Goat Names and Weights

… along with their de-worming dosage

The goats are generally very healthy, but every six months or so, they should be treated for worms. Parasites in goat intestines can be very harmful to goats. If they are too bad, the goats will not be able to make important B-vitamins, and wind up with goat polio and die within a few days after symptoms. We almost had that happen with Maggie and so we watch this very closely, now. No, it’s not an ‘organic’ treatment, and we don’t give it to Daisy because we still consume her milk. The drug is Ivermectin. Ivermectin is also in the heart-worm medication most people give their dogs.

As you may recall, due to the fire, we had to quickly reduce our goat herd because we lost water for the pasture. Those named above got to stay. Some of them are hefty! Good thing they are relatively tame because we have to put the syringe (without needles) into their mouth and deliver the medication orally. Boy Story loves it. The others just tolerate it. BG likes it least of all.

Pomegranate Feta Friday

… no black Friday shopping here, it was all about “making”.

Among other things, David made feta cheese rounds from Daisy’s (goat) milk. I squeezed pomegranate seeds for juice.

  • five containers of white feta cheese
  • two bowls full of light-pink pomegranate seeds
  • A jar and a pitcher full of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice

When David milks Daisy each morning, she gives him a quart of milk. We refrigerate it until we get several gallons. The five, cheese rounds pictured above came from three gallons of goat’s milk.

The pomegranates come from a grove of trees that mom and dad Lusk helped us plant over 10 years ago, plus one other tree in the orchard. We have several varieties (listed in last year’s post), some are lighter and sweeter, some are darker and more astringent. Together, they make great-tasting, raw juice that doesn’t need sugar.

The feta cheese will need to brine (in refrigeration) for a couple months, and then it’s ready. We used to buy a lot of feta. Now it all comes from Daisy. Love that Alpine goat!

The pomegranate juice that we don’t immediately drink gets frozen for later use. It was a poor crop year for apples and pomegranates … late, hard frost.

Oh, and there are byproducts with cheesemaking — ricotta cheese and whey. David got five cups of ricotta after making the feta. The last byproduct, whey, we pour onto kale and cabbage in the garden.

In case you’ve forgotten which one is Daisy, here she is, the one with the beard!

Side view of a gray, black and white Alpine goat
Daisy when she was pregnant

TESLA

… an excellent, helpful thing that happened this year!

  • The side of a Tesla battery -- white with gray letters that say "Tesla"
  • a screen shot of the Tesla app on a smartphone
  • a screen shot of the Tesla app on a smartphone

California’s Public Utility Commission and the State of California recognize the additional risk that rural communities and rural homeowners have if the power company (PG&E here in Northern CA) shuts power off during fire risk (windy/dry) events. Our little community of Berry Creek saw first-hand how devastating a power outage is when a disaster is bearing down. No way to get evacuation notices or pump water.

Recognizing that, this year, through the self-generation-incentive-program, (SGIP) there was an incentive that covered the cost (after federal tax credits) to install batteries for rural homeowners who have solar power and rely on a well for domestic water. This was an amazing program in 2020 and we were among the first to sign up when this SGIP incentive became available. There is now a wait-list for this program. Here’s more about eligibility requirements for battery rebates: https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/uploadedFiles/CPUCWebsite/Content/News_Room/NewsUpdates/2020/Residential%20Equity%20and%20Equity%20Resiliency%20Matrix.pdf.

Any Californian who meets the above requirements should reach out to a reputable solar installer for assistance with the (complex) process. Our installer is California Solar Electric in Grass Valley, CA. They made the process as easy as possible at reasonable cost.

For us, batteries are a huge upgrade to one of our solar arrays because in California, most solar systems are “grid-tied”, which means the solar system is directly connected to the public utility energy grid. There are no batteries on these systems, so when utility power goes down, solar panels on the roof are useless. There’s nowhere for the power to go, so generation shuts down. Without the grid, without batteries, those expensive solar panels are no better than an old shingle.

Batteries change this equation. With batteries, the solar panels can continue to produce when public utility power is gone … essentially making us “off-grid” instead of “grid-tied”. But the public utility also benefits from homeowner battery systems like the Tesla Powerwall because the utility can shift loads during peak demand so that homes with batteries use battery power instead of grid power, so grid power is more available for everyone else. Of course, one home with batteries isn’t much, but many are. That’s why the incentive was widely available and expected to result in millions of new battery installations (as well as to push prices down over time by creating a stronger market demand for newer battery technologies).

The really cool, helpful thing about this (besides getting expensive batteries discounted) was that the install happened after the Sept. 8 fire, when PG&E (utility) power was down. We were able to operate our well with our solar power, so we had water, without having to run and fuel a generator, for the two months it took to get utility power back.

The batteries are quiet. They just sit there. The app on our Android devices tells us what’s happening. Really cool stuff and we are so happy to have these — and wish we could have some for the main house, too. The batteries are not on our main house solar arrays because our existing water well pump for the two ranch houses is on a different meter/service than the main and small houses, and the requirement we met to qualify for the incentive was that we had a well instead of public utility water. So, the batteries went on the service and solar array that run the well, and not the house. The batteries are still very expensive and not affordable for us without the SGIP incentive. That means we still get stuck with running a generator for the main house when the power goes out. But at least we don’t have to run two generators now and it’s a great relief to no longer worry about getting water to both houses during outages.

Based on our experience, so far, we could run the well for four days in complete darkness before the batteries would run out and we’d have to shift to generator for the well. Fortunately, (at least so far in 2020) there is usually some daylight in the daytime, and the solar panels will recharge the batteries with any power they make.

The Bird(s) That Got Away

… this time

This is the first time in 15 years we haven’t had a giant (30-40lb) turkey for friends and family to feast on. We have the birds, but everyone knows why friends and family are bunkered down, this year.

We only have 10 turkeys this year, they arrived later in the year and so were not ready for this holiday. Christmas will be a different story. I didn’t tell them.

Here they are, celebrating Thankgsiving!

Olives, Electronics Graveyard and a Rigged Furnace

Yesterday, we picked 5 gallons of olives at a friend’s farm. We process these olives and can them. There is a previous post about that here: Olives. Pictures from yesterday are in the slideshow, below. This year’s olive crop was poor, so we are happy to have what we have.

Many of you read the “Eleven Steps Back” post … we are accumulating the dead electronics in a refrigerator that was killed by a power surge related to the fire. Need to get the whole-house fan motor out of the attic and into that collection. Electronics graveyard is also pictured in the slideshow below. All this stuff is considered toxic and will have to be taken to a special place at a special time so we can get rid of it.

Lastly, part of the “Eleven Steps Back” post was that the furnace transformer got fried. We have now determined that the relay switch also fried. That relay controlled a valve that let hot water into the house (we have radiant baseboard heat via hot water). With that relay broken, heat is either always ON, or always OFF. Neither option works in the winter. So, I rigged a handy-dandy, manual thermostat control (light switch). The slideshow has an annotated picture of that for you too, below. (Note, the transformer has already been replaced as it fried first). Yes, eventually we’ll remove that switch and get all the wires stuffed back into the nice little green box.

It Rained!

Fire season 2020 is over! Smoke and ash have been mixed with water (for better and worse), but are no longer a suffocating, daily presence coating everything.

Outside smells are an odd mix of fresh, Fall, and wet ashtray.

We are steadily chipping away at things to fix, electrical, mechanical, grading (earth), brushing, etc.

I have recently tuned in to Steve’s Small Engine Saloon! A must see. 😄

Temperatures down in the low 20s before the rain a week ago killed all the remaining things in the garden except the kale, chard, fennel, Napa cabbage and broccolini.

We are still eating melon! The Asian melon, a type of honeydew, but white and very sweet, turned out to be incredibly productive and durable. They produced up until frost, even with very little water, and keep well in refrigeration.

We no longer have to haul water and the creek has natural flow again.

We still have no telephone service and no ETA on that.

The PG&E rodeo continues. Central office wrote our accounts off as destroyed, and the various PG&E departments do not talk to each other, work over and past each other, and are totally confused. They terminated our solar net metering programs and totally hosed the last step approvals for our new solar array with Tesla batteries (which have been running our well ever since the fire, without being connected to the grid). Try sorting all this out without reliable phone service, a few hours of hold at a time standing on a hill praying cell call isn’t dropped …

David and I did a little more work on the destroyed aqueduct, checking to make sure culverts were clear of debris, creating and opening clean-outs (places for water to escape the ditch without destroying it), and taking photos of improper or unmaintained road drainages which are the (neglected) responsibility of Butte County Public Works.

Lucy’s AI procedure was completed Monday evening. In 20 days, we should know if we have a pregnant heifer. Sure hope so. It will only get harder for her to conceive as she gets older and heavier.

We were able to put the goats (and heifer) into new brush (they were getting really edgy and unhappy about the lack of food after we lost pasture irrigation). Nothing spectacularly funny about it, but below is a video of them in their new foodland. This was an area of heavy brush that would have burned up to us if we hadn’t stopped the fire as it was entering there.

Also below, a video of clouds moving past at sunset one evening after the rain. Just beautiful.

Lucy’s New Boyfriend Comes in a Can

there is a little pun in there, too

This is a frozen semen transfer tank and shipping container. Lucy’s new boyfriend’s semen is in there. His name is Pancho. (KN Paula’s Pancho)

We are trying artificial insemination (AI) this time. Lucy has not conceived with her x-boyfriend, Tommy Hawk, despite spending several months with him this summer.

We are expecting to do this Sunday or Monday (with the help of a professional, of course).

Wish us luck! Lucy is almost 2 years old and she really should be bred already. Not good to go longer, age, weight, infertility and complications risks go up.

One Step Forward, Eleven Back

… electricity can do some odd and bad things.

And that’s not all. Quite a lot not pictured.

Here’s the whole, sordid continuing tale:

A couple days ago, an electrician was here to disconnect the big, diesel generator that was running our main house at our meter. Then he proceeded to connect us to line (utility) power which was just restored since the fire Sept. 8. He had had a long day, it was late, it was dark, and he was tired.

He should have gone home and come back the next day. That’s all hindsight.

He forgot to connect a critical, neutral wire (there are three, big, fat wires that come from the power pole transformer into the house at the meter, one is the neutral, the other two are highly juiced). So when we turned the main breaker back on for the house, all hell broke loose. Lights flickered. Things fried. We turned the breaker off, the electrician looked at his work again, and tightened a bolt. Then we tried again. Even more frying and flickering. We turned the breaker off again. The electrician checked his work -and noticed the neutral had been disconnected from our meter service because when the generator was powering, it had it’s own neutral. Doh! Embarrassing, rookie mistake for a well-regarded electrician. A very costly one, it’s turning out, for him and for us.

When we reflect back on the sequence of events, the first time we flipped the main breaker, the whole-house surge protector protected the house, but was fried in the process. Then, when we turned the main breaker on the second time, there was no whole-house protection and the current collided with neutral in the closest wires it could find. Some of them were surge protected with typical household surge protectors, and some were not. Here’s the list of what was fried (that we know of, so far):

  1. Propane furnace the heats the house
  2. Wood-fired boiler that heats the house instead of the propane furnace
  3. The gate the opens at the driveway
  4. The home alarm system
  5. The whole-house fan
  6. The range hood
  7. Whole house surge protector
  8. Computer electronics surge protectors (2)
  9. Portable air conditioner
  10. Backup battery for gate opener
  11. Backup battery for home alarm system

These things that fried all had transformers or specialized power supplies. Some of these things were on and working. Some were merely plugged in but not on. But the odd thing is that not all surge protectors fried, and the appliances seem to have survived (long-term issues, who knows). What fried and what didn’t really makes no sense.

Electricity has mysterious ways.

Anyway, the eleven steps back are the items in that list that need to be fixed. So far the hours cost is 8 hours (tracking down failed components, testing them, and looking for replacement parts, some for obsolete items). This does not count the time yet needed to put it all back in working order. The dollar cost for all these things is approaching $2000. The electrician said he would take care of the cost, but I don’t think he had any idea how much it would be. He hasn’t seen the bill yet. He did fix the furnace and offered to do more of the labor, but with some things, it makes no sense to have him do the labor because the risk of him breaking more things because he’s unfamiliar with them is greater than us spending the hours to do it ourselves.

I think somewhere in one of the posts about the fire I mentioned how there are all these secondary or follow-on events after a big disaster. They just keep coming and eating away at any effort to get back to some sort of equilibrium. It’s like someone snapped a spring and it is still wildly flailing about causing more hell to break loose.