On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson came into my life through a list of chapter books recommended by the publisher of my son’s spelling and reading curriculum. I had no expectation at all, and the whimsicality of the name flew right over my head. As I began reading it aloud to my kids the whimsicality of the title and the story rushed in full force. As an adult reader of a middle grade novel, the suspension of disbelief required was a bit much in the beginning (gray snake people, anyone?), but since my kids had completely bought in my continued reading was assured. I did get over the hump into full investment in the story quickly. This novel was immediately a best read of the year, even the best read of several years, for my kids. It took a little longer for me but I ultimately agreed with their assessment. The first novel introduces the three Igiby siblings, their family, and their hometown of Glipwood. Some backstory of the larger world of Aerwiar they inhabit and the dreadful conflict reaching from their family’s and their world’s past into their present are also introduced, but quite a bit of mystery remains. The conflict is temporarily resolved by the end, so it doesn’t read like an incomplete story, but the reader is certainly ready to move on to the next book in the series for more clarity and ultimate resolution. Powerful themes of family love, home, freedom, and self-sacrifice run through the story. I highly recommend, especially if you have kids to enjoy it with.
We have cats at the Green T Homestead to eat mice. Sometimes they are good at their job. This morning I found a dead mouse that a cat killed, but that hasn’t happened for a long time. Elie doesn’t get along with the other cats. She doesn’t like to be held or pet. She is usually outside. Lynx is always coming in and out, and when you play outside she appears out of nowhere. She climbs trees. Sphinx is fat and lazy, and he bites a lot. No cat is perfect.
By James Tyler
Dance was our only doe to kid this year. She was due on March 19, but decided to make us wait until the 24th to actually kid. She even had me second guessing her due date.
Late on the 23th I noticed some changes in her behavior; she was becoming very needy and vocal and her udder filled up quite a bit. Her ligs also disappeared completely. She didn't have any other prelabor signs though, such as small contractions, nesting, sticking in one area, or separation from the herd.
The next day (yesterday, the 24th) I was gone all morning. When I arrived home, Dance had made a nest in the barn. I didn't think it was anything serious though. She wasn't in distress, vocal, or contracting, which are the early labor signs I usually see in my does.
An hour later I went to check on her and she had a kid on the ground, already nursed and mostly dry. I was a little shocked to say the least. I had really been hoping to make it to her kidding, but she did quite well without me.
The kid was the cutest little buckling, a broken sundgau with wattles just like Dance. He was a medium-sized kid, so I thought Dance would probably have at least one more. He didn't seem quite big enough to account for the size her stomach was during pregnancy. But Dance soon passed her placenta and seemed perfectly happy with her singleton.
We named the kid Pop Rocks. He's a very smart little dude, picked up nursing very well. I usually have some trouble teaching bucklings where the teats are, but Pop Rocks figured out the correct end of his mama without any assistance. He's also a very active kid. His legs are no longer wobbly even though he's only a day old, and he's already been out to the hay feeder and met the other goats and the dogs.
Pop Rocks is our first Sundgau, our first wattled kid, Eb's last kid, and Dance's first kid to raise herself. This was Dance's third kidding, but her previous owners always bottle fed her kids. Dance is an amazing mother, very protective and attentive. She's producing more milk than Pop can handle, so I'm already milking her once a day.
Here are some photos:
Duke, our Australian Shepherd, is officially middle aged as of last month! This occurrence—that he should turn five while still living on the Green T—is probably a miracle. We didn't know this before getting him as a puppy, but apparently incredible intelligence in a dog does not manifest itself as good behavior or obedience.
As a small puppy he was extremely energetic and nippy which, as new dog owners, we were unprepared for. Any puppy—but especially an Aussie pup—needs vigorous exercise and training. The only coping mechanism we ever used was to leave him all by himself in the kitchen whenever he became too much to bear, which worsened his problems.
Despite his behavioral shortcomings, he did show incredible intelligence in unexpected ways. When we finally learned to properly exercise him, he resisted. He didn't play with tennis balls, he only played with frisbees. He didn't play fetch, he played keep away with a minimum of two people. He could herd chickens, but he could also herd children. If we took him on a bike ride he would walk in the woods where we couldn't see him and then he would circle back and go to his neighbor's house and wait patiently for us to come collect him after we had had all the exercise we needed. A simple leash would fix that problem you say? Mere walks did not scratch the surface of his almost infinite store of uncontrolled energy.
Without his mind being properly exercised through training, his behavior just got worse. He was grumpy and growly all the time. Did I mention that he refused to eat typical dog food? Nope, it was real food for him.*
Eventually he got to be too much. We collected the information of a cattle rancher who wanted a young adult Aussie. Fortunately for Duke the number that we had didn't work. It was either try to find another professional to take him or do something else. We got a dog trainer.
Oh my that lady was an eye opener. She corrected quite a few of our problems with him.
That was the beginning of the end of his rough puppyhood and young adulthood. Aside from all of this, is he currently a valuable working function on the homestead?
Probably, we still have him!
He still is grumpy at night. He still chases things he ought not chase. We still have to lock him up whenever guests come over for fear of his terrible behavior. The UPS man still speeds past our house with fear throbbing deep in his heart.
However, Duke still works hard on the homestead. Our fences don't have to be perfect: the goats know that he is waiting for them on the other side and have no desire to leave the protection of their pasture. Remember the Catastrophe of the Nigerian Dwarf Goats on the Green T? That would have been unlivable without him. All it takes is a "Go get the goats!" and off he runs. He takes excellent care of the kids, even if he himself does chase them. He knows he is the general farm dog and he is always up to the task at hand. Well except at night that is—he knows when his bedtime is.
Now for some cute puppy pics from almost 5 years ago so that everyone can leave with a nice warm feeling:
The day we chose him:
Random Note: According to the American Kennel Club website, Aussies are ''Good with children" but Pyrs require supervision. Um. What? Our experience has been the exact opposite.
Disclaimer: I, Jane, paused in the middle of writing this post to scramble a few of our non GMO free range eggs for Duke's dinner. He proudly eats better than the average American.
Another Disclaimer in case Duke reads this: We love him very much.
*If you would like to learn more about how we feed our dogs, please visit our individual dog page.
Our fall garden is officially planted and I am finally going to do a post on it. For the past several planting seasons we have been loosely following the Back to Eden gardening method—in other words, we have been using mulch. (If you haven't watched the Back to Eden video, you should. I highly recommend it.) Mulching is going fairly well: if nothing else the garden is much more picturesque than it used to be.
Of course, no fall garden would be complete without lettuce! I have quite a few varieties from both seedlings and seed.
other less exciting things we planted: bok choi, collard greens, broccoli, & cabbage
After Max died we were out of a livestock guardian for a few weeks. The local raccoons heard tales of our misfortune and consequently the chickens and the lately acquired rabbits took a small hit. (Yep, we finally got rabbits! More about them below.)
Anyway, the main point is that WE GOT PUPPIES!!! Two of them-- two seems to be the way to go with pyrs. They will hopefully gain their instincts earlier together, they terrorize goats less often because they have each other to chew up, and they are generally happier in pairs. Their names are Ferdy and Coggs.
Suzie posted the sweetest video of the furry fluffies on the Green T youtube channel. (Oh yes. We now have a youtube channel dedicated to the homestead. Here it is.)
Ferdy and Coggs are amazing when it comes to staying in the goat pen. They know they belong with the goats and they are by the side of the herd at all times. Their faithfulness to the goats came as quite a surprise actually, because Max much preferred protecting the front porch to protecting goats and would exit the pasture with the purpose of doing just that as a young dog.
In other news we have added a new doe to our collection! Introducing the sweet girl Dance:
We have suddenly realized what remarkably sheltered goats Jenny and Honey are. It had been quite some time since they had encountered a goat that was their size other than each other—and they were appropriately shocked that Dance was less than the perfect submissive angel to them. Fortunately they have worked out most of their kinks and are now getting along decently.
Oh yeah--we got meat rabbits! We had just acquired them when the raccoon-opolypse occurred so I currently only have two. That, however, will soon be remedied.
Hog update: They are finally fenced in and staying put! We are no longer free range pig owners. Yeah, we ended up getting a whole new battery to power a whole new fence and ZAP they are behaving. My oh my they are going to be delicious—especially after all the trouble they have caused.
It has been a while since we have mentioned the bees on the blog. Well... that is because we are the proud owners of two dead hives and one not quite dead hive. Unfortunately a nest of those huge awful Asian hornet things have set up shop in one of them. Dad sealed the hive so hopefully they are currently dying a long slow painful death together. But guess what? We are going to pick ourselves up and try again. Three years ago we harvested several gallons of honey from our thriving hive. We are going to work towards that again.
Written by Jane
We've had a crazy kidding season.
It started off without a sign of the trouble to come. Pinky kidded on February 17. She had two doelings. Read the whole story here.
Their names are Black Cherry and Cookies N Cream (Cherry and Cookies for short). Some photos of them:
Jenny and Honey were next up, due on March 21. Or rather, Jenny was due then and Honey was possibly due then and possibly due April 13. I sent blood in to test for CAE, CL, and Johne's one week before March 21. Three days before they were due, I got the results back -- and Jenny and Honey were both positive for CAE. This was pretty devastating. I had bought them from a closed herd and never suspected CAE. I am still not sure where they got it, but that does not change the fact that they did.
We had to make some quick decisions. I could dam raise the kids and then process them, but I was pretty sure the family wouldn't take to that very well. Or I could just bottle raise, but I had no CAE free colostrum saved up, and was nowhere near ready to bottle raise in any other way, shape, or form.
Dad ended up driving to Raliegh to get some colostrum from a friend, and I got my act together and prepared to bottle feed. Jenny kidded two days later.
She had a single buckling named Moose Tracks. We were thankfully at the birth and he did not nurse off of Jenny.
Some photos of Moose from when he was born and a few more recent ones:
I had battled rumen shutdown with Binky for a short time after Jenny kidded, but he was seeming mostly over it. One day he was acting a bit depressed, so I made a mental note to check him over that night. At feeding time, I found him in the woods dead. I can only guess the rumen shutdown had come back suddenly. He will be greatly missed.
Some photos of Binky:
Honey didn't kid until April 14. She had twins, one buck and one doe. Their names are Breyers and Bluebell. I was at her kidding and CAE prevention went down without a hitch. (Or at least not much of a hitch -- Blue did get a swig of milk early on, but I don't think it was enough to do any major harm.) I plan to keep Blue as a replacement milker.
Honey had a retained placenta. After 48 hours without having fully delivered it, we took her to the vet. It took oxytetracycline, lutalyse, two kinds of antibiotics, several flushings, and lots of TLC, but Honey was quickly restored to full health.
Photos of Bluebell and Breyers:
A photo of Honey and her babies on the way to the vet (I took the babies because everyone would be less stressed out, and I didn't know how long I was going to be gone - they would need to eat):
Because Binky died, I needed a companion for Ebony. I was going to wait until Moose was old enough, but Eb needed a companion before then. Searching Craigslist for a wether, I came across Dontcha, one of our Mini Alpine wethers from last year. I snatched him right up and we brought him home four days after Honey kidded.
Photos of Dontcha on the way home:
Pinky is too good at escaping our fencing. I don't think anything I can do short-term is going to prevent that, and I don't want to risk her getting bred by Ebony again. As much as I hate to do it, I am going to give her to a friend. She'll go live with Dwopple and Song, her kids from last year, at a home with a only small herd of Nigerians where she can be the one and only herd queen. I guess she'll be happy there, but we will really miss her, the snobby little princess.
Some photos of Pinky:
Jenny and Honey are starting to show small signs of CAE - congested udders, lumpy udders, creaky joints. They won't be bred again; I can't keep taking their kids away. They will live out their lives here in happy retirement.
Photos of Jenny and Honey:
Eb is doing well, still his same old ornery self. I am probably going to get him wethered sometime this summer. He is Blue's sire, so I will need to get a new buck anyway to breed her to.
An outdated photo of Eb and Binky:
And some photos of the whole herd to cap it all off:
By Suzanne Tyler
the Green T Goatherd
P.S. I have started a Green T Goats YouTube channel. Click here to check it out.
Introducing Moose Tracks:
He is Ebony's first buckling, the first Alpine buckling on the Green T, and Jenny's first single. As well as the first bottle baby born on the farm.
Three days before Jenny and Honey were due (the 21st - Jenny kidded one day early) we got blood test results back for CAE, CL, and Johne's. All nasty and incurable diseases that can get really ugly if they enter your herd. Well, Jenny and Honey are CAE positive! What this basically means for the kids is that they can't nurse off their dam or they will also contract CAE. So we will be bottle raising all of Jenny's and Honey's kids. They will stay with their moms and be dam raised in pretty much every way other than the actual feeding.
This is the first time I have attended one of Jenny's births - she doesn't seem to like having hovering midwives and doulas around. She probably would have given us the slip this time as well, if dad had not come home bearing hay at the time he did. She was streaming goo, had a tight udder, lost appetite - in short, she was on the verge of pushing. A few hours earlier she had exhibited none of these signs.
One last photo of Moose:
By Suzanne Tyler
the Green T Goatherd
We got pigs! These two porkers are the first animals on the Green T solely for meat, by which I mean that-- they're going to taste delicious.
The original plan was just to toss them into one of our currently unused temporary electric fences and let them do their thing and grow big and fat until fall and then send them to get processed. (Nope, we definitely aren't brave enough to do them ourselves-- to the butcher's they will go. Please don't label us as wimps for this minor weakness on our part.)
Of course, things did not go according to our ridiculously simple procedure.
Upon arrival they exited stage left-- that is to say they skipped over the two strands of electric wire that would certainly keep them contained according to Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs and they departed into the vast woodland-- presumably to seek their fortunes. Had Suzanne not intercepted them near the stream in the woods attempting to climb a hill (pigs somehow have trouble with sloping terrain) their fortunes would perhaps have been met in the stomach of a great bear. Yes, we have bears and we had a recent report of a bear near the border of our own property; and yes-- if Little House is to be believed (which it is by the way) then bears do indeed enjoy a wholesome pig or two every now and then.
Suzanne carried their mischievous tushes home and tucked them in for the night in what she refers to as ''the pig barn'' which, in reality, is the sorriest little wooden-pallet-and-tarp sort of shack you ever saw. The next day was such a horrendous comedy of errors and escapes and pig chasing that we all just want to forget as soon as possible and therefore I will not burden your mind with such horrors and instead leave it to your imagination.
(Did I mention that the piglets have a very-- distinct aroma to them?)
The day after, those two decided to take up residency in the buck pasture-- for no discernible reason whatsoever. I mean, why? What is so enticing about the buck pasture? There is nothing any more appealing in the buck pasture than there is anywhere else on the farm-- unless they enjoy torturing Ebony and Binky with their presence that is. The bucks do feel a bit threatened by the confident little monsters.
Anyway, they have not stepped out of the buck pasture since they made their decision, and no more trouble has been caused. They enjoy napping, tearing up the grass, stealing the goat feed and minerals, and following poor Binky around. They have taken up the eating of alfalfa hay along side the goats, and I can't help but wonder if they will grow rumens and start chewing their cud as well. Perhaps they think they are goats.
By Jane Tyler
Pinky was accidentally bred to Ebony without my knowledge by means which I still have not figured out. As Ebony is an Alpine and Pinky is a Nigerian Dwarf, this breeding was likely to result in kids too large for Pinky to deliver.
We figured out she was pregnant in late December, and took her to the vet for an ultrasound. Results were good, she had at least two small kids. The vet thought she was due in a month or two.
About a month later, Pinky began to give false alarms of impending labor. There is a lovely explanation of the false alarms given by does about to kid, called the Does' Secret Code Of Honor. As you might remember from last year, Pinky just relishes following the Does' Code to a T, and, of course, driving us crazy by making us wait and wait and wait some more.
Friday night was no exception. She was a little bit more restless than usual, no ligs, udder fairly full (but not quite tight enough for labor yet), the whole nine yards of false alarms. Jane and I figured that she definitely had another day or more to go.
So here we are in the barn with Pinky, fixing to leave. And then she lies down. And starts pushing. Absolutely no sign she was about to kid, and there she is. Just having her babies. Her water broke seconds later, and after five minutes of rushing around grabbing kidding supplies and buckets of water, she had two little hooves presenting. Fifteen minutes after that, with a little pushing and pulling, she delivered a black doe kid. The doeling weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces (Nigerian kids are usually between 3 and 5 pounds).
Fifteen minutes later she delivered another doeling, this one black and white, weighing 5 pounds 14 ounces.
We named them Black Cherry and Cookies N Cream (the name theme this year is ice cream flavors).
Here are some photos:
By Suzanne Tyler
the Green T Goatherd
We are a family of eight living on twenty-two acres of land in North Carolina. We girls like to write about the times on the farm, and its a fun thing to do as there is alway something happening on the homestead!