Recipes

Peanut Butter Cup Explosion Cake

Peanut Butter Cup Explosion Cake

Today I am interrupting my regularly scheduled posts on  gardening, homesteading and healthy recipes to bring you a recipe for a ridicul...

Homesteading

calendula lavender lip balm

Calendula Lavender Lip Balm

I am a lip balm lover. I always have a tube in my purse, in the bathroom, on my desk, etc. For y...

Gardening

pesky pest

Keeping Pests Out of the Garden

  The garden is in full swing and so are pests! Do you know how to get rid of slugs? Keep worms off your cabbage? How about how to k...

Calendula Lavender Lip Balm

calendula lavender lip balm

I am a lip balm lover. I always have a tube in my purse, in the bathroom, on my desk, etc. For years I relied on Burt’s Bees or other brands for my supply- but now I make my own! It is so simple to make and best of all only contains ingredients I can pronounce! I make a lot of different flavors, but one of my favorite is this Calendula Lavender Lip Balm- which is very smooth, incredibly healing and lightly lavender scented. Here’s how to make your own!

 

Make Your Own Calendula Lavender Lip Balm

 

calendula lavender lip balm ingredientsWhat you will need:

  • 2 T Calendula infused coconut oil
  • 6 T Calendula infused olive oil
  • 4T Beeswax
  • 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 1 tsp Vitamin E Oil
  • Lip Balm tubes/tins

In a double boiler, combine your coconut oil, olive oil and beeswax. Warm on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the beeswax has melted. Note: I don’t have a double boiler, so I use a makeshift one by placing a glass bowl or measuring cup in shallow pan of water. Once your wax has melted, remove from the heat and stir in your essential oil and Vitamin E. Once it is all well mixed, start filling your tubes! I use a glass measure with a pour spout, you can also use a pipette or anything that allows you to slowly pour a small amount with good precision.

calendule lavender lip balm tubes

When your tubes/tins are filled, allow them to sit- uncovered and undisturbed until they are cool. I usually stick them in the fridge since our kitchen stays a nice 90* in the summer time! Once they are cool put the lids on and they are ready to use!

This recipe makes about 25 standard sized lip balm tubes. If you want to reduce it just keep a 1:3:2 ratio between the coconut oil, olive oil and beeswax! You can also experiment with your favorite essential oils. I use this recipe as my base for almost all of my lip balms- just exchange the lavender for other scents such as peppermint, sweet orange or lemon. I like to keep the calendula in since it has so many amazing healing properties!

If you don’t want to make your own, consider purchasing from my Etsy shop. You can also find other flavors such as Chocolate Bliss, Sweet Orange, Mocha Mocha Mint and more!

The Ultimate Guide to Goat Breeds

ultimate guide to goat breeds(1)

So you have made the decision to add goats to your homestead, but before you run out and purchase the first goat you find you will need to decide which of the goat breeds you will be raising. Deciding on a breed will be based on what your ultimate need for a goat is. Consider the following questions:

  • Are you looking for an animal to provide milk, meat, fiber or a combination?
  • How much space can you devote to your goats?
  • Do you just want a pet to eat the weeds and brush on your property?

The Ultimate Guide to Goat Breeds:

 

Dairy Goat Breeds:

dairy goat breedsNubian: The Nubian goat is one of the most popular large dairy goat breeds- and my personal favorite. They are easily recognized by their long floppy ears which are oh so cute! The average milk production for a Nubian is about 1-2  gallons a day, though some can give more. Their milk is also known for it’s high butterfat content- about 4-5%-  which makes their milk excellent for making cheeses, ice cream, and soap. Compared to other breeds, Nubians are a somewhat of a crybaby and  have a habit of being pretty loud- so if you live on an urban farm, make sure your neighbors won’t mind the noise before choosing this breed!

Saanen: Saanens are the largest of the dairy goat  breeds and are often said to be the “queen of the dairy goats”. They have the ability to produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day, but they also have a low butterfat content. They are large, heavy producers whose milk is best used for fresh drinking. They are usually all white in color and very mild mannered. Compared to our others breeds, I would say that the Saanens were the most stubborn when it came to escaping and were definitely the ones who tested the fences the most- one even jumped a 4 ft chain-link fence and learned how to come into the house through our dog door!

Alpine: Alpines are a medium sized goat that originated in France. They are a steady, dependable goat and are very consistent milk producers with one of the longest lactation cycles. They average over 1 gallon of milk per day with a 3.5% butterfat content. Alpines come in almost any color imaginable and are adaptable to almost any climate.

dairy goat breeds- saanenOberhalsi: Also known as the Swiss Alpine, the Oberhasli is most commonly a reddish-brown color with black markings. They are a very sweet and quiet breed with good milk production of up to 2 gallons a day. For years our herd sire was an Ober, and he was the sweetest buck in the world. There is some controversy when it comes to the taste of the milk- some argue that it has an offensive aftertaste and some say it’s is sweeter than most. We’ve only even owned a Saanen/Ober mix as a milker, but her milk was much sweeter than her full Saanen mother’s milk. I would suggest trying milk from the goat or mother of the goat you are planning on purchasing- just in case.

LaMancha: LaManchas are a medium sized goat that are most easily recognized by their lack of ears! They have a friendly, easy going temperament and are very hardy animals. LaManchas are good producers with an average of 1-2 gallons per day, with a butterfat content around 4%. Their milk is perfect for soap and cheese making. Personally, I like floppy ears, but I have heard many LaMancha owners say that if you give them a chance you’ll fall in love and be hooked on them forever!

Golden Guernsey: The Guernsey is a heritage breed that is trying to be recovered here in the US. They have beautiful long, golden coats and are known for their efficiency, production, and smaller size. They have higher milk production with less feed intake than some of the other major dairy breeds with a very docile nature.

Toggenburg: The Toggenburg is a medium-large dairy goat with high milk production. A Toggenburg is the currently world record holder for the most milk produced in a year with over 1000 gallons! They are calm and affectionate and I think they are one of the most beautiful goat breeds. Like the Oberhasli, there is some arguments when to the taste of the milk. Myth or fact, you may want to taste the milk of the doe, or her mother, before you purchase to test for yourself.

 

Meat Goat Breeds:

boer meat goat

Image Source: Lone Star Farmstead

Boer: The Boer goat is the number one option if you want a goat for meat. They are bred for growth and reproduction and can consistently produce more muscle in less time than any other breed. They are easy to care for and they often earn their keep by the amount of forage they can consume.

Kiko: Kikos are known for their hardiness. They can gain weight without a lot of supplemental feeding and have great reproductive health. Kikos have shown to be adaptable to most any living situation and give a lot of meat for the amount of money you put into them. This breed is relatively new in the United States but are gaining in popularity.

Myotonic: This breed has a few different names, one of which is the Tennessee Fainting Goat. These animals are very muscular and meaty. They get their name from a recessive trait that they carry called myotonia. This  means that when they get startled their muscles lock up causing them to topple over or stand still like a statue for 20 seconds or so.

Spanish: Brought into Mexico and Texas from early Spanish settlers, this breed is bred to be very meaty yet also very hardy. Due to their rugged environment have been shaped into tough animals that are able to survive and thrive under adverse conditions.

Nubian: As I stated above Nubians are most widely known for their dairy capabilities, but also have the potential as a meat goat. Many breeders keep the does for milk production and the bucklings are used for meat making Nubians a good dual purpose breed.

 

Fiber Goat Breeds:

angora goatAngora: Angora goats have long, soft hairs called mohair. These goats are mostly white in color, which makes their fiber easy to dye. Adult goats give between 8 and 16 lbs of fiber a year. They aren’t quite as hardy as your meat and dairy goat breeds, so make sure you have a good shelter to  keep them warm and dry.

Pygora/Nigora: These are crosses between Pygmy/Angora and Nigerian Dwarf/Angora. By mixing these breeds you can introduce new fiber colors as well as produce  a smaller goat that might be more manageable on a small sized farm. You can expect up to 4 lbs of fiber a year from these mini-fiber goats. And Nigora have the benefit of being dual fiber/dairy goats.

Kashmir: In the US, Kashmir, or Cashmere, goats are not technically a breed but a type of goat that has been bred for the correct quality cashmere coat. Kashmir goats are more hardy and can be dual purpose fiber/meat animals. It can be tricky to breed the correct fiber though.

 

Mini-Breeds:

Image Source: Better Hens and Gardens

Nigerian Dwarf:  The Nigerian Dwarf is one of the top choices for those homesteading on a small piece of land. They can give from 1-2 quarts a day- which is pretty impressive considering they are only around 18 inches in height! Their milk is also one of the highest in butterfat which ranges anywhere from 6-10%. That means their milk is very creamy and makes delicious cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Because of their size they make great goats for kids as well as those in a more urban setting. Another plus is that they can breed year round, which means you can stagger your breedings to keep you in milk all year long.

Pygmy: Pygmy goats are very similar to Nigerian Dwarf goats in size, but tend to be more muscular and stocky. They are more efficient browsers and give a decent amount of milk per day (though usually for a shorter length of time). They are a can be an all-purpose goat for brush control, pet, meat and dairy. They can also be bred year round.

Mini-Crosses: This is not a specific breed, but many breeders are now breeding their full sized does with a Nigerian Dwarf/Pygmy buck to create smaller versions of your favorite breeds. Mini-Nubians, Mini-Manchas, etc.  These breeds offer the best of both worlds when it comes to those who want a smaller sized goat yet want more options than a Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf.

Kinders: Kinders are not quite a small as Nigerian Dwarf goats- their size is somewhere in the middle of a Nubian and a Nigerian. They are a dual purpose breed for meat and milk. This newer breed is gaining in popularity for the small and urban homesteader due to it’s year-round breeding, quality milk, manageable size and easy-to-milk teats. They are said, by those that own and breed Kinders, to be the only truly perfect breed that will meet all of your needs.

These are not ALL the breeds, but most of them. We started with Saanens and now raise an all-Nubian herd, but we plan to add some Angora (fiber) and Nigerian Dwarf (for winter milk)  in the near future! If you raise goats, what is your favorite breed? If you are still looking- what breed are you leaning toward?

 

 

All You Need to Know about Breeding Goats

About Breeding GoatsOn our farm we have chickens, ducks, goats and a cow. Hands-down the chickens are a favorite of the kids, but the goats are my soft-spot. I love their personalities and all their little stubborn quirks. And around this time of year-when summer is starting to wind down and fall is in sight- things start to get a little interesting in the goat pasture. The does start coming into heat and the bucks go into rut and we start keeping an extra special eye on them so that we don’t have any surprises come winter and spring. Goats will breed easily and readily if left alone, but here are some of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to breeding goats.

Most dairy goats are seasonal breeders.

Most “Alpine” breeds of goat will only breed during their breeding season. This is usually between the months of August and December. These breeds include most of your large dairy goats such as LaMancha, Saanen, Alpine, Oberhasli and Nubians. Sometimes Nubians can be forced into year-round breeding, but that is unpredictable. Your miniature breeds such as Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf, as well as meat breeds, like Boer, will breed year round. So when you are planning for your kids and milking, keep in mind this time restraint.

A doe should be at least 80 lbs before breeding

breeding goats doesWhen it comes to breeding, it’s not so much age as it is size. Most of your standard sized dairy goats will need to make the weight of about 80 lbs before they are bred. A healthy, well-fed doe should make this weight by about 8 months. Some people like to wait until they are about 1 1/2 years old before breeding but it isn’t necessary. I have seen no reduction in growth between breeding 8  month old does and 1 1/2 year old goats.  Nubians particularly are known for being a little on the slower size when it comes to growth, so make sure you have a reliable way to weigh your goats. We don’t have a livestock scale and for years we’ve made do with our bathroom scale.  My husband just weighs himself and then picks up the goat and weighs himself again. Start keeping an eye on weight in August so that you can give additional nutritional support to any does that need it so that they can make weight before the season ends.

A doe’s heat cycle is every 18-21 days

Starting in August your doe should start coming into heat every 18-21 days. Depending on the doe, she will stay in heat anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. Signs to look for:

  • Tail flagging
  • Clumped/Wet hair on the side of her tail
  • Mucous discharge
  • Swollen rear end
  • Yelling (more than usual)
  • Most obviously- interest in your buck or a “buck rag”

Dating  vs Living in

When it comes to the actual breeding process you have a couple choices. You can take your doe and buck on “dates” or you can house them in the same pasture for a set period. There are pros and cons to both sides, but some things to consider are:

  • Dates will give you much more control over the due dates and assurance that the deed did get done
  • Sharing a pasture will reduce the risk that you miss the breeding window by not seeing the signs of heat soon enough
  • Some does won’t stand for a buck without help. In this instance, taking her on a lead to the buck will force the breeding to occur
  • I’ve had a doe that showed ZERO signs of heat- unless the buck was present. By pasturing them together I could insure that she was bred.

The Gestation cycle of a goats is 150 days, or about 5 months.

When you are planning your breeding keep in mind that the gestation period is about 150 days for your standard sized breeds. If you live in a cold climate with harsh winters you probably will not want your kids being born in a snowy and cold January- which  means don’t breed your doe in August! I like my kids all born sort of close so that they grow up together and in case of a single birth the lonely kid will have other kids to play and sleep with, so I don’t stagger my breedings very much. When you notice your doe in heat, write it down on the calender, then calculate the possible due date and jot that down as well (Here is  the link to a goat due date calculator). As long as she doesn’t come into heat again, you can use this approximate due date to plan her prenatal care.

Bucks stink…and other buckish behaviorbreeding goats buck

If you have just one or 2 goats you may opt not to keep a buck on hand. But if you plan on breeding many does or there is not a suitable stud to rent in the area you will most likely end up with a buck on the premises. And here’s the thing about bucks- or at least a buck in rut- They stink. Let me say that again: Bucks STINK! Seriously. Young bucks aren’t so bad, but the smell ripens with age.  Once breeding season hits and your does go into heat and your buck goes into rut they will start some rather amusing, and unsavory, behavior. Such as:

  • Urinating. I know, that doesn’t sound so bad. But they pee on their faces, on the back of their legs, in their mouth….It’s rather amazing the reach they can achieve. Eventually their faces and legs will be covered. Good thing that the does find this irresistible.
  • Blubbering, tongue flapping and lip raising. All these behaviors happen towards the does. Very amusing to watch his mating rituals!
  • Aggression. Bucks will be more aggressive when they are in rut. If you have more than one buck take special care when there are does around so that they don’t end up fighting. Also never turn your back on a buck in rut- even one you may have raised from a bottle. Even if they are not meaning to they can potentially hurt you- especially if they decide to “practice” on you

I actually find our bucks some of the sweetest of our goats. But when they are in rut, I feed them last and have a special coat I wear over my clothes to help minimize the smell contamination.

Keep them in Good Health

During breeding seasons your goats will need extra nutrition to support the stresses on their bodies. Heat, rut and pregnancy takes its toll on their bodies, so be sure to support them with extra grain, high quality hay and lots of forage. Your bucks in rut and your does will need about 1 lb of grain a day. I give hay depending on the amount of forage- if it is rich and plentiful, I do not give any hay. If they are on a dry lot or small pasture they will need more supplemental hay. I also add black oil sunflower seeds to all of our goat’s feed.

In addition to their feeds, breeding season is also a good time to make sure they are not deficient in any vitamins and minerals. We keep loose minerals out free choice for our goats, but if you live in an area that has deficient soil you may also have to give the following supplements:

  • Copper- prevents kids being born with copper deficiency and gives your goats a stronger appetite and a healthier growth rate
  • Selenium/Vitamin E- this prevents white muscle disease in kids and can increase fertility
  • Nutridrench- All purpose vitamin for any goat that may need a little extra nutrition

Line Breeding vs. Inbreeding

When it comes to breeding, you want to make sure your keep a variety of genetics in your herd. There’s a saying something along the lines of: It’s called line-breeding if if works, in-breeding if it doesn’t. And that pretty much sums up the topic in a very simple way. The buck is actually a very important part of the breeding process. He is the easiest way to add in good genetic traits to your herd. When it comes to line-breeding there is no set rules such as breeding daughter and grandfather, except never breed full brothers and sisters. Occasionally  you can breed father/daughter but it’s not ideal.  Line-breeding will accentuate the good qualities- and the bad.  If your buck has any negative traits (aggression, mother had low milk production,etc) those traits will be accentuated in his offspring if the are a product of line-breeding. The best way to get around this is to only keep or breed  high quality bucks and if you keep your own bucks keep at least 2 on hand for the purpose of genetic diversity.

And there is your run down on breeding goats. It’s an exciting time of year with all the promise of next year’s kidding season! Are you a seasoned breeder or just getting started- leave a comment with your experiences or questions!