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Day 53: Recovery and Recharging

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Well, I have to say, my timing is certainly terrible.  I managed to keep my posts going all through the run up to the goat homecoming, and then I let them drop right as the goats get here.  So I wasn’t able to share in all of the fun with you guys out there.  Now the situation has changed, and I have lots of pictures.

For some reason on Thursday morning something inside my soul let loose with an almost audible snap.  I don’t think I have ever had a panic attack before in my life, but I sure as hell did that morning.  I could barely function for close to an hour.  If you have ever had someone say the walls are closing in, and you have never had a panic attack, you have no idea what they are talking about.  That is the single most humbling, embarrassing, powerful burst of emotion you can feel in your life.  I have no idea if I was just pushing myself too hard or what, but I was not in a happy place.  So I decided to slack off and take it easy for a couple of days and allow myself a chance to recover.  I am hoping to be able to dive into my blog again, as I do enjoy writing it, but I never want to be in that emotional state again, so we will see.

Pepperoncini and Verbena:

These were our two cute little Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Jenn (Hi Jenn).  The all black one standing up was the girl, Verbena, and the white frosted one laying down is Pepperoncini.  Having never had goats before, I would describe goats as cats, but with enough brains to get into real trouble.  They know how to listen, they just choose not to.  These damn goats would actually climb up into your lap to sit there and get petted.  They were absolutely adorable.

Here is little Peppers engaged in his absolute favorite activity, getting curry combed by Jenn.

This is Peppers all tired out from his second favorite activity, eating twigs off of my wood pile.  Damn goats.  Also, watching goats lay down is absolutely adorable.  They just hunker down on their front knees and its really cute.

I would say my goat feeder worked out just fine.  They both enjoyed the crud out of their alfalfa.

Here is little Peppers with my dog Sasha.  Not exactly best friends yet, but at least they accepted each other.  I don’t have one of Beans with the dogs, and thats crucial to the story.

Note all through this post I have referred to goats in the past tense.  Unfortunately, we had to take little Pepperoncini and Verbena back to the farm where we got them.  They were absolutely adorable to have around, and I loved their cuteness and their antics.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have to do whats best for all of the animals, and not you.  Our dogs have to come first, and Verbena just could not accept them.  She was unable to bond with them, and was terrible afraid.  She actually head-butted Sasha on the shoulder one night, so of course my coward was now terrified as well.  We was constantly tense and on watch with them.  Since we refused to restrict our dogs, and having a terrified goat is cruel, we took them home.

Verbena was just way too bonded to her herd, Peppers would have loved to stay with us.  Taking them back home was very sad.  Beans ran off with the other goats and didn’t look back, she was happier there.  Peppers just stayed by the fence waiting for us to come in and play with him. He was happier with us.  So its sad, but it was best for everyone.

We are not giving up on the Nigerian Dwarf Goats though.  The farm has two little baby goats for us, also a boy and a girl.  We are going to pick them up soon, after I finish goat proofing the yard.  Since they are smaller, we think they will have an easier time with the dogs.  Also, since they are young, the haven’t been part of the big herd yet, so they shouldn’t miss them when they come here.  We are pretty sure they will think my dog Maggie is their new goat mommy, which will thrill Maggie to no end.  I will post pics as soon as I have some.

Having two full size Nigerian Dwarf Goats was helpful though.  I know what I have to do to proof the yard for them.  Ask my poor little Trovita Orange Tree how good I am at building goat fences.  Lets just say version 2.o will be better.  I will outline my improvements tomorrow.

Paleo Portion:

I made the mistake of falling off my paleo wagon for a few days, and boy am I paying for it.  I think the gluten was giving me a pain in my stomach, but its hard to separate the food from my stress level.  Jenn made tasty rosemary chicken and yellow rice last night.  It was really good.  We got more awesome food from the market yesterday too.  So hopefully I will stay on track, and feel better with a reduced stress load for a few days.

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Day 49: Final Preps and New Directions

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Well, after tons of work, it seemed like they would never get here, but yesterday was the final day before little goaty homecoming.  I got the house built, sans a single pallet.  I got the feeder constructed, and a nice bale of alfalfa loaded up and ready to go.  After a crap ton of prep work, we got the yard cleaned up for them.  We are almost ready to go.

The only thing I still had to do was remove the last of the damn Oleander tree.  That stupid thing actually began to grow back once I hacked off a big chunk of it.  So despite having a pile of Oleander branches that is about 4 feet tall, I now have vigorous green growth coming up in new green shoots.  Not quite sure how to kill the damn thing and keep it down.  I think tomorrow I am going to have to bury it completely and wait for it to decompose.  In theory, once its covered with dirt, it will start to break down, just like a hugel bed.  It will break down even faster if I plant something on top of it.  So maybe a rose or blackberry bush that will grow quickly just to help add some shade in that corner of the yard.  The first part will be to cover it, and we can plan from there.

Look.  Sawzall.  Good for more than just cutting down my kitchen wall.

I got to sit for about two hours in a car dealership today, watching them try to fix what Tucson Dodge swore wasn’t actually a function of the vehicle.  Its amazing how some people can just straight up lie to you.  We have a GMC Envoy, which has a tail gate that is supposed to both swing open like a normal SUV, and lay flat like a truck.  Well, we took it to Tucson Dodge, who we purchased it from, and they broke it.  Not only did it no longer lay flat, they swore up and down that it wasn’t actually supposed to even do it.  So I don’t know what my range of readership is here, but if you ever have a chance to do business with Tucson Dodge, run away as fast as you can.

On the plus side, while waiting on my vehicle, I managed to roll the dice a little bit.  I can’t really go into specifics, for a variety of reasons, but it is beginning to feel like my life is once again slotting into the perfect groove.  Here is hoping that I am right, but we will see either way.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast:

Coffee

4 eggs

Jenn was nice enough to get up and going even faster than me today, and had a tasty breakfast waiting for me.  Nice to keep on rolling and not be hungry all the time.

Lunch:

I spent this in the dealership

Dinner:

2 Country Style pork ribs

Squash and Ricotta

Homemade Custard

We made the pork ribs in the toaster oven, and they turned out really nice.  They were even more tender than the last time we made these.  We mixed the squash and ricotta together in the pan, and the ricotta almost melted into a white sauce.  It was actually really good with a little Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Weight: 233.  Looks like I might be headed for a new low.  We shall see.

Day 48: Goat Feeders and Garages

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Yesterday was every bit as exhausting and at some points frustrating as I had been afraid it would be.  I did get some forward progress on my To-Do lists, but not as much as I had hoped.  Even with a major setback, I would still say my project turned out really well.  We also got a chance to check out an awesome local business for the first time.  Its one that we have been saying we need to go see for years, and we finally did it.

So yesterday morning, eventually, we headed out to run our errands.  I dropped off two more boxes of books at goodwill, trimming my remainder pile down even further.  We picked up some puppy pads for the bottom of the chick cage, as well as some new chick food.  We also got a goat water dish for our Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Its made from recycled tired, which means it should be able to stand up to goat abuse.

Then on the way home, we stopped off at Old Town Feed and Supply.  Its a cute little feed store just off of the road on my commute every day.  They have little bunnies and chickens every spring, and we have been saying we should go for literally the entire time we have lived here in Tucson.  Yesterday, we finally did.  This place was awesome.  Anything you needed for horses, chickens, wild birds or pet dogs, they had there.  On top of that, I now get to kick myself for not stopping sooner, since their prices were amazing.  They had some little baby turkeys in a bin up front, man they are adorable.  We got some chewies for the dogs, a quail block, and a nice bail of alfalfa for the goats.

It would be at this point that the day turned south a little.  Our Envoy has a tailgate that likes to not work ever since the thumb-fingered baboons at Tucson Dodge decided that it didn’t really need to do a function it was supposed to do.  So they took it apart, “repaired it”, charged us lots of money, and it hasn’t worked right since.  So next time you need a car, trust a homeless guy with an AK before you trust these idiots.  So on the way home, with a bale of alfalfa in the back, our tailgate decides it doesn’t want to close.  So we ride the last few miles home with a swinging gate.  We finally patched it closed, and now I get to spend a large part of my day in the waiting area at a car dealership.  I look forward to that joy.  Here is a shot of the ghetto work, just for kicks.

Once I got home though, I was able to build an awesome goat feeder for our Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Now there is nothing to stop us from bringing them home on Wednesday, assuming we get the tailgate fixed.

This little guy is about 5 feet high, and holds a standard bale of alfalfa hay nicely.  I made it entirely from reclaimed wood from our old garden.  It holds the food up off the ground so it stays dry, also it healthy for the little goats to reach up for their food.  It helps keep them from getting gas, and also from wasting their hay all over the ground.  I can’t wait to see them get into feeder related shenanigans.

Paleo portion:
I really didn’t eat much yesterday, so I won’t waste time on it. I have noticed on days that I do lots of work, I just don’t feel like eating. I did have half of a killer watermelon though. It was tasty.

Day 34: Coyote Proof Fence

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If you own live stock, you have to take steps to keep them safe from predation.  Whether its raccoons, hawks or neighborhood dogs, something wants to eat your tasty farm animals.  Here in the quasi-rural desert, its neighbor dogs and coyotes.  So of course, since we want our animals to stay safe, we have to protect them.  Our yard is currently surrounded by a 5 foot chain link fence, that I am pretty sure keeps everything out.  Pretty sure, is a pretty good way to be sorry, so we decided to coyote proof it.  I suggested barbed wire, but Jenn was opposed.  She pointed out that she talks to the neighbors, and they lean on the fence.  Not so much an issue for me, but I figured selling a house with razor wire is probably hard.

Now if you are lazy, there is a company you can hire, called coyote rollers.  They will sell you a kit that you can attach to your fence, and you will be fine.  However, they will be charging you several hundred for materials that cost you about $50.  So if you are willing to take a little time, you can save a boat load.

 

So this is your typical suburban chain link fencing.  Its actually pretty good at what it does, and is the best fencing for containing both goats and pigs.  Both of which are animals that like to try and escape.  Coyotes and large dogs though can jump, get their feet on the top bar, and basically pull themselves over.  So what we are doing, is basically putting a roller on top of the fence, so if they try to pull, they just roll back down to their side.

So first step, get some small L brackets, and drill them into the fence with self tapping metal on metal screws.  The brackets I used were 2 X 2.  I wouldn’t go any smaller than that, but going a bit bigger probably wouldn’t hurt.  Then, in the top hole, you are going to run some braided steel cabling.  I used the cabling coated in plastic, and I believe the rollers will slide better.  If you get a different outcome, please let me know.  Measure between each L bracket, and subtract about 1 1/2 inches.  Then cut a length of 1″ PVC piping to that length.  Insert it onto the cabling between each L bracket.  For reference, the tubing rolls better when left as a solid length, do not cut into sections.  You will get an end result like this.

Now, you may or may not need this step.  We saw that our pieces were sagging in mid span.  I don’t believe it was the cabling, which we pulled taught, I believe the PVC was simply not straight.  So we needed something to hold it up.  Thus, I McGyvered some more L brackets into this shape.

Which I then put in the middle of each span.  With a loose twist tie, it still rolls perfectly, and will stay in place on the guiding middle bracket. We don’t have any way to test this yet, and hopefully it won’t come up, but our yard should now be proof against coyotes and dogs.  If you follow along, you can too.

I also cut down a large portion of our Oleander tree yesterday.  Oleander is poisonous to just about everything that eats it, so we can’t have it in the yard with goats.  I got about half of it gone, but the former owners of this house let it go to crap.  Its all suckered out.  Downside is that it was a great visual screen with the neighbors.  It was also planted near the gas line, which means I can’t really plant a new tree to replace it.  Perhaps some blackberry bushes or something else that will climb the fence.

That cornucopia of sharp pointy sticks still has to come out.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast

3 tomato egg cups

7 sausage links

 

That was my awesome tasty breakfast yesterday.  Its actually a pretty poor picture, but the food was epic.  Jenn hollowed out some organic tomatoes we got from the Market on the Move.  Baked them in the oven for a bit, then added some eggs inside, and popped em back in.  They basically become soft boiled eggs with tomatoes.  Add in some epic dickmans breakfast sausage, it was an awesome meal.  It kept me going through a hard days work, and I still barely wanted dinner.

Dinner:

Egg Drop Soup

Cucumber Pepper Salad

We had some leftover egg drop soup tonight, and made a quick salad with ranch.  Very good after a long day of working.

Weight: 235

Day 32: Local Produce Extravaganza

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Market on the Move:

Today, we discovered yet one more reason why you want to buy local product if at all possible.  We found absolutely the best deal for vegetables for both our selves, and for our animals.  There is a group in Tucson called the 3000 Club which sponsors the Market on the Move.

These guys go around and gather up local organic produce from growers, gather it all together, and sell it for a small donation.  You can pay a $10 donation, and take up to 60lbs of some really awesome product home with you, and its all organic.  I really wish I had taken a picture of our food box, because it was simply awesome looking.  We got grape tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchini, yellow squash, green peppers, a honey dew and a watermelon.  Next time I will snap a picture.  We busted into the peppers and cucumbers for our dinner salads.  Those were some of the best green peppers I have had in a long time.

On top of that, we found a great resource for our animal fodder.  All of the vegetables that are unfit for human consumption, either because of bruising or rotting or whatever, are pulled to the side.  They give those away for free.  So we took a box back home with us.  Jenn organized it up a bit, and we put it in our freezer.  On Monday we will take it up to our Milk Share Farm.  I am sure it will really help her out.  When we get our own goats in a couple weeks, we will be able to use a box of food to last us a long time.  Two pygmy goats don’t really eat that much all in all.

It was a great atmosphere at the Market on the Move.  I look forward to going back next week.  It was great to see all of these people loading up with quality food.   Tucson is very conscious of organic eating and local food for a city of our size.  Still, I know that something like this is making a difference on both ends of the spectrum.  The people that donate are getting healthier food than normal, and our donations go to help needy people as well.  Take a look in your own local area, you might find something similar.  In these times, aren’t we all looking for a quality value in food?

Goat Preps:

Our preps for the goats continue.  Jenn came up with a good effective way to put a sloped roof on our palette goat house.  We also found a way to recycle some metal struts from our old futon, and use it to create a raised platform for the goats to sleep on.  Apparently Nigerian Dwarf Goats are sensitive to moisture.  Fortunately, with this being the desert, that doesn’t come up much.  They like to sleep up off the ground, so that if the ground gets wet, they don’t.  Jenn also started cutting down the Oleander tree behind the goat house.  Oleander is poisonous to most animals that eat it, and the dead branches and leaves attract ticks.  Thus, its time in our yard is at an end.  The worst part is, with its toxicity I can’t even use it for hugel material.  I simply have to throw it away.  I should be able to put the roof on the goat house on Monday when I am off.

Here is the Oldeaner tree that needs cut down and disposed of.  We will be sad to lost the visual screen with the neighbors, but we will plant something else to replace it.

Here is the side frames of the goat house I built from reclaimed palettes.  It started life as a chicken coop, but I found a better design for that.  I just have to build up the front about a foot, then I can have a nice sloping roof for them.

Here is the inside.  Those black pieces were metal from a futon, now they will hold sleeping goat butts.  I just have to put a piece of wood over it all, then cover it with straw, and my little nigerian goats will sleep like babies.  Jenn gets full credit for coming up with this.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast

1 cup of coffee with cream and cane sugar.

We had to cut the morning coffee ritual short since we were running out to the farmers market share.

Lunch:

Wildberry smoothie

Although not ideal, I was really hungry.  They made it with non-fat yogurt instead of ice cream, so it could have been worse, but could have been better.

Dinner:

Pork Chops

Goodie Salad w/ ranch

Brocolli

Dinner was basically what meat could be reached without digging through tons of veggies in the freezer.  Jenn made the pork chops in our toaster oven, they were tasty.  Goodie salad is all the tasty parts of the salad, like cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, without the lettuce.  We ran out of lettuce and said screw it.

Weight: 233

Day 28: We found some goats

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Today was a truly awesome day.  So awesome in fact, it almost makes up for the incredible amount of sunburn that I received while doing it.  The moment that fades, I will be sitting pretty.

With Jenn coming home from Pittsburgh, I took the opportunity to take a nice long weekend with her, and spend some time together around the house.  This actually turned out to be much more productive than I had anticipated, such as with planting the orange tree yesterday.  Today we spent the entire morning working in the yard, getting it ready for our animals.

First, the hugelkulture bed I put the orange tree in seems to be doing its job quite well.  We watered it in the morning, and it was still moist around the tree heading into the evening.  I think the wood I put in the hugel bed was old enough that it sucked the water right up, and its slowly feeding it back, just like its supposed to.  This bodes well for the garden we want to plant.

I was able to get the last clothes line pole out of the yard, that I had left standing for the entire three years we have lived in this house.  It was actually much easier to remove than the other one, which is just ironic now.  The last one must have had a foot wide block of concrete on it, this one was like two inches.  I guess I did the hard one first.  Jenn and I were also able to drag the goat house across the yard, and put it in the corner where it will be sheltered.

Lastly, I found a way to not only recycle the wooden structure of our old garden, but also to recycle the ground plot.  All of the old wood timbers are in a pile in my side yard, all I have to do is trim the ends off, and I can use them for my raised beds.  I just have to put in the Hugel bed, and I will be up an running in no time.

We also figured that we can use the bed to grow some grains for our goats.  I am thinking either alfalfa, millet or amaranth will be a good way to go.  Something we can toss down with a minimum of irrigation and grow for goat fodder.  We should be able to convert a decent chunk of our side yard to grain production, which will be phenomenal.

That entire list of things was accomplished before 1pm.  After that, it got really interesting.  As I mentioned previously, Jenn and I have joined a milk share.  So we took up our jars, and some candles that we were using as barter.  Of course we can’t visit the farm without wanting to spend all day there petting the animals, so we got to talking with our farmer.  Long story short, we have arranged an adoption of two little Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  They look a lot like this :

These will be the perfect goats for our yard, and they are wonderful little milk producers for their size.  Plus it will make our backyard super fertile.   As soon as we adopt our actual goats, I will post some pictures of them.  Goats are little characters, so I am sure their antics will make their way onto these pages.  We should be able to bring them home in just a few weeks, once I get back from my company meeting in Florida.  This is a fantastic first step towards our homestead.  On top of that, we got an early share of milk, which we weren’t expecting at all. 

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast:

2 cups of coffee with cream and cane sugar

Lunch:

None

We got so busy keeping up the yard I didn’t even think about food.  I wasn’t even hungry.

Dinner:

Stew Beef cooked in coconut oil

Coconut oil cabbage

Salad w/ home-made ranch dressing

carrots with honey butter sauce

I can’t even describe how awesome everything was.  Probably the best part was the ranch dressing.  It was super simple and delicious.  So glad Jenn made it for me.  Is simply:

Coconut milk

mayonnaise

Garlic

Dill

Black Pepper

I could have just poured it in a glass and drank it.  It was amazing.

Weight: 233

Day 26: I ate goat

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Today was truly an awesome day.  Well, it was an awesome day to experience, hopefully its also an awesome day to read about.

For the first time in at least a year, Jenn and I were able to go to the farmer’s market at St. Phillips.  Thats the same farmer’s market that I went to a few weeks ago and left after five minutes because I am boring.  It was a heck of a lot more fun with Jenn.  The market has nearly doubled in size since we first heard about it 3 years ago, I find that awesome.  There are not only a lot more vendors there, but now they are selling more than just lettuce and honey.  There is all kinds of grass-fed beef, mesquite flour, gluten free tasties, even somebody selling sprouted seeds.  Someone flies up to Alaska every fall and catches a ton of salmon, then freezes them and flies home and sells them.  Its great to see so many different kinds of locally raised and organic options available.

Jenn and I got some great lettuce, carrots, purple onions with long green stalks on them, and some mesquite flour.  Mesquite can be used a bunch of ways in the kitchen, is gluten free, and has an almost chocolate coffee sweet taste to it.  Organizations like Desert Harvesters collect what is cast off in our neighborhoods and grind it up.  If you are non-local and want to try some, go to mesquiteflour.com.  They are a southern Arizona company, and they can ship to anywhere.  We put it on some steaks last night as a flavor rub, and it was awesome.

Also at the market, we got to taste grass-fed goat.  I was astonished by how much I liked it.  The nice lady from Van Haren Meat Company was there selling her local product.  Realizing that the best way to draw in customers is to give away samples, she had a slow cooker of goat shoulder roast going that had just been salt, pepper and garlicked.  So very mild seasoning.  Jenn and I were hesitant, at first deciding to split a sample.  Jenn took a taste, and I was immediately told to get my own.  The flavor really is very similar to beef.  It had only a tiny hint of the gaminess that tends to mar non cow animals.  I have tried lamb many times and can barely eat it.  Goat I would eat knowingly and gladly.  I will probably order some in the future, as soon as I work through the ton of meat I got from Dickman’s.  I can already think of a bunch of ways to cook it, and its super healthy for you.  I was so glad I got the chance to taste it.

Breakfast:

2 cups coffee with cream and cane sugar

Lunch:

Round Steak

Grilled Purple Onions

Salad

The round steak we got from Dickman’s was incredibly tender for what cut it is.  We cooked it with mesquite rub and salt and pepper and it was awesome.  We also through the purple onions on the grill just like they do in Spain.  The outer layer chars up nice, and the inside cooks it its juices.  You just peel off the outside, and scarf.

Dinner:

1 small bowl of salt and pepper pistachios

Fruit Smoothie

We made the rest of our strawberries and bananas into smoothies last night.  We made them with more bananas this time, and they were even tastier.  I will have to keep fruit in the house just for that.

Weight: 233

I feel like I am going to start losing again in the next few days.  I can usually tell, so hopefully this takes me to 230.