Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Small Farms Conference

 Hats... There were a lot of hats in that room... I found myself gaping at an enormous crowd of people last Saturday, as I wound my way through what was the OSU Small Farms Conference. Eight hundred people had gathered for this event. Eight hundred people who all had the same passion in life: growing good, clean food.

 Granted, not all eight hundred people were wearing hats, but there was still quite the vast array! I scanned the low, brick building, trying to take everything in. There were conservative Mennonites, and beaded, tattoo'ed hippies. Elderly gentlemen with polished cowboy boots and dusty hats, and suburbanites wearing T-shirts and sneakers. Youngsters and oldsters, wise folks, and reckless dreamers, cattle ranchers and veggie growers, folks with 100 acres, and others with 1 acre, rumbling truck drivers and Honda Accord drivers, tractor lovers and horse lovers. We were all here. To learn about farming.

 The announcer gave his short and to-the-point speech as people filtered in the auditorium, and commenced to having various people stand up for what they did, and having everyone clap. He thanked all the folks who put the conference together; he thanked the speakers. He thanked the farmers who they bought lunch from (that was awesome; everything was locally sourced!), and then he surprised me by asking all the farmers under the age of 35 to please stand up. 

Hey, that's me! LOL. I glanced around to see who else was standing up, and upon seeing other young people getting to their feet (I have to admit though... I was the youngest person [sigh]), I too, got out of my chair. My teal, "Lunatic Farmer" shirt suddenly seemed very conspicuous, but I wore it proudly. The announcer pointed to all of us who were standing and said, "Folks, these people are our future. Let's give them a hand!" And with that, a thunderous round of applause rose from all around me. I have never felt so proud, like I did at that moment. I may still be a youngster, but these people were proud that I was willing to shoulder the responsibilities that they did, in producing good food. Shucks, I smile just thinking about it. :) 

The classes were started shortly after, and the rest of the day was bliss... My first class was about winter gardening. Living in Oregon does have it's advantages when it comes to weather. Our winters are so mild that we can pretty much keep things going year around. Whoohoo! My pen was madly writing things down; everything from slug control (high calcium levels in the soil keeps them at bay!), to greenhouse styles. Kale varieties, to planting dates. The first two speakers were local farmers. Soft spoken, yet rather blunt. Their gifts in life were obviously growing food, not speaking, but bless their hearts for shouldering the task anyway. ;) 

Second class was about running a full-diet, year-around CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), taught by Kristin Kimball. Wow. Totally inspiring! Kristin is just as awesome when it comes to speaking as she is in her writing. She spoke of how they run their 'Essex Farm' in New York (click highlighted words to go to their website!), how we could use their CSA template, how to use draft horses, and all that fun stuff. Many questions were asked and answered during that session, and my hand couldn't write things fast enough! It was such a good talk, and Kristin challenged all of us to see how we could change our farming methods to be more sustainable. After the talk was over, I looked at my friend Sarah and said, "I'm calling about that black draft horse tomorrow." LOL. (and I did, by the way)

The last session was yet another class taught by Kristin. This one was called, "Farmers as Writers", and I LOVED it. It was such an awesome time to hone in on my writing skills, ask questions to someone who has published a book already, and just be around fellow agriculture writers. :) As Kristin started wrapping the class up, she challenged us all to write down a writing goal we would like to achieve. I, being the unsuspecting person that I am, blithely wrote down that I wanted to start getting up at 6:30 every morning and write until 8. Next, Kristin had everyone find a partner. Sarah and I looked at each other, and promptly scooted closer. That's what friends are for, right? Once everyone had a partner, Kristin mischievously, but seriously, told us to trade e-mail addresses with our partners and badger each other until our goals were accomplished. Everyone groaned and then laughed. Talk about walking blindly into a trap! LOL. So my friends, I am now getting up at 6:30 every morning, and I am writing until 8. Thank you Sarah for keeping me at it! ;) 

The drive home was filled with chatter as Sarah and I mulled over our day. I was filled to the brim with ideas and schemes, and the two of us laughed and joked over possibilities. It was a good day.

I am a farmer. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I think I need a shirt like this...

Words, Words, Words

I know... This "daily updated blog" has not exactly been updated daily since Friday.... 

I've been having a cross between a guilty break, a case writer's block, a burn-out, and wanting to say too many words at once.

Is that even possible? I suppose it must, somehow, seeing as I diagnosed myself with it!

Most of all though, it's been a case of too many written words. I'm normally not much of a talker (unless we're on a really good subject), so instead I write it all down here on this little blog. And therein lies my problem. I do enjoy talking about things sometimes, and I remember when I first came home from my Polyface visit, I wanted to tell someone about it! I just wanted to see a smile on someone else's face as I shared silly stories; a hug when they found out I didn't get the internship; nods of agreement as we conversed about farming topics. I just wanted to interact with a human! But instead what I got was, "Oh yeah, I read all about that on your blog." Or: "I know, I read it on your blog." And sometimes: "I read on your blog that you'v had quite the week!" And that's as far as things go. I came home from Virginia fairly bubbling with stories, and eagerly wanting to share them with someone who was of like mind, but I found that no one wanted to hear it... Everyone had already read about it...

 So as usual, I told my goats of my tales. All the stories I've written here, and the ones I haven't. Did you really think you had read all of my Polyface adventures? Oh no... There are still stories upon stories I left untold... I wanted to physically tell them to someone; but all I got was the goats.

 These past few days have gone unrecorded on purpose. I attended the Small Farms Conference, but when I came home, I found I wasn't ready to write about it. Shucks, I didn't even write my weekly Mother Earth News blog post! It took me awhile to find out why I was feeling "off", and it hit me last night that the underlying problem was simply that I was craving human companionship. I wanted to talk to someone. I didn't want to write, I wanted to talk. I may be an introverted hermit of a farm girl, but even introverted hermits get lonely sometimes. You can only have a one-sided conversation with goats for so long...

 So here I be today, trying to get myself out of this funk and back into my writing habit. Things have been happening over here. It's time to get back to telling my tales; but written, instead of spoken... 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

27.5 Hours Later

It's finished.

My first, whole knitted farmyard set (minus the goat who was made in December) has finally been completed.

This set includes one bay horse (I've decided it's a Cleveland Bay), A Holstein cow, A Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, a Suffolk sheep, and two chickens (who were originally supposed to be Barred Rocks, but apparently you can't get "barred" yarn...). All the animals have been hand knit in 100% organic cotton yarn. Sooooo nice!

I must admit that I've taken a particular liking to the cow... She says her name is Molly, and she's quite amiable in temper. ;)

I have to show off the pig too! This is a different pattern from the first pig I made, and this new pig is now to scale with the rest of the animals! I think she is so cute! She fits perfectly in your hand (or in two hands of a child!), and she has a nice feel to her; compliments of the cotton yarn. :)

I do believe I shall name her, Charlotte.

And then there's the horse, of course....

He hasn't told me what his name is yet, but perhaps he'll tell his new owner...

Now, to finish the next set! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Niggling Thought

Found in the Classifieds of the newest Small Farmer's Journal:

"Free to good home:14Y draft cross mare. Was part of a team. Events, skidded logs, training cart, hard worker. Well trained, but not a beginner’s horse. Black, white socks and blaze, 15.3H. Oregon."

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? Well trained, but not a beginner's horse... I could handle that. I've trained and been around enough equines to have a horse who has some spunk and opinions. It would sure be handy to have a power source like that too... I've been mapping out an eggmobile of my own, but the problem I've been having is how to move it. Mine would be smaller than the Salatin's; just a little 8'x10', but that's still quite the load to pull. A horse could pull that... Shucks, I've already got a cross tree, and I know where I could get a harness for a good price. 

 But this is all just a thought still... Just a niggling thought...

'Nuff Said

The picture says it all: This is how my days have been.


They say we have three seasons here in the Willamette Valley: Winter, Thaw, and August. We've had our winter, now we get muddy thaw until August. Fun. ;) 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Buck Has Landed

After many weeks of waiting, today was the arrival of "Bob" the Nubian buck. He's here to meet the does, and will be staying here until May. At first I was rather dreading the prospect of having him for that many months, but I think it will be okay. He's a sweet guy. :)

And let's not forget his pedigree! Love it! He should put some really nice udders on his daughters! 

So, without further ado: Bob the buck.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The House Call

It was about 2:30, yesterday, when the phone rang... Some friends of ours over in Amity had a goat that was having birthing problems, and they wanted to know if I would come and help them out. They said they managed to pull one kid out, but there was still a second kid stuck inside the doe. Would I come and help them? Yes! I scrambled around the house, changing into my work clothes, and putting on my rubber boots before clambering into the car. Feeling somewhat like a vet on a call, we drove as quickly as possible to the scene of action.

 Upon arriving, I jumped out of the van and jogged up to the house. Inside, next to the wood stove was the first kid: a palomino colored buckling, with a splash of white on his forehead, and beautiful, frosted ears. He looked like his name should have been 'Buckwheat'... He lay quietly on a green towel; not making a noise, or moving. He wasn't dead, but he didn't seem to be among the living at any great degree either. Outside was the poor doe. Hershey chocolate in color with honey hued badger stripes on her face (oh how I loved those badger stripes!), she stood in a hunched form that only made her petite size seem all the more dwarfed.

 There was no time to be timid, so after washing up well and applying some lubricant, I had the fun job of seeing what was wrong with the second kid. It was cold that afternoon... The sky was covered in grumpy, gray clouds and it drizzled off and on. I had to take my Carhartt coat off to perform my work, and oh dearie me was it chilly! I only had to stick my hand in halfway before I could feel a hoof and a nose. That was good. But where was the second hoof? I went in up to my forearm, following the head and neck of the kid, but I couldn't find the second leg! After some more searching, I decided to try and pull the kid out with the one leg. With the help of the owner of the goat, and her sister, the three of us gave it our best shot. Nope. Wasn't working. I entered the doe again, desperate to find that leg, but still to no avail.

 Plan B. We all went inside for a cup of tea while I sent out an emergency message on The Goat Spot. Fellow goat raisers all gave their advice, and we made various phone calls to livestock raisers in the area. The advice was all the same: Either find that leg, or call the vet.

 We talked about calling a vet, but unfortunately there are very few vets that will handle goats, and the ones that will are usually quite expensive. Calling a vet would be a last resort.

Back out we went... It was 4 'o' clock now, and still gray and rainy. I searched, and searched, and searched that poor doe!!  She was dehydrated, and exhausted, having been in labor for almost 48 hours now. She was such a small doe, that I barely had enough room to move my hand around inside her, much less try and find a stray front leg. After an hour, we went back inside to seek more advice from goat people. Alas, we found the little, golden buckling fading away as we entered... I picked him up and cuddled him; listening to his faint and irregular heartbeat beating a staccato rhythm. He gasped for air and gave small cries that were absolutely heart wrenching, and by 5:30 he was gone...

Once again, we returned to the doe, feeling much more sober, and much more determined to get this second kid out. Around 6 p.m., I felt it: a small hoof, tucked up against the left side of the kid's body. I found it!!! It took a lot of grunting on both mine, and the doe's side before I had the hoof straightened, but I succeeded! My helper (who was the sister) and I beamed at each other. This was surely it. With both hooves out all we had to do was pull the kid out, right?

Oh life is never that easy... In the process of getting the second leg out, the kid's head slipped to the side and was now bent backwards, just out of my reach. Great. The tips of my fingers could feel the kid's jaw, and I could even feel its perfectly formed teeth. But I couldn't seem to get a grip on the kid's head. The temperature outside dipped as the sun went down. The husband hooked a light up for us, illuminating the small hay shed that we were working in. Little children watched us work, and frequently asked, "Is the kid born yet?" "When will the kid be born?" I was tired. My arm hurt. I had blood all over me. I couldn't get the head...

 A quick dinner break was taken at 7 p.m. The doe was still out there, with the kid's two legs protruding from her. I was out of ideas; the kid couldn't be pulled out if we couldn't get the head aligned with the legs. We knew by this time that the kid was dead; it was obvious. It was now simply a matter of getting the kid out and trying to save the doe.

Wearily, we went back out... Our numbers were five now, with two husband/wife pairs, and I. We tried pulling the legs and seeing if maybe we could get the kid out without aligning the head. Nope. The wife who owned the goat went in, and aggressively searched for the head. She found it! Feeling a new surge of energy, we all jumped into action trying to get this baby out. Then we hit the next problem: The birth canal was too small for the kid to come through. We had gotten the head aligned with the legs by now, but the kid was too big to fit through the small area. With all my fingers touching, my hand has a width of about 3 1/2 to 4 inches. I have small hands. But even I had a difficult time getting through the birth canal while dealing with the kid. If my hand could barely fit, how could we possibly expect a kid to come through???

We still tried though. The doe was weakening noticeably now. She was listless and quiet. I knew that even if we did get this kid out, her chances of survival were slim. The clock continued to tick. Time was fleeting, and tonight, time was against us. We were racing the clock now, as the hands inched closer and closer to 9 p.m. I had been working on this doe since 3:30, and had entered her countless time. How much more could she possibly take? Another family came over, unaware of the goat situation at first. The wife happened to be a nurse, so she took a turn with the kid, but had no more luck than we had.

By 8:30, I think we all knew the inevitable: There was no hope. Even if we called a vet out and had him do a C-section, this doe was doomed to die. If not from a uterine infection, then a possibly ripped uterus, retained placenta, or just from exhaustion and dehydration. Her heart was now skipping beats, and her breath was ragged. You can tell when an animal is ready. When you've been around animals for a few years, and you see death over and over, you begin to notice the difference. When an animal is ready to die, there is nothing you can do. They just give up, but they look peaceful about it.

 We all tromped inside to talk about the next move. Four of us were for putting her out of her misery, but the wife who owned the goat begged us to keep trying. After a few minutes of debate, someone said to let the "goat girl" make the final decision. I was that "goat girl".

 I had been with her all day, they said. I had the last say in the goat's fate. What was the answer? Keep trying to save her, or should they drop her? All eyes were on me now, as they waited for my answer. The wife had tears in her eyes, and walked into a different room. I looked at the husband and said two words: "Drop her."

 I rang the goat's death knell with those two words. I am a goat lover in every sense of the word. If I thought there was hope for her, I would have tried to save her. But we had hit the point where it was being cruel to keep messing with the goat. She was just a year old, and this was her first kidding. But I knew in my heart that this was the best decision. She died instantly. Gone are her beautiful honey colored badger stripes...

 I got home at 10 p.m. looking like I stepped out from the movie, 'The Patriot'. I was bloody, and I stank of amniotic fluid, manure, blood, and death. A hot shower remedied the smell somewhat, but I don't know if my clothes can be salvaged.

 Owning livestock involves a huge amount of responsibility. Things like this happen, and it's up to us to deal with it in the best possible way. Some readers may feel that I made the wrong decision in having the doe put down, but then, they weren't there that night looking at this poor doe. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions in life, and I do regret having to make that one. But I feel it was the right decision.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Image courtesty of Erin Ehnle

So Far So Good

Today is day #14 since I bred my three rabbits. Typically, on the 10th day you would put the does back in with the buck to see if they conceived or not, but I didn't have time when the tenth day rolled around, so I did it today!

Doe #1, a Californian, was re-bred three days after the initial breeding, so today was more like day #11 into her pregnancy. I gently put her into the cage with Glenstorm the New Zealand/Beveren buck and kept a weather eye on the pair. In her typical fashion that she seems to have, Doe #1 pressed her body on the floor, and didn't budge. She wouldn't allow Glenstorm to re-breed, but she didn't fight him either, which is what most does will do... I took this as a good sign, and pulled her out. I'm putting her due date at March 5th.

Doe #2, my second Californian, who is monstrous in size, was up next. I hadn't even put her in the cage before she started growling! She was definitely NOT interested in Glenstorm, and growled loudly as she ran in circles, away from the eager buck. It was a mess trying to keep Glenstorm off her and try and fish her out at the same time! So I would say there's a very high chance that she's preggo, and I'm keeping her due date at the original March 3rd. 

Rosie Cotton, the New Zealand, was last. I had bred her with Basil Stag Hare, the Californian buck, so back in with him she went. 

I can honestly say in my eight years of rabbit raising I have never seen a doe react like Rosie did. If that girl ain't pregnant then I'm a monkey's uncle. When I put Rosie in with Basil, she took one look at him, screamed (it sounds like a horse whinnying) and lunged at him. Basil backed into a corner, confused at the onslaught and started running when Rosie bit him on the ear. Funny what those hormones will do to an animal.... LOL. I actually had to pull Rosie off of Basil, and she still growled and fumed for five minutes after she was back in her cage! Ya' think she's pregnant??? 

Satisfied with the test results, I braved the ill-humored does and did the next step: palpation. This is actually pretty fun once you get the hang of it, but it's basically just where you gently feel the doe's stomach and count the growing embryos. Doe #1 isn't far along enough for me to palpate her, but I was able to feel 6 or 7 kits in Rosie, and at least four kits in Doe #2. Alas, Doe #2 was extremely uncooperative, and vehemently fought against my advances, so for all I know she could have ten kits in there! But at least I know that there's something in there, so I'm content. 

Now y'all stay tuned! Baby bunnies are on the way!! I'll be keeping a lot of does for future breeding stock, and I might keep a buck or two, but we'll see. 

Does anyone else here raise rabbits? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stand Tall

 I do not like confrontations. 

When I first started blogging, almost six years ago, I made sure to never write a post that might offend someone. I wanted people to like my blog, and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So my first blog was -- boring. Seriously boring. When I morphed over to this blog, I decided enough was enough; if I step on toes, I will apologize for doing that, but I will not apologize for my own personal opinions and beliefs. I did however, wonder how I would handle negative comments from readers. I had never had that, and part of me wondered if I would react badly to the situation. I've watched Jenna Woginrich over at Cold Antler Farm handle her amount of flack with impressive grace; that woman has more patience that I could ever have! But could I handle negative remarks in the same manner? 

 Well, as of today I have found the answer to my questions, and that is: I really don't mind it. 

 Apparently one of my blog posts on Mother Earth News has a few people up in arms over my writing. The content of their words was no where near what Jenna has been enduring, but they were accusations none the less. I thought about how to reply to these, and I actually found myself grateful for these people.

 You can take negative comments in two ways: You can take it personally, and become angry, which might result in an angry reply. Or, you can take a moment and evaluate your writing. Was it correct? Are they right? Is there a foundation to their concerns? When I read the comments of concern from my readers it caused me to not only look hard at my writing, but it spurred me into a flurry of research. I spent about 45 minutes researching what the uproar was about. Reading, delving, questioning, learning....

 And the result of the flack that I received is not only that I know a bit more goat history now, but I can stand behind my writing with confidence. I will answer the comments and questions from others with politeness, and am more than willing to share why I wrote what I wrote with them. But I will not change my words so that no one is offended. Truth hurts sometimes. And sometimes we need it to hurt. I will stand tall in the face of disparaging remarks and negative comments. If I find that I am indeed in the wrong, then I will change what needs to be changed and offer my apologies where it is needed. But I will not apologize for being honest. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If I Could Make A Wish...

Well, there would actually be a lot of things I would wish for, if I could make a wish...

But that fact aside, if I had the money, or if I could make a wish, I sure wish I could bring this lovely colt home!!

A three year old, paint colt who's been trained for cart work! He's been started, and I would love nothing more than to finish him. :) Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Well folks, I finally registered for one of the upcoming conferences. 

If you remember, there were two to choose from and both were on the same day: A goat conference, in which you learn all things "goat". And a small farms conference, in which you learn the nuts and bolts of running a small farm.

So which did I choose?

In the end, I chose the farming conference. And I am pleased with the choice. Farming is my occupation; it only makes sense to further my education and better learn the "whys and wherefores" of it. I am really looking forward to going, and even better, I will be tagging along with my dear friend from over at Rural Legacy! (click link to go to her blog) We're going to head over to Corvallis on Friday and stay the night in a hotel before adventuring on the the conference. Two crazy farm gals in the same hotel room.... Hmmm, do you think we'll sleep at all?? LOL. It'll be fun. I'm excited. :) 

I'll be sure to let y'all know how it goes! And hey, if you're there too, just look for the girl wearing the teal colored Polyface Farm T-shirt that proudly says "Lunatic Farmer" on the front. That'll be me. ;) Hehe. 

Toodle pip and cheerio now!

Have I Ever Mentioned....

That I love Ivy's badger stripes? :)

I guess I'm kinda' partial to badger stripes on my goats...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Quiet Inside

All day long I have been telling myself I need sit down and write today's blog post. Just sit down, and type... But my mind has been in too much of a whirl. I have been working on my first book proposal, content outline, and have been working away on the manuscript itself. I have spun a skein of yarn, and knitted a chicken. Heidi and Ivy are in heat today, and I mourned the fact that I won't be getting a buck until next Sunday. At this rate I may not have goat kids until August!! My mind has been going at what seems like 120 mph... Going, going, going. Plotting, scheming, wondering... I was in no frame of mind to sit down and write a coherent post! 

I went out to do evening barn chores, in the same hurried, absent-minded way.

Until I went into the rabbitry.

I can't think of a single time that the rabbits haven't managed to calm and focus me. 

They're so quiet, it gives me cause to be quiet. My goats are talkative, so I am talkative with them. They yell when they see me leave, and I holler goodbye to them. The rabbits though, make no noise whatsoever, save the soft sound of their feet on the wire...


I give each rabbit food and water for the night; noting that Doe #2 is getting noticeably rounder, which means that she is harboring babies in her womb. Rosie Cotton, the New Zealand also is getting larger. This will be her maiden litter, and I hope that her instincts will kick in.

It is dark in the rabbitry... I have no electricity in there, and there is no moon tonight. 




I have no choice but to move slowly in with the rabbits. I can see nothing in there, and swift movements would not only put myself at risk, but it would startle the rabbits.

I must force myself to be calm and slow. After eight years of doing this work, my movements are repetitive and natural. Inhale, exhale. Camillo, my youngest buck nuzzles my hand as I give him his dinner. Glenstorm dances in crazy circles, impatient for his pellets. 

My work in the rabbitry takes ten minutes. Ten minutes to cause me to slow down and relax... I sit now in my comfy swivel chair, with a cup of tea next to me. I think I will watch my Polyface Farm DVD tonight before heading off to bed. 

I am quiet inside now. I have the rabbits to thank for that...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random One-Liners

Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

Borrow money from a pessimist -- they don't expect it back.

Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.

Lottery: a tax on people who are bad at math.

I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.

Never answer an anonymous letter.

I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

Always go to other people's funerals, or they won't go to yours.

Few women admit their age; few men act it.

If we aren't supposed to eat animals, why are they made with meat?

No one is listening until you make a mistake.

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

We have enough youth. How about a fountain of "Smart"?

He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Campers: Nature's way of feeding mosquitoes.

Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else.

Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.

There are three kinds of people: Those who can count, and those who can't.

Why is "abbreviation" such a long word?

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.

A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.

As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school.

Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.

The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.

You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

I took an IQ test and the results were negative.

Okay, who stopped the payment on my reality check?

47.2 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

My mind is like a steel trap: Rusty and illegal in 37 states.

Nothing is fool proof to a sufficiently talented fool.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

I've only been wrong once, and that's when I thought I was wrong.

I don't find it hard to meet expenses. They're everywhere.

I let my mind wander, and it didn't come back.

Don't steal. The government hate competition.

If you don't like the news, go out and make some.

IRS: We've got what it takes to take what you've got.

I'm out of bed and dressed. What more do you want?

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I am afraid of the dark.


Exclamation point.

One glance outside showed that it was darker than the inside of a cow tonight. I decided to take a flashlight with me (something I normally don't do), as I went to do barn chores. My strobe of light pierced the blackness, as I walked towards my destination; its brightness working its way from left to right across the topography of our small farm. I was a little on edge tonight; for the past four nights the goats have been in the barn acting excessively spooked, and Heidi would repeatedly stare into the darkness, at a far pasture corner, before bolting to a corner in the barn. Unnerving, to say in the least! 

I shined the flashlight into the pasture as I walked towards the barn, and stopped so suddenly that one might have thought I hit a brick wall. In the glare of my light, four pairs of eerily green eyes were staring at me. Like some sort of halloween stunt, the eyes began bobbing and moving closer towards me. 

"Holy cow!" I exclaimed to myself, "There's something out there!!"

With no bidding on my part, I felt a huge surge of adrenaline wash over me, and for a moment I thought I was going to throw up. I don't handle adrenaline well. The eyes were getting closer now, but I couldn't seem to get my light to shine on the bodies that belonged to the glowing orbs. My pulse rate shot up, and the "flee or fight" instinct started welling inside me. My guess was that it was a small group of coyotes looking for a meal, and they were in my pasture. 

With shaky hands, I finally managed to angle my flashlight onto the creatures in the short distance and before me, my eyes I beheld....

The goats.


I could now make out Pepper blinking from my light's glare, and Heidi giving me a withering glance. I exhaled in relief and then yelled at Heidi, telling her to quit freaking me out, for Pete's sake!!

Good heavens... Talk about a climax to one's day! 

Heads Up

Just wanted to let y'all know that my weekly blog post over at Mother Earth News is up and view-able. :) Those of you who have been around here at 'To Sing With Goats' will recognize it, but I figured it was info that would still be helpful to the masses, so I re-posted it over there. I had an entirely different subject that I had planned on writing about, but that article is still in the works [smacks forehead]. Hopefully it'll be ready by next week! 

You can read this week's post by clicking HERE

Friday, February 10, 2012

In The Book Crate This Month

Confession: I am not a fiction person. ;) I enjoy learning too much, I guess...

Begin It Now

“ A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising
in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and
meetings and material assistance, which no man could
have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you
can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has
genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust and
W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition

Just So

"Four to seven in the morning, then a full day of work, then five to eight at night. The chores. Milking. And it became more than work, became something of spirit or grace, almost a benediction.
 Out to the barn to feed hay and silage and clean the gutters and start milking. 

Not with machines.
By hand.
Much is made of bonds between man and animals, horses, dogs. But this is beyond that. The milk stool is set just so and the forehead is put into the soft warm spot where the cow's gut meets her back leg so that the stomach rumbles and gurgles as part of the person's thinking, breathing, low sounds and the hands work in a rhythm perhaps as old as all rhythms, the movement that is the giving of milk, so that the person becomes the calf and the cow the mother and the milk hisses and sputters into the bucket, into the white foam, unless the barn cat sitting in the aisle begs by sitting up and waving its front paws like a small bear. Then the stream is aimed and squirted into the cat's mouth, a quick move from the rhythm and back while the cat gulps and jumps up to sit on the cow's back to clean itself, the same back where it sleeps in the winter nights to stay warm."

~Excerpt from 'Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass' by Gary Paulsen

I love this little blurb from Gary Paulsen's book. He has captured the very essence of milking. This is what it's all about; you can't capture the same moments and emotions by using a milking machine. No, it has to be by hand. The milking stool is set "just so", and you lean into your dairy animal's warm, breathing side. You are lost in a trance. A meditation. A prayer. Like the ticking of the hands on a clock, the pulsing of milk going into a pail keeps time. Hiss, hiss, hiss, goes your dairy clock. Time is ticking... Enjoy the peace while you can. Some are called to prayer by the sound of a bell, others by the bellow of a dairy animal. It is time, they both say. Time to slip into a moment of nothingness and simply be. 

The last stream of milk is procured from her udder, and the moment is over. The 'Amen' is unconsciously spoken or thought. The prayer has ended. You breathe deeply, say 'thank you' to your animal, and you both part for the time being. Part until twelve hours have passed and you meet again to pick up where you left off.

You meet again, and the milk stool is set just so....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Doe's Secret Code of Honor

I got a good chuckle out of this Youtube. It's so true that it's almost scary. Oh what we poor goatherds go through during kidding season... 

To Remember Lancaster By

My one, lone picture that I got while in Amish country...

I absolutely loved getting to see the Amish people with their horses and buggies! Oh how I wish we could use that style of transportation here in Oregon... 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Polyface -- Day 4

I panicked when I woke up on Friday. I was so sore and stiff that I couldn't move any part of my body. I lay in bed, frantically trying to figure out what to do, and hoping dearly that I wouldn't have to holler for Lydia to help me up. Then my cell phone's alarm went off; it was 6:45 a.m. I had exactly 15 minutes before I needed to be outside. Outside to do morning chores for the very last time...

 After about two minutes, I  finally managed to heave myself out of the little bed, and then limped around as fast as I could; trying to locate my hat and leather gloves in pale morning light. I was dressed and ready in record time. I even beat Lydia, who had gotten up before me. Chores were blissfully the same. I love habit. I hauled 40 lbs. of chicken feed and 20 lbs. of oats to the chickens; saying "Hello" and "Goodbye" to the rabbits as I passed them. I threw hay to the hogs for what would be my last time, and smiled at their soft snorts and squeals. Michael the dog tagged along with me, Lydia and Leanna as we finished up what we needed to do. 

 Breakfast was relatively quiet that morning, as we ate with Theresa. Joel had left earlier to fly to California to speak at some sort of conference, so it was just us girls that day. 

 When we finished eating and cleaning up, Lydia said goodbye.... Her time was up, just like mine was, and she was going back home. That was hard... We had just been together for the last 90+ hours, and now we would most likely never see each other again. I still don't know what her last name was, and she doesn't know mine. Lydia, if you ever stumble upon this little blog of mine, I MISS YOU!!! 

But there was no time right then to feel glum, there were still jobs to do outside!! Everyone who was left gathered 'round the walk-in freezer, and we waited for Eric and Noah to arrive with twenty thousand pounds of frozen chicken. Our job was to move all that chicken into the freezer. Noah arrived with his truck load first, and like a band of ants we got busy! There were only nine of us, so we lined up Navy-style and formed a chain. Admittedly, it took us awhile to get a rhythm going, and for everyone to find a good spot, but we did eventually get going smoothly! Box after box was stacked at the back of the freezer... Light ones weighed 40 lbs. and heavy boxes weighed 60 lbs. or more. The thermometer in the freezer read 0 degrees. Cold. It was 23 degrees outside and that suddenly seemed balmy and warm to those of us who were in the freezer. Our breath was visible in ragged puffs, and we were all wishing for a tissue. After twenty minutes of working, my soreness either wore off, or I just no longer noticed it. We worked quickly; warning the next person in line of the weight of the box. I must admit that I was extremely grateful for the spot I was in. Ches was in front of me, and when he had a particularly heavy box (like, over 60 lbs.) he would bypass me and hand the box to Shrader, the next guy in line who was behind me. My conscience nagged at me a bit for allowing Ches to do that, after all I was at the farm purely to work, but I really was grateful for the small courtesy. We were all a team that morning. Everyone helped everyone, and together we stacked all 20,000 lbs. of food!! Awesome! When we came out of the freezer, we all took off our hats, gloves and coats. Twenty three degrees suddenly seemed almost unbearably warm. 

 It was eleven 'o' clock when we finished in the freezer. It had only taken us two hours, which surprised me. With the job now over, Jeremy got ready to leave. His flight back to Texas was taking off in just a few hours, so he had to get a move on. Another round of handshakes went through and as I said goodbye he curiously asked why I wasn't coming too. I was leaving today as well, why wasn't I on the same departure flight as him? Yes, I was leaving today, but not by plane. I was awaiting the arrive of my Aunt and Uncle who would be taking me to Maryland with them until the next week. I half wished I was going on the same flight though... At least then there would have been a familiar face around as I once again navigated the monstrous sized Atlanta airport!! 

 For the next 20 minutes, Daniel showed the rest of us around their processing shed, and we all talked about butchering. Then everyone got ready to head back up to the woodlot and clear some more wood. 

Except me.

 Now it was my turn to say goodbye to everyone. My Aunt and Uncle would arrive at any time, so I had to stay behind. I hugged the girls and shook hands with the guys. Savannah and I tried not to cry. I don't know her last name either, come to think of it... In fact I don't know anyone's last names, except the Salatin's of course, and Eric's. We were all on a first-name basis but none of us ever mentioned last names. 

Watching everyone leave in the tractor was one of the hardest things I have ever done. More than anything, I wanted to run after them and join them. I would willingly to the work all over again!! I slowly walked back to Grandma's house to pack my things up. Grandma had already left, so I left a note saying thank-you. When I finished, I went to wait with Theresa...

 Now, I really was quite excited to get to stay with my Aunt and Uncle. We were going to go to Lancaster, Baltimore, D.C., and all sorts of other neat places! But I must admit that my excitement was rather dampened that morning. I wanted to stay at Polyface. 

My Aunt and Uncle arrived soon after, and we eventually loaded up in the car and began driving away. The others had just come down from the woodlot, and were unloading their haul as we passed them. I leaned out my window and shouted goodbye. They all waved and shouted back, and that was finale of my visit... Nothing grand. Nothing huge. Just friends saying goodbye for what would mostly likely be the last time.

Everyone working on wood.

I cried that night. I was now in Maryland with my Aunt and Uncle, and I was homesick. I had never been homesick before, but I was sure feeling the effects now! I cried and cried and cried... I wanted to go home to Polyface. I missed everything about it; I even missed hearing the TV blaring at 2 in the morning because Grandma had forgotten to turn it off. I missed Michael, the hogs and the cows. I missed the Salatins and all the employees there. I missed Savannah and Lydia. I felt ridiculous for crying. I never cry, and here I was bawling like a baby! But I couldn't help myself. I knew that there was a high chance I wouldn't return there, and now I know that I won't.

 Polyface definitely made an impact on me, and changed me. As I think about it, the biggest change I see is probably just how I view tasks. Before going to Polyface, I always unconsciously divided jobs into A. something I could do. Or B. a job for the guys to do. Things like hammering, heavy lifting and other things like that were always on my mental list of "guy jobs". Now, I view every task as something that simply needs to be done, and it's my job to see that it gets done. I definitely have more confidence in myself now, and hopefully it'll stick around and not slowly dissipate. I learned about teamwork at the farm, and what it feels like to be in a close-knit family. I learned what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty, and how to stick to a task no matter what. I learned many tips and tricks in the farming trade, and I am excited to implement them here in Oregon. My tears are gone now. I can cry no more for Polyface. I don't think I will ever go back to that little farm in Swoope, Virginia, but I am so thankful for the four days I had there. It was a blast. :)

   Thus ends my Polyface Farms saga.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Does One Choose?

 Oh the agony.... I just learned the Oregon State University is hosting a 'Small Farms Conference' this month, and it looks great! The problem? It's being held on the exact same day as the Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Conference. ARGH!!! I can't decide which one I should try and go to!!!!

The dairy goat conference looks all around awesome, and there is a ton that I could and would learn... How to do AI on my own goats, advanced cheesemaking (taught by Gianaclis  Caldwell!!), Owning and training a LGD, herbal remedies for goats, marketing raw milk in the Northwest, how to do a proper fecal test, how to process a goat, training a draft goat, pasture management.... Wow, I get excited just thinking about learning all of that!

 But then I look at the Small Farms conference and all that it has to offer, and I wonder if maybe I shouldn't go to that instead... Perhaps I would benefit more by learning more farm business skills, then I would increasing my goat knowledge? One thing that has intrigued me is that Kristin Kimball, author of 'The Dirty Life', is going to be a speaker there! I have to admit that I would be tickled to meet Kristin in person... ;)

So here I be: sitting quietly on the outside, but writhing in indecision on the inside! Why on earth did they have to make both conferences be on the same day!? Don't they know that we goat people want to learn the nitty-gritty farm stuff, and the farmers want to learn the goat stuff?!?! Good heavens... I'm already not very good at making decisions, and this is almost too much.

Which would YOU choose? 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunrise at 20,000 feet

These pictures were taken on my way to Virginia. :) We were flying over Colorado as the sun rose. 

Feelin' Good

I feel good right now.

The day started out with feelings of Barnheart and cabin fever. The morning had burst gloriously with balmy, 55 degree weather, startlingly blue skies, and endless possibilities for the day. But I was inside. Stressing myself out over minuscule matters that won't even be relevant until late summer. I was listening to gloomy music on my MP3, and feeling like a heritage turkey crammed into a canary's cage. 

I needed to get outside. Jenna Woginrich says the best way to cure Barnheart is through direct, tangible, intentional actions, so I set out to do that! 

What started out as a ho-hum morning, has turned into a wonderful day. I bred my three rabbits, and with luck I'll have three litters of newborn kits (term for baby rabbit) around March 3rd. That's a grand thought, having that much meat on the way. I have been trying and failing all winter to get my does bred, and I knew they wouldn't breed because of the dark winter days.... But I kept on trying. Today things were a breeze, and all the girls were bred in less than five minutes. My Californian does were bred to Glenstorm, the dashing black New Zealand/Beveren. And Rosie Cotton, the New Zealand, was bred to Basil Stag Hare, my hefty Californian boy. Poor Camillo, my youngest Cali buck, looked on in disappointment, as he realized that he wouldn't get a doe that day. 

 With future litters planned out and put underway, I next grabbed my trusty pitchfork and set out to the delightful task of forking the ground in my garden. This year I'm going small. Just a little 10'x20' plot next to the barn is all I have, but I think it'll be enough. This little plot was an eyesore for years, as it hosted weeds and stones. It couldn't be tilled, and there was no topsoil on it. Once upon a time it had been a pig pen; now it was just a wrecked piece of land. Last year I started laying down two feet of compost over the plot. Using something along the lines of Patricia Lanza's "Lasagna Gardening" technique, I layered manure, hay, leaves, and grass clippings all over the wounded soil, and planted pumpkins there. While last year's summer weather was too cool for the pumpkins to grow, the plant's foliage was amazing! So all throughout the fall and winter, I've been laying down more compost. This little garden is healing, slowly but surely. 

 Today was my first time to see the fruits of my labor. I had laid down yet another two feet, and then left the worms to go to work. But what would I find beneath the quiet top layer? Had it composted enough that I would be able to plant in just a few short weeks? I speared a forkful of the organic material with my pitchfork, and flipped it upside down. I squealed with delight over what I saw next! It's perfect!! My eyes beheld what was now soil. Black as night, peppered liberally with healthy, writhing earthworms, and a texture like freshly baked cake. I had put my "special compost" on the garden last fall, which consists of well rotted goat manure and alfalfa hay. That combo rots down faster than you would believe, and the result is a compost so rich and soft that it brings tears to any gardener's eyes. 

 I excitedly turned the entire plot over, forking beautiful loads of black soil, and marveling at the enormous amount of earthworms in one spot!!! Joel Salatin would be proud of me. ;) The afternoon was warm, and I soon shrugged my Carhartt off; proudly wearing my teal colored, Polyface Farms T-shirt that I had gotten while in Virginia. The words "Lunatic Farmer" are emblazoned on the front of the shirt, and on the back it says, "Healing The Land, One Bite At A Time." I love this shirt...

 The goats were complaining for attention by the time I finished in the garden, so I worked on trimming hooves, washing and re-filling their mineral feeders, and applying their spring-time dusting of D.E. (Diatomaceous Earth). Poppet thoroughly enjoyed her pedicure, lolling lazily on my lap (why can't the Nubians be that calm??) and winking her blue eyes at me. I hadn't planned on breeding any of my goats this year, but now that I have my summer available, I think I will! A friend offered to let me use her handsome buck for free (I LOVE his pedigree!!!), so he'll be coming up in the next week or so. Hurray!! Baby goats!! The thought of having velvety nosed, elfin kids dancing around the place is enough to make me want to burst. There is nothing in life that can compare to a newborn goat kid. If you don't believe me, then you obviously haven't had the experience of being around one yet. [wink] :) 

 And let's not forget that baby goat kids also mean that I'll be milking again! HOORAH!!! I can't wait to begin the methodical milking chores again! 

Doing all of this wonderful work has helped me re-focus. I get so depressed when I'm not doing something physical outside... This is going to be a beautiful year. Yes, I am still extremely disappointed that I did not get the Polyface internship, but I can't let that ruin my year. It's time to stand up and shake off. Time to move onwards and see what will happen in 2012. I'm ready. Gardens will be planted. Animals will be born. Knowledge will be learned and taught. Things will happen. Let's see what comes of this crazy farmgirl's efforts!! 


Don't ask. You don't want to know. ;)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Start Small

Me. Leaving Polyface Farms.

Plan A, which was going to Polyface for the summer, has failed. Now it's time to fall back on Plan B.

Question is, what is Plan B?

I've been mulling that answer over since Monday, which is when I first learned the news about not getting the internship. My summer was suddenly open, and I was as free as a bird. What a terrifying thought!! I'm the sort of person who has to have a job. I need to know that I have work to do, or else I go insane. So I put on my well-worn and somewhat battered thinking cap, and began hatching plots.

 I had a lot of ideas. Big ones. I was ready to build my own utopia; one that included cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and dogs. Someone just hand me a hammer!

 And then I plunked down to reality. A wise cattleman, whom I met in Maryland offered me a golden piece of timeless advice: "Start small." I don't know how many times I've heard, or been told that, but each time it always brings me to my senses. I want to do it all NOW!! I'm not a patient person, and the ache to be out moving cattle, and feeding hogs is intense. Someday I want the whole shebang: The herd of cattle, flock of sheep, hogs, dairy and meat goats, draft animals, a market garden, a line of customers.... But that's still the future. And I'm still here in the present. [big sigh] 

Once I had floated down to normalcy, I began thinking logically. Yes, I actually am capable of such a thing. After awhile, and with the advice of some friends, I had my battle plan. Well, at least it's an attempt of a battle plan. This year will be small in my eyes, but it should be enough to keep me contentedly busy. I'll let y'all in on the scheme once the kinks have been worked out, and it's been give the "okay" from higher ranks (AKA, parents.). 

What are your plans for 2012? Are you planning your first garden? Getting chickens? Starting a cattle ranch? Sourcing local food? I would love to hear your plans, hopes and dreams!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's Official

Life takes interesting twists and turns. Things that I want to happen, don't come to pass; and things I wasn't expecting, plop into my lap. While I have yet to have any of my articles published in a magazine, I've been receiving pretty good feedback, and opportunities from various places in regards to my work. Which is enough to keep me going, and still look forward to the day of being published. ;)

Back in November, I submitted and article to Mother Earth News to consider. I had my fingers crossed that maybe this would be my breakthrough. Maybe this would be my first article to be published!

It didn't quite happen. The editor at Mother Earth News loved the article, but said it was too short (I think it was like 430 words, and they wanted 500?), and they rarely accepted submissions from their readers. They liked my style though, so they offered a different proposition: They asked me to be a blogger for Mother Earth News!!! :) 

I was delighted with the offer, and accepted immediately. And as of today, I am now officially a blogger for them! Whoohoo! 

I'll be writing weekly posts over at the 'Caprine Community' (all things "goat"!) , and who knows? Maybe someday I'll work my way over to other blogs as well. This isn't a paid job, but I'm okay with that. The exposure alone is enough to satisfy me; I think this will be an excellent way to hone in on my writing skills (which still lack greatly!), and it'll be fun to write for such a wide pool of readers. :)

But don't worry, I'll still be typing away, here at 'To Sing With Goats'. I'm not going anywhere....