Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rosie, Violet & Charlie

our new piggiesSo here's what you may not know about me...  About four years ago we bought a dumpy old 60's farmhouse on 8 acres with the express plan of someday raising our own food.  Particularly food of the walking variety, as we are not vegetarians.

Of course, first we had to gut and remodel the house (ourselves) and then we tried a garden (wuh-waah), next came pigs and egg-laying ducks.  The pigs come and go (ahem), but the ducks should have stayed.  Only we seem to have lots of wild predators about, who continue to outfox us despite numerous duck habitat security improvements.

At some point it didn't seem right to keep trying.  We gave our last "sitting duck" to a friend who successfully keeps chickens, and opted to focus on fencing in the front 3 acres for a cow, the king of walking meet.


Good news - this post is about animals we don't plan to eat!

On Saturday Brandon finished the fence.  Huge achievement.  Huge!  Our next move was to buy a llama.  Yes, a llama.  This is where it gets tangly.  You want a cow.  Ok, but cows are picky eaters who avoid eating weeds, thus gradually increasing the weeds in a pasture.  Common strategy - add goats.  Goats love weeds.  Goats are cute. Goats are pets you don't plan to eat!

Rosie & Violet

Problem - foxes also eat goats.

Solution!  Get a llama.  Llamas eat the same foods as goats (go weeds!), but they are tough.  They have a natural guard-dog instinct (actually, they are anti-dogs as in coyotes, wolves, foxes, etc.) and can seriously harm predators with one swift kick.

Charlie's not sure about Liam

This is our llama, Charlie, who's not so sure about Liam.  Liam is also tough.

lovin a llama

Actually, Charlie is super sweet.  We got him on Sunday and he's already bonded to us.  He likes to be pet and has only spit once... at Liam.

And because we didn't want Charlie to be lonely (serious) we ran off to get a pair of female goats yesterday.  Awwwwwwwww, theyaresocute!  Sooooo cute.  Rosie and Violet are here to stay.  We have them in a little temporary pen right now so that they can bond with Charlie and we can catch them easily.  You should see them frolic.  Adorable.

new goats!

So, our strategy is to allow Rosie, Voilet and Charlie to work on our pasture a bit, putting those weeks to good use.  Hopefully in the fall we can invest in some improvements on the pasture itself (planting good seed) and then maybe.... maybe in the spring we can get a cow.  Long journey.  Let's hope the beef is worth it!

a farm!

Actually, in all seriousness, the journey itself has truly been worth it. Part of what inspired us to pursue all this was the desire to raise our kids with space to run, shout and climb trees and the responsibility to care for animals.  Naturally, Aria is already plotting a goat-related business venture.  Good times ahead.

and the little red gate



p.s.  thanks honey for the little red gate.  I love it!

39 comments:

  1. Growing up, I used to go and visit my grandparents for two weeks every summer. They had about 10 acres with a large garden including grapes and strawberries. They also had a cow that they would stud every other year to get a calf. The calf would be butchered and we would eat "Blackie" or whoever the calf was. I can tell you that the meat was delicious and my brother and I didn't have any problems with eating them. Good luck!

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  2. Rachel, thanks for sharing your animal adventures. I'd love to hear more - this is something I'm hoping to be able to do one day.

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  3. Your place sounds amazing and is definately worth all of the hard work!! I have a 120+ year old farmhouse that I'm rehabbing, so I totally understand that part. I'm happy to hear that your family and new fuzzy pets are thriving.

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  4. This is so awesome! This is exactly what my husband and I want to do in the next few years. Thanks for the continued inspiration. I hope you continue to give us updates. Welcome to your new family members.

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  5. How fun! Love the pic of Liam and Charlie. I swear I learn something new from your posts all the time! I never knew one can own a llama! Fun fact - llama hair doesn't shrink like wool and is called "fiber".

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  6. Thanks for sharing! We have the same dream for our family but are a few years out from getting a new house with property. In the meantime we garden and through lots of prayer and work got the code changed in our city to allow us to keep four backyard chickens. I think teaching kids about animal husbandry and where our food comes fron is so important. I'd love to hear more about your adventures in farm life and hope everything goes smoothly in getting ready for your cow. Are you planning in using your goats for milk?

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    1. Good for you to get the code changed! The city is a great place for chickens - no predators. No, we did not get milk goats as we don't want to milk at this point. They are technically meat goats, so we could possibly raise babies for the table someday. =( That could be hard with adorable goats! Right now we're focusing on the beef.

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  7. Fresh grass fed beef is the best thing you will ever have!

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  8. foxes eat goats? Wow! I never knew that. Although, to be fair, I am a city girl with the smallest possible back yard (just about manages to contain an 8ft trampoline and tiny patio) so my knowledge of raising animals is somewhat limited!

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  9. We have a friend who raises goats, drinks goat milk and this last weekend barbecued her first kid raised for eating.

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    1. "kid raised for eating" haha, that sounds so frightening!

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  10. Replies
    1. Thanks, Fran! It's fun to share other parts of my life too =)

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  11. Now that you have the fox-fighting llama, you might be able to have ducks again. I am NOT a vegetarian by any means but i think I'd have a hard time eating a kid or a calf. Still, I really enjoyed your blog post and it is nice to think of children who actually will understand where their food is coming from.

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  12. My husband loved having goats as a kid (pun intended). He talks about it all the time and we hope to have goats someday too. Do you plan to breed them/use them for milk?

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  13. what a fun life you are giving your kids. the two legged kind...altho....if you are making sure your four legged kind are well protected and have a tall friend...then i guess you are giving them a fun filled life as well. thanks for sharing. i love all your posts!

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  14. Ahhh ~ we are more alike than I knew.... I love this post :-) Growing food (both the walking and non-walking type) is so much more challenging for us than we ever anticipated it being!
    Hmmm ~ I wonder how Llamas do with chickens; I'll have to look that up. (Actually, there ARE chicken predators in the city ~ dogs! Our neighbor's little dog that looks like the footstool dog in Beauty and the Beast has killed so many of our chickens we've lost count. He doesn't even eat them; he kills just to kill. Makes me so mad!)
    Enjoy those kids! (all of 'em ;-)

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    1. Ooh, that would make me mad. Yes, we did console ourselves when the fox at our ducks that foxes have to eat too. But, the whole "sitting duck" concept really hit home with that one. I hadn't thought that cities have their own threats to ducks/chickens.

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  15. aaawww, good for you!!! Both the lama and the goats are wonderful!

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  16. I had no idea foxes eat goats! I've always loved goats, especially the Pygmy goats. I hope you plan to post more about your farming adventures in the future. I enjoyed this post immensely!

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  17. My husband and I grew up in the middle of ranching country, and one year his parent's friends gave us a 1/4 beef. It was a godsend to a young couple finishing up school and living off one income. Raising your own animals is the ultimate food security.

    Seattle has urban chickens, but we also have urban coyotes. Our community has been trying to strike a balance between human interests and ecological concerns for years and years. We keep our cat inside and enjoy living in a city that has so much wildlife, but for others who have lost pets (and chickens too) it's a sensitive and complex subject, especially this time of year.

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  18. I love that you are planing to grow your own food. Did you know goat meat is the most eaten meat in the world? I have only tried it once but it was quite delicious. I once had to butcher some sheep and goats. The sheep were fine but the goats made noises like children crying before the knife was anywhere near them. It was quite hard to do.

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  19. How lovely - you are living my dream. I live in New Zealand and ,my father in law has a small beef herd on his farm block. I am always trying to talk him into getting some alpacas.

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  20. I LOVE this! After 13 years of "squatting" on my dad's farm, we are finally moving to our very own 10 acre fixer-upper at the end of this month. I've been looking into Lincoln sheep to raise for fiber and meat, but might have to get a guard llama too - so cool!

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  21. Oh, your new buddies are so cute! Jacob and I have been talking about trying to find some land to spread out like this. Right now we are in suburbanville with houses 5ft from each other. I would love for our children to learn the responsibilities of taking care of a farm and home.

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  22. Can I move in with you? Seriously I want goats SO BAD! I'm surprised you don't have chickens..they say chickens are gateway livestock. I think the key is to build a raised coop so the foxes have a harder time. Good luck with the new animals!

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    1. =) Yep, you're right about a better coop. I think someday we'll build a new coop/habitat and try again (though I do prefer ducks - they make the cutest noises and don't have sharp beaks), but right now we're focusing our dollars and energy on the cow.

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  23. Good job, Brandon, on the fence, those are tough! We live on 10 acres and have problems with coyotes. We're planning on a donkey (donkeys are similar to llamas, but without the spitting). Our friend's donkey just had a darling little baby! And I LOVE goats! Pygmy goats are my fav! We had one at our last house, so dang cute! BUT, they never ate the weeds. They ate the flowers, the grass, the bark off the trees, the bushes, the siding off the house (not really, they just pulled it off), anything but the weeds.... Oh, and they can jump REALLY high. Like super high. Good luck!!

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    1. Aha, someone who gets the fence thing. I never anticipated how costly and how much work goes into getting good fencing in place! We had considered a donkey too. I think donkeys are cuter! Ok, I forgot about the goats jumping thing. I wonder if the goats can jump over our fence? I've heard they are notorious for escaping. So far we've observed all three animals eating weeds, even weed-trees. Yay! We break out in cheers.

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  24. Wonderful, I live in Australia and over the years of living on a farm have experienced similar things. Fox's were my problem with the chooks, if you were late locking them in the fox's would have been, ugh. raised calves, milked cows, had pet goat, quinea pigs, cats, helped look after sheep dog puppies. Congratulations on your venture you will get so much enjoyment raising children on a small farm. Good Luck. Nanaonthefarm.blogspot.com

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  25. How fun! I think your life is pretty much the opposite of mine. Our "outside area" consists of a 4x15 foot concrete balcony.

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  26. Oh, I miss living on a farm! We do have a great backyard, but not big enough for a llama. :) It all looks so wonderful!

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  27. Best non quilting post ever. Makes me want a llama. We've got chickens, but that's it in the urban jungle!

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  28. All I can say right now is that I'm super jealous. :)

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  29. What an awesome adventure for you and your family!

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  30. We are also in rural SC and have started with honey bees and chickens. I would love to know more about how you do pigs. My husband would love to get goats. Maybe someday!

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    1. Hi, Mary Ann! With the pigs, we bring them to a processor who kills them, prepares and packages the meat. That is an expensive service, but if we are able to sell some of the meat that covers most of the cost. It's definitely a big investment between preparing a habitat, buying the pigs, feeding them and paying for slaughter. I'm not convinced that it saves us any money, but at least we get a healthy source of meat.

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  31. We bought 20 acres in the Hill Country in Texas and we are just about finished building (by building I mean US only!) a house and we also just finished our fence.
    I was given two cows during last year's drought that then turned into to four cows! ON 20 ACRES....hmm....
    We lost one cow to sickness (the breed I guess) and we loved and fed the last three...
    One went to the processor this past week, and I have to admit...I did really get sad...but know that we took very good care of her and our processor is very humane...and this will fill our freezer for the rest of this year and next.

    Now...my other two...are NAMED and PETS. Chocolat and Lovie.
    KEEPERS.

    Its fun to see someone else going through the same things...I know you GET it!

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  32. Rachel- That is so exciting! I hope your new friends are adjusting well. Wish we had gotten to meet them, be sure to post more about their adventures!

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