Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Just Kidding" eBook now available

My new ebook, Just Kidding: Stories and Reflections on Goats Giving Birth, is now available for a variety of ereaders, including Kindle, Nook, and iPad. Even if you don't have an ereader, you can read it on your computer as a PDF or using the free Kindle app. You can also print out the PDF, if you don't like reading too much on a computer screen.

At 20,000 words, it's about 40 pages and contains 17 stories of goats giving birth, from normal to abnormal and even tragic, including two c-sections. The stories were all written within a few days of when the births actually happened, but the ebook also includes my thoughts on those births today. I honestly explain what could have been done differently -- or what would not have made a difference.

I wanted to write this book because many new goat owners have never seen a goat give birth, and they have no idea what to expect. Although some books explain what is normal and what is abnormal, there are many shades of gray. The human's response to the situation is another thing that is not discussed in books that have a more academic tone. Some authors tell you what to do with a problematic birth, but they completely ignore how you might feel about dealing with the situation. I also recall how many times we panicked in the early years, thinking that something was wrong when it was actually normal.

The regular price is $4.99, but with this coupon code -- QW38Q -- you can get 20% off the cover price until Friday, March 6.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review and give-away: Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook

As the Internet has become more popular, reference works, such as encyclopedias, have gone the way of the dinosaurs. So, why is Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook: Your Complete Guide to Living beyond the Grid with Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living in its 14th edition? Couldn't you just use Google instead of reading this book? Couldn't you just use Google instead of reading any book? The answer to those questions depends on how much time you want to waste spend weeding through information and trying to determine its validity. After all, anyone can write whatever they want on the web. But with more 600,000 copies of previous editions of this book in print, the author knows what he's talking about.

"John Schaeffer is the founder of Real Goods -- the foremost global source for tools and information on renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable living," according to the publisher. "Since 1978, through Real Goods, he has pioneered solar technology in North America, providing over 150 MW of solar power and helping to solarize over 18,000 homes."

Although the original book might have focused entirely on solar energy -- and hence the name of the book -- this edition goes so much farther than solar energy. It covers the basics of every type of renewable energy imaginable -- and then some. There is even a section on green burials. If you've ever been responsible for someone's burial, you know how expensive it is, but did you also know there is a significant environmental cost?

At more than 450 pages and measuring 8.5 by 11 inches in size, I can't even begin to tell you about all of the great information in this book. However, I'll give it a go ... in addition to everything you ever wanted to know about solar energy and natural burials, he also covers green building practices; super-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling; water safety, pumping and heating; water and air purification; composting toilets and greywater systems; permaculture; urban homesteading; and sustainable transportation.

In addition to sending me a copy of the book to review, the publisher has agreed to give away a copy to one of my readers! You can enter by clicking on the various options below. If you leave a blog comment, be sure to click on the link for leaving a blog comment so that you are entered into the drawing. And vice versa, if click on the link, be sure to leave a comment. You can get additional entires by tweeting about the give-away daily. Also, be sure to provide your name in the blog comment because I won't be able to give you credit for commenting if it says "Anonymous." And be sure that you use a valid email address so that I can contact you, if you're the winner. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Considering homesteading or raising chickens and turkeys?

If you want to learn more about homesteading but don't have time or can't afford to go to a conference, here is your chance to pick and choose exactly which topics you want to learn more about. And you can do it from the convenience of your own home!

You Can Do It!  -- Wondering if you're crazy to want to live a homesteading lifestyle? Curious if it's possible for someone who has spent his or her entire life living in a city or small town? Whether you are still dreaming or have already taken the plunge and started homesteading, you'll find inspiration in this webinar where Deborah talks about how her family moved from the Chicago suburbs to 32 acres on a creek in the middle of nowhere. Their livestock experience consisted of two cats and a poodle, and suddenly they had a farm filled with chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs. Discover how they learned to live a more self-reliant life -- and how you can too!
Monday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m. central time
Click here to register.

Raising Chickens and Turkeys -- Whether you want eggs or meat, adding chickens or turkeys to your homestead can be a wise investment. Learn where to buy chicks and poults, how to make a homemade brooder, and what to feed them. We'll discuss breed choices, housing options, and end of life alternatives for layers and meat birds.
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 11 a.m. central time
Tuition: $19
Click here to register.

All webinars will be recorded, so you can watch them over and over again to pick up things you might have missed the first time. Not sure if webinars are right for you. No worries! We have a 100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee. For more information about our webinars, click here!

Upcoming webinars:
Raising Goats Naturally
Goats as the Centerpiece of a Diversified Homestead
Value-Added Products With Goats
Marketing Your Homestead Business
Fiber Animals for Fun and Profit
Ecothrifty Living

Click here to take our survey on what times work best for you to attend webinars.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beware! Goats are escape artists!

I started my herd with three does and a buck. Knowing that goats are herd animals and need company, I was buying my buck from a breeder who was going to give me a wether for company. However, after driving six hours to pick them up, I discovered that the wether had a poopy back end, which meant coccidiosis, and being new to goats, I didn’t want to bring home a sick animal. So, I brought home the single buckling, wondering how I would keep him from getting lonely.

We thought we had a great idea. We put together four livestock panels to make a 16-foot by 16-foot square pen for him in the middle of the pasture where the does lived. We had no idea he would be unhappy having a fence between him and other goats, and we spent weeks coming up with one alteration after another to keep him separated from the does. He quickly realized he was small enough to squeeze through the squares in the panels, so we wrapped the whole pen with chicken wire. He learned to hoist himself up high enough to go through the squares that were above the chicken wire. We added more chicken wire. He started jumping over the panels. We bought more panels and put them on top of the pen so that he couldn’t jump out. It was so complicated that it took us five minutes to get into the pen, but finally Bucky could not get out!

The following year when we bought a second buck, we built a separate pen for them, and for some reason that I no longer remember, my husband put the latch on the inside of the pen. It was a slide bolt style that you lift and slide to open. One day I looked out into the pasture and saw Bucky chasing after the does. I accused my children of leaving the gate open on his pen and told them to go lock him up. Less than fifteen minutes later, he was running around out there again. My children insisted they had locked the gate. This time I went out and put him back in his pen. I turned my back but had not even left the pasture when I realized he was running past me to get to the does. He had learned to open the latch!

Goats are incredibly intelligent animals and will copy human behavior to do things like unlatch gates, turn on lights, and even attempt to open doors. We once had a LaMancha doe that would put her mouth over a doorknob and turn her head in an attempt to turn the doorknob as she had seen us do. If only her mouth had not been wet and slippery, I’m sure she could have actually opened the door!

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A beginner's guide to goats

Whether you already have a few goats or you are just thinking of getting a couple, here are links to some of Thrifty Homesteader's most useful goat posts ...

Getting Your Goats

Goat Care Basics

Time for Kids!

Sometimes, even after reading everything you can find, you still have questions. That's when it's helpful to have another person to ask! Nigerian Dwarf Goats is my online forum filled with friendly goat owners who are happy to help others and talk goats. Thrifty Homesteading is our Facebook group where we talk about all things related to homesteading, including goats and other livestock. Feel free to click on over and say hi!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Castration options for goat kids

It is a simple fact that you don’t need very many bucks for a dairy herd. Because a buck can sire dozens of kids, you should keep only the best for breeding. That means that a lot of bucklings will become pets, brush eaters, or meat. Unless they will be butchered in a few months, bucklings should be castrated because intact bucks get stinky and pee on themselves. They also tend to fight with each other during the breeding season. There are three methods of castration, and breeders can easily learn the methods themselves.

Banding is probably the most popular method of castration because it is simple and inexpensive. A rubber band the size of a penny is placed around the base of the scrotum using a special tool that opens up the band wide enough to get it over the testicles and in place. Some argue this is the most inhumane method of castration because it cuts off blood flow to the entire scrotal area, which causes everything below the band to atrophy and fall off. We used this method for a few years, and most bucklings didn’t seem terribly bothered by it. A few bucklings would scream for a few minutes up to an hour, and some would get very depressed for a few hours or a day following banding. Because of the anaerobic environment that exists under the band, there is a risk of tetanus with this type of castration//


Emasculation is the safest method of castration because the skin is never broken, but it is not immediately obvious that you have done the job. With this method the cord that goes to each testicle is crushed using a special instrument called a burdizzo. Although a kid usually lets out a short bleat when the cord is clamped, most recover fully within fifteen minutes. Some cattle ranchers say they have an unacceptably high rate of failure with this type of castration, which makes sense when you see that a cattle burdizzo is quite large and requires the use of two hands to operate. The goat and sheep burdizzo is much smaller and can be closed with one hand by most people. We started using this method several years ago and have not had any failure.

Surgical Castration
When I had my first goats, I read that surgical castration was the most humane method, so I took my first kids to the vet for the surgical castration procedure. As we stood in the parking lot, I held the bucklings as the vet sliced open each side of the scrotum, pulled out each testicle and dropped it on the ground. He told me he was leaving the scrotum open so that it could drain because stitching it up would be more likely to result in an infection. Although the boys survived the ordeal and were just fine, I decided to look into other methods of castration. Some people do prefer surgical castration, though, and if you want to do it yourself, you should have a vet or an experienced breeder teach you.

This is Part 4 in our series on issues related to kidding season, which appears every Monday this month. It is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conducting a newborn check in goat kids

Shortly after each kid is born you should do an initial newborn exam to make sure that each kid has all its pieces in the right places. In addition to checking for obvious things, such as an anus, you also want to know if a kid has any disqualifying defects so that you don’t offer it for sale or get your hopes up about its future in your herd. Peeing or pooping is generally a good sign that the newborn’s plumbing is in working order. Although it is rare, kids are occasionally born without an anus, and obviously they will not survive. If a kid latches on and nurses well, the mouth is probably in good shape. However, if milk comes out the kid’s nose or if it has difficulty latching on, run your finger along the roof of the kid’s mouth to be sure it doesn’t have a cleft palate.

Check that each kid—buck or doe—has only two teats. Extra teats are a disqualification in show goats, and they are not something you want in milkers. In addition to possibly getting in the way when milking, extra teats can also get infected if they are functional. If they are not functional, kids can get confused and try to suck on them and then not grow properly because they are not getting enough to eat. A buck with extra teats should not be used for breeding, so you should plan to castrate it.

You also want to be sure that bucklings have two testicles, regardless of whether you plan to keep them intact. If testicles are not descended at birth, the odds are good that they will not descend. A buck with only one testicle should not be bred, and it is impossible to easily castrate a buck with an undescended testicle, making it a challenge to sell as a pet. With an undescended testicle, he will still get stinky and act bucky. Most people will use a cryptorchid as a meat animal.

This is Part 3 in our series on issues related to kidding season, which runs every Monday this month. It is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.
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