Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Basil Variety Exists

On the grocery store herb rack there is one variety of basil. This might lead a person to think only one basil variety exists.

basil variety Sweet or Mammoth
This is the variety of basil I usually grow. Mammoth or sweet basil lives up to its name. The plant can be three feet tall with large crinkled leaves. It is not very compact. This variety tastes much like the market dried variety.

The herb pages in seed catalogs might disillusion the prospective gardener, if that one looks at these pages. I rarely do.

A friend gave me a purple opal basil plant one year. It was interesting to grow.

basil variety Purple Opal
I’m not sure what gives this variety of basil the deepest color. Purple Opal is a smaller plant and bushy. The flavor is mildly spicy.

The local market has a greenhouse set up for another local company to display transplants in every spring. I browse the shelves simply because I like to see what is available.

basil variety Genovese
Genovese basil is said to be the best for pesto. The plant is large and a vigorous grower. The flavor is intense and spicy enough to make it hard to keep a half leaf in the mouth very long.

I raise my own seedlings or try to every spring. They get a late start due to temperature and light challenges so are never as big as those transplants. However I get to raise the varieties I want to grow instead of the standard ones available.

basil variety Cinnamon
The leaves on Cinnamon basil are not the crinkly ones of other basils. They are also a bit smaller. When I tried chewing on half a leaf, I discarded it before I really tasted it as my mouth heated up like with a spicy hot pepper or a wild spearmint leaf.

By the end of May most people in my area have put in their gardens. The past few years they’ve done this twice due to late frosts. My seedlings get a chance to catch up in the house safe from such weather vagaries.

basil variety Lemon
I expected a basil flavor from the leaf of Lemon basil I tried. It was there behind a tangy lemon flavor. The plant has a yellow tinge to it. It is larger than Siam, but not big like Genovese and is tightly bushy.

Some transplants are left behind and put on drastic sale. This year those leftovers included six varieties of basil. I succumbed to temptation.

basil variety Siam
Siam basil is a compact, decorative plant. It does have a nice basil flavor, but not as intense as the other varieties I grew this year. It is a pretty plant with green leaves and dark red stem tips.

My tomatoes are now accompanied by six varieties of basil: Mammoth or sweet basil; Purple Opal basil; Siam Basil; Cinnamon basil; Genovese basil; and Lemon basil. What I will do with such a basil variety in my kitchen, I’m not sure.

In the meantime the plants are big and healthy. They are blooming. (I know I should harvest the leaves before the plants bloom, but everything is behind this year. I will pinch them back and get them to branch out again.)

All of the varieties have a typical leaf shape, although the size varies. Their coloring varies.

Now I need six paper bags. Why? Each basil variety will go in a labeled bag, closed and put in the refrigerator to dry. This method works very well.

Cooking is important to Hazel Whitmore in Broken Promises, Old Promises and Mistaken Promises. Recipes are included in the books.

Raccoon Kits Time

Surrounded by open woods and fields with a creek, raccoons are common through spring into fall. But early summer is raccoon kits time.

Raccoons are so cute in pictures. They have these furry, triangular faces with a black masks. They have striped tails. They have big eyes that look at you.

Pictures are one thing. Living with raccoons is another.

Raccoons have hands. They are strong. They climb. They are vandals.

raccoon
We call this raccoon Whiteface as she has virtually no mask. The first time we met her, she had stolen the woodpecker’s suet cake and was happily devouring it. She was trapped and relocated. She returned about two days later and now shovels sunflower seeds into her mouth as fast as she can. The birds are disgusted.

If a raccoon gets into a room with ten bags of feed, even feed it doesn’t like, it tears open every bag and dumps feed all over the floor. If a raccoon gets into a hen house, it kills every chicken it can catch. If a raccoon gets into a garden, it digs up every plant in the area it’s looking for grubs in. If a raccoon gets into corn or a fruit tree, it will take every piece or, at least, a bite out of every piece.

Raccoons do have one weak spot. They love marshmallows.

Every spring we get out the livetrap, bait it with marshmallows and start catching the raccoons. Livetraps are the best choice as traps can catch a wide variety of creatures such as gray foxes and pet cats.

An ardent animal lover can point out that most of these raccoons are mothers trying to feed their families. What the raccoons destroy are ways we are feeding our families.

So, we relocate the raccoons. They return in a few days to rescue their little ones. We get a few days respite from their ravages.

raccoon kits
Their raccoon mother may have no mask, but these kits do. She is busy teaching them the joys of raiding bird feeders.

The livetraps are now set aside for a time. Raccoon kits time has begun.

Raccoon kits time means the kits are big enough to follow their mothers around. They are not big enough to survive on their own. They are big enough to tempt predators.

raccoon and raccoon kits
Whiteface raccoon is assessing whether or not to continue on to the bird feeder with her kits. Normally she is being yelled at about now. And the camera must be some kind of threat. She decided to withdraw back into the brush and wait for me to go elsewhere.

Besides, trapping the kits without their mothers or the mother without her kits leaves them crying for each other. They will stay around the trap trying to reunite even when approached.

In a couple of months, about the time apples become targets, the livetraps will again be set.

Some of the wild residents are found in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Hiding In Tall Grass

Goats don’t care much for tall grass. They don’t know how is hiding in tall grass waiting to pounce on them.

Seeding grasses do get tall. And thick. Looking out across a field, little more than ears show above the grass.

In the barn lot giant ragweed joins the mix. Lots of creatures like giant ragweed. Goats and deer eat the tips. The ragweed compensates by putting out branches.

Nubian buck hiding in tall grass
Grasses are usually wind pollinated and send up tall flowering stalks to catch the breezes. These stalks go up in a few days. My goats find they get lost easily as all landmarks are hidden from them. Kids keep calling as they lose sight of the herd. Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus is a tall buck with his back three feet tall, yet he is almost hidden in the tall grass.

Once the seeds form, birds flock to giant ragweed. They hang on the branches picking the seeds out of their little cups.

Augustus spends a lot of time in the barn lot. Tall as Augustus is, the grasses hid him. He is not so worried about who is hiding in tall grass as the one in residence keeps company with him.

Working in the garden I looked over to see what Augustus was doing. Hiding in tall grass was a pair of ears that definitely did not belong to Augustus. Watching these ears a head appeared, then a body covered with soft brown fur and white spots.

spotted fawn hiding in tall grass
Tall grass hid me as I slipped closer to the fawn once it lay down. The panels are around some large persimmon trees to protect them from the goats. The fawn can easily get through and has additional protection from predators.

Doe deer have worries about their fawns. Coyotes find fawns make great meals and their own babies are hungry. One doe deer has decided the barn lot and small pasture are safer than the woods or big pastures. Another keeps her fawns near the house.

The next morning the goats went down to the pasture gate to go out. I opened the gate and they started out. Suddenly the herd spun about and overran me.

fawn hiding in tall grass
Tall grass helps fawns hide themselves away. The grass also hides predators. Augustus was nearby so this fawn was standing up and eating some grass too. All that really showed were the large ears swiveling this way and that listening for any approach.

Hiding in tall grass the fawn had panicked. It raced down the fence line fleeing this noisy crowd of goats. They were equally panicked and fleeing from the fawn.

The fawn vanished into more tall grass. The goats crept out of the pasture gate. Peace returned to the area.

Watch the changing landscape of “My Ozark Home” in photographs and haikus.

Chicks Become Pullets

Chicks become pullets to me when they start to cluck. Mine are starting to cluck. They are also outgrowing their little house.

This bunch is lucky so far. They arrived with cold weather, but only two succumbed.

The chicks survived living in the house for over a week. So did we.

arcana chicks become pullets
Easter Egger chickens are Cackle Hatchery’s arcana mix. I like them and all the different colors they come in. They are flighty. They grow up fast. They always seem to be in a hurry to get places, even when that is only a few feet away.

Outside dangers abound. My rebuilt chick house seems to be working well. No large black snakes or raccoons or possums have managed to invade at night.

Once the chicks feather out, they move into the yard during the day. Opening their door in the morning require care.

The various latches are undone. The chick and people doors are swung open taking care to not be standing in front of them. The chicks explode outward running and flying.

suspicious pullets
Pullets love to get up on anything they think they can stand on. These two found an old bit of chicken mesh originally used to block snakes and now too enmeshed with grass to remove. Buff Orpingtons are a lovely golden buff color. They grow into big, gentle chickens and can be very friendly. The Easter Egger Arcana is convinced the camera is some kind of monster. Typical.

The chick yard is small. By the time the chicks are a quarter grown, they are impatient with a yard now devoid of greenery.

Most years the chicks have lots of grass and other weeds. This year they had dock. Only the stems are left. Chickweed tossed in daily was an anticipated treat.

The next step is to put up a temporary fence. Fifty feet of two foot high one inch chicken mesh with metal electric fence poles works well. Even better is how easy it is to move the fence around.

Grass is now in the diet. Bugs are still something to observe and wonder at. The bugs don’t enjoy such immunity long.

A second roll of fencing has made for a bigger yard. This should be as much as is needed before the chicks move. I consider moving them when the chicks become pullets.

The temporary yard exposes the chicks to many hazards. One inspected a copperhead and got bitten. Chicks, even grown chickens, don’t survive such an encounter.

Crows are in the area as I hear them from time to time and see them flying by. Crows will kill half grown chicks and carry them off to feed their own young.

cochin chicks become pullets
Bantam cochins are cute. Bantams don’t fare well in my flock so I have the standard cochins and like them. They do get big. They are a gentle chicken and always look like a soft pile of feathers.

The small chick yard has a baling twine net over it. The larger yard does not.

So my chicks become pullets and should move to the hen house. Except the big black snakes live there under the barn floor.

The pullets are too big for the snakes to eat. They are not too big for the snakes to try.

I’ve been remodeling the hen house. Maybe the big snake holes are now plugged or covered. Should I take a chance?

The pullets are too big for the chick house.

In “Mistaken Promises” Hazel Whitmore raises some Buff Orpinton pullets and enters them in the county fair.

Garlic Scapes Harvest

Gardening books often advise gardeners to cut off garlic scapes. This is to force the plant to put its energy into growing the bulbs bigger.

These scapes are the structures enclosing the flower buds of the garlic plants.

For years I didn’t bother. The garlic blooms are typical globular allium flowers and attract bees and other pollinators. The garlic bulbs looked fine.

garlic scapes on plant
Happy garlic plants want to bloom and put up scapes containing their flowers. Gardeners are advised to cut them off.

What the gardening books don’t mention is that garlic scapes are edible. They are great for stir fry dishes, scrambled eggs and omelets and other recipes wanting a little garlic boost in flavor.

I plant my garlic in the fall. Late spring to early summer, normally the latter in the Ozarks as spring is very short, the garlic plants look thick and stout. A round stalk comes up from the top of the plant. The tip curves down developing a bulge over where the flower buds are forming. The tip of the stalk continues on past this bulge.

These garlic scapes need to be cut young. Each plant produces only one.

My garlic patch is small with about fifty plants. Each one yields one scape.

Would the goats eat the scapes? I suppose so. With so few, I haven’t offered them any. They do eat the garlic plants after I pull the bulbs up.

The bulbs are ready when the first few leaves at the base of the garlic stem turn yellow. This is a few weeks after the scapes are cut.

garlic scape
The garlic scape is a long, thick tube with a bulge in the upper part that will open up to reveal the flowers. The tube continues on past the bulge and tapers to a point.

Garlic bulbs left longer, as until the entire plant turns yellow, will often break apart when pulled up. I still use a potato fork to loosen the dirt before pulling the plants up.

My patch has both hard and soft neck garlic. Making a garlic braid is interesting. I have no place to hang one, so I clip off the bulbs.

The bulbs are spread out to dry thoroughly before being put in an open container in the pantry. Having garlic easy to grab to use encourages me to use more of it. The garlic scapes make a nice introduction to the fresh crop.

In “Broken Promises” Hazel Whitmore finds cooking a good hobby and way to cope with her disintegrating world.

Goats Love Walking Onions

Years ago a friend gave me some walking onion bulblets. I planted them knowing little about the plants or that goats love walking onions.

Another name for walking onions is Egyptian onions. They are expensive in the seed catalogs. I don’t know why as the plants are prolific producers of bulblets.

walking onion patch shows goats love walking onions
Early spring’s green onion style leaves on the walking onions has become a mass of blooming stalks, most now broken off and fed to the goats. A few regular leaves are beginning to grow again.

The plants come up in the early spring. The leaves resemble green onion leaves and can be used in the same ways. They are great in scrambled eggs or in stir fries.

When spring heats up, thick stalks with pale green tops come up. These produce the bulblets.

My first patch was a small row in an out of the way corner. My garlic patch was close by. I soon learned why these are called walking onions.

Those thick stalks grow tall, produce their bulblets and fall over. Wherever those bulblets touch the ground, new plants grow.

Nubian goats love walking onions
Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus thinks breeding season is on. However the lure of a walking onion snack is more important.

My row is now a patch.

The only way to control these plants and still have them to use is to remove the thick stalks. They could go out to the compost heap.

As I walked past the goat yard, the goats came over to find out what I had. I offered one stalk to them.

Surprise. Goats love walking onions.

Now I go out and gather enough stalks for each goat each evening. First I milk. Then I give them the onions.

Some of these stalks are over two feet long. At first I thought I would break these up as the goats couldn’t possibly eat them.

Not true. This is an opportunity to see those facile goat lips in action.

Nubian buck Augustus begging for more walking onions
Two walking onion stalks are not enough according to Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus who asks for more.

The goat grabs the end of the onion stalk and starts chewing. Those lips keep pulling the stalk in.

It reminds me of eating spaghetti noodles when I was young. Put one end in and suck. My mother was not impressed when the end flicked sauce off to wherever.

Feeding a few walking onions a night makes them last longer. Once the stalks are gone, the goats will eat the regular leaves too. After all, goats love walking onions.

Enjoy more goat antics in “For Love of Goats.”

My Mira Cat Favorite Cat

Years ago a feral gray cat arrived at the place and moved in. She was uncatchable. She produced kittens every year. Mira Cat was one of her last kittens.

Gray Cat wouldn’t let anyone touch or catch her, but was agreeable to having her kittens played with. She hid them under the porch where they grew up semi wild until they got old enough to eat.

Mira Cat in the house
Mira was watching me do what she considered silly things. I was doing poses for my picture book “Watching For Fairies” on the floor with the camera set on timer. She was watching the show.

This mother cat never had enough milk so her kittens were always hungry. Canned cat food was a big draw. The kittens were soon tame, coming when called and eating then climbing into the lap. This was a plus as I gave them away.

Mira had two brothers who fit the mold. She didn’t. She was her mother’s shadow. She came out to eat, but never to be petted or touched. Her mother was old and died leaving Mira alone and lonely.

One day I snagged this kitten and took her into the house. She adopted me as her new mother and has been my best cat friend ever since.

Mira Cat as The Lump
That rounded bulge is The Lump. Mira finds the floor cooler in warm weather, but still likes to be hidden.

Mira Cat is still different. During the colder months the bed is covered by a comforter. Mira burrows up under it. The Lump sleeps all day and is most indignant if anyone sits on her.

A favorite perch is up on my shoulder. This wasn’t a problem until Mira grew up, gained weight and size and takes up much more room than the shoulder. Lap sitting is only done during meal times.

Mira Cat playing hard to catch
Mira will blink her eyes, even meow. However she will vanish if I reach over.

Outside my Mira Cat sometimes wants to be touched, sometimes doesn’t. She scales the clothesline poles when I hang laundry. She sits in the fig tree and persimmon tree pots. She hides under the shed.

Over the winter shoestrings are the chosen form of exercise. Mira pounces and chases a few times then hides to attack from ambush.

Warmer months Mira catches mice. This is appreciated. Then she plays with them in the house and they escape. This is not appreciated. Mouse traps are more effective.

There are four fixed toms living here too. Mira isn’t impressed. She is Cat Number One and knows it.

Watching For Toads

The road grader has thoughtfully dug a temporary pond in the road near the barn. Warm evenings finds the toads trilling near it. Mornings find strings of toad eggs in the pond.

I gather up the strings of eggs and move them into a rain barrel. Vehicles splash through the pond often dooming the eggs, if they stay in the pond. Even if the eggs hatch, the tadpoles will perish quickly. The vehicles stir up fine particles of mud that coat the egg strings and tadpole gills so that they suffocate.

The toads never seem to be visible. I do see them around from time to time. They live in my garden, around the house, in the woods. They come out after dark.

Tree frogs are different. They happily invade the rain barrels filling the air with their calls and the barrels with egg masses. They have gotten so used to us coming around, some sit and call posing for pictures.

gray tree frog calling
Each rain barrel seems to have one dominant male gray tree frog along the edge calling. A few have gotten bold enough to continue calling when I walk by or stop to take pictures.

The result is a big file of tree frog pictures and none of the toads. I needed pictures of toads for my picture book “Waiting For Fairies.”

Several of the wild denizens found in my yard appear in my picture book as part of the story. I had pictures of all of them except one.

The Missouri Department of Conservation guidebook to the “Reptiles and Amphibians of Missouri” has one picture. Some other guidebooks have drawings. I tried hard to remember toads I had seen over the years.

My saving grace is my casual drawing and painting style. Those true-to-life drawings and paintings are lovely, but not my style at all. So the toads made it into my picture book.

toads page in "Waiting For Fairies" by Karen GoatKeeper
Toads may not be fairies. They are night visitors around gardens, lawns and houses eating some of the night insects flying by. This is one of the watercolor pages from the upcoming picture book “Waiting For Fairies.”

The sketches for the last two pages are done. The first color is on the pages. Other colors are mixed and ready for adding. Time is important in watercolor painting. Each layer must dry before the next is added.

Once the book is done, I will probably find some toad willing to pose for a picture.

Uncertain Times

My life was a bit on the frantic side until last March. The pandemic arrived bringing uncertain times with it. My life went on hold – sort of.

Anyone with livestock, especially dairy stock, knows life never goes on hold. Chore time arrives every morning and every evening. Nubians are very insistent and vocal about that.

Kids were arriving. Now that does bring uncertain times. There may be a due date, but kids don’t pay much attention. The does don’t either as Natasha is still getting fatter, putting down milk in dribs and drabs and calmly chewing her cud.

Nubian wether kid cheers up uncertain times
Nubian doe High Reaches Agate had a single buck kid this April.

Spring barn cleaning time also arrived. The goats were extra wasteful over the winter so this has been a maddening task. It’s one of those tasks you work on and work on seemingly getting no where until it is done. Maybe next week will see the last of it out to the manure pile.

Baby chicks arrived. The order did have a hatch date. Uncertain times then take over as they might arrive the next day or the next or? They arrived the next day along with a massive cold front.

Baby chicks are not good house guests. They are accompanied by noise, dust and odors. The noise isn’t a problem. The others aren’t supposed to be, but always are as cleaning the box up never seems to keep up.

baby chicks arrive in uncertain times and weather
The first day I opened the outside door for the chicks they stood at the edge and looked. Not one came out. They now have feathers and fly out the door as soon as I open it. The two in front are Easter Eggers. The ones behind are Buff Orpingtons.

My frantic life? It’s on hold still. I visited town once a week. The library was closed so the computers were not accessible. Errands for three days were crammed into one.

I now own a laptop. We are getting acquainted. I’m planning on town two days a week now so I have enough time to do more than turn it on.

My Missouri county has no official cases of Covid-19. Then again I hear from a reliable source the virus arrived in the area last December when no one knew what it was. No one will ever really know.

Uncertain times did have a good side to them. My frantic life has slowed down. It’s wonderful to have time to enjoy being home even if the drudgery work looms.

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.