Categories
Agriculture Winter

Winter Around the Ranch

Until a couple of weeks ago, we have had a very mild winter. This week temperatures won’t even get above 15 degrees Fahrenheit with windchills below zero. This coming weekend they are forecasting -30 windchills! It appears that all of our winter is happening within a few weeks!

Even though it is frigid outside the animals all still need to be fed and watered daily. We are thankful for warm clothes and a warm house to go into after chores!

I thought I would share some photos from the last couple of weeks. The cold doesn’t seem to impact the animals as much as it does us, as long as they have plenty of food and a place to get out of the wind, so you will see them out in the weather. It really is amazing how God designed each of them perfectly.

And remember, if this cold weather has your skin dry and itchy, we have plenty of our goat milk soap, lotion, & lip balm to help you out in our Ranch Store. We are always making more small batches of soap to try and keep your favorites in stock!

Categories
Agriculture Goat Milk Lotion Goat Milk Soap Goats Made In Kansas

Why We Made The Switch to Goat Milk Soap & Lotion

It’s been almost two years since we made the switch to using goat milk soap and 9 months since we started using only goat milk lotion. Today, I want to share some of the reasons we now only use goat milk soap and lotion. We had slowly been trying to switch over to more natural products for our home and skincare, as well as, eating more whole foods.

As I was researching natural soaps and skincare, it was pretty easy to conclude that we needed to pay more attention to what we put ON our bodies just as much as it is what we put IN our bodies. Goat milk soap kept coming up as a recommended soap in the articles I was reading. Since I had a deep freezer full of goat milk I decided to give goat milk soap making a try. We had originally saved the milk for any bummer lambs or kids that we might have but hadn’t needed it. The goats were also due to start kidding soon so I wasn’t worried about needing the milk for anything other than soap making experiments. My sister-in-law had made some soap as well and she reassured me that I could do it too!

During my research I learned that goat milk is rich in fatty acids that make it a gentle cleanser and moisturizer. The cream in goat milk has an anti-inflammatory effect. These fatty acids help to lock in moisture and nourish your skin. The lactic acid in goat milk also acts an exfoliate helping to keep your skin clear. Your skin is the largest organ on your body – what you put on it matters! Take a look at the ingredients list on a normal bar of soap or bottle of body wash, how many of the words can you pronounce and do you even know what most of the ingredients are? Goat milk is mild and gentle enough that even people of all ages and with very sensitive skin can use it without having it dry out or irritate their skin.

I tried a few different recipes and our family started using the soap. It was important to me as I started making soap, and later lotion, that only natural, easy to pronounce ingredients were used. As our family switched to goat milk soap no one ever complained about it – and in a large family that’s a big deal! In fact, they liked it. The kids liked that we could customize the scents as well. The final thing that convinced me that goat milk soap was the best for our family, was when we went through the entire winter last year and no one complained of dry itchy skin like they usually would.

Ironically, after switching to goat milk soap, lotions started to make me itch, especially after shaving. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of lotion (I was already using a fairly natural lotion) or shaving cream I used, it always felt like my skin itched underneath. I’m not really sure why it took me so long to think of it but after a few months of this, a light bulb went off and I decided that I should probably try making my own goat milk lotion as well. After making and using goat milk lotion for a few days the itching went away and hasn’t came back!

Our family now uses our goat milk soap for face wash, body wash, and I use it for shaving as well. We also use the lotion whenever our hands start to feel a little dry from all of the hand washing. Our goat milk lotion is a great allover moisturizer. I have used the unscented and lavender lotion on my face without it causing a breakout.

Switching our soap and lotion to natural products has led to using more natural candles and other cleaning products but thats another post for another day!

If you are interested in trying any of our goat milk soaps or lotions head over to our Ranch Store. Or if you have been using our products and enjoy them, please leave a review and share our page with others. You can also subscribe to our newsletter so you will always be the first to know when products are restocked – just scroll down to the bottom of any of our pages and you will find the box to enter your email.

As always, please contact us with any questions you might have!

~Jada

Categories
Agriculture Fall Finnsheep Goats Hair sheep Livestock Projects Sheep Uncategorized Winter

Fall/Early Winter Update

I have sat down several times to update everyone about what we have been up to this past fall but wasn’t ever able to get this post finished. Well, here we are in the middle of January and I finally have an update for you! This update will be told in photos because that’s the only way I can remember what we have all done!

I plan to do more regular updates this year to help everyone follow along with what we do. This will also allow us to better share our story with you.

*Lotion will be restocked on Friday! There will also be new lotion scents and lip balm added soon!

We are so grateful to all of our customers who supported us this past holiday season and we look forward to serving you in 2021!

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The pond in September. It has been dry this fall and the pond was already getting low. It is a couple of feet lower now.

We’ve had two litters of piglets this fall.

It was warm enough in September and October that Colton had to keep the pigs mud hole filled with water. They love to lay in it when it’s hot outside.

The sheep & goats do an excellent job of cleaning up poison ivy and other unwanted plants under the trees along our dam.

The goats always prefer to eat the weeds, trees, or poison ivy before the grass.

It doesn’t seem to matter if its human or animal mama’s – they just can’t eat or drink in peace!

Some of the fungus we found in an old tree stump during one of our nature studies.

I dried some marigolds and pokeberries for dying yarn later. If anyone has recommendations on books to read about naturally dying wool please share them with me! The only book I have right now is Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes

We also made a marigold garland. It was pretty above the kitchen sink.

Goat Milk Lotion was added to the store in November! It will be restocked on Friday (1/15/21).

Hailey ran at State Cross Country. Hailey and Cody both had a great season in high school cross country. In addition to helping with the farm and being a full-time independent insurance agent, Lance is the head cross country coach for our local high school. He is also an assistant track coach in the spring. Yes – we are busy!

We started bale grazing November 1st. I will be sharing a post about bale grazing and what we are learning about regenerative agriculture in a later post.

Lane does an excellent job of caring for his chickens and ducks.

This girl is so sweet. She always wants a chin scratch. Finnsheep were definitely the right choice for our family.

I can’t wait to shear the sheep this coming spring and see what we can have done with all of the fiber! I’m hoping to have combed top as well as yarn made this year.

I will never tire of watch a Kansas Sunset. The top of our hill is the perfect spot to watch it.

Due to a freak accident, we had to buy a new Finnsheep ram. Lance and I traveled to Iowa to purchase one the day after Thanksgiving. He is gorgeous, both in confirmation and fleece. It will be fun to see what kind of lambs we get in the spring.

Isn’t he lovely?!?

The second litter of piglets – they are now weaned and available for purchase as feeder pigs. Just contact us if you are interested in purchasing one!

Lane’s chickens and ducks have started laying eggs. I have yet to capture a good photo of the blueish/green eggs.

I made Hailey pose for a picture after we finished putting straw out in the barns in November.

The Chicken Palace received a new sign and barn light! When it warms up the doors will also be painted.

We were blessed to be able to attend a couple of different vendor days locally. Our new lip balm will be added to the store within the next couple of weeks.

Very grateful that Lance can usually take my ideas and make it a reality when it comes to building things. I showed him a picture of a display shelf and tried to explain how I wanted to change it a little. Somehow he was able to figure out what I wanted and made these great little shelves!

At least one Saturday a month (more if cold weather is on the way) is spent replenishing straw in all of the barns. Even Kinzie helps put new straw out.

The rams were pulled out of the ewe flocks this past weekend. They didn’t want to get along at first (hormones….) so they got to spend a couple of days in a very tiny space. This allows them time to get acquainted but without the fighting. If we didn’t put them in this small pen, they would have just spent hours or days backing up to get a running start and head butting each other. We use the small pen to keep them from hurting each other.

I’ve also been crocheting in the evenings! This is a wool/acrylic blend yarn (Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick Yarn(3-Pack) Hudson Bay 640-610). I love the variegated colors and this simple, single stitch I’m using on this afghan really shows the color pattern nicely. I spent most of November and December crocheting a shawl to give as a Christmas gift to someone.

We hope you all have a wonderful and blessed 2021! Thank you for being a part of 14 Hands Ranch.

~Jada

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Categories
Agriculture Beekeeping Bees Kansas

Bees!

Last week, we embarked on a new adventure. We bought bees! We have talked about getting bees for years but never took the leap. Well, on Thursday we finally officially started beekeeping! We are starting with two beehives but I can already see how this can easily turn in to several more beehives over the years

A local beekeeper, Nikki, has been keeping a beehive at our house for the last couple of years. This has given us the opportunity to observe the bees and get comfortable with having them around. I called her this past winter with a long list of questions about beekeeping. After patiently answering all of my questions, she graciously offered to mentor me if we bought bees. After visiting about it and weighing out the pros and cons, Lance and I decided that it would be a good fit for us to get bees this year.

Nikki gave me a list of items that we needed to purchase. I was able to get almost everything we needed but I am still waiting on my pants and smoker because they were backordered. We purchased our hives and bee colonies from her since she had extras available. We are using 8 frame Langstrom Hives.

After placing the bees in their new hives, I made a mixture of sugar water to feed them. This will help them to have plenty of food while they are getting their hives started. There isn’t a lot of things blooming yet so this is also a good supplement for them. After they had been in the hives for two days, I opened it up and checked how much sugar water they had left. Surprisingly, they both still had half to three-quarters of a mason jar full. This indicates that the bees have been successful in finding pollen sources.

Currently, there is yellow clover, white clover, dandelions, my strawberries, and some wildflowers blooming. It’s still too early for all of my planted flowers and garden vegetables to be blooming. Adding the bees though is an excellent excuse to plant more flowers than I already have! I have a lot of zinnias, marigolds, and purple coneflower planted as well as other flowers and herbs. For the past few years, I have always tried to plant pollinator friendly flowers and herbs just because we enjoy watching the pollinators.

There is so much to learn about beekeeping and bees in general that I am enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill. I have been reading Storey’s Guide to Beekeeping, joined groups on Facebook, and followed pages on instagram. However, I think that the biggest help will be having someone to mentor me and teach me the craft over the next year or two. I have a feeling though, that just like with any type of livestock or farming, there will always be something new to learn with bees!

We are hoping to have our first honey harvest sometime in July. Our family loves honey so we are all excited to hopefully have some that “our” bees made! Taking photos is one of my hobbies so be prepared for lots of bee and flower photos over the summer!

Photo by Kim Simon
A fun fact I have learned about bees is that a colony can have 10,000 – 60,000 bees living in it!
In this photo I am putting the bees into their hive. Photo was taken by Nikki.
Putting sugar water in the hives.
The following photos were taken by Lance’s aunt, Kim Simon.

Categories
4-H Agriculture Goals Livestock Projects Recycle Uncategorized

Projects

Early this past winter, Lance and I made a list of projects we wanted to get done this spring and summer. I’m pretty sure that neither one of us ever expected to get very many of them completed, at least not well or timely. We have five kids and four of the five are involved in some kind of activities. Spring, especially April and May, are typically crazy for us. We should have been at track meets at least two days a week, soccer practice and games, church, 4-H meetings, Horse practice, and piano lessons. However, we all know that everything was brought to a halt in March because of Covid19. A silver lining in all of this though has been the gift of uninterrupted family time. It has also allowed us to get several of the projects on our lists completed!

The first project tackled was building three new shelters for all of the 4-H sheep and goats, preferably before we brought all of the animals home. First, all of the pens we had put up a couple of years ago were taken down so that we could reconfigure them and reuse the fencing. We wanted each shelter to have two pens off of it and have a hay/grain feeder in the middle of the shelter to divide it. I wanted a walk through gate in each shelter as well. Each shelter is held down by posts that are 2-3 feet deep in the ground so that they don’t blow away. It is important to mention that we live on a bed of limestone rock and that we do not own any kind of machinery, such as a skid steer, that could dig the holes for us. In most places, there are only a few inches of topsoil before you start to hit rock. This has made digging post holes by hand even harder work than it would be normally. Hailey and Cody have dug most of the holes by hand. They have definitely got their workouts in during school at home!

The shelters are made out of completely recycled materials (except the screws – those are new). An old hay barn had fallen down at Lance’s grandma’s house during a storm last summer. Lance and the kids took it down, went through all of it, and were able to salvage almost all of it. The tin on the shelters have a beautiful burnt sienna color (rust) on them in several places. I really do love the character it gives them! Lance also made gates that swing and latch easily. If you have ever had all of your gates held shut by wire, baling twine, or chained you will understand how big of deal this is!

After the small shelters were completed, Lance started on what we are calling the Chicken Palace. Kinzie wanted chickens for her birthday so this required building a chicken coop. We are calling it the Chicken Palace because it is a little bigger than the typical chicken coop. When Lance builds something he usually goes all out. Our Chicken Palace will have two sections in it with a hallway in the middle. From the hallway you will be able to collect the eggs from the nesting boxes by pulling open a drop down door. Kinzie and I want to put twinkle lights on it as well because every Chicken Palace needs some twinkle lights! We ordered chicks for Kinzie and ducklings for Lane a couple of weeks ago. The ducklings will be here in June and the chicks in July so we have plenty of time to get the Chicken Palace done. The best thing is that the Chicken Palace is also being built with all recycled materials!

Another major project on our list was cutting down as many cedar trees as we can. Cedar trees will take over a pasture quickly if left on their own. They also draw a lot of the moisture out of the ground and we want to keep as much water in the ground as can. We have several rows of them along the creek or that have grown up in the tree lines. While Lance has cut many of the cedar trees down there are still hundreds to go, or it at least seems like hundreds. Over the past week he has cut down a big portion of the cedar trees that lined the dam of our pond. It completely changes the view and has exposed an old rock wall that is there. Many of the trees will be burned but several have been repurposed into raised beds for my garden. We have a few other things we would like to make out of some of the cedar trees as well. I love the beautiful red color that is inside of a cedar tree. Plus, they smell wonderful!

There are still several more projects on our list but most of them require quite a bit of money. So far we haven’t spent any money and our budget is pretty small. It’s fun to dream and make plans though so we will see how many more projects we get crossed off of our list this summer. Right now, it looks like we will be home more this summer than we have been the last several years so we might get a lot accomplished!

Hailey screwing down a roof.
Hay/Grain feeder that separates the two sides of the shed.
Another piece has been added to the feeder to add a small section for mineral.
Obviously the goats have approved of it!
I love the gates!
The beginnings of the Chicken Palace.
You can kind of see in the background where cedar trees have been cut down.
The rock wall that has been exposed.
View from the dam of the pond.

Categories
Agriculture Goals Kansas Uncategorized

Goals

“You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” – C. S. Lewis

I am a goal setter and planner. I am a slow decision maker though so once I finally make up my mind I am ready to go and want everything to be done yesterday. When we decided that making our farm into a sustainable business was what we wanted to do, I immediately wrote several goals. Those goals have already changed and evolved as I have thought about the direction I want to take 14 Hands Ranch.

Our idea to actually make our farm into a sustainable business and not just a hobby farm, started last summer. I have stayed home with our kids the last three years. Previously, I worked as a speech-language pathologist in the local school district. I loved working with the students but it just wasn’t right for our family anymore. Lance works full time as an independent insurance agent. A large portion of his clients are people and businesses involved in some area of agriculture. Over the last year, we would occasionally discuss what I would do when Kinzie starts school in a couple of years. I know, starting to worry about this two years in advance is kind of crazy but like I said, I’m a slow decision maker! As I seriously thought about it, I realized that going back to work as a SLP wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something in the ag community and for us it made the most sense to start here at home.

So all of this to say that I finally chose what I want to do next. I love the sheep and goats. I love being outside in the spring, summer, and fall. Winter is questionable, I hate being cold. This past fall I started making goat milk soap from the stash of milk I had in our deep freeze. Our family liked it and I had made more than we needed so I decided to sell some before Christmas. It went over well and it was kind of fun. That’s when I decided that I could do this.

So what is “this?” It’s working to make our farm sustainable while at the same time using livestock to regenerate our land. I’m not going to share all of my goals here but I did want to share a couple. The goal closest to being achieved is opening an online farm store. At this time, I plan to sell my goat milk soap and beeswax candles. More products will be added in the future. I am getting so close to opening it and I can’t wait to share with you all when it officially opens.

I also plan to add a flock of wool sheep and honey bees. These sheep and bees, combined with the sheep and goats we already have, will be a huge help in improving our soil health naturally. By improving our soil health, we will be able to increase the number of animals our land can support. I have lots of goals and dreams for our little 14 Hands Ranch and a lot of time is being spent dreaming, planning, and researching right now. It’s fun to think about the possibilities.

When we decided this was what I was going to do, I stumbled upon the quote at the top of this post. It is now on a sticky note above my desk. Sometimes we need a little nudge to follow our dreams.

I will never get tired of Kansas sunrises and sunsets.

Categories
4-H Agriculture Kansas Livestock Spring

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love spring and everything about it. I also love summer and fall, and maybe a few things about winter but I really love spring. For me, spring really is the most wonderful time of the year. It is starting to warm up outside (YAY!) and color is finally coming back to the landscape. The browns of winter can be really depressing, especially after looking at them for several months. In spring it appears that everything is waking up and coming back to life. The trees begin to get buds and often it seems that they leaf out or bloom overnight. Each spring rain brings a little more green grass, clover, and flowers into the colors of the landscape.

Here at 14 Hands Ranch, we do most of our kidding and lambing in the spring. All of the babies racing around the pens and pastures makes springtime wonderful and exciting! We are anxiously waiting for our Lamancha goats to kid and sheep to lamb at the end of April/first of May. We feel like following natures natural rhythms with our kidding and lambing gives our livestock a better chance to perform how God created them to. The only exception to this is with our Boer goats. We want them to kid in January or February so that our children can show them at the 4-H fair in July. When we allow nature to work how it is intended the livestock generally can kid and lamb on their own, we don’t have to worry about any babies freezing, we don’t need heat lamps set up, and we are much more eager to spend time with the babies when it is nice outside.

Growing up, my family had a Limousin and Red Angus herd of cattle. We were one of the few in our area that calved in the summer. My dad always said that the cattle were there to work for us, not us work for them. We have adopted that philosophy on our farm as well. This means that we don’t introduce the buck or ram to the females until around Thanksgiving so that we are kidding and lambing in spring.

The other thing that that makes spring so wonderful is that we purchase and bring home all of our 4-H show animals in March and April. We typically start talking to breeders about what they will have available in February or the first of March. So far we have our show pigs, lambs, and bucket calves here. The Boer goats that we purchased will be picked up in a few weeks. There’s something so hopeful and optimistic about a new set of show animals. Everyone has goals and dreams of how they would like their animals to do. It takes a lot of work, discipline, time, dirt, and hard days to get to the end of the summer with the projects. Sometimes, there’s disappointment at the end of the summer because the judge didn’t like your animal on that one day or maybe the animal didn’t grow as well as you had hoped. Sometimes, it’s because the animal wasn’t worked with as much as they should have been. And sometimes, it all comes together and that animal wins the banner. But it all starts out every spring with hope and dreams.

The Corona virus has gave us a lot more time than we would typically have in the spring, so we started working with 4-H animals over the weekend. The pigs were all weighed and walked. This is usually a very chaotic event the first couple of times we let them all out to walk them but this group of pigs have been very calm and well behaved. The sheep were also all weighed and are learning to stand tied. The bucket calves were haltered for the first time. Midnight (the black one) didn’t seem to mind the halter but Sunset fought it the entire time. Violet our Boer/Alpine cross was also weighed and haltered for the first time. She didn’t like the halter either so Colton decided he would just carry her instead until she gets to big for him to carry. It won’t be long and he will have to teach her to lead because she is growing fast. Then he will learn it would have been better to start working with her on leading when she was small! The kids have also started riding the horses to get them back into shape for the summer shows. We also started working on our garden much earlier than we have before. I’m hoping to get a few things planted in it this week before it rains again.

I hope that all of you can find something or many things that bring you joy and hope this spring. Maybe its the green grass, the birds singing again, baby chicks, blue skies, sunshine, baby animals, or the warm weather. Spring has so many things to offer that make it the most wonderful time of the year!

Walking the pigs
Getting the pigs to go into the shed where we have the scale set up.
Hailey spending some time with Molly and the sheep after putting hay out.
Letting Violet walk herself on the halter.
He is so proud of her!
Walking the sheep for the first several times is always hard!
Feeding Sunset her bottle.
Midnight
Sunset did NOT like her halter.
The view on my walk.

Categories
Agriculture Burning Kansas Spring

First Sign of Spring in Eastern Kansas

How do you know that it’s spring time in eastern Kansas? When farmers and ranchers start to burn their pastures and CRP. The skies can be so smokey this time of year that the sun is pink or reddish during the day. These fires are called prescribed or controlled burns because the farmers and ranchers start them in specific pastures and (try to) control where the fires go.

Burning is done in the Flint Hills of Kansas to help clear out the old, dry, dead grass from the previous year, control the Eastern Red Cedar Trees that come up everywhere here, and to promote new grass growth. The controlled burns also help to control the amount of weeds in a pasture. The Easter Red Cedar Trees are a problem because they pull a lot of water out of the ground and choke out the native grasses. This then reduces the amount of ground available for grazing livestock. They can be very invasive and it doesn’t take long for them to completely take over an area. When pastures are allowed to become overgrown with tall, dry grass or cedar trees they can become a wildfire danger. It is also difficult for new grass to grow.

I grew up in western Kansas (almost to the Kansas/Colorado state line) where there is almost always a drought and it is always dry so very few people burn intentionally. There just isn’t enough tall grass to burn anyway because all available grass is always grazed. Where I grew up, there aren’t really any trees that would be considered invasive, so I am also always amazed at how easy cedar trees grow here because in western Kansas they are purposely planted for wind breaks. Many people actually water them to help them grow! The controlled burns were new to me and still make me nervous every year.

About half of our ground is in a government program called Conservative Reserve Program or CRP. This is when the government pays farmers to leave a field as fallow or plant native grasses. You are not allowed to graze or hay these fields as long as they are in the program unless there would be special circumstances. The purpose behind CRP is to help native species of animals with cover and food and to cut down on erosion.  When we moved to our farm the ground was already in CRP so we chose to leave it in the program. When our CRP contract ends we do not plan to renew it. Our plan is to work towards increasing our livestock numbers so that we can better manage the rotational grazing of our ground. Some of our ground is very overgrazed and tired so we plan to give it a longer break when we can start grazing the CRP.

Even though burning makes me nervous, I do enjoy taking pictures of it!

This is the before photo. You can’t tell from the photo but most of that grass is 6-7 feet tall!
Colton had the job of making sure the fire didn’t come up into the yard. They started on the south part because of the wind so he had to wait awhile before he had anything to do.
Cody is putting the fire out along the edge of the burn line.
Colton took his job very seriously and made sure the fire didn’t crossover into the yard.
Lance and Colton watching from the top of the hill.
All done.