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Homesteading During Quarantine

Homesteading During Quarantine

How’s everyone’s Quarantine 2020 going? Around here life is still puttering right along. Although we have been largely unaffected by the shut down and coronavirus, things are still a little different for us too. All of a sudden we have become the most famous people…

Farming in Winter

Farming in Winter

Farming in winter is tough! Some days it seems like it’s just not worth it. Can the animals just find their own food so I don’t have to brave the cold today?

Being My Goat’s Midwife

Being My Goat’s Midwife

Guys it happened! Our goats had their babies! It was a wild ride! They are so cute!!

We have been raising Nigerian Dwarf goats for a year and a half. We got our first 3 goats in June of 2018. We found a lady here in town who was selling some 10 week old does. They were two of a set of triplets and upon meeting them we decided to also buy a 4 month old doe that was a half sister to the other girls.

We brought home Beardsley, our buck, this last June. Our girls were now over a year old and old enough to be bred. We didn’t know exactly when they would be in heat, so we just penned him up with the does and let nature do its thing.

5 months later, almost to the day, Beardsley proved himself to be a great buck! We knew that the girls were all pregnant due several factors. For the last several months they wouldn’t allow Beardsley to mount them, and they had been getting progressively fatter.

Salt and Pepper the day before they kidded.

Goats are pregnant for an average of 150 days. Our girls kidded at 151 days from when Beardsley was introduced into the herd. They all had their babies within 14 hours!! It was nuts!

I had been obsessively reading up on how to tell when your goat is about to go into labor, all of the articles I read said basically the same things. That they would begin to get an udder, lose their ligaments at the base of their tails, begin pawing the ground, and become increasingly restless.

I was certain after keeping an eye on them that Oreo was going to have her babies first. She had had a large udder for several weeks and just looked more “ready” than the other two. I was thrown for a loop when Pepper was our first goat to go into labor.

When we were out doing our evening chores Friday night, she wasn’t interested in her alfalfa or grain. These goats can be glutenous and always fight each other over their grain. We knew something was up. For the next couple of hours I kept going out to check on her and at 8:30 that evening I went out to find her in the process of birthing her first baby.

I ran inside to get some towels to help clean it off, and came back out to the pasture and Pepper was up walking around, having abandoned her baby in the goat shelter. I cleaned up the baby and made sure it was breathing.

Pepper’s first baby trying to stand minutes after being born.

Then I tried to get Pepper to come back over to her baby. She wanted nothing to do with it! She acted scared of her own baby. I didn’t know what to do. Half an hour later, Pepper laid down in the dirt and birthed a second baby. This one she took to and began to clean it like I had expected her to do with her first baby. To try and keep the babies comfortable and warm, we penned Pepper up with her babies in a corner of the goat shelter.

When we got her in the pen she realized that there were two babies and began to take care of and clean her first baby as well. We continued to stay out with them to make sure both babies were nursing and after an hour or so we went in to leave them for the night.

Pepper’s twins the next morning, 12 hours old.

The next morning we woke up to the sounds of baby goats. Dave looked out the window to see Salt, Pepper’s twin, standing in the pasture with two baby goats at her heels. She had just given birth to twins at first light Saturday morning! She was already cleaning them and taking great care of them. We penned her up in the goat shelter right next to Pepper.

The surprise we found in the morning!

At this point we were pretty surprised that two of our goats had dropped twins within 12 hours. So imagine our surprise when Oreo began acting as Pepper had been the evening before. There was one stall left in the goat shelter, so before she actually had her babies, I moved Oreo into the last stall so she could comfortably have her babies in there and not have to be wrangled in afterwards.

With this last goat birth, all of the kids were able to be there to watch and got to witness Oreo giving birth to twins. Her twins came within 10 minutes of each other. The first, a cute white buckling, was born breech and I actually had to assist in his birth and then got him cleaned up and made sure he was breathing. The second, also a buck was born without difficulty.

So by 10:30 Saturday morning we had gone from having 4 goats to having 10! There ended up being 3 does and 3 bucks born. It was exciting and somewhat stressful since this was a first time experience for all of us. The goats were first time moms and we had never been a part of a goat birth before. We are happy that all went well, and we definitely learned something new!

Now we get to enjoy these sweet baby goats and we are loving it!

Fried Rabbit

Fried Rabbit

Do you like fried chicken? Try a fried rabbit for a delicious dinner using an alternate meat source. Rabbits are easy to keep and are a great meat option for small scale farms and homesteaders.

Rabbit: The New Chicken

Rabbit: The New Chicken

Prepare yourself for some harsh news… Rabbit is DELICIOUS! There I said it. I know they are cute and cuddly and oh so soft… but also…. oh so delicious! We raise rabbits for meat. They are an easy to care for inexpensive meat source that…

Our No Dig No Weed Potato Garden

Our No Dig No Weed Potato Garden

This year we went a little crazy and decided to try and plant a potato garden. It turned into more of a potato field, but it turned out pretty good!

So we have been really getting into the whole farming and homesteading thing for about a year and a half now. We spend a lot of our evenings watching homesteading videos on YouTube or reading or watching videos made by Joel Salatin or Justin Rhodes. In all of our learning, Dave came across an interesting idea introduced by a woman named Ruth Stout.

Her idea was that you could create a low maintenance garden by using spoiled hay as your growing medium. This means no digging and, by using her method, no weeding! (insert huge happy face emoji here!) We researched it a bit and every account we could find of people trying this method all happened in the Eastern United States.

We live in the high desert of Southern Utah. Here in Cedar City we average 13 inches of rain a year. It is far drier here than most places in the Eastern United States. So we wondered would this method work here? In this arid environment? But if we didn’t try we wouldn’t know….

Last December we used some hog panels and sectioned off a 16′ by 32′ section of one of our pastures. We had some old spoiled grass hay on the property that had been here since before we moved in, that we used to cover the ground in that area. We put down probably 10 or 12 bales of hay in there and then let it sit to decompose for the winter.

When May came and it wasn’t freezing quite so hard anymore, it was time to plant the potatoes. We got some seed potatoes from the local nursery and then went to planting. We decided to try 3 different kinds of potatoes, “All Blue” potatoes that are a fun metallic looking purple potato, “Yukon Gold” and “Pontiac Red.”

We have enjoyed planting the purple potatoes in past years, but had only planted in pots before. We didn’t know what the yield would be using the Ruth Stout method so we planted pretty heavy. We planted 50 lbs of purple potatoes, 10 pounds of the Gold and 10 lbs of the red. We made rows in the hay and put the potatoes on the ground. I did cut up the really large ones into halves or thirds. Then we covered the rows back up with the decomposing hay.

About a month later the potato plants began to pop up out of the hay. As they grew I added hay to the garden and mounded it up around the plants to encourage them to grow higher and give it more hay to grow potatoes in. We also used the hay as weed control and covered the weeds and morning glory to smother it. That part didn’t work as well as we would have liked. The morning glory was everywhere in the potato garden!

Throughout the summer we just let it grow. The pasture is watered every other day by sprinklers so the potatoes got adequate water.

When it began to freeze the first weekend of October. This killed the potato plants and it was time to see if our little experiment had worked. I got into the garden and rolled back a small section of hay to discover more potatoes than I expected to find! It was a success! Posted below you can find a short video I made when I first took a peek under the hay.

It took several hours of uncovering a strip of the garden at a time and gathering up the potatoes. But there was no digging to do! I just rolled the hay aside and began my treasure hunt! The hay had broken down very well creating a perfect growing medium for the potatoes.

When we finished bring in all of the potatoes we were very pleased with our yield. We ended up with a whopping 270 lbs of potatoes! The All Blue potatoes ended up giving up 153 lbs, the Yukon Gold produced 41 lbs. Pound for pound, the Pontiac Red grew the best giving us 76 lbs of potatoes from the 10 pounds we planted.

Now bring on the potato recipes!!

Our First Cow

Our First Cow

Have you ever raised a backyard cow? Until now, neither had we… Meet Sequoia! Sequoia is our Dexter cow. She is a miniature breed and hopefully will be the start of our own herd.

Easy Cherry Cheesecake Topping and Pie Filling

Easy Cherry Cheesecake Topping and Pie Filling

Cherry season is upon us! And guys! We got our first crop of cherries off of the little sapling we planted this year. Yup! We got… drum roll please….. 4 cherries! But all joking aside, it is cherry season so it’s time for my all-time…

Sweet Chili Chicken Pizza!

Sweet Chili Chicken Pizza!

If you know the Riggs family, you know that we have an intense love of pizza. I mean who doesn’t, right? Pizza is a on the menu at our house every week. In fact, for the last 5 years Thursday has been set aside as Pizza Thursday!

My husband loves pizza a lot more than I do, and would probably be ok with having pizza more than once a week, but for me once a week can become overbearing unless you throw in some creativity. Having traditional Italian inspired pizza becomes boring and old to me after a few weeks and then I have to spice it up.

I don’t always get fancy with our pizzas, and a lot of times, (most of the time probably) I end up scraping something together because I forgot to include pizza in my meal planning for the week. How do you forget pizza when it’s on your menu every week? But over the last several years of making pizza so often I have gotten pretty creative with some of my recipes and stretched the definition of pizza a little bit.

Here is one of those fun pizza recipes I came up with when I was getting in a pizza rut. Sweet Chili Chicken Pizza!

Ingredients:

3 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 pizza crust ( use premade crust, or follow this link to find my pizza crust recipe)

3-5 Tbsp of Thai Chili Sauce

zucchini, sliced or shredded

tomato, diced

mushrooms, sliced

green onion, chopped

Sweet mini peppers, sliced

shredded mozzarella cheese

Begin by cubing the chicken thighs into small cubes. Transfer the chicken to a frying pan and cook over medium high heat until cooked through. I like to season the chicken with Lawry’s Garlic Salt and some black pepper.

When your pizza dough is pressed out and ready, spread on the Thai Chili sauce. I have tried several brands, but the one that I have been using lately is the Mae Ploy brand. Spread it evenly and if you like a little extra sauce to your pizza like I do, spread it on thick!

Next top your pizza with mozzarella cheese, followed by the mushrooms and vegetables. Last of all add your already prepared chicken and toss it in the oven. My dough recipes calls for 14 minutes at 425 degrees.

Pull the pizza out when finished and enjoy a mildly spicy, delicious pizza with just enough veggies on it to make you feel better about eating so much pizza. Enjoy!

Home bottled Applesauce: Simple, Easy, and Delicious!

Home bottled Applesauce: Simple, Easy, and Delicious!

If your kids are like my kids, they can run through a quart of applesauce in nothing flat. I know applesauce is cheap, and although it won’t break your budget, but home bottled applesauce is where its at! Bottling anything can be time consuming. And…

Apple Sauce Zucchini Bread- No Sugar Recipe

Apple Sauce Zucchini Bread- No Sugar Recipe

A no sugar no oil zucchini bread recipe that everyone will enjoy!

How to Bottle Peaches to Enjoy Year Round!

How to Bottle Peaches to Enjoy Year Round!

The end of Summer is my favorite time of year. It is the best for so many reasons. The days are still hot but not unbearable, the monsoon rains are bringing much needed rain to our very dry land, and the harvest is in full swing!

It is at the end of summer when my two favorite crops are ready to harvest: tomatoes and peaches. Today I want to discuss how to bottle peaches to be able to enjoy year round.

Bottling fruits and veggies is a lost art, but one that is alive and well in our household. I learned to bottle while helping my mom as a young girl. We would always grow a really large garden (we planted 90 tomato plants one year!) and we had a small orchard. This meant that we had a lot of produce to either consume in a short time, or preserve to enjoy later.

Fresh peaches are by far my favorite, but they only last for such a short time. Bottled peaches are a good second and they beat the hell out of canned peaches any day.

To begin with, I peel and pit my ripe peaches either leaving them in halves or cutting them into slices. I keep them fresh in a large pot of water to keep them from turning brown. I often do very large batches of peaches and this is a good way to keep them fresh while they wait for their turn in the canner.

Sterilized bottles waiting for peaches

Next I wash and sterilize my bottles, rings and lids in hot soapy water. I rinse with hot water and leave my bottles and lids in the hot water until I am ready to pack the jars.

Next I start to make my syrup and set my canner to boil. Large waterbath canners can take a long time to heat up, so I try to start heating mine just prior to packing the jars with peaches. I fill it about 2/3 of the way full with water and then set it on the stove on medium high heat to begin warming.

This is also when I start my syrup to pour over the peaches. You can use a lighter or heavier syrup depending on your liking. My family really enjoys our peaches extra sweet so I opt for a heavy syrup. I use a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water and in a large stockpot, I bring it to a boil.

Raw packed peaches in quart jars

Now we are ready to pack the jars. I use a raw pack method which means I fill the jars with raw, uncooked peaches leaving 1/2 an inch of head space (empty space) at the top. I used to just cut my peaches in half and bottle them like that, but with a pack of little kids I have decided that cutting them into slices saves me from having to cut up peaches for them at mealtimes.

After the bottles are packed and the syrup is brought to a boil, I use a funnel and a ladle to ladle and fill the bottles with the syrup. When the syrup reaches the neck of the jar, about a half inch below the rim, they are full.

Next, remove the funnel, wipe down the rim of the jar with a damp cloth to remove any spilled syrup that may be on the rim. Place the lid on top and tighten down the ring. Do this for each bottle and when you have 7 jars ready place them in the canner.

I like to add my jars to the canner when the water is hot but not yet boiling. This helps to keep the jars from cracking when being exposed to a drastic change in temperature. If the jars are too cold or the water too hot it can cause the glass to crack and then the food is lost.

This is a jar that cracked and broke when I was bottling pickles.

Add the jars to the canner and see that the water level is at least an inch above the top of the jars. Adjust the water level if necessary. Bring the canner to a full boil and put the lid on. Process jars for 30 minutes for quarts and 25 minutes for pints. Do not shorten the processing time as it is critical to process long enough that bacteria and other microbes are killed during the heating process.

Hot bottles coming out of the canner

After the processing time is complete, I turn off the heat, remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool for 24 hours before I move them into storage. As they cool the rubber ring on the lid will be sucked down and will create a vacuum seal on the top of the jar. The rings can then be removed after the jars have fully cooled.

Now you can enjoy peaches until the next harvest! Happy Canning!

Merry Christmas from the Farm

Merry Christmas from the Farm

Today we woke up to a white Christmas. It was beautiful. It was exactly what our oldest son had been hoping for, our animals? Not so much. We had a great morning watching the magic of Christmas unfold for our 3 crazy monkeys (our children),…

Meal Planning: Making Life a Little Simpler

Meal Planning: Making Life a Little Simpler

You do it every day, but yet the question still remains… What do I make for dinner? This is often the scene at my house: it is 4:30 (or 5:00, possibly even 6:00 some days) and I am asking myself the same question I have…

A Foul Faceoff-Chickens or Ducks? Which is better on a small homestead?

A Foul Faceoff-Chickens or Ducks? Which is better on a small homestead?

Our whole farming enterprise all began with bringing home 8 chicks. Chickens that is. We brooded them in the garage and built them a coop and kept 6 hens on our 1/8 of an acre. A small flock was perfect for what we had back then.

A few years later, we moved out onto our current property (1 acre) and in doing so inherited 6 more chickens and 6 ducks. Since then we have maintained between 4 and 8 ducks and our chicken flock has surged to over 50 hens.

But which one is better. By the looks of things you could assume that we are pro chicken. And although we are pro-chicken, we are not anti -duck.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the pros and cons of keeping each.

Everyone is comfortable eating chicken eggs. We let our kids sell the extra eggs to family, friends and around the neighborhood. We have only found one customer who is interested in duck eggs, because he grew up eating them.

Duck, chicken and bantam chicken eggs

Which one lays more eggs per year? Well that’s debatable. Different breeds of chickens lay different numbers of eggs per year. Brown Sexlink are known to lay up around 320 eggs per year, and our most prevelent layers have been the white leghorn. They give about 310 large white eggs per year.

What do you feed them? We let our poultry forage in the pastures, but come winter there is little to forage. And with so many birds on little acreage, the foraging is only a part of their diet. We feed a mix of scratch grains, black oil sunflower seed, and a layer ration. We feed the chickens and ducks all together and they all eat the same food. But boy can ducks be glutenous! The ducks eat so much food! Definitely more than the chickens!

Housing… For our chickens we have a well ventilated coop with multiple roosts, nesting boxes and fresh pine shaving bedding that needs to be changed every few weeks to keep it fresh and clean in the coop. This also helps keep the chickens from having respiratory problems. As for the ducks… well they sleep in the chicken run that the coop opens into, but only to keep them safe from other critters at night. Even on the coldest of nights our ducks have not required any housing.

Raising chickens in the chicken tractor until they were old enough to integrate into the rest of the flock.

Chickens can be very destructive with all of their scratching. Ducks however are incredibly messy! Brooding ducks was an experience for sure! I don’t know how 4 ducklings can go through more food and make 10 times the mess and stick that 25 baby chickens can. As they grow up they continue to be messy. Any wet spot in the yard becomes a muddy hole with ducks. Their poop is messier and bigger than chicken poop too!

But ducks are so cute! They waddle, they quack, and they can be very friendly too. Ducks are definitely smarter than chickens. When putting all the birds to bed, the duck are easily herded into the coop. Chickens not so much.

So which is the superior poultry? Honestly, I can’t pick a winner. Ducks have my heart, but chickens are more practical on our small acreage. We keep the few ducks that we have, but the chickens give us eggs that easily sell, don’t make such messes, and are more cost effective to feed. If there was more room for them to forage on our small farm, maybe ducks would be a better fit. But for now its chickens.

What do you prefer? Quacks or Clucks? We love to hear from our readers! Leave a comment and let us know!

Raising Baby Ducks

Raising Baby Ducks

Raising baby ducks is not for the faint of heart, or gag reflex! Unless it is summer time and you can keep those cute fluffy quackers outside from day one, don’t try to brood ducks. We had inherited 6 ducks when we moved out to…

Getting the Farm Ready for Winter

Getting the Farm Ready for Winter

Sometimes winter hits unannounced. That’s what happened here last week. Saturday was a beautiful T-shirt weather day, and by afternoon on Sunday old man Winter was rearing his ugly head. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter… snowball fights, hot cocoa, sledding and cozying up…