Thursday, September 25, 2014

Egg Carton Fire Starters

We will teach you how to make your own fire starters for lighting fires in your fireplace, backyard fire pit, or while you are out camping or on the beach. Hey are small, portable, cheap, and actually work really well! You can light a fire without using paper, cardboard, or even kindling! I would recommend this project to be an outdoor endeavor, as you are dealing with heat, flammable substances, and the potential for a big mess. Also, please keep children away due to the risk of burning injuries.

Here's what you will need:
Dryer lint
Paper egg carton
Paraffin wax, or some old candles
An old cooking pot or other metal vessel to melt wax in
A heat source for melting the wax

We shooed the goats away and lit a fire in Willie's camp stove. Next we tore the lid and flap of of the egg carton. Each of the egg cups was then filled with the dryer lint.

We used an old cooking pot to melt down our wax. 

Once the wax is melted and watery, pour it into the lint filled egg cups. Allow to cool completely. After the wax has cooled and solidified, rip or cut the cups apart. Each of these little units can be used as a fire starter. 

You will notice in the photo that a few of the cups are filled with green wax. We tested out melted down crayons as a potential source of wax, but the wax is much too thick for this application.

Check out the demonstration video to see a fire starter get a blaze going in about 5 minutes! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shaggy the Very Best Goat

Ronnie and Shaggy: Best Buddies!
Shaggy has always been the best goat! Before we brought him to our house his name was Mercury and he was the pet of Dan the goat man's wife, Gloria. Dan told Willie that he would sell him Mercury and Mercury's friend (we would name her Ronnie) but that his wife would cry when she found out. Sure enough, Gloria was sad to see him go, and asked that she be able to visit him if she wanted. We agreed wholeheartedly!  Little Mercury came to our house and we decided to name him Shaggy, short for Shagrath, the lead singer for Dimmu Borgir. His friend came with him, and we named her Ronnie, after Ronnie James Dio. They were the best of friends! 

Tallest Goat Shaggy

Shaggy, taste testing my new garden hoe.
We had a lot of fun learning about how to take care of our new little friends. They would run and jump and climb all over! Their favorite games to play were Tallest Goat (who could get to the highest point possible and maintain their position there) Chase the Goat, and Chase the Human.  Once we played a game of Chase the Human, and the goats hid in the goat house and ambushed me when I went to find them. They also chewed on everything, which we thought was very cute at the time, little did we know just how much they loved to chew. After the new year we got money back on our tax returns, and we decided to go back to Dan the goat man's house. When Willie had gone to pick out Shaggy and Ronnie he was able to hold a brand new, newborn little goat. He thought it was the cutest thing ever! Turns out, it was Shaggy's sister, Frankie. When we went to Dan's house, she was ready to go home. We brought her home and named her Dani (after Dani Filth, of Cradle of Filth.)
We had brought Dani home to keep Shaggy company, because Ronnie was pregnant and soon would be giving a lot of attention to her new babies. We didn't want Shaggy to be lonely without the attention of his friend! At first we were a bit disappointed, as both Shaggy and Ronnie were mean to little Dani, and I had to "come to her rescue" several times whens he was stuck out in the rain because they wouldn't let her in the house.
Dani dominating her brother.
Shaggy demonstrating how hungry he is.
I sent this to my friend to convince her to
sell me home hay!
Eventually, Shaggy started to slow down a bit, taking longer naps, not running around a lot, just acting like he didn't feel good. I took him to the vet, and the vet treated him for an infection (he suspected it because of a higher than normal temperature) and hoof rot. I told him about Shaggy's recent laziness and lethargy, and although the subject of CAE came up, he said he had never seen any clinical signs in any goats he had ever treated. Since Shaggy didn't have any signs, other than slowing down and being lethargic, we dismissed the possibility of a CAE infection. (On a side note, CAE stands for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis and is a retrovirus which causes chronic, progressive arthritis and weight loss in adult goats. Once of the easiest to identify signs is swollen knees on the front legs, in addition to the weight loss, lethargy, and signs of painful joints.) Shaggy came home, I learned how to administer shots, and he seemed to perk up a bit.
Once the babies were born, Shaggy and Dani had become pretty good friends. Shaggy was very good with the little baby goats, Toki (after Toki Wartooth of Metalocalypse) and Jezebel (after Sarah Jezebel Deva of Cradle of Filth) while Dani headbutted them, he was very nice to them and very gentle. He taught baby Toki how to fight like a goat!

Shaggy waiting to go home after his medicine.
Around the time that we were contemplating weaning the baby goats is when Shaggy's next health trial came about. We noticed his eye was watering and red, and when we came in close to examine this, noticed that he also had a big bump on his jaw on the other side of his face. Willie called a few vet's offices and found one that could see him the very next day. So, off we went! Shaggy and I went to see the vet, and have him examined. His watery eye was caused by a scratched cornea, and the bump was a piece of grain that had wedged between his teeth and worked its way out through the bottom of his jaw. Treatment for the eye was straight-forward, we just had to apply two types of ointment twice a day.The abscess, however, was much more difficult, and it broke my heart. Twice a day we would have to smoosh the infection out of it, and flush it with surgical soap. While we were smooshing, Shaggy was crying like a baby goat! To top it all off, he had to have a round of penicillin shots as well. Poor little guy! During the treatment process, Willie had to go out of town for work. We was worried about his little buddy, but I promised to take good care of him. It was also during this time that the baby goats had to be weaned, so Ronnie went on a month-long vacation to Dan's house. Little Shaggy was a sad fellow. His eye and his jaw hurt, and he didn't have his buddy Willie, or his buddy Ronnie, just mean ole Chuck who gave him shots and smooshed his face. Once a month had passed, Willie had come back, and I went over to Dan's house to pick up Ronnie. He was so excited to see his buddy Ronnie! He loved her so much! All he wanted to do was put his head on her, and fight. (That's what goats do, they fight!)

Shaggy's resting pose.
Shaggy continued to slow down and act uncomfortable, and soon I began noticing that his knees were getting big. I knew what was causing it, but didn't want to admit it. I talked to Willie about taking him to get tested for CAE, but it was put off for a while because we were afraid that it would confirm what we already knew. Shaggy would find a comfortable spot in the yard to lay down, nap, and chew his cud, and his friends would all come out to visit him at different times. They would come out and nuzzle him, then go about their business. Any time they saw Shaggy eating a tasty weed or chewing on a good-looking branch, they went to investigate. Shaggy could pick out the best weeds and sticks, so they knew that wherever he was, he was munching on tasty stuff. Pretty soon we made an appointment to get Shaggy tested. While we waited for the vet to do some research on testing facilities and prices, Shaggy's feet started hurting him. Since the floor was concrete, he didn't want to lay down and rest his feet, so he just danced around. I felt bad for my friend, so I picked him up and put him in my lap. When the doc came back in, he looked at me pretty funny. Here's this woman sitting in the exam room with a miniature goat in her lap. I didn't care, friends help friends, and I wanted to help Shaggy. Sure enough, the results came back positive, and although there wasn't much to be done about it, at least we knew for sure what we were dealing with. We decided that we would look out for Shaggy and make sure he got all the best for the rest of his life. Whenever the goats got treats, we made sure that Shaggy got plenty too. We made sure that Shaggy got lots of ear scratches and tail scratches. Whenever we were hanging out on the porch or made a campfire, Shaggy got to sit in my lap and hang out too. During games of Chase the Goat, we made sure that we played with Shaggy too. He couldn't run like the other goats, but he would trot around and kick, and when we "caught him" he would jump and throw his head around and just be happy. We decided that as long as he was happy, we wouldn't put him down. Shaggy got to do a lot of things that the other goats didn't but we wanted to make him an extra happy goat.
Shaggy helping me cut down weeds.
When I went weed getting at the neighbor's house, Shaggy came with me so that he could munch on weeds while I chopped others down. All the pollen from the weeds made his allergies act up, and he wound up with a cough. I kept an eye on him, checking his lungs and his temperature, just in case it turned into something more serious. One morning I came out to find that his nose was running, his cough was worse, and upon checking his temperature I found it to be elevated. Shaggy was sick. I felt awful. Willie had just gone out of town again for work, and it would be nearly two weeks before he returned. I knew that when I told him his friend was sick, he would be very worried. I relocated Shaggy to the front yard where he could eat plenty of grass and greens, and get a rest from the dust and the other animals. I knew that I would have to give him penicillin shots, and that they would be especially painful for him because he had grown so thin. I sat in the grass, put him in my lap and just cried and apologized.
Eating his own pile of grain! Yum!

For the next few days I took him out to the front yard to graze and eat grain, and be away from the others when I gave him his shot and his cough medicine, so that they wouldn't bully him while I had him restrained. He got kind of lonely out there by himself, so I brought his friend Toki out to be with him and encourage him to eat. Over the next little while he seemed to be feeling better, although now he was painfully thin and still not eating well.

Shaggy and his friend Toki eating together
in the front yard. This is the last picture I
took of Shaggy.
I picked Willie up at the airport on Monday evening, and shortly after dark we went outside to barbecue up some dinner. It occurred to me that Willie hadn't seen his buddy Shaggy yet, so I goat-napped him! I went out to the goat house, scooped him up and carried him out front to hang out with us. He stayed for a few minutes, ate some weeds and chewed on some things that we would rather he not have chewed on, but he seemed really tired. We gave him some scratches, and Willie told me I should take him back so that he could go to bed. The next day I had to work early in the morning, so Willie would have to feed the goats before he went to work. The nurse called me on my radio and told me that my husband was on the phone, which had never happened before. I was concerned. When I picked the phone up, Willie was very upset. He told me that Shaggy had passed away, and that he had to go to work for a mandatory meeting. He didn't know what to do. I told him I would come home on my break and start preparations to bury our friend. I went home, took his collar and tag off and broke down crying. I had kept it together at work, but this was really hard. I found the shovel, located a good spot, and started digging. After I finished the rest of my shift at work I came home and continued digging. I took a break to sit and rest, and to be sad, and Dani came over to be my friend. The goats were all very quiet and solemn, as though they knew their friend was gone. I buried him in the corner of the yard. That night Willie came home and we lit a campfire and hung out with the goats. Just as the sun was going down Ronnie called for all the goats to come home, because it was getting dark. Everyone was there except for Shaggy. All the goats looked around for a few minutes, as though they expected him to show up so that they could all go to bed. Willie told me that when he went out to feed the animals, all the goats were hanging out in the house with their friend. When they came outside to eat, Willie found Shaggy. Although his body was cold, there were little warm spots where his friends had been cuddling him. Everyone loved Shaggy, and everyone misses him.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Goats - The Basics

Like any living creatures, goats need food, water and shelter. They are relatively easy to keep, but do require a bit of maintenance.


Our home-made hay manger
Goats are browsers, so they should have access to a wide variety of plant matter in order to stay healthy. Goats will munch on grass, weeds, leaves, twigs, and bark. If these items are in short supply or winter snow has covered them, hay should be provided. It is also a good idea to have some grain for those little fellows to nibble on. A little goes a long way, so watch your portions! Over feeding grain will cause your goats to become overweight (like mine.) Especially at risk for grain-induced obesity are wethered bucks and does which are not pregnant or in milk. My dry doe and her wether son tend to hog more than their fair share of grain and, therefore, are quite fat indeed. I wonder if they would go jogging? They certainly need it.
Well-used salt block
Some type of mineral should also be provided, either in the form of a salt block or in a granulated form mixed with grain. Goats benefit from mineral mixes that are high in copper. Take care if you are keeping your goats with sheep or other forms of livestock, though. Too much copper can kill sheep.
Always feed goats from a bin, bowl or trough. Eating grain off of the ground can increase worm infestation, and may lead to coccidosis, which may be lethal.


Our raised trough
Goats need access to clean water at all times. Goats will not drink dirty water, and can become dehydrated as a result. If keeping your goats with any type of waterfowl (ducks, geese, etc) be sure to raise your water troughs off the ground a bit to discourage bathing in them. One method that we use is to put your trough on top of an old tire.


The goats' and birds' mansion
Goats need a spot to get out of the rain, snow, wind and sun. It doesn't need to be a fancy or particularly large structure, just has to have a roof and at least three walls. Our goats are spoiled. They have a two-room house that they share with the birds, windows, a shingle roof, and a covered porch.


Since hooves are continually growing, they need to be checked and trimmed on a regular basis. I like to try to trim hooves every month or two, but check the hooves and feet every week or so for length, soundness, injuries, or signs of rot. Hoof root can occur when feet are not kept trimmed and clean. A sharp pair of garden shears (with narrow blades) and a drywall rasp will do well for trimming and shaping goat hooves. I will be posting an article on trimming hooves, so please be sure to check back later for more detailed information!


All goats have worms. Although it is impossible to eliminate worms entirely, steps should be taken to keep their numbers as low as possible. Worm your goats on a regular basis, but step up your efforts during the springtime, or when stress levels are high (moved to another area, added new goat to herd, change in diet.) Worming medication comes in an oral suspension, an injectable, or in pelleted forms. You can choose which method you prefer, but try to change it up periodically so that the worms don't build a resistance. If you need help on the subject, I hope to write an article in the future on how to administer worming medication. In the meantime, check with a goat breeder or livestock veterinarian if you have any questions on administration or dosages.


Your goats will need a CDT shot annually. Their first shot can be administered after they are about 8 weeks of age. Please check back frequently, as I hope to write an article in the future on giving injections to goats. When in doubt, seek out an experienced hand. Either from a veterinarian, or a trusted goat breeder.


Goat-proofed peach tree
Goats explore with their mouths, and will chew anything that they can fit in their mouths. As a result, great care must be taken when deciding which items are appropriate to keep within access of goats. So far, our goats have eaten the wiring for our sprinkler timer, torn apart and broken plastic flower pots, torn up weed blocking plastic sheeting under the gravel in the back yard, eaten the wiring and igniter switch on a barbecue grill, and are currently working on stripping the bark off of one of our trees. They also eat any piece of paper or plastic bag that happens to blow into their territory. The only thing that seems to deter goats from doing whatever it is that they are doing, that they know they shouldn't be doing (like eating chicken feed, or climbing up on the back porch,) is spraying them with the hose. Getting wet is very low on their list of preferred activities.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mom's Donuts

These were a cheap and easy way to feed the family in the mornings when there wasn't school. The best part? Two ingredients, unless you count the fryer oil.

What you will need:
A package of refrigerated biscuit dough (the smaller biscuits, not the jumbo)
A vessel for frying (deep fryer, or cast iron pan)
Enough cooking oil to cover the bottom of your vessel by at least an inch.
A shallow dish or bowl
A paper towel-lined retrieval plate
Tongs, or some other donut retrieval device
Heat the oil in your vessel over medium-low heat. Pour some sugar into your shallow dish. Place paper tells on retrieval plate. Once all this is done you can pop open your biscuits. Pull out your biscuits and put a hole through the center with your thumb. Stretch the dough out a bit (pinching, rather than pulling helps the biscuits to not break apart) until it resembles a skinny version of the donut it will soon become. 
Place each donut into your heated oil carefully. Monitor carefully, and when the bottom side is golden brown, turn the donut over carefully with your tongs. One the second half of your donut is golden and delicious, remove to your retrieval plate to drain a bit. Allow the donuts to cool just long enough that you can easily handle them. 
Take each donut and press each side gently into the sugar. You could also add some cinnamon into your sugar, but I prefer the original!
Serve immediately. There will not be leftovers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ducks - Raising Ducklings

Baby ducks are super cute!
I want to tell you about raising my ducks, Merle and Darryl, and some of the lessons I learned in the process.
We did a little research and set up a clear plastic storage bin which we assumed would be big enough to keep a duckling in until they were old enough to go outside. We were wrong, oh so wrong. Anyhow, we set up a food bin, a shallow water dish, a half log to climb over and under, and a heat lamp. We covered the bottom of the bin with litter made from recycled paper. We got Merle first, and by the time we got home, we realized that ducks need duck friends! I've never heard a duckling peep so loud! So, while Willie stayed to keep Merle company, I went back and picked out Darryl. First lesson learned!
Merle and Darryl were like two peas in a pod! They loved each other very much! We fed them chick starter to start with, but Darryl's legs started to get a little crooked. I looked up online about what might cause this. Turns out that chick starter doesn't have enough niacin, so, off I went to the store to pick up some niacin. With a little niacin in the water, Darryl's legs started to straighten out a bit. Lesson two learned!
After we had the ducks a few days we became really curious as to whether we had females, males, or one of each. I looked up a video on how to vent sex baby ducks. Unfortunately, the older the duckling, the more difficult it is to do, so, we had to wait longer. Lesson Three!

These ducks are too big for their bin!
After just a few short weeks we would hear peeping coming from the dining room (where the ducks were being kept.) When we came into the room, one duck would be in the bin, the other would be out, crying for its friend that it could no longer see. We turned the half log over so that they weren't tall enough to hop over the side, but that solution didn't last long! So, a change was in order, and the decision was made that the duckies would live in the bathtub until they were big enough to live outside. Lesson Four, you ask? Ducks grow huge in no time flat!
Once the ducks were set up in the bathtub they were happy and secure, and it made cleanup a bit easier. All I had to do was to scoop out all the litter, rinse the tub, and fill it so the ducks could swim.

Eventually, their water situation became a problem. No sooner had I filled their dish than they had splashed it out again, making their habitat a soupy mess. I learned about a great way to reduce splashing! We'll call this Lesson Five! Wash out an empty milk jug and cut a few duck-head-level holes in the sides. Make sure the holes are large enough that they can get their heads in and out easily. Fill it part-way up with water, and let them at it! You might have to poke your finger in and show them that there is water in there, but they will catch on. Before the new waterer the ducks got so disgusting that I had to give them a shower. They loved it, of course!

Eventually the ducks got fluffy enough that I decided to take them outside to meet the goats and chickens. The chickens were very aloof, but the goats were simultaneously intrigued and perplexed. 

This was no chicken like they had ever seen! This was a water chicken!

At some point, space became so limited in the bathtub, and the living conditions (both for them and for us!) worsened to a point that we had to make the decision to put the ducks outside.
A duck-on-duck pooping. Disgusting!
Now they live the good life. They eat with the chickens, they sleep with the goats, and they have their own pool! They are still the best of friends, and we've finally figured out that Merle is a girl, and Darryl is a boy.

 So, my advice to anyone who is looking into raising ducks is as follows:
Do research, LOTS of it.
Buy more than one duck so that they don't get lonely and sad.
If you are curious about the gender of your duck, vent sexing should be done within the first day or two.
Look into a starter feed that is specifically designed for ducks, or use a mixture of chick starter and gamebird starter, so that they get enough niacin, but not too much protein. 
Don't underestimate how fast ducks grow! In less than two months my ducks outgrew my bathtub.
Ducks are a mess. Learn this fact early, prepare yourself for it. I'm still finding duck splash marks in my bathroom.
Ducks love water and will hop into and dirty and body of water they find. I call this"ducking it up. " You will have to change out your water troughs frequently. 
If you are keeping your ducks as pets, make sure that you find out what kind you're getting. They all look pretty similar when they are tiny. Some are quieter than others, some fly well, others don't, some are more friendly, some more flighty. Ours turned out to be Pekin, which are known to be quite loud. Merle quacks at just about everything. It's not a big deal during the day, but at 6:00 AM it's kind of ridiculous. Sometimes I feel bad for our neighbors.
Ducks have fragile feet and wings, especially when they are growing. Don't handle them by wings or feet and try to avoid dropping them or letting them fall. Darryl jumped off of our retaining wall and hurt his ankle. I thought it was a sprain, but then it never healed right, so I suppose that it must have been broken. Now I've got a lame duck with a funny foot. He still gets around just fine, despite the bad foot, but I still feel bad for the little fellow.
Make sure you handle your ducks frequently, so they know you aren't an evil monster bent on eating their delicious meat-bits. I didn't spend enough time bonding with my duckies, so they run away from me, even when I'm trying to be nice and give them a pat or a treat.

The End