Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dyeing Playdough with Beet Juice

We ran out of artificial food coloring the other day, much to my pleasure.  But then I was left with the dilemma of how to dye playdough naturally for my kids.  As I glanced in the pantry, the one lonely can of beets (I actually do love them!) seemed to call to me from the dark depths.

I was a little worried about the colorfastness of this notorious clothing stainer, but after it cooled, the color stayed put just fine.  Just make sure you knead it on a washable surface and then wash it right away.  Better still, use a cutting board so you don't have to worry.

Beet Juice to Dye Homemade Playdough

Dyeing my playdough was incredibly easy.  I know you can use berries and other foods to dye playdough, so why not the juice left over from a can of beets?  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 cup flour (use the cheap stuff, not your good flour)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup beet juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium low heat.  Combine remaining ingredients and add all at once to heated oil.  Stir frequently until the mixture clumps up into a solid ball and resists being pulled apart while you stir.

Remove from heat and knead for a minute or so to get the firm playdough texture.

When you use beet juice instead of the normal one cup of water called for in the recipe, you get a nice, deep pink color that the kids really enjoyed.  Best of all, this mama doesn't have to worry about harmful chemicals in one of their favorite activities!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Uses for Odd Plastic Containers

Okay, let's talk about potty chairs.  Once the kids are potty trained (ours just moved to the big toilet, thank GOD!), what to do with those potty chairs?  You can't resell them or probably even give them away, and it's a shame to just throw out all that plastic, so I present to you another option, one that will make you giggle and gag at the same time:
He was hysterical cuz he's so cool getting in the picture while I'm shooting for the blog.  See the hilarity?  A great time was had by all.
I put some cute pansies in there.  We won't talk about what the dogs did the next day...let's just say that I repotted most of my new plants in three different pots. >(.

There are other containers we all have had to deal with at one point or another.  This Easter, the gramps got both kids a plastic Easter bucket.  I thought I had some hanging pots at the house, but it turned out I was fresh out, so I looked around for a replacement and found:
 These multicolored pansies look great in a "flower" pot.  Being up on the table, it made it safely through rounds 1, 2 and 3 of rainy day dog destruction, so it's still looking pretty.

 It will continue to fill in through the summer, so barring any other dog accidents, it will look even better in a month or two.

This was going to be a hanging pot too, but like I said, fresh out.  Rob remembered the spare pot, so here we go!  

I really love having flowers on the porch all summer.  It is our peaceful retreat every evening, and it is one place I don't feel guilty splurging.  I dropped some --not so-- subtle hints about a hanging basket for Mother's Day, so hopefully it will be even more cheerful out here soon.

Using non traditional pots is an inexpensive way to go and can stretch your flower budget even further.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Put an Herb Garden on the Patio

We're not good at digging beds.  Well, okay, we can dig them, but that weeding stuff?  Tchh.  Plus, the neighbor's cats and our dogs really appreciate the litter/play boxes we provide for them, so we had to come up with an alternative.  We had some cinder blocks lying around, and after a spontaneous herb purchase at Big R, here is what we came up with:
Sorry for the wonky angle, but I had to hide the debris and other unmentionables from the camera.  We used one cinder block laid with solid sides up and down, topped by another cinder block to plant the herbs in.  This works GREAT for those pesky mints that like to travel.  We put dill, chamomile, rosemary, parsley and spearmint in these ones.

Once we have a few more cinder blocks, we will transplant the rest of my mints -- pineapple, chocolate and apple -- into the other side of the walkway on the patio.  That side gets more shade from the big elm tree, and mints are tolerant to partial shade.

I think we will paint the cinder blocks to pretty them up a bit, but they look okay as is and I love how practical they are.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pallet Fence Finished!

We got super lucky and happened upon big stacks of pallets a couple of times, so we were able to finish our buck pen yesterday.
 It seems to stretch on forever, but it was actually about 116 feet.  Little Charlie looks so small in this big new pen.  To the right, you can see their original line, so it's not a whole lot bigger.  For Nigerians though, it is plenty.  We are thinking of dividing this pen to rotate through, and then adding one more to be sure they can pasture all season.

In this side, we used baling twine to tie at the top and bottom.  The whole thing is a little wobbly if you shake it back and forth, but it is not going to break or fall over, so it works.  This side, which was 49 pallets, cost us nothing but the gas money to get them.  We just started taking the pickup every time we went to town so we could be prepared.  Worked out well!
 The pattern is the same for this side and works out well.  We did two upright, followed by one on its side to provide stability.  The first pallet you see in the pic above is different, because we're using that one for a gate.
 They have an added bonus of providing shade in an otherwise flat, treeless pen.  The boys can go into their shelter in the barn, but it doesn't have much airflow so it gets stifling in the heat.  Everyone was overheated today because we had a 30 degree increase in just two days - to 86 today!  I'm not complaining, but it is quite the adjustment.

Finally, here is another pic of our two new Satin Angora does, Mallory and Marty.  They are so beautiful!  After the sun went down, Mallory got down on the ground and did this weird hopping thing.  It looked like she was kicking up her heels while she ran in circles.  I don't know if she was happy or getting rid of a bug, but it was entertaining to watch.

This Week at the Farm

A lot can happen in a week.  One of the two Satin Angora boys I brought home, Sammy, got sick and had to be put down.  On a good note, I know a lot more now than I did a week ago, but it was devastating.  I really loved that little guy.  The breeder, who is also a friend of mine, offered me a free replacement.  She didn't have to, so I am deeply appreciative.  Meet the new guy, who looks remarkably like Sammy and has no name yet:
There's Dapper Dan in front.  They used to be cage mates, so they had no trouble being together again.  The new guy, as you can see here, is a little tense, but he will adjust soon.  On top of moving to a new place, he's trying to deal with this sudden warm weather.  We went from 50 to 85 in two days - wow!

When I went to pick him up, I somehow ended up with a couple tag alongs, both of whom are bred and due 5/23:
 This was taken a couple hours after putting them together.  They squabbled a little, but seem to be quite content together, despite the heat wave, or maybe because of - it's too darned hot to fight!
 The above girl is a chocolate tort. Satin Angora, and she has the silkiest fur ever.  I don't know one fiber from another, but she is gorgeous!  I can't wait til I know what I'm doing with all of that. :)  She was bred to a black, so it will be fun to see what we get.  Also, she is Sammy's mother, so there's some comfort in that I think.

This girl, Mallory, is a feisty one.  So far, she seems fairly mellow, but I know what's hiding under that calm exterior - she showed her true colors before I decided to buy her.  Had to go for the odd one out, you know.  She was bred to a pearl, and from what I'm told, we won't get a great variety of colors, but I could totally be happy with a baby pearl.

The original plan was to get two doe kits from litters born on Easter weekend, but that would mean no babies until next year.  I'm so happy Sue decided to part with a couple of her lovely does, because now I get to satisfy my baby fever a year earlier than planned!

Last year, we had does kindle together in a tractor and it worked out fairly well, but they were different breeds so it was easy to tell who's who.  I'm not sure how we will work this kindling, because I intend to sell one or two to help recoup some costs, and to do that I need to know for sure who had who.

We still have a month to figure it out though.  I think I will build separate kindling pens, because last year we had a lot of struggles with moving young kits - they can fit out of the 2x4 wire on the rabbit tractor floor, so if there is the slightest gap under the frame they will escape.

Maybe we'll just have to get two more does of another breed to work everything out. :O

Also new at the farm this week, we have a puppy.  She is chihuahua and toy Aussie, and weighs in at probably half a pound.  Despite her small carriage, she has a calm, big dog demeanor and is perfectly happy being packed around by my daughter.

Eventually, we will probably breed her and sell the pups.  Everything needs to pull its weight around here.  Speaking of that, Callie, the rescue dog (fuzzy butt on the right in the 2nd pic up) thinks she has found her calling.  She is submissive and scared of our other dog, but when this puppy came here, there went Callie becoming all mother hen and nipping at Fern, the Rott mix.  Fern backs away and lets Callie protect the little one.

Yesterday, we finished up a fence, which will be another post, and Callie was with us.  The goat does wandered out of their pen while we were putting things back together, and Callie herded them back in.  I think she was as surprised as we were, and it was great to see this new awareness dawn in her.  I want to work with her on her lay and stay commands, and then we will try teaching her to work.  I am so happy she found us.  She is the sweetest dog, so willing and loving.  I think she's happy to be here too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A New Toy

You have to give kids something to do.  All kids.  We have this play thing whatchamacallit in the yard that the two-legged kids never play with, so we drug it back out to the four-legged kids today.  These kids have never seen it, so it was fun to watch them figure it out.  By the way, if you want one of these for your kids, check out Craigslist or yard sales.  They are dirt cheap and abundant, and make excellent toys for goats.
 Lorelai was inspecting the setup to make sure it met her rigorous standards.

 Everyone came to check it out, but the kids weren't sure what to think.
 Rob, who pretends not to like the goats, was thoughtful enough to come up with a way for the kids to get up and inside, all by himself!  He's our hero.

 Honey decided to check it out, but then moved on to some hay.

 Coffee, followed by a gaggle of kids, braved the great unknown next.  You can see the kids scurrying away in fear.  Plastic bites, you know!

 Surveying her queendom.

 Some of them decided to give it a try, with Coffee, who apparently redefines "nanny" goat by being the designated babysitter.  None of those are her kids - she's not due for two months!

 Pow-wowing while discussing the intricacies of sliding on one's feet.

 Lookin' large, Marge.

 What'cha got there?

 They're all being chicken now...except for the chickens.  They're brave and stuff.

 Told her to smile.  None of my kids listen to me!  I just get these cheesy looks instead.

 She fell down and great evil was being plotted.  Fortunately, Daddy stepped in before she became the new slide.  See?  Told you he's our hero!

 They decided the first place we put it was too far away, so we moved it next to their feeder.  Figured the moms would let them go play that close.

 Once again looking out for his four-legged kids with a stepping block.

 Coffee always gives me good camera fodder.  I think it's the ears.  She is just a big kid at heart and makes me laugh every time I go hang with the goats.

 Everyone getting their nerve up to check it all out again, with Sissy overseeing it all.

 Whoa!  This thing makes me slide!

 Can I break it?  I should stop here to tell you that the plywood wall of the tack room has Coffee claw marks in it because she knows if the door isn't latched she can hit it to pop it open.  I just noticed dozens of marks there...probably from that rainy day when they broke in to destroy everything.

 Being the only full size goat in a group of Nigerians sure makes Coffee look like a ridiculous giant.  Her boobs are bigger than one of those kids!

Now they all want to slide together!  Turns out it's not so bad, after all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pallet Fence for Goats

Being short on money, short on time, and short on pasture, we decided to try our hand at a pallet fence for the goats.  The bucks are currently in a pen that is about 100' x 100', and we wanted to extend it out to our mound septic system, which has to be fenced off anyway.  After scouring the Internet for ideas on how to make it stable, we used a modified system similar to many we saw.  Today, over a couple of hours of me mostly watching because I had the baby in a sling and Rob screwing and drilling, we put in 116' of pallet fence:

 This is the fence we are replacing.  It is saggy field fence that was only hand tight because we didn't have corner braces.  Our full size milk goat bent the crap out of the wire reaching over to eat, so it was in danger of collapsing and letting everyone free.

 You can see how the fence is bent if you look closely.  In the distance is our green barn.  It is something like 20'x20', so very small, but enough to house the hay, goats and a tack room.  When I had horses, two fit in one side with enough hay for the winter in the other.  I like this use for it better. :)

 Logan is king of the pallet pile, and he flashed a cheesy grin after insisting I take a picture of him.  For 116' of pallet fence, we used 33 pallets.  Five pallets, with four standing up and one laid sideways for a brace, make 14' of fence.

 It's hard to see much detail in this photo, but here is the 116' of fence, with a 16' cattle panel as a gate.  We drive in this side to unload hay in the barn, so we wanted a big access gate and had panels on hand.

Our pattern to make it sturdy was this: two upright pallets, followed by one laid sideways to help support the fence from tipping back and forth, and another two upright pallets after that.  The two upright and one sideways alternate the entire length of the fence.  We started at one end with a t-post driven in to provide stability, and used two t-posts for the pallets at the gate, and finished with a t-post at the other end.  Otherwise, using the sideways pallets provides enough support and no posts are needed to keep it upright.

To connect the pallets, we screwed 3" deck screws into the top.  We started out using them top and bottom, but it turned out that they stayed just as stable with only one screw in the top of each side.  Pallets are made of hardwood for the most part, so you have to drill a pilot hole first or fight fight fight to get the screws in.

We used all of the pallets we had available, so we're waiting for more to complete the other side.  We need close to 40 more to complete the other side, which is also 116' even though we didn't plan it out at all.

The bucks are so preoccupied with the does on the other side of the fence by the barn that they hardly even venture out to this side.  I expect the 4' height of the pallets will be enough for Nigerian Dwarf goats to stay in.  I wouldn't use these on the fence between bucks and does, because I would worry that they might get to thinking about how easy it would be to climb over.  For the fence between, I will use cattle panels and plenty of t-posts.

We finished this entire side of the pallet fence in about three hours.  It would have gone much quicker if I could have actually helped, but doing nothing while the colicky baby sleeps is a much better idea.