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Idaho living, starting seeds, goat problems, older chickens ... and Californians.

I've been living beyond the sidewalks for nine years now. Seven years were in a very remote area near Hells Canyon and we loved it, but our kids turned into teens and 60 miles from the nearest town made it a little difficult for them to make friends, so we now live 12 miles from town on 155 acres. We like it here, too. It's almost as remote since we're at the end of the road and the road is a very rough one. In fact, with all this rain we're getting now, we have to park our rigs off of our property and walk in because of the mud.

Our ground is saturated and I can't even dig a hole much less work our garden. We now have a pond near our trailer that will disappear when the ground dries up, but it sure is pretty. The deer drink out of it in the mornings and Mallard ducks like to swim in it.

A pen pal of mine said they just moved onto their property in Georgia and the little things, such as building a shelf or putting on a doorknob is a big event. How true! Living in the country really helps you appreciate the little things. Getting my Countryside magazine and a letter from my pen pal (which I met through Countryside Contacts over a year ago) are a big deal to me. And what a surprise to see a picture I sent him in the last issue.

I've met several pen pals through Countryside, but Norm and Darleen and I have stayed on the longest and what fun it's been. We've never met in person, but we know each other well!

Here are a few things I've learned over the past years that I'd like to pass along:

* Watering seedlings with chamomile tea solves my damping off problems.

* Sprouting seeds makes them come up much faster and shows you which ones won't germinate. I take a wet paper towel, fold in half and place seeds on it, then I fold the towel over them and roll it up with a slip of paper saying what kind of seeds. I put several of these rolled up towels with seeds in a small plastic bag and close the bag with a bag tie. Open it once a day to let air in and check your seeds for sprouting. Seeds that were saved from last year may mold if there is fruit still on them. Any helpful comments on that?

* I've had milk goats for many years and I love them. They are hardy animals but things can go wrong. My favorite goat (a La Mancha) somehow got a bone infection in one leg. The vet said it's very hard to cure. We tried all the shots and pills he gave us to no avail. I tried another vet and used all the medication he gave us. No luck. Gangrene set in and we were talking about shooting her. Then a friend told me about melaleuca - tea tree oil. I was ready to try anything! I put a few drops in a bucket of very warm water and soaked her leg in it twice a day. After one week I saw improvement. After two weeks her leg was normal and hair was growing back. People couldn't believe the way she healed up.

The next winter she started limping on that leg again and the hair started coming off. I soaked it in tea tree oil for a few days and she was fine.

* This year I'm down to two goats, my favorite with the mysterious leg and her daughter. They both were bred last fall and they both aborted two months later. I called the vet and he said 1,000 things could have caused it. I talked to my neighbors who are cattle ranchers and they all said they had to vaccinate for leptospirosis or their cows would abort or have stillborns. I called the vet and he said yes, goats can get lepto. It's a disease carried by deer. We have an overabundance of deer here and this area is bad for lepto. So, I vaccinated my goats and now I'm in the market for a new one. (Our information doesn't implicate deer in leptospirosis. Rats - and pigs - but not deer. - Jd)

* Don't believe everything you read and hear. I've heard for years that chickens are "has beens" after two years. I always kept mine till they died or a varmint got them. They laid eggs for years and the older they got, the bigger the eggs seemed to get.

(Older hens do lay larger eggs, but fewer of them. People in the business of selling eggs have to get rid of the hens when the feed bill is higher than the egg sales receipts. Many homesteaders don't have such constrictions.)

* I also heard goats were no good after four or five years. Mine never dropped in milk production that soon. A French Alpine mix that I had gave two gallons a day when she was seven years old. No lie! She was a wild scrub goat when I got her for $25.00. She had a terrible udder attachment and I thought I'd only keep her a year. She turned out real nice though and had triplets every year. One year she had four. I'd still have her, but a cougar got her last year.

I'm not saying to pick out scrub goats with bad udder attachments, but if that's all you can afford at first you might give it a try. Good feed and care can sometimes work wonders.

* If you have a chance to work for or help out on a sheep ranch during lambing, go for it! I worked two lambing seasons on a big sheep ranch while husband watched our kids the vet work on this ranch and I learned a lot about prolapses, abscesses, weak lambs, pulling lambs, giving shots, etc. It has come in real handy for raising our goats.

About those Californians...

One last comment about Californians. We moved to Idaho from Sacramento, California. We were raised in Northern California.

When we moved here we heard the familiar "Don't tell anyone you're from California." But we weren't shunned. We fit right in now. We never took the comments personally because personally, they liked us. They know we're from California and they don't care because we didn't try to change things. People around here don't dislike individuals from California, they dislike the changes some Californians make and I agree with them. I've seen little towns in Idaho and Montana turn into small Sacramentos or touristy Carmels. We moved here to get away from that. If those Californians like that lifestyle why don't they stay where they already have it and quit trying to bring it here?

Also, rent and prices on land and houses used to be cheap here. Now the prices are high because Californians came in and were willing to pay high prices and buy everything up. Now it's hard to find anything to rent. Yes, we bought here, but we bought cheap and we moved in when hardly anyone knew where Idaho was. The locals don't mind a few newcomers now and then, but it seems like a horde has moved in in just one year.

A local told me her family has lived in this area for generations. Now, her kids will have to leave when they graduate. They can't afford land or house payments now and there are no jobs left. They aren't against individual Californians and they don't think they're any better. They're just sad and I understand.

Another thing that does make locals angry is when a lot of Californians buy land and build homes, they do not hire locals who are perfectly capable, but they hire from the bigger cities or bring carpenters from California. They don't help generate jobs for the community.

Thanks for letting me have my say.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:homesteading hints
Author:Lefsaker, Alanna
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Buying your "dream home," protecting your mailbox, starting and transplanting tomatoes, and a zucchini recipe.
Next Article:An infuriated native Californian speaks out.

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