Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Planting Potatoes My Way

A friend was wishing she could grow potatoes, but couldn’t dig and hill them. I explained about planting potatoes my way.

Years ago, when I started teaching full time, I spent a weekend planting potatoes the old way. Dig a trench. Put in the potatoes. Cover them. Come back to pull more dirt over the new plants. Eventually dirt is hilled up around the plants.

planting potatoes my way requires lots of mulch
This year I have lots of loose mulch thanks to my picky goats. Other years I have purchased straw or had old, moldy hay. These bales split into flakes. I lay these out and plant along the joints between flakes. Loose mulch is harder to plant through.

My potatoes had their trench. They got covered. And I didn’t have time to come back. I had lesson plans and papers from six different science classes to take care of.

The giant ragweed moved in towering eight feet over those poor potato plants. When I tried to harvest the nubbins of potatoes, I used a saw to cut the ragweed down.

Phooey.

trench burrowed through mulch for planting potatoes my way
I used two methods to deal with the loose mulch. First I created a trench down to the dirt to put the potatoes in. The second method was to set the potatoes out on top of the mulch to arrange them. Then I burrowed down a hole to the dirt and put the potato in. The second method was much faster and easier.

The next year I made shallow trenches, maybe half an inch deep as otherwise the potatoes would meander over the plot. Each seed potato was set out at intervals along the trenches. Mulch hay was piled up over the potatoes with tiny wells above each one.

The potatoes grew. The giant ragweed didn’t. Well, a couple tried and were pulled up.

arranging the potatoes
I tend to plant a bit close together with rows far apart. I also just set them out without measuring, only what looks right. To date the potato plants haven’t complained. They seem to find the garden soil rich enough to ignore my inept arranging.

Harvest time came. I shifted off the last of the mulch and picked up the potatoes.

From then on, over twenty years now, planting potatoes my way has seen some adjustments. The basics remain the same.

1) Set up the rows.

2) Set out the seed potatoes.

3) Cover the potatoes with mulch.

4) Add more mulch as needed to keep it six inches deep.

5) Pull the few weeds that insist on growing.

6) Roll back the mulch and pick up the potatoes at harvest.

Planting potatoes my way does mean smaller potatoes. Of course Yukon gold potatoes are smaller anyway. Mine are a medium size which is fine for us.

planting potatoes my way works for me
The thing about mulch hay is its tendency to tangle up into almost impenetrable mats. Potatoes sprouts can force their way up, but leaving a channel makes life much easier. Besides, I can spread the mulch apart and check on the sprouts when impatience gets too insistent.

Mulch has advantages. Fewer weeds. No digging. Enriches the soil. Holds in moisture during dry spells. Keeps the ground cooler during hot spells.

Mulch does have problems. It usually comes with a seed load. It must be added to as it sinks over the season. It keeps the ground cold in the early spring. It can get water logged.

Planting potatoes my way works well for me here in the Ozarks. It isn’t perfect, but nothing about gardening is.

Assessing PVC Garden Gates

Several people have expressed interest lately in my PVC garden gates. I built mine several years ago and thought an update on them was in order and would answer questions people have about them.

The Missouri Ozarks is a wet place with around 40 inches of rain a year. For years I built wood frames and tacked on wire for my garden gates. They lasted two years.

Disgusted with building new gates every year or two, I decided to try something different: PVC garden gates. They do take time to construct, but the steps are simple and found some previous posts. Building. Hanging.

(Some of the pictures aren’t there. Annoying. Websites seem to have minds of their own at times and evidently thought these posts were too old. I will try to redo them over the weekend.)

PVC garden gates
The metal pole is one the road department replaced as someone ran over the street signs. I drilled holes in it to put the gate hinge bolt through. The chickens come up to look through into the garden, but haven’t been able to open the gate to get through. I usually don’t latch it closed. PVC garden gates work really well. After years of use, this one is a bit dirty and still serviceable.

As I built the gates, I found I made a few mistakes. The major one was not having a hard, level surface to work on.

My working area was out under a black walnut tree where the ground appeared to be level. It wasn’t. A couple of my gates have definite bends in them. These weren’t a problem except for looks.

The second was because I lacked a third metal pole to use for hanging one gate. I had to replace the wood post this year although the original really rotted off last year and I cobbled a support up that gave way this year.

PVC gate
This is my tallest PVC gate. Some algae is colonizing the cross bar. The gate is still fine. The wire around the pipes is my whipstitching holding the wire on. When I have chicks, I use the two rubber straps, one bottom and one top. The cement blocks block a chick escape route.

A mistake I didn’t make was using too light weight pipes. I used heavy walled two inch diameter pipes. This is an excellent size resulting in sturdy gates that are easy to handle.

In all I built four gates: three PVC garden gates and one for the chick yard. This last was six feet tall with a single cross bar like the garden gates. It works fine.

After several years the gates remain as solid and sturdy as when I made them. They swing easily on the gate hinges. I use them a lot, but see no wear on them. There is a bit of algae trying to grow on a couple. Lichens will follow no doubt.

Latching them is still a bit of a challenge. This is when the bent gates are a problem. I use the rubber straps with hooks on both ends. They work.

Do I recommend PVC garden gates? Yes. I wish I had built them years before I did.

Starting Snow Peas Early

Missouri springs are unpredictable. Some years spring is a few days. So I like starting snow peas early in an attempt to beat the heat.

The first of March is really early. The ground is still cold. However, this Ozark winter was mild and the selected spot is under mulch.

starting snow peas early requires a trellis
Hog and cattle panels make great trellises. I attach two wires, one on each side near the end of the panel. As I work alone, I trap the other end against a tree and pull the wires and other end closer and closer until I can attach the wire to the other end. Moving the hoop is awkward due to the size. Once in the garden it can be moved from place to place fairly easily.

Adequate rain made the ground a bit muddy. The cardboard and mulch stopped the weeds. The moles do have some tunnels in the area, but they are avoidable.

Yes, the moles are a nuisance. They adore my garden with its abundance of earthworms, grubs and other mole delicacies. Every bed is criss crossed with their tunnels. Some I collapse. Others I plant on one side or the other and ignore.

securing the trellis
Once vines grow up on a trellis, it catches the wind and blows over. This pulls some of the vines out of the ground. The others tangle and make pushing the trellis back up difficult. The solution is easy. Put in a post against one side and tie the trellis to the post.

Moles do not eat roots, only uproot them building their tunnels. Meadow voles are a different case and the cats generally keep them out of the garden.

Snow peas are long vines and need a trellis. An old hog panel pulled into a curve and wired at the base works well. It is tippy so a well placed post is wise. Standing the trellis back up is not easy, especially if it’s covered with vines.

starting snow peas early under mulch
After all winter the thick cardboard is mostly gone under the mulch. I pull the mulch back along the end of the trellis. If the weather is warm, the ground can be left exposed to warm up for a day or so before planting. I rarely have more than a day to work so I hope the snow peas can take the cold.

Starting snow peas early is iffy. The ground may be too wet or cold. But I shoved the peas into the ground anyway. If some don’t germinate in a couple of weeks, I will replant.

The mulch is several inches deep along each side of the pea row. This will protect the ground from late frosts. It will keep the ground cool for a week if the temperatures shoot up to eighty degrees like they did last year.

planting snow peas early
I plant the peas thickly, two inches apart. As the two ends of the trellis are five feet apart and the ground is well manured, the snow pea plants generally manage fine even if all of them come up. Pulling the mulch close to the row lets the straw get the frost and not the ground.

If the spring stays cool, I will enjoy plenty of snow peas to eat. If spring turns to summer in a week, the pea shoot tips and flowers are edible. And the Mosaic long beans will take over the trellis.

Starting snow peas early is my best chance at enjoying these pods and I’m willing to try.

Three Months Old Nubian Doe Kids

Time flows by. Goat kids grow quickly. And suddenly they are three months old.

Why does this matter?

Buck kids are old enough to start breeding does by three months old. Most aren’t capable of settling a doe before four months. Still, in a mixed herd, these kids begin carrying on and driving my old buck mad.

Breeding season is officially over. Except Nubians will breed all year and not all of my does are bred. So the buck kids are beginning to blather and carry on every so often. Augustus starts to smell and pace and hang out of his pen. The does start mooning.

High Reaches Valerie's nubian doeling at three months old
This little live wire was born December 3, 2019, and is a bottle baby. Her mother is High Reaches Pixie Valerie, a first freshener who liked her buck kid and ignored this one. The brown spots show signs of turning white. She is very friendly and constantly on the move.

There are seven kids three months old now. Five are little bucks. Two are little does.

Doe kids can get pregnant at four months although they usually wait until they are six months old. That means I have a problem.

There is another side of this problem, a harder one to solve. That one is letting go of all of these seven kids.

Goats have been a major backbone of my life for over forty years. As I grow older, the work becomes harder to keep done. I can no longer sling hay or even stack the three hundred bales I need each year. Mucking out the barn takes longer each spring.

High Reaches Butter's Juliette's Nubian doe kid at three months
High Reaches Butter’s Juliette had this doe and a little buck on November 29, 2019. She is devoted to her mother, but has discovered oats. Now people are her friends, especially when they give her oats. She also thinks standing on my back when I stoop over is fun. She will outgrow this soon with some encouragement.

Even more important is what will happen to my little herd. I have no family who wants them. So all of the kids must be sold. And they are now three months old.

The five buck kids will sell for meat. That leaves the two doe kids.

Both are friendly. One is a bottle baby and the other is an oat connoisseur. One was born the end of November, the other the beginning of December. Both are from good family milkers.

The hardest part of all is watching the doe kids leave knowing, no matter how nice or friendly a kid is, it must be sold to an uncertain future. And more kids are due in March so I get to do this again in July.

Escalating Chicken War

Getting ready for spring seems more work than the spring rush. Maybe the escalating chicken war is the problem.

Cold weather is not my idea of work outside weather. This has slowed down putting up chicken wire on the fences.

In the meantime garden preparation for spring planting is clamoring to be done. Peas and greens will go in the beginning of March. Potatoes go in the middle of the month.

Cream Cat comes over
For some reason Cream Cat assumed I needed help working on the fence and his bid for petting was the help I needed. He got his petting, then sent on his way so I could finish working on this section of fence.

I divided my time and got some of each done. I had lots of help and observers. Cream came by demanding he be petted. The chickens came by to check out what I was doing before taking off into the pasture. A deer watched from the other end of the north pasture. An armadillo came by and complained about having its pathways wired closed.

The next day rain threatened. I concentrated on the garden preparation as wet compost is not easy to lug to the garden.

The back garden gate post was rotting off. I shored it up with metal posts. It collapsed as I worked on putting the compost in which entailed weeding. The chickens were delighted. I put in a new post.

In the meantime I noticed my escalating chicken war. The new wire is across the road section. The chicken goes through the barn lot to the small pasture through the fence and on to the front yard.

hen reason for escalating chicken war
This Speckled Sussex hen is the ringleader. She refuses to stay in the chicken yard. She leads other hens to the front yard. Now she is taking them out into the pastures. She considers me the enemy to her freedom. I see her as fox dinner.

Other chickens joined the culprit. Still others were off across the north pasture. An escalating chicken war was getting frustrating.

News arrived the grey fox is back. He is moving his mate into his old haunt for the spring and summer.

Now I wouldn’t fault the fox for grabbing the chicken parading around the front yard near where he plans to live. The chicken shouldn’t be there.

However I really don’t want to lose any laying hens. I like bringing lots of eggs in every day.

The escalating chicken war is now pitted against time. And I am losing.

Seed Diversity

It’s time to order my garden seeds for this year. Looking over the leftovers from last year I’m again amazed at the seed diversity.

I’m not thinking about the number of varieties of each kind of vegetable, although these can be dauntingly numerous. I’m looking at the seeds.

Radish seeds are round and red. They dwarf turnip and cabbage seeds which are round and black, virtually identical.

seed packets show seed diversity
Spring approaches. Gardening time approaches. It’s time to look over the packets from last year and make a list for this year.

Those directions saying to space these tiny seeds out are assuming a dexterity my clumsy fingers do not have. Lettuce seeds are even worse, small and flat and football shaped.

Seed diversity reveals relationships too. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are in Solanaceae, the nightshade family. Potatoes are too, but I don’t buy potato seeds. All these plants have flat, fat comma shapes. The pepper seeds are larger.

Then there are the curcurbits: squash, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins. All of these have flat, pointed at both ends types of seeds. The sizes vary, but not the shapes.

In “The Pumpkin Project” I have a quick puzzle. The one here is similar. In the book the reader is to pick out the pumpkin seeds. For this one, try to identify the kind of seed by looking at the seeds.

seed diversity shows here
Do you recognize any of these seeds? Take a few guesses. Seeds come in such a range of shapes and colors. The answers are at the end of the post.

Yes, I did pick out varieties of seeds to show off the seed diversity.

It’s winter again as I look out the window. Too cold to continue my chicken fence. Too cold to do more than wish I could do some garden preparation. “The City Water Project” is nearly done. Seven of the eight water stories are done except for some final fact checking.

Yesterday was a nice spring like day. Spring fever is beginning to creep in. Looking at seed diversity eases the itch to begin gardening a month too early. Hurry up spring.

Oh, yes, the seeds. A radish; B lettuce; C squash; D pea; E tomato; F bok choi; G pepper.

Bottle Kid Antics

Bottle kids are par for the course raising goats. My present doe bottle baby is doing well and is full of kid antics.

In the milk room this kid loves to stand up on me. She chews on my jacket zipper tag. I do know better than to let this become a habit, but…

Bottle time for a Nubian doe kid
Nothing, but nothing, is more important to a bottle kid than latching onto a bottle of milk. This little doe kid can spot me over a hundred feet away. She announces loudly she is ready for a bottle. And draining one does not mean she is too full to drink more a short time later, like three minutes, long enough to burp and stretch.

The kid antics really get going out in the pasture. First the doe demands her bottle. After all, she needs energy.

goat kid antics begin
My Nubian bottle baby is full of milk and ready to run some off. She ran up the log and paused to consider the leap to the other log.

Then it’s time to race around. Fallen logs are great places to play. Two old sycamore logs were rolled near each other in some flood a couple of years ago. Now they make a great place to race down and leap across to race back to bounce over and back up on the first log.

goat kid antics jumping
The Nubian doe kid is set and starting her leap across. The action then gets too fast for my picture taking ability.

Once the bottle doe gets started, the other kids join in. The problem is how fast they race by, faster than the camera can catch them.

The does were scattered around scrounging for grass bits and leaves. They think these are better than the hay. Besides, getting out and wandering around is much better than standing around in the barn.

goat kid antics on a log
This Nubian buck kid was having such a good time running up and down the log until he spotted the camera. It must be some monster. He stopped to consider his next move. He moved to the other log.

Agate decided the kids were having such a great time she would join in. Kid antics aren’t just for kids.

There was a problem. Agate is starting to get big as she is due to kid in a couple of months. Leaping up on the log was too much effort. So she shoved herself across it interrupting the kid race before wandering off.

Nubian doe Agate playing
Why should the kids have all the fun? Even at three, Nubian doe High Reaches Agate likes a bit of mischief now and then. But jumping up on the log was too much effort and it provided a good way to scratch her stomach as she slid over it.

Another storm is due in overnight. The kid antics will be confined to the barn for a few days to the disgust of the does. One result is how eager the herd is to head out the pasture gate as soon as the storm clears although melting snow may delay them.

Goats do lots of fun things. “For Love of Goats” is about some of them.

Great Chicken War

I’m losing the Great Chicken War. The enemy is sneaky, persistent, totally obsessed. Let me explain.

Speckled Sussex hens are hustlers. My seven go off in search of greens, bugs, anything they think is edible. Mulch and compost piles are magnets.

hen determined to escape
The chicken yard gate opens. The Speckled Sussex hen races for the gate to get out on the road. Why not close the gate?She goes through next to the hinges. That space is there whether the gate is open or closed. If that is blocked, she goes through the fence.

This is not a big problem since the hens lay lots of eggs. And all the extra bits the hens find make the eggs much better than commercial food alone. It also helps with feed costs.

My hens are well fed. They get a mix of oats, sunflower seeds, scratch feed and egg crumbles free choice. Oyster shell and fresh water are available.

hen cause of great chicken war
This speckled Sussex hen may love to forage along an Ozark gravel road, but she is in danger. Over the winter vehicles are the main danger. In the spring and over the summer grey foxes forage along the road. They love chicken dinner.

Grass makes egg yolks deep yellow to orange. Bugs make the egg whites thick.

Over the years my hens have been allowed to roam for a few hours each day, I’ve learned to protect places the hens are not welcome. My garden is fenced off with 2″ x 4″ welded wire four feet high. The road is fenced off, but with woven wire.

Woven wire is not chicken proof. And one Speckled Sussex hen loves to go out along the road. Others join her at times, but one is adamant she must go out on the road.

hen takes evasive action in the great chicken war
I yell or come out on the road. The Speckled Sussex hen immediately turns and runs off down the road. She won’t turn back until I get in front of her. It’s one way to get some extra fast walking in.

When I let the hens out, I watch for her. She heads straight for the road. I head her off and run her down with the other hens now heading for the goat yard, the blackberry patch mulch or the compost pile.

A few minutes later the hen is back heading for the road again. The Great Chicken War is beginning for another day.

I go out and chase the hen back up the road and in. She watches until I get busy and heads back out. I give chase. She runs back and waits.

hen checking if the coast is clear
Once the Speckled Sussex hen is chased back in, she races off. When pursuit stops, she turns and drifts back toward the gate looking around carefully to see if she is observed. If she thinks I am busy elsewhere, she goes back out and down the road.

If I am too persistent, the hen goes down the fence to the goat pasture, through that fence, then through the fence onto the road. She has discovered the roadside down that far is much better than the roadside near the gate.

One thing good is this hen knows to stay on the side of the road when vehicles come by.

The grey foxes are back. I must get serious about winning the Great Chicken War. I am putting chicken wire over the field fence.

Going Back To The Land

Judging by the various copyright dates in a variety of homesteading books, going back to the land has been popular several times over the decades. It has changed character.

The oldest books like “Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, “Plowman’s Folly” by Edward Faulkner and titles by Louis Bromfield are more about farming in the old way. They espouse using manures for fertilizers, smaller fields one man can take care of, conservation practices to reclaim and protect this land. They called into question the abusive, wasteful practices commercial farmers were using.

healthy food
Raising your own food lets you choose which, if any, sprays to use. Chemicals are everywhere now. It’s nice to know home raised food doesn’t add to the list. Another plus is picking produce when it is really ripe and full of flavor.

The farms got bigger. The reliance on artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides increased. Irrigation allowed raising water hungry crops in dry areas.

Another big push for going back to the land came in the 1970s. One popular book was “The “Have-More’ Plan” by the Robinsons. The book itself was part of the previous movement, but addressed the needs of those moving back to small places seeking to be self reliant. That last is a pipe dream.

Small homesteads are becoming popular again with the same dreams of self reliance. It is possible to raise much of your own food. An orchard provides fruit which can be eaten then or preserved in jams, jellies and by drying for later. A well planned garden can do the same.

Poultry for eggs and meat. Goats or a cow for milk. Cow? Aren’t goats better?

A cow gives lots of milk and provides a calf for meat. Smaller breeds like Jerseys are good homestead cows. The cream rises for butter. And the cow must be bred and turned dry for two or three months cutting off the milk supply.

going back to the land isn't complete without goats
Goats have been called the queens of the homestead. They provide milk and meat. They also provide manure, mulch (expensive mulch hay, groan), weed control, waste produce disposal, companionship, amusement and can be trained for harness.

Commonly it’s said that six goats can be raised on what one cow needs. I’ve never compared the two myself. I do know six goats can be a lot of work. More than a cow? I don’t know.

Goats need better fencing. Goats need more attention. Goat meat is good to eat. Cream doesn’t rise in goat milk so butter takes a cream separator. However, breeding three goats early and three goats late will provide milk year round. Keeping a good buck can be a nuisance.

Going back to the land promotes gardening
The fun part of gardening is trying out all these new varieties never seen in the market. Bell peppers come in at least eight colors. Hundreds of tomato varieties cover pages of seed catalogs. Commercial okra tastes terrible, but other varieties are less slimy and more tasty.

Why is self reliance a pipe dream? List all the things you need every day. Would you raise sheep to make thread to weave cloth to make your own clothes? Would you go back to using horses or mules instead of a truck and tractor? Would you give up your electricity and running water or else put in your own source of power?

Going back to the land does provide a good way to live. Food you raise yourself tastes much better than you can buy. You can raise varieties not available otherwise And you know how that food is raised. I’m all for that.

Hazel Whitmore and her mother didn’t intend going back to the land, but had to in “Old Promises.”

Goat Care Books Galore

There are lots of goat care books available now. That wasn’t always the case. Over the years I accumulated a few and do need to clear off some of my book shelves.

When I started with goats the only magazine was “Dairy Goat Journal” edited by Kent Leach. The book to have on goats was “Aids to Goatkeeping” by C.E. Leach. It was aimed for those with larger herds and much of the information has been repeated and updated many times since it was published by the magazine in 1975. The index leaves much to be desired. It did help me get started with goats, but quickly became only a reference for the tape measurements for estimating goat weights.

goat care in Aids to Goatkeeping
In the 1970s “Aids to Goatkeeping” was the goat book to have. It is full of information, but aimed for those with lots of goats. The index isn’t complete. The book is still useful and historically interesting to read.

“Goat Owners’ Scrap Book” came out in 1971. It was a compilation of selected short articles about goats and goat care from the magazine “Dairy Goat Journal” selected by C.E. Leach before his death and his son Kent Leach later on. It jumps from subject to subject arranged as questions and answers. The index can be challenging. Still, it is interesting to read through. So much has changed about raising goats since then.

"Goat Owners' Scrap Book"
When C.E. and Kent Leach edited the “Dairy Goat Journal”, there were lots of short articles about all aspects of raising dairy goats. This book is set up as questions and answers on this wide variety of subjects. The index is not as complete as a reader might wish for. Some of the questions are still being asked today.

“A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Goatkeeping” by Billie Luisi published in 1979 by Rodale is an introduction to raising goats. It goes through the basics of breeds, housing, feeding, goat care etc. It is one of the first books for those wanting to keep only a few goats.

goat care in "A Practical guide to Small-Scale Goatkeeping"
Most books on raising goats are slanted for those with a larger herd. It is true that a herd seems to get bigger than originally intended, but many people do keep only a few dairy goats. “A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Goatkeeping” considers breeds, housing, care and more for those with a small herd.

“Dairy Goats for Pleasure and Profit” by Harvey Considine published in 1996 is another beginning goat book. Even though I had owned goats for twenty years by this time, my goats had taught me they always had something new for me to learn. I used this book more for reference on goat care than for reading. It does tend to be more for the owner of many goats. More problems show up that way too.

beginner's goat care "Dairy Goats for Pleasure and Profit"
The Considine family is well known for their herds of beautiful dairy goats. This book goes through the basics of buying, housing and caring for dairy goats.

“White Goats & Black Bees” is not a goat book strictly speaking. It is more of a homesteading book. Donald Grant and his wife were journalists and decided to give up their jobs and retire to a small farm in rural Ireland in the 1970’s. This book was about their decision, their preparations and first full year living in Ireland and was published in 1974. It doesn’t gloss over the problems encountered, but does reaffirm the joys of living a simple, rural life style.

homesteading in Ireland in "White Goats & Black Bees"
Not a lot in “White Goats & Black Bees” is about goats or bees. The information included is good. Most of the book is about moving out to a rural area to homestead, in the case of the Grants the rural area was in Ireland.

Much as I would like to just pass these goat care books on, finances dictate selling them so they are listed on Amazon.

Somehow goat care snuck into two of my novels: “Dora’s Story” and “Capri Capers“.

Goat Books Galore

Being a long time goat owner and someone who loves goats, I have a few goat books. I rarely consult the nonfiction ones now. And it is past time for the novels to go to someone else.

Most goat novels seem to be written for a younger audience. The two more recent ones “Goat In the Garden” and “Me, My Goat, and My Sister’s Wedding” are both based on a goat’s miraculous ability to escape from any enclosure. They then get into mischief which is more believable.

goat books include "Goat In the Garden"
The Animal Ark series is set in England. Judging from this entry “Goats In the Garden” by Ben Baglio, the books are fun and informative. They are for middle grade readers primarily.

The first is part of a series called Animal Ark put out by Scholastic in 1994. The escape artist is named Houdini and is a British Alpine although the illustrations reminded me of a pygmy rather than an Alpine. It is fast, easy reading with lots of goat adventure and information packed inside.

The second stars Rudy who is being goat sat by a group of friends who must keep him a secret and locked in their clubhouse. The group needs to raise some money and this sounded easy. Rudy is up to the challenge of turning lives upside down. Again the book is a fast, easy, fun read. This was put out by Simon & Schuster in 1985. My copy has binding problems starting.

goat books include "Me, My Goat, and My Sister's Wedding"
Written for middle grade readers, the book “Me, My Goat, and My Sister’s Wedding” by Stella Pevsner is fun reading, but does get a bit silly in places.

Much older is “Brush Goat, Milk Goat” by Ruth Thomas published by Sterling Publishing in 1957. It reflects the goat keeping attitudes and methods of the time. Most people thought of goats only for eating brush. The book follows a goat Em from when she is born during a snowstorm through several owners with a good twist at the end. It is written for middle grades, but with a larger vocabulary than common today. It has goat information included in the story as well as some of the realities of small farming.

Goat books aren’t that common, but can be fun to read. Nonfiction is essential for any farmer or rancher. I will list those next week.

If you are interested in any of these books, please contact me. I would appreciate being reimbursed for postage.

Be sure to check out my goat novels Dora’s Story and Capri Capers.

Setting Goals For New Year Plans

New Year’s Day is traditionally a time to make resolutions of things you want to do in the upcoming year. Resolutions are so rigid, easy to break and abandon. I prefer setting goals, some with deadlines, most without.

Nubian kids out to play
Nubian goat kids grow up so fast. At about a month old, these are already going out to pasture. None have gotten lost. They love to play.

The goats, chickens and garden loom large in my plans. This year will add Buff Orpington pullets and standard Cochin pullets to the flock. All the goat kids will be sold.

chicken breeds include Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are a favorite breed of chicken for lots of people. They are big, lay big brown eggs and are usually friendly.

Selling goat kids is really hard for me as my goats are family. Bottle babies are even worse. In a way I am glad five of the kids are bucks as they must leave at three months old or the barn becomes a madhouse. Especially since more kids are due then.

Seed catalogs are sabotaging my garden goals of a smaller, more manageable garden of crops we like to eat. On the plus side is the large amount of mulch going out to bury any dreams of weeds to blanket the entire garden. My favorite feed store is generous with cardboard for under the mulch to thwart the more stubborn weeds.

setting goals versus seed catalogs
The garden is finite. My time is finite. The seed catalogs make everything look so appealing. This calls for monumental will power.

Setting goals of a smaller garden will probably fail. It might even get a bit bigger with more containers. And the pumpkins and winter squash seem to do better out in the pastures and on the compost pile than in the garden.

I seem to be a semi hoarder. Perhaps I’m too lazy to keep cleaning out things I no longer use or am too good at deluding myself I will get back to some hobby from the past. The end results are piles of things I no longer use like piano music and a piano and a cedar chest full of material. And a thousand books waiting to be read.

Then there is the shell collection. I last seriously collected in 1972 and have moved the boxes several times dreaming of moving back to the ocean, but I won’t. Missouri is home and it is not on the ocean. Setting goals means these things are searching for a new home.

setting goals for "The City Water Project"
“The City Water Project” is approaching completion. It is a science book for upper middle grades, but can be adapted younger and older. There are 10 investigations, 8 activities, 28 pencil puzzles and 8 stories about water and how you get water in your house. Release is scheduled for March, 2020.

What I love to do is write. For 2020 I plan to release “The City Water Project” in March, “The Carduan Chronicles” in October and “Waiting For Fairies” in October. The last is a children’s picture book. Setting goals for writing does include trying to let people know about my books.

Walking is something else I love to do in the search for new plants. I’ve gone over my botany project pictures. There is a list of pictures needed to complete pages for plants I’ve found. No list is done for plants I’ve not found yet as that would be too daunting. But the search continues already looking at winter trees. So far Southern Red Oak is new.

Setting goals is easy. Set backs are common. Still, the flexible schedule helps make some of them happen and that’s encouraging.

Watching Cardinals Feeding

Anywhere around St. Louis watching cardinals means the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds have a large fan base.

Baseball Cardinals aside, my backyard is hosting flocks of cardinals for the winter. The birds live here all year, but are most noticeable over the winter because their bright red contrasts so well with the dull winter colors around them.

cardinal pair waiting to eat at the feeder
Birds do have insulating feathers. Puffing these up increases the air layer among them and keeps them warmer as these cardinals sit waiting for room to open up at the bird feeder.

Like many other people we put up a bird feeder. Our feeder is a simple platform under a tin roof. The sunflower seeds are in an old rectangular metal cake tray. The scratch feed is in a small plastic dog dish. A suet cake is in a homemade wire basket. A lump of peanut butter is on a half brick. Water is in an old enamel pan without a handle. The array goes out in the morning and comes in at dark.

winter cardinals show up against the snow
There were seeds around here. The cardinals ate these scattered seeds knocked off the bird feeder. Now the seeds are under the snow.

Shortly after dawn the birds begin to arrive. They are little more than dark shapes in the trees. As the sun rises, watching cardinals decorate the trees with their bright colors and search the ground for leftover seeds distracts me from making breakfast.

cardinals waiting in a tree
Birds have a feeder waiting list. The first birds on the feeder are the mourning doves. There really isn’t much room left for any other birds as they eat. Next come the cardinals. These red birds sit in an old dead tree waiting and watching the doves. Once the cardinals move onto the feeder, the tree will host nuthatches, finches, chickadees and titmice.

As soon as the seeds are put out, the feeder is filled with the cardinal crowd. More wait their turns sitting in the old apple tree. Others stand on the roof peering over to see if they can sneak in.

watching cardinals feeding at the bird feeder
Birds descend on the bird feeder to cover the floor, trays and suet cake as they gorge on the seeds. Titmice, nuthatches and juncos tend to grab a seed and fly off to enjoy eating in peace. Cardinals, mourning doves and blue jays stand in the tray and eat. Chickadees and woodpeckers hang on the suet basket and eat.

Food is serious business for birds over the winter. They must eat a lot to keep themselves warm as well as active. In cold and snowy weather the sunflower tray empties by noon and is refilled.

Watching cardinals working on the seeds is fun. Watching other birds sneak in, hang off the suet, climb the feeder poles, swoop by to grab a seed and fly makes washing dishes take more time as the kitchen window affords a great view. No wonder so many people enjoy feeding the wild birds.

Feeding wild birds is written about in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Goat Kids Try To Go Out

All of the winter kids are now over a week old. Their mothers want to go out to pasture with the herd. The goat kids try to go out with them.

Normally I won’t let kids go out when they are so young. They tend to get lost.

Winter changes things. The goats go out later in the day. The herd comes in earlier. They don’t go all over, but stay in nearby fields.

goat kids try to go out
Following their mothers out the pasture gate seemed so exciting to the goat kids. Their mothers called them telling them to hurry. Except everything was new and begging to be explored.

Noon is soon enough to open the pasture gate. The frost is off the grass. The kids are sleeping – or were sleeping.

I start off toward the gate to a chorus of yelling. Every mother goat is calling her kids. They are hungry and come running.

The herd delays while the kids nurse. The does are now ready to depart. The kids are ready to play.

little Nubian doe running
Big goats are hard to keep up with if you are small. Goat kids have plenty of energy to run along with the herd.

Finally the does go out the gate. Mothers are still calling their kids who seem to be ignoring them. Until they don’t.

The does go out through a gate to the small pasture, turn left and go out the pasture gate. The kids don’t know about this. They race down to the corner of the barn lot into the cattle panels.

Panels will stop adult goats. Goat kids try to go out with their mothers by climbing through the panel holes. I can let them go or go chasing after them snagging them one or two at a time. I let them go.

playing goat kids
The old bridge was a great place to stop and play. The goat herd continued on unnoticed by the kids.

The herd crosses the bridge. The kids stop to inspect this new object. The herd leaves except for Juliette who will not leave her kids behind.

The kids notice they are left. Juliette takes them back to the barn lot. The kids climb back in through the fence. Juliette comes in through the gate. All return to the barn.

The goat kids will try to go out some other day.

Goats and their antics are highlighted through stories and tongue twisters in “For Love of Goats“.

Goat Kid Play Groups

Goat kids grow up so fast. There is a group of seven, yet already there are two kid play groups.

leader of one of the two kid play groups
Single goat kids have several advantages. Often they are larger at birth. Then they get all of the milk. Nubian Matilda’s buck kid takes advantage of both as he is awake more, plays more and explores more than any of the other kids.

The three older kids – older is relative as they are only three days older – are going outside. Matilda’s single buck leaps up on the bench and spends lots of time outside exploring. Juliette’s twins try to follow her out to the small pasture but stop at the gate and run back to the barn.

kid play groups need kids like these
Only a week earlier these two Nubian kids were wet newborns trying to make sense of their new world. Now they are lively and curious about everything. They sample grass, hay, dirt as their rumens start to work. They spend lots of time playing and sleeping.

The other four sleep more. These were smaller kids being a set of triplet bucks and a doe from a yearling.

Kid play groups matter. When kids are small, their mother answers their calls, comes running back when they are lost and showers them with attention. As kids get older, their mothers start to ignore them and get on with the serious business of eating. The play groups then keep the kids together, answer each other’s calls and occupy their time with various games.

The kids in a group are normally about the same age and stage. A smaller, more backward kid will often end up in a play group of younger kids.

kids sleeping group
Out in the barn kids dodge adult does. Young kids spend lots of time sleeping and want a safe, warm place. This old cobbled together bench offers a safe haven and the kids move in. It looks like they would smother each other, but each head is sticking out. The difficulty is getting up, especially if you are the bottom kid. Usually all the kids get up when one does and all of the kids go searching and calling for their mothers.

By the time these kids are a month old, the seven will spend most of their time playing together. Another two weeks will split them up again into two kid play groups as the three older kids get more serious about eating.

The groups will still merge for fun and games. King of the mountain, race down the log, tag through the herd and other activities are popular until kids get to be yearlings. Even then they indulge themselves at times.

Nubian doe kid
Nubian High Reaches Valerie is a first time mother. She is a yearling. She had this single doe kid that is a bit small. High Reaches Rose had triplet bucks at the same time. Valerie was happy to adopt one and much prefers the buck to her own little doe. The little doe has adopted me as I make sure she gets two or three big meals a day. She is growing fast.

The does watch the antics with such long suffering attitudes. They have forgotten when they were parts of kid play groups. As adults they are far too dignified to engage in such antics. Unless no one is watching.

Meet Star, The Little Goat, in “For Love of Goats” and read more about kids growing up.

Surprise Kids Arrive

The older I get, the more involved in writing I get, the more I like having things staying nice  and orderly. Another good reason for doing this is so I remember to get everything done on time. Surprise kids don’t fit in the plan.

Nubian doe Juliette's surprise kids
Just born goat kids are wet and trying to decide what is going on. The little buck was born first. he had a leg back and had to be pulled. The little brown doe did fine on her own. Juliette thought maternal attention did fine with her lying down. Temperature makes a big difference in winter births. These kids had warmer temperatures helping them out. Once the kids are dry, they can take a lot of cold.

Very little about my goats stays on plan. In the Ozarks Nubians breed any month of the year and have kids any month of the year. My goat plan calls for breeding in October and November and kids in March and April.

surprise kids buck a day later
With goat kids a day makes a big difference. The little buck is now fluffed up. Due to cold nights he’s wearing a goat coat. It’s a bit big, but the cold isn’t going away before he grows into it. He gets up and down, is thinking about playing and can find dinner on his own.

Every year I do my best to stay on my goat plan. Every year my goats do their best to disrupt my plan.

That brings me to the surprise kids just born. Matilda and Juliette decided to kid either early or late depending on whether I count these kids as part of this year’s kids or next season’s kids.

surprise kids doe a day later
At a day old a goat kid still has trouble operating the legs. Standing up isn’t too difficult. Lying down seems to be. This little doe sleeps standing up until she falls down or is knocked down. In another day she will be an expert with the legs.

November is not a good time of year for kids to be born. November is winter in the Ozarks. It can bring and has brought freezing temperatures, snow and ice.

This November is like a yoyo temperature wise. It gets cold for several days. It gets warmer for several days. Warmer is relative. Cold is highs in the thirties and forties. Warmer is highs in the fifties and sixties.

Matilda is a big goat. She had seemed bigger than usual and slower than usual. I didn’t pay much attention.

buck kid seems awake
This little buck kid was asleep, but heard me and thought his mother had arrived from the pasture. He lifted his head seemingly alert and attentive.

Rain had moved in and stayed. It had rained all day. It stopped in the evening in time for me to go out to milk without carrying an umbrella. I appreciate this as trying to balance milk, flashlight and umbrella calls for more hands than I have.

The goats were eager to come in and eat. There are eighteen now how come through every morning and night. Seventeen showed up.

buck kid asleep
Nubian doe Matilda had not come in yet. Her little buck immediately lay his head down and was asleep again.

Matilda wasn’t milking. My goats are a bit on the fat side. She doesn’t have to come in and eat. Still, I check on any goat that doesn’t come in so I know why.

I found Matilda having her surprise kids. Except she stopped with one black spotted buck kid. I set up a pen in the barn, put Matilda and her kid in it and went in to finish writing my NaNo piece.

In the morning I went out to check on Matilda and do morning chores including milking. Juliette was delivering her surprise kids. She decided to have a black buck and a brown doe. They are set up in a cubby hole in the hay. She is delighted.

I’m glad too. Both does had kids when temperatures were in the warmer cycle. The cold cycle starts up again in December.

To make things more interesting, Rose had triplet bucks and Valerie a single doe. The warmer cycle is their best friend for another couple of days.

For Love of Goats” is for those who love goats and playing with tongue twisters and the sounds of words. Look at the sample pages. The book is available December 7.

“We Took To the Woods”

My favorite places to go shopping are used book sales and stores. One of the books I found was “We Took To the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich.

Written in the 1930’s, the book would seem to be very outdated. Except it isn’t, at least for me.

Not everyone has electricity and running water, two of the great innovations of civilization. The Riches were tucked into a lumber company’s land in what was once a lodge for fishermen coming to the wilds of Maine. Only a dozen or so people live in the area year round. Mail comes in by boat in the summer and must be retrieved by hiking out two miles on snowshoes in the winter. Groceries are a similar proposition.

"We Took To the Woods" by Louise Dickinson Rich
The family lived in the small house over the winter as it was easier to keep warm. Summers were spent in what was one a lodge. One advantage to moving twice a year is how well you pare down your piles of possessions.

This would be an interesting challenge. Try to make out a grocery list for a month’s meals. Remember bread doesn’t keep that long. No, you can’t freeze it as you have only an ice box using ice for cooling. You make it. If you forget something, you must do without until the next month.

There are places where this is the norm. I read once about a place in Wyoming where access to stores was once or twice a year. How much flour? Did you remember the salt? The leavening? Canned vegetables? Paper products?

Cooking and heating are done with wood. Lights are kerosene with glass chimneys and wicks. Snow is waist deep for months. Temperatures drop to ten or more below zero.

Would you be tough enough?

“We Took To the Woods” is done as though answering questions people ask about living this way. How do you make a living? How do you keep house? What about the children? Do you get bored? Do you get frightened?

For me it brought back memories. We lived without electricity and running water for a time. I learned to cook on a wood cookstove. Snow was waist deep for six months up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At least we could get out by car during the winter although driving on a snow covered road between snow filled ditches is a challenge.

“We Took To the Woods” also mentions about the logging. The lumber company still had logging crews staying the winter in the woods, piling the pulp wood near the lakes, ponds and rivers for the spring when all of it was floated down to the sawmill. These men were not Paul Bunyon types, no matter what the movies portray.

I enjoyed reading this book. It brought back memories I’m glad are now memories. Electricity and running water had their luster restored as I’ve gotten complacent about them. Complacent until the next time the electricity goes out.

Water Rocket Launches

I wanted to complete the investigations and activities for “The City Water Project” last summer. The air pump broke so my water rocket launches were delayed. Fall complied with a last really nice day.

Launching a water rocket is much easier with two people. Shooting off the rocket itself is a one person task. Timing the flight is easier with two.

water rocket
Any size plastic soda bottle will work. The big ones fly higher. They can be decorated, even have fins added. Any add ons must be very secure or they will fall off when the rocket is launched and can make the rocket fly crooked. The air needle is pushed through the rubber stopper or cork.

While teaching a science class about flight and the space program, we made and launched water rockets. The common question was how high the rocket went. This is where the stop watch comes in.

The rocket was a two liter soda bottle partially filled with water. A stopper with an air needle through it is pushed in.

water rocket launches ready
The launch pad needs to be sturdy. It holds the rocket in place pointing roughly straight up. It has room underneath for the air pump hose to fit and attach to the plug.

The rocket is placed on the launch pad. The air needle is attached to the air pump. Air is pumped into the bottle until the water rocket launches.

Learning science is a lot more fun doing things like water rocket launches. Does the amount of water affect how the rocket flies? What is the flight path like? Why is the path that shape?

If you stop and think about it, the water rocket goes up, hopefully straight up, then comes down. What pushes it up? It could be the air. It could be the water. Is it both? Why?

water rocket launches happening
Air bubbles into the bottle with every push on the air pump. It doesn’t take very many before the water rocket takes off with a sound much like a champagne cork being pulled out. Water sprays out of the bottle getting the launch pad and everything around it wet.

What brings the rocket back to earth? What keeps anything from flying off into space? Gravity. And gravity has a pull of 32 feet per second squared.

This is where timing the flight comes in. The rocket spends half its time going up and half coming down. We don’t knowhow fast it is going up. We do know how fast it’s coming down as gravity is pulling it.

after water rocket launches
I wanted a picture of the rocket taking off. I got one of the rocket after it landed. The flight took less that 3 seconds, I think. It is hard to start the stop watch when the rocket launches as it happens so fast.

The speed of gravity times half the time of the flight will yield the height the rocket reached. My rocket didn’t go very high.

Those at school went much higher. Of course one person wasn’t trying to pump the air pump with one hand and start the stop watch with the other hand, then stop it as a flight lasted only a few seconds.

My water rocket is still sitting in the launch pad in my workroom. Perhaps I will find someone next summer who wants to do some water rocket launches.

Like hands on science with puzzles and stories? Try out “The Pumpkin Project.”

Bamboo Thickets Invade Garden

I didn’t start out to have bamboo thickets in the middle of my garden. I guess I was terribly naive.

My father had planted an edible bamboo on his place. It was big and beautiful. After he died I dug up a small piece of it and brought it home.

Bamboo seems to be hard to transplant. I’ve given pieces to several people and none have had much luck. Lucky them.

Ozark bamboo thickets are dense
This is an Oriental edible bamboo, not the native giant cane. Ozark winters tend to kill the tall bamboo canes. The tallest ones I’ve had were ten to twelve feet although the bamboo is supposed to reach thirty feet or more. So most of my thicket is up to eight feet tall and bushy. The goats will eat bamboo, but are not fond of it.

I didn’t know where to put this tiny plant and put it into a small corner of my garden until I could decide. It didn’t move. Instead it grew tentatively for several years.

Then the bamboo decided it liked this corner of my garden. The bamboo thickets arrived and got bigger each year.

Bamboo is a grass. Like many grasses, it spreads by runners. The bamboo in my garden has never flowered. This is lucky.

bamboo thickets spread with runners
A bamboo runner looks a lot like a bamboo stalk. The joints are shorter making it more flexible. The runners can loop over the ground like this one, go along about four to five inches underground or dive down a foot or more. Removing them is done by cutting it as close to the bamboo thicket as possible, uncovering the underground portions and pulling the runner up. Runners can be ten feet long or more.

The tiny plant now covers a ten foot square and isn’t content. Every year I dig up ten and twelve foot runners going out across the garden. They are tough, well rooted and a back killer.

I decided to get rid of my bamboo thickets. It’s plural as some runners went undetected so there are adjacent patches now.

I discovered the bamboo is used by several creatures I want around my garden. Toads hide in it. Wrens nest in it. Praying mantises lay their egg cases in it.

praying mantis case on bamboo cane
Both Carolina and Chinese praying mantises live around here. The big egg cases are from the Chinese mantises. Bamboo is a favored site for the egg cases and the mantises are welcome in the garden. That makes keeping a small thicket tempting.

I can’t keep pulling the runners up. My back complains mightily. The solution is to kill out the bamboo. Where would these creatures go?

This year I trimmed the bamboo thickets back to a six foot square area. There are mantis egg cases in this area.

Next spring I will destroy any bamboo that comes up anywhere other than in that area. Of course I said that another year and failed. I must get serious or my entire garden will become bamboo thickets. Where is that vinegar and salt spray recipe?

My Photogenic Goats

I do try to put new pictures up in the My Goats Gallery every so often. Two things keep me from doing this very often. One is the time to get the pictures. The other is my photogenic goats who hate to have their pictures taken.

The goats have a schedule. They eat breakfast then go out to pasture. I normally try to take their pictures out in the pasture.

Agate thinks photogenic goats need close ups
Agate won’t listen. I tell her people want to see all of her. She wants her chin scratched, not her photograph taken.

Morning is not a good time. The light is great. The goats are off on the hills in the woods.

Trees give my photogenic goats great places to hide. And there is the ploy of ganging up.

The herd comes down from the hills in the afternoon. The light is more yellow. Shadows are darker. I must be on the south side of the goats with them facing east or west for a good picture.

goat herd leaving
When the picture taker is persistent, leave. So my herd takes off with the opinion I have to really get a move on if I want a picture. The ideal spot is in the middle so little more than ears are visible.

Afternoon is also when the goats start thinking about coming in for the night. My appearance is a good excuse to start off for the pasture gate.

I went out early the other day because the goats were down earlier than usual. They were scattered around the old cow barn. How many pictures could I get. My photogenic goats looked great.

photogenic goats are on the move
Lydia got left behind. I finally got a picture. She is doing her best to outrun me and nearly does. Now I need eighteen more pictures.

As soon as I got there, the herd bunched up and started for the pasture gate. I followed for a distance hoping for one or two pictures. No luck. I left.

The herd stopped. Every head turned to watch me go out a side gate. A short time later the herd spread out to graze again.

Another favorite ploy is to face away from me. All I see are rumps.

Tails are in for these photogenic Nubian goats
My herd is busy grazing. Pictures aren’t important. They don’t care if anyone else sees what they look like. One way to get rid of me is to turn tail and eat. At least they think so.

Agate and Pest come over to check the camera out. Photogenic goats or not, petting is much superior to having your picture taken.

I have one last recourse. This is highly unpopular with the goats. I tie them to the fence one by one and take a picture. since I’ve been trying to get pictures for the gallery for a couple of months now, I guess I will do this the next nice day.

Add some spice to the holidays with a copy of Capri Capers.

Milk Room Copperhead

It’s late fall. Snakes are supposed to be hidden away for the winter. The milk room copperhead didn’t get the memo.

Copperheads do live here. They like it down in a creek valley. We rarely see them as copperheads are shy snakes.

copperhead snake on road
Copperheads usually show up on the road. They like to bask in the sun or cross to the other side. Some years we see several of them. Other years we see none. Only one has acted aggressively in 26 years. Most are shy, retiring snakes anxious to vanish from sight.

Usually the goats come across the copperheads. One or another will come limping into the barn with a swollen leg.

The afflicted goat mopes around in obvious pain. I called the vet the first time a goat was bitten. He assured me the goat would recover in a day or two. All he could do was give a steroid shot to take the swelling down.

Partially reassured I waited. The swelling went down a little by the next day and the goat insisted on limping out with the herd. Most of the swelling was gone that evening. Complete recovery took another day.

Years ago a copperhead haunted the hen house. After a few weeks, it was rarely seen. On those occasions, it was fat and brilliantly colored.

Copperheads are pretty snakes from a safe distance. The light copper background with the irregular copper bands make them unmistakable.

The milk room copperhead first appeared a couple of weeks ago. I turned from the feed barrel and started walking toward the far milk stand when the two foot long snake sped across the floor and disappeared.

milk room copperhead looking around
This is one determined and cautious copperhead. I surprised it earlier and it withdrew. This time it stuck its head up and watched. I waited as long as I could as the light was fading outside leaving the milk room too dark from its single light for pictures. The snake was still waiting as I left. It was gone when I returned and has not been back.

Usually the six foot black snakes are the resident barn snakes. They reside under the barn floor. One definite reason to not have a raised floor in a barn is that the crawl space provides a home for numerous creatures, not all of them good neighbors.

Naively I assumed the copperhead was on its way to its winter headquarters. Snakes, from what I’ve read, have regular spots to spend the winters. The milk room copperhead didn’t get this memo either.

The snake slipped up from between the floor boards again. I’m hoping it hasn’t elected to nest among the hay bales for the winter.

Harriet learns to milk in Capri Capers. check out the sample pages.

Young Skunk Scares Chickens

Many animal spring babies are off on their own now. That includes a young skunk now staking out the barn area as home base.

In spite of their reputations, skunks are not really interested in attacking anyone. This young one is rather nervous.

I first came across this particular one on my way to milk one evening. It was after dark and my flashlight batteries were starting to dim. There was movement along the road.

The skunk stood motionless assessing the situation and blinded by the light. It stomped its front feet. This is not a good sign.

young skunk startled
The skunk didn’t seem to notice much around it. I finally got close enough to be noticed. The skunk backed up a step and lifted its tail. In a few seconds the tail came down and it resumed digging in the grass. If a skunk gets really alarmed, it raises the tail much higher, stands square and stomps the front feet. If the perceived threat stays, the skunk turns away and lets loose.

Skunks are common around the area. They move in for a time. They move on. Occasionally they discover I put milk down for the cats as I milk and come in to drink it. They have a different lap sound from the cats, more of a smack, smack, smack. I say something. They look up with a startled expression and depart hastily. One was a repeat offender and ignored me in a night or two. It left after the milk was gone.

That night I backed off. The skunk relaxed. I sidled by on the other side of the road.

chicken ignoring young skunk
After the chickens ran from the skunk, they settled down and gave it a wide berth as they ate grass and bugs. The skunk ignored the chickens.

The next afternoon I let the chickens out to forage for a couple of hours. They have adjusted to the short times out well. The foxes seem to be ignoring them.

The flood of chickens rolled out across the grass, came to a screeching halt and retreated. My pullets complained loudly to me about the invader in their section of grass.

The skunk was busy foraging. It feeds on worms and grubs it digs up. Armadillos may dig bigger holes, but skunks leave a lumpy path behind too. However, an armadillo races off once it spots you. A skunk dares you to do something.

young skunk digging for grubs
The stripes on the back of a skunk can be thin lines, short as on this skunk and up to covering the entire back making the skunk appear white. The skunk rustled through the grass, stopped and dug, ate whatever tasty morsel was uncovered and moved to begin again.

I moved in with the camera. The skunk looked up, arched its tail, seemed almost to shrug and went back to foraging.

The chickens gave it a wide berth that day. After a few days, they now ignore the young skunk as it ignores them.

Skunks appear in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Busy Fall Season

City people seem to have the idea that country people can take it easy fall and winter. All that changes here are the kinds of things being done. I have a busy fall season.

Killing frost left my garden wilted. I knew it was coming so bags of tomatoes, peppers, long beans and squash moved into the kitchen.

These bags await my attention. Some are already sorted. A few bags of peppers are now at someone else’s house. My pepper plants wanted to make sure I had a busy fall season.

The new fall routine is clearing the dead plants out. Then the beds are rebuilt with manure, cardboard and mulch. Garlic is planted. Plastic covers the shade house where cabbage, bok choi and winter radishes already grow.

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk's Augustus wishes for a busy fall season
Fall is breeding season for goats. Nubians will breed all year round, but prefer fall. Every August my buck Augustus begins to smell rank and ogle the girls. By September it’s hard to get him to eat his grain. He spends most of his time pacing the fence or standing on top of the gym watching for the herd to come back.

Dairy goats need attention every day. Fall is breeding season. My busy fall season includes getting some does bred while keeping my winter milkers away from Augustus. And at least one doe will have November kids.

The goat barn must be winterized. And the summer manure build up must be taken out to the garden. Two new lights are supposed to go in, one in the goat section and one in the chicken section.

My busy fall season wouldn’t be complete without a book to complete. “For Love of Goats” is progressing. The front cover is done. Three quarters of the illustrations are done. Sample pages should go up in another week with a release date in mid November.

"For Love of Goats" by Karen GoatKeeper
Watercolor is great for illustrations in my opinion. It takes practice and I’m getting a lot of it completing the sixty or so illustrations for this book. Professional illustrators deserve much more admiration for their work than they are given.

Yes, November. NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). I’m not ready. What will I write? The subconscious is working on this question.

By December I will be back to work on “The City Water Project” for release next March. It’s half done.

Maybe city people can relax over the fall and winter. My busy fall season will morph into an equally busy winter season.

Drawing Goat Illustrations

Do you remember the story of the little engine that could? “I think I can. I think I can.” Doing goat illustrations has had me telling this to myself for weeks now.

Picture book illustrations are so common readers seem to flip by them with scarcely a glance. I won’t do that anymore. Those illustrations are the result of hours and days of planning, sketching, correcting and doing.

My new goat book has a series of ten flash fiction pieces about a little goat in it. These needed illustrations. This was a new challenge.

goat illustrations of Alpines
A is so much fun for alliteration. And Alpines lend themselves for a fun story. The two Alpines were done by ink brush stroke.

I had been doing goat illustrations for the other single page, unrelated pieces in the book. Each letter has a short piece using that letter and an illustration. As long as this related to goats and the written piece, it worked.

The Little Goat was different. These ten written pieces were all related and about the same three goats: Ma and her twin doelings. As in a novel, characters do not change names and other traits from one chapter to the next. These three goats must look the same in all of the illustrations.

I spent days going over each piece and deciding on what the illustration would be, then drawing it. Every flaw in my drawing crept into these sketches. After several adjustments, each sketch was done.

one of Little Goat illustrations
Mother goats often seem to ignore their kids unless problems occur. The kids go through a phase when their ears itch. At that time the kid isn’t too steady on its feet and has a lot of trouble learning how to scratch an ear. At the same time the kids are ready to hop and run. This illustration is done with watercolor.

What color or colors would each of the three goats be? Even more important was how to mix the colors I wanted. For some reason watercolors have a limited set of colors and expect the artist or illustrator to mix these to get the desired color.

Ma was to be a red goat. I got out the red. Goats are more of a copper color than pure red so I added some brown. And got pink. For some reason almost any combination with red produces pink. Goats are not pink.

One kid was to be golden brown. This is when I discovered starting with orange worked much better than working with red or yellow.

last Little Goat illustration
Kids do a lot of sleeping. That seems to be when they grow. Star and Aster have had a long day out in the pastures with the herd. It’s night and time to sleep.

One kid was to be black. The hard part of that is getting details to show as black tends to merge into one black blob.

My goat illustrations are improving. I learned a lot doing the related series for the Little Goat.

Capri Capers” is another fun goat book already available.