Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Soap, New Giveaway!

Help me celebrate my newest soap creation---and win some for yourself!

My new Farmstead Deluxe Cream Soap is very special, not only because it is so very creamy and luxurious, but also because it is so pure and natural.  It features:
The only ingredients in the soap that were not raised and hand-processed right here on the farm are the lye and the pure essential oils that give the soap it's bright, crisp lemon-herb scent.

Would you like to win some of this luscious soap for yourself?  If you enter my holiday giveaway, you'll have at least seven chances to win a variety pack of my hand made soaps, including:
  • 1 bar of the Farmstead Deluxe Cream Soap
  • 1 bar of the Amber Scented Sheep's Milk Soap
  • 1 bar of the Unscented Pure Castile Soap

To enter, you must:
  1. "Like" (or already have liked) our Ingleside Farm Facebook page
  2. Get a friend to also "Like" our Facebook page.
  3. Leave a comment here on this blog post telling me YOUR NAME as well as YOUR FRIEND'S NAME.  (Make sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win.)
You will get one entry for each friend who "Likes"our Facebook page thanks to your recommendation.  There is no limit to how many entries you can earn this way.  Your friend(s) will also be automatically entered in the giveaway. 

Seven winners will be chosen randomly from all the entries, one winner per day, for the entire week of December 18 through 24.  Winners will be notified by email and announced here on this blog.

Let the giveaway begin!


December 18:  Barbara Beard
December 19:  Kristi Elmore
December 20:  Christian Burchett
December 21:  Judy Russi
December 22:  Sarah Hart
December 23:  Jenny Brown
December 24:  Cyndi Howard

Monday, October 3, 2011

Waiting for Thistle's Calf

Now that Thistle is here and we've had a little chance to get acquainted, it's time to begin the next big adventure:  waiting for her calf to be born.

All I know is that she is due to calve sometime this month.  She was vet checked on August 17th to be 7 months pregnant.  A cow's typical gestation is about 9 months.  So now we wait and watch for changes in her udder and pelvic ligaments to help give us clues about when the calf may arrive.

I do see small changes in the udder, as it gets just a little bigger and fuller every day.  But I suspect that it has quite a way to go yet, so I'm guessing that the calf won't be born until the 2nd half of this month.

For those of you who would like to wait and watch along with me, here are some photos to document what she looks like now.  I'll post more later, so you can see the changes as she gets closer to calving.

Here is what her udder looked like on August 14:

And here she is from behind, also on August 14:

Now here is what she looks like today:

From behind (also today):

Another photo from today, taking advantage of a moment when she had lifted her leg to scratch, so you can see the whole udder:

And last but not least, a photo (taken today) of her pelvic ligaments around the base of her tail.  When calving is imminent, these will loosen and relax to help enable the calf to pass through the birth canal.

So, what do you think?  Any guesses when the calf will be born?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Beauty of Icelandic Rams

A gallery of some of our gorgeous Icelandic rams over the years.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Long, LONG Road to Cow Ownership

If you recall my previous post, you may think that I've had a cow for months now, and that cow ownership came about very easily, almost miraculously, for me.  However, things don't always turn out the way we plan.  In fact, it has taken me 7 months and way too many failed attempts to FINALLY get a cow of my own.

Here's how it went:

2/15/11:  I enter the essay contest described in my previous post, to win a free Jersey heifer named Amethyst.

3/15/11:  The contest ends.  Although I am a finalist, I don't win the calf.

3/29/11:  The person who hosted the contest contacts me, saying she's been thinking about my essay and wants to offer me a different Jersey heifer, named Rosie, for free.  We delightedly accept, and plan to get her shipped here in mid May.

4/6/11:  After numerous inquiries, I locate a shipper who is willing to transport Rosie from her home in Maryland to us.  We start making arrangements for her arrival.

5/2/11:  I mail Rosie's owners payment for her vet check and vaccinations.  I mail payment and a signed contract to the shipper.

5/3/11:  Rosie's owner contacts me and tells me that she can't bear to part with Rosie after all.  She offers to give us a different heifer sometime during the summer or fall, instead.  I have to contact the shipper and ask him to tear up the shipping contract and check when it arrives.

6/7/11:  Rosie's owner contacts me again.  She doesn't have a heifer to offer me at this time, but instead she offers to let me "borrow" one of her bred heifers.  In exchange for taking care of her cow for an unspecified amount of time, I will be allowed to keep a heifer calf from the cow.

6/9/11:  I email Rosie's owner with thanks, and turn down her offer.  I'm not comfortable with the responsibility of keeping someone else's cow.  I've raised enough animals to know that whatever your good intentions, sometimes things go wrong.  If something went wrong with this cow, it would be bound to lead to hard feelings.  Even if everything went perfectly, it would be emotionally difficult to bond with this cow for months or years, only to have her eventually go home to her real owner.

6/10/11:  I decide to take charge of my own quest for a cow.  Although I have always assumed that when I got a cow, it would be a Jersey, I now decide to at least explore the advantages and disadvantages of other breeds as well.  I ask other farmers I know about the breeds they raise, particularly the heritage breeds.  Based on what they tell me, I decide that Dexters and Milking Devons are not for me, but that Guernseys might be a possibility.  I begin searching every Craig's List cow-for-sale ad within 600 miles (which, for the record, means checking 109 different Craig's Lists every day).  I respond to dozens of ads.  Almost no one responds. 

6/18/11:  I get a response from someone who has a Jersey/Guernsey heifer named Bonnie and a bred Guernsey cow named Lily for sale.  In their photos, they look terrific. 

6/25/11:  Ken and I drive down to North Carolina to look at Bonnie and Lily.  I like Lily very much, and we decide to buy her.  She is due to calve very soon, so we decide to wait until after the calf is born, then her owners' father will ship her for us.

6/27/11:  I start making arrangements for Lily's vet check. 

6/28/11:  I order several hundred dollars worth of cow supplies:  feed, halters, milking supplies (that stuff ain't cheap!), everything I can think of that I will need to properly take care of Lily and her calf.

6/29/11:  I send Lily's owner a deposit, although the sale is still conditional on Lily passing her vet check.

7/7/11:  Although Lily was bred with sexed semen (which gives a 90% chance of a heifer calf), today she gives birth to a bull calf.  Naturally we are disappointed, but even so, the idea of having our own home-grown beef is appealing.  We eagerly wait for Lily and her calf to be shipped to us.

7/13/11:  We've heard nothing from Lily's owners, so I email them to check when we should expect her to arrive.

7/19/11:  Still no word.  Ken phones Lily's owners, leaves a message.

7/20/11:  Email from Lily's owners.  Lily has mastitis.  She also has still not had her vet check.  I am concerned, but hope for Lily's prompt recovery.

7/22/11:  Lily gets a vet visit to get a culture of the infected teat, to determine the best course of treatment.

7/24/11:  Lily's owners write to tell me that her mastitis shows a little improvement, and that (at my request) they have banded the bull calf for us.

7/30/11:  Lily's owners write to let me know that her mastitis is still not clearing up, and that it is likely that she will lose the infected quarter.  I'm undecided on what to do.  I really like Lily, but when I signed on to buy her, she was a 4-quartered cow with no history of mastitis and was supposedly expecting a heifer calf.  Now she's a 3-quartered cow with persistent mastitis and a bull calf.  I WANT her to be the right cow for me, but it's not looking good.

8/1/11:  I'm still considering buying Lily, but even if it doesn't work out, I have now become enamored of the idea of getting a Guernsey instead of a Jersey.  This is a surprise to me, since I've always thought I wanted a Jersey.  I want a cow that's not too big, and for some reason, I had always pictured Guernseys as huge---basically blonde versions of Holsteins---but Lily is a lovely compact size, just right for me.  Guernseys are no longer as common as they once were, and it appeals to me to raise a breed that is more rare, because I feel like I'm doing some good to help preserve an uncommon heritage breed.  I also like what I hear from a friend who has a couple of Guernseys:  They are exceptionally docile, and their milk is particularly high-yielding for making cheese.  So, in addition to my daily combing of 109 Craig's List pages looking for Jerseys for sale, I now also start actively looking for Guernseys.  I contact everyone I can find who might have a Guernsey for sale within 600 miles of here.  Again, almost no one responds.

8/5/11:  Although I still haven't decided 100% for certain that I definitely no longer want to buy Lily, Lily's owners refund my deposit.  Her mastitis is not yet cleared up.  The sale is off.  On the bright side, I get a reply back from one of the other people I contacted.  They have a bred Guernsey heifer named Cinnamon for sale in New York.  Based on the photos and info they send me, she sounds perfect.  After all these months of delays and frustrations, I am very impatient to get my cow, so I immediately offer to buy Cinnamon.  Once again, I start making arrangements for vet checks and shippers.

8/6/11:  We drive an hour into town to get a cashier's check to pay for Cinnamon, and we send it by certified mail.

8/7/11:  Cinnamon's owner gets a shipping quote from a neighbor who is willing to ship Cinnamon for us.  The quote is for $1,200, which is nearly what we're paying for the cow!  I think this is crazy-high, so I contact the shipper who had originally agreed to transport Rosie (remember Rosie?) for us, asking for a quote. 

8/9/11:  I hear back from the shipper.  He'll transport Cinnamon for $495.  I say great, and email Cinnamon's owner to schedule the shipping date.  We also hear back from one of the other Guernsey owners we contacted a week ago:  She did have another prospective buyer for her Guernsey, but he decided to wait, so now her cow is available again.  We say:  Sorry, we just bought a different cow.

8/10/11:  I get an email from Cinnamon's owner saying, "Sorry, due to unforeseen circumstances, Cinnamon won't be available for sale."  What the hell????  By this point I'm starting to think I'm under some kind of anti-cow curse.  How many cows do I have to arrange vet checks and shipping for before I can actually GET a real, live cow?  This whole process feels like it's been going on forever, and I'm now so paranoid, it hardly seems worth it to even try to make any more arrangements, because whatever I do, they always fall through in the end.  Once again, I contact the shipper, and tell him I have to cancel my contract.

8/11/11:  I pull myself together enough to ask Ken to phone the other Guernsey owner we just turned down, and ask about the cow for me.  The person is unable to send me any digital photos, but it turns out that this cow is just over the border into NC, only 2 hours from here.  We make arrangements to drive down and see her on the weekend.

8/14/11:  We drive to NC to see the cow.  She's a lot bigger than Lily, but not so big that I consider it a drawback.  I like the look of her.  She's not 100% perfect:  her front teats are long, while her back ones are short, so it will take a little extra effort to milk her.  But other than that, she seems to have nice udder conformation, and she's in excellent condition.  She's 6 years old, and is due to have a Guernsey calf in October.  Because I've been checking all the Craig's List ads on a daily basis throughout this entire ordeal, I know that this is actually the only full-blood, adult Guernsey advertised for sale within 600 miles of my farm.  I don't want to lose this opportunity.  I write the owner a check on the spot.  Paid in full.  As an afterthought, I remember to ask the cow's name:  Elsie.

8/15/11:  Talking with my sister on the phone, I mention that I'm not thrilled with the cow having such a cliched name as Elsie.  Everybody names their cow Elsie.  That's too boring.  My sister says I should name the cow "Thistle" because after all my failed attempts over the past few months, "This'll" be my cow.  I love this!  Elsie is officially renamed Thistle.

8/18/11:  Thistle has her vet check, but it will take 2 weeks to get the results back.  More waiting!

8/31/11: Yet AGAIN, I contact my shipper guy, and ask for a quote to transport my cow.

9/1/11:  Thistle's test results come back good.  We can proceed with the purchase.  The shipper quotes me a good price and says he will transport the cow sometime between 9/6/11 and 9/16/11.  Soon I'll have my cow!

9/6/11:  I send payment to the shipper and sign yet another shipping contract.  I also send payment to Thistle's owner paying for the vet check.

9/10/11:  I hear from the shipper.  He says he will deliver the cow late this week.  I'm so excited!

9/15/11:  I haven't heard anything from the shipper.  I contact him to ask when we should expect him to bring the cow.

9/16/11:  Still no word from the shipper, although I try again to contact him.  Even more alarming, we speak to the cow owner and discover that the shipper has not even contacted her at all, not to get directions on where to pick up the cow and not to find out when she will be available for him to come.  Since this is the last date in the timeframe he quoted for delivery and he's still clearly made no arrangements to pick up my cow, I start to get anxious again, paranoid that yet another cow sale is going to fall through at the last minute.  Through the cow owner, we find another shipper who can transport Thistle, possibly around 9/21 or 9/22.  We wait for confirmation.

9/17/11:  I hear from the original shipper.  He hopes to do the delivery within the next day or two, if we still want him to.  At this point I don't care who delivers the cow, I just want her HERE!

9/18/11:  Ken speaks to the original shipper on the phone and gets confirmation that he will definitely deliver the cow on 9/19 or 9/20.  We contact the cow owner to let her know.  We tell her if the shipper doesn't come as scheduled, then we'll pay her friend to deliver Thistle on 9/21 or 9/22.

9/19/11:  Late afternoon, after 7 months of trying and multiple failed attempts, MY COW FINALLY ARRIVES.  Hurray!  I'm a cow owner!

And here, at last, is the lovely lady herself, my Guernsey cow, Thistle:

Now we have about a month to get acquainted before she is due to have her calf, and I have to learn to milk her.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We're Getting a Cow!

I have some amazing news today.  We're getting a gorgeous Jersey heifer.  For FREE!

How did such an incredible opportunity occur?  Well, back in February, I found out about a dairy farming couple who were holding an essay contest to give away a Jersey calf.  I entered, and ended up being one of the finalists, but I didn't win.

But, surprisingly, that wasn't the end of the story.  Yesterday I got an email from the nice folks who hosted the contest.  They said that they had been thinking about me and my essay, and that they wanted to offer me a different Jersey heifer.  I couldn't believe it!

Of course I accepted their generous offer.  I've been a long time trying to turn this run-down old place back into a farm again.  I have sheep, pigs, and chickens... but somehow a farm just doesn't seem like a "real" farm to me without a nice little family milk cow.  This heifer will make my farm complete.

Her name is Rosie.  She's only a few months old, so I'll have plenty of time to get used to cow ownership before it's time for her to be bred, give birth, and start being milked.  I have lots to learn in the meantime!

Because lambing season is about to start next week, we're going to delay bringing Rosie here until mid-May.  After lambing is over, I'll have much more time to spend getting acquainted with our new girl, and helping her settle into her new home. 

As you can imagine, I'm VERY excited!

Here's a picture of what Rosie looked like a couple of months ago:

You can see what her mom looks like here (first two photos on that page).

Oh... And if you're thinking about cow ownership yourself?  That website has some excellent resources and information for new and prospective dairy cow owners.  Check it out!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Building Nest Boxes

Ever since we moved the chickens into the big old chicken house, they've been using makeshift crates as nest boxes to lay their eggs in.  Over the weekend, Ken changed all that by building them a whole new nest box complex, completely out of surplus materials we already had lying around.

Here's what the finished project looks like:

Here's the first stage, building the base:

Next, with the lower dividers and base for the second level in place:

Now both levels are complete, they just need to be filled with nesting material.

 This is way more next boxes than we need for our current number of chickens, but it's a good number for the maximum number of chickens we're ever likely to want to keep in this chicken house.  Better too many nests than too few!

The chickens weren't too thrilled with having someone in their house doing carpentry for two days, and they were a little skeptical at first of the new Apartment Complex O' Eggs.  But they've been curiously examining the new structure all day, and based on the two eggs I just found, nicely placed in one of the nests, I guess they've decided that they approve.

And We Have a Winner!

The winner of today's Sheep's Milk Soap Balls Giveaway is:

Andrea?  Or Morgan?  You didn't leave me a way to contact you directly, but back on January 16th you entered the giveaway by leaving the following comment:
ANDREA said...
I love the idea of giving away extras. I have a small farm in Tacoma and I give away my extra eggs. People try to give me money, but I am raising chickens for fun and it makes me smile to give something away. Maybe some day I will sell my eggs. Keep up the good work. I also follow you on Facebook. Morgan

So, Andrea/Morgan, if you're out there, email me at and give me your contact info so I know where to send your soap!

Thanks for playing, everybody.  Don't forget, there will be another giveaway when our Facebook page reaches 1,200 fans.

Help Me Name My Lambs

Everyone did such a great job suggesting "X" lamb names for my flock last year, I'm asking for your suggestions again this year. 

For 2011, all the lamb names need to start with the letter "Y".  I need boy names, girl names, twin names, "real" names, made up names.  I'm expecting somewhere in the vicinity of about 40 lambs.  So send me whatever names you've got!

Just post your name suggestions in a comment right here.  As the lambs are born, I'll post photos and announce what names I've picked, so stay tuned over the next month or two to see if I used the name(s) you suggested.


Lambing Season Is Fast Approaching

Lambing season will be starting here sometime next week.  Can you tell?  Check out the big bellies on all these moms-to-be!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Shampoo Soap Experiement

Shortly after I started learning to make soap, I started noticing other soap makers selling "shampoo bars."  My hair is waist length, thick, curly and dry---not the easiest type of hair to manage.  Over the years I've tried many different products on it, but it had never occurred to me that you could use bar soap on your hair.

Not just any bar soap, of course.  Handmade bar soap, that was free of all those nasty, drying chemicals that seem to be universally added into every commercial brand of soap and shampoo.  I'd already seen the difference using my own handmade soap makes in giving me softer, smoother skin.  So I decided to be my own "guinea pig" and try shampooing my hair with it.

For the experiment, I decided to use my Pure Castile Soap because it's the purest, simplest soap there is, made of just olive oil, water, and lye.  A few strokes of the bar across my wet hair, and I had enough to work up a nice gentle lather.  It worked great!  Why had I assumed that shampoo had to be liquid?

The thing I noticed immediately was that my hair felt clean and sleek right away.  The soap rinsed out quickly and easily (as with most soap, it does sting if you get it in your eye, so be careful!).  When I use commercial shampoos, I usually end up using a large handful of conditioner just to be able to get the comb through my hair afterward, but it seemed a shame to apply commercial conditioner after washing my hair with natural soap, so I decided to try skipping the conditioner entirely.  To my surprise, that worked okay too!

Since then, I've been using my Castile soap every time I wash my hair.  Sometimes I put a little conditioner on, sometimes I don't.  Either way, my hair ends up feeling softer than usual, and I have noticed a striking decrease in the amount of hair breakage.  I would estimate that I have less than half the amount of breakage than I had when using commercial shampoo.  That was a complete surprise!

If you'd like to try your own shampoo experiment, you can find my homemade Castile soap in my Etsy shop.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another Soap Ball Giveaway

Hey!  While I wasn't looking, we reached another of the milestones I set out to trigger another giveaway:  This blog now has 100 followers.  Thanks everybody!

I'm going to give everybody until noon on Monday to enter to win, then I'm going to randomly pick a winner.  If you've already entered to win before, you don't need to enter again.  If you do need to enter, go to this blog post and leave a comment.

Don't forget:  I'll do another giveaway when my farm's Facebook page reaches 1,200 fans.  That's the place to hear all the daily details about what's going on here at Ingleside Farm, so join us, and recommend us to your friends too!