Molly the Goat & CL

Caseous Lymphadenitis, abbreviated CL, is a contagious disease that affects goats and sheep, and can even spread to humans (though this is exceptionally rare). It is an infection of the lymph nodes that causes external or internal abscesses which, when they burst, can spread the disease through cuts or bodily fluids.

While preparing for the new buck and giving our goats their daily cuddles, I found an unruptured abscess on Molly’s throat. It was in an area prone to CL abscesses, shown in this chart.

Related image

We isolated Molly immediately in the new buck pen (the buck was arriving the next day) and had the vet come the following morning. She punctured the abscess and took a sample of the fluid inside. CL usually manifests as a thick pus in the abscess, that ranges from white to yellow to slightly green. Unfortunately it tested positive for CL.

Fearing the worst, we had the vet draw blood from all our other goats (including the new buck). Over two weeks later, we fortunately learned that all the other goats had tested negative. We will test again in a few months to make sure, and then vaccinate the herd against CL.

Since our goats are for breeding and milking, we cannot keep a goat with CL on the premises. Baby goats are susceptible to the disease and should not nurse from a CL-positive dam, and any milk from a CL doe must be pasteurized to kill the pathogens. Molly is being re-homed and will no longer be bred or milked.

This was an incredibly hard decision because we absolutely wanted to keep Molly. She is a lovely goat, very friendly and great at keeping the other goats in line. If all our goats had tested positive, we’d likely keep them all as pets and abandon our plans to breed. Since that was not the case, the best thing to do for the health of the rest of the animals is to re-home her.

For more information about CL, please visit https://ontariogoat.ca/cl/.


Preparing for a New Goat

Something very exciting is happening at Rodrigues Farm – we’re getting a new goat! This time it’s a buck, who will (fingers crossed) breed our lovely does so they can make baby goats (for sale) and milk (for our own use)!

His name from his breeder is Chance, but we will be calling him Kingsley Shacklegoat in line with our Harry Potter theme. He will be bred to Ginny and Luna Lovegoat over the next month, which should give us adorable baby goats in August and September.

He is a registered Nigerian Dwarf, who is naturally polled (hornless) and blue-eyed, both of which are rare and desirable traits. Naturally we can’t guarantee the babies will be polled and blue-eyed, but it gives us a better shot. He comes from an excellent line of registered goats known for good milking. We are very excited.

Since bucks can’t be housed with does all the time, and we want to control the breeding to make sure we know when babies are due, we had to set up a special pen just for Peter. We looked at lots of fencing options and building something ourselves, but were pressed for time. Luckily, when we went to check out options at TSC, a 10’x10’x6′ kennel was on sale

Yvan’s made a lovely video of the pen assembly. We’ll be uploading lots of video of the goats as the weather gets better, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all the updates!


chickens in snow

Winter Wonderland = Winter Woes

It’s January 31, 2019, which may be known in history as the tail end of the “Polar Vortex” that has wreaked havoc on North American weather, causing record low temperatures across the Midwest United States and Canada. Here in Southern Ontario, we are experiencing lows of -25 degrees Celsius (-13 F), with windchill making it feel another 10-15 degrees colder.

Winter, even without this incomparable frigidity, brings some unique challenges for homesteaders. If you’re doing this part time, like us, you’ll find yourself doing chores in pitch darkness before and after work. Things that were so easy in spring and summer take longer or become downright impossible due to snow, ice, wind and cold.

For example, one of Y’s brilliant (not sarcasm, it’s genuinely awesome) projects this year was to get water running from our workshop building to a spigot in the barn. This made it easy to fill animal buckets on site. When temperatures started to dip, we shut that water off so it wouldn’t freeze and crack the pipes, and went back to lugging buckets to and from the workshop. Well, as temperatures dipped even further, the pipes in the workshop became frozen too. This means we now lug water from the house, leaving frozen buckets to thaw in the mud room and switching out for fresh, hot water at least once a day (twice when it is below -10).

Chickens

People have asked, with these temperatures, how the animals have managed to stay warm. In the case of the chickens, they continued to go outside, wandering in the snow, perching in the trees, until about -10 C, always wondering back inside at night. Below -10, we have been keeping the coop door closed (though, honestly, they’d still like to leave, and I had to climb on top of the run to rescue one in -20 winds, but that’s not the norm).

Our chicken coop is an old playhouse/dog kennel that we converted for their use. It was solidly built, with a shingled roof and insulation piped into the walls. It sits a bit off the ground and has windows for ventilation. Though it gets below freezing, it is noticeably warmer inside than out.

Generally speaking, chickens are fine in winter when the following conditions are met:

  • They have deep, dry straw bedding. If you are using a deep bedding method, turn the straw weekly to keep it clean, and remove any large frozen chunks.
  • They are able to get out of the wind and rain. Dry chickens can regulate their own temperature.
  • Their coop has sufficient ventilation. Moisture is more likely to cause chicken death than cold, dry air because it leads to frostbite, respiratory issues, and hypothermia. Heat from their breath, water, and manure can cause condensation which becomes dangerous when it freezes.
  • They have liquid water during the daytime. If the water is freezing it must be replaced in the morning.
  • They have high quality feed. Chickens will need more food to help keep them warm, and you can supplement with scratch and cracked corn for added nutrition.
  • They are active. During the daytime, your chickens should be behaving normally – eating, drinking, strutting about – and may continue to lay eggs. If your chickens are lethargic, there is likely something wrong.

Chickens can be brought indoors if your coop is not sufficient in winter, but they are very smelly! We do not recommend heat lamps for any barn or outbuilding except in extreme cases, as they are the number one cause of farm fires and animal deaths.

Exciting news for us though! We had essentially given up on our chickens laying eggs until spring. They hadn’t laid any at all, and we assumed they wouldn’t in winter because of the shorter days and cold weather. Well, when doing the weekly straw turnover, I discovered almost a dozen eggs in the nest boxes! Most were frozen as we had failed to collect them, but we have been getting 2-4 eggs every day since. Collect twice a day to keep eggs from freezing. Frozen eggs can be fed back to the chickens once thawed, as it gives them vital nutrients back!

Eggs of many colours from our “Easter egger” chickens!

Goats

People have been adorably concerned about the goats in this weather, and I don’t blame them! If Y didn’t insist against it, I definitely would have brought them inside by now, and they’d be destroying every inch of the garage.

If goats are left to their own devices, they will usually do fine. They grow thick winter coats, eat more to keep their rumens active for warmth, and shelter themselves from the wind. With appropriate wind breaks, shelters, and access to food and hot water, goats can manage at temperatures most humans run from.

I go into some detail in our YouTube video, “How cold is too cold for goats?” You’ll see our healthy, chubby active goats enjoying some food and attention in -23 C weather.

The general rule is, if you can stand to hang out with them where they are, all bundled up in your own winter gear, then they are probably fine. I was out in the barn with the goats for 20 minutes yesterday, and because I was playing with them and heaving water around, I was actually sweating a bit! They were a bit slow to get up this morning and out of their cozy beds, but frankly, so was I.

With a little more care and attention, winter doesn’t have to mean woes for your animals. It definitely presents unique challenges, but, as usual, nature seems to know best! That said, we are definitely looking forward to some warmer weather starting tomorrow!


What We Did and Didn’t Accomplish This Summer

If you follow any blog, no matter how often they update, you’ll eventually get a “we’re sorry we don’t blog enough” post. Perhaps followed by a list of excuses. Ours has just come earlier than most.

I’m sorry we don’t blog enough. Or, frankly, at all. Aside from farm life being a bit more overwhelming than I initially expected, we had some setbacks that have put a damper on some of our grand plans this year.

First, what we did manage. We made a lovely home for ducks and chickens, and have since added more birds to the flock. We took our first ducks to slaughter, and sold or ate their meat, with mixed emotions. We are eagerly awaiting eggs, once we figure out if our chickens are hens or roosters! We made the barn somewhat livable and brought five goats home, with plans to breed and milk next year. We planted a huge vegetable garden, got a new roof on the house, dug a pond, put in fencing, and cleared tonnes of garbage and ruins off the property. I completed my beekeeping course and am building up my first hive of bees. We definitely made progress. See our YouTube channel for video of our adventures thus far.

Sarah Cuddling Sirius Black

Then, at the height of the good weather, Y had a serious accident. While pulling rotted wood from the upper floor of the barn, he fell through and broke his hip.

Less Than an Hour Before the Accident

We are extremely grateful his injury was not worse, but it did mean an ambulance, major surgery, over a week in the hospital, and eight weeks (so far) of wheelchair and crutches while he learned to walk again. It’s been difficult for me to keep up, and for Y to watch me struggle being largely unable to assist. I sprained my ankle and was on crutches for a few days too, which made things even harder!

Y Enjoying Being Home After His Hospital Stay

He is recovering very well, and is back to helping with the farm chores, riding the tractor around, mowing the lawn. But it did mean most of our large projects were put on hold, and during the eight weeks he’s been off I’ve had to let a few things slide.

Our garden became overrun with weeds, and we never planted the second round of vegetables. We have managed to harvest a lot from it – including more zucchini than we could possibly consume – but still more rotted, never grew, or grew too much (e.g. lettuces that bolted). It’s been a shame, but unfortunately low on the priority list. We are salvaging what we can and learning our lessons for next year about what grows well and what doesn’t in our clay-based soil.

We Managed Some Stellar Vegetables

We were hoping to get the barn more finished and stable, as a good home for the goats this winter. We may still get some done, but are also looking into other options. A lot depends on how nice the weather is this fall, and whether or not we can get a contractor to actually return a call. The goat pens and milking stand will have to wait too.

The duck pond is still just a hole in the ground, which fills with groundwater and rainwater. We wanted to get something filtering, so it wasn’t just a stagnant pool. Oh well. Ducks don’t seem to mind; they can be found in there most of the day.

We wanted more animals, turkeys and geese for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Might still happen, I guess, but we’ll see. We even thought about getting two lambs to live with the goats. Next year, hopefully.

We wanted to build up social media and this site, and start selling things properly. Make a real go at this farm being a second business. I’ve done my best with Instagram and YouTube but couldn’t keep up. Priorities.

I think even if Y hadn’t gotten injured, our plans were overly ambitious, but that’s the kind of people we are! We will do what we can for fall and winter, hibernate a bit, and get back at it in spring. We have many years ahead of us to complete all these plans and more!

So don’t give up on us. We got sidetracked, it’s true, but we’re mostly healthy and recovered, our resolve is not diminished (if anything it’s stronger than ever), and we WILL get this farm going.


The Inaugural Blog Post!

Hello! My name is Sarah Rodrigues, and I’m a co-owner of the Rodrigues Farm. I’ll be the main blog writer around here, updating you regularly on how our farm is progressing and what we’ve been working on.

But first, let me introduce us. My husband Yvan (who will henceforth be referred to as Y) and I moved to the country in September 2017. I’ve lived my whole life in the suburbs; Y was more rural growing up but has been city and suburbs ever since. Y had dreams of farm property, with enough acreage that he could pursue projects, raise animals, and grow things to his heart’s content. I wanted peace and quiet and a much bigger kitchen. We weren’t really even looking for a place, but I saw this property and thought “It couldn’t hurt to go to the open house.” A few days later, our offer was accepted and we began the process of moving.

Y asked me over and over if I was sure I could live in the country. I was sure. The first time we visited the house at night and I looked up to see, not horrible light pollution, but actual stars, I was sure.

The house was a pristine 1800s farmhouse, with stunning woodwork and every upgrade. It was move-in ready with only a few minor tweaks to make (low priority; we’ll deal with them next winter!) and exactly what I wanted. Though not particularly large at around 1500 sq ft, it is ideal for us, and had my absolute musts: a big bathtub, huge kitchen, dining room, three bedrooms, and lots of light.

dream kitchen

The property also managed to fulfill my husbands qualifications: no more than 30 minutes to work, at least 2 acres (it’s almost 5!), a large workshop, and room for animals. This property came with a dilapidated but structurally decent bar, another 1500 sq ft of workshop and garage, and even a dog run (now a chicken coop).

The price was right, the location was great, and it checked all the boxes, so without even looking at other places, we bought it. Maybe it was a bit impulsive, but #noregrets. If you’re considering moving from the city to the country, I’ll be posting about some things you’ll want to consider.

Fall and winter, not much happened. We dealt with moving in and unpacking, taking in a third cat, had our families over to see the new place, then pretty much hibernated over winter. With our full time jobs, we didn’t have a lot of time and energy to do much else, especially once the sun started setting at 5:30! Oh, except Y bought a tractor and backhoe without telling me … surprise!

With spring approaching, we kicked into high gear, ordering supplies and deciding what to put where. I took a beekeeping course, built my hive and ordered bees. Y plotted fencing and garden plots and got the equipment up and running.

We bought some ducklings and chicks on Good Friday. That’s sort of when it all became real for me – we now had animals to keep alive.

ducklings on day 1

Now that we’ve had a few proper spring days, and a few weekends of prep work, our farm is really shaping up. We’re getting ready for our two goats – Luna Lovegoat and Sirius Black – to arrive next weekend. We’re making sure our chickens and ducks are protected. We’re planting seeds and fruit trees. It’s exhausting – we both still work full time jobs – but in the best possible way. Being tired at the end of the day because you worked hard and accomplished something is the best feeling.

In addition to the actual farm work, I’ll be building us a web presence so you can all follow along, and hopefully inspire a few of you to try homesteading for yourselves. Check this blog for updates, subscribe to our YouTube channel, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or Instagram, or send me an email!

That’s all for now! Thanks for joining us on our journey … it’s going to be interesting.

Sarah