Welcome!

Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Hammond, Louisiana. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food.

Please follow the links in the top bar for more information on our products and their availability. Continue reading below for our blog where we detail the adventures of raisin' animals and whatnot.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Want more cute? We got it in spades!

 The lambs have been spending their days out in the sunny backyard in hopes they will figure out how to graze like real sheep and stop going through so much milk! I cannot believe how fast they are growing.

 Apparently growing into a sheep is seriously hard work. Is that a giant pile of cute or what?! (I suggest clicking on the pic for the larger version so you can drown in all the d'aww)

I've been found out! The minute they see me all the lambs hop up, start calling, and run in my direction. I'd better have some milk or be prepared to be mugged by all the cuteness.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Goat heaven

 Look who I found out in the back pasture all by themselves for the first time! All 6 goats have finally decided to take advantage of the massive amounts of brush out in the third pasture. Up until now, the girls would follow us out there but would not stay out there unless we were there working on something. The minute we headed back up front they would hightail it across the bridge back to the barnyard area.

 Josie and Jenni in goat heaven.

Jenni, who has an advanced case of the arthritic form of CAE, got a big dose of Banamine today. It was nice to see her walking almost like a normal goat and out grazing with the rest of the group.

 I suspect we will have a much smaller blackberry harvest this year thanks to these girls.

Unfortunately, goats love blackberry bushes. The girls were very happily chomping away at any hope of a future berry harvest. Oh well!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More lamb related cuteness

 This is the sight that greeted me this morning. Not a bad way to start off the day ...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Baker's Dozen of Baby Sheeps

  A few nights ago we got a call from the lady who sold us our original flock of Katahdin sheep. She had had a serious bout of bad luck. Her sheep decided to lamb during all that rain we had in the last few weeks, and she had been finding cold, abandoned lambs all over her fields. She was going out of town soon and asked if we would like to take the 13 surviving lambs. All she wanted in return was the money she had put into milk and supplies so far.

  Big Onion and I talked about it. This would mean bottle feeding an entire flock of babies at least three times a day. Not to mention dealing with any health problems these babies were sure to have. It would also mean kicking the new goats out of the backyard pen way earlier than we were planning and trying to improvise some kind of shelter for them in less than a day. 

  In the end, we decided to go for it. Taking the lambs would effectively double our flock. It would also mean we would have lambs ready for market a lot sooner, and we are rather anxious to see some kind of return for our investment in sheep. My Element was still set up for livestock transport (with a tarp, bedding, and an x-pen in the back), so I made the hour and half drive to go pick up the babies on Thursday. 

One car full of cute! 

I particularly like the little tyke sticking her tongue out in the back there.

 The lambs were little angels on the drive home. In no time they all snuggled down into the hay and napped peacefully while we drove.

 Belly up to the bar!

Behold, the lamb bar! The single greatest invention in raising bottle babies ever! Seriously, you fill this thing with milk and hang it a wall. That's it. 

 It is essentially a big plastic bucket with six nipples all around the bottom. The lambs are able to drink small amount whenever they want to just like they would with momma.

 Unfortunately, not all the babies are used to or strong enough to use the bar quite yet, so there were still a couple that need bottle feeding.

 This poor little gal has almost no hair. She was standing around hunched up and shivering so she got to wear one of the dogs' sweaters. We are calling her Argyle for the time being.

  When I picked up this little girl, she was still being tube fed. I got a crash course on how to pass a flexible plastic tube down the throat and into the stomach to feed a baby who isn't strong enough to suck on a bottle. Thankfully, by the time we got home she was able to latch onto a bottle with a very soft teat and drink small amounts.

 Most everyone else is doing well and fighting over the lamb bar every time we refill it. We still have a couple with dirty butts (a sign of loose poops) and a couple who are not as strong as we'd like, but every day we see improvements.

Doesn't this little gal have the cutest face!

There will be plenty more pictures soon, but for now here are a few videos that the Big Onion has taken in the last few days:  http://www.youtube.com/HighTailFarms

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Josie Jr.

 Gwen is growing up fast. She is already following her mother's tradition of being so very helpful around the farm. 

Here she and Hunter help me cart hay out to line the poultry pens and nest boxes. (Yes, she and the cat are still best buds)

Trying to push down the neighbor's new fence to get at his tasty garden.  

Helping feed the poultry. 

Thanks Gwen!

Monday, January 14, 2013

From Fruit, Wine: Muscadine follow-up, and some new projects!

Don't let the goofy label fool you; this is definitely not for sale!

All good things take time and one thing I've learned over the years is patience. Whether it's waiting for cured meat to dry, eggs to hatch, pregnant sheep to give birth ... the end product is always completely worth it.

Wine, however, really takes time. A lot of time. After about 6 months of fermenting, racking, and letting it settle, I finally bottled the muscadine wine. While totally drinkable at this point, many sources make it clear that muscadine wine is best after aging in the bottle for about a year.

With so much pulp from the fruit, it was hard to take SG measurements!

Not to let things go idle, I thought I'd make some small batches of some other fruit wines. Since we had a ridiculous amount of citrus and still had a bunch of ripe persimmons leftover, I put together a couple gallons of the persimmon wine and a gallon of orange wine. The left-most batch of persimmon wine was made mostly with peels and stems and was impossible to get a specific gravity measurement. As you can see, it was extremely active in fermenting and kept blowing through the top. I ended up combining both batches of persimmon wine and moved them to a bucket for primary fermentation.


I've since racked them over for secondary (longer-term) fermentation. You can see the sediment build-up at the bottom of each of the little carboys. Racking off the wine will remove some of the sediment and help to clarify the wine. After about six months, these should be ready for bottling.

Fruit wines are easy enough. Fruit, sugar, water, yeast, and some minor additives (to ensure a healthy ferment) are all you really need. I've been spending a lot of time reading through Jack Keller's recipes. Can you believe there's a turnip wine? I think I may have to try it just for the heck of it!

The bottles of muscadine are tucked away in the closet for long-term storage. I may crack one open in about 6 months to see how the flavor has changed, but the bulk of what remains after some Christmas gifts will be left undisturbed.

Do any of our wonderful readers make wine? I'd love to know what you might have going on right now!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Monsoon season

The rain just keeps falling around here and more and more of the pasture is surrendered to water and mud.

The chickens are learning to adapt to their new partially aquatic life. I swear one of them is trying to grow gills!

The poor goats HATE getting wet. Josie and Jennie have stayed inside their room for 3 days straight. Here Thea takes advantage of a brief break in the weather to try and devour an entire pine tree.



Here's a picture of the creek from a couple days ago. It had topped its banks once and was threatening to do it again. 

For reference, this is what it normally looks like (though most of the trash and scrap metal have been cleared from the banks since this picture).

Big Onion's new fence has been under water more than once but is still standing, straight and strong. 

 As I've said before, the ducks (and geese) are the only ones really enjoying this crazy weather. The rest of us just feel like we are stuck in a Ray Bradbury story

 At some point I got fed up with all the water everywhere and decided to dig myself a drainage pond....with a shovel. I think all the water is going to my head.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gertrude and Eve - Rescue Goats

A few weeks ago, we got a message asking if we would be interested in taking in a rescue goat. Apparently this female goat was found swimming around a flooded area during Isaac and was being kept at a public barn south of New Orleans. Not long after she was rescued, she gave birth to a set of twins, a male and a female. 

Today we picked up Gertrude and Eve, mother and daughter.  Gertie looks like a much older goat than our adult girls. One side of her udder is completely died up. The other is so long it almost drags the ground. Both sides look like kids have been chewing on them for years, lots of scar tissue.

Eve is about 2 months old and is already almost totally weaned. The male kid, Wall-e, will be going to another farm to act as a companion to an older pygmy female.

 Gertie was very nervous in the car at first, but eventually settled down in the back with her little girl.

 We think she is a Nubian/Boer mix.

And we are really not sure what Eve is going to turn out to be, but she is sweet, friendly, and feels soft as a puppy.

I'd be happy to hear from any of you goat folks out there if you have any breed suggestions.

When we got home, we let Gwen into the yard to meet the new arrivals. Gertrude was not very interested as long as Gwen didn't come anywhere near her udder.

Little Eve and Gwen greeted each other with lots of sniffs. We are hoping that Eve will be a good playmate and friend for our Gwenny.

 Thea and Hunter also came running up to the fence to meet the new goats.

Before long everyone was happily chowing down together.

Before we put the new goats into their backyard pen for the night, we did put Gertie on the milk stand. She was a little nervous and kicky at first on the stand, but before long she settled down to chowing on feed and letting me get down to the business of cleaning (and cleaning and cleaning) and milking the one good side of her udder. We only got about a cup of milk so it may not be worth trying to milk her right now. We'll see once her baby stops nursing entirely if her output improves.

Either way, we are very excited about the newest additions to our herd.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The measure of a good farm dog - Nova

Our little Nova really proved her worth today as a farm dog.


For those of you who don't know her, Nova is not exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier. She's goofy and is certainly not a thinker. She is actually Luna's sister and full blooded litter mate, but the two could not be more different in temperament and drive. The girls were bred from farm dog stock on a small working sheep farm. Their breeder is also one of the best herding trainers I have ever met.

Nova was originally sent to a pet home because she didn't show a lot of drive to be a working dog. I remember her breeder telling me specifically that one of the reasons Nova failed was because she was reluctant to go in water. She was actually returned to her breeder in time because it turned out she had more drive than anyone thought and just could not settle into the life of a pet dog. From there she lived and was trained on her breeder's sheep farm until we came along and picked her up to complete our sheltie trio.


Well, today I needed a really specific job done. You see, it has been raining here on the farm for days. In all that time, we have not seen the sheep. They have been hanging out in the very back of the big back pasture. I am pretty sure they thought themselves unable to come back up front because of all the standing water surrounding them. Yesterday when I checked on them, they looked wet, bedraggled, and miserable. I decided it was time to move them up to the front so they could get under cover and get dry.

Most days I rely on Luna as my right hand dog, but today I called on Nova because this was going to be tough. Nova does have all those years of herding training under her belt and even though she spends most of her time acting like a fool, every now and again we see flashes of all that training and some spark of hidden brilliance. I was really hoping today would be one of those moments.

I grabbed my stock stick, my clicker and treats, put on my rubber boots and headed to the back pasture with Nova in tow. On the way there Nova was eager to run ahead and find her stock, but instead we practiced her recall over and over with lots of clicks and treats. I knew once we got out there I might have to call her off in a flash if things went wrong.

Let me tell you folks, it's bad out there. The water in places is deep. I'm talking boot-topping, sock-soaking, curse-spewing deep. At first Nova was very reluctant to plunge through the deeper areas. She even got herself stuck on a bit of an island at one point before conquering her fears and plunging her way through.

At this point, the sheep knew something was up. They had gathered into a tight group and moved as far away from me and my tiny black and white wolf-beast as they could get. It was time.

I gave Nova a command, and the chase was on! She ran around and got them headed in the right direction, then they all split into small groups and it looked like chaos was in progress. In the scramble, poor Fancy hit an uneven spot and went down. Somehow Nova, running through thorny brambles and through deep mud and water, kept her cool and got most the group back together and headed in the right direction. They ran past me and leaped over a small drainage stream.

I called Nova back to me, and she immediately hit the brakes and came back to where I was, ignoring the downed sheep just like I had hoped she would. I put her in a stay walked over to check Fancy, as I approached, Fancy hopped up, ran over, and leaped the stream to join the rest of the group already hightailing over the bridge and back up front.

Meanwhile, I directed Nova back to the group of stragglers who she easily got turned round and headed past me, over the waters, and though the gate into the next pasture. There was one sheep left. Ever since little Daisy was sick, she has developed a smart but annoying habit of running off and hiding on her own when the dogs appear. Nova and I finally located her in a thick stand of trees, and my handy farm dog got her headed on her way with ease.


By the time we trudged our way back up front, the sheep were all back together and mostly recovered from their encounter with the twenty pound sheep eating wolf beast.

Soaked to the bone and pleased as punch with herself!
Every day our pups help us run this farm in big and small ways. I don't know how we would do it without them. Today Nova proved that she can run (and sometimes even swim) with the best of them!


Making Cajeta

All these rainy, wet, nasty days have driven me indoors. While I was stuck inside, I couldn't help but notice the buildup of goat milk in the fridge. I've been making panir, chevre, and even dog treats like a mad woman, but the goats are outstripping our ability to consume their wonderful milk. Don't get me wrong though, this is great problem to have!

I google "using extra goat milk" and up popped a recipe for Cajeta. Cajeta is a thick, sweet caramel made from goat milk and sugar. It sounded wonderful so I had to give it a try.

The first recipe I found called for using a gallon of milk and keeping it on the stove for over 10 hours. Instead of using that much gas, I decided to try putting the ingredients in the crock pot instead. It was worth a shot.


I mixed one gallon of milk, 4 cups of sugar, vanilla and baking soda, turned the pot on high, and left it uncovered to cook for about 10 hours. Nothing happened. The volume of milk never reduced. It just sat there, a nice smelling bowl of warm milk. Big Onion suggested I put the lid on. After another few hours, I had a strange brown lumpy mess. Desperate to save it, I used our stick blender to combine the lumps with the liquid and poured the whole mess into a pot on the stove. This I tried simmering for another few hours.


As you can see, it was a total failure. It smelled nice, but it was kinda like caramel flavored cheese curds. Just gross.

With much apprehension, I decided to try again a couple days later with a different recipe and a smaller amount of milk. I used this recipe and made it on the stove. I used just 2 quarts of milk, 2 cups of sugar, vanilla, and baking soda.  There was a lot of bubbling at first, then the sweet mixture settled down to simmering. It took about four hours of my hovering over the pot and stirring every few minutes, but slowing the milk got darker and thicker.. I think Big Onion got a little tired of me popping back and forth to the kitchen and yelling, "It's working! It's working!! Come look it's getting darker!" every 10 minutes.
 
 I turned off the heat when it reached a nice shade of brown and seemed thick enough. I did a little victory dance while the Big Onion swung into action and canned the thick, gooey goodness.

2 quarts of milked yielded just 3 quarter pint jars with just a bit to spare.

To celebrate, I took a bit of the extra cajeta and mixed it with some dark rum and fresh goat milk over ice. It made a sweet delicious cocktail that seemed like a perfect reward for all our hard work!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mud, mud everywhere

 While everyone is posting beautiful pictures of snowy fields and frozen ponds, we have mud. Lots and lots of mud. It has been raining here at least every couple days. The fields don't have a chance to dry and the ground is totally saturated.

 The ducks and geese are thrilled with the impromptu ponds everywhere. The rest of us are less than thrilled.

Thank goodness the Shetlies are weather proof. They could care less about rain and mud and cold. In fact, I think Luna enjoys getting as sloppy as she possibly can. Her feet (above) used to be white.

And the poor dear, for braving the freezing rain and ankle deep mud to help with evening chores earned herself a bath.

Humph!