure etc. to the garden beds every fall.

Building the Layers

My normal next step is to dump on the mulch. My goats are happy to keep me supplied with any hay not meeting their exacting standards.

In “Lasagna Gardening” the next layers are peat moss, grass cuttings, chopped fall leaves, compost, manure and other organic matter. These are piled on to eighteen to twenty-four inches deep before adding the mulch.

I no longer use peat moss. It is touted as natural, which it is, and sustainable, which it is not. It is being dug out of peat bogs (destroying the bog ecosystems) faster than the new peat can be created.

The other ingredients are subject to preference and availability. Compost and manure are easy for me to come by. Grass clippings require raking. Fall leaves require asking around town for the maple and sweet gum leaves which will probably require raking.

Oak leaves are problematic. They are thick and more acidic. They are slow to decay. If chopped up with a mower, they do work fine. Chopped leaves don’t blow away as readily.

mulched pepper plant
My usual method is mulch hay. This stops most weeds and keeps moisture available during dry spells. Deep mulch helped protect this pepper plant from low temperatures. A handful of hay over the top will keep the plant safe from light frosts.

Trying It Out

The difficulty with reading gardening books in the spring is that my garden is already underway. The potatoes are up. The cabbage is delighted with this cool, wet spring weather. The other beds are prepared for summer crops.

I will definitely adjust this new method of gardening in layers. It is an extension and improvement of my methods. Over the summer I will stockpile cardboard for this fall. Manure is not a problem as the goats produce a new supply daily. Mulch will need to be stockpiled.

Over the summer I can do some of it on a small scale as various crops finish up and the beds are prepared and planted with another crop.

Gardening in layers? Cutting back on weeding? Cutting back on garden drudgery? I’m all for it.

Pepper Container Gardening

Planting two different varieties of peppers next to each other isn’t wise. They cross. This is why I went to pepper container gardening.

My favorite peppers were the colored bells. Unlike green peppers, they are not bitter. The different colors have slightly different tastes. And they are pretty.

Then a friend talked me into trying a Macedonian pepper. This is another sweet pepper (I don’t grow hot peppers.). It is a long horn shape turning from green to lime green to yellow green to rose red. It is delicious.

Two more Macedonian peppers have joined my line up. I still grow the colored bells as I like them too. I needed to have a place to grow the new pepper away from the garden where the bell peppers grow. Containers were the answer.

There are several considerations for pepper container gardening.

tubs for pepper container gardening
Cattle protein tubs are often thick, sturdy plastic. They have to be as a full one is very heavy. They come in smooth, ringed and ridged designs along with several colors. They are around 2 feet deep and 2 1/2 feet across. This one is setting on two cement blocks and has five holes in the bottom.

Location

Peppers like very warm and sunny places. Here in the Ozarks all day sun is not necessary, but half the day is minimum.

Choosing the location is vital for pepper container gardening as, once the containers are filled, moving them is difficult.

As I have three varieties of peppers to consider, I need three locations separate enough to discourage cross pollination. In front of the house, on the sunny side of the house and behind the house work for me. All get shade part of the day, but sun most of the day during the summer.

gravel for pepper container gardening
Although I raided the gravel bars along the creek, gravel can be obtained from cement companies. I used one 5 gallon bucket of gravel in a tub which resulted in about four inches for drainage. Larger pieces covered the holes and need some gravel placed over the pieces before dumping the rest in so the covering pieces aren’t pushed aside.

Containers

Since I grow four plants in each container, I need a big container. Bigger containers don’t heat up in the sun as much preventing the roots from cooking.

My containers are the empty plastic tubs sold filled with cow licks. My feed store buys them back empty from cattlemen and resells them to gardeners like me. The owner also uses a line of them to grow left over transplants for himself and customers who want a quick snack as they go into the store.

Drilling five or six half inch holes in the bottom provides drainage.

Setting Up

Drainage is important. Putting a couple of half size cement blocks or a few bricks under the container helps.

Next the pepper container needs gravel. A larger piece goes over each hole. Four to six inches of inch size gravel goes in on top. This will, in a few years, clog with dirt and need replacing.

Soil comes next. I mix mine. My mixture has one part creek sand, one part composted goat manure and two parts dirt in it. The amounts are not exact. Part of the mix is removed and replaced each year with more compost.

Leave three or four inches clear at the top to hold water in the container.

filled container ready to plant
My soil mix included half a five gallon bucket of sand, two buckets of dirt and one bucket of compost. The dirt was lighter so I needed less sand. I poured in half a bucket of dirt, added a thin layer of sand, half a bucket of compost and mixed. Repeat, I did have more compost, but the container was full. The mixture can be adjusted. This tub is now ready to plant. I plan on four pepper plants. It would work for one tomato plant or lots of greens or ?

Adding Pepper Plants

I space four plants around the container three or four inches from the edge. It’s a good idea to have a stout pole in the center to tie the plants to.

The Ozarks can be a windy place. I have used circles of fence wire, but this needs anchoring too.

Growing Considerations

Pepper container gardening is different from garden based pepper growing. I do mulch my containers to help control weeds, hold in moisture and keep the soil cooler. The containers need watering every other if not every day.

With a little planning pepper container gardening can yield enough peppers to spice up every meal and put plenty in the freezer.

Growing Cabbage in the Ozarks

Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower transplants show up the first of April at several places around town. Yet growing cabbage in the Ozarks is a dicey affair at best.

Cole crops like cool weather. Seventies is as warm as they like to be. Eighties is a disaster in the making.

There are several problems with cole crops in hot weather. First and foremost is the bitter taste. All cole crops seem to have a bit of bitter taste to them. Hot weather multiplies this to inedible.

growing cabbage takes cool weather
Cool weather and rain delight cabbage plants. They are mulched and have few weeds, mostly a few grass plants. The pathways around the patch are not mulched yet. They are deep in chickweed and dead nettle, great early spring bee food.

A second problem is mostly a cabbage problem. The heads rot. A series of cool days will encourage the plants to form heads. One day of eighty degree weather might bleach the top leaf. A second day starts the inside of the head to wilt down leaving a pile of stinky ooze the third day.

Broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi promptly send up flower stalks. They flower almost overnight turning scraggy and dying a few days later.

A friend wants cabbage in the spring. I get the varieties with the shortest maturity dates, put them in and hope for the best.

growing cabbage takes time
Green cabbage comes as three different varieties of transplants. Those in my patch are the two with the shortest maturation times. Their window has been open longer than usual. Once temperatures bounce up into the eighties, cabbage leaves are on the menu.

Cabbage leaves are edible too.

This year has not decided what to do yet. Through April the temperatures dithered from days in the sixties to days in the seventies tossing in a couple of eighties.

Growing cabbage under these conditions is not ideal. My plants are heavily mulched to keep the ground cool. Since it keeps raining an inch or two a week, I’m hoping the mulch isn’t too wet.

growing red cabbage
There must be more varieties of red cabbage, but only one shows up as transplants. It takes longer to mature than the green ones. I like it because it is so pretty.

Typically spring in the Ozarks is short. We’ve had the usual amount, even a bit more. Any day could turn into summer.

For now my growing cabbage is happy and starting to think about making heads. I watch, wait and hope.

In the meantime the tomato and pepper seedlings are doing well. They prefer eighty degree days, but tolerate sixties and seventies once they’ve germinated.

Raising Chicks My Way

April has pros and cons for raising chicks. A big pro is having the pullets start laying in the fall and continuing through the winter. A big con is the weather.

This year my chicks were to arrive on a Wednesday. It was a nice warm spring day. Perfect for settling new chicks in.

The chicks were delayed. The weather turned cold. They arrived huddled in the box trying to keep warm. Their new quarters weren’t warm enough. Keeping them warm is critical to raising chicks.

cage for raising chicks
This cage is a bit small for 22 chicks. However it is easy to surround with cardboard and keep warm when the temperature drops. The chicks can’t get stranded somewhere and get a good start for the first three days. The brown pullets are speckled Sussex. The black pullets are barred rock.

Changing to a larger light bulb solved the warmth problem. I do use a heat lamp so the heat is directed downward. I do not use a heat bulb. Instead I have an array of wattages from 60 to 100 to 150.

When cold weather moves in, the largest bulb goes in. When the temperatures go up, the size of the bulb can go down. The chick house is remodeled against predators, but temperature fluctuations move in.

It’s hard to keep all the chicks together for the first day or two. So I move an old wire cage into the chick house. This has three advantages.

First is keeping the chicks together and under the light. Surrounding the cage with cardboard contains the heat when temperatures really drop. Draping blankets over it will keep chicks warm through frosts.

chicks move into chick house
The temperature soared to eighty. The chicks were too hot in the cage. The temperature was due to drop in two days. The solution was to let the chicks out into the chick house. I set the water and food out and left the door open. A few ventured out. Soon all were out and the cage was removed.

Second is giving an extra protection from black snakes. I have learned that these creatures can fit into crevices I don’t even see.

Third is ease of cleaning. I put down layers of newspaper in three sheet groups. Each day I can roll up a layer leaving the chicks with a clean floor with a minimum of trauma for them. clean quarters is important for raising chicks.

This year the temperatures decided to soar when the chicks were a few days old. The cage was getting cramped and couldn’t be kept cool enough. So the chicks moved out into the chick house proper.

raising chicks in the chick house
The chicks love being out in the whole house. They are still too young to fly. Grass clippings are fun to scatter, maybe sample. And the chicks can move into or out of the warmth as they choose.

The chicks are delighted with all the room. I haven’t changed to a smaller bulb as cooler weather is coming in. Instead the top of the double door and a window are open. Small bugs fly in to amuse the chicks.

This may be a makeshift arrangement, but it works for me and the chicks. And that is all that matters.

April Houseplant Headaches

Winter never gives up without a fight in the Ozarks. Spring and winter vie for supremacy the month of April giving me houseplant headaches.

All winter my few houseplants have patiently waited. The grow light is never bright enough. Water is either too much or too little. They hunker down and endure.

Freezing temperatures will kill my houseplants. Warm temperatures will make them grow into beautiful plants once again.

weather houseplant headaches
When the days are warm, I carry the houseplants out to the plant bench behind an old shed. There are seven pots to haul out. African violets stay in the house all year. If it’s not supposed to rain, but might lightly frost, I toss a blanket over them rather than haul the pots back inside for a day or two.

Spring blows in with warm temperatures. The houseplants move outside. The fern puts up new fiddleheads.

Winter tromps in with freezing temperatures. The houseplants move inside drooping under the grow light once more.

Spring returns. The houseplants move out again.

Houseplant headaches come in the form of poring over the weather forecasts. Will the temperatures stay warm for several days?

fig tree houseplant headaches
Some fig trees do very well in pots. The pot is one cattle protein licks came in with five or six half inch holes in the bottom. A layer of gravel is next. Then comes a mixture of compost and soil. The stand is simple and set up so a small tractor can pick it up with it’s carry all tines. The heated room is a converted, insulated garage kept at forty degrees over the winter.

More houseplant headaches come as heavy pots are carted out and the watch begins. Weather forecasts are notoriously inaccurate in this frost pocket. Most accurate is the feel of the air when I go out to milk. Ice in the air means racing back to cart those pots inside for the night.

Winter is sneaky. The air can feel warm in the evening. The wind can shift blowing in freezing temperatures by morning. Such a set up turned all my plants black a few years ago. Most of them did sprout back up in a week or two.

Many of my houseplants are gone now, given away. April houseplant headaches following the struggles of keeping the plants alive over the winter became too much of a hassle.

developing figs
Figs are an interesting fruit. The flowers are inside a fig-like capsule that comes straight out of the branches. The fig develops from there. Different figs are different colors when they are ripe. They do soften. They taste radically different from the commercially available dried figs.

Now there is a new source of houseplant headaches: fig trees. These are not the hardy figs. These are the tropical figs grown for their delicious fruits. They reside in large tubs.

All winter these trees lived in an insulated, heated room. Now the tractor comes over to move them out for warm spring days and returns to put them back in their room when winter returns.

Unlike my houseplants that are strictly to look at, the figs repay us for the trouble with fresh figs. The trees are already putting on a crop.

Goat Kid Liver Spots

Spotted goats are pretty. Black with white spots is very popular. Kids with brown spots are not popular. Such liver spots may turn color.

Some of my kids are born with white spots. There are two doe kids covered with such spots this year. One belongs to Spring and one to Pamela.

Little spotted Nubian doe
Her brother may have liver spots, but this little Nubian doe is covered with small white spots. At about two weeks old, she is tasting everything.

Spring’s little buck has no spots at first glance. His black is intense. Look again and several brown spots are there in the black. These are liver spots.

Drucilla’s brown doe had such spots. As she got older, the spots seemed spotted with white. When I ruffled her fur in these places, the underneath was white. I’m confident her spots will be white when she is an adult.

liver spots on little Nubian buck
The gym steps are as tall as this little Nubian buck is. He goes up the ramp onto the top and lays up there or comes down a step to lay there. He doesn’t sleep much, but watches everything going on. His liver spots are small on the top of his back and few on his left side.

Why do these brown spots turn white? I don’t know. Perhaps someone has studied this.

I do know body temperature can affect color. Siamese cats are not really that ivory with brown ears, tail and paws. They should be all brown.

There is some factor about the brown  on Siamese cats that prevents it from showing when the body is hot. Ears, tails and paws are cooler letting the brown show. As a cat gets older and bigger, its body gets cooler and more of the brown shows there which is why older cats are darker in color than young ones.

liver spots show as little Nubian buck walks away
Already this little Nubian buck avoids having his picture taken. His right side has lots of larger liver spots.

Maybe goat kid liver spots work the same way. The color does change as the kid gets bigger.

Yet, I’ve read that some spots never change color remaining brown on the adult goats. This wouldn’t be unattractive. It would be an interesting color pattern.

Spring’s little buck is barely over a week old. The color of his spots does not concern him at all. Being able to jump up onto the goat gym is far more important.

And, pretty as spots on goats can be, they don’t put milk in the bucket. Those solid brown does can make great milkers. And brown is a nice color too.

Harriet raises goat kids in “Capri Capers”. They keep her very busy and play an important part in the story. Read the sample pages on the “Capri Capers” page.

Gardening With Goat Kids

Pulling weeds is no fun. Knowing the weeds shouldn’t be there if only you had mulched properly in the fall makes it worse. Gardening with goat kids makes it bearable.

Goats are not welcome in my garden. They like too many of the vegetables and trample the rest.

Gardening with goat kids includes the little Nubian buck
The Holy Terror got bored and lay down for a nap, unless I moved someplace new. He has adjusted to being in the barn and likes his new friends. They have a great time out running and chasing and exploring. They have discovered the goat gym. The little Nubian buck’s colors really are that vivid.

Gardening with goat kids is different. Kids don’t really eat much until they are three to four weeks old.

My bottle kid enjoys hanging around me for company. He relies on me the way other kids rely on their mothers for protection and daring to go exploring. Besides, he usually has a lot of fun following me around as I go interesting places.

Gardening with goat kids can mean getting plants nibbled or eaten as this Nubian doeling is doing
The little Nubian buck’s sister is quite a handful. She is testing out a mulberry seedling for munching possibilities. She has discovered she can get out under the pasture gate and go with her mother for the day. It is a battle in the morning and I lose the war in the afternoon. At least the herd doesn’t go far afield then.

The kids except for the bottle kid were supposed to be out in the pasture with their mothers. That didn’t work out very well. I ended up with all four.

The kids explore everything with their mouths. They eat dirt as they are establishing their rumen residents. They nibble on the weeds. It’s a shame they can’t pull the weeds too.

Gardening with goat kids has this Nubian buckling exploring things
The last kids from my old Nubian buck Gaius includes this red Nubian buckling. He gleams with red as Gaius did when he was young. A week younger than the little buck, this one is still chewing on everything and eating nothing except by accident. He’s testing out a pepper plant cage. Definitely interesting, but not edible.

I used the potato fork to loosen a row of weeds across a garden bed. One or more kids would come over to check out the weed masses I pulled out, shook dirt from and tossed into the wheelbarrow.

Dead nettle and chickweed have fibrous roots. They sprout in the fall and spread out their roots over the winter. The root mat is a couple of inches thick and continuous. It must be broken into small chunks to protect the back.

Pulling weeds does get boring after a time, a short time. Gardening with goat kids lengthens that time. Then they get bored.

Little Nubian doeling in garden
Rain washed straw mulch interests this little Nubian doeling, sister of the red buck. She had a wonderful time helping me in the garden.

It becomes nap time. There are four kids. I can carry two at a time. The bottle kid is now an asset.

I pick up Natasha’s two younger ones. The bottle kid (I know, he needs a name. I’m thinking.) follows me. His sister follows him.

The kids move back into their favorite spot in the barn and curl up for naps.

Moving Kids Out To the Barn

It’s rare for me to have kids in the house for more than a few hours or even overnight. This is a temporary affair to warm up or dry off cold kids. Having one in the house longer leads to a major problem: Moving kids out to the barn.

moving kids out means little Nubian buck goes to the barn
The little Nubian buck looks sweet. So deceptive. He is out and about during milking. He spends his time racing around. His favorite activity is leaping onto the plastic feed sack of trash with its satisfying explosion of crinkling sound. Does on the milk stands are adjusting and no longer trying to leap out of their skins.

Those in for a short time go back out with their anxious mothers. Dry, fluffed and warmed up these kids do fine. Mother takes them back and raises them.

Kids kept inside for several days are forgotten by their mothers, especially if there is a sibling out with the mother. That was what happened with this kid. Matilda assumed she had only one kid and rejected the little buck entirely.

Nubian doe key to moving kids out
Nubian doe High Reaches Pixie’s Natasha knows she has two kids, but isn’t so sure what to do with them. She wants to stay with them. She wants back out with the herd. Luckily she is not disturbed by having the little buck move in with her.

Mother goats do more than feed their kids. They protect their kids from the other goats. Goats have a pecking order with each lording it over those below her. Small kids, unprotected, are on the bottom and knocked around by everyone.

Moving kids out to the barn therefore takes careful planning. If a kid is dumped out, it will be lost and attacked from all sides. All the kid knows is the house and people.

Keeping the kid in the house is not tenable. It is not housebroken. Half a dozen towels are needed for each couple of days.

little red Nubian doe helps moving kids out
At twelve hours old this little Nubian doe, one of Goat Town Gaius’ last kids, is still getting used to standing. By the next day she was up and walking around. By two days old, she was starting to hop.

Older kids are ready to run, play and jump. Like small children, they explore and get into everything within reach. The kid was up in the recliner and on the bed. The cats fled or moved up as high as possible.

I took the kid out to the barn during milking. This was fine. The kid explored the milk room and followed me around doing chores. And went back to the house.

I took the kid out to meet his sister. Matilda was not impressed. She behaved only as long as I was right there. I do not wish to move into the barn.

little red Nubian buck helps moving kids out
This little Nubian buck is one of Goat Town USA Gaius’ last kids. He will be the same deep red with added white markings. He is about twelve hours old here and in a dark barn – headache for picture taking.

The kid had to move out to the barn. I was up against all the difficulties of moving kids out to the barn. He isn’t big enough or tough enough to make it on his own yet. He can’t be kept all alone.

High Reaches Pixie’s Natasha delivered twins. She is a first time mother. She is not high in the pecking order. She is trying to decide how to be a good mother.

The kid went to the barn and in the kidding section with Natasha and her kids. He isn’t happy. He is overjoyed when I show up and cries when I leave.

But Natasha ignores him. Her kids will be big enough to play in a week. And the kid’s sister came into the milk room while Matilda was eating and getting milked. The two kids sized each other up.

Moving kids out to the barn is tough. This little buck will make it.

Harriet ends up with two house goats in “Capri Capers.”

Chilled Kid Becomes House Guest

High Reaches Sprite’s Matilda had her kids the other night. The day was cool, but not bad. The temperatures went down with the sun. One chilled kid had to go to the house.

A chilled kid is a kidding emergency. Kids are born wet, get cold, get hypothermia, stop responding to their mother and die.

chilled kid in goat coat in morning
Still in his goat coat in the morning, the little kid is awake and hungry. He still can’t stand on the towel or the linoleum. He is no longer cold.

In Matilda’s case this was complicated by the sizes of the two kids. I read once long ago that, if the developing kids share a placenta, one can get most of the nutrition and get large while the other one is small. This is what I faced that night.

The larger doe was up on her feet, drinking milk and doing well. Such a kid is not a good house guest. Such a kid needs a goat coat, a sheltered place to sleep and will do fine.

chilled kid now up and walking
The kid needs to eat frequently so he went to town with me. He enjoyed being at the laundromat as the rough texture of the indoor outdoor carpet was made for walking on. When he got home, he could handle the linoleum.

The smaller buck was second born. He got cold. He shivered for a time then stopped. He spoke to his mother for a time and stopped.

Drying this kid off didn’t help. Putting a goat coat on him didn’t help. He refused to eat. He had to get warmed up.

I had a choice to make. If I took both kids into the house, the larger one would be lively and unhappy. However, Matilda would take both back in the morning.

If I took only the chilled kid inside, Matilda would assume she had only one kid. I would be stuck with a bottle baby.

chilled kid meets sister
The little buck’s sister got to spend the day out in the barn. Matilda mostly left her parked in a corner while she went out to graze. The sister sniffed noses with her brother, but doesn’t know him. Hopefully they will be playmates in a couple of weeks. He has lots of red on him. She is deep black with white star, frosted ears and nose.

The lateness of the hour (nearly midnight) made thinking things through difficult. I chose to have the bottle baby.

Once inside, I fitted up a box with a towel on the bottom (I have a couple dozen bath towels for emergencies such as this.), a heating pad under plastic and another towel on top. The heating pad was set on warm, the kid was put into the box.

Heating pads are a wonderful invention. Mine is old and I dread trying to replace it. This one stays on for two hours and has a warm setting, perfect for a chilled kid.

In an hour the little buck was ready to drink some milk. Two hours later he wanted more. Three hours later he wanted more and I had to get up for the day.

chilled kid enjoying the garden
An afternoon in the garden was interesting for a short time for the kid. He enjoyed basking in the sun. He’s already nibbling at things although eating is a couple of weeks away. Mostly he found gardening rather boring. I wish he could help pull weeds.

There are several problems with bottle babies. One is how often they need to eat for a few days. As I had to be in town most of the day, the bottle baby went to town. He had a wonderful time learning to walk on the rough carpet in the laundromat.

At home the little guy is off and running. The linoleum still gives him some problems, but the wood stove is a great nap spot. The floors are scattered with towels as baby kids are prolific producers of yellow rivers.

My next trip to the laundromat will include at least a dozen towels. The chilled kid is now doing fine. His name has changed from Pest to Holy Terror. My cats agree as they vacate the house ceding it to him.

Poor Harriet faces her own goat emergencies in “Capri Capers.” Find out more on the sample pages.

Growing Older Gardening Tricks

My father loved gardening. I was not impressed as I was used as weed puller and little else. He was practicing a growing older gardening trick.

I have come to enjoy gardening. As I grow older, I am coming to appreciate such tricks.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 1

Younger gardeners seem to think the entire garden needs to be done in one or a few days. They take that big tiller out and plow up the whole garden. They follow this with raking, setting out rows, setting out seeds and plants, watering and collapse in the evening with aching muscles.

My garden is divided up into pieces, mostly four by ten. I work up one section each day. This takes a couple of hours. Then I wander off to do something else like take a walk or read a book.

Oh, yes, about that tiller: Sell it.

growing older gardening trick: potato fork
One of the difficulties from growing older is getting less done in the same amount of time. So I picked up black walnuts and didn’t mulch the garden beds. This leaves me removing weeds this spring. A potato fork is great for this. It lifts and breaks the soil making pulling the weeds easier. That is not to be confused with easy. Dead nettle has fibrous roots and makes a root mass two or three inches deep. It must all be pulled up at once in large chunks. Mulch prevents dead nettle from growing.

Small spaces don’t need the use of a tiller. Rich garden dirt containing plenty of compost does not need a tiller. A potato fork works fine.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 2

My father used children to pull his weeds. That works fine, if you have children wanting to earn a little money.

Some gardeners use herbicides. These are not necessary.

Mulch is the secret. My garden sections are normally mulched fall and spring with extra as needed.

This is not wood chips, plastic or other commercial mulch. My goats supply plenty of bedding (Do note that even expensive alfalfa hay becomes bedding as soon as it touches the ground in the opinion of goats. And goats do drop lots of hay on the floor.) However commercial straw or free leaves work well.

Leaves do have problems as they blow easily. One solution is to put down the leaf layer and cover with a thin layer of dirt or straw. Another is to run the mower over the leaves and chop them into small pieces, but they need replenishing sooner that way.

Mulch does have drawbacks. Bugs like mulch. Some plants don’t do well if mulch is too close, think lettuces.

growing older gardening trick: mulch
Yes, weeds aka dead nettle and chickweed (edible) are growing in the garden pathways. The mulch will keep them out of the garden beds. Mulch will get rid of them the end of April. In the meantime the weeds bloom and feed the bees. On the garden bed, mulch does slow down how fast the soil warms, but keeps it cooler during heat spells and holds moisture.

Some weeds will grow up through mulch. Locust trees and morning glories are my main culprits. Most will not.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 3

Raised beds and containers are very helpful when large scale gardening, even in sections, becomes difficult. They are nice any time.

I love raising colored bell peppers. I also like sweet Macedonian peppers. The bells go in the garden proper. The others grow in large containers around the house. This way I can save seeds. This would work for sweet and hot peppers.

Raised beds can extend the gardening season. Access is needed from all sides to put everything within reach.

growing older gardening trick: build your soil with compost and mulch
Once the weed cover is removed, I can admire the rich garden soil. It’s built up using compost and mulch over the years. The soil is loose and easy to work up. There are still rocks in my garden as the Ozark soil grows rocks continuously. Other than carrots, nothing seems to mind my leaving the smaller ones.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 4

This is the hardest trick to do. It means putting aside a love of gardening and looking honestly at how much you are growing. Crops that take lots of work or you no longer use need to be discontinued. Cut back on how many plants you are tending as older people need to eat less.

Growing older is not an excuse to stop gardening. It is a reason to change how gardening is done.

Gardening is creeping into the Hazel Whitmore series. Mother and Grandfather are competing in the County Fair with their tomatoes. Check out “Mistaken Promises.”

Rough, Tough Cloudy Cat

Early every winter morning Cloudy Cat arrives to sit on the plant bench outside the window. He is patient. He knows I will fill the dishes in the house and open the cat door. He leaps in.

I sweep up the debris from the firewood littering the floor while Cloudy eats. He gets done first. And panics. The cat door is closed. He begins meowing, demanding to be let out.

Woe to any other cat who needs to go out or come in. Cloudy is there at the door any time it opens impatiently waiting for me to go to the barn.

Cloudy Cat waiting at barn door
Cloudy Cat is waiting at the barn door for me to get done carrying water and other assorted tasks and let him inside. As soon as he gets inside, milk should appear in his bowl. He never seems to catch on that I have to milk a goat first.

After starting the fire and eating breakfast, I head to the barn. Cloudy Cat leads the way, tail up, triumphant. His insistence has paid off. (Never mind that I go through the same routine every morning and always go to the barn to milk.)

Now comes show off time. Roll on the ground to trip walkers. Race by and up a tree. Bat a snowball or rock or bit of wood around. Keep checking to be sure of being noticed.

Cloudy Cat rolling in snow
Snow may be cold, but Cloudy Cat doesn’t mind. He throws himself on it and rolls over expecting me to stop and pet him. The fact that I have a bucket in each hand is my problem, not his.

The pay off is milk in a bowl still warm from the goat eating on the milkstand.

Cloudy Cat does catch mice in the barn. He must as he stays fat and sleek. I have seen him catch a few.

Mostly I see Cloudy showing off his technique. He crouches poised on a feed barrel top waiting for any mouse stupid enough to come out while the goats and I are tromping around. Amazingly, a few do.

Cloudy Cat sleeping on hay bale
Cloudy Cat is a typical cat. Naps are an essential part of his day. A sun-warmed bale of hay makes a good place to snooze.

When the weather permits, Cloudy enjoys shadowing me on a walk down the road and back. In bad weather he curls up in the hay or on a goat blanket to sleep. He insists on staying in the barn and has ever since he arrived here five or six years ago.

Late afternoons Cloudy is back at the house to eat dinner. He again retreats outside and waits. It is time to go to the barn so he can have his milk.

Once warm weather gets here and the cat door is open all the time, Cloudy Cat will stop sitting on the plant bench. He will come in and sit on top of me. After all, he is determined to get me out to that barn.

Having Fresh Goat Milk

I like milk. To be more precise, I like my own fresh goat milk and use it everyday. Having a steady supply requires planning out when the kids arrive.

A doe produces milk to feed her kids. Dairy animals are bred to produce more milk than their kids require and for a longer period than kids need milk.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Silk's Drucilla
Nubian doe High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla posed nicely for her picture, then threw a fit as her twin does were not with her. They came over wondering why their mother was so upset and got their pictures taken. All were glad to be set loose.

Long ago I found I could breed half my does each year and milk the others through the winter months. This does mean milking twice a day, every day, all year round.

The alternative is to purchase a freezer to freeze milk in to last for several months. The goats still need daily care. I milk every day and enjoy my fresh goat milk.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian Doe High Reaches Pixie's Agate
Nubian doe Agate loves attention, but hates being tied up. She is a first freshener and has been milking for a year now. A former bottle baby, she is very friendly and still wants me to go out to pasture with her.

This winter has been trying. Cold spells alternate with warm spells. Even some of the plants are confused as the maples started to swell their flower buds by January. They got blasted by the next cold spell.

It seems to mess the goats up as well. Normally my does have a big heat spell right after the first really cold spell in early September. They stand bawling up at Augustus for two or three days. They wag their tails. They need escort service to come into the milk room.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Juliette's Lydia
Nubian doe High Reaches Juliette’s Lydia is positive there is a better way to have her picture taken. I’m thinking the same thing, but haven’t come up with a better plan yet. My goats don’t seem to like posing for the camera.

The rest of the winter the does cycle regularly until they are bred, but at much lower intensity. This winter that changed. Every warm spell, cold spell cycle brought my does into vigorous heat cycles.

Augustus produces that odiferous musk over breeding season. The smell usually starts fading in February. Not this year. He must continue to impress his does and abuse the noses of others.

Each big heat cycle cuts a bit of production from the does I’m milking through. It isn’t much, but accumulates. My supply of fresh goat milk is getting stretches thin.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Violet
Nubian doe High Reaches Violet is an older doe. She cooperates with the picture taking, but is not impressed. She prefers acorns to oats. She expects escort service to the milk room most days.

Kids are scheduled to begin arriving in mid-March with the last in early April. This assumes the goats will follow my schedule. Drucilla’s December twin does show they are not overly impressed with the schedule.

Additional fresh goat milk is iffy while the kids are nursing. It depends on who milks first, me or them. They usually win.

The kids should leave in June. Then my kitchen will again overflow with fresh goat milk until November after October bred goats start drying off for the winter.

Find out more about goat milk and milking goats in “Goat Games.”

Eating Snow Makes Goats Happy

Dairy goats need lots of water. With four inches of snow on the ground, the goats are inside and I am hauling water. Except the goats ignored my buckets and stood aong the gym step eating snow.

Snow is cold. Eating too much of it can cause hypothermia. Advice for goat owners is to provide plenty of warm water to their goats.

Nubian does prefer eating snow to drinking water
Yes, I had to bribe the goats to perform. Earlier they were eager to come out and eat the snow as they had just finished their hay. Now they wanted more hay and had no interest in the camera or posing or water at all. One thing about Nubians: they love to eat.

So I do.

And the goats continue eating snow.

I suppose I could confine them to the barn forcing them to consume the warmer water I bring. I did do that the day it snowed.

Soon the goats were bickering. The younger ones were bounding into the milk room and leaping onto the hay. They were racing around the barn upsetting the pregnant does due next month.

I opened the gate. The goats poured out to bask in the sun that was so prominent yesterday.

Nubian doe prefers water to eating snow
High Reaches Valerie preferred to drink water. She is a coming yearling and totally disgusted with the snow and ice.

And I hauled water. And dumped unwanted buckets starting to ice over. I hauled more water to the milk room for those who wanted some after eating their grain. And I dumped half of that.

My goats have eaten snow for years. I don’t know why they prefer it to the warmer water in the buckets, but they do.

As with hay or grain, my goats are picky about the snow they eat. It must be clean, no hoof prints or dirt, definitely no goat berries. Since clean snow lasts only a day or two, eating snow is a short time activity.

Orange Cat drinking from goat bucket
My place seems to have traveling tom cats drop by every few years. They come by and stay. Orange Cat is the latest. Cloudy Cat is disgusted as Orange Cat sleeps in his barn. It is the goat’s barn, but cats take precedence. The cats normally have their own water dish by the hand pump, but it freezes in this weather. Orange Cat likes the goats and shares their water bucket.

The practice doesn’t seem to hurt the goats. Hay continues to disappear from the troughs quickly. Grain vanishes as though vacuums were at work.

My herd is doing fine. My pregnant does are getting wide and their udders are swelling. My milking does still produce milk. I will let them enjoy their few days eating snow.

February Ice Storm

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. Most likely it has no relation at all. However a February ice storm came by.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the space ship arrives in the middle of a February ice storm.

February ice storm coats everything
Ice coats this old log. It isn’t thick, but don’t step on it. Your foot will slide off possible making you fall. Such a coating was on the landing site for the Carduans. Thrill ride anyone?

This year’s February ice storm wasn’t much. It heralded a warm front coming in. About a quarter of an inch of freezing rain covered everything. During the day the ice melted and rain began.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the ice storm drops a half inch of ice as a cold front moves in. The sun does come out and melt the ice off the trees. This is typical of such storms in the Ozarks. And that’s a very good thing.

That quarter of an inch of ice is treacherous. Any surface becomes slick. Walking is asking to fall and get hurt. Driving is not advisable from my house as the hills will be too slick for even four wheel drive to conquer.

February ice storm encases tree twigs and branches
Twigs and branches sport an ice coating. This coating is thin. When the coating is a quarter of an inch thick, sunlight will sparkle through it making the trees into crystal structures. The thin coating will try to do this, but melted too soon this time.

There are drivers who believe four wheel drive makes any winter road passable. Ice removes all friction between the road and the tires. Without friction, the vehicle slides no matter how many tires are trying to find traction. I would rather stay home than slide off the road and twenty or thirty feet down into the creek bed.

February ice storm creates frozen drops
An ice storm is freezing rain. It falls as very cold rain that freezes on everything. This milkweed pod has an ice coating with more dripping off as frozen drops. These can get fairly long as new drops add onto the frozen ones already there.

The grass stuck up through the ice and made walking possible. The goats do need milking, hay and water, ice or no ice. The chickens need food and water. And I want those eggs and milk.

A February ice storm can be destructive. The ice is heavy and can break off branches, bend small trees to the ground or snap them off and break electric lines. This little storm did little damage.

Instead the storm set the mood as I work my way slowly through the first rewrite of “The Carduan Chronicles.” In that the ice storm is followed by snow. There is snow in the forecast. I wonder.

Buying Seeds Galore

January thaw. The garden beckons. Spring is coming. I’m buying seeds to suit my garden dreams.

Gardens have a finite size. No matter how many books come out about squeezing more plants into less space, the only way to have more space is to make a bigger garden. Bigger gardens mean more work. Mine is big enough.

buying seeds for peas and greens
Red cabbage is unusual in my garden. I think it will show up more often in the fall since it is more frost hardy than the green cabbage. These will be gone by March. Peas will move in by the end of March. Maybe some spring cabbage. Maybe lettuce. Choices, choices. So many seeds to choose from.

Rationally I should calmly assess how last year’s garden worked. What grew well? What did we eat? What did we like? What was a waste of time?

Buying seeds is not done rationally. Not by me. Well, a little.

The catalogs make everything look fantastic. Those gorgeous vegetables look delicious.

We love corn. Corn takes lots of room. Raccoons love corn. I don’t grow corn.

buying seeds for spring planting in a mulched bed
What will grow here? Last year Chinese Winter Melon spread its vines down the section between okra plants. Maybe Yukon gold potatoes will grow here this year. The pathway is full of dead nettle and chickweed for the spring bees. That will disappear under mulch in late April.

Winter squash is wonderful. I love growing pumpkins. Both take lots of room. How many can two people eat? The goats don’t mind eating the extra.

My diet needs more greens in it. Not everyone in the household agrees. However, I have friends who love the extras.

Rutabaga is one vegetable I rarely have any luck with. I love this root crop. It hates the Ozarks. I persist.

Spinach, snow peas and peas are on the early list. Yard long beans are on the later list.

Potatoes are definitely on the list. They grow so well. I do plant fewer as we can’t eat them all.

No need for buying seeds for the garlic patch
All winter the garlic has settled in under the mulch. This is one crop planted in the fall as spring garlic gets burned by summer heat in the Ozarks.

Four summer staples are on the list. Okra, summer squash, sweet peppers –both colored bell and long ones – and tomatoes will be in the garden. I always seem to end up with many more plants than planned for.

Buying seeds is such fun. Garden dreams are so wonderful. Reality sets in about June. By then it’s too late for rationality. The garden will again become a jungle, a delicious jungle, a frustrating jungle.

And I will do it again next year.

Wonderful Fur Coats

Winter cold, ice, snow reign in the Ozarks for another month or so. Coats, hats, long underwear add girth and still the cold seeps through. The cats sit and play in the snow in their wonderful fur coats.

I’m jealous.

Tyke and Cloudy have shared the barn for several years. Tyke was there first and is older. They stay in the barn by choice pretending to hunt mice. They do catch a few to impress me from time to time.

Over the winter the two cats found cozy beds in the hay or on extra goat blankets and coats. The house was used overnight only in extreme cold and for cat food.

winter fur coats help keep Cloudy cat warm
My cat Cloudy is one tough cat. His winter coat is an inch thick. He races and jumps through the snow. He makes small snowballs to bat around. He can’t understand why I don’t want to stay out with him.

Running fingers through the cats’ wonderful fur coats is to find them thick and soft. A generous undercoat makes the coats like deep plush velvet. This traps heat. The outer fur sheds water to keep the undercoat dry.

Tyke is getting older and now sleeps on the floor in the house. He prefers the cold floor to warm blankets. I don’t mind as he doesn’t share well and thinks my side of the bed is his and I can move elsewhere.

This bed stealing is a subtle thing. He waits until I am asleep, moves up against me and shoves. I roll over. He repeats. Lucky for me he starts on the outside or I would be on the floor.

Days Tyke goes out. He catches mice in the hen house. He catches voles in the pastures. Rain or snow, he goes out.

Tyke cat warm in winter fur coats
My cat Tyke comes into the house with snow or rain on his fur and uses my leg for a towel. I see him out in the pasture walking through the grass in any weather. He seems unaware that such weather should chase him indoors.

Cloudy is more of a clumsy clown when I see him. He loves showing off bounding through show, racing up trees, leading the way with sudden stops to trip me up. Days in the twenties don’t slow him down.

As I put on the layers getting ready to go out to milk or put out hay or carry water, I look at those wonderful fur coats and sigh. I try to remember that next summer those fur coats won’t look so tempting.

Feeding Winter Birds

We didn’t plan to feed the wild birds when we moved here twenty-five years ago. It’s just winter birds have such a hard time finding enough to eat when it snows. So I tossed out some scratch feed by the barn.

Watching the birds was fun. Juncos, chickadees, sparrows and cardinals became regulars every morning.

winter birds wait for their seeds
Shortly after dawn the birds begin to gather watching and waiting. The cardinals are the easy ones to spot due to their size and color. There are mornings not a bird seems to be in sight. Yet, as soon as the tray of seeds is set out, they swoop in from all around. Winter birds are easier to see as they can’t hide behind the leaves.

There’s a window in the kitchen looking out at the back yard. This was the perfect place for a feeder so we put up a platform.

In the snow the tray was full of white stuff. In the rain the seeds went swimming. I built a roof.

Over the years our feeder has never been fancy. The birds don’t seem to care. The big tray holds sunflower seeds. The dog dish holds scratch feed. A water pan is there when it won’t freeze. Otherwise the creek and a spring fed pond are close by.

The local NPR station had a weekly bird commentary. Mike Doyan mentioned peanut butter. So we put out a lump on a half brick.

This year we are trying some suet. It took weeks to get them to try it. The birds like cheap peanut butter better. They prefer cheap generic peanut butter to natural stuff.

This newest feeder top has higher sides than the last one making it harder to see the birds. It is sturdier as high winds have come through the last few years blowing the roof off the feeder several times. The roof doesn’t look like much, but it does keep the rain and snow off the winter birds.

Over the years the population of birds has changed and increased. We feed year round. Winter birds are still the favorites.

Our winter birds now include mourning doves, cardinals, juncos, chickadees, sparrows, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers and purple finches. They line up on the feeder and in the nearby trees in the morning waiting for breakfast to arrive.

And it does arrive. When snow is on the ground, the feeder is packed with birds coming and going. The sunflower seeds need replenishing in the afternoon.

We have a new, larger kitchen window now. Standing there watching the feeder can delay meals. It is wonderful entertainment for us and a life saver for the winter birds.

Find out more about our bird feeding adventures in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Unhappy Goat Snow Days

My Nubian goats are spoiled. Dairy goats in general seem that way, or so I hear. They hate to get wet or tromp through the snow. They like to go out romping. Snow days are tough on them.

The first day wasn’t too bad. My herd is smaller now and has plenty of room in the barn to argue among themselves. Standing around with enough hay in the troughs to replace their bedding is fun too.

Nubian goat herd on snow days

Snow is still covering most of the ground. Still my Nubians look out from under their door cover blanket hoping I will open the pasture gate. Somehow I must be able to give them their pasture back minus the snow. I wish I knew how. They need the exercise. Mobbing the milk room door is not exercise for them, only frustration for me.

Even Augustus didn’t mind the first day. He is lonely now without Gaius around. He liked having the herd stay around all day.

Day two wasn’t so fun. The goats have plenty of hay to eat. They are bored with hay. Acorns are tastier. New hay doesn’t appear often enough.

Water is another complaint. The buckets don’t arrive often enough. Of course, the goats can’t be bothered to get drinks when they do arrive. New hay is on the agenda, then water. I am supposed to wait around until they are ready.

Nubian buck Augustus on snow days

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk’s Augustus has room in his pen, just not enough. By day 3, he is ready and eager to get outside and run. Unfortunately the snow is not leaving and he is stuck watching the world go by.

Exercise is important. The goats chase each other around in the barn. There is one bench and the thunder of feet going over it is almost continuous. I’m glad I got it repaired last week.

Augustus is tired of snow days. His pen is big enough for a short time. Two days is too long. He wants out to play too. His brand of playing is not appreciated by the does.

Up north the snow days lasted for months. This herd would go nuts. Luckily for my herd Ozark snow days last only a few days.

The storm should pass tonight. The sun will start melting the snow tomorrow. By the next day the goats will be ready to race out the gate churning up the mud as they buck and bounce their way out to find those acorns.

Enjoy raising goats? Try Dora’s Story.

Changing Climate Gardening

I’ve had a garden here for twenty-five years. It was very small the first few years. It’s grown and changed over the years. It has always been challenging, but gardening in this time of changing climate is hard.

Ozark springs are normally short, warm and wet. I skipped cold weather crops like cabbage and broccoli.

The last two years spring has been long, cold with frosts, wet and miserable. This is great for cabbage and broccoli. So I put some in.

changing climate lets cabbage grow in winter

The mulch keeps the ground from freezing. The biggest problem with it is cold and wet rotting roots, but that hasn’t happened this winter. Normally even cabbage and turnips are done in December. This winter they are still growing in January.

Except.

The plants were growing well, looking great. The temperatures went up into the eighties, humidity to match and no rain. Both crops rotted.

Lots of people put in their tomato plants when the weather is still cool thinking they will get a head start. The plants languish.

I prefer to wait until the weather is warm and settled as my plants will catch up quickly because they are happy.

Except.

Tomato plants do not like eighties and nineties with hot sun. They hunker down refusing to grow, blossom or set fruit. Even providing shade doesn’t help much.

Fall into early winter has been a good time for lettuces and cabbage. Changing climate has winter confused. My plastic protections must be taken off for days, then put back on.

broccoli survives winter in changing climate

Broccoli takes a lot of cold, but not twenty degrees and under. That hasn’t been a big problem this winter. The plants are growing slowly under makeshift plastic shelters. Maybe I’ll have broccoli this spring.

The seed catalogs are sitting on my kitchen table. I want to put a seed order together. The changing climate must affect what I grow. I need to try some new crops. Crops that can tolerate drought, heat and weeds.

Maybe I should start growing more of the edible weeds. The changing climate doesn’t seem to devastate them. Perhaps I will cut back on the lettuce and other tame greens and expand into more wild greens.

However, tomatoes, okra, winter squash and bell peppers stay in the garden. These are the joys of summer eating. These make winter menus so much better.

Where are those seed catalogs?

Exploring Water This Year

A few years ago I wrote a book called “The Pumpkin Project.” It was based on some of the experiments I’d used in my classes to explore botany. At the time I was also doing science projects on my website. One summer those projects were about exploring water.

As I finished “The Pumpkin Project,” I planned to do another science book called “The Water Project.” After all, I had the experiments. The book didn’t get done.

The Pumpkin Project

I enjoy science. Finding out about how things work is interesting. At least, it’s interesting if you do the experiments instead of just reading about them. Too many schools and teachers have students read the text and answer the questions with no lab work.

Water is getting a lot of attention lately. A person can live on water alone for about a month. Without water survival shrinks to a week. For many people around the world, getting enough clean water is a daily challenge.

exploring water with water tower

Do you know what this is and what it does? Do you know how it works? That will be in “The City Water Project.”

Water is so necessary, yet we in the United States rarely give it a thought. It is supposed to be there whenever we want it.

How much do you really know about water? Where does your water come from? What happens to that water before it arrives in your house? What happens to it after it leaves your house?

“The City Water Project” is taking form. The investigations allow young people to do labs exploring water, what it is and how it works. The activities can be fun. The project will be challenging.

 

Goat Games

As in “Goat Games” and “The Pumpkin Project,” there will be pencil puzzles to work. These too will aid in exploring water. My biggest challenge will be not making the puzzles too difficult. But you might like a challenge.

“The City Water Project” will be lots of fun over a summer. After all, what fun is exploring water if you can’t get wet?

Kids First Day Out

The Nubian doe kids are two weeks old. They run and play, jump up on the gym, the hay trough, the sleeping bench. They want to have a first day out in the big world.

Two weeks old is very young. The herd is going far up the hill pasture hill. The kids will get tired and go to sleep. I won’t be able to find them.

The day dawns cold and frosty, but bright and sunny. The grass is short, easy for kids to see the herd and their mother. The herd wants out even before milking is over.

I could wait until the kids go back in the barn and go to sleep. The frost will melt by that time. If I hide in the house, I won’t hear the goats calling, asking why they aren’t out yet.

goat kids first day out is for exploring

Nubian doe Drucilla doesn’t get much eating done as she tries to keep up with her kids.

Drucilla is a wonderful mother goat. She stayed in almost two weeks with her kids. Most stay in only a week before trying to sneak out the gate. She has a big Nubian voice. Those kids will hear her a quarter of a mile easily. Her kids have big voices too.

If not now, when? How old is old enough? Winter kids have advantages with the short grass and bare branches of bushes.

The goats are calling. They are standing in the barn lot looking at me and at the pasture gate. “It’s a beautiful day to be out,” they seem to say. “Please let us out.”

kids first day out in woods

The goat kids are having a wonderful time going up and down the hills. It’s much more interesting than being stuck in the barn all day.

I’ll snag the kids as they try to go out the gate. I go to the gate with the herd and open it. The herd pours through.

Drucilla has her kids beside her. If I snag them, she will turn around and stay in crying mournfully all day. They are bouncing, so excited at this first day out.

I watch as the three get to the bridge. The kids won’t cross. Drucilla goes back and talks to them. And the three are min the middle of the herd as it winds its way up the hill pasture.

I do want to go out for a walk later today. If I happen to wander up the hill pasture, that’s a good walk.

Mother Goat Care

Winter kids bring special concerns as these small goats need to keep warm. This can overshadow mother goat care.

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a big, healthy mother goat in the prime of her life. She doesn’t look like she needs special care. She would sneer at the notion, if she understood.

Nubian doe High Reaches Silk's Drucilla

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a big Nubian doe, about 140 pounds. Her coat gleams. her milk is good. She seems in good health. Still, raising kids is stressful so I keep an eye on her.

That doesn’t change a thing.

Long ago the standard advice was to deworm a doe just after she had her kids. The sequestered worms would flood her system due to the stress of kidding.

I followed this for years. Drucilla is glad I don’t now. Instead I have a waiting game. If she appears to have an overload problem, she will eat wormer, to her disgust. If her coat remains silky, her droppings normal, she gets to skip the awful stuff.

Nubian doe guarding kids

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a wonderful mother goat. She is constantly on the alert for any threat to her kids. This includes a chicken walking by, a cat chasing mice, me putting on or taking off goat coats and, especially, me picking up a kid to pet it.

One bit of mother goat care I do follow is for milking. Yes, I let my does raise their kids. Years ago I had time for all the bottles and fussing. Now I don’t. Both my does and I are much happier.

That doesn’t mean Drucilla gets to skip milking. Being a Nubian, she would never miss a chance to eat unless she were ill. While she inhales her grain, I check her udder and milk her out every morning and every night.

Nubian doe kids out to play

These Nubian doe kids have their mother well trained. If they want to stay in the barn, so does she. If they want to go outside and play, so does she. If she calls, they ignore her. Sounds like kids, doesn’t it?

The first couple of days, I don’t milk unless the doe’s udder is congested or full. I do take some of the first colostrum and freeze it for emergency use. This precious first milk is produced before the kids arrive and not after. It is important for the kids. I let them have as much as they want.

By the third day, the colostrum is diluted with milk. The kids are still too young to empty a large udder like Drucilla has. I milk the extra out. My barn cats Cloudy, Tyke and Orange Cat are delighted with the bounty.

mother goat and doe kids

This is where Drucilla would enjoy standing to bask in the sun for a time. The kids find this a good place to run and play, for now.

Other mother goat care depends on the doe. Often their hooves need trimming as they were too big to do before the kids arrived. Their kids may need help learning where their meals come from.

My does are kept in a special pen for a few days. this pen is set up with places for the kids to sleep and keep warm. The doe can have extra hay. And the rest of my does are safe from overly protective mother goats.

As soon as the kids are playing, the special pen comes down. There are places for the kids to sleep in peace. And mother goat care becomes general goat care.

What do you do when your new does have kids the same day? Harriet finds out in Capri Capers.

Enjoying Winter Goat Kids

Winter in the Ozarks has its ups and downs this year. A week will have highs in the 30’s, lows near 20. The next week will have 50’s for highs and 40 for a low. That makes winter goat kids an iffy affair.

I prefer March kids. Traditionally March is more settled and warmer. The last couple have been cold, but not winter cold.

Nubian bucks aren’t concerned with when kids are born, only producing them. Nubian does are the same. In the Ozarks Nubian does can cycle all year.

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla seems to be like her mother Silk and prefers winter kids. And so I have winter goat kids born December 1.

black doe of winter goat kids

The ears have it on Nubian kids. This is the bigger twin doe, independent, inquisitive, loud and demanding.

It was obvious Drucilla was due soon. There was a date on the calendar for early December. Cold moved in and lingered.

Kids are wet when they are born. Below freezing temperatures can freeze them quickly. Trying to tell which day kids will be born has signs that are often wrong.

Suddenly winter got shoved out by fall for several days. I urged Drucilla to hurry up while the weather was kid friendly.

Drucilla ignored me.

The weather was supposed to change Friday night. I laid out towels to dry kids, wrap them and carry them to the house for time by the wood stove. Winter goat kids dry, fluffy and with goat coats on can take a lot of cold.

brown doe kid of winter goat kids

This slightly smaller brown Nubian doe kid got pushed off the milk and needed a bottle boost. She’s doing fine now.

I knew Drucilla would have her kids Saturday morning.

The expected cold front got delayed. Saturday dawned bright and warm. The kids were dry and up when I got to the barn. They had the entire warm day to get thoroughly dry and fluffed up.

Saturday night brought the edges of the cold front. Sunday let it settle in. Monday the twin doe kids had their goat coats on and looked like winter goat kids.

Harriet panics when her goats kid in Capri Capers. One kid is Capri.

Missing Goat Town USA Gaius Nubian Buck Extraordinaire

I remember going to Tahlequah, OK, to pick up a little buck kid I’d picked out sight unseen and named Goat Town USA Gaius many years ago. He was a little thing, but full of personality. The drive home was an adventure for both of us.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius as a kid

When Gaius first came, he went out with the does to eat in the pasture. Yes, Louie went too and usually had to be rescued. Gaius grew fast, but not fast enough that first summer. His deep red grew in that first winter.

Once home, I decided Gaius had been weaned to early and offered him a bottle. He concurred with my opinion. As I was already feeding another little buck born blind a month older than Gaius, both were happy with the arrangements.

Gaius and Louie were soon fast friends. Both were bucks. Louie was blind with horns and so could spar with Gaius who was sighted and disbudded.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius as a yearling

Louie was born blind. Gaius seemed to understand this. Louie would go out in the small pasture with Gaius and get separated. When Louie started calling, Gaius would go back to him and lead him on to wherever the next good eating spot was.

The two lived in the same pen for years. I’d had a previous buck who literally smashed his companion wether through the wall one day. Goat Town USA Gaius never got aggressive that way. He was easy going, definitely top buck, but generously allowing Louie to stay with him. The truth was, Gaius hated to be alone.

That first fall Gaius was eager to be a big Nubian buck. Those does in heat were so interesting. He had a problem. He was six inches too short.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius walking

Nubian buck Gaius seemed to get redder as he got older. Maybe that black helped deepen the color. he was always confident, but always had time for a neck rub.

The barn has a cement step in front six inches high. Gaius watched me back a doe in heat up to the step. Perfect.

The next fall Gaius waited for my help again for the first doe or two. Then he realized he had gained that six inches and more. He was a very happy buck.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius eating along road

One year drought hit and the pastures dried up. The only real browse was along the road. Gaius loved going out. I put a rope around his neck and kept busy doing things checking on him from time to time. One pull on that rope and Gaius would stop and go with me. He did resist going back in the barn lot a little. It was so much fun being out.

Several years later Louie got urinary calculi and was gone in a week. Gaius was devastated.

Augustus had been born that spring. goat Town USA Gaius was delighted to have company again.

Unfortunately Augustus didn’t have Gaius’ easy going generosity. He was second buck and unhappy. He was always testing.

Gaius became ill. And Augustus became top buck. He took over the pen.

I set up a pen inside the barn. Gaius recovered mostly. He was happy to be right there with the girls.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius standing

There were days when Gaius would pose for a picture. Then he would go back to typical goat behavior and goof off making it impossible to get a decent picture.

Augustus would have leaped over the stall wall. Gaius never tried. He enjoyed making out over the barrier. He was delighted any time I forgot to fasten his pen.

Last spring Gaius was sick again. He recovered enough to enjoy the summer. Then, one fall morning, he was gone.

For all his bravado Augustus is grieving. So am I. There should be two does bred to Goat Town USA Gaius. Those kids are something to look forward to.

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