Friday, May 31, 2013

Because My Morning Wasn't Crazy Enough

My afternoon was going swimmingly. Everything was quiet and I had just finished checking the mail, with Gyp tagging along on his leash.

Then the phone started ringing right as I reached the porch and in my scurry to get it I tied the dog to the porch real quick, accidentally dropped all the mail, and wouldn't you know it? There was no one at the other end of the line. -_- I had just turned around to fix the mess outside when I noticed a Sheriff's car sloooooooowly rolling past my house, then backing up and parking in the driveway. 

It was one of those moments where you feel so panicked that you have no idea what on earth to do. This was *perfect*. My puppy is tied up on the front porch, my barn is a complete mess after today's adventure, there's mail scattered on the porch, I'm still wearing my dirty muck boots... Oh please don't let that phone ring again!!

In ten seconds flat, I scurried out of my boots, grabbed the fallen mail, scooped up my dog and zoomed inside. I had no idea why the sheriff was here, and I knew I had done nothing wrong, but I think everyone still feels intimidation when facing someone in law enforcement. I didn't have time to put Gyp in the backyard, so I desperately hissed at my 12 year old brother to "deal with the dog", and then tried to calm my pounding heart before opening the door for the man who was walking up the path.

Let me just say this: I. Was. Terrified. I was alone, and there was no one here to bolster my confidence. So I had to do it myself. At that moment, I would have rather faced a thunder storm than the sheriff (that's saying something!)

The sheriff explained that someone reported me and my small farm, saying that my cow looked too thin; so he was here to decide a verdict on the situation. I drooped inwardly, knowing that I had this coming. Yes, my poor Ellie is THIN! She needs to gain at least 100 lbs.! But would the sheriff believe me that I had only gotten her a couple weeks ago and that it wasn't my fault for her condition? I see a lot of progress in Ellie's condition. She's beginning to sleek out and her spine doesn't protrude so sharply anymore. But to everyone else in the world who didn't see her on day #1, she looks like a horrible neglect case. It didn't help matters that she had just aborted that fetus this morning and now her rear end was swollen and she had dried blood on her back legs. *smacks forehead*

Trying not to let my voice quaver with the fear I felt, I led the sheriff out to the pasture where Ellie was chewing her cud. He looked at her, asked questions, took a tour around the whole place, checked my grain, checked my hay, petted the goats, and asked more questions. I have to say, the goats were amazing. All nine of them came up to the fence, looking for scratches and rubs; their sleek coats gleaming in the sunshine, and slightly-chubby bodies bumping against each other. They were my ambassadors today. Showing that Ellie is the exception here and not the rule, where condition is concerned. Jupiter took a special liking to the Sheriff and wouldn't leave him alone; thankfully he didn't seem to mind the new adoring fan.

He thanked me for my time and began to walk out the barn. I didn't know his verdict just yet and was scared that my cow was too thin after all and he would have something done, like have her confiscated. We reached the barn door and he allayed my fears by saying I had nothing to worry about. My farm and my animals all looked good to him and he was closing the case. I was so relieved that I felt limp. I don't even remember walking back to the house.

So now I have one very, very specific goal: Put some weight on that cow ASAP!!

All Before 9 a.m.

It wasn't even 9am yet and already my day was crazy.

I always milk Ellie first thing in the morning. No other barn chores are done until she is cared for. My usual routine is to get things ready inside (jars at the ready, ice in the cooler to chill the milk, water in the kettle for sterilizing equipment...), and then go outside and do the last prep work (get Ellie's feed, hook up the machine, grab her halter...) before letting the cow walk herself to the parlor. Except today she didn't want to get up. This wasn't like her. Normally she's out grazing at this time of the morning, or she's standing at the gate, mooing softly to be milked. Today she was just -- lying down. Looking funny. I walked in the pen to see about convincing her to get up when I noticed something odd. Four feet away from my cow, and next to the goats who were also still dozing, was what looked like a small pile of birthing tissue. Like raw flesh, misplaced in an incredibly wrong spot. It looked almost like a placenta. There were strings of blood scattered around the strange object, and the bedding was damp. I nudged the "thing" with my boot and as I looked closer, I realized that it had a head... And four little legs. It was an aborted fetus, and I had no earthly idea where it came from or who it belonged to. My first suspicion was Rosemary, one of the goats I'm boarding here for a friend. She was supposed to be the last pregnant animal here and the fetus would be about the right size to come from her. She looked fine however; although I wouldn't have put it past her to do something like that and still look normal, just to bamboozle me (goats seem to enjoy doing that.). 

Ellie hauled herself up at that point and I had the first answer to my bewilderment as I noticed that she had a stringy, bloody discharge, and her vulva was grossly swollen. This fetus had come from her.

But WHY was my cow suddenly aborting!? For goodness sake, she wasn't even pregnant!! I was thoroughly wigged out, but knew I couldn't ponder such a puzzle for long. There were animals to milk and feed. I scooped up the teeny tiny 7" long calf body and looked closely at it before setting it aside. It was barely formed; the eye sockets were just beginning to appear on the skull, and the two inch long legs had what looked to be the start of tiny hooves. I know this one doesn't really count, but this makes the 2nd dead calf I've had to haul away... Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get to experience a normal, live birth with bovines.

After cleaning myself up, I got Ellie and began milking chores. Her appetite seemed a little less than usual, but that was somewhat understandable, what with how her night and morning had gone thus far. Her production was also less; I should have gotten about 1.5 to 2 gallons. Instead I got 1 gallon + 1 quart. 

Gyp came along with me when I went out for the second round of barn chores, which consists of feeding the goat kids, throwing hay, filling water buckets, and milking the goats. Er, that's how it's supposed to go anyway.

Gyp got to herd goats for the very first time today. 

Yesterday, Catherine refused to go forward which meant I had to have Gyp help me get her motor going. Today though, I couldn't get her to stop!! Normally I hold the goats by the collar while I tie the gate, and then I lead them to the milking parlor. Well, I held Catherine by the collar alright... And she fairly dragged me to the parlor, which left me no time whatsoever to tie the gate closed! Then Catherine pulled her next stunt: She wouldn't get on the stand. -_- She would stick her head through the catch and would eat her food, but she refused to put her back end up on that stand! I was just about to lift her all the way up when Jupiter came trotting into the milking parlor. Oh no... Right behind her was Trigun, Sombrita, and Rosemary. Great. I had Catherine who wouldn't get on the stand and allow me to secure her, four goats on the loose, and a quick look at the pen showed the the sheep, cow, and other goats were about to follow suit and make a dash for freedom. 

My hands were tied. I had no idea what to do. So I did the most logical thing I could think of right in that moment: I called my dog.

"Gyp! Get it! Get the goats!" I held on to Catherine so that she wouldn't bolt, and shouted at my pup to do what he's never been taught to do. I could only point at the goats and hope to get him excited enough to make a run at the escapees. 

It worked! Gyp has *always* wanted to be in the same area as the goats; what else would one expect from a herding dog? He knew the words "get it" enough to know that he needed to go after what I was pointing at (hurray for playing endless hours of "catch the pine cone"! I throw it, shout "get it" and he has to run and get it!), so he barreled his way right into the throng of stubborn goat bodies; tail wagging, tongue lolling, and he was having the greatest time. It didn't take much for the four miscreants to turn tail and run, and Gyp put them right back in the pen where they belonged. Whew. But I still had Catherine who wouldn't get on the stand. So after zooming to tie the gate closed, I called my dog in and he helped convince that ornery animal to get all the way up on that stand.

As I sat down to breakfast later (oh glorious breakfast!), I was still trying to figure out what was going on with Ellie, and if I should share the story with the public. With you. It's oftentimes a battle inside me trying to figure out what to share here and what to keep private. My excuse for keeping some of my life private goes by the name of "tact" and "consideration". Not everyone likes these stories, not everyone can handle these stories, and most people seem to prefer to read about the "perfect farms" where nothing ever goes wrong and the weather always seems to be 72F and sunny. 

Then I read a thought-provoking article that someone had shared on FB. You can read it by clicking HERE. It's a small article about the side of farming that you won't see on Facebook. Or on a blog. It's the bloody side, the ugly side, the muddy side, the smelly side, the heart wrenching side, the frustrating side, the embarrassing side, it's all the behind-the-scenes that writing farmers don't want the public to see. Why? First off because we don't like it ourselves. Second, because a lot of times we fear you guys. I know I do. Want to talk fear? Let's talk about what my readers will think if I share X story, or if I share X pictures. Walk into Walmart and ask a random person how they envision a "farm". Chances are that they'll describe something that looks like this:

This is what most people think of when they envision a farm (and by the way, I can't resist explaining... These images came from my personal Pinterest page! Yes, I'm a hypocrite!). Their mind usually doesn't imagine the spilled milk, the dead babies that had to  be pulled from an animal who isn't dilated all the way, the roosters who tried to kill each other early in the morning and are now barely alive, the reek of hoof rot, the mastitis, the raccoon attack on the chickens at midnight... Oh it goes on and on. I can only speak for myself here, but I know I have a hard time sharing tough stuff on here. I know that anyone in the world can find this blog and read it, and they may not be of the same mind as I am (hello PETA member!). If you're not used to the agriculture world, some of this stuff can be down right shocking and/or horrifying. It's so much easier to show the pretty pictures that have been photoshopped, and the amusing stories that make you smile. But that gives the illusion that this is a perfect farm. And it's not. 

Reading that article hit home and convicted me of my writing. Folks, I haven't been completely honest with you, and now I'm thinking that I need to make some changes. I need to start showing all the sides to this farming life; although it may take time to learn how to do this tactfully all the while (such as warnings before sharing graphic images). I don't want to share the more gruesome side of this life as a way to glorify myself, "Aren't I amazing!? I handled this all by myself and saved the day!", or to glean pity from folks, "Woe is me, the farmer... Do you realize how hard I slave each day so you can eat??" . I want to share this because people need to see this. This is a learning experience for everyone. Nothing is perfect, things go wrong (especially on a farm), and people need to see that a farm usually doesn't look like something from a Hollywood set.

So with all that in mind, I decided to share Ellie's story today. After asking advice from some experienced cow people, it's been decided that the fetus was a mummified calf that she wasn't able to pass until now. She calved two months ago and had a healthy 45 lb. bull calf. The twin died early in the pregnancy for some reason though, and it's taken her all this time to get it out of her system. I'll be watching her closely to make sure that she doesn't get an infection of sorts, but hopefully that will be a one-time fluke and not something that will happen again. 

It wasn't even 9am yet, and already my day was crazy... I had dealt with a mummified calf, sorted through the chaos of escaped goats, did the usual barn chores, and got convicted of my writing... Time to make some changes here on the blog. Time to be more honest about things.

It's time to take the writing up a notch.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just a Glimpse

Gyp has thrived here at GSF and I am still just as much in love with him now as when I first saw him at the airport. Granted, it hasn't quite been all sunshine and roses as he's chewed up numerous items that he shouldn't have, he's torn his "puppy-proof" dog run up and I'm learning that it really needs to be "cougar-proof" just to keep the little guy in. He's also surprised me with his high energy level and the two of us are now clocking 4 miles of running in thirty minutes. He wants to be doing 5 or 6 miles a day... I'm still working up to that. 

But then there all those amazing moments and days with him that make up for it all! The soft puppy fur, his tail wagging softly whenever he sees me, his company whenever I'm outside, and knowing that I've got a good working partner in the works. He's been worth every single penny that I spent on him.

It's been fun watching his confidence increase as each week falls away. For the longest time he was scared to come in the barn with me and wouldn't come within twenty feet of that building. Now he runs in there ahead of me and will happily spend his whole day in there, watching the goats and sheep. His hunting/herding instincts are juuuuuust starting to show. Just tiny moments here and there, showing what he will one day be. We'll be out on the 98 acres and he'll tree squirrels and follow rabbit trails. I encourage the tracking and treeing, knowing that it might come in handy someday if I need to track down a chicken-eating varmint.

Today was probably the best day I've had yet with my dog. After milking Ellie, I called Gyp up and gave him the sit-stay command outside the pen. He sat there and stared at the goats and sheep; I could tell he wanted to be in there more than anything, but seeing as my animals are not dog-broke, he has to stay outside the bounds. His staring unnerved the ruminants and kept them stock still, staring right back at my small pup. I used the opportunity to throw hay into the manger and enjoyed the complete peace that I had in doing so. Normally I get shoved around by eleven bodies who aren't really hungry, but just want to see what I'm doing. It can be downright frustrating sometimes trying to get hay in the mangers and this was one job that I've always wanted a dog to help me with. And today I didn't have a single goat or sheep paying attention to me. It. Was. So. Nice.

After throwing hay, I needed to milk the goats. This job can sometimes be interesting since one of the goats, Catherine, doesn't like to be led or get on the milking stand. And she was feeling ornery today. -_- She and I had gotten about halfway to the destination when she planted her feet and refused to go one step further. Not even her single-strand baling twine collar would convince her to move (that's a first... I don't think I've ever had an animal resist the twine for long!). Gyp remained sitting at the other side of the barn. Watching us... Watching intently. Wanting to work. I had a crazy idea that I wasn't so sure about but decided to try it. I called Gyp over and directly behind Catherine. I figured this could either work really well, or both the dog and the goat would blow up. Only one way to find out.

Catherine bugged out at the sight of a canine right behind her and stepped forward. That was enough to set Gyp off and I fairly squealed as I watched him suddenly drop his head and tail and go into "working mode" (in dog language, head/tail up = playing. Head/tail down = focused and working). Catherine continued to walk forward and I led her into the parlor. My fourteen week old pup began snaking his body from side to side around the goat; a move that experienced herding folk call "tucking the sides in". If he had been doing that move with more than one animal, it would have kept the stock bunched together and in the same spot. 

And then it was over. It probably lasted only a minute before he suddenly snapped out of his trance and was back to his usual puppy self. I milked the goats while Gyp hung around the barn. A quick whistle brought him racing back when I needed him to help me lead Catherine back and then he and I finished barn chores together. Soaking grain for fodder, filling water buckets, throwing hay to the cow... It was awesome having him right there next to me and capable of helping me with puppy-sized tasks, and having a companion and working partner outside with me all the time has been the best thing ever.

Gyp's little herding spree may have only lasted a minute, but that was enough for me, for today. It offered a glimpse of the reliable farmhand that my dog will be someday.

Just a glimpse...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So. Crazy. Excited.

This is probably the most awesome thing to ever happen to McMinnville. :) I absolutely cannot wait until they open their doors!

Sweet Ellie

I think I forgot to announce this over here on ze' blog, but the new cow finally has a name:

Ellie. I call her Ellie. :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The New Kid On The Block

One of my friend's does decided to kid yesterday morning (it just HAD to be yesterday, didn't it!? I had a crazy day ahead and bottle baby was not in my plans!), and surprised me with a whopping, single buckling. The little guy ended up needing to be re-positioned and then pulled, since his front legs were tucked beneath him, but thankfully I got the problem fixed fairly quickly. 

This makes eleven goats now. Didn't I say I was downsizing??? Hehe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Feelin' Rich

See that stuff in the skillet? It's bacon.

But not just any bacon. It's bacon from MY hogs. I had a celebratory dinner tonight. :)

I had always heard that homegrown pork beats store bought pork hands down where taste is concerned, but I still wondered just how true that was... How different can pork taste? 

Gracious me, I have just seen the light. I had always loved bacon, but tonight was my first time to ever try homegrown bacon. My fondness for this meat cut has just skyrocketed. It. Was. Incredible. Don't ask how much I ended up eating. Hehe. One thing is for sure though: This farm girl will never not raise hogs. 

When my bacon was done cooking, I went and sat outside on the back deck; eating bacon from my own hogs, while my English Shepherd sat at my feet, and I watched my new milk cow silently meander through the pasture.

I'm feelin' rich tonight.

How Now Brown Cow?

She's here! After months of searching, I finally have another cow!!

And I think she will do quite well here. :) She is a total sweetheart, just like Mattie was...

She's about the same height as Mattie was, but much smaller in stature, so she looks like a tiny little girlie.

And yep, she's scruffy and in need of a few pounds. ;) Give me two weeks with all the kelp meal and alfalfa she wants and we'll have ourselves a slick, heavier lady before us.

I spent my morning cleaning out the milking stall from top to bottom (you should have seen me mopping the rubber floor with all that soap! I accidentally used too much!), and I am so excited for tonight's first milking. I'm not expecting anything perfect since this is her first day and she has no clue of routine, but I'm excited for all that milk again. And I've got a few plans up my sleeve to see if I can't start drinking that milk! (if you're new here, I seem to be lactose intolerant and have a hard time drinking anything other than goat milk; but I'm a determined soul who loves cow milk.)

She unloaded from the trailer like she's been doing it from day #1 and has since then been walking the perimeter of the pasture, mooing softly. And I have to say that I love her moo. It's quiet and pleasant to listen to, in comparison to Peaches' moo which sounded like a dinosaur from Jurassic Park. *shudder*

So yep, I got myself a cow again. :) And I couldn't be more pleased with her! 

The goats however, are not amused...

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Forgot to mention this earlier, but there is enough backfat from my hogs for me to make some homemade lardo!!! I'm ridiculously excited and my family is completely grossed out by the whole idea. *grin*

I think I'll start my batch sometime this week. :) It takes a month or two to cure, so I better get cracking!

The Battle Cry

Okay. I can do this.

Since writing that last post, I picked up the pork, got things figured out with customers who will be coming tomorrow for their halves, and I got a big misunderstanding figured out with the butcher. When the hogs were first butchered, I calculated that my cut/wrap/cure fees would total roughly $130, but I budgeted for $150, just in case there was some fee that I didn't know about. On Saturday night the butcher called to tell my end total for the cut/wrap/cure and his quote made me blanch. He said I owed him $276.20 for 200 lbs. of pork.

I panicked. I had budgeted for $150 maximum, not $276+!! And that's where the main bit of stress was coming in that had me working out like a maniac. Cash flow is always a bit tight at the end of each month, and this quoted amount was painful. I knew I could do it, it just wouldn't be fun.

When my dad and I got to the meeting place with the butcher (THAT was nice! He met us halfway and didn't charge a cent for his gas/time!), he immediately began apologizing; saying he had given me the wrong total amount over the phone! At those words, I felt a large piece of stress lifting off me like a fog rolls off the hills. Apparently the quote he had given me included the kill, slaughter, and rendering fees which I had already paid at the start.

So my end total for the cut/wrap/cure? $126. I was right after all, with four dollars to spare. ;) 

Just having that bit of unexpected good news has helped me kick this stress funk I've been feeling. My normal, stubborn self is creeping back, and I think once the cow lands tomorrow, I will be able to handle the rest of this week without the possibility of killing myself from too much running. Hehe.

Tomorrow I will patch the wheelbarrow wheel so that I can finish cleaning out the pig pen. I should have that done in a couple hours. After that I will ready the milking stall for tomorrow night's first milking. I can do this. I no longer say, "I think I can, I think I can." Now I say, "I know I will, I know I will."

And it's moments like this where I mentally shout my battle cry:


Ready or not World, here comes a stubborn farm girl who believes in defying the "impossible"!


Sheer madness. That's what life is right now. Stress is extremely high for me right now... I'm supposed to pick my pork up today but can't seem to get a hold of the butcher, I have people wanting to come this evening to pick their pork shares up but I don't know what time to tell them to come, the butcher fees were double what I was expecting and its rocked my budget tremendously. I have a cow coming tomorrow, I'm low on hay, my dog decimated my microgreens last night which was a loss of around $360, I need to order more seeds and some packaging for the micros and that's going to have to be via overnight shipping, I still need to get the milk stall cleaned up and ready for work, need to get milk customers situated on days to come, my wheelbarrow has a flat tire which means I can't finish cleaning the pig pen out, I need to get the sheep shorn ASAP, need to buy some more kelp meal since I'm out... The list goes on and on.

I am beyond stressed out right now, and the week hasn't even started yet. 

More than once I came close to crying yesterday; I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't handle the situation anymore. But instead of crying, I went and worked out. Every single time the stress has become too much to bear, I've put on my running shoes and either ran, or I did double-unders (a more intense twist to jumping rope), or I did an insane amount of box-jumps (those kill, let me tell you!). All total yesterday, I ran three miles, jump roped for 20 minutes, and box jumped for about 15 minutes. My goal was to be so exhausted that my mind would shut down and allow me some time where I was too tired to think. It worked temporarily. I did another mile this morning, and I'm itching to do some more double-unders and box jumps. It's becoming the only time that allows me to let go of the stress. I let my MP3 blare and simply focus on breathing; there is no space for any other thought besides counting breaths and focusing on inhaling from the bottom of my lungs and not the top. 

This week is going to be brutal. It already is, and its barely started...

So either I'm going to be extremely fit by the weekend, or I'm going to be crippled or dead.

Madness this all is... Sheer madness.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lardo, Crossfit, and A Puppy

Yeah, it's a really strange title. But then, this is a really strange post, so hang tight folks; we're going to be covering a broad range of topics here!

First off, it's all Gyp's fault. That adorable, fluffy, Croc-eating barker. It's been a long time since I've had a puppy, and I had forgotten just how much energy these little things had! In an attempt to keep Gyp out of trouble (i.e. "too tired to do much else than sleep in his spare time"), I've started running with him. The first run is at 7:30am, and we usually go one mile. We're both famished by breakfast time. The second and third runs are in the afternoon and evening, and we do a 1/2 mile for those ones. When I first started running with Gyp, I thought I was going to die before I got back home. We're running in the 98 acres; all feral ground with winding paths, blackberries to jump, and a big hill to first go up, and then go down. It was brutal at first, and my legs and lungs did more than complain. But I did it every day for the sake of my rambunctious pup (or perhaps for the sake of the half eaten crocs that he somehow finds!?). I'm on day 11 now, and this morning I noticed that I was not only beating my pup back down to the house as we crashed through tall grasses and jumped bramble canes, but I was laughing out loud and enjoying myself. 

I'm slowly getting more physically fit, and I like it. It's taken some getting used to though. I've been quite content with my weight hovering at 120 lbs. and personally wouldn't have minded seeing those numbers drop a bit more to 115 lbs. Yeah, it's a girl thing; what can I say? ;) LOL. Over the last week I've had four different people randomly compliment me, saying I look like I've lost weight. I figured there had to be some truth in that, seeing I've had to fish out my belt for skirts/jeans that normally fit without it. I hopped onto the scale and was shocked to see that the exact opposite had happened: I've gained about 8 lbs.! Oy vey. Actually, this new weight is bang on the dot for someone my age and height, it's just -- taking some getting used to. Hehe. It really doesn't seem fair that muscle weighs more than fat. I haven't lost weight, I've lost fat; and instead gained some trim, new muscle. I guess cleaning out pig pens and running 2 miles a day will do that to a body... So I'm slowly learning to accept the fact that I'll probably never see the numbers 120 on the scale again, and meanwhile, I'm beginning to crave more physical exercise. 

Thus enters Crossfit. My big brother did this a year ago, and all I remember is him saying he thought he was going to keel over and die during the first few weeks. And he was already athletic and fit to begin with. So I mentally told myself to never consider doing such a thing, lest I die an early death from overexertion. (Me? Over-exaggerate? Where are you getting that?). But as it happens, I have two younger sisters who are fitness nuts and they both have their eye on starting Crossfit once one of us has out driver's license (and with all three of us behind the wheel these days, a license just might happen in the next few months), and they're determined to pull me into this crazy idea. I'm convinced that they're trying to kill me, but they're using the more subtle method of doing Crossfit to get the job done. 

After today's run though, I'm toying with the idea of at least trying this Crossfit thing. I have no desire to run a marathon, but I do know that fitness comes in handy when you're farming. Whether you're trying to catch an escaped animal, bucking hay, or spending half a day harvesting vegetables, it helps to be fit. I could even throw in the fact that it's handy for safety purposes; my sisters and I all know self-defense and enjoy it immensely, but if it came to needing to run from someone, I'd rather be the faster one who's not going to get winded after running two blocks. 

Handy thing about Crossfit, is that it also requires you to change your diet. I've been slowly working on this anyway, but I know I need to be better about it. Crossfit recommends a diet that is very, very similar to the Paleo diet, and I like that. It's taking food back to the beginning and you're eating lots of meat, fats/oils, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and *real* dairy (actually, true paleo diets don't allow dairy, but I don't like that. Anyway...). The main thing that is strictly monitored is grain. And of course all processed foods are entirely off limits. I know this diet isn't for everyone, but it's definitely my kind. I like to go heavy on meats and fats. One thing I've really noticed lately, since I started running, is that I'm beginning to seriously crave animal fats. Like, really crave it. And medium rare meat. That too. My guess is that these cravings are stemming from the fact that I'm using a lot of energy these days what with my usual barn/farm work and now I'm going crazy with new workout routines. My body is simply reacting by wanting to replace that burned energy with new energy found so generously in meat and fat. 

The biggest craving right now seems to be for lardo... Ever heard of that? Didn't think so. It's cured pork backfat. Yup, 100% pure fat that's been spiced, brined and then aged. No, don't wrinkle your nose up at it yet. I know this culture and era has been taught that anything with the word "fat" is horribly bad for you, but I believe the opposite. I think fats that come from grassfed, organically raised animals are amazingly good for you, and there's a lot of science to back that theory up. One favorite book of mine that explains and defends this seemingly "new" idea that fat is good for you would be Real Food (click the link to check it out!).

I know my explanation of lardo isn't very appetizing sounding, so allow me to quote a writer who does it better than I: 

"Of all the cured meats from Italy, for me, lardo is the most essential, primal, and pristine. It challenges our modern view of food down to one of its most fundamental and pervasive cores: fat is bad for you. But eaten as intended, sliced thin and consumed sparingly, this fat is good for you in every life-enhancing way imaginable."

Okay so maybe I'm just weird. But you know, it's not hugely different from bacon, which is very heavy on fat and only has a few slim streaks of meat in it. So there. LOL. ;) Having just had my two hogs butchered, it dawned on me a couple days ago (yes, I'm slow), that I could make my own lardo! Well now, hows about that!? Actually, I don't know if I can or not... When making lardo, you have to have pieces of backfat that are at least 1" thick, and my boys were incredibly lean. Phooey. At first I thought the leanness was a good thing, but now I'm realizing that it's not! I'm quickly falling in love with the old lard breeds of hogs like the Managlitsa, Large Black, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and American Guinea Hog. Lard is good. So if there's enough backfat from my boys, you can bet an acorn to an oak that this girl will be making herself some lardo. Period, exclamation point! My family and friends convinced me to give up the idea of blood sausage from my hogs for religious reasons (okay, some health reasons too; but the first reason is what I'm going by), and I have to admit that I'm still rather dissapointed that they managed to prick my conscience and convince me to give it up. But I ain't letting them take my lard away. Nope, not that. Or my medium rare meat; I'll keep that too. A girl can only go far where her protein and energy sources are concerned. 

 So if there is enough backfat, then I will make lardo, using THIS simple recipe, to snack on after my runs. 

And speaking of runs, the clock says it's getting close to 3:30pm; time for my afternoon run with Gyp! Whoohoo!

It really is all the dog's fault. I was doing just fine until he came along, and now look at me: running pell mell through woodlands, wanting to start Crossfit, and craving aged pork fat.

It's awesome. ;)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

We're In

To say I was nervous as I approached the first restaurant would be an understatement. I felt like I was 13 years old all over again, taking personal invitations to business managers in the area, and asking them to come to the 4-H livestock auction at the county fair to bid on my pen of animals. But thinking back, taking part in the 4-H auction was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me since it forced me to come out of my shy, introverted shell and talk not only to a total stranger, but to a total stranger who was the manager of a large company. I learned to enjoy it though, had fun with it every year. 

I digress though... Walking up to the restaurant had me suddenly wondering if it wouldn't be easier/better to marry young and thus not have to go galavanting about, dealing with chefs and little tiny plants. In short, there was momentary courage failure. But I managed to suck up just enough gumption to walk in that door (after having to sheepishly call the chef and ask him to unlock it for me), and decided that I could do this. No husband hunting after all. Hehe. 

The chef took my basket and start pulling out the samples I had brought. The spicy mix, the mild mix, the peas, and the radishes... He looked at the second chef that was present and they smiled and nodded at each other. As they opened up each container and sampled the micros, their smiles and nods grew bigger. I think I only stood there for five minutes before the chef declared that he wanted weekly deliveries. That was an epic moment for me. Just a silent, "Holy kohlrabi, I'm in!" kind of feeling. We exchanged information, him with his weekly order, and I with my contact info. I almost floated back out the door, I was so excited.

The other two restaurants also went well. I accidentally caught one chef right in the middle of rush hour, so I had to leave my samples with him and now have to wait to hear his opinion. The 2nd chef was a cheery, upbeat fellow who took an instant liking to my greens, but he needed to get the 'okay' from his boss before putting down an order, so I'm also waiting to hear from him. 

So if nothing else, I at least have one steady customer. But something tells me that as time goes on, there will be more and more... 

This evening I mixed more soil and planted a few more trays of my spicy mix and some radishes. Tomorrow I plant peas. When I finished my work, I scooped Gyp up into a big, dirty, tired hug and softly said to him:

"Well Gyp, We're in..."

Nothing else needed to be said.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Here We Go

I think I might need to go on another run to clear my head... Oy vey, this has been a crazy day. 

First off, my new milk cow is coming on Monday, around 5pm! :) I'm definitely excited to get her, and to get back into the milking groove! The timing is also perfect, since the grass up on the 98 acres is at the perfect stage for grazing a dairy cow; thick, green, lush, and 8" tall. Perfect. I've been madly trying to find a hauler to bring her down, since I still lack a trailer of my own right now, and I'm happy to say that someone offered to bring her down for me for the bargain price of $50! I  had called Hertz Equipment Rental and they told me I could rent a 2-horse trailer for $137 for one single day. -_- Uh - thank you sir, but I'll keep looking...

There's also the floating idea of going tomorrow to look at those two Jersey cows that the seller wants to trade for a pair of my goats. I wouldn't mind taking a look at them and sizing them up. Goodness knows I have the grass for them! I'm already thinking I'll need to invest in a scythe in the next couple of weeks to cut the pastures that I don't want to go to seed. Even with three cows and stockpiling some of the far pastures, I'm still going to have to cut a few areas to keep them from growing more than I want them to. Such as around the cow barn.

My hesitance in going to see the cows tomorrow has nothing to do with being on the fence about the cows themselves, but rather if I can fit the trip into my day. You see, I have appointments with three different upscale restaurants tomorrow. I'm taking samples of my microgreens to the chefs! I'm excited and nervous at the same time! Calling the restaurants to set up the appointments was probably one of the most nerve wracking things I've done... Yes, the chefs are human, and yes I have a really neat product, but there's still a feeling of nervousness in calling them up... Perhaps it's a fear of rejection, I don't know, but it took some serious mental preparation before calling! And then in the end it was no problem. LOL. One of the chefs was especially excited to hear that I have microgreens, so hopefully that's a good sign. I'll be taking my spicy mix, my mild mix, some radish micros, and possibly some peas... Still going back and forth on the peas. :-/ I guess it depends on how many sample containers I have! 

So yep, here I am. It's been a whirlwind of phone calls today about cows and microgreens, and I'm feeling fuzzy headed. A run sounds good, but now that I think about it, I need to go mix some more soil for the micros, and then harvest a couple more trays for tomorrow...

The run can wait. Here we go! Cows and microgreens ahoy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I Hope I Never Leave

We had an unusual heat wave roll through the Willamette for a couple weeks; a few brave farmers got an early hay crop in, folks were planting gardens, and everyone was in awe of the 80 degree weather and the few days that were even on the humid side. This was weather we normally didn't see until July/August around here.

And then today the heat wave broke... Temps dropped down to the 60's, and it finally rained.

The scent of petrichor and roses hung in the air like an invisible veil, and I gloried in the gentle raindrops that fell on my bare arms, bare head, bare feet. I did barn chores unshod; milking Jupiter while listening to raindrops gently tapping a staccato rhythm on the metal roof. Enjoying not wearing any muck boots, and not needing to. 

I love Oregon. I hope I never leave this state. Ever. Yes, it is damp here. Yes, it is cool. Yes, it is hard to raise goats here. But I love it. I love the shockingly vibrant shades of perpetual green. Love the high mountains that surround me at every single turn, like a secure battlement. Love the lush beauty that is here almost year around.

And most of all, I love that smell of the rain. If there is one thing that keeps me rooted to Oregon, it is that scent of petrichor... 

I hope I never leave this state.

Helper, Companion, and Shadow

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Big Day

My day started out normal. Just the usual house chores that I do on a Saturday. I had already gone on my morning run with Gyp and was feeling fairly energetic. After chores I started working on building a new website; just trying out a new (and hopefully more professional looking) template/host site for my own farm website. Buried amidst HTML codes, fonts, and background colors, I realized that someone was talking about me in the next room over. A friend of my mom's was over and the two of them were talking about the fact that I have yet to learn to drive a manual car... I grinned as I listened to them, knowing that what they said was true. The stick shift has always terrified me ever since I tried it right after my 15th birthday. I've never had any desire to try again after that, but I grudgingly couldn't deny that I needed to eventually face my fear that's been lingering for six years, and conquer that beast of a vehicle. I just wasn't looking forward to it.

Then out of the blue, my mom's friend said she would teach me to drive our manual car TODAY and I was instructed to get my shoes, driver's permit, and glasses (yeah, I have to wear glasses while driving... I'm rather nearsighted.). I was tense and nervous. Last time I tried this I hadn't even gotten out of the driveway. She drove me to a quiet back road not far from the house (thankfully back roads are something we have in abundance over here!) and we switched sides. I think it's safe to say that I was terrified. 

I killed the engine on the first try.

I was so tense that I couldn't let the clutch out smoothly enough, and the engine sputtered and coughed to an awkward halt. I took a couple minutes to try and get myself to R.E.L.A.X. and then tried again. 

And wonder of wonders, it worked! I got that car rolling *forward*! Gadzooks, I'm doing it!!! I quickly learned that shifting is actually rather fun... Yes, I'm eating crow here. I've always scorned the stick shift and have never had anything nice to say about it. And now I was feeling a sneaking satisfaction that I could keep this metal monstrosity moving. We went up and down those old back roads for well over an hour before heading back to the house for a quick break. On an especially quiet road we played a warped version of "red light, green light", where I had to go 20 feet, then stop. Then start again, then stop. Over, and over, and over. I only killed it once. :) 

We were just about to leave the house for a second drive when the phone rang. It was the person selling the milk cows! She called to say that the purebred Jersey was still available, and wanted to know if I would like to buy her or if she should let the next person in line have her. I was fairly dancing and almost interrupted her in my haste to tell her YES, I want that cow!! Please consider her sold to ME!! I feel really good about this cow, and I'm so glad that I didn't buy Flash. This cow may be a Jersey, but I'll forgive her for that. Her temper is very similar to Mattie's; just a calm, sweet girl. And she's got a Jersey/Ayshire bull calf coming with her. :) I haven't decided if I'll keep him for beef, or if I want to train him for draft. Personally, I'm leaning towards the latter. LOL. 

The second round of driving also went well. I made a few mistakes though, like accidentally shifting into 4th gear when I meant to go into 2nd (Only did that once, let me tell ya'!), and I killed it a few times while in town; sheepishly having to motion other drivers to go ahead and not wait for me. I finally had to stop after 3pm. I was so tired that I began killing it more and more often, I kept forgetting to either put the clutch in, and I would forget which gear to be in. My eyes were crossing, I was so tired. After a twenty minute break though, I was back behind the wheel and drove home... Without a single problem. ;)

I was ready to flop down for nap when I got home, but was informed that the goats had escaped in my absence and I needed to repair one little corner in the pasture. Sigh... So out I went, armed with the necessary materials, and did what was familiar to me. I had just spent my day doing something completely new and overwhelming. It felt good to be back to doing something normal and routine. I still do not see how people can enjoy driving. I'll stick to fence repairs. I can do that.

I still didn't flop down for a nap after the fence work; come to think of it, I don't even remember what I've been doing... I remember feeding the dog. Nothing else comes to mind. LOL. I still feel a little spaced out. It was a long day... I conquered a fear that I've had for six years, I bought a cow, I fixed fence, and I'll take Gyp for his evening run soon. 

It's been a big day.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Muddled Up Words

I've been meaning to write. Been pecking away at half-finished blog posts, guiltily thinking of things I need to write about, I've eyed the camera... But the words seem to be all muddled up right now. Nothing is coherent, or smoothly written. I'm not exactly sure what's causing this case of writer's block, but hopefully it will pass. I've always been told that in order to beat a case of this dreaded disease, you have to simply force yourself to write, write, write! So that's what this attempt here is. I don't even know where this post is going. Bear with me.

The pigs have been gone for over a week now, and the silence in the barn is both startling and uncomfortable. I still find myself occasionally tiptoeing into the barn so that I "won't wake the pigs up"; then I realize I don't have to be quiet, because those porkers aren't here anymore. I miss the noise though. Miss that, and their quirky personalities, wagging tails, snuffling noses, and their funny smiles they have on their face while they sleep. I like pigs. I really, really do. I want to get a small breeding herd up and going this year, but I have yet to decide if I should start out with the large breeds that I want (Mangalitsas mostly, and a few Berkshire gilts to round things out), or if I should wait until Gyp is fully grown and fully trained. A full grown boar is not something to take lightly. Neither is a sow with a litter of piglets. The other option would be to start out with a small breed, like the Guinea Hog; I'm used to this breed and feel comfortable with them and their size. But it's not what I want; it'd be safer, but not as rewarding... So it's just deciding which way I want to proceed. In any case, the hogs will be kept up on the neighbor's property, since apparently the rest of my family wasn't so keen on having Mike and Sausage over here. I didn't even realize that they didn't like the pigs until someone mentioned it a few days ago! 

To change the subject... The microgreens are looking spectacular, and I should do my first week of harvesting on Monday or Tuesday! :) This has been such a fun project, and I am ultra excited to show my little crop to some chefs and see what they think. I've never been a good gardener, I don't have a green thumb, and vegetable plants typically don't like me. But these microgreens are doable! Shucks, I think I might have finally found something that doesn't keel over and die on me at the soonest moment! 

I think part of this "writer's block" may be stemming from the fact that I am tired. I'm waking up at 5:30am to 5:40am these days simply because that's when my internal alarm clock goes off. And then I usually do 2-3 runs with Gyp each day, I do barn chores, fence repairs, cleaning out the pig pen (almost done!), and the occasional goat chase. My body is still shifting gears and getting used to being so physically busy again, now that the warm weather is back. It's a good feeling though, and I'm enjoying the farmer's tan that's coming back. :) Although I do wonder if all this early heat means we're looking at another drought this summer... :-/ I'm making sure that I leave enough pasture on the neighbor's property to stockpile in case we do end up like last year where there was no rain for three months. I've never stockpiled before, and the idea still seems a bit odd; you just let the grass grow tall... Don't cut it, don't graze it early. Let it get tall and weedy looking to the point where most folks cringe and say it looks untidy and bad. Then put the cows in. It's hay on the hoof (er, stalk), full of starch and sugar, and cows do amazingly on it.

*Pauses for a moment, trying to think of something else to say*

And I am still cow hunting. An acquaintance of mine is selling two cows, and I have to admit that I am REALLY interested in them. One is a  4 year old, purebred Jersey, milking 4 gallons a day (by hand that is; they give a bit more if you use a machine). The other is a Jersey cross (the other half is either Guernsey or Ayrshire; I forgot to ask), and she's an 11 year old who's milking 5-6 gallons a day. Both are halter broken, and are extremely gentle. Did I mention that they're in my budget? Someone else inquired about them first though, so I have to wait and hear what that buyer's decision is. The Jersey is cheaper, but by golly do I like the color on that crossbred. ;) Another person also offered me one or two of her Jersey cows in trade for a couple of goats. She said one cow is most likely a freemartin (unable to be bred; so basically just a beefer.), but the other is breedable. I've only mildly toyed with her offer so far... I told her I wanted to know ages of the cows and know for sure if that 2nd one is breedable or not, which would require a vet check. I haven't said 'yes' or 'no' to her offer yet, as I still need to figure out what the deal is with the afore mentioned milk cows; but it might not be a bad deal to trade Trigun for a Jersey, or perhaps Trigun and Lyric together for not only another milker, but some beef for the freezer...

And now I have run out of things to say. I'm zonked. And I need to go take Gyp for one last walk before starting evening barn chores. So toodle pip and cheerio my dears; I'm off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. (Yes, I've lost it... I'm so tired that I'm getting loopy.) 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day #2 With A Puppy

Today is only Day #2 with my new pup but it already feels like he's been here forever. I was shocked to find just how much this breed of dog wants to be with humans. I'm not used to that. Our Golden Retriever will come find you if he smells food, but other than that you have to call him and hold onto his collar if you want him to stick around. Gyp on the other hand, is a permanent fixture at your side. His grin on his face fairly screams the words, "I'm so HAPPY that you're here! I want to stay RIGHT next to you!". It's been a refreshing change to have a canine who will pal around with you no matter what the task is; whether I'm doing fence work, or running. And on that note, this little guy is an excellent running partner. LOL. I'm up at 6am and by 6:30, Gyp and I are warming up for a morning run. I start out by walking up a big hill, and the crazy pup starts out by doing a funny scoot through the tall grass; bottom up, chest on the ground, his nose leading the way through the dew-laden plants, and a grin so big on his face that it makes a body fairly want to try doing it too just to see if it really is as enjoyable as he makes it look. The run down the hill is every bit as hilarious as he tries to go faster than me, then runs right into a big clump of thick grass which stops him like a brick wall. Or he ends up doing a somersault, head over heels, and typically ends up with a cleaver plant sticking to his head; looking like a mad hatter of the canine race. 

Before Gyp ever came into reality, I knew I wanted to forgo the popular choice of store bought dog kibble for my pup and feed a raw food diet right from the start. I got a book about this idea  few years ago; by the same author as my beloved book 'The Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable', and the raw food diet was so simply laid out that I found the courage to do it. But there's always that hesitance... Will my dog really eat some of that stuff? We're on Day #2 with feeding raw foods, and Gyp is absolutely ecstatic about the whole thing. Should you be curious, here's what his feeding routine looks like (and he's a 20 lb. pup):

8am: Slightly less than a 1/2 pint of raw goat milk; warmed up and strengthened with 1 tsp. of Slippery Elm powder. Carob powder and honey will soon be added to this once I get some.

12pm: 1/3 cup of rolled barley that's been soaked in raw milk. 

4pm: 2 oz. raw meat (warmed up; dogs don't like hot or cold food!)

8pm: 2 oz. raw meat, plus a sprinkle of kelp meal/powder,, and1 Tablespoon of finely chopped greens.

Gyp also gets treats to chew on during the day, to keep him busy. His favorite right now is chicken feet. Yeah, I know, it's gross. I've always heard that dogs liked to eat chicken feet, but I didn't really believe it because it seemed so -- yucky. But Gyp eats the entire thing, bone and all. Give him thirty minutes and you won't find a single trace of that chicken foot. So he gets those, chicken necks, and wings. It's good for his teeth, and it keeps him occupied.

Sleeping quarters are a bit of a funny subject right now... I spent over $100 to build a really nice run for him, and the little stinker has decided that he would rather sleep on the back deck, right in front of the door. I kept him in his kennel for the first night and apparently he yelped and howled like a caged monkey while in there. I never heard him. *blush* I don't sleep lightly these days. By the time dusk rolls around, I am bushed and I'm usually asleep before my head even hits the pillow.

One reason why Gyp was in his kennel in the first place was because he somehow managed to escape his puppy-proof run earlier in the day! So the next morning I reinforced it more. Ha! Take that, you adorable little fluff ball! No one outwits a farm girl who knows how to use chicken wire and wire cutters! I put that pup into the run last night; it was bed time and I was confident that he would stay put. Fifteen minutes later, a sister came up to me and silently motioned me to follow her. She led me into the laundry room and pointed out the door that leads to the back deck. I peered through the glass, straining to see what she saw in the darkness. Looking straight down, I half groaned and half laughed. Right there, on the mat in front of the door was my pup. Sleeping. All curled up with the tip of his tail over his nose. I left him there for the night, and found him in the exact same spot this morning at 5:45am. Turns out he had used his claws to pry a hole through the chicken wire, just big enough for him to slip through it and the original woven wire fencing that was in place. Well played, Gyp. Well played... Thou art a worthy opponent. This is almost as fun as keeping pigs! it's a constant mental challenge that keeps me busy and thinking. Hehe.

Having him around is already a boon. His mere presence keeps the goats and sheep at bay when I need them to keep their distance. Such as when I'm doing fencing repairs, or even wanting to pull one goat out for milking or hoof trimming. Gyp sits nearby; always tied to something and out of the range of the livestock; but he watches them with such focus that it makes me grin to see it. The goats get really wigged out when they find they're being watched so intently, and I can't decide who's more amusing to watch: the puppy who has what looks like x-ray vision, or the creeped-out goats who end up walking in tight circles with their ears out like airplane wings. He can't make up his mind about chickens just yet... He's unsure about them, but then his instincts kick in and he wants to round them up into a group. Not yet Gyp Boy; not yet. First you outgrow that puppy coat, then some lessons, and THEN we'll try our hand at herding something here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Gyp had been moving almost non-stop since 6am, and by 12:30pm, he was zonked.

This was what I found outside the living room window; he found a shady spot on the deck and decided it was as good a spot as any to take a nap.

This guy is so fun to have. :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

He Is Perfect

Gyp is home. And I am in love with him. I'd seen pictures of him, heard stories of him, watched video footage of him, but today was the day when I finally got to meet my working partner. 

And he is perfect. :)

He's a fluffy lovebug who has the cutest smile and most adorable manner. He sat in my lap the whole way home from the airport, which is a 1.5 hour drive, and he did excellently. He simply leeeeeeaned into my chest, and quietly sat against me; smiling at everything and not even blinking at the roaring semi trucks that passed us on the highway. 

I've got my working partner now. :) And this is just the beginning of the story...

Four Hours

Today's the day that I get to bring Gyp home!! I leave in four hours to pick him up at the airport! Feels like Christmas morning, it does. ;)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Onward and Forward

There is a time for everything. Everything. I'm sometimes the type who wants to push the boundaries on that; want to do or have things when the time isn't right. I'd like to think that I've gotten a little better about that over the last year or so, but I could be wrong. As of this week though, I've come to realize that it is time for a major change. It is time.

By this point, you're probably wondering what's up. Dear readers, I hope you're sitting down. Because I've got an explosive announcement to make...

I'm selling off my goat herd. Completely. One hundred percent. This girl is done.

I thought about selling out two months ago, when I was having so much trouble with them all. But instead decided I should perhaps try a last ditch attempt at righting the situation by simply switching breeds. I'm terrified of regret in life. I didn't want to completely sell out at that time, because I was afraid I would regret my decision. But I can't avoid the glaring fact anymore that goats are not working for me. I'm in the wrong area for this. My time with goats needs to end for a spell and I need a rest. No matter what I do, or how I plan, the goats are always a monkey wrench in things. This land, this area, is not meant for goats; it's meant for cattle, sheep, and hogs. I've tried for six years to force goats into this; force them into a mold that they don't fit, and I can't do it any longer. It's too wet here to raise goats on pasture. Everyone around here struggles with hoof rot, pneumonia, and liver fluke worms. It just comes with the territory of getting 45 to 50 inches of rain each year.

Then there's also the fact that one really shouldn't "pasture" goats... They can digest the early, green spring grasses, but once that grass turns brown it's over. The goats can't digest that lignin and they get very little, if any, nutrition after that. It's the same for grass hay; it's why goats have to have legume hay. In my case, for the pasture, all I have is open land. Oh I've got stands of blackerries, sure, but I sure ain't letting my dairy goats in those stands to scratch their udders up and make their milk strong tasting! Nope. Not doing it. Shelter is also a factor. When you're pasturing sheep or cows, you can pretty much leave them out in all but the worst of weather (in bad weather you'll want to provide something) and they do just fine. They'll keep grazing away in the drizzling rain or what-have-you. With goats, you're suddenly looking at needing a portable shelter to lug around. -_- There goes all simplicity to life... Do we even want to mention the type of fencing and the electric charge needed to keep goats in?? I got really spoiled with my cows; one strand will do 'em. The sheep are content/dumb enough that I can get by with 2-3 strands.

Marketing wise, I lost all my goat milk customers. Gone. They all found suppliers closer to their homes, or cheaper alternatives. Meanwhile my cow milk customers have staunchly refused to leave, even though I've told them I don't know when I'll be getting another cow. I'm still getting more requests for cow milk, too.

Feeding the goats is getting downright ridiculous too. Prices are inching up to $17 and $19 for a bale of dairy goat-quality hay, and the goats waste 40% to 60% percent of that!! World's most expensive bedding!! Gaah!

I'm also having a tough time keeping their mineral levels up. :-/ Of all livestock, goats are the hardest to maintain where minerals are concerned. And when you live in a damp area like this, natural minerals are usually leached deep into an unobtainable level in the ground. This isn't so bad when you're dealing with cattle, sheep, or hogs since they don't require as much, but for goats it's frustrating! I'm feeding them free choice minerals but it's still just barely enough!

I'm frustrated and tired... I need a break. I've already begun getting the word out that my last five goats (yes, even Lyric) are up for sale/trade (hoping maybe someone will want a good starter herd and will trade a dairy cow for them). I don't know how permanent of a decision this is, but I need some time. Maybe when the dust settles, and the farm is in a more stable position I will look into getting goats again. But right now I need to focus on what WILL work on this land, which is cattle, sheep, and hogs.

But lest you worry about all goat stories coming to an end, let me put your mind at ease. ;) For while I'm selling off my own goats, I'm still boarding a friend's four for the whole of 2013. I know one of those goats is pregnant, but I'm not sure about two of the others... We'll see. You might say I'm easing my way into a "no-goats" lifestyle. Sell off my five right now, then when my friend's four goats leave we'll see how I feel and where I stand on the matter. Maybe by the time they leave things will be settled here, or I'll have decided to try one more time? Who knows. In the end though, I feels it's best to let my goats go. They deserve to be somewhere better, where it's a bit drier, and they have the right kind of forage available.

And you know something else? I'm surprisingly happy about this new twist of events. I've been doing goats for six years, and the idea of taking a break is an invigorating relief. There can only be new adventures ahead. New stories, new ideas, and the fun of watching it all come together.

Onward and forward.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Want One

No more checking online to see what the weather is; just peek outside and take a look at the rope! Hahahaha! I love it! ^_^

Kulning Clip

While doing some research online today, I found another musical clip that has kulning woven into it. :) It always makes me happy when I find that more and more people are bringing this old style of singing back. You can listen to the sound clip by clicking HERE!

In The Mail Today!

Gyp's registration application came in the mail today! :) You may notice that it's via the UKC instead of the AKC... English Shepherds are too rare of a breed yet to be recognized by that larger and well known organization. 

Getting that little piece of paper in the mail made me smile in excitement, because you know what?

There's only two days to go until my pup comes. :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Awesome Hog

Over the last year, I've been slowly learning about the rare breed hog known as the Mangalitsa... And quite frankly, I'm intrigued. I think these wooly pigs are awesome. :)

Which Is Better?

Which do you think is better: Livestock of rare and heritage origin, or livestock of nativised genetics? This is a question I ask myself all the time, and I am still trying to decide on an answer.

For example: Let's suppose you're looking for a really hardy breed of cow that will give you 4-5 gallons of milk a day, needs minimal grain, isn't prone to health problems like mastitis or milk fever, and does well in your climate (whether that's really wet like mine, or really dry like down South). How are you going to start looking for said cow? I'll pipe up here and say that my *first* idea would be to look for a heritage breed that fits the bill. I like the idea of preserving gene pools and working with rare breeds; so off I hop to the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) website and look at what they have in the way of heritage dairy cattle breeds. A few breeds that might work would be the Canadienne, the Dutch Belted, the Milking Shorthorn, or perhaps even the Milking Devon (I suppose I had better not forget to mention the Randall Linebacks, which are my favorite breed!!). All these cows are old, old breeds that would fit the bill where hardiness is concerned. But what about climate? What about parasite resistance? The Randall Lineback was created and kept up in the New England states and is noted for it's ability to withstand damp and cold weather. It's a breed not as likely to end up with hoof rot. But what would happen if we put that Randall down in the deep South? How will it acclimate in hot and dry Texas? Or what if we were looking at a breed that came from one of those hot states? How well would it adapt to suddenly dealing with damp winters and lots of mud? 

I think everyone can find a heritage breed that suits their needs, but I don't think it's any secret that these rare breeds are pricey. Not everyone can afford to be on a 2-5 year wait list for a $3,000 calf. Or pay $350 to $400 for a 8 week old weaner pig. Or what if we can't find exactly what we're looking for? What if we wanted a hardy breed of dairy goat that did well in a warm climate, but all there is was the San Clemente which is currently a pathetic milker? 

Is there some middle road between the expensive heirlooms and the bred-up, delicate hot rod breeds of today, like the Holstein cow, Pietrain pig, or Suffolk sheep?

Personally, I think there is. It's called nativised genetics. Which means you have a carefully crossbred animal who's genetics are specifically adapted to its immediate locality. Problem is, you have to create it yourself. I learned about the beauty of nativised genetics when I went to Joel Salatin's farm. His cattle are his own cross that he's been working on for -- 20 years I think? Don't quote me on that, but I believe it's pretty close to that number. I know he's got some Shorthorn blood in there, and some Brahman, and I believe the third breed was Hereford... In any case, Joel's been breeding these crossbreds so long that they have become a breed of their own, and they are 100% adapted to Joel's farm. Those cows would probably be terrible on my farm here on Oregon. The same thing was done with Daniel Salatin's rabbits. He started with a trio of three different breeds; not because he wanted to, but because that's what was available. Today they are the most beautiful rabbits I've ever seen (and I've got almost 12 years of rabbit experience behind me). They are cookie cutter consistent, large in size, and very, very adapted to hot weather, AND the youngsters do extremely well on grass, whereas most breeds can't have grass until they're mature since they might bloat and die. They've created their own breeds, using what was available, and aggressively culling until they had an animal that they wanted and needed. Good producers, parasite resistant, good foraging ability... It took time to create those breeds, but it was cheaper than buying a rare breed, and now they have an animal that will excel in their locality.

So which is better in the end? Which should we do? Conserve a rare breed and just be extremely careful that we use an animal that is best suited for our area (which is challenging if you live in a damp place like I do that gets a little over 45 inches of rain each year! If you scoot over a couple counties, then you'll be in places that get over 60 inches of rain a year!)? Or do we start responsibly breeding our own livestock that are carefully crossed to create a hardy animal specifically for our needs? I need an animal that will keep foraging even in the rain. I need one that won't get hoof rot from all the dampness, or keel over from pneumonia during an unseasonably damp autumn. I need one that has a high resistance to parasites, since my location struggles with liver fluke worm due to all the dampness. And I still need that animal to pay its way in meat, milk, or fiber. Talk about a tall order.

So which is better? Put myself on that wait list for that expensive Randall Lineback calf that I'm dying to have? It would do incredibly well in my situation, and I'd be helping to conserve an incredibly rare breed; but I'd have to have it hauled from Vermont or Connecticut, and I'd have to be saving my pennies for it! Or do I  start crossing local breeds to create what I need? Maybe Jersey for size, a little bit of Angus for feed efficiency and calf size, and perhaps a bit of shorthorn for ruggedness? Actually, I think a Jersey/Murray Gray/Normande cross might be neat for my area. :) That'd be the cheaper route, but it would take a LOT longer!

This isn't exactly a question about what *I* should do. I'm throwing this out as food for thought for us all. I want your opinions on which YOU think is better. Heritage? Or nativised?