This video was absolutely awesome to watch. Music is perfect, videography is excellent, and the subject is grand. ;) I want to learn how to do this type of video work... It's one of my next goals to master.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Saturday, June 22, 2013
I've always been more of a livestock type of person. Plants typically don't like me. But the microgreens have been a breakthrough into the quiet, quiet world of dirt farming (such as it is), and have been the first successful thing I've done where plants are concerned. It's taking some getting used to though, all this messing around in dirt with seeds and stuff. And it's taking some getting used to as to how quiet this job is. Plants don't moo at you, or snort in frustration because you're late, or push on fences because they're feeling impatient. Everything is quiet. And still. I ain't used to that. I may be a quiet person, but I talk a LOT when I'm around the livestock. More often then not it's just mindless chatter to keep them alert as to my location (more than once I've spooked an animal because I was too quiet), but it also helps new animals get used to having a human as a part of their life. And plus, I like to talk to them. I can say whatever I want without wondering what they're thinking, and I have an easier time processing ideas when I say it out loud. I think the reason I'm quiet around people is because I've already said what I wanted to say around the animals.
But then we switch over to the micros. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to talk to my vegetables. Nope, not this girl. Talking to a cow is one thing, and is slightly understandable. Talking to a radish shoot just doesn't have the same appeal... I didn't last very long with all that quiet while tending the plants. In fear of going insane, I finally pulled out my MP3 and flicked on some music. And now it's habit. If I'm planting or harvesting the micros, I always reach for my music. Lately I've been thinking how much I would love to have an iPod; then I could tuck that little gizmo into my back pocket and sing along with whatever's playing. That's the one thing I don't like about my MP3: I can't sing with it. You can't hear yourself with ear buds in. LOL. An iPod would be fun to have in the barn too, or when moving the sheep to a new paddock. Instead of chattering ceaselessly, I could sing. :) The animals might rebel against that idea what with all the sudden warbling, but oh well; I never asked them anyway.
Some might say I have an -- addiction, to my music and when confronted with such an accusation I always grin and say, "Maybe. Maybe not!" It's true; I don't really know if I've fallen that far yet. But I do love my music, and all kinds of it. Music bridges the gap between the emotions I feel and the words I don't know how to say; a lot of times I sing songs simply because I don't know how else to say what I'm thinking. It takes my mind off of mundane tasks (washing dishes, mopping the floor, mixing soil, seeding microgreens...), and makes the job more enjoyable. I can do without a lot of things in life, but I don't think I'd get far without my music. I think I might would go without books before I went without music (and that's saying something; the librarians don't even blink when I check out 40+ books in one fell swoop).
Flipping between chores with livestock and plants always takes a moment to adjust to; with the stock I'm busy talking, keeping an eye on Gyp, observing the stock, doing routine tasks, and then there's the occasional escapee to deal with, or perhaps an animal needs some quick vetting. With the plants, there's a sudden and drastic loss of stimulation. I feel like everything just went into freeze mode. It takes me awhile to settle down enough to enjoy the peace that the plants offer; one certainly doesn't have to worry about them running off or overeating some grain. But I think it's going to take some time before this fireball of a farm girl can tame herself down enough to truly enjoy this work. And until that happens, at least I have my music to keep me company.
Friday, June 21, 2013
It's always a little strange to me, when I go back through all my unpublished posts... I've got 120 that never made the cut; most of them are only half written. Some I couldn't find the words for, some didn't sound right, some I still needed to mull over (three years of mulling, and I'm still not finished?).
Going through some of those posts leaves me wondering where I was going with them. Quite a few of them sound pretty good, but then they end halfway. I lost my muse and burned out before I finished. And reading back through them, I still can't quite grasp what I was leading up to. What was my climax? How did I want it to end? I usually find that my writing muse comes at the worst of times. I'll be washing dishes, milking the cow, or moving the sheep when I suddenly have a post idea that I'm dying to write. I'll have the entire post written out just beautifully and so I rush through what I'm doing, hurry to the computer and -- it's gone. Can't remember what on earth I was going to write about. Grr.
Maybe someday I'll be able to start cleaning out my drafts by finishing up and publishing them. But for now they remain in my archives, like ghosts that have yet to learn that time forgives. Slowly though, perhaps they'll see the light of day, and be more than a half finished thought...
To explain a bit more: For years I've raised animals without a stock dog to help me (and currently still raise animals this way, since Gyp can't really "help" for at least a year), and my method has always been the same: Earn the animals trust, make them realize that you're not a threat, that they usually get good things when they cooperate (i.e. food, a rub on their favorite spot), and learn the perks and quirks of each individual animal (except chickens. Hehe.). Moving the goats required knowing who was the herd queen so that I could start the group off my leading her away; but I also have to know which ones will need verbal encouragement, which ones I'll have to go back for, and which ones require some eye contact to get my point across. It's a very, very personal, close relationship that is absolutely mandatory if you want things to go as smoothly as possible.
Now let's swing over to using a dog. I find that with a dog around, I suddenly view my animals differently. They become a unit; one mass that gets treated and worked in the exact same manner. I no longer have to know personalities of each one; don't need to know that Trigun likes to go before Jupiter. It's now the dog's job to get everyone where they're supposed to be in a calm and efficient manner, and I no longer have to worry about sweet-talking any of the hoofstock into behaving.
Without a dog, I view my herd like this: 11 goats, 15 sheep, 2 cows. The goat's names are Tamarack, Jupiter, Trigun, Summer, Lyric, Catherine, Rosemary, Shilling, and Sombrita, Ezekiel and then there's Sombrita's doeling (who doesn't have a name just yet). The cows are Ellie and Ruby Tuesday (I did not intentionally tack on that "Tuesday" part... It just - happened. *grin*) The sheep are Darcy, Brown Sheep, and then all the rest are numbered, save for the senior ewe who I randomly started calling Big Mama. Rosemary's the herd queen in the goat world, and tends to keep her distance from humans; Summer is last year's bottle brat who won't leave you alone. If you want Jupiter to move, tap her twice, right behind the shoulder blade and tell her to "head out". Sombrita will do anything for food. Shilling's shy and needs a lot of verbal as well as physical encouragement. Catherine's stubborn, but a fast learner.
With a dog, I now view my herd like this: 28 animals. All look healthy. The black and white spotted goat needs to be a bit more dog broke... Need to work on that this week. The dog and I moved them to a new paddock this morning and one goat tried to escape; got it back where it belongs though.
See the difference? We suddenly went from names and temperaments to impersonal terms of "it", "they", and "them", and viewing them as one single group.
Without a dog, I am completely dependent on using my own physical strength, my wits (what little I have.), and using the bridge of trust between me and my stock to get things accomplished. I find I have to keep my numbers small with this method, since I can't possibly give enough attention to each animal in a large setup to keep things running smoothly. It's exhausting.
With a dog, I now rely on him/her to help me get things done. If a cow/heifer decides it doesn't want me to lead it, then all I have to do is call the dog around and if necessary, have him give the cow a quick nip (usually the presence of a canine is enough to get a cow moving). Without the dog, I would have been attempting to lure the cow along with grain, which works only half the time. I can have larger numbers now, with a four-legged working partner around. Since I don't have to be paying so much attention to individuals, I can easily ramp up numbers to what the dog and I can physically handle. Yes, I've lost that personal feeling around the place, but I think that's okay... I want a working farm; not a petting zoo. In the end, I would rather have numbered animals, than named ones. It's easier for me, and these days I'm loving it that I can talk about the sheep by simply referring to their numbers (Out of the 13 new ones here, I get to keep #33 and #45!) rather than stressing about thinking up a name for them. It's already stressing me out that Sombrita's doeling doesn't have a name yet, and I have to think of something. My only exception would be the milk cow/s. Those ladies are allowed to have names of their own. :)
When all is said and done, I think I like my view on livestock when there is a dog around. I feel like it's much easier for me to focus on just one relationship with my dog, than trying to juggle a whole bunch with the hoofstock.
Which type of farm do you prefer? One with the personal relationships with all the animals? Or one that's more distanced and uses numbers instead of names?
When all is said and done, I think I like my view on livestock when there is a dog around. I feel like it's much easier for me to focus on just one relationship with my dog, than trying to juggle a whole bunch with the hoofstock.
Which type of farm do you prefer? One with the personal relationships with all the animals? Or one that's more distanced and uses numbers instead of names?
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Tuesday night was a crazy, crazy evening that left me laughing at the end of; there really wasn't much else to do except laugh at the circumstances. The start of it all was finding that Sombrita had kidded! I didn't think she had settled this year, but had a slight suspicion that maybe she had after all... Either way, I wasn't expecting to find a whopping 8 lb. doeling right then and there!
They're a funny pair, this girl and her dam... Sombrita is jet black, where as this little girl is gold in color just like her sire.They honestly don't look like they belong to each other. Sombrita is also a super mellow girl who doesn't spook at anything. This girl? Holy kohlrabi, she's a firecracker. Stubborn, pushy, opinionated, camera shy, and loud. (Squire, don't you dare say she takes after her caretaker!)
The pictures speak for themselves. She's a talker. And a drama queen. ;)
She should be fun to have around.
She should be fun to have around.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
When life gets crazy, confusing, stressful, or I need some time to think a problem through, there's always one place that I go, and that is the neighbor's property. The 98 acres, as we've called it for the last 6.5 years. That wild patch of land has become my haven and my world. A small world, perhaps, but mine nevertheless. I'm the type of person who needs small. And simple. And quiet.
It's often a daily occurrence to head up to the 98 acres these days... I whistle for Gyp and the two of us head out. Most days we go up to run and burn energy, but then other days we'll just go to seek solitude.
Yesterday, while walking through familiar paths and forests, I decided that I wanted share my world with y'all. :)
Walking up the first big hill is a good warm up for anyone, and it's the same hill that I sprinted yesterday while catching sheep. Gyp loves this hill, but I prefer what comes directly after it...
A small oak glen. Shaded. Sheltered. The grasses growing along the path are up to my shoulders. Gyp follows in my wake where I've stomped the grass down.
|The oak glen|
When you leave the glen, you find yourself in what I call the "sheep field". No, there aren't actually any sheep here. Yet. But there's a sheep barn in this field (hiding beneath blackberries), and there used to be sheep here some 60 years ago. So with that history in mind, I call this area the "sheep field". (and for the record, my sheep are down in the "front field" which is called that because it's in "front" of our house. Hehe.)
I love the sheep field. It's my favorite spot on the whole parcel. Gyp and I have a spot on this hill top where we like to sit and watch the world go by. The view is also great, and I've watched more than one sunset from this perch.
|The sheep field.|
|Right hand view from the sheep field!|
The left hand view (pic below) is my favorite; I love those hills! As far as the eye can see, you've got hills.
|Left hand view!|
Continuing past the sheep field, you soon come to what is simply called the forest. It's an old growth forest, and some of the trees are impressive in size. It's a dark, shaded area, and it can often times be unnervingly quiet. The forest is an area that I appreciate for its lack of noise. I whisper things to Gyp, and that's enough. There's no need to say anything louder. I tread lightly so as not to make a sound with my boots. It's like walking into an old, abandoned church; it seems to have been forgotten by all, but the feeling of stillness and hushed reverence still remains, though it may only be a fleeting memory.
The welcome into the forest changes with the seasons; back in April and May the front of the forest was screaming with yellow scotch broom and the sight made me smile. It looked so cheery. :) Now that we're in June/July, the scotch broom as been replaced by daisies. Lots of daisies... I can't stand their smell, but I adore their cheerful look that is so similar to a sunflower.
|Front of the forest with daisies to welcome you!|
Over the years, the deer have worn down a path in the clay soil, making for a way to walk through the forest in complete silence. Well, until autumn that is, and then there's no such thing as silence what with all those oak leaves... Hehe.
Getting deeper into the forest, things get darker, quieter, greener, and older. It feels like something out of Tolkien's books; you half expect an Ent to slowly wake up as you walk past.
The deer trail eventually dies off; it can't compete with the shade loving plants that tenaciously grow everywhere. Without the trail, you simply follow the path created by a lack of trees.
If you walk far enough then you'll eventually come to the Christmas tree field (well, that's what it started out as, many years ago. Now the trees are huge), and that's where I turn around and tell Gyp "Home". With that one word he whips around and starts running back the way we came. Most of the time I run with him, but yesterday I decided to take my time.
Coming out of the forest is always a slight shock. There's suddenly noise, light, and movement. It's like coming out of a time warp. The view from outside the forest is nice too though. :) Especially during a good sunset.
|View from outside the forest|
From the moment you leave the forest, it's all downhill to home and it's a blast to run. Gyp usually ends up tripping over his feet and then skids to a tumbled heap during this part of the run. I always laugh at him.
|Another view from the sheep field|
This last pic is of the downhill stretch to home, and it's what I was running up and down through yesterday.
I haven't shown y'all ALL of the 98 acres, as I didn't have time to get it all, but this would be my favorite haunt through it. There's still the marshes, the cow barn, the far field, the field leading to the spring... It's a big piece of land.
But this is my world. It's big enough for me. Big enough for me and my dog...
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
You know those bad dreams where you feel like you're trying to run towards something, but you're stuck in mud? And no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to get anywhere? Well, if you've ever wanted to experience that feeling in real life, then I would recommend running after 13 escaped sheep through vetch/cleaver infested fields. It's uncannily like those bad dreams...
Yes, you guessed it. That's how my morning went. This was supposed to be easy. The sheep knew the routine in moving to a new paddock, but #70 has been a twerp lately and little rebel that she is, she bolted past me and all the others followed! Sigh... Where's my trained sheepdog when I need him? Oh right, he's still a puppy who would probably only chase them into the deep forest right about now. Seems I'm on my own. So up the hill I went running! I got half of them down and in the paddock, then ran back up the hill for the other half. Right before I got the second half in the paddock, the first half bolted through my small opening, and guess where they went. Back up the hill. -_-
The second half joined them, and I was now back at the bottom of the hill, watching thirteen sheep bottoms getting farther and farther from me.
I sprinted after them, praying out loud and asking God to pleeeeeeze don't let them go into the forest!
I was rather outnumbered right then and there, and those sheep had four wheel drive on 'em, which really left me at a disadvantage. The only thing I had going for me was that I knew a few deer trails at the top of the hill which allowed me to keep an even pace with the sheep on our way down.
If I hadn't been so paranoid about getting the sheep back in their paddock, I think I would have enjoyed myself with all that running. Gyp and I took last week off of running and I've missed it. Granted, running through the vetch and cleaver plants was a bear of a problem, and I accidentally crashed right through a blackberry plant that was hiding amidst the tall grasses, which has left me some pretty scratches up and down my arms. Honorable war wounds, those are.
I finally managed to get half of them in the paddock by distracting them with grain, but then the second group took a new tack and headed East, towards the creek. I sighed in frustration, and then grinned at the challenge; they were in familiar territory now where I knew all the deer trails. For the first time, I was the faster opponent. It didn't take long enough before I had them up against a fence line and was able to funnel them ALL into the paddock. I closed the fence line up with the speed and ferocity usually only seen from competitors in sheep dog trials. It had taken me an hour and a half of running up and down to get those sheep where they belonged!!
When I finished with the sheep at last, I took a moment to pull out all the bramble thorns that were still embedded in my arms. I hadn't even noticed the pain while I was running, but I was sure feeling it now. Darn that blackberry plant... Did it really have to be RIGHT there??? Oh well. More than anything, I wanted to crash on the couch inside with a book and not think for awhile, but instead I had to package up some microgreens that I had harvested earlier. While weighing out sugar pea shoots and putting them in plastic clamshells, I flicked some music on and was generous with the volume. My favorite artist, Jai McDowall, just released one of his newest songs and I've been pleased to find that it's every bit as good as his others he's done. :) The catchy tune to Got To Let Go made the time fly with the packaging, and I finished shortly.
Now that I seem to have done everything that needs to be done right now, I think I'm going to go crash on that couch like I wanted... Just twenty minutes with the book, and then I'll get back to work.
Cross my heart. ;)
Saturday, June 15, 2013
It has come to my attention that I need to resurface over here and do some writing! Yes, I disappeared for the week; I'm sorry. It's been a crazy, crummy spell for the most part, with yesterday being the first good day that will hopefully be a forecast for the new week.
It all started with Ellie.
Last Saturday morning I noticed that she didn't want to eat her food and seemed rather sluggish. At first I wrote it off as a mix of her being a picky eater, and the stress of being moved across to the road with the sheep. I checked her vitals and she was fine, checked her for mastitis and got a negative there, she had no symptoms of milk fever... She seemed off, but I could find no reason for her to be off. Sunday morning rolled around and she was worse; didn't want to get up (although she would with much coaxing), and didn't want to eat her grass or hay. And worst of all, her milk production plummeted. She was doing a pretty good 3.5 to 4 gallons a day for me, but by Sunday she only gave 1 gallon. A wise cow owner on my favorite discussion board asked if I had tested her for ketosis yet and I had a face palm moment. Duh, why didn't I think of ketosis sooner!?!? Her symptoms fit perfectly!!
I ran a quick test on her and sure enough, we were looking at a moderate case of that annoying problem. Sigh, this was looking like a long week ahead of me... The main thing to deal with when a cow has ketosis is to keep their energy levels, up, up, up! So every three hours (during the day) I would go outside and dose my poor cow with a cup of blackstrap molasses. And for the record, my cow abhors molasses. I also started dosing her with some leftover cal/mag boluses that were left over from Mattie, made sure that she had enough copper by giving her a scant teaspoon of copper sulfate (only did this once! Any more and it would have been an overdose.), and saw to it that she had a high-fiber hay in front of her at all times.
It was slow, slow going. She wouldn't eat anything. Milk production kept dropping, and meanwhile I still had herdshare members wanting their weekly milk. I was so frustrated that I couldn't get Ellie's ketone levels normal that I alternated between crying and fuming while milking her. "Eat, for Pete's sake, you darn cow!!!"
To make matters worse, I was physically exhausted all week. I had the "brilliant" (note heavy sarcasm behind that word) idea to go ahead and start a detox regimen on Tuesday and it took me down and out. Completely. So while dealing with Ellie every three hours, I was also fighting feelings of tiredness, light-headedness, dizzyness, and quite frankly, I was cranky.
Thursday night was my breaking point. The cow ate nothing, I got less than a 1/2 gallon from her, and I was so sick of dealing with all this that I was doubting my decision to even buy her. I knew from the start that I faced the possibility of her getting ketosis since she is so underweight, but I had hoped that maybe we'd get lucky enough to miss it.
Friday morning dawned and as I prepared for morning milking, I came to a decision: It was time to stop being negative about this. Being grumpy isn't going to make the situation better. So instead of moaning about how little I got from now on, I would instead be happy that I got milk at all and that she hadn't dried up on me yet. I got a scant 1/2 gallon from her that morning and smiled. Thank you Ellie for at least giving me this... Ellie also surprised me that morning by eating 2 lbs. of her grain, and polishing off 4 flakes of hay. This was a good sign! After all my hard work this week, was she finally getting getting over this ketosis hump?
I had barely finished barn chores when a friend arrived; she and I were headed down to a grass-based dairy that had heifer calves for sale, and we were each planning on bringing home a new girl. After this rough week with Ellie (and even the problems with Mattie), I have decided that I do not want to have Jersey cows in the long run. This breed is too fragile for my liking; I need something hardier. The dairy we were going to had primarily Dutch Belteds, but they also kept crosses such as DB/Jerseys, DB/Shorthorns, and DB/Normandes. I was hoping to come home with a DB/Normande cross, as that sounds like the most amazing dairy animal ever. This particular dairy is interesting since they feed NO grain whatsoever, and they only feed hay in the winter time when there is no more grass. Their cows are sleek coated, chunky, and milking 4 gallons a day on average. And what's even more surprising is that their pasture is simply a perennial polyculture. I half expected to find that all their pastures were seeded with high-protein annuals, but nope! Their cows were on the same kind of pasture that I have here!
Picking out just ONE calf was incredibly hard. I had toyed with the idea of getting 3 or 4 more calves in July if I liked how they looked, and it didn't take long at all for me to set that idea in stone. I want more of these cows. They were all stocky and chubby looking, yet still dairy in form and quite feminine. They were on a simple diet and yet they were gaining as if they were on a hot corn/soy feed. Talk about feed efficient...
I went back and forth between pens of calves... Looking each one over, comparing them with each other, telling my friend to just pick one out for me because I couldn't make up my mind (hehe), and talking with the owner of the farm about his cows and calves. After thirty minutes I had whittled my choices down to three: One was a chunky, large framed, 7 week old, 89% Dutch Belted; if you wanted 100% grassfed, this looked like your girl to get. She was the classic "Oreo cookie" cow with her black body and white belt around her middle. She was fairly friendly too.
My second choice was a 6 week old, Dutch Belted/Milking Shorthorn cross. She was red in color with a light brindling on her face and a white patch on her side. She was a stout little girl too, and had a nice looking udder, although I thought it looked a little meaty to me...
My third choice was the calf that had caught my attention right off the bat, and who I kept coming back to over and over again. She was another Dutch Belted/Milking Shorthorn cross (3/4 DB, 1/4 MS), but was a mere 4 weeks old. She had a white body with a red hood over her head and shoulders, plus a red patch on her rump, and then four adorable red socks on her feet. She was the most dairy looking calf in the entire barn. Perhaps not the chunk that all the other calves were, but she still had substance. The owner pointed her dam out to me and said that while this girl is going to be every bit as hardy and grass fed as the others, she would have more production than the others.
She was a pretty little thing... And for a good while I kept telling myself not to get her, because I felt that her looks were swaying my decision too much. Beauty is as beauty does! But I kept going back to her... She was so pretty, and dairy, yet still hardy looking. That Dutch Belted kept catching my eye too though. She looked like the kind of animal that could go through any sort of difficulty and not lose condition.
In the end, I went with the gorgeous DB/Shorthorn cross girl that I liked from the start. I knew I'd be coming back for more calves in a few weeks; I'd get my stout, unkillable girls then. I looked at the DB/Normande cross heifers too, but those girls were 12 weeks old and alas, out of my budget right then and there. But they were exactly what I could have wanted in such a cross. I really hope they're still there next time I go.
When we got my new girl home, I put her in the pen with Ellie and groaned as I watched her make a beeline for Ellie's udder. She nursed that cow dry. My cow had no idea whether to be pleased or annoyed at this invader's audacity. Hmm, change of plans; okay little heifer, you can be in a little pen by yourself for now! I sighed a the realization that I would probably have no milk tonight; I needed every bit possible these days for herdshare members, and now saw myself having to make phone calls to explain that my calf just took their milk. Great.
My friend had brought me some new grain to try giving Ellie, in hopes that it would entice her to eat. So after getting my heifer settled, I brought Ellie into the parlor and skeptically gave her 3 lbs. of grain. After almost a week of barely eating, I wasn't expecting anything grand from her now.
Turns out I was in for the surprise of my life. She inhaled that grain. Ate it like there was no tomorrow. She polished her bucket, licked the dust, and searched for more. I fairly floated as I led her back to the pasture. I thought about not milking her that night, seeing as the calf had just taken it all, but I figured I might as well do it; maybe I'd get a quart at least. When I hooked her up that night, I was dumbfounded to find that she gave a GALLON of milk! Holy kohlrabi, she hadn't given that much in one sitting for days!! She at 5 lbs. of grain during her evening milking, too.
This morning I found Ellie perkier than I've ever seen her. She trotted her way to the parlor by herself, leaving me in the dust behind her. She at another 5 lbs. of grain, and searched for more when she was done; I could barely get her out of the parlor, she was so intent on finding every last bit of grain! She gave a respectable 3/4's of a gallon this morning, which I am pleased with. It shows that she's finally increasing in production, instead of decreasing. I also ran another ketone test on her and was delighted to see that we're back at normal levels!!!! Yippee!! The crisis has been averted and it looks like we're back on track!
So now it's Saturday. It's been a crazy, crummy week that only just now got better since my cow is over her ketosis hump, and I have a pretty little heifer calf in my barn. :) I'm still thinking of a name for her, but I'm kinda' leaning towards calling her Ruby. But we'll see; I still have the names Willow and June still competing.
These cows drive me crazy... I love it.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Do y'all remember that little video I posted awhile back about the artisan butcher shop that's opening in my neck of the woods? Well, if you don't (or if you do, and want to see the video again), you can click HERE and time warp your way back real quick to see it.
Now, why am I asking you if you remember it?
*Cough, cough* As of this morning, guess who is now a supplier for that shop?
Yep, yours truly! Starting in July (hopefully; if not then, then August!), Goat Song Farm will begin supplying MEAT with pastured pork and pastured broilers!!! The broilers will be seasonal, but the pork will hopefully be year around. One nice thing about Oregon is that since we don't get snow here, or super cold temps (this year's coldest day was I think around 23 degrees?), we can pretty much just keep trucking along with the larger livestock outdoors. The owners of MEAT have also asked if I would be interested in supplying lamb, goat, or even duck, and while I like the idea of supplying lamb (very muchly so!), I'm not sure about the other two suggestions. I'd have to think about it, and do some math.
Kyle and Amanda (owners of MEAT) came out to my stomping grounds today and we talked about my favorite subjects: animals, farming, and meat. We discussed heritage breeds, pricing, monthly numbers of animals, and all sorts of different topics while Gyp mischievously tugged and chewed at the end of his lead at my feet; looking more like some furry delinquent than a trusty farmhand. When our visit was over, we shook hands on the deal and verbally agreed on one thing: I'm in. GSF is experiencing a growth spurt, and I am beyond excited about this. The numbers are very doable, and I'll be able to slowly ease my way into it all. The hogs will be used to begin combating the ridiculously numerous blackberry stands, using Joel Salatin's methods for pastured pork. The broilers will follow along behind the ruminants in their traditional chicken tractors. The lamb may have to wait until next year... We'll see.
So that's my big piece of news for today. :) Growth spurts are a good thing. And something tells me I'm going to have a lot of stories to tell as Summer begins.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Friday, June 7, 2013
I had a dilemma: the grass in the 98 acres was getting taller and taller, and Ellie couldn't handle it all by herself. I wanted most of the front pasture to get grazed down soon so that it would begin growing again before the summer slump came. Then a FB friend offered a solution: she had thirteen sheep that needed some pasture; she even sweetened the deal by saying she'd bring all the fencing materials and I could keep two ewe lambs for my troubles.
Now really, how on earth could one possibly say 'no' to such a slick offer?? I don't see how one could, so therefore I said 'yes'. We struck a deal on when to bring my summer flock and today was that day.
The sheep have landed. Thirteen of 'em. The gang's all here, folks.
So without further ado... Here are the new faces here at GSF.
I'm rather pleased with them. :)
Learning from Polyface has just gone up a notch. He's now offering DVD's specific to every aspect of their farm!!! If you can't go to Polyface personally, I think this is probably the best substitute. I was so ridiculously excited to see their first DVD is about raising hogs!!! It's exactly what I've been wishing I could find! So yep, I bought it today. So, so excited to get it!
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
I was locking the barn up this evening, feeling tired, stressed, and not thinking of anything in particular other than the fact that I felt tired and stressed.
And then out of nowhere, one little thought settled itself on my shoulders: I missed having a pair of goats. I missed the peacefulness about having a friendly pair. I have ten goats in my barn right now. If you fondle one, then all the rest feel that they must be fondled too, then they start shoving each other so as to get closest to the hand that's doling out the scratches. Shoving turns into head butting, head butting turns into down-and-out fights complete with dramatic yells. Meanwhile I'm getting shoved around and squished by so many bodies circling me like sharks. In the end, that's really what it feels like whenever I go in with the goats these days: I feel like a diver surrounded by sharks. And I have no cage to keep a boundary between me and them like some divers have. I don't give my goats personal attention these days. Come to think of it, I haven't treated them as individuals for over a year now. I look at them as a unit, a single group of stock. There is nothing personal about this situation. It's hard to be personal with a school of sharks. I don't like this fact; don't like that I've drifted like this, and perhaps it's why I've come to enjoy the cows so much. State law says I can only have two cows. That's an easy, personal number to keep track of. I used to only have two dairy goats, and loved it. Then I grew to three, and that was still pretty good. Now I'm at ten and feeling like I missed the last step on the staircase. I'm just sitting in a confused heap wondering what on earth just happened and what's going on now.
I think I've had this niggling thought sitting at the back of my mind for awhile now, but it's taken me this long to figure it out and put it into words. I can do large, impersonal numbers with poultry, with sheep, with hogs... I still really like all those animals, but you don't have near the connection that you have with a dairy animal. With the dairy animals, I need small, small, small numbers. Otherwise I have to distance them just like I have with the goats and they become a unit of milk producing creatures, rather than a group of individuals that I know the quirks and perks of. It's same way with my friends. I can really only handle having a few close friends, otherwise I get overwhelmed and end up withdrawing and getting impersonal. I don't know why I do it, but I've always been that way.
Locking up the barn tonight, feeling tired and stressed, I missed my pair of goats. It used to be that when I felt this way I could sneak into the barn ever so quietly and just enjoy the quiet company of my pair until I felt the stress and fatigue melt away. I had two hands, just right for fondling two goats at the same time. The numbers were small enough that I could keep track of them, and it didn't feel like a deep sea exhibit at the aquarium, but instead something peaceful.
For a long, long time, goats were special creatures to me. I want to go back to that.
I think I will.
With just a pair someday... Just a pair. Not to milk, not to breed, not for meat; just as pets and farm mascots. When all ten of these Nubians are gone, I will look for just a pair.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I despair of ever selling my goats.
I'm down to four left: Trigun, Summer, Lyric, and Tamarack. I sold Jupiter last week but she won't actually leave the property until July.
There's a glut of goats on Craigslist right now. Everyone in my area is selling, but very few people are buying. And even fewer people are buying goats that are priced $200 to $400 like mine. :-/ Doesn't help that neither Trigun or Summer are milking, so buyers are pretty quick to pass them by for the poor quality, horned goats that are already in milk (a grand 1/2 gallon a day; woopdeedoo) and only $100 on CL.
I've posted my herd for sale again and again. I've offered to trade them dozens of times, I've dealt with flakes and people who somehow got the idea that all the goats were milking (despite the fact that I clearly said they weren't). It's been two months and still nothing... The goats sit in the barn almost the whole day, eating hay and wasting even more. Expensive hay. Even if Trigun and Summer were milking, I would still be every bit as anxious to get them sold. I have no room in the fridge for goat milk, so it's all going straight to the chickens. That, and I'm still milking with only my right hand, since the left one goes kaput when I try using it; so if they were milking, I would be forced to dry them up since I can't handle handmilking right now.
Now comes the killer part: There are so many excellent cows for sale on Craigslist right now that I almost want to cry; knowing that I can do nothing except sit on my hands and watch them pass until the goats sell. There was a Jersey/Brown Swiss cross, a Jersey/Hereford cross, a Jersey/Guernsey cross, a Jersey/White Park cross (I love Jersey crosses!), three Dutch Belteds, a Guernsey/Holstein cross, three purebred Jerseys, a Swedish Red, and two Milking Shorthorns.
If the goats would only sell then I could have my pick of any of those cows!! I've contacted the sellers of almost all those cows, asking if they would be interested in trading their cow for my goats... I always get the same response: A snort of amusement that I would think that they would even WANT goats, and then a polite refusal. They're moving so they can't have goats, or they just got a divorce so they're trying to thin their numbers, or they're trying to cut back before summer comes and the pasture dies back, or they don't have the fencing to keep goats in... I've come to expect a refusal every time, but I still try. If you don't ask, then the answer will always be "No". So therefore I still try. Someone somewhere in this huge world, has GOT to want four goats, right!?
Going out to the barn now has become something of a painful experience. I look at those four goats and wonder if I'm going to be stuck with the hay burners forever. If I'm going to have hay burners then I'd like it to be a pair of caramel colored Pygmy's; not four whopping Nubians who seemingly have hollow legs. But meanwhile I have to keep shelling out money to buy hay for goats that I don't even want here. And it hurts.
But it seems that there's not much I can do about the situation... I can't order a buyer from a catalog and pay 3-day shipping to get them here. I can only wait, hope, complain a little bit *wink*, and give a long sigh as I throw hay into the manger.
Gosh those were nice cows on Craigslist...
Monday, June 3, 2013
A couple weeks ago I mentioned the "paleo diet" in one of my blog posts, saying I wouldn't mind trying it. Well, I took the plunge and decided to go ahead and see how I liked it.
Verdict, as of two weeks later? I. LOVE. IT.
Now, first off I'll state here that I can't be a purist at this time, since I do still live with my family and they're not for this type of diet; so I've once or twice had to break rules when dinner was pasta, or something along that line. BUT, other than that, I've completely taken out all processed foods, sugar, caffeine, grains, and legumes; and meanwhile I've doubled my meat/protein intake. Some folks say that the true paleo diet should exclude dairy, and I think I agree with that idea if you don't have access to RAW milk. But if you've got raw milk handy, then I think a body should definitely have dairy and have a lot of it. :)
Biggest difference I've noticed since changing things up? Energy levels. I feel like the Energizer Bunny these days. Hehe. Gyp and I are doing an easy four miles a day now, on top of my barn chores and afternoon workouts, and I'm thinking about bumping it up to five miles a day. I feel awesome and that's something I haven't felt like in a long, long time. For years I've always been short on energy. I'd get tired quickly, despite the fact that I wasn't working that hard, wasn't running even a half mile a day, and was sleeping from 10:30pm to 8am. Nowadays I'm often awake by 5:30am and I'm going, going, going all day long.
Next biggest thing I've noticed is headaches. Or rather the lack of them. Headaches have been the bane of my existence and pretty much a daily thing. Not enough sleep? Headache. Not enough protein? Headache. Tried going for a run or tried working out for fifteen minutes? Killer headache. Couple hours in town? Headache. You getting the idea here? After years of the daily headaches, I got to the point where I automatically knew how many ibuprofen pills it would take to knock the pain out. If I felt a niggling one starting and I didn't want to deal with it, then I popped two pills. If I failed to catch it in time and I had a rousing good one, then I took three. A headache bad enough to make me feel sick called for four tablets. Four tablets is the same amount I would take to numb the pain of broken bones back when I was in a horse accident. It's a strong, strong dose.
I wondered how much ibuprofen I was going to have to take when I switched my diet and started running and working out like a madwoman. I dreaded what I figured I had coming to me, but did it anyway for the sake of my pup who needed (and still needs) to run every day.
And interesting thing happened though... The headache never came.
I'm on day 15 now and haven't had ONE SINGLE HEADACHE. Whoohoo!!! Increasing my protein intake probably had a big impact on that matter, but I think the main key was getting rid of all those "extras" like grain, legumes, sugar, tea, and refined foods. Granted, it's been hard to say 'no' to my beloved black currant tea, and to have yogurt or scrambled eggs for breakfast instead of Kellog's Honeycombs cereal. I've been surprised to find that I don't miss bread at all though... Haven't missed carbs in the least.
I do think there's balance to any diet though. In this household, we go by the rule of "everything in moderation". So I may still allow a little bit of legumes or grain in my diet every now and again; knowing that those things DO still have good stuff in them. But it'll be very sparingly, nevertheless.
I'm certainly not saying that the paleo diet is for everyone; we're all unique and what works for one person sure won't work for another.
But I do know one thing: It's working for me and I'm loving it. Goodbye ibuprofen; I don't think I'll miss you.