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If you’ve ever thought about raising ducks, this guest post by Rebekah Pierce of J&R Pierce Family Farm will help you get started successfully and if you already raise ducks, please share your tips in the comment section!

Here’s how our decision to start raising ducks happened.

I was waitressing at the time, and my now-husband (then my fiance) sent me a text about half an hour before my shift was about to end.

“Hey. Tractor Supply has ducklings for sale. Want to get some?”

“What kind?”

“Does it matter?”

I met him at Tractor Supply as soon as I finished work, the aroma of french fries and artificial pancake syrup still lingering on my clothes. We purchased six healthy, gorgeous Khaki Campbells and hurried to get them home to the brooder.

Our duck-raising journey didn’t turn out so great for us – we made some critical mistakes that, had we been more prepared, could have been easily avoided. When you read advice articles online, they usually center around all the joys of raising livestock – “they till your garden for you!” “they eat ticks!” “they poop magical, golden poop!”

With ducks, none of that is true.

Of course, that’s rarely true for any livestock species. However, I think there’s still a lot of advice to be given in the way of raising ducks, because they aren’t all they’re quacked – cracked – up to be.

Here is what I wish we had been told about raising ducks before we made the leap to try raising them ourselves.

They eat a lot

We wrongly assumed that our ducklings would eat about the same amount of food as our baby chicks. After all, the feed is usually packaged in the same size bags.

However, we were sorely mistaken. Ducklings eat considerably more than baby chicks – in our case, they consumed a bag of feed about every two weeks. Although you can feed them regular chick starter, those food bills can add up quite quickly.

Plus, they’re messy eaters. Consider giving them plenty of room to make a mess with their food, and always use an adult-sized feeder – don’t bother with the junior feeders, as they’ll quickly grow out of them and you’ll find yourself feeding your ducklings several times a day.

They are messy

As adorable as ducklings are, nobody ever bothers to mention how much these little guys poop. This makes sense when you consider the sheer amount of food they eat, but keep in mind that duck poop is not of the same caliber as chicken poop. You will need to change their bedding frequently – like every couple of days.

When you pick up your ducklings, make sure you already have a plan in place to dispose of all of that poop. While duck waste can be a great fertilizer for your garden, you need to have a way to get it there and a place to allow it to age appropriately before you use it.

They love water

One of the other factors that we did not think about before we embarked on our duck-raising journey was that they really, really love water. Of course, we knew that ducks like the water. However, what we did not anticipate was the sheer mess that arose as a result of them splashing and playing in their waterer all day.

Whenever we cleaned the bedding, the ducklings would have it soaked within about an hour, contributing to a greater overall stench and mess. If you keep ducklings in a brooder, remember this, as it means more upkeep and time spent cleaning and maintaining your brooder.

They grow quickly

Ducklings grow rapidly, putting on about an ounce of weight every day. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the duck world, it’s huge. Make sure your birds have plenty of room to move around, and don’t purchase ducklings too early in the season, like we did.

One of my biggest complaints about chain feed stores is that they get mass shipments of poultry, plants, and other seasonal items all at the same time – often, completely regardless of the weather conditions or patterns of the climate outside. We bought our ducks in early March, and while we ended up putting them outside after four weeks, this was far too early. The weather was still too cold where we live for them to be healthy, which led to a ton of other issues later on down the road.

If you make the decision to purchase ducks, don’t rush into it. Wait to pick up your ducklings until you know the weather and other conditions can support them.

They are accident-prone

You can tell a duck is going to move awkwardly just by looking at it. These clumsy creatures are incredibly adorable, but they can also get themselves into some tight spots. It’s not uncommon for them to stick their heads into small openings or to scratch themselves as they hobble around your property.

Long story short, make sure you have the resources necessary to address accidents when they happen. Brush up on basic poultry first aid, and have your veterinarian’s phone number on hand in case something happens that you cannot deal with on your own.

They stick together

Ducks are probably some of the most enjoyable animals to watch, particularly when they are young. They have individual personalities that really shine through, and while each breed is a little bit different, they are fascinating to watch in a group.

I have never seen another type of poultry that sticks together quite like ducks. These naturally hesitant animals are fearless when they’re in a pack, holding their own against any challenge they perceive to be in their way.

That’s what I love most about them, but also what made them so difficult to raise. Our ducks stuck together and were a tight, close-knit little pack. Unfortunately, they avoided our chickens like the plague. We foolishly thought we could house our ducks with our chickens and that we did not need a separate housing system.

This was a mistake, because our ducks wanted nothing to do with our more aggressive chickens, and vice versa. We ended up losing several to weasels because our ducks were simply too hesitant to move en masse into the chicken coop at night. We tried everything we could, from locking the group in together for several days to offering them incentives to head inside at night.

Nothing worked.

At the end of the day, if one duck decided to stay out, they all stayed out.

They are 100% worth it

Although ducks didn’t work out for us in our first go-around, I would absolutely raise them again. They are some of the most entertaining creatures to watch on your farm, and they offer superior eggs and meat as a return on your investment.

If you’ve never tried raising ducks before, now is the time. While there is some know-how involved in maintaining a healthy, successful flock, you can now consider yourself armed with the knowledge you need in order to be successful.

Rebekah Pierce blogs regularly about raising ducks (and other kinds of livestock!) on a 21st century homestead at J&R Pierce Family Farm. She is also on Instagram @jrpiercefamilyfarm and Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm).

The post What Nobody Tells You About Raising Ducks appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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The Thrifty Homesteader by Thriftyhomesteader - 2w ago

We’d had Nigerians for three years when I purchased Muse, my first LaMancha, a yearling in milk. At six months fresh, she dried up, which was disappointing, but I was eagerly looking forward to her kidding the next spring. We never saw her come into heat until December, even though we had two wethers with our does to help detect heat cycles. Because I didn’t own a LaMancha buck at the time, I drove her to another farm 75 minutes away for a driveway breeding. In spite of the buck successfully covering her twice, she came back into heat three weeks later. Not being in a position to drive to the other farm again, I decided to breed her to my Nigerian buck. She never got pregnant that year, but she wasn’t the only goat having fertility issues. We had about a dozen Nigerian does at that time, and several were not coming into heat or getting pregnant. My daughter Margaret did some reading and said she thought our goats were copper deficient, but over the months, four different vets said that was impossible.

A year after we bought Muse, I bought a LaMancha buck, and the following spring Muse kidded with twin does. By June, however, she still had not shed her winter coat when we clipped her for a show. A couple of weeks later, she died unexpectedly. Having no idea what was wrong with her, I took her body to a vet for a necropsy, and I said I wanted to have her liver checked for copper. The necropsy came back listing Tyzzer’s disease as the cause of death, and her copper level was 4.8 on a scale where normal is 25–150 ppm.

Tyzzer’s is a rodent disease, and in searching scientific journals, I was not able to find a single recorded case in a goat, although there have been a few cases in horses. Like any barn, ours has mice, and Muse probably ingested mouse poop at some point. But why would she get a disease that is unheard of in goats? My assumption is simply that her immune system was not functioning at an optimum level, leaving her vulnerable to a disease that a healthy goat would never have contracted. The vet insisted the whole thing was just a fluke and said that there was nothing I could have done to prevent her death, and he refused to give me prescription copper for my other goats.

I started doing a lot of reading, however, and realized we had the worst possible scenario for creating copper deficiency. Our well water had iron and sulfur in it, which are copper antagonists and reduce absorption of available copper in the diet. On top of that, we had been feeding a commercial goat ration with only 10–15 ppm copper. I contacted an animal scientist who had published articles on goat nutrition, and he advised finding a feed with 35–40 ppm copper. We also began giving the goats COWP.

After changing our goat feed and giving COWP to the goats, we immediately saw faded, wiry-haired goats shedding their coats and replacing them with much softer and darker hair. That fall, all of the does came into heat, were bred, and stayed pregnant until term.

This is an excerpt from the second edition of Raising Goats Naturally by Deborah Niemann.

Learn more about Copper Deficiency in Goats and Avoiding Copper Toxicity in Goats.

The post Copper Deficiency Case Study appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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When planning the sustainable garden, you should choose varieties of plants that will allow you to save seeds for planting the next year. This means they should be open pollinated, not hybrids, and not genetically modified. Hybrids will not reproduce true replicas of themselves, and it is illegal to save seeds from genetically modified plants. Many people think they have to buy organic seeds to be sure they are not buying GMO seeds, but this is not the case. GMO seeds will come with a contract that you must sign, promising not to save the seeds for replanting. GMO seeds are patented, and you must buy new ones to plant every year.

When big producers plant a particular vegetable, they choose varieties that will be the most profitable for them. That means they will choose those that have a high yield and can be stored for a long time. For the home garden, you can choose varieties based upon taste and appearance and anything else that appeals to you. Most gardeners agree that heirloom tomatoes have superior flavor to modern hybrids, and there are hundreds of varieties from which to choose. They come in every size, shape, and color imaginable except blue. One of my favorites is the Orange Banana tomato, which is the color of an orange and has an oblong shape, although not as long as a banana. The Green Zebra tomato has green and yellow stripes, and the Pineapple tomato is mottled red, pink, and yellow throughout. While Green Zebras are usually about four ounces, the Pineapple tomatoes can weigh as much as a pound.

When deciding which varieties to grow, it can be tempting to simply choose a rainbow of colors, giving little thought to anything else, but that philosophy can result in a kitchen filled with tomatoes or other vegetables that have no purpose. Or they may wind up rotting in the garden because you are not sure what to do with them. Since tomatoes are the number one plant grown in the home garden, the following questions will help you decide which varieties will be best for your family.

Will you be using tomatoes sliced for sandwiches? If so, sausage- or banana-shaped tomatoes are a great choice because they are long and work very well for slicing. They also have smaller cavities inside and less water, so they won’t make your bread soggy.

Do you want tomato quarters for salads? Small- to medium-size tomatoes are great for quartering and adding to a salad.

Do you like eating fresh tomatoes as a snack? The tiny tomatoes, such as Yellow Pear, Black Cherry, and grape tomatoes will provide instant snacks, even when you’re out in the garden working. They also work well for salads.

Do you plan to freeze tomatoes for making soups and sauces throughout the winter? Some people might recommend plum tomatoes, but I personally like to use the big one-pound varieties, such as Amana Orange or beefsteaks because the peeling goes so quickly. If you freeze in one-pound increments, you only have to peel and chop one tomato for each container, rather than four or five of the smaller varieties.

Do you plan to can sauce for pasta or pizza? The plum tomatoes are a good choice. Because of their low water content, they cook down more quickly than other varieties.

You can create a similar list of questions for each fruit or vegetable you plan to grow. Think about what foods you eat most often, and then research the varieties available. For some fruits and vegetables, there is little difference in taste, appearance, and utility among varieties. For example, most broccoli varieties taste and appear very similar. Most freeze well, and none of them are suitable for canning. In those cases, it’s a good idea to choose two or three varieties that are suitable for your climate and do your own field test to see which one is the most prolific producer in your area. You can grow that one in subsequent years. If you will be growing your plants in containers, look for varieties that have positive reviews from people who have grown them in containers.

For years, I thought it would be a waste of time and garden space to grow potatoes, because they can be bought at the store so cheaply. Then I discovered that they are one of the most heavily sprayed crops when grown conventionally. After looking through a catalog of seed potatoes, the organic grocery store options of russet, Yukon Gold, and red potatoes seemed quite boring. Potatoes, which originally hail from South America, are available in hundreds of colors and sizes. One of the great things about trying different varieties is that you will discover which ones are most productive in your climate and soil. One year, for example, we planted four different varieties of potatoes, and the All Blue potato produced as much as the three other varieties combined. This was the second time we’d grown All Blue, and it was our top producer last time, as well. No doubt if it performed as well in Idaho potato country, it would be the most popular potato in the store, but for whatever reason, that particular potato thrives in our soil and climate.

Potatoes can be cut into smaller pieces before planting. Each piece must have an eye on it to grow. An eye is a little dimple that will sprout if the potato is left in the dark.

Many people overlook herbs when planning a garden, but there are several reasons to include them. If you buy fresh herbs once a week, you will save fifty-two packages from going to the landfill if you start growing herbs yourself. The monetary savings from growing your own herbs can be even more dramatic than from growing fruits and vegetables because herbs are sold by the ounce. Herbs make beautiful potted plants and can be grown indoors year-round, regardless of where you live. Many herbs are perennials or annuals that will reseed themselves year after year, which means you plant them once and enjoy their bounty for years to come. Some are even considered invasive, such as mint and dill, so unless you have unlimited space, you might want to plant those in a raised bed with borders or in a container. Personally, the word “invasive” is music to my ears, because it means that I am unlikely to kill it.

Although most vegetables are annuals, which have to be planted from seed every year, asparagus is a perennial, which grows for many years. Rhubarb is another popular perennial vegetable, although many people probably don’t think of it as a vegetable because it is often paired with strawberries in a pie. Rather than planting seeds, most people plant crown or root divisions from asparagus and rhubarb. If you decide to grow one of these, be sure to plant them in a permanent bed, rather than in the middle of a row in your vegetable garden.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, second edition by Deborah Niemann.

The post Planning the Sustainable Garden: What Will You Grow? appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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Even though I have written about feeding alfalfa pellets to goats, I still get a lot of questions about exactly how pellets are different than cubes or hay and how they should be used as part of a goat’s diet, as well as other livestock.

Can alfalfa pellets or cubes totally replace hay?

If you are asking about sheep, goats, and cattle, the answer is no. Ruminants cannot live on a diet of only alfalfa pellets. Ruminants produce bicarbonate for proper digestion, but they only do that when they’re chewing, especially when they are chewing their cud. The longer stemmed forage takes more chewing. So, if you only fed them pellets, which are pulverized hay, they would not have to chew much. If you give them cubes, they will have to chew a little more because it has not been chopped up quite as small as the hay in the pellets, but it would still not require anywhere near as much chewing as hay, pasture, and browse do.

If your animals are on pasture all day long, and you are just giving them something to munch on in the barn, then yes, you can give them pellets instead of hay because they’ve just spent all day eating things that required a lot of chewing.

Horses and pigs have a single stomach, so none of the above info applies to them. Feeding hay pellets, especially to senior horses with few teeth, is a viable option, especially if they are soaked in water first.

How much should I feed?

Since grain is also made into “pellets,” this can get confusing. But the nutritional content of hay pellets, cubes, and baled hay are all exactly the same. So, don’t confuse hay pellets with grain pellets. They have nothing in common with each other. You can feed the same number of pounds of pellets, cubes, and hay. Since you don’t need to limit most baled hay, there is not really a limit to how much pellets and cubes you can feed.

However, keep in mind that alfalfa hay is not appropriate for bucks, wethers, rams, or some horses. If you would not feed alfalfa hay to an animal, then you should not feed alfalfa pellets to that animal.

Grass pellets are also available. If we can’t get enough grass hay for our bucks for the winter, we buy the Standlee Timothy grass pellets for them. I give them a flake of hay twice a day to keep their rumen working and I supplement them with as much hay pellets as they will eat before losing interest. For my Nigerian dwarf bucks, that is usually between one to two cups each feeding. If I give them more than that, they get full and walk away before they are completely finished. (And then someone winds up peeing and pooping in the feed pan, which means the leftover pellets are now garbage.)

Which should you choose?

I like to keep things as close to natural as possible, which means feeding baled hay. It is the closest thing to animals eating directly from the pasture, and it provides the long-stemmed forage that ruminants need to keep their rumen working properly. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. I live in the middle of corn and soybean country, and not that many farmers grow hay. Rarely am I able to get all of the alfalfa and grass hay that I need to last me all winter. That’s why I started using Standlee hay pellets as soon as they started selling them in my area more than ten years ago.

People with physical challenges may also prefer to avoid baled hay. If you’ve read my book, Raising Goats Naturally, you may recall the story of a woman who lives in Texas who feeds only hay pellets for nine months a year. She said, “I started feeding alfalfa pellets as I hit my 40s. I had always hauled and stacked my own hay, and sold a lot also. I was trying to pitch some heavy bales of alfalfa up to the sixth level when the whole side of the pile fell down, pinning me to the ground in the 90+ºF and 90 percent humidity.” However, keep in mind that her goats have access to pasture and browse, so they are able to keep their rumen healthy with a lot of leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other natural delicacies.

Want to try a bag of pellets or cubes?

Standlee Premium Western Forage has agreed to give one of my readers a coupon for a totally free bag or a 50-pound bale of any of their forage products. That means you can try their pellets, cubes, or bales of hay. (Although I buy as much local hay as I can find, I do buy some of the Standlee hay whenever I run out of the local stuff.) If you would like a chance to win, follow the directions below.

Be sure to use your real name when leaving a comment so we can match it up with your entry in case you win. And if you leave a comment, don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter entry stating that you left a comment because the winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. You’ll have 3 days to respond if you win or we will draw another winner. Make sure to check back on the website when we announce the winner and check your spam folder so you won’t miss our email! To give everyone a chance to win, each person can only win once every 6 months.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A year and a half ago I became a brand ambassador for Standlee because I’ve been using and loving and recommending their products for more than ten years already. I decided to write this post because at least once a week I wind up explaining all of this to someone, so now I can just give them a link to this post.

The post Alfalfa pellets vs cubes and hay appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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Goats are probably the second most common barnyard pet with chickens coming in first. Although I jokingly refer to goats as vegetarian dogs because of their friendly nature, their needs are very different. For years I’ve been responding to emails and blog comments from new goat owners whose problems could have been avoided if they had the right information before they bought their first goats. Here is what you need to know before you make the commitment to become a goat owner.

Goats are long lived

The oldest goat on my farm right now is 16 years old, which is a little on the older side, but it is not unusual for goats to live 12 to 15 years. I have heard of one occasionally surviving to 18 or 19. Becoming a goat owner is not a short-term commitment, and it is not always easy to find a good home for unwanted goats.

Goats are herd animals

Herd animals live in groups in nature. That means you can’t have just one herd animal, and other species don’t count. So, it’s not a good idea to have a goat with a sheep, a cow, a horse, a rabbit, or a chicken. Yes, people have asked me to sell them a goat as a companion to all of these other critters. They simply do not speak the same language. Sure there are a few success stories out there, but I have heard far more horror stories from people who bought one goat. Lone goats are the world’s best escape artists, and they will find holes in your fence that you never knew existed, and then they can tap dance on your car, poop on your front porch, get into your horse pasture and get kicked through the air, or wander into the road and get hit by a car. If you are still tempted to buy a single goat, read this.

Wethers make the best pets

Many people ask me if they should get bucks (male goats) or does (female goats) if they do not want to breed goats. The answer is neither. Intact bucks pee on themselves, and they may even pee on you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, they are not messy. They actually have amazing directional control, and they will pee on their faces during breeding season. They will also butt heads with other bucks, even when does are not present. One year we finished breeding early in the fall, so we put our bucks across the creek, far away from the does, hoping that would curb their head butting and help them to focus more on eating. It didn’t help.

Female goats come into heat about every 21 days if they are not bred. Some does are quiet. Some does scream like the world is coming to an end. If you have a breed that only comes into heat in the fall, you may only have to deal with this for five months or so. However, if you have a breed that comes into heat year round, your neighbors may be hating you every 21 days.

Wethers are castrated males, and reputable breeders will castrate the goats before selling. Good quality bucks cost hundreds of dollars, so reputable breeders don’t sell them with their testicles intact for $50 to $100. Not only are wethers cheaper than bucks and does, which can be bred, but they are also not hormonal. They don’t pee on themselves or fight as much as bucks. They don’t come into heat and scream like female goats.

Buy goats only from reputable breeders

Even if you only want pets, it is a good idea to only buy goats from reputable breeders or responsible owners. They will be able to answer all of your questions about feeding, housing, and general goat care.

When you buy from a reputable breeder, they will have already disbudded and castrated the baby goats before selling them. They should also have tested their herd for diseases, such as CAE, Johnes, and CL.

If you are buying baby goats that are bottle-fed, they should have been bottle-fed for at least a week before you pick them up. Some of the most frustrating emails I get are from people who purchased kids that have been nursing for their entire life and are pulled from their mother the day of the sale and are sold as bottle babies. Of course, the kids have no idea what to do with the bottle and just scream like they’re being poisoned.

Kids should be nursed for a minimum of two months before being sold unless they are well established as a bottle-feeding baby. Ask the seller to give the kid a bottle in front of you, and if the kid does not grab the nipple and start sucking with no help, do NOT take it home. Having helped many new goat owners who have unknowingly purchased dam-raised kids and tried to switch them to a bottle, I can tell you this is not an experience you want to have.

I’ve heard the saddest stories from people who bought goats at sale barns. Many people take their problems to sale barns to get rid of them. This means you could wind up with a big vet bill or a dead goat or two rather quickly. Even if someone takes healthy animals to a sale barn, it could pick up a disease, such as Johnes, from a goat, sheep, or cow at the sale barn. If you are there, you could get Johnes on your shoes if you step in the manure of an infected animal, and then you could bring it back to your farm and give it to your goats, sheep, or cows.

Housing for pet goats

No, your pet goats cannot live in your house. Although my daughter had great luck teaching baby goats to pee on a towel, they also thought they should pee on the bathroom rug and any clothes left on the floor. And there is no teaching them to poop outside. They just let the poop fly whenever the urge strikes.

Although it is not true that goats eat tin cans, they do like to taste everything just to be sure they aren’t missing out on anything awesome. That means that electrical cords are a real danger to them, as they could electrocute themselves. Some goats have been known to eat plastic bags, which can cause an obstruction, which will cause death.

They also love to eat paper because they are browsers, which means they prefer to eat trees and bushes rather than grass. And paper is made from trees, so it’s basically like us eating fast food. It’s not really real food, but paper tastes similar to their favorite food, so they’ll eat it. My daughter used to joke that someday she would have to honestly tell her teacher that her goat had eaten her homework.

If you only have pet goats, a three-sided shelter works well in most parts of the U.S. Although our does come into the barn every night for milking in the evening and morning, our bucks live in a three-sided shelter, and we in Illinois. We only bring them into the barn if we are expecting a blizzard or temperatures below zero. The open side of a three-sided shelter should be open to the direction opposite the prevailing winds in winter. In Illinois, that means the shelters are open to the south because most winter winds are blowing from the north.

Goats do NOT need a heated or insulated shelter. In fact, if you put them in an insulated shelter, you could kill them with your “kindness.” It is impossible to keep ammonia levels from building up to dangerous levels in an insulated shelter. And you cannot count on your wimpy human nose to let you know when it is a problem. Ammonia can start to damage lungs before the human nose can smell it. So, if you smell ammonia, it is already beyond dangerously high.

Goats in winter stay warm because they grow a thick coat of cashmere. If you have ever had a cashmere coat or sweater, you know how warm it is. This is why goats look fuzzier in winter than in summer. They also stay warm by cuddling up with each other, which is why it is important that they never be alone.

Using straw as bedding is also much warmer than shavings. Availability of straw or shavings can vary depending upon where you live, but if it’s cold in your area, and you have straw available, it is a better option for insulating goats from the cold ground and helping them to stay warm in winter.

Feeding pet goats

Wethers are very easy keepers. They just need pasture or browse (bushes) in summer and grass hay in winter if the pasture is dead and frozen. No alfalfa, please. It is too high in calcium, which can lead to zinc deficiency. Wethers also do not need grain, which is high in phosphorus and can cause urinary stones.

One reason female goats don’t make the best pets is because if they are not being bred, they may have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. About 12 years ago I sold three does to a teenage girl, and she kept in touch with me all these years. She had an ongoing struggle keeping those does from becoming obese, and they were only eating pasture and hay.

Other than plenty of clean water, the only other thing goats need is free choice goat minerals. Do not get minerals labeled “for sheep and goats” because it will not have enough copper in it to keep goats healthy, so be sure to get one that is labeled for goats only.

Fencing for pet goats

If you have four or less goats, you don’t need an elaborate fence. You can just put together four 16-foot livestock panels, which can be moved around the yard as temporary fencing. Rotational grazing is actually a great way to utilize pasture, as well as control internal parasites in goats because the goats are constantly leaving their toilet behind them as you move the livestock panels to new areas.

Find a local goat vet

Although goats are very healthy animals when given proper care, and many will never need to see a vet, you should be sure you have a goat vet in your area in case of emergency. It comes as a surprise to many people that most vets do not see goats. Two-thirds of vets limit their practice to companion animals. Even vets who will see goats may not have a lot of experience with them. It is not unusual for goat owners to drive an hour or two to see a vet with goat experience. Please do not try to talk your dog’s vet into seeing your goats. As a vet said to me many years ago, they won’t be doing you any favors by saying yes. And based on stories I’ve heard of dog and cat vets treating goats, I’m glad that my dog’s vet refused to see my goats.

For more information …

Of course the information in this article is only the beginning. You need to educate yourself about goats before buying them so that you can give them the best possible life and save yourself a lot of heartache and vet bills at the same time. You can learn more by visiting my Goat Guide for Beginners, which lists a couple dozen articles about all facets of goat care. My book, Raising Goats Naturally, was revised and updated in 2018 with the latest research and has 300+ pages of information.

The post 8 Things You Need to Know Before Getting Pet Goats appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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www.clearcreekseeds.com

Started in 2010, Clear Creek Seeds is a family-owned business offering non-GMO, open-pollinated, non-treated heirloom vegetable, flower, and herb seeds. They have signed the “Safe Seed Pledge” indicating that they do not knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered seeds.

Clear Creek has generously offered to provide one of their Garden Bundle Packs for our second seed giveaway of the year!

Another way Clear Creek Seeds stands out is their “Safe Packets.” They are made from #5 Polypropylene which will not leach harmful chemicals, they are clear so you can easily see how many seeds you have left, and they are re-sealable and waterproof!

You can order from Clear Creek through their website or by mail order. In addition to individual seed packets in many different varieties, you can also purchase bean and corn seeds in bulk (1/4 lb.) and they sell variety packs such as salsa, pollination, flower, and root crop variety packs.

In the “Seed Info” section on their website, you can find lots of information about their products, planting, seed starting, viability, and storage. Clear Creek also offered seed giveaways for our readers in 2018 and 2017 so be sure to check out those posts to learn more. 

Want to win their Garden Bundle Pack? www.clearcreekseeds.com

Clear Creek Seeds has generously offered to provide one of their Garden Bundle Packs to one of our blog readers in the United States. This is their largest variety pack with 20 packs of their most popular vegetable, herb, and flower seeds! It includes Golden Acre cabbage, Buttercrunch lettuce, Honey Rock melon, Long Green Pod okra, Sugar Baby watermelon, and many others!

You have several different options for entering the giveaway. To enter, follow the giveaway instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to use your real name when leaving a comment so we can match it up with your entry in case you win. And if you leave a comment, don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter entry stating that you left a comment because the winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. You’ll have 3 days to respond if you win or we will draw another winner. Make sure to check back on the website when we announce the winner and check your spam folder so you won’t miss our email! To give everyone a chance to win, each person can only win once every 6 months.

Janie Hynson is a beginning homesteader in North Carolina. She works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health and the environment can be improved through homesteading.

The post Clear Creek Seeds Garden Bundle Pack appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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The Thrifty Homesteader by Thriftyhomesteader - 2M ago

For some people, the idea of starting their first garden and growing their own food can seem overwhelming. For others, it might seem ridiculously easy. You just plant seeds, and they grow—right? “But there is so much more to it,” say the overwhelmed future gardeners. The soil temperature has to be just right, and you need to choose the right plants for your climate, plant them on the right date, give them the right fertilizers and nutrients, mulch, weed, and worry about insects and disease. The truth is somewhere in the middle. If you are the perfectionist type, you will be able to find plenty of books and magazines to give you all of those little details, and you will probably have a garden that is the envy of your friends and neighbors. However, if you are the relaxed type who doesn’t want to follow a long list of rules, you can still grow your own fruits and vegetables.

What do you need?

Many people think you need a big yard with good soil to garden, and although that’s nice, it is not necessary. You do not even need soil. Sprouts can be grown in a jar with water. Basil can be grown hydroponically over a fish aquarium. Herbs can be grown in a pot on a sunny windowsill or under a grow light. Tomatoes and peppers can be grown in large pots on a balcony or patio. I’ve even heard of people growing potatoes and some varieties of corn in five-gallon buckets. Of course, a large backyard garden is the dream of many who want to become more self-reliant, where they can grow dozens of different fruits and vegetables. As the months grow colder, you can extend the harvest by using low tunnels and cold frames, or for an even larger winter harvest, a high tunnel or greenhouse.

Organic container gardening is much easier today than in the past because it is now possible to find organic seed-starting mixes and potting soils at most garden centers and through plenty of online stores. It used to be more challenging because all of the available commercial potting soils contained chemical fertilizers that were not intended to grow food plants. In most cases, if you simply put dirt from your yard into a pot, you will discover that it is rock hard after a couple of waterings and that nothing grows.

The first thing you need to know is that seed-starting mix and potting soil are not the same thing. Seed-starting mix usually does not contain soil at all. Most have a large percentage of either peat moss or coir. Many environmentally aware gardeners are opting for coir these days because it comes from coconut fiber, which is renewable, although it does have to be shipped from tropical parts of the world, usually Asia. Peat moss is a North American product, but it is harvested from wetlands, which effectively destroys all life forms in the bog. Environmentalists claim that destroying wetlands is as bad for our ecosystem as destroying rain forests.

The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) says that their producers are harvesting less than one of every six thousand acres of peat bogs in their country, which amounts to roughly 0.017 percent (less than one-fifth of 1 percent) of the existing bogs. They argue that peat is a renewable resource because sphagnum moss will regrow on a bog after harvesting is complete. Peat, however, is decomposed moss, which environmentalists claim will take thousands of years to be replaced. The CSPMA says it will take hundreds of years to replace all of the peat, which they do not consider to be unsustainable because they are harvesting peat from such a small percentage of the total bogs. They say a bog will regenerate naturally within twenty years, but they can shorten that time to five to eight years by “transplanting live sphagnum plants, seeding spores of sphagnum taken from live plants, and covering the harvested bog with the top spit from a living bog.”

There is now a Responsible Peatland Management certification program. As of 2014, at least 65 percent of peat harvested in Canada was certified. That means that the company harvesting it had a rehabilitation and restoration program in place and actually implemented it. Companies must also file annual updates to show that the bogs are improving.

If you have a large garden, starting seeds under fluorescent lights or in a sunny window can reduce gardening costs considerably.

If you are buying large amounts of seed-starting mix, the local availability of coir or peat moss may be a determining factor. You will need seed-starting mix only if you are starting seeds. If you have a small garden or are creating a container garden, it will probably make more sense for you to buy started plants at a local garden center and transplant them into your containers with potting soil, which may also contain peat moss or coir.

Potting soil does contain a large percentage of dirt. So why not dig up dirt from your yard? Potting soil has been sterilized, which means there should be no weed seeds, grass seeds, or other seeds that will start growing in your container and compete with your transplants for water and nutrients. It also means there should be no bacteria or soil-borne diseases present, which may kill your plants. Most potting soils also have fertilizers added, which is why you want organic potting soil for your fruit and vegetable plants. And potting soil is more than just dirt. It also usually has coir, peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite added.

If you have opted for container gardening, you will need containers, of course. This is largely a matter of personal preference, as almost any container—from fancy pots to used five-gallon buckets—will work as long as there are holes for drainage so that the roots don’t sit in water. Like people, most plants don’t like their feet to be wet all the time. If you are repurposing buckets, simply use a drill to put a few holes in the bottom of each one. If you have a bucket with a cracked bottom, it can have a second life, rather than going to the landfill.

When creating a traditional backyard garden, many people assume that an expensive, heavy, gas-guzzling tiller is required, but it is not. There are several ways you can kill the grass naturally to transition a section of lawn into a garden. Plants need water, air, and light to survive, and grass is no different. If you have ever left a children’s little swimming pool in one spot of your yard for too long, you know exactly what I am saying. In fact, placing a children’s swimming pool on your lawn for a couple of weeks is a great way to create a perfectly round garden bed. You can also use an old shower curtain, several layers of newspaper, grass clippings, or any number of things to deprive your lawn of the water, air, and light it needs to survive. In fact, this is a great first step, even if you do have a tiller. Sod busting is hard work.

If you have any physical limitations, such as arthritis, that might keep you from being able to work at ground level, a raised bed might be the answer. You can create a raised bed with two-inch by twelve-inch boards nailed into a square or rectangle. This is also a good option for people who live in newer subdivisions where the builders have scraped off the topsoil and left the yard with soil that is too heavy with clay or too sandy to be a good growing medium. Raised beds can be filled with topsoil that is purchased by the bag at garden centers, or if you have a large garden with several raised beds, you can have the soil brought in by truck. This also makes it easy to create the perfect growing medium by mixing in compost, peat moss, perlite, or other amendments when filling the beds initially.

Although tools are not necessary when container gardening, two basic tools will make the job easier when working in a full-size garden. A trowel, which looks like a hand-size shovel, makes transplanting easier. A hoe can be used to create a furrow for planting seeds and to eliminate weeds quickly. Although these tools can be purchased cheaply at discount stores, you might find that the quality is not as good as those that are more expensive and purchased at garden centers.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living, second edition, by Deborah Niemann.

The post Get Ready to Garden appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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We’re so excited to offer another seed giveaway this year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Once again, I’m in awe of their beautiful new catalog full of rare, flavorful, and nutritious seed varieties!

In the letter within this year’s 22nd annual catalog, the Gettle Family shared the exciting news that they adopted two children from China last year. When they traveled to China, they also looked for new seed varieties! This year, they added black goji berries and true pink celery from China to the seed catalog and they plan to add more in the years to come. The Baker Creek team travels to many countries each year searching for seeds. This year’s selection also includes 2-footlong carrots from Japan and other interesting varieties from other places.

Baker Creek offers one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. They also have the largest collection of open pollinated seeds in the U.S. You can save seeds from vegetables grown from open pollinated seeds (unlike hybrids and GMOs), so you can enjoy these seeds for many years to come! Learn more about Baker Creek in my post from last year.

Want to win their Heirloom Seed Collection?
Heirloom Seed Collection from www.rareseeds.com

Baker Creek has generously offered to provide their Heirloom Seed Collection to one of our readers in the United States. This collection includes a variety of 25 different full-sized packets of seeds such as beets, eggplant, cucumber, summer and winter squash, lettuce, peas, and melons.

You have several different options for entering the giveaway. To enter, follow the giveaway instructions below. Be sure to use your real name when leaving a comment so we can match it up with your entry in case you win. And if you leave a comment, don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter entry stating that you left a comment because the winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter. You’ll have 3 days to respond if you win or we will draw another winner. Make sure to check back on the website when we announce the winner and check your spam folder so you won’t miss our email! To give everyone a chance to win, each person can only win once every 6 months.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Janie Hynson is a beginning homesteader in North Carolina. She works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health and the environment can be improved through homesteading.

The post Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Collection appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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Pascal Baudar is an author, wild food researcher, brewer, and traditional food preservation instructor in California. His 2018 book, The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients, is a really interesting read about brewing and fermenting flavorful beverages (not just beers!) using local ingredients you can find in your backyard, garden, or other places in nature.

While we commonly think of beverages in concrete categories like beer, wine, and soda, Baudar encourages the reader to be creative and suggests combinations that blur the lines between these different types of beverages. In the book, he describes how you can find interesting ingredients in your local environment and teaches you how to use plants, fruits, sugar sources, malted grains, and more to create delicious beverages at home. Get ready to experiment! In the book, you’ll learn about:

  • basic brewing and soda-making equipment
  • how to make “wild” brown sugar, syrups, and other sweeteners
  • how to make a wild yeast starter
  • herbs, spices, fruits, berries, roots, barks, branches, leaves, mushrooms, nuts, and other ingredients to use for brewing
  • methods of brewing (hot, cold, hot-and-cold, fermenting a cold infusion)
  • carbonation
  • pasteurizing wine
Unripe Pinecone Soda

There are so many unusual recipes in the book – fig leaf syrup, mugwort-lemon beer, yarrow beer, dandelion beer, maple beer, herbal tea bag beers, a woodsy mushroom beer, several country wine recipes, lazy prickly pear wine, fresh mint and lemon herbal mead – just to name a few.

There is also a chapter called “Ethnic Drinks and Medicinal Brews” including tepache (a traditional fermented Mexican drink), smreka (Bosnian), several varieties of kvass, kompot, turkey tail mushroom soda, and others. Another chapter covers naturally fermented sodas. If you’re looking forward to springtime, here’s a recipe from that chapter you can put on your early spring recipe list.

3-Ingredient Unripe Pinecone Soda
If you don't have green (unripe) pinyon pinecones, other local unripe pinecones will likely work. All true pines are technically edible so you can use most any kind. For soda though you need flavorful pinecones like white pine or else your soda may not have much flavor. It's important to check the flavor as it ferments and don't let it go too long or the pine flavor can get too strong!
    Ingredients
    Instructions
    1. Fill a 1/2 gallon (1.89L) jar with springwater.
    2. Add 3/4 cup (150g) sugar and a couple of unripe pinecones to the jar.
    3. Screw the lid on the jar loosely so fermentation gases can escape. Shake the jar for about 10 seconds, 3 times each day. Fermentation should start within 2-3 days.
    4. Start tasting it after about 3 days, adding more sugar if you want more alcohol.
    5. When you like the flavor, stop shaking it. Strain and pour the liquid into bottles.
    6. Check the pressure after about a day (more info is in the book about how to do so). When you're happy with the amount of carbonation, put the soda in the fridge and drink it the next day or within a week.
    Want to win a copy of ‘The Wildcrafting Brewer’?

    In addition to sending me a copy of the book to review, Chelsea Green Publishing has agreed to send a copy to one of our readers in the United States! Follow the directions below to enter.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Janie Hynson is a beginning homesteader in North Carolina. She works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health and the environment can be improved through homesteading.

    This post contains an affiliate link. This means that if you purchase something after clicking on a link, Thrifty Homesteader will make a small percentage while you still pay exactly the same amount as you otherwise would. This is one way that we are able to continue providing you with free content, such as this article.

    The post Crafting Drinks from Nature appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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    The Thrifty Homesteader by Thriftyhomesteader - 4M ago

    Caseous Lymphadenitis, usually called CL, is the most common cause of skin abscesses. CL is highly contagious because it can infect goats through unbroken skin. CL is unique in that it most commonly affects lymph nodes in the neck. The only way to know if a goat has CL is to have a vet aspirate the contents of the swollen area and culture it to see if it is positive for CL. It is a good idea to isolate a goat with an abscess. If the abscess bursts, the pus that drains from the wound will be highly contagious if it is CL. Once a goat is diagnosed with CL, it is positive forever, and it could have internal abscesses. A blood test for CL is also available.

    CL Vaccine

    Although a vaccine is available for CL, it is only used in herds that already have an outbreak of the disease, and it is only given to goats that are not already infected. Once a goat is vaccinated it will test positive, which means that testing becomes a worthless tool in determining which goats are actually infected.

    Injection Abscesses

    It is very common for goats to develop an abscess at the site of an injection, whether for medication or vaccination, so it is helpful to make a note of the location of the injection. More than a few goat owners have panicked when finding one of those abscesses, worried that the goat has CL. Injection-site abscesses should not be disturbed, and they will go away within a couple of weeks on their own.

    They can look really dreadful, however, so some breeders who show their goats will give vaccines and other injections under the armpit of a goat that they know will be shown in the near future so that there won’t be a big bump over the goat’s ribs where everyone can see it.

    Other causes of abscesses

    A salivary cyst is one of the abscesses most commonly confused with CL because it occurs on the head in the same general area as the lymph nodes. Not every swollen spot on a goat is an abscess. It could be something as simple as a bee sting or ant bites.

    Swelling around the lips and cheeks may be due to the goat eating thorny bushes or other plants that caused a minor injury to the skin. The loss of a tooth may cause swelling around the mouth.

    Goats can also get goiters on the thyroid just like humans who are deficient in iodine, and this will cause swelling in the neck. Bottle jaw, caused by parasites, is another cause of swelling under the jaw.

    This is an excerpt from the second edition of Raising Goats Naturally by Deborah Niemann.

    The post Abscesses and CL in Goats appeared first on The Thrifty Homesteader.

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