It’s Apple Time!

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Last week or so, we stopped by a friends and picked up some fallen apples from their six huge old trees.  ABout 4 or 5 buckets full!   And it was so fun to call everyone to the fence and see their excitement.  The older sheep and goats knew what this meant…  the young ones were just all excited for no good reason.   When all three food ladies are lining up buckets, it has to mean something good is going to happen!

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Angus, my sweetheart, is begging for a few more apples, please?  After all, he’s wasting away!   Apples will make him happy and fat!   He needs more fat for the winter!!!

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We threw about two buckets out and around for everyone…  didn’t want them to get belly aches right away!   Everyone got at least a couple yummy, mushy apples!  Haha….  they were happy little hoofies for sure!

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We brought a big handful out to Harley and the ram boys!   He was very excited to see apples!   We will get some more from our favorite orchard as well, as they start harvesting them, they sell the ones that fall on the ground as livestock apples for dirt cheap!   We go and pick up bushels for about $5 a bushel or less.  This year is not so great for apples, however…  hopefully we will be able to get a bunch more.   They are really good at given everyone a little fat for the winter!

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Ebony and Cheyenne were VERY happy to get the lion’s share of the haul!  Pigs are not as sensitive as the sheep and goats are to food changes.  So they got to share a whole bucket!   Talk about some happy hogs!

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Harley enjoying a little late afternoon chin rub with a belly full of yummy apples.   I do believe he will sleep well tonight.  He’s such a sweet sheep, I love him so much!

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Blackjack is sure getting big!   It’s all that yummy mommy milk!   He can really knock it back, doesn’t take him more than a 30 seconds to drain 20 ounces of dinner!   He and Dreamy are doing so well together.  It’s so cute!  

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Awww….  cute little milk mustache!  

 

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Buttercup is learning how to take good goat selfies.  

 

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Duke and Luna are not very excited about apple time.   They want to know when it is tuna season.  

I mean, honestly…   shouldn’t tuna season be soon?  Or maybe mousie season!   

No, wait, it’s ALWAYS mousie season when Luna is around.   She sure does keep the population down.   I actually saw her catch a little mouse that was in the chicken coop!   The chickens were all very calm about Luna being INSIDE the coop.  And she caught the little dude quite efficiently, and then hopped out and brought it back for a snack.  

I guess the chickens don’t mind because the mice steal their feed!  Although, I have seen a chicken catch a mouse before!   They are definitely opportunivores!  

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Simple Brewing! Make some Hard Cider!

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I love to brew…  beers, wines, hard cider, it’s all fairly easy to do, in a basic way.   After all, folks have been brewing since the ancient days…  it’s basically just some good stuff, a bit of yeast, time and fermentation!  And poof!  You have adult beverages!  

This is how to make simple hard cider.  Works every time and it’s not expensive and doesn’t require extensive learning or wisdom about brewing in general.  It’s a great way to get your feet wet and try a little fall fun.  

You need a few simple things.  You need a glass gallon jug.  You need a air lock, or a bubbler.  And you need some champagne yeast.   It is good to get a little packet of sanitizer as well.   There are several varieties, I like the sanstar type.  

You also need one gallon of fresh pressed apple cider and a pound of honey.  

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After you follow the instructions on the santizing pack (usually mixing the packet with some warm water, and shaking it all over your jug, airlock and any tools you are going to use)  you are ready to add the honey.   I use a little postal scale to weigh out my one pound of honey.  I’m not sure what the measurement would be, but it’s about 3/4 of a cup or so…   there might be a conversion online, but I find it easy to just weigh it.  

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Carefully add your cider.  You will have a wee bit left over because of the honey displacing a bit.   You should fill the jug up to just a bit above the shoulder of the jug.  You don’t want to fill it all the way to the top, because you need a little head space for everything to do it’s magic.   Besides, you want to sample the cider before it’s finished into hard cider, right?   Quality control!  

 

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Add half a packet of champagne yeast.  Save the rest for your next batch!   Or throw it out if you don’t want to worry about wild yeasts or any contamination.   A packet of yeast is like 50 cents.  So it’s not like you’re going to waste much if you just ditch the extra.

In brewing, you must be very careful about keeping your tools VERY clean and sanitary.  Don’t let your hands touch anything, like the rim of the jug or anything that comes in contact with the brewing mix.   Wild yeast will throw your brew off.  Of course, occasionally, it can be wonderful, but usually, if you are following a set recipe, it will just make things weird.  However, that being said, if you are careful, it’s fairly easy to keep everything tidy.   Especially with this recipe, it’s easy and there is no cooking or stirring or anything.  Just pour in three things, cap it and wait.   Pretty darn simple!

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Lastly, you add the air lock.   There are several different kinds, and of course, they can range in price and quality.  I just like these simple ones, they are about a buck each.  You fill them up with a bit of water, this one, is about half the bubbler.  Then carefully wedge it into the jug’s neck.   Be careful, not to handle the bubbler after you sanitize it.  I just hold it by the plastic part, avoiding the rubber stopper until its firmly in place.

I give the jug a good swirl, just to sort of mix up the yeast and honey with the cider.   It will be cloudy and you will see the little grains of yeast floating about.  Don’t worry, it will all work it’s magic with little effort on your part.

Set the jug in a nice cool place, somewhere that you can keep an eye on it, but it’s not going to be disturbed a bunch.  Pretty quick you will start to see little tiny bubbles escaping from the air lock.  That means everything is working!   The yeast is consuming the sugars of the cider and honey and is in exchange carbonizing and fermenting your good stuff!  It take about a month or so, until it stops bubbling.  It will clear up and you will have some sediment on the bottom of the jug.   That’s normal.  When you think it’s ready, and you’ll know…  you can pour off a wee bit and have a taste!  Should be delish!   And watch out, because it will be strong!  I love to pour just a bit over some ice and maybe add a little dash of cinnamon!   YUM!

You can store it in the frig, just decant off the main jug into a new clean jar or jug.   Or you can bottle the stuff, and store it!   It will keep getting better with age!  I usually do both…   Bottle a few for later in the winter and then enjoy a bit for the next week or two.  It’s so easy and fun and can get you into brewing for next to nothing.

Of course, simple brewing like this is a gateway into the more intense brewing…   but there are so many ways to keep getting your feet wet and learning without being overwhelmed!   If you like this, I totally suggest you try out a Mr. Beer kit.   Don’t laugh!  Their middle grade kits are super easy, fun and make some pretty tasty brew!   Just another baby step to getting totally involved in home brewing!   Enjoy the fall!!!!

 

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A little taste of Fall around the Homestead…

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Our last sheep baby having his last nursing on his mommie.   Frodo got the rude wake up call this afternoon when we had to catch him and put him out with the other big boys in the ram field.  He was not very happy but I’m pretty certain his mom was relieved.  Poor Bridget!   He was getting so big he would literally lift her up off the ground to nurse!   She just can’t tell her babies no.  So we helped out a bit.   He cried for a few hours until the other boys started to play head butt with him and he forgot about mom and went to playing.   By dinner time, he was right in the thick of the gang, eating and having a good ol’ time with Harley and his gang of ramlings.

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Everyone out enjoying the middle yard for a little autumn grazing.   The grass is just not growing a lot so we can’t let them out all the time.   They would destroy it and that would look unpleasant.  Besides, there isn’t much to eat, so we just limit their access to the middle yard towards the end of the year.   It is nice to let them have a little room to run and frolic though.  I think it’s so peaceful to watch sheep graze.   I love to watch how they move around and the patterns they make as they do.   I love sheep.  DSC_0385

And of course, I love my Buttercup.  She has enlightened me into the love of goats.   I still think they can be a pain in the patootie at times, but this lady has changed my mind on goats as a whole.   I still don’t really want a bunch of them, however.  And it’s a good thing that she adores her bestie, Daisy, because Daisy is a real pain in the patootie!  But since she is her Highness Princess Buttercup’s best friend, I have to tolerate her.

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Jessy is giving them a back scratch with the evil nut ball picker-upper thingy.   We got that handy helper at a garage sale and we love playing with it in the fall, picking up black walnut balls.  And then throwing them in a bucket or the firepit.   I know that some people love these evil things, but we just don’t.  If you’d like to come and rid our yard of several thousand of these things…  by all means, just come on by!

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Luna is extra cuddly in the fall….  here she is selecting her next cuddle victim!   Maggie needs to run!  Run!!!!

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All day long, Cody Pony and the two angora goats were hanging out together.  It was weird.   Like they were in cahoots.  Maybe they were.  I don’t know.  Usually, Cody hangs out with his bestie Shadow and the goats kind of flip flop between the sheep and the milk goats.   But for some reason, they were all in this tight little group all day!   I never did figure out why.

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More sheep grazing!   I just love how fuzzy and wooly they are getting already.   Come spring, they are going to have some amazing fleeces!   I can’t wait to spin them…  They will be beautiful!

I am also a little worried at how much hair and fleece everyone is putting on.  The ponies are starting to look like little wooly bears.   The short hair milk goats are starting to get hairy!   The sheep are definitely getting a good grow on.  It’s only just the first of October.  We have five more months of cold coming.   I think they know something we don’t know.  Or they are remembering last year and are getting prepared early.

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Just a little personal victory to report.   We have finally got to a point that both Ratchet and Evee can be out in the middle with the hoof stock and not chase them!   This is HUGE!   Mostly Evee, she has been so terrified of the sheep that she would rush and attack them, causing panic and chaos.  We have been working ALL summer to acclimate them both to each other.   The sheep to the dogs and the dogs to the sheep.   Unfortunately, not all sheep herding breeds instinctually understand complex commands and have herding ability.  She was really fearful of them, just panicked when she was close and would act so unpredictably.  Ratchet would get upset when he saw his beloved lady dog all upset and he would start barking and chasing.   It was not a good thing.

We started with just a few sheep in the middle and just kept bringing the dogs out and distracting them with catch games and walks on the long leash.  It just took a LOT of time together, in frequent visits, but with distractions.   Finally, it got to a point that Evee would just ignore the sheep and goats and was calm in the middle.  The best part was when we had Harley, our big mature ram, get out of his pasture and both dogs helped to keep us safe and Harley safe as we got him back in his pasture.  I can not say that they were “herding”…   however, they were keeping him occupied as we calmly led him back to his bachelor pad.  It was the first major step to having them help us with livestock in a time of need.

Since then, Jessy has been working on Evee, teaching her to herd chickens!   It’s very funny to watch, but Jessy can call her when the free range chickens get too close and swarm her.   Evee will run right over, circle around Jessy and drive them a few feet away on command!  It’s small steps that help her to learn to help us!  And let me tell you, there is nothing better to a herd dog then to be of some sort of assistance.   When Jessy rewards Evee with pats and good girl, you think that dog is going to drop over dead from pure happiness.   She’s also learning what “Bad Goat” means…  and that means to go and check and see what the bad goat in question is doing.   She hasn’t quite figured out HOW to stop the bad goat, but she will go and run a circle around the said culprit and that usually makes the goat stop and contemplate the dog for a few moments.   Especially Daisy.  She hates dogs.  It’s all very fascinating to watch evolve.   I know with the right training and exposure, Evee would make a good herd dog.  Ratchet?  Well, he just likes to follow along with what his lady is doing.  He’s all backup!

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This is the last picture of Ebony and her two yearling gilt daughters, Cheyenne and Shawnee.   We sold Shawnee to a lovely family a few towns over and she will begin to help raise new litters of American Black Guinea hogs!  We are going to keep Cheyenne and Ebony as our pair of breeding sows.   Now that Cheyenne is old enough to be a mom in the spring,  we will be bringing Onyx, our boar, back to be their litter daddy.   Both girls are unrelated to him, so it works out nice…  we will have a lovely little breeding trio of our hogs, and hopefully four litters a year or so.

We feel comfortable with that arrangement.  It will produce enough nice piglets for the breed, some to sell as breeding stock and some as feeders.   We will begin to raise a few feeders for ourselves this coming year, hopefully!   We can’t seem to keep any piglets, they are in good demand!  Hopefully, if our spring litters are bountiful, we will be able to sell a few piglets and keep a few, too!  That would be lovely.  Guinea hog meat is super good and considered gourmet in flavor!

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My little flock of French Copper Marans are doing wonderfully.   I have a nice collection of gray and splash hens.   And this beautiful blue rooster…  Cunalt!  His brother Renault is a lovely Black Copper Marans boy and just as pretty, but I am very partial to the blues.  One of the splash hens is sitting on a nest of eggs!   We hope that maybe she can hatch them, but we are not holding our breath.   Young hens going broody is not always a good thing and it’s fairly late in the season.   If she does manage to hatch a few, we may have to take them away from her for their own protection. However, we are going to wait and see…  and Maggie is working on a few ideas to rig up a sort of little coop for her inside the coop where we can hang a heat lamp and give them a chance to grow up with momma hen!   We think that is best, if we can manage it.  It just might be one of those wait and see, day at a time situations.

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We have a lot of good friends here on the homestead, but the very best match up has to be Blackjack and Dreamy.   At the very beginning, Dreamy was not thrilled at the little brat kid he was pared up with, but over the last couple weeks, they have become best friends.  Dreamy has always kind of been alone….   when he was roping horse bait, he was alone.   Here, we tried to pair him up with Harley the ram and that worked when Harley was a yearling, but as soon as he started to really bulk up as a mature ram, he was just head and shoulders bigger than little Dreamy.  Blackjack might mature a wee bit bigger than Dreamy, but he will always be respectful of his uncle Dreamy.

They are just getting along so well!   Dreamy takes good care of him, teaching him how to be a goat.   So often, bottle baby goats can end up, well, a little too un-goatlike.  They think they are humans and just don’t always get how to be a goat.  It’s been delightful to watch Dreamy bond with the little nipper, teaching him where to graze and what leaves to eat and where to take good naps in the afternoon sun.   He’s taught him how to head butt and when to mind your elders when they don’t want to play 24 hours long.   Blackjack follows him around like a baby and they are always together.   It’s so sweet to see them cuddled up together for protection and warmth.   It’s just brought Dreamy alive with a purpose and that purpose is to be a little orphan kid’s best buddy.

I even think that Buttercup is a little jealous.  Of course, she won’t admit it.  But I’ve seen her sidelong glances of the green meanies when she watches the two boys play on the wire spools and run around their little private pasture.  Oh well, she had her chance.  Actually many, many chances!  Now, Dreamy has his own little nephew to spoil and fawn over and I think he’s finally one happy little goat.  Can’t you see it on his face?   He loves the little wort.

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Well, that’s about it for what’s going on here at the homestead.  I’m feeling better and getting lots of rest and all, trying to heal up for the end of the month and the adventures that will ensue with surgery.  Not exactly what I wanted to be doing, but hey, lots of folks have had it done and say it was just the best thing ever.  I am looking forward to feeling a bit better, that is for sure.   And I’m happy to be getting it done now, in the late Fall, when things are winding down and it will be a lot easier to sit in my comfy chair, heal and craft, watch movies and such.

We are trying to get things ready for the winter as best as we can.   We have some sheep for sale, as well as some winterization plans that we are trying to implement soon, before the icy cold winds blow hard.  Trying to wrap up a lot of client work and other things on the to do list before the end of the month.  We also have to get the various animal shelters wrapped up and ready for the cold.  Heated water buckets have to be brought out, heat lamps for here and there.  The heavy plastic stapled up and making the barns cozy and warm.   We need to get a few loads of straw into each barn to make it nice and deep for everyone to cuddle up in when the nights get really cold.  And we want to try and get a good load of hay and feed in store to make it much easier to stay homebound for times when no one really wants to venture out!  But that’s another post…   right now, we just want to enjoy the fall and not worry TOO much about the winter….

 

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