not a boring soup & sandwitchnot a boring soup & sandwitch
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Manger danger
goat manger in action

Of course the goats wanted to be on top of the new manger.

The thin plywood lid was collapsing when they stood on it, which could be a safety issue if they fall the wrong way.

Adding some 2x4's for support makes it more standable.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat books for beginners

Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy GoatsI know that some weeks it seems like all I do is talk about goats and books. So why not shake it up...and talk about goat books?!

When I first started researching goats, my first stop was Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. The Storey series is usually a safe bet for encyclopedia-style information on livestock combined with beautiful pictures, and this book was no different (although a little less in-depth than some). If you've never met a goat before and are only going to get one book, this is probably the one to buy.

But once I finished that beginner guide...I still felt like a beginner. So I moved on to Raising Goats Naturally. Deborah Niemann's book is also an introduction to goat care, but it's written in a more chatty, first-person fashion (a lot like my own books), which I suspect turns some people away. However, since I'm aware that all one-author books inevitably share that person's biases and Raising Goats Naturallyknowledge gaps, I enjoyed the honesty of Niemann's book and definitely pulled out some interesting tidbits that weren't covered in the Storey guide. Specifically, I learned that you should always breed miniature or partially miniature goats with bucks that are as small as the doe or smaller so that you don't have to worry about extra-large kids causing problems coming out. This and other factoids probably seem obvious to many of you, but I sucked them up happily, glad to have someone else's experiences to help me avoid beginner mistakes.

By the time I finished Niemann's book, I was starting to feel more like an accomplished goatkeeper...but I still didn't have goats. Since I couldn't move up our goat-arrival date, I settled on getting another book instead, this time Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. I'll admit up front that our two spoiled darlings arrived when I was only a Natural Goat Carequarter of the way through Coleby's book and my attention quickly turned to real, live goats, so I've still got a lot left to read, but I think that this book makes a very good addition to the beginning goatkeeper's long as you take the contents with a grain of salt. Coleby veers a little too far toward the personal-experience/no-science side for my tastes in a few spots, but most of her book walks a more middle ground. And she presents intriguing suggestions about how the prehistory of goats impacts their current needs, explaining that goats' tendency to browse on tree leaves means that the animals can develop mineral deficiencies when dining primarily on short-rooted grasses in human-build pastures. In turn, Coleby asserts that those cravings are what spur goats to break out of our pastures...which may be wishful thinking, but is worth considering.

I'd be curious to hear from our readers. Which other goat books do you feel help beginners turn into permaculture goat herders? Did I miss an obvious introductory text from my lineup?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Learning from garden failures
Roast brussels sprouts

We enjoyed our first and possibly only roast brussels sprouts of the season Tuesday, the combination of a new variety and an extremely wet fall meaning that the plants blighted instead of thrived. The experience made me think about how frequently home gardeners give up on a crop because of a single failure, when what they really should have gotten out of the experience was an impulse to figure out what made their plants refuse to grow.

For example, I often hear from folks who think carrots aren't worth growing, while for us the tasty roots are an easy crop. Well, an easy crop as long as I pay attention and make sure their seeds germinate during the summer heat. And as long as I locate the root vegetables in loose, humus-rich soil. So, not really an easy crop, but easy once you figure out what factors of your unique site are standing in the way of getting a stellar carrot crop.

Garden vegetables

Now that the cold weather has truly set in and most of you have nothing left to plant for the year, why not spend a few hours thinking back over your garden past? When you look at all of those luscious-looking pictures in the seed catalogs this winter, try to ignore the pretty photos and tantalizing descriptions. Instead, seek out the less sensational but more important notes on which blights each variety is resistant to and how well they do in other difficult situations that your garden will throw at them in the year to come.

And, as a reward, next year your garden will grow twice as well!

Joey chatter
argh... so many 5 am ideas
  • Add a propellor property that installs debootstrap. Portably, on any distro.
  • Enhance propellor's self-bootstrap code so it falls back from using apt to install ghc to downloading the haskell platform, so that it will work on any distro.
  • Then, add a chroot Property, which debootstraps a chroot, and runs propellor inside it, deploying the set of Properties that the chroot is configured to have.
  • Add systemd container support to that, beause it would be easy and would be very similar to propellor's existing docker support.
  • Here's where it gets crazy: Add an explodeChroot property, which sets up a chroot as above, but then deletes the entire system it's run in, replacing it with the files from the chroot..
  • Write a few other properties as needed to make that chroot bootable. (grub installed, fstab configured, etc)

So, you point that config file at some random VM as provided by a VPS provider, which may be full of cruft or not the right distribution at all. And it either turns into a cleanly installed system meeting the Properties of your choice (incuding distribution), or more likely, trashes it so it can't boot. ;)

(It would also be some partition setup properties away from d-i 2.0prealphajustkiddingonlyforhaskellprogrammers, but the clean VM installer seems more novel and interesting.)

Cooincidentally, I'm halfway through reading Schild's Ladder, in which posthumans are racing to keep away from a glitch in the fabric of space-time which is destroying the galaxy. Some of them want to try to destroy the glitch. Some want to stop it expanding, but think it's too interesting to destroy. Some want to study it. Factions form and tensions grow and research progress slows. And then it turns out it's full of fecund, crazy planc-scale life, and maybe it should expand out into the universe which looks pretty sterile and empty by comparison. Maybe they can make their way inside.

Joey chatter

Wow, 10 °F / -12 °C

Will be colder by morning. Put another log in the stove.

Joey chatter

A pefect winter night. Milky way, crackling frost, and numb fingers.

Holding Wonder

Swimming seventeen was India 

put around me

thrust into me

in the best of ways

immersed in that foriegn wonder.

I'm still interpretting the message 

left by the dolphins

in the world

between our minds.

Did you know

a wild animal 

can carry a legacy

to change your whole life?


What does one conversation mean?

Maybe the most magical 

moment I'll get.

A friend told me I was chosen

by the dolphin messenger.  

And now this is the truth I know.

Lesson one:  

lusting for the past is an ineffective way.

Put these moments in your pocket

for always.

Two:  Yes you need to save the planet

and keep swimming even when things look grim.

Three: The dolphin came for you.

You were chosen in that deep eyed moment

because you too are fascinating and wild.

Four:  Keep exploring the fantastic in between.

Joey chatter

Suddenly makes a lot more sense!


Joey chatter
and I forgot to eat anything

Propellor can, at last, work without any central git repo!

Spent most of today making propellor's protocol include a git push. Actually, the server pulls from the client over the ssh connection that the client makes to the server. Weird and awesome.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Up and over
fixing Abigail's gate

Abigail discovered how to escape from one of her pastures today.

We think she used an edge on the other side of this stump to climb up and over.

Trimming the stump and adding a few pieces of wood might be enough to keep her in.


If it's not broke, don't fix it. That is what my long term nurse said when I called and spoke with her on the phone. My doctor was, YES, talking in dreams. But the nurse who has helped me through decades of illness says it is not worth the risk. Maybe she's right.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Letting goats graze in the woods
Goats grazing in the woods

Ever since we got goats, I've been building them a new "tractor" every day out of cattle panels. At first, that effort seemed very worthwhile, since I was moving the girls around to eat all of the honeysuckle off our fencelines and barn. But once I ran out of easy honeysuckle buffets, it seemed like twenty minutes of labor for half a belly of so-so food might not be as efficient a use of my time.

AbigailMonday afternoon, I decided to let the girls run out in the woods...and boy did they love it! If I don't have to ensure that the honeysuckle is all concentrated in one place, there's still quite a bit out there, maybe a few weeks' worth within a stone's throw of the coop. The question is --- will I regret letting our goats run wild outside our core homestead?

The worst-case scenario is that a trespassing hunter will think Abigail is a deer, or that the pack of wild dogs who roam through our woods will get past Lucy's defenses and try to eat Artemesia up. More likely (but only slightly less heart-wrenching) is the possibility that our girls will hop right over the chicken-wire fences that surround our core homestead and start chowing down on apple-tree twigs.

To be entirely honest, our goats have gotten out and ended up free in the yard a few times already. So far, they seem much more interested in oat leaves than in apple trees, so I'm willing to risk a few nibbles as long as I'm right here to catch them in the act. Chances are good that if Artemesia got loose in the garden, she'd just end up on the porch, as she has before, asking why we haven't come out to play, so I'll try letting them out into the woods for longer today. Here's hoping our goats aren't too capricious and that they behave!

Joey chatter

I have a VM with 400 gb storage for €5/mo, from I think I got that price on a promotion; it seems to be €9/mo normally. I have no particular reason to trust that provider, so I use it only for encrypted backups / annexes and data collection.

It's been ok so far except for the time I was trying to get pv-grub installed and broke their remote console and had to reimage and re-backup 100 gb of data since they wouldn't fix it. You get what you pay for I suppose, but this let me test that my propellor configuration worked reliably. ;) is another VPS provider in the cheap storage space that's perhaps better known/more trustworthy (but has a much more restrictive TOS limiting it to "backup only").

Joey chatter

What smart AI in its right mind would want to do computer programming?

Joey chatter

I guess a rick is around 1 truckload, so $65-80 or so delivered. Price has been going up lately.

Full off-grid, yes.

Joey chatter

My fallback is: Call wood guy. Or, I suppose, go pick up a chainsaw and cut down any tree in 23 acres, but I'm lazy. ;)

Joey chatter

Well, I did some horrible uname -r vs file(1) comparing.

So, my Digital Ocean VM won't be left running an insecure kernel provided by Digital Ocean for a month after a cold boot (initiated by Digital Ocean); propellor now detects that misconfiguration and kexecs into a security-supported distro kernel.

Hmm.. Across all my VMs and hosting providers, not a single one of them can run a distro kernel anymore without some form of hacking. It's .. almost like hosting providers don't want you to, or their users don't care.

Daily Word Allowance

We all have a different diet for how many words we can read in a day and a very different quota for the words we want to take in.  

Because of this I have been trying to minimize my public outbursts and save them for where my voice is needed.

Some people don't have a voice because they have been silenced.  Historically women fall in this group and now African Americans in Ferguson Missouri are having a more difficult time being heard.  This is especially true considering Darren Wilson's grand jury hearing which is happening today.  

I love pictures of cats washing dishes and Bored Panda slide shows of foxes as much as the next person, but there is too much silencing for me to use my voice to share such cuteness, at lest right now.

Today if you read this, I hope you follow me in this and post something that shows your concern for justice.

The image here is one I borrowed from a worthwhile article from the New York Times.  I have a friend from college who I think was involved in this die in, speaking of putting your action in line with your words.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Two thorny homesteading issues

Split firewood"I was wondering whether this feels like it might be a longer winter than normal and if the woodshed was full enough to make it through to the warmer weather of spring? In our two years having a woodstove at our cabin, we are still learning just how much wood we will need to keep us warm during the cold months.

Also - I was curious if you have to deal with mice in the trailer? Our cabin was invaded recently and I was looking for more good ideas to make them less inclined to visit."

--- Karen B.

Two great questions, Karen! As for the wood --- we never seem to have quite enough, but we manage. In order to really get ahead on firewood, we'd need to change our system so that we can stock up on wood during the winter that comes a year before we plan to burn it, since that's a season when our lives are less busy. But since I need to be able to get to last year's firewood during the winter, we instead empty the woodshed out and then fill it back up. In the end, that method means that cutting firewood has to compete with the garden --- I'll bet you can guess which one wins! To make up for our slacker habits, I tend to earmark a standing dead tree or two for spring firewood since the dry wood can often be burned soon after cutting, which generally ekes us through late February, March, and April.

Trapped mice

The mouse issue is more interesting to me because we're finally starting to figure it out. Every fall, the local mouse population does tend to invade our trailer, and even though Huckleberry catches an occasional mouse, he's not our first line of defense. (Our other cat, Strider, is a lover, not a fighter.) We've learned the hard way that it's essential to be hyper vigilant at this time of year --- at the first sound of nibbling in the walls or sight of mouse droppings on the counter, we pull out the traps with a vengeance. Mark talked me into buying this super fancy trap years ago, and it did work for a little while (as you can see above), but then the scent of death built up and the mice started to avoid it. Now, we tend to use cheaper traps, which we can reuse a few times until they lose efficacy and then toss. Our favorite trap is currently one a lot like this.

When trapping mice, you'll want to put the trap where you think a mouse might run. Mice are skittish little varmints, so they're unlikely to head to your bait in the middle of the floor; instead, set your trap against a wall in an out-of-the-way spot (but near where you saw their signs). We sometimes bait with peanut butter, but cheese has a higher success rate, especially cheddar. I probably don't need to say it, but don't bother with live traps --- moving animals around is never a good idea, and unless you live way out in the country, the mouse is likely to head into another home after you release it, where it will get killed anyway.

Another factor to keep in mind is sealing away anything that a mouse might like. Food is obvious, but clothing and toilet paper are also in great demand for bedding. An average bureau doesn't really keep a mouse out, I've found, so rubbermaid bins can sometimes be better. Barring that, I try to at least go through each drawer on occasion so I don't miss a mouse nest being built. If you have storage areas inside your home, don't pile things up in such a manner that a cat can't get into the center to hunt, and do check those little-used areas at intervals as well. Catching the first few mice who drop by in the fall is only of middling difficulty, but if you let them breed and have fifty mice to hunt down, your work will really be cut out for you!

I hope that helps, and I'm glad you're being proactive. In the city, roaches are probably the most common vermin, but in the country, it's all about beating the mice. And as cruel as it seems to kill them off in the fall, you'll be rewarded by a winter sitting by the fire without the sound of nibbling in the walls.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
First real cold spell of the winter
Cold farm

We've enjoyed such a nice, gentle fall...but all good things must come to an end. When I woke to a low of 12 Saturday morning, I realized that I'd forgotten some of the winter tasks that I should probably have been more on top of. Yep, our water line had frozen (as it generally does in extreme cold weather...especially if I forget to put insulation back around the summer access points), and I hadn't filled up any backup water sources. So I had to steal half of the contents of Huckleberry's water bucket for the goats, which prompted our grumpy cat to stalk outside in a snit and then bring a junco back to lay across the kitchen floor. I picked up the bird, thinking it was dead, opened the back door to toss the critter out...and Huckleberry's prey lifted off from my hands and flew away, stunned but unharmed by our cat's attention-getting move.

Warm fire

So winter is here at last! Happily, I realized that twelve doesn't really feel all that cold when you've gotten used to mid-fifties inside the trailer. And now maybe those last few leaves will drop off our baby apple trees so I can enjoy one of my favorite seasons --- fall perennial planting! After the ground thaws, of course.

Errol (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
What's good about rape?
Patch of greens

Canola leavesTalk about a vegetable with an undeserved bad rap.  In Canada they changed its name to canola.  If you want a recipe you need to look up broccoli raab or rapini.  It's one of my standard, easy-to-grow winter vegetables.  A ten-by-ten foot patch provides a never ending supply of fresh and healthy greens.

Yesterday in the dentist's waiting room, a cooking show was on TV with the sound muted.  I watched the cook put greens on a cookie sheet and into the oven.  After the commercial when it came out the words "oven roasted rapini" flashed on the screen.  I was planning on sauteeing mixed greens for a supper side dish, but decided to try this instead.

First I soaked the picked greens in cold water and drained them.

Chopping greens

Then I cut them in two-or-three-inch-long sections.

Preparing greens

A coating of olive oil with salt preceded putting them on baking sheets and placing in a 350 degree oven.  A stir or two, then, fifteen minutes later--ready to eat along with crock-pot navy beans cooked with chopped onions and green pepper.

Roast greens


(Note from Anna: For those of you who aren't in the know, Errol is my father, who homesteads in South Carolina and is the primary author of Low-Cost Sunroom. I'm tempted to nitpick about his use of the term "rapini," which I understand to mean the broccoli-like flower buds from various types of crucifers. But maybe he's right and I'm wrong and the whole plant can be called rapini? It definitely sounds better than rape....)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Feeding oilseed radishes to goats
Protecting strawberry plants

Oilseed radishes for goatsI've written a lot already about how much our goats love oat leaves. Always a softy, I've taken to tethering our girls in the garden for half an hour or an hour every afternoon to fill them to bursting, during which time I mostly monitor them (but also cover any strawberry plants with a bit of plastic trellis material for an added layer of protection). But as our oat stores dwindle, I decided to try our goats on another winter cover crop --- oilseed radishes.

Actually, I'd experimented with this offering before, including some oilseed beds into various enclosures while letting the goats eat the honeysuckle off the side of the barn. Interestingly, our girls seemed totally uninterested in what were then beautiful green leaves...until we had a killing frost. I suspect the oilseed radishes changed at that point, perhaps the way carrots and kale both get sweeter after a frost. Guesswork aside, the only thing I know definitively is that our girls ate the oilseed radish plants to the ground from that point on.

Milking stand

Since determining that our goats do enjoy frost-bitten oilseed radishes, I've pulled up a few plants for them now and then when no radishes are within their enclosures. But my offerings were often abandoned, presumably because it's a lot harder for a goat to break off bite-size pieces when a plant isn't anchored firmly in the ground.

So, Friday, I decided to chop up the roots and see if that made the radishes more palatable.
Did it ever! Artemesia got sick of radishes before too long, but Abigail ate about three big plants' worth.

The photo above shows me starting to train Abigail to her milking stand, the tray of which was full of radish roots plus a little bit of corn. Our doe still doesn't always get on the stand immediately, but she
did jump up one day without me even asking because she wanted to look in the trough for food. As with most things, I think training Abigail to the milking stand will come easy --- goats are definitely the smartest livestock we've so far had on our farm. (Which means we have to be ultra-careful not to let them learn bad habits!)

Joey git-annex devblog
day 234 undo undo

Built the git annex undo command. This is intended to be a simple interface for users who have changed one file, and want to undo the change without the complexities of git revert or git annex proxy. It's simple enough that I added undo as an action in the file manager integration.

And yes, you can undo an undo. :)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Snowy afternoon with goats
Snowy goat

With the snow starting to fall, I let our girls top off their bellies with oat leaves Thursday afternoon, then put them to bed early with a sunflower-seed head.

Goat catchup

As she's gotten bigger, Artemesia has grown an independent streak. She now has a bad habit of lagging behind for But our doeling soon gallops to catch up.

Begging goat

"Gee, I almost missed the treat?!"

Goats eating sunflower seeds

Both goats enjoy eating the sunflower-seed head right down to the stem, but Artemesia isn't nearly as good at it. Our little doeling always takes one big bite that doesn't quite fit in her mouth, then she spends several minutes trying to wrestle the seeds into her throat. Meanwhile, Abigail takes little bites --- gulp, gulp, gulp, down the gullet --- and ends up consuming 85% of the head. No wonder our doe is getting fat while our doeling just holds her ground.

Sorry for the dark pictures, but hopefully you enjoyed walking the goats back to the coop with me!


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