Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees?

can goats eat Christmas trees

This is the time of year to ask, can goats eat Christmas trees? Many of us will have spent hard earned dollars, purchasing a fresh cut tree from a local tree lot. After the tinsel and ornaments have been removed, using the tree as a food option in the barnyard can add value to the money spent on a fresh cut tree. So can goats eat Christmas trees? What about sheep, cattle, and even the chickens? The genus Pine contains a lot of plants, some not even true pines. Yew is not in the genus of Pinus, (its actually a member of the Taxus genus). Yew is often confused with pine but can cause toxicity and illness  in most animals.

Many of the popular varieties selected as Christmas trees can be used as a food supplement in limited quantities. The White pine, and Scotch pine are common along with the Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir and the Blue Spruce. With any edible, I never recommend over feeding. Illness can result just from the upset in the diet routine. Stick with the old adage of everything in moderation.

can goats eat christmas trees
photo credit Glen Miller

Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees and Receive Health Benefits?

Pine needles provide trace nutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and forage. Trees should not replace the normal forage, grain or other feed material. Pine is good for intestinal worm control and high vitamin C content. Some varieties contain higher amounts of Vitamin A, too. In addition, the activity of chowing down on a tasty novelty, interrupts the boring days of winter and eating only hay.
Not only can goats eat Christmas trees, but the chickens will enjoy either nibbling or playing with the pine needles and branches. The entire Christmas tree can provide a wind break in the chicken run, and an activity center for bored chickens. If you live in an area that doesn’t get very cold, the chickens will find insects among the tree branches too. 

What Problems Can Arise?

Pine needles can cause abortion in cattle, if eaten in varying quantities. Although cattle and sheep and goats are all ruminants, the absorption mechanisms in cattle seems to have more of a problem with pine. Problems seem to be documented with certain plants in the pine genus. Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and Monteray Pine have documented incidents of causing premature birth and abortions in cattle. The Yew is another member of this group that can be extremely toxic. Horses and ponies can colic from too much pine. 

can goats eat Christmas trees

What Amount of Pine is Safe?

Can goats eat Christmas trees if toxicity is a potential issue? one tree per small flock of ten to twelve animals isn’t enough to cause toxicity issues. Goats eating nothing but pine bark, branch tips, and needles, every day can lead to toxicity and abortion, along with other health risks. Cattle seem to be more susceptible to pine toxicity. What I have found concerning toxic plants is this. In truth, it’s like so many toxic plants on lists. They’d get full before they ever had any toxicity issues. Or they’d have to eat it for a long time period. If the toxic plant is the only choice, the ruminant or chicken will eat it. If there is plenty of other nutritious food available, the animal will not normally choose to eat the toxic plant. In short, a small amount of pine Christmas tree will add nutrients and not cause harm to your flock.

pine boughs
photo credit Glen Miller

 Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees from Sale Lots?

What about the toxicity of man-made products applied to Christmas trees. This is a topic that always comes up when talking about feeding fresh cut trees to livestock and poultry. Some large retailers still apply a fire retardant spray or a colorant to the trees. Ask your seller about this. This article shares that the fire retardant spray is a green color that can be seen on the trunk and some of the branches. The tree may appear to be a brighter green than you would expect. In any case, ask questions and inspect the tree carefully if you are planning to feed the tree to your farm animals.

pygora goat

 We try to avoid chemicals of most types when caring for our farm animals. I was surprised to read that this Virginia Cooperative Extension report suggests that the colorants and sprays are no more harmful than household chemicals! I sure wouldn’t feed my goats any of those household chemical cleaners either!
Check with your seller before assuming that a tree is all natural. If you buy your tree from a small independent lot, they should know where the trees came from and how they were prepared for sale. If you cannot be certain, don’t feed the tree to the goats, sheep and chickens.

Common Pine Varieties Used as Christmas Trees

White pine, scotch pine, Fraser fir, and other varieties commonly found on the tree lot can provide nutrients to your goat, sheep and chicken diets. Some varieties may be more desirable than others. Sheep tend to dislike the scotch pine needles due to the more prickly nature. Goats are not usually as tender in the mouth and may not discriminate as much as the sheep.  

After feeding the tree to the barnyard animals, the trunk and branches can be recycled further into wood chips. The wood chips can be added to the garden area, or the poultry run to cover muddy areas. Goats, Sheep and even the chickens, can help you recycle the Christmas tree and keep it from ending up in the landfill. There are healthy nutrients in the tree and feeding it to your barnyard animals is safe in occasional small doses. Pine needles are healthy for humans too. Try a pine needle tea for what ails you with a winter cold. For more ideas on recycling the fresh Christmas tree, look here.

For more goat care info including information on goats and Christmas trees, check with Feather and Scale Farm.

can goats eat Christmas trees

Slow Living Through the Art of Knitting

slow living through the art of knitting

The mere words ‘Slow Living’ conjures up all kinds of images in our imagination.

In my mind, slow living conjures up big pots of simmering homegrown food, a fire gently crackling, children laughing, stacks of good books that I’ve read and reread, seed catalogs full of opportunities, the scent of coffee, the taste of tea, jazz softly playing and knitting needles swiftly moving in my hands, as I watch the world surrounding me, a place devoid of haste.

The images conjured up in your mind may be very different from mine. If knitting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, I won’t blame you but I will share with you why it should be in the future.

Slow living through the art of knitting

Mindless and Mindful Knitting 

Knitting can be a mindless activity. For me, it’s been muscle memory work for years. Unless I’m doing complicated lace, I hardly ever have to look at my knitting. I trust my hands to do the correct motions at the right time. I can watch a couple of movies and knit a sock without even realizing it.

Knitting can be a very mindful and centering activity. I don’t have to look at my knitting. My hands can feel the stitches as they come up and know when to knit and when to purl. Stitch markers remind my fingers to do a decrease. I can get completely lost in the motions, move into a state of flow and lose my sense of time and place.

Knitting is one of the easier ways to begin a mindfulness practice. Feel and observe everything you do. Take in the motions of your hands. Sense the yarn gliding through your fingers and the texture of the different stitches. Soon you’ll find yourself completely engulfed by this fascinating craft.

Process Versus Project Knitting 

Knitters generally fit into one of two categories. They are either project knitters or process knitters. Mindful knitting may come easier to the latter group.

As a project knitter, you focus on the final product. The actual process of creating the item is often less important than the number of items you can produce in a year.

slow living

As a process knitter, the finished object fades into the background. You might not even particularly want it or have a use for it. What matters to you is the process of knitting. Every single stitch, the pattern you follow, the new technique you are mastering. That’s what makes you happy, that’s why you knit.

I identify as a process knitter but I don’t fit perfectly into the stereotype. Despite or because of muscle memory, I can vouch that this form of knitting can be mindful. Yet, the homesteader in me also wants a useful product in the end and knitting is a great way to keep me and my family warm.

The Materials Matter in Slow Living

Speaking of keeping warm, materials always matter. 

My husband, a skilled carpenter, taught me more than a decade ago to always opt for the best tool for the job. The materials matter even more in mindfulness and slow living.

The only way to figure out what makes you enjoy life the most when knitting is through trial and error.

Some knitting needles flow better  for you.

I learned that I enjoyed knitting so much more with wooden needles than metal ones. The sound of the needles touching, the feel of the material in my hands, even the way the stitches sit on a wooden needle.

This all brings me more joy than when I’m working with metal needles of any kind I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried many different kinds. Through further experimentation, I learned that square wooden needles are my happy place.

When it comes to yarn, you have to experiment as well. I’m not a fan of knitting with mohair. Give me cashmere and I’ll go all soft and pet my yarn more than is acceptable in the knitting community.

I’ve also come to be quite particular about my choice of sock yarn. I will go into full flung mourning, should the brand stop producing it in my lifetime. It’s that perfect combination of pleasurable to knit with and long-lasting on our feet.

Knitting involves most of your senses. The more you can please each of them, the more you’ll enjoy life as you knit.

Choosing materials is all about using your senses too. What looks good, feels good, smells good, sounds good? But, please don’t taste your yarn. Even I, despite my excessive cashmere petting, have limits for inappropriate handling of yarn.

With Slow Living, When You Knit Matters

I’ve often fallen into the ‘never not knitting’ category of knitters. But different times call for different projects to foster that slow knitting mood.

If you’re having a conversation, your complicated lace project will not set a slow living mood. A basic sock or miles of stockinette on that sweater for your husband are better options. They add the right amount of ambience to set the mood for a long, deep discussion.

Pick up the lace when you are sitting by yourself listening to the fire. The children are sleeping and you have a good light source next to you. It’s the perfect time to get lost in your knitting. Just one more row before bedtime, right?!

You can also use knitting to ease your nerves. I’ve always knit before my exams. I used to frog it all afterwards because the gauge was insane and I didn’t care about the item. I simply needed my knitting (a clear symptom of being a process knitter).

Then I began to knit dishcloths before exams. There’s nothing like a tightly-knit dishcloth to relieve exam nerves. As a bonus, it scrubs off dirt even better once it’s done (the homesteader in me rejoiced when I discovered this).

Other places to counteract the stress of the moment with knitting are:

  • the doctor’s office 
  • on commutes 
  • in those pesky long lines at the bank or post office

Slow Knitting is Good for Your Health

Science found knitting to be good for us in other ways. Not only can knitting calm you in stressful situations, given you have the right kind of knitting at hand. The repetitive motions in knitting are also like a healing balm to your brain.

While knitting won’t cure you of anything, it has a positive impact on a wide range of conditions.

People with early stages of dementia have experienced a slowing down of symptoms.

Blood pressure can be lowered by knitting and so can anxiety and depression. 

It’s a great tool for creating community. Knitting lessens feelings of  loneliness and isolation and increases a general sense of well-being. 

It even has a positive effect on people suffering from chronic pain.

slow living through the art of knitting

In the End, It All Depends on You 

I hope, I’ve convinced you why knitting can be an essential and life giving part of a slow living lifestyle.

The fact is, knitting is not slow in and of itself. I saw this first hand during the years I worked at a yarn store.

You might hurry to reach self-imposed deadlines. You strive for an unrealistic number of objects knit in a year. Or you practice non-stop to win the next speed knitting competition you enter.

You can buy and work with materials that frustrate you. They can even give you an allergic reaction.

The same repetitive motion that is a balm to your brain can give you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if you aren’t careful.

Knitting can be as stressful as any other activity.

In slow living, the most important aspect is the mindset you approach the activity with. Only with the right mindset can knitting become slow knitting.

The next time (or the first time) you pick up your knitting, check your attitude. Conjure up those images of slow living before you settle in for a slow, mindful, knitting session.

(sources for health section:

Thank you to my newest contributor, Pia Sonne, a Denmark homesteader. Pia can be found on facebook and instagram under Busy Hands Quiet Hearts. Check out her blog, Busy Hands Quiet Hearts , where she writes about homestead topics, homemaking and Christian living.

Quick Handmade Gifts for a Homemade Christmas

Handmade gifts for a homemade Christmas. Handmade gifts are a tradition. Remember last year when you promised yourself you would make homemade gifts all  year long? And here we are. Searching for all the quick handmade gifts to give to our family and friends.

Handmade gifts are a tradition. Remember last year when you promised yourself you would make homemade gifts all year long? And here we are. Searching for all the quick handmade gifts to give to our family and friends. Because, even though we love giving homemade gifts, life is busy and sometimes messy and we just don’t get them done during the rest of the year. At least not enough.

No matter if you are looking for gifts made from yarn, fabric, or food, or nature, take a look at this selection of handmade gifts from around the homesteading community. I think you will find at least a couple that will inspire you to stay home from the shopping center and create just the right gift.

Short on time? These handmade gift ideas are just for you. The majority take only a small investment of time, most under 4 hours.

handmade gifts

Handmade Gifts Made from Yarn

Yes this is my comfort zone. However, even if you only crochet or knit in straight rectangles, there are idea that you can whip up in just a few hours. The pom pom book marks are super cute! I stumbled on those by accident while looking for something else. What a cute idea for teens, teachers, Bible study classmates, and just about anyone who reads! Pom poms are not just for hats!

Quick and Easy Crochet Scarf Pattern

Crocheted Handwarmers

Pop pom book mark

Tunisian Crochet Braided Earwarmer from TLYarncrafts. This is not a free pattern. I added it because it’s what I am currently making for gifts this year. It’s versatile and trendy and I adapted it slightly to my own preference. I recommend this one!

Homemade Gifts of Food and Beverages

Many of us are looking to declutter and simplify. Adding more more more stuff to our houses is so yesterday. Food gifts, created and attractively packaged, are always in style, and appreciated!

S’Mores Gift Basket

Homemade Irish Creme Liquor

Homemade Limoncello

Preserved Smoked Garlic Bulbs for Cooking

Flavored Salts

DIY Bread Mix in a Jar

Autumn Spice Chai

Enjoy a warm fire started with these festive pine cone fire starters.

Handmade Jam
3 Delicious Jam Recipes

Apple Cranberry Jam or Apple Cranberry Jelly

Homemade Jams and Jellies

Handmade Monogram Mugs Add a pack of hot cocoa or coffee or tea and you have a lovely gift!

Kits for Do It Yourself Handmade Gifts

Kits for Health and Beauty are appreciated and help your giftee learn a new skill too. People are amazed at how easy it is to make handmade lip balm. Another idea is a kit for extracts. With the current price of vanilla beans,(and the not so yummy flavor of imitation extracts) give the ingredients! A “make your own” kit is the perfect handmade gift.

Natural Dye for Wool Yarn Kit

Do it Yourself Beard Care Kit

Unique and Natural Solid Perfume

Do it Yourself Lip Balm Kit – it’s amazing how easy it is to make lip balm from healthy ingredients!

Homemade Extracts can easily be given as a do it yourself style kit. Put all the ingredients in a pretty basket or bag and attach instructions.

Sew a Homemade Gift

Sewing is a great way to create handmade gifts for family and friends. And don’t miss the Bees Wax wraps that are also made from fabric.

How to Make Potholders from Old TShirts

Wool Mittens from Recycled Sweaters

Easy Rag Quilt

Quilt as You Go Table Runner

DIY Quilted Mug Rug

Bees Wax Wrap for Plastic Wrap Alternative

Soaps and Lotions

Everyone appreciates handmade body products. The mere fact that the gift is made from quality, natural ingredients is enough of a reason, and yet folks get so creative that the soaps can look good enough to eat! Even the plain Jane, goat milk soap is a treasure, and a healthy choice for your skin. I should warn you that making soap is addictive! Once I start, the options are unlimited and I end up making quite a few batches of soap at one time. If you are cutting it close on time, try the recipes in Jan Berry’s newest book, Easy Homemade Melt and Pour Soaps Cut down on the curing time required with cold process soaps.

Luxurious Body Butter

Hard Lotion Bars

Easy DIY Lip Scrub

Cold Process Soap Making

Handmade Soothing Balm

Oatmeal Honey Soap

Vanilla Bean Soap

DIY Sleepy Time Herbal Bath Tea Doesn’t that sound perfect?

The Gift of Learning

While not exactly a handmade gift, you will be gifting the knowledge to make something valuable or learn a valuable skill. With beekeeping and soap making being very popular, these classes and more are sure to be an appreciated gift.

Soapmaking with Axe and Root Homestead

Beginning Beekeeping

Shop Small

If you really are too tight on time, don’t despair! The world is full of many talented people hoping you will find your way to their independent shop, website or Etsy store this season. Here is a short list to get you started.

5R Farm in Oregon Handcrafted, small batch soap made with natural ingredients.

Jeanie Green Hens on Etsy has handmade, handknit, and other gifts from the farm.

Wild Oak Farms on Etsy offers a natural raw goat milk and calendula soap with no added fragrance. Don’t miss the handmade soap dishes and body scrubs too.

Handmade gifts are a tradition. Remember last year when you promised yourself you would make homemade gifts all  year long? And here we are. Searching for all the quick handmade gifts to give to our family and friends.

Hopefully you feel encouraged now to go forward and conquer your gift giving list. They say that giving homemade and handmade gifts is truly giving from your hear. I agree with this. It’s can also be giving your family and friends ideas and encouragement to live a more sustainable, healthy and earth friendly lifestyle. Still not sure? Check out the following for more handmade gift ideas.

Ten More Handmade Gifts can be Found Here.

Gift Basket Giving and Gifts in a Jar are other fun ways to prepare handmade gifts from the homestead.

Raising Sheep Warms You Twice

Raising Sheep Warms You Twice
How keeping sheep brings more than the warmth of the wool

When we began raising sheep, I looked forward to the warmth they would provide. I did not consider the other ways that sheep would warm us. With quite a few years as a shepherd now behind me, I can see that the wool that sheep provide is but one way they heat our bodies.

The visions of sheep roaming the gentle slopes of a picturesque farm may be heart warming. However it does not portray the amount of heat producing labor that goes on behind the scenes, when raising sheep.

The Work

For example, feeding, and lugging hay during the winter when the pasture grasses are dormant. Or scrubbing water buckets, mucking out stalls, repairing fence, and other regular tasks.

The once a year shearing provides quite a physical workout for the shearer anyway. But even the wool collector and person clearing the shearing deck gets plenty warm. Raising sheep is hands on, physical work.

raising sheep

The Dream

I was pulled to raising sheep for yarn. The entire process called me. Raising the sheep, shepherding, and being part of the process of turning the yearly harvest of wool fleece, into yarn. And finally, using that yarn to create clothing we can use.

The romantic picture of warming myself by the fire, drinking coffee, and working on a wool project was my dream. And that dream came true.

raising sheep

The Reality

And then there is reality. Staring you in the face on the days you can’t figure out what is wrong. The reality of losing an animal you raised from a lamb, the reality that not all illnesses are caught in time to cure. And then your tears warm you.

Eventually your heart heals enough to get back to work. Because there are other sheep that still need your caring hands. Other sheep that still need hay, and fresh water, and a list of other less frequent needs. Grief and disappointment can only take up a tiny percentage of your day. Move forward. Learn from the past.

The Fleece

Once the yearly shearing has been done, the work of cleaning and sorting and processing that fiber begins. Raising sheep is what you do to receive this bounty! At some point you begin to experiment with natural dyes for wool. The colors are nature’s rainbow.

raising sheep

Spinning the wool roving yourself or sending the wool to a fiber mill transforms the wool into yarn. Seeing the yarn starts the warm tears flowing down your face.

The yarn that is a year in the making. The yarn from raising sheep on your own property. This is when the fruit of your overheated summer days and the cold frigid evenings making sure the sheep have access to the dry barn and hay and thawed water all comes together.

raising sheep

Raising Sheep Brings Connection

Raising sheep connects you to basic human needs. There’s a circle that connects it all together. The need for warmth. The need for contributing to something greater than yourself, the need to provide, the need to see a connection. And then to use the product to create warmth for yourself or a loved one. It repeats in a natural step by step process, over and over. It is comforting.

How to Participate in the Circle

Raising sheep is not for everyone. Even with a small flock of two, raising sheep takes time. It takes strength, and energy, something you may not always have to share. But it doesn’t stop there.

The buyer and creator that choose wool also participate in this cycle of warmth. You become part of the traditions handed down from generations before. Sharing patterns, teaching knitting, weaving, crochet, and tapestry builds the requirement for wool.

Choosing wool encourages future shepherds. Using wool continues the cycle, because the sheep are making a renewable resource. Raising sheep warms you while you raise them and again when you use the beautiful fleece.

raising sheep sheep on green field with trees

Our Story

My own journey raising sheep led to creating a yarn product we sell from the farm. You can learn more about our Free Range Yarn and see what’s for sale in our Etsy shop.

Our newest product (available here) is Natural Dyeing Kits, complete with yarn, dye, and natural products that enable you to try natural dyeing without a costly investment. More of my dye recipes are available on the website, and in my book, Raising Sheep and Other Fiber Animals. Where will your journey with raising sheep or using wool take you?

Sourdough Apple Bread with Fresh Apples

Sourdough Apple Bread

Sourdough apple bread is versatile and can be made with either fresh apples, frozen or canned. During fall apple harvest it’s great to make this recipe with fresh apples. You can snack on a few slices while making the filling. When winter hits and you want to bake a warm, hearty bread, grab some preserved apples and continue on with the recipe. It’s great either way.

I recently tried a recipe for Apple Pull Apart Bread by my friend Ann at A Farm Girl in the Making. One thing I never seem to do well is stick to a recipe. I always have to put my own spin on it. In the case of the pull apart apple bread, I wanted to try it with a sourdough batter and fresh apples. The result was delicious!

And not only that, somehow my sourdough apple bread version made enough dough for two loaves! I had to increase the amounts for the filling when I realized that there was so much dough. Either way, you should try this idea. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, use Ann’s version. If you are like me and sort of committed to a sourdough life, I’ve got you covered with the sourdough apple bread version.

Start with the Dough

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon yeast (one package of dry yeast)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 cups of all purpose flour

I use an electric stand mixer to make bread dough. Add all of the ingredients except for the flour and mix using the flat beater. (you will switch to the dough hook later)

Add the flour, one cup at a time. Mix well after each addition. After the first two cups of flour are added you might want to switch to the dough hook. Mix the dough until it is a smooth ball. I knead a few times on a floured surface before letting the dough rise.

Transfer to a greased bowl, turning so the top is greased too. Cover for rising. This can take one hour to up to 5 hours. When the dough is doubled, knead it down and prepare a floured surface.

note- my sourdough starter was made from dehydrated sourdough from Alderman Farms. My starter has been living and thriving on my counter for over two years at the writing of this post and I use it for almost all of our baked goods.

sourdough apple bread

Prepare the Sourdough Apple Bread Filling

  • 5 or 6 apples, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • OR (1 quart of canned apples, drained well)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1+ 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of butter

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in one small bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter

Roll half the dough into a rectangle approximately 8 x 18 inches.

Brush the dough with some of the melted butter.

Cut the dough into six strips length wise.

Cut the strips again 6 times width wise, making small rectangles.

sourdough apple bread

Assemble the Sourdough Apple Bread

Grease the bread pans with butter.

Layer the dough rectangles in the pan, sprinkle the sugar cinnamon mixture and the diced apples. Repeat the layer until the dough has all been used.

Repeat the steps for the second loaf of Sourdough Apple Bread.

Second Rise and Baking

Cover both loaf pans with plastic wrap and allow to rise, approximately 30 minutes to one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the Sourdough Apple Bread for 35 to 45 minutes. You may need to cover the loaves loosely with foil during the final ten minutes.

Cool the loaves for 15 minutes before attempting to remove from the pans.

Glaze the Sourdough Apple Bread Loaves

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons milk (add more milk to get desired consistency)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients using a whisk.

Drizzle the glaze over the loaves before serving.


I hope you enjoy your sourdough apple bread. If you are new to sourdough baking and want more information on getting started, check this post from when I first started.