Friday, August 31, 2012

Empty Market...

The Market was silent... And still on this weekday that I was there. The building was closed, but we were still allowed access for a little white. You could almost sense the ghosts of past memories floating from the rafters. It was just a sense of old recollections... Faded stories. I can't decide if the Market intrigues me more when it is live and bustling, or quiet and composed. 

Summer Evening

Every evening, at about 5pm, the lighting is *perfect* for picture taking. The sun is just beginning to dip behind the mountains and it casts a golden glow on everything. I only wish I was a good enough photographer to capture the moment properly... So for now, you'll have to bear with my amateur attempts. ;)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Redneck Fence

The new pallet fence inside the barn! I have to admit that I'm rather pleased with it... ;) I think I might even paint the wood white sometime soon.

Big News!

My application for the Saturday Farmer's Market was accepted this afternoon!!!! *Squeeeee!* ;)


I will be sharing my booth with my friends from Plowman's Farm, who will be offering locally grown vegetables alongside my raw milk. :) The market manager said she might even have a spare fridge that I could use so I wouldn't have to buy my own. Score! I am so excited to finally get a booth at Oregon's most beautiful Market, and now I have a central drop-point for my milk! 

Oh and did I mention that we just *might* start this Saturday?!?! We'll see how things unfold, but it looks like we are zooming along! 

P.S. New to the blog and haven't seen the pics of this market? Check out THIS blog post!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The New Girl

Hidden Meadows Encore Lily...

Photo courtesy goes to her breeder over at Royal Cedars.

Ain't she purty? ;)

Surfacing At Last

I should be outside... I should be working... I should be cleaning the rabbitry... I should be ordering fencing materials... No, I SHOULD be blogging! Hehe, these are the thoughts that have been swirling around my head since I last gasped out a pathetic blog post. Life has been busy, for sure, but I have been loving it. I'm such a workaholic and I love the changing jobs each day. 

So, what on earth happened to me??? I gave ya'll some teasers and now I suppose I had better spill the beans and fill you in, eh? I figured... Goodness knows if I don't start talking I may have a mass mutiny on my hands as all of you faithful readers trot off to find someone else who updates regularly. Hmm, with that threat in mind methinks I will start my tale now before you get antsy!

Now, where did I leave off...? Oh yes, HEIDI. Y'all read my post about my mischievous goat wrecking the chicken tractor and thus putting me in the predicament of having free range turkeys. I highly despise free range poultry. The turkeys weren't horribly bad whilst they were enjoying their freedom, but it was stressful for me since I literally couldn't leave the property without the fear of them wandering off. My days were punctuated with frequent "turkey herding" whenever they got on the wrong side of the fence. Ugh. I will say this though: Turkeys are mounds easier to catch than chickens. As long as the cow wasn't feeling frisky (and thus spooking said turkeys) I could usually call out a high pitched "Turkeybirds!" "Turkeybirds!" and watch what looked like a flock of velociraptors speeding towards me from the far side of the property. Broilers (meat chickens) don't come when called. 

My new friends from Plowman's Farm (click highlighted words to read their blog!) heard of my poultry plight and immediately set a date to do some building. Step One? We had to gather materials. They were going to build me an authentic Joel Salatin-style chicken tractor that was complete with the metal roof and sides; but where to get that wood and metal? Right across the road from our house, on the neighbor's 98 acres, was a fallen building... Its metal roof gleamed in the sunlight as it lay almost on the ground with the wooden walls squashed beneath it. Bingo. That wasn't an old barn anymore in my sight; it was a chicken tractor. After a couple of phone calls, we had the green light to dismantle the old barn (or shed, or whatever is was back in its heyday!) so we got to it! To be totally honest, I really didn't do any of the hard work for ANY of the chicken tractor building. The guys (my dad and the husband of Plowman's Farm) tore off the roofing and pried off the wood needed for the project; I just shuffled the pieces into a tidy pile and fought with blackberries that woke up grumpy that day. I know, I'm so grand. ;) Just call me "Superwoman".

 Day #1, which was last Monday, was the barn dismantling day. Days 2 through... Hmm, either 3 or 4 were spent constructing the new tractor. The days meld into a blur in my mind... There was so much going on that I can hardly keep it all straight! And once again, I didn't do any of the hard/heavy work during those days. I think the hardest thing I did was make a cherry pie for them as a 'Thank You', and making pies is about as easy as breathing to me. When the chicken tractor was declared finished (save for some chicken wire that needed to be put on top; which I did the next day), I was in awe... What a beautiful beast it was and is. Made of old but sturdy wood, cross braced to withstand an assault of even the orneriest ruminant, and 3/4's of it covered with sheet metal... It looked like I had gone to Polyface and stolen one of their own chicken tractors. And not only is it pretty and functional, but I get a darn nice workout moving it, too! I don't have the wheeled dolly to move this thing yet (I just need to get some wheels!), so I get to use brute strength each day. Thankfully it's not that hard; a summer of lugging 70 gallons of water each day by hand, stacking 100 lb. bales, and dealing with grumpy cows/goats has made me fit for many tasks. My shirt sleeves are starting to get a bit snug actually... [blush]

In the midst of all this tractor building and barn tearing, I still had a dilemma on my hands: Heidi. Since the wrecking of the original tractor, I had some heavy thinking to do about her fate. She was getting to be too much of a handful for me. Heidi really doesn't like to be handmilked, but since I pulled her kids off of her at birth, she and I were forced into the close proximity of milking every single day. Hoo boy. She was giving just over 12 lbs. (one and a half gallons) each day and it HURT so stinking bad to milk her! She has pretty small teats, and my left hand can't take very much stress after I broke it a few years ago. The goats that stay here are always goats that are easy to milk. That's why Sombrita had to leave; my hand couldn't take the stress of milking her and it started going numb. 

 So there I was: Milking Heidi 2x's a day, taking pain killer to combat the inflammation in wrist, and I wasn't even saving the milk. Most of the time she would just put her hoof in the pail, or kick it clean over in the midst of things anyway. In revenge for having the audacity to take her kids away and hand milk her, Heidi pulled a new stunt. She started running from me. I don't know what got into that girl's head but she mastered the art of duck, dodge, and weave in a span of days. Her udder would be achingly full but you might as well try catching the wind than catching her. The other goats watched Heidi zoom out whenever I appeared with the milk pail and what did they start doing? Running with her!!! Heidi taught ALL of my goats to run away! For an entire week I couldn't catch a single goat for milking, so I had to resort to letting them "escape" one at a time. If you leave a gate untied long enough, a goat will eventually nose it open and wander out. So that's what I had to do. I left the gate untied, stood behind the hay stack pretending that I wasn't watching, and had to wait until a goat got curious enough to come out. Milking chores became very loooooong. This was ridiculous; who was running this farm anyway? Me, or the Great White Goat? As far as Heidi was concerned, she was the one playing the cards; I was just the one who shoveled the manure every day. After a week of not being able to handle my goats, I broke down and posted Heidi on Craigslist. I couldn't handle it anymore. I missed having my goats swarming around me in the pen, and having each girl dance out for their turn on the milking stand. Heidi had wrecked two chicken tractors, wrecked an electric fence a few months ago, and now she had wrecked my relationship with the other goats. Darn her. 

After a couple days of her being posted on CL, someone showed interest in her. They were looking for a milking goat so they could feed their bottle calves and Heidi interested them. They wondered if I would consider trading her for a ton of premium alfalfa hay, and after some thought I consented. I've been working on writing a memoir with Heidi as the main character, and here I was trading her for hay... Life is just fickle.

 After Heidi left, peace once again reigned in the pasture... It was almost too quiet. The goats settled back down into the usual routine, there was no more escaping or tractor wrecking, and by Jove this is some mighty fine alfalfa hay! I miss her, yet I don't miss her. She was a grumpy, stubborn, ornery creature, but I loved/hated her for that. Ah well... She's gone now. I am keeping her daughter, Minuette, though and I think she will prove to be a very impressive milker. I'm looking forward to seeing how she freshens next year. 

With the absence of Heidi, I figured my herd numbers were now at a good level. Breeding season is just around the bend and I felt that I had a tolerable number of girls to breed. Ha. I should have known that there's no such thing as having a "closed herd". Some nearby friends needed to sell their purebred, milking, Nubian doe ASAP, and being me, how on earth could I say 'No' to such a fine animal? I have long admired this gal and her pedigree is just stunning; if you know Nubian goats, then the herdname 'Kastdemur's will tell you why I wanted her. Yep, her sire is none other than Kastdemur's Final Encore and she looks just like something from that famous herd... In the end, I traded for this new goat who's name is Lily (Hidden Meadows Encore Lily is her full handle). My friends are getting 5 months worth of raw cow milk, and I got Lily. I love trading. :)

 Lily came on Saturday morning, oozing class and haughtiness. To date, she is the fanciest goat in my herd and I jolly well think she knows it. Tall, powerful, with a beautifully carved form, she sauntered into the pasture; looking down her nose at my "country bumpkin" goats. She makes me think of a city girl who's afraid she might get chicken poop on her high heels. Oh Lily... Welcome to Goat Song Farm, ma' dear. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly when I found something out about her: She is a fence wrecker. The pen inside my barn is made of woven wire and for the last 5 years that has not been a problem. Sure, the goats will stand on the wire and bend it a little; but it wasn't a huge deal and it was a very cheap fencing option. I watched in fascinated horror as Lily walked up to the fence, put her front hooves on the wire and began using her weight to pull the fence down. It looked like she was climbing a ladder as she would raise her feet up a level and then smoosh the fence down more. Once the 4' tall fence was down to a mere 6 inches, she would daintily step over it and begin feasting on the alfalfa hay. She did this 5 times in one hour as I would put her back in the pen, fix the fence and prepare to leave. 

Great... What was I supposed to do now? What I needed was a wooden fence (or the Great Wall of China) so she wouldn't be able to crush it, but I could just see the dollar bills mounting in a project that involved so much wood! In an attempt to discourage her, I leaned some old wooden pallets against the fence on the lowest spot. Wait a minute, wooden pallets? A lightbulb began sparking in this old brain of mine and wheels began turning. Hmmm, would it be possible to treat wooden pallets like miniature livestock panels, and use them to create a new fence? What if I screwed a bunch together and then lashed them to a T-post? I love lightbulb ideas. In the mean time, Lily was housed in the comfy hotel room that is more commonly known around here as "the kidding stall". Her majesty wasn't keen on the confinement but what's a girl to do?

 Yesterday morning I collected some pallets (from the folks who I got Lily from!) and went straight to work. Using a handy dandy drill and some hugely long screws I took what most people consider trash and turned those pallets into a fence. The end result was an extremely sturdy fence that looks like an old fashioned western corral. Folks, I'm trying not to brag here, but I think it's down right beautiful!! I was going to take some pictures of the fence, chicken tractor, and Lily herself, but realized that I don't have the camera right now. Phooey. But pictures are coming, I promise. 

Life has been busy in general around here... The milk herdshares are selling out very steadily, and my friends from Plowman's Farm and I are getting ready to send in our application for the McMinnville Farmer's Market. They want to sell their organic vegetables there, and I want to use the area as a milk drop-point for herdshare members. Fingers crossed that our application is accepted and we get a spot! 

 And of course there are always people who want to come out to the farm to see the place, emails to answer, and projects to finish. I am dog tired every night by the time I go to bed, but I love this life. I love it that every day I'm doing something a little different and I'm able to spend so much time outside. And now that I've done all of this typing, I really should go feed the baby goats!

 Toodle pip and cheerio dear friends! I will try to blog again tomorrow and get back into my daily writing groove!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just A Note...

Just a note that I am still here! I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted! I've been meaning to blog every day, but I've been so busy that I just haven't had time... I always plan on doing it after evening barn chores, and then find that by the time I'm done with all of that, I'm too bushed to write coherently. Shame on me.

I'm actually supposed to be outside doing the evening milking right now (it's 7:45pm and the cow is bellowing!) but I'm waiting for a gooseberry pie to come out of the oven before I go. Wouldn't want to burn that delectable dessert now would I? ;) 

In a span of a week, what's happened? Oh good heavens... You wouldn't believe it. My new Salatin-style chicken tractor was just finished today (such a beautiful beast it is, too!), I sold Heidi (I know, I know... You want the story on that), am getting a new goat on Saturday (quite unexpectedly! I honestly wasn't goat shopping at all!), sold Snickers and Frodo, tore down an old building on the 98 acres with the help of friends and family, sold almost all of my herdshares, got an offer to be a farm manager for a nearby 20 acre parcel (have no idea if I'll take the folks up on the offer yet, but I think it's cool that I was asked), and there's still the milking chores! Whew! 

So yeah... I have some serious catching up to do around here... I'll try and get that done soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Free Range

The turkeys are being free ranged right now, although it was not my decision...

They're loving their freedom, and I have to admit that it's kind of fun to see the mob of them running around like the prehistoric nerds that they are.

And why are they free ranging if it's against my wishes? Sigh... Dear friends, Heidi the goat has finally taken her wrath out upon my chicken tractor...

And it now looks like this:

Believe it or not, it's actually not supposed to have those rips, or the broken top bar, or the bowed in sides, or the mangled chicken wire. Nope, it used to look pretty nice.

This is not the first time Heidi has assaulted my chicken tractors. One of the reasons why I hated this year's batch of meat birds so much was because of Heidi. She was continuously busting into them and eating the chicken feed as well as injuring birds. I have duct taped, stapled, screwed, zip tied, and nailed my poor tractors back together more times than I can count... Heidi is such a greedy creature that no barrier can stop her when she smells chicken feed. In today's case, when she found that I cleverly put the feeder at the back of the tractor where she couldn't reach it, she decided to climb on top of the tarp and get in that way. Apparently the tarp couldn't handle 200 lbs. of caprine. 

So it is now demolished... My lovely chicken tractor... Finished. Darn that goat. 

Thankfully, I have some sweet new friends nearby who offered a grand barter: I'm helping them build a website (Goat pedigrees and HTML codes: those two things I can quote in my sleep) and in exchange they are building me an authentic Joel Salatin styled chicken tractor. You know, those fancy ones with the metal on the top and sides instead of a cheap tarp? Yeah, that one. ;) 

Having a new, armored chicken tractor is going to help things immensely around here, but I think it's high time I stopped avoiding the inevitable and realize that Heidi really needs to go to a home that doesn't have chicken feed at such close range... My Nubians respect boundaries very easily; the La Mancha cross does not. And chicken feed is ridiculously expensive. :( 

This morning I filled the turkey's feeder half way up. Two hours later I found the wreckage and a feeder that had been licked clean. Observe:

Somethin' has to happen here. Either the goat has to go, or this farm girl needs to permanently give up poultry of every kind. And somehow I don't think I can do without the poultry...

P.S. Did you notice my pathetic grass??? Even Oregon is now being touched by the drought! I'm praying for rain! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Needing A Lanolin Fix

It's always this time of year, from Mid-August to October that I have a have a hankering for lanolin in the flesh.

In short, I always flirt with the idea of getting sheep again.

We are juuuuuuuust beginning to tip into my favorite season of fall. Remember my previous post about that? The wool sweaters, the crunchy leaves and the apple pie? (actually, did I mention apple pie in that post? If not, then imagine that I did.) Now, wool sweaters makes me think of, hmm, wool. And wool comes from sheep. I like sheep. I like them a lot. And it's as we're tipping into and finally embracing Autumn that I need a lanolin fix. To hear those funny 'Baah's' and feel yarn still in the primitive state on the back of an ovine. The annual Flock and Fiber Festival in September both helps the fix and hurts it. I hang out in a barn full of sheep for the day which feels great, but it also makes me want a flock of my own again. A few summers ago I got to "babysit" a quartet of Katahdins, and I loved those creatures. Hmmm... Sheep. 

Any way, just a random muse for y'all. ;)

Book Review: Natural Goat Care

It has come to my attention that I have not done a book review in a long, long time... So I'm setting out to remedy the situation!

For months upon months I have had three fellow goat raisers tell me I needed to buy Pat Coleby's book, 'Natural Goat Care'. They all said I would love it. My response was always, "Sure, yeah, someday maybe I'll get it. But at $25.00 for a USED copy, I don't see that happening any time soon!" And to be honest, I wasn't really interested in reading it. I knew that Pat was more into using minerals to help animals and I've always been a bit skittish about that route. Between hearing horror stories of overdosing a mineral, the challenge in just finding the minerals, and seeing that all the animals got their needed amount, well, it made me want to just stick to my herbs and feign ignorance on the matter. I know, I'm so grand.

But my friends wouldn't give up. "You need to buy Pat's book!" "Just get it on Amazon!" "You'll love it, I promise!" Well thank heavens for their persistence. I ended up with three gift cards for my birthday (best gift possible, in my mind!) and I selfishly bought myself books with all the money. This girl doesn't need flowers to be won over; a $2.00 book from Goodwill will do just as well (cow-sized silicon inflations also have the same effect). The book titles were all similar in topics, 'You Can Farm', 'The Teamsters Guide to Oxen', 'Goat School', and of course, 'Natural Goat Care'. Yep, I finally bought the book.

And guess what; I LOVE it! 

Natural Goat Care
By Pat Coleby; author of Natural sheep care, natural horse care, & natural cattle care.

Rating: 10+
Readability: 8
Impact: 10+++ (in other words, off the wall)
Recommend it? Yes!
Read it again? Oh yes... This book never strays from my bedside shelf.

What to expect: Pat Coleby touches on just about every subject that relates to goats and shows in a clear form how all of today's problems with our caprines are stemming from mineral deficiencies. Our lands are eroded and poor; years upon years of mismanagement, chemicals, and natural disasters have left us with land that is quite literally "dirt"; the lack of minerals left in our soil is harmful to everyone; humans, animals, and plants alike. Mineral deficiencies cause an animal to have a poor immune system and cause imbalances of all sorts. Thankfully, getting our goats nutritionally balanced is easier than we think! With simple directions, Pat skillfully teaches readers how they can use minerals to heal and maintain their herds of two goats, or two hundred. 

My thoughts on it: So yes, I had to eat some Humble Pie after reading through this the first time. My friends were right, this book is hands-down *awesome*! In short, if you have goats, or if you are thinking about getting goats, then buy this book. Period. Pat does go over more than just using minerals on goats, although the majority of the book is indeed about that. But other topics are breeds, choosing a breed, choosing land, using herbs, goat care, breeding, kidding, showing, meat goats, training draft goats (just a tiny bit on that part), fiber goats, and tanning goat hides. You may notice that I only gave the book a rating of 8 in the readability section... I did that because, 1. it IS a little text-booky and some may find it on the dry side. And 2. Pat is from Australia and the entire book is based on Australian settings. But I still found it extremely applicable despite the - um - distance between us. ;) 

One thing that really excited me was her usage of copper. I've always heard bad things about giving copper to goats (although they do need higher amounts of it than most livestock), so I resorted to using kelp meal and copper boluses to my goats (copper bolus: imagine a ridiculously huge pill that has copper inside it). However, the boluses never did much for my goats, and the kelp was so expensive that I wasn't always able to supply it year around. What's a girl to do? In Pat's book, she recommends feeding 1 teaspoon of copper sulfate to each goat per week. I loved it that she gave such a clear dosage. So when a friend gave me some of his copper sulfate I eagerly tried it out on the girls (goats, that is). I mixed the copper in their feed and was amazed at the reactions! Ivy (who is brown) and Heidi (who is white) wouldn't touch the copper at all. They both looked great and I really didn't think they needed much copper anyway. Pat mentions that black/dark colored goats need 6x's more copper than white/light colored goats, which I thought was intriguing. Sombrita (I still had her at the time) and Metty both showed signs of being copper deficient: their black coats were a dull brown with orange trim on their legs and stomach. Their ears were also a dull orange hue where they used to be black. Metty naturally has orange markings on her, but a copper deficiency will give the tips of each hair a dull cast. A black goat should be BLACK. I mixed the copper in Sombrita and Metty's feed, and stood back... They DEVOURED their grain! Metty has never liked her grain, and I'm always trying to figure out a new way to get her to eat it, but with the copper in there she ate as if it was her last meal. Holy kohlrabi. The next day was the clincher: the orange cast on them was almost completely gone. Sombrita was so black that she looked blue on some areas. Their milk yield also increased noticeably. I was hooked. Someone sign me up and hand me some minerals!

Pat has five favorite things to provide goats with the minerals they need. The first is kelp meal. A lot of people ask me if they should give store bought minerals along with the kelp meal and my answer is always, 'NO!' Kelp meal is cram packed with 60 minerals, 21 amino acids, 12 vitamins, and it boosts the immune system, improves feed utilization, increases milk and meat production, reduces or eliminates (depending on each animal) breeding problems, reduces or eliminates internal parasites, reduces the chance of mastitis, and just plain makes the animals look stunning. It's good stuff and worth every penny.

 So kelp meal is her first recommendation... Her other favorites are dolomite, sulfur, copper sulfate, and apple cider vinegar. If you supply these five things to your goats, then you'll already be ahead of the game. I thought it was interesting that she used dolomite... I had always heard to give limestone to animals, but she says that doing so will cause a severe imbalance of magnesium. The dolomite is the correct ratio of calcium to magnesium which keeps the animal balanced and able to absorb the nutrients. If there is too much of one, then the animal will be unable to absorb the other and the result is a sick goat. The sulfur and copper are both in very small amounts, but are necessary to keep the animals healthy and able to absorb everything to its maximum potential. And of course the ACV (apple cider vinegar) is awesome. Kelp meal and ACV have always been my two "miracle workers" as they pretty much fix everything. You can read about the benefits of ACV by clicking HERE

Now the question that everyone, including myself, asks: "Where can I buy these minerals?"

That one took a while for me to figure out. My first recommendation is to check your local feed store and see if they have anything. One thing you DO need to check is if the dolomite has lead in it. Apparently most feed stores carry a cheap type of dolomite which does indeed have lead in it. Yuck. My feed store didn't know, but seeing as their price was only $10.00 for a 50 lb. bag, I have my suspicions. Thankfully, I was pointed to a great website that has all of the minerals that Pat mentions, and they even have a pre-blended mix of Pat's recipe that calls for dolomite, kelp, sulfur, and copper sulfate! Oh and their dolomite is the lead-free stuff, too. Very nice. They have the fun name of 'The Jolly German', and you can find their website by clicking HERE. Their prices are a little, well, pricey; but since you use such a tiny amount of the minerals at a time, I am happy to pay the price and know that I'm getting good quality minerals and I can find everything I need without leaving my computer chair. LOL. ;) 

So, now that I've given what sounds like a sales pitch (what can I say, I love marketing!) I will finish up with this: If you have goats, or are thinking about getting some, Buy Pat Coleby's book!

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 11th, 2011

August 11th, 2011 was a big day for me. I meant to write this post on Saturday (the 11th of this year), but time wouldn't allow it, so here it is today.

August 11th... During that time I was depressed, feeling lost, and without a purpose. Depressed because my goats were dying left and right and no one knew why (two months later it was deemed that I had a liver fluke infestation in the herd), I had just lost two good friends, my family was upset with me and wanted my farming dream to go on a permanent hiatus. Without the dreams and plans of my own farm, what was there to do? I was wandering... Feeling lost. There was nothing to do in life except continue to dig holes for the ever dying animals. I dug so many pits that summer... I cried my self to sleep every night. I was tired... So tired. Tired physically, tired mentally, tired emotionally. And I wanted life to be over. I was done; I couldn't do this. I had hit that point of depression where you're just ready for the long sleep and the thought feels normal. 

And then one day I happened to pop over to Joel Salatin's website. I don't know why I went there; after all I wasn't supposed to be feeding the farm dream anymore. All my hopes and plans were disintegrating; why was I on Polyface's website? I'll call it fate. While there I noticed that they were accepting summer internship applications, but only for four more days. I sat in my computer chair, staring at the screen in front of me. Four more days... I don't know why I did the next thing, but I automatically emailed the Salatins and asked for an application. My farm dream was supposed to be dead and here I was thinking of travelling 2,800+ miles to Virginia.

The application came the next day and I filled it out with a speed filled with hope, desperation and fear. There was virtually no chance I would get the position as a summer intern; but what if I did get it? I shouldn't do this... But maybe I should? This is a pipe dream, why try? Why not? I finished answering Joel's questions, which ranged from normal to eyebrow-raising, and clicked the 'SEND' button...

Sheri Salatin emailed the next day saying they would announce their picks at the end of August. The next two weeks were filled with renewed hope in me. Would I get the position? Would I be one of their picks? The end of August came and went... No word from the Salatins. I hesitantly emailed Sheri, asking if a decision had been made. No, she said, not yet. Joel was out of State and was unable to make the decisions yet. But it would happen soon, she assured me. So I waited, and waited, and waited. September plodded by with all the speed of a limping tortoise. The suspense was wearing on my nerves and I didn't know how much longer I could stand the wait. Even a 'No' would have been welcomed right then! Anything at all, just an update of some sort!

October came, and I finally gave up. I must not have gotten picked.

On October 11th (yes, the 11th!) I received an email from Polyface, with the subject line of the email simply saying, "Polyface Response'. I was terrified to open that email. With a spinning head, I clicked the letter open and got as far as the first paragraph before I started reeling.

It said I had been one of the 30 out of 93 to be picked so far. I had made it past the first hurdle and they wanted me to come out to their farm so we could all meet each other.

I thought I was going to faint.

Most of y'all know the rest of the story: I went to the farm, spent four days there, ended up not getting the internship position, cried my eyeballs out for days, and now here I am again: August 2012. A year has passed.

I was depressed and empty. I took a wild chance, and it has made all the difference. Sometimes we just need to ignore logic and do what our heart tells us to do. I had no money for my plane trip, but I knew it would come somehow. I didn't know what I would do with my animals, but I knew something would come up. I had never ever been anywhere by myself before, but I was prepared to do so if I had to. I was probably the last person in the world who should have applied for the internship right there and then, but I did it anyway. And it changed (and possibly saved?) my life.

So what is it that you have wanted to do, but have either feared to do it, or you have put it off? What is that quiet voice inside you saying you should do, but you have shrugged it off and scoffed at it? I was a 19 year old kid with no money, no experience, and not even a driver's permit. But I had grit and determination. If you have those two things then you can do anything, Dear Heart. Whether it's getting your first flock of chickens, applying for an internship, buying land, or starting a CSA, you can do it. I don't care if you don't have the money; that's never stopped me. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way. I know you will. That's the way we humans work; we need a bit of opposition before we can really shine. I'm not going to say that it will be easy, and I'm not going to say that there won't be tears, but I will say that you won't regret it. Life is slipping away with every sunrise we see; how long will you wait before following a dream?

August 11th was the turning point for me. What day will it be for you?

I Never Get Far Without These

One Coca Cola bottle, one Vanilla Cream soda bottle, and one quart-sized mason jar. I know these three vessels well.

As you may have noticed, they are all filled with milk and are sitting in a hot water bath. 'Tis feeding time at the zoo, or more appropriately, it's feeding time at the shark pen.

Bottle feeding the baby goats is in full swing and those little whipper snappers are how I plan my day. 8AM, 3PM, and 9PM I'm out there, feeding my 7 little "sharks". Those of you who have bottle kids of your own will understand the term. Those of you who don't, well, just know that feeding time is always frenzied and they ain't so cute when they're biting your legs, arms, and whatever else they can get a hold of in their haste to find a bottle. My hands and legs bear the legend of many feeding rounds...

For the sake of my sanity, I am weaning Snickers and Frodo, and have put Summer (who is almost 6 months old!) down to a once-a-day feeding. Those bigger kids are regular Great Whites when they see a bottle coming. Chad Gadya and Pippin are really the only ones who behave during feeding time. Chad is just a mellow fellow who has something akin to patience, and Pippin - well - Pippin's just not bright enough to catch on to the fact that a human + bottle equals food. But I love him for his lack of intelligence. If it means that there's one less pair of teeth I have to dodge, then I'll take his dimness any day. ;)

I wanted to get a video of my shark feeding this afternoon, but there's currently no room on the camera card... Grrr. Soon though. Soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Is "Local" To You?

Local food. It's all the rage these days and is becoming a key word in many circles. Grocery stores have begun tapping into this and posting how many miles their food is from the original source.

But what does the word "local" mean to you?

This question came to me as I spied today's newspaper and the Roth's ad had cantaloupe for sale that traveled 235 miles to get to the store. Is that local enough for you? What determines the line in the sand for you? For me, I think anything within 100 miles or less is local enough, but I'm still forming that opinion.

I think the word "local" is also getting just as warped as the word "organic". That big 'O' word means a lot to many people, but nowadays it's mostly just corrupted nothingness. The Big Ag and the government have twisted it and wrung it so much that it has all the meaning of an empty candy bag for the most part. Mind you, there are still *some* places that are still honest, and I whole-heartedly support small farmers who use organic practices (I try my best, myself), but am I the only one who sees the irony when you walk into an organic grocery store and see "organic" sodas and the organic equivalent of a Twinkie? Folks, we're mixing "organic" with "healthy" here. Oh, it's organic, therefore this soda MUST be healthy for me! Gone is the guilt as I glug this beverage that has organic high fructose corn syrup! Yippee!

Okay whatever... I have totally strayed from my topic.

Local food... Now think for a minute: When you saw that little picture next to the cantaloupe that says, "BUY LOCAL!" and "235 MILES FRESH!" did it give you a moment's (or more) feeling that this was a healthier choice than cantaloupe that came from a farther distance? Did it? C'mon, you have to be honest here. I'l 'fess, and say that yes, my first reaction was 'Oh, this is the healthier option, then!" And then the second thought was, "Or is it?" Just because they're telling the distance, doesn't mean that there's integrity behind the product.

What got that thought process going though, was seeing the "fresh, natural" chicken two ads to the right, saying that it was even better since it's only 43 miles from its original starting point. Shucks, I've probably seen that factory farm where that chicken came from, and let me tell you, if it's anything like all the other poultry houses in this country, then distance ain't gonna' redeem it. But the chicken ad really made me think... Grocery stores are tapping into the whole "local" thing and it's hurting the small farmers. It's still the same, poor quality food (if I may be so bold as to call it "food") sitting on those metal shelves, but suddenly it's given the image that it's this grand and healthy thing since it's local! Ouch! Meanwhile, the small farmers are using the term correctly but few people want their wares since they believe they can get the same quality and "localness" for much cheaper at the store. When I think of the term "local" the thought of integrity, honesty, and a human face comes to mind. When I hear of "local" food, my mind wants to KNOW the farmer behind the food. To know their practices, their farm, their land. To know that they stand behind their food 100% and are proud of it. Their food is local in the purest form. It is local, it is clean, it is healthy, it is FOOD. Know your farmer, know that he's near and local.

So, what does Local mean to YOU?

I Am SO Ready

For Autumn.

The burning desire for crunchy leaves and wool sweaters came upon me today like a cat upon a mouse. It was unexpected and fast. Boom! I'm ready for Fall. Summer used to be my favorite season; I loved the heat, the green, the vibrancy of everything... Now I'm appreciating those cool Fall days more and the subtle colors we get here (you have to remember that we mostly have pine trees here, so there's not a spectacular show of Autumn glory that those on the East coast get). Leaves on the ground, sweaters redeemed from the back of the closet, baked apples sprinkled with cinammon, wool festivals, slowing of the farm work, wood smoke, hand knit socks, pumpkins, rust colored Mum flowers... Oooh I want October so bad that it hurts!

On a nice note though, it's only in the mid-70's outside today which is a nice change from the heat wave of last week. I'm good with this weather... Now if someone would just add some crunchy leaves and wood smoke, I'd be perfectly content.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The New Ladies

I have been up since 4AM this morning... Frankly, I can barely spell this sentence properly, I'm so tired.

And why the early awakening? Hehe, I had to be in Salem, OR by 7AM (one hour drive) to pick up my two new ladies!

Folks, please meet 'Shammy's Luke Trigun', and 'Too Much Bucks Dropsof Jupiter'.

There's a bit of a story behind these two...

Two years ago, a gorgeous black and white doeling, who was named Jupiter, was born to a breeder down South of me. As soon as I saw that kid from a picture, I wanted her. I inquired as to if I could buy her but the owner said 'no'. This doe, she said, was a keeper. A year later, I heard that the owner was putting some goats up for sale, so I once again asked: Would she sell Jupiter to me? Once again, I got a 'no'. 

Back in June, a fellow goat raiser alerted me that Jupiter had been posted for sale on the owner's website. I scrambled over there and sure enough, there was a price tag on that lovely lady. I shot an email off as fast as my fingers could type, but oh the horror! I was too late! There were three people lined up for her already. I hadn't the smallest hope of getting her...

Jupiter's owner offered me a substitute goat though: A lovely brown doe by the name of Trigun. I knew this doe well, and had used her son last year during breeding season. I took the owner up on her offer and mailed a deposit for Trigun; planning to pick her up in August.

All of July passed, and then August crept in. I was getting ready for Trigun to come when what do I see!?!? Jupiter had been posted on Craigslist!!! I emailed the owner and gasped out that I wanted her, but couldn't afford them both, and who knows what else I said. I had been waiting for two years for this goat; I wasn't going to let her slip past without a fight. Jupiter's owner was eager to see the pair stay together and gave me a huge price break. Hoof stomps and cow moos, I was getting Jupiter after all!!

Today was the grand day and I picked up my new girls this morning... They. Are. Lovely!

Both are already milking, which is really nice, and both are proving to be very mild tempered girls. Although, Jupiter is definitely a Nubian and has been voicing her opinions on the cow throughout the day... 

So that's been my day today! This now puts my herd number at 12 goats! I think I finally have a good number of does that I can *attempt* to "lock things down" and have a closed herd. Meaning no new does will be bought, but my herd will now have to grow purely from daughters and granddaughters. But, you know me; how could I resist buying just one more goat? Ha, we'll see. Closed herd indeed...

Goats... Where would we be without them? ;)