Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goat Update ~ 2016 4-H Year

It has now been over a month since we got our goats and lamb.

There have been some bumpy days as you can read about here, but as of this writing, everyone has their animals and are working with them.

First thing we did this year though, was put up our pens.

 {clearing the area}


We had some fencing from the year before, and that really helped to keep our costs down. We did need more t-posts and a better shelter.



 {attaching fencing}


For our shelter, we used pallets! We had a source of some free ones and so we stacked them two high, screwed them together and fastened them at the corners to make our shelter.


 {working hard}


We found some corrugated metal on Craigslist for the roofing, and we were set.

We also made a pallet fence, so that we had an area where the kids could work with their animals and not have to worry about them running across the yard.


{all finished}


This year we also wanted an easier feeding system, so we cut holes in the backs of the pens where the feeders were attached to the pallet walls.

Then we could easily pour in the food without opening any gates.


 {feeding}


Sometimes this happens though.....

 {escape artist}



So we put boards up all across so they can't escape when we aren't feeding.


 {feeding system}


Our water buckets this year are the large 5 gallon, Home Depot buckets. These work well, but can be heavy for the younger members in my project.


 {clean water}


Feed containers are at the end of the shelter.



 {goat and lamb feed}



We keep a feed chart in the container so each person knows what to feed. All the kids take turns feeding, morning and night.


 {we make notes of any symptoms the goats might have, too}


The seven kids who have goats here have also formed cleaning teams, and clean out all the pens each week.


 {mucking out stalls}



 But that is not all the work they do.....



The goats need to become good walkers.....


{walking}



And the lamb too, of course.
 {meet Finn}


We get them to be very comfortable with us, and able to walk with their heads held high.


 {Dasher and Rey}



Driving is the next step. This shows off their muscles to the judge.


 {Nutsy and Oliver}



And yes, we have bad days. Goats are notoriously stubborn, and can be hard to work with.


 {bad goat}



But this is such a good learning lesson, and let me tell you, we learn lots. About patience, hard work, and putting solid effort into our projects.



{successfully driving}


So that is where we are at with our goats - as of this Wednesday we have 56 days until our fair and it will only get busier.
{hard workers}

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

U is for Uncertain World of Livestock

We raise market animals for 4-H. We can't have them on our property and so each year, we are so thankful that a member in our project lets us keep animals on her property. Our fair is in May, so in January and February, we purchase our animals and move them to the farm.



{working with the animals}



And that is where our goats and one lamb are now, as we go multiple times a week to feed, clean up after, and train.


{cleaning out pens}



Now why would I use the word Uncertain this week?


Well, if you remember last year, one of the girls in our project lost her goat the day before fair. That was very devastating, to care for your animal for a few months, get it ready, and have it die the day before the the biggest day of the 4-H year. It reminded us how uncertain livestock can be.


I thought maybe that the Uncertainty bug would not hit us this year, but last week the unexpected happened. We got a call that Bookworm's goat Klink was not looking good and wanted to only lie down. That is a bad sign for sure. We went out there, and realized he had the same type of urinary blockage that the goat last year had, and after trying a couple of things, realized that there was nothing we could do.

Very sad yes, but we are learning that this is the life of a livestock owner.



{Bookworm showing Klink at the Cow Palace last October}


Bookworm took it well, and we worked that afternoon to get a replacement.


Uncertainty, go away.


The very next day, another mom in my project called me with some alarming symptoms that her goat was having. We rushed it down to a friend's farm, and realized that he was having a toxic reaction to an immunization he needed to have the week before.


We gave him meds (yes, I have gotten good at giving injections to goats) but sadly, this second goat died in the car. We then had to take the body to a rendering plant. (That place was seriously straight out of a horror film.)


Two goats lost in two days.


That has got to be some kind of record, for a small goat project leader like me. There are only 8 members in my project, and we had just lost 25 percent of our stock.


God is good, even through the uncertainty. That afternoon, my friend found a replacement for her son as well. Two goats gone, but replaced almost immediately.





This is the way it is with livestock. My one friend could fill journals with all that has happened to her animals. Strange fungi, viruses, babies that die for no reason, and a perfectly healthy animal that just drops dead.


So I have decided to embrace the uncertainty. After all, these things are not uncertain to God. He has planned it, and through His perfect will, is sanctifying me through both trials and blessings.




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Friday, March 18, 2016

T is for Tea

You knew T was going to be for Tea.


I adore tea. I will choose it over coffee, and have a cup almost every morning and one or two more during the day.



Some things about Tea......





The water needs to start cold and fresh


This really is true. Water that has already been heated has a different taste to it, and so start with cold water. When I go to fill my teapot, I let the water run from the faucet for a minute or two; that way I don't have any taste from the faucet or pipes.







Water temperature is important 


This is one of my pet peeves. If I am making black tea, then the water must be at a rolling boil. Not just steaming, but totally, all-out bubbling. This is why I can't heat up my tea water in a microwave, but will put it into a saucepan if I have to. Different teas have different brewing temperatures. If I am making green or oolong, the temperature needs to be cooler since it is ruined if you use boiling water. Both of these teas, especially green tea, becomes bitter if you use boiling water. What I do is bring my water to a boil in my teapot. Then I shut the burner off and let the pot sit for a couple of minutes before I pour it. That brings the temperature down a bit.


{peppermint tea}



Brew time


 Again, this depends on the kind of tea. In my opinion green tea is the most sensitive, and I only brew mine for a couple minutes. You do have to experiment with how much tea you are using. Black teas are longer, maybe 3 to 5 minutes, but they can get bitter and the longer they brew the more caffeine they contain. Rooibos tea just keeps getting darker and stronger, but the great thing about rooibos is that it is naturally caffeine free. An herbal tea can steep forever. Of course you would have a very potent tea, but if you are only steeping herbal tea alone, it will not get bitter at all. 



{infusers}






 Loose vs. bagged? 

So this might surprise you, but I like both. Certain black teas are wonderful bagged, but I will only drink green tea that is loose. That is just my preference and how I like it. The great thing about using loose herbal blends is that you can re use the leaves over and over. You just need to let it steep a bit longer each time. You can't do that with green or black tea as the leaves are one time use, and the taste has changed with a second brewing. My favorite way to drink herbal teas is to brew it in the summer and drink it iced. Sometimes I will do four herbal tea bags to one black one, and make a quart size jar of iced tea and store it in the fridge.




{green tea}




Additions?


Again, this depends on the tea. With straight black tea, like an English Breakfast, I have about a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Flavored black teas like Earl Grey or Peach, I have plain, with no additions. If I am in the mood for a spicy chai tea, I have just the smallest bit of cream in the tea. And beware, straight cream does act a little strange in tea. I usually put in a dash of milk or half and half. I am a purest and feel that nothing should be added to green, oolong, or jasmine teas. 



  {chai tea with a splash of milk}



I hope you learned something about tea and that this inspired you to go make a delicious cup of it!



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Friday, March 11, 2016

S is for Sponges

Sponges soak stuff up. Every nook and cranny fills with whatever is close by.


Same thing with our kids. Which can be good, or bad.


I was reminded of this this last week. We are reviewing a product that has a new method of teaching multiplication. Dasher has some form of dyslexia, and doesn't have the classic reading issues, but does really struggle in math. So this new method, which involves listening, repeating and story images, was a huge breakthrough for her. (Watch for this review! I LOVE this product.)




In only a half hour of intense listening, she had soaked up a bunch of multiplication facts.

This made me think of when they were younger. I would be reading to the older ones, maybe it was historical fiction, or a science book. I would stop and ask a question, aiming it for the level of the older ones, and the youngest one who was playing on the floor and I thought wasn't even paying attention, would have the correct answer.


They soak up a lot.


Good things, like multiplication facts and historical stories.




And on the other hand, they can soak up the bad too; things that they see and hear.

Like when I lose my temper, say things I shouldn't, or waste valuable time throughout the day.

This is a good reminder to be aware of how much they soak up, and to endeavor to fill their time and minds with wholesome things. But then it is also a reminder of my sin, of how often I fail them as a mom, and how much grace I need as well.

Sponges.

By God's grace, He is working in their lives and filling them with the knowledge of His mercy and redemption. And, He is giving me the grace and strength each day, to nurture and care for them, and to train them up in the way they should go.




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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

R is for Recipes That Don't Kill the Bank

It can be a challenge to make nutritious meals for your family, that don't cost too much.

One of the ways to be successful with a written budget is to meal plan, and to choose those meals that are more economical.

Here are some of my favorites:


Chalupa

This is yummy pork recipe. I can usually pick up a pork shoulder roast for around $5. Everything goes into the slow cooker, and 8 to 10 hours later, viola! Dinner is ready. I serve it with some Spanish rice, tortillas, salsa, and other toppings.



Slow Cooker Meat-Marinara Sauce

The above recipe is the one I use, but I do use ground beef, add a chopped onion, and triple the spices. We have it over pasta with a salad.



 Tostadas with Jalapeno Lime Sauce




Any time you cut meat out of a dish it usually goes down in price. We eat this tostada recipe with my homemade refried beans and rice and it is SO good.



Lentil and Ham Soup

This is another great economical meal. I ask the deli at our store to give me one thick slice of ham. I often do this dish on the stove top instead of the slow cooker. Just saute all vegetables, add the lentils, spices and broth, and cook for about 30 minutes or until tender. Add the ham and maybe a salad and you have a complete meal.



Quesadilla Pie

Another meatless dinner - this is a family favorite and goes well with a simple salad or rice.



And to make any of these meals even more economical, consider using dry beans. I can buy enough beans for any of these meals for under a dollar. For all beans except kidney beans, I put them into my slow cooker, fill with water, and cook on low overnight. (Kidney beans are not safe cooked in a slow cooker. They need to come to a boil when they cook, and the slow cooker can't guarantee that,)


I hope this inspired you to save money by cooking for your family!


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