"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Beef Abundance (Simple is Good)



Summer is drawing to a close - not that you'd know it by the weather. Today, September first, it was 85 degrees and sunny. This is something like our fiftieth day without measurable rain. The forecast continues dry and hot as far as the weather-people can see into the future.

But the calendar is implacable. School starts this Tuesday, no matter the forecast. It's time and past time to get the kids new school shoes and jackets; to mow the last scraggly weeds; to shake off summer's languor and impose something like a schedule again. 

It's also time, more pleasantly, to eat up the meat in the freezer. Last week Mr. B., my neighbor, asked us if we'd be wanting to buy a side of beef this year again, and I said we sure would. Last fall, due to a silly series of miscommunications, we ended up buying a ridiculous quantity of beef - three quarters of a big fat steer, much more than we needed. Quite a bit of it is still in the freezer and needs to be devoured ASAP to make room. 

Today I thawed a package of rib steaks. A favorite cut of mine, they are heavily marbled and carry a thick rim of fat around the edges. If you aren't used to grass fed beef, you might be thinking "yuck, fat." I assure you that the succulent, yellow, flavorful fat of a grass fed and grass finished beeve is nothing like the pale rubbery fat on a factory farmed animal. 

These steaks don't need much. After thawing, I liberally sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and laid them on a big cast iron griddle slicked with quality olive oil and got out of the way. Flip after six or seven minutes and give the other side a sear. My husband likes his steaks medium well and I like mine medium rare, so I take mine off a few minutes early and let it rest while his continues to cook. 

As an accompaniment I boiled a half dozen yellow potatoes, and smashed them with a couple tablespoons of butter, a teaspoon of whole grain mustard, a spoonful of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and a generous amount of minced parsley. A cold beer after a hot day's work rounds out the meal. 


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Preserving Log, 8/29/17


I haven't done as much preserving as I had hoped lately. This late summer season has been incredibly busy - partly for good reasons (family vacations to see once-in-a-lifetime celestial events), and partly for really sucky reasons (my dad has been extremely ill and I've flown to Arizona twice). Plus, this year Hope is entering high school and there are all sorts of orientations and meet-and-greets to attend.

All this means I haven't had time to get to the Gleaner's Pantry as much as I usually do, and therefore haven't had loads and loads of produce to can, totally aside from the question of time. However, I've done a bit here and there. Last week I made four cups of fig jam, and today I've canned three quarts of salsa.


Updated list:

1 Gallon dried apricots
3 gallons kosher dill pickles
1 gallon pickled green beans (lacto-fermented)
9 quarts apple-blackberry sauce
3 pints pickled beets
6 pints blackberry jam
4 cups rosemary-fig jam
3 quarts salsa ranchera

Cheesemaking doesn't count as preserving because we have to eat it fresh, but I've made some chèvre recently too. And soon we will be into apple season and I am planning to press a lot of cider. A new friend of mine lives nearby and has about twenty apple trees - enough that it makes sense to being the press to the apples rather than the apples to the press. We are going to make a day of it. And I think I will brew hard cider again this year, and that definitely counts as preserving.








Saturday, August 26, 2017

Vampire Goats



When we got home from our trip to Oregon to see the eclipse (WOW amazing sight and a great family vacation), I noticed that one of our mama goats, Polly, had become skeletally thin. She has always been a slender goat. Some
goats are naturally thin, some are naturally plump, just like
people. However, Polly's condition was in no way normal - her bones were sharp and visible from a distance. 

There are many factors that contribute to weight loss on goats. One of the main ones - insufficient feed- is not an issue at my place because I have three acres of fenced pasture for three does to feed in, more than enough. Probably the most important factor after availabalility of feed is parasite load. 

Goats are particularly prone to parasites. They are a problem in every area of the country. There are a plethora of parasites - stomach worms, lung worms, coccidia. For the most part, parasites will not kill an otherwise healthy goat, but they will seriously depress her ability to produce healthy kids, abundant milk, and keep her own health intact. https://www.famu.edu/cesta/main/assets/File/coop_extension/herds/Practical_Management_Internal_Parasites_in_Goats1_7-23-2007.pdf

I use ivermectin to control parasites, but over the years I think my herd has built up some resistance, because this year ivermectin is not showing much effectiveness. In particular, my best doe, Polly, has lost a tremendous amount of weight while raising her twins. 

The caloric cost of nursing twins is, of course, very high, but a healthy doe with unlimited forage ought to be able to do it without losing condition. Polly has been losing weight, and when we got back from our five day trip to see the eclipse (AWESOME!!) she had suddenly become emaciated. 

I worked her again, with Ivermectin as usual and also with Quess, a different wormer which has a different mode of action. Hopefully that will have an effect, but in the meantime I needed to get those kids off of her. They have been sucking her dry. 

We have three kids left - Polly's twins and a single doe from Christmas. They are all of an age to have been weaned a month ago, at least, but I am softhearted and didn't want to separate them from their  mamas. Well, Polly's condition forced my hand. Two nights ago, I put all the babies into the sacrifice area. Such wailing! Such gnashing of teeth! Anyone would think they were being peeled alive. But no- they are just being weaned.

All three babies are seriously overweight. Obese even. They have "milk glitters" on their throats- signs that they are being over fed. And meanwhile their poor mamas are staggering around at the end of their endurance. I should have separated them a month ago. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Preserving Log Update



Surely one of the very best smells in the world is that of a bubbling vat of apples, enriched with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and sugar. Doesn't hurt to throw in a quart or so of freshly picked blackberries, either. 

Yesterday I went to a neighbor's house - a person who is becoming a very good friend - and took home two shopping bags full of transparent apples. If you, like my daughter, thinks a transparent apple is an apple you can see through, read and learn. Transparents are yellow apples that ripen early. They are specifically sauce apples, being good for not much else. They are too mushy to eat fresh, and too mushy to juice. But they make wonderful sauce. 

I had invited myself over to pick apples after noticing, as I was driving by, a transparent tree that was dropping it's apples already. I asked if I could come collect some and she said "Please!" Once there, i realized that she actually has a serious apple orchard - about twenty trees of many varieties, and most of them are positively loaded with (as yet unripe) apples. I suggested that I ought to lug over my apple press later in the season and we should devote a day to cidering. That idea was met with enthusiasm. 

Today was given over to making applesauce. Good thing I was recently gifted so many canning jars, or would have had to go buy a dozen quarts. A dozen quarts is what I ended up with - though I actually canned only nine of them, because that's as many as fits in my largest kettle. The other three are in the refrigerator. One will go back to my neighbor as thanks, and the other two we will eat quickly. 

I've made some jam recently too. So the preserving log update is as follows:

9 quarts apple-blackberry sauce
6 pints blackberry jam
1 gallon dried apricots



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Decisions, Decisions





My youngest child, Paloma, says she doesn't like blackberries. Sadly, i see no option but to disown her. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Berries and Smoke



The first blackberries are ripe. I picked enough for a pie today, while I was grazing the goats, though I didn't make the pie. Tomorrow maybe. More likely I'll just whizz them up in the blender with some yogurt and call it breakfast. There's going to be a bumper crop, and if I can get my children to pick enough, I plan to make jam. Haven't made any jam in a few years, and blackberry jam is the best jam. School is starting soon, and we will need sandwiches. Peanut butter sandwiches are exponentially better when they have homemade blackberry jam on them. 

I was picking berries in a haze today. I refer not to my state of mind, but to the smoky air that has drifted in from big wildfires in B.C., across the border. Fires have been raging for weeks, and great swaths of the province have been evacuated. It seems that every summer brings more and larger forest fires than the year before. Two years ago (or was it three?) my mother lost her vacation home in the huge fires that raced across the Okanagon. The fires in B.C. this year are not yet as large or destructive as last year's. And right now there is even a fire burning in the moist hills around Bellingham, where fires have historically been rare. My sister's house is only a few miles from the edge of that fire. 

Myself, I've been freaked out about climate change for longer than anyone I know who isn't actually a climatologist. Maybe Al Gore. Ten years ago, my friends were raising their eyebrows at me and shaking their heads when I regaled them with information about rising seas and failing crops. It's no comfort to me that the general population seems to finally be catching up to me in their level of concern. I worry that it's pretty much too late. This is a case where "better late than never" doesn't really apply. 

Of all the many and varied consequences of climate change, I think the one likely to have the greatest impact in my lifetime and that if my children is the burning of the great northern forests. The past fifteen years or so, there has been a tremendous increase in not just the area of forest fires, but in their heat and destructiveness. 

Many species of trees, of course, evolved in concert with periodic fires, and some can only propagate after a fire. Not googling at this time of night, but some species of evergreens have cones that only open enough to release seeds after a fire. Recent fires, however, fueled by drought and higher temperatures, have been much hotter than those with which the trees evolved; hot enough to totally destroy trees that used to survive a scorching. Around the globe, vast areas of forest are being burned in ragged patches. It's my belief that the next fifty or so years will see the great global belts of taiga literally go up in smoke. 

Now I've thoroughly depressed myself. I can only comfort myself with the thought that from the ashes will certainly spring a host of blackberry vines. Out of the eater comes forth sweetness. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Preserving Journal



High Summer is upon us. Although I have yet to change the altar - it's still dressed with the kids' report cards and end-of-school paraphernalia - the preserving season has begun, and cannot be ignored.

This year, I've decided to try and keep an accurate record of all the preserving I do. So far, I had only posted one entry, and that consisted of:

Four quarts salsa ranchera
four pints pickled jalapeños
three pints pickled beets (all from a single beet bigger than baby's head)


Today I can add:

four MORE quarts salsa ranchera
three gallons kosher dills

for a running total of eight quarts salsa; 4 pints jalapeños; three pints beets; and three gallons dill pickles.

This is not counting cheese, since I still haven't figured out how to "preserve" cheese for longer than a few weeks. We either eat it fresh, or it molds.

Pickles make me happy. I love real lacto-fermentation, and I love real kosher dills. Last year, I made a ridiculous quantity of pickles; far more than we could eat, but luckily I found a neighbor who owns a dairy and cheesemaking operation who traded me pickles for cheese. Cheese that can, unlike my own, be stored and aged. Hopefully she is still interested in pickles this year, because three gallons of pickles is a lot.



Thursday, July 6, 2017

The End of an Equine Era



It's been a hard week on the farm for animals. Aside from Haku's accident on the highway (not fatal, thank God), we have had to put down two other animals. My daughter's pet ferret, Commodore, who was seven years old and full of tumors, and Rosie Pony.



Rosie Pony was a shetland pony that I rescued nine years ago. On a whim, I stopped in at a neighbor's farm who had a sign outside saying "horse sale TODAY." She is a breeder of fancy Arabians, and I wanted to see some pretty fancy Arabians, just for fun, so I stopped. And there were plenty of beautiful, fancy Arabians. And in amongst them, this dumpy little grey pony, wth twin yearling foals at her side. When I asked about her, I was told that she was "from a big free-running herd in eastern washington" and that they didn't have much information about her, but that she was going to the auction (read: dog food factory) if nobody wanted her today. 

So, I took her home for fifty bucks. Nobody told me, because I assume nobody knew, that she was pregnant. Months later she gave birth to a lovely chestnut filly, who we named Poppy. 



Whatever sort of equine Rosie had been crossed with, it wasn't a shetland pony. Poppy quickly grew to be larger than her dam. And kept growing. Eventually, she grew into a sturdy 12 1/2 hands. Rosie was an excellent mama. For years I tried to interest my children in riding. They showed a few fits and starts of interest, but neither of them showed the kind of sustained interest that would justify putting large amounts of money into professional training for Poppy. So eventually, a couple of years ago, I decided to give her away to a family who would invest the time and money into her her that we couldn't. It was very sad, but I don't doubt it was the right decision. The family I chose, after much deliberation, has three little girls of just the right ages to grow up with a pony, and a next door neighbor and family friend who is a horse trainer. They promised to let me visit Poppy sometimes.



After Poppy left the farm, Rosie went downhill. She still had companions in the form of goats and the heifer cow, but she never really bonded with any of them. In fact, the cow started to bully her by leaping on her as though she were breeding. Poor Rosie staggered under the cow's weight. She had a chronic eye condition, which was mild when I got her but which got worse and worse with every passing winter until she was constantly plagued by inflammation and pain. The vet said he didn't know what it was but thought it was incurable, and gave me steroid creams and antibacterial medicines. They helped a little, but overall, her eyes kept getting worse. 

Then, this past spring, she foundered on the new grass. She was clearly in some pain, walking stiffly and bobbling her head. And then in the past few weeks, she began to move around very little, and to stay lying down even on bright warm mornings. One day I went out to the barn for morning chores and found her lying on her side in the muck, and she wouldn't get up. 

I don't know how old Rosie is. The vet thought she was probably about sixteen or eighteen when I brought her home, which would mean she would be twenty-five to twenty-seven this year. Not crazy old for a shetland pony, but well into retirement age. Considering the pain she was in, and after consulting with my farrier, who has cared for her the entire time we have had her, I decided to ask the vet to put her down. 

It was the right decision, but it makes me sad nonetheless. Not just for Rosie herself, but because I know I will never have a horse again - unless, perhaps, some yet unborn grandchild convinces her mom to get her a pony by saying "they can live on grandma's farm," in which case, I will totally take that child's part and completely override the reasonable objections of her mother.  

Our ponies were entirely impractical, but they were beautiful and affectionate and I loved them. Having a baby pony born on the farm fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, and was absolutely as lovely and unique an experience as I dreamed it would be. My girls will always have the memory of having a pony as a friend and a pet. I enjoyed them the entire time they were here, and I don't regret a single dollar spent on farriers, vets, alfalfa, or fencing! 





Friday, June 30, 2017

Coming of Age Custard Pie




I am forty-five years old. Incredibly, there has not been a death in my immediate family since my last living grandparent - Grandma Eva - died when I was about twenty, some twenty-five years ago. My other grandparents were either dead before I was born, or died when I was still very much a child.

As an adult, only a very few people I know have died, principally the mother of my stepfather. Grandma Joann was a lovely woman, who we saw on every holiday and who always remembered my children with presents or cards. The mother of my best friend died of ovarian cancer years ago, and I went to her memorial service.  That represents the sum total of my experience with human death, pretty much.

Never have I, until now, been an adult member of a community celebrating the death of one of its own. The church I belong to, Zion Lutheran, is a small rural church with a long history. I've written about Zion before. I joined in order to meet a deep, incohate need to be part of a congregation - to experience worship as more than a solitary activity - and in order to become more fully a part of the community I had moved into. That relationship has been everything I could have hoped, and more than I could have imagined when I first joined. It has been a deep pleasure, and a rather strange experience for a lifelong loner like me, to slowly become a fully instated, respectable member of a circle of peers. I am, believe it or not (few who knew me as a teenager would) a member of the church council. I sing in the (occasional) choir.

Zion's congregation is old, and small. There are perhaps thirty families who belong, and maybe thirty or forty individuals who show up for services every Sunday. Most of these folk are elderly. If I had to guess at a median age for people seated in the pews on an average Sunday, I'd say about seventy. Many of them were married at Zion a half-century hence, and christened there even longer ago. The grassy, sloping churchyard hosts a couple score of gravestones, many of which bear the names of the parents and grandparents of current members. In the basement, where we gather for coffee hour after service, there is a wall filled with photos going back to the year Zion was built, 1903. In those days, mass was spoken in Norwegian. There is a very real continuity, a living history, embodied in this tiny, local institution.

Last week, the oldest living member of Zion's congregation, H. R., died. She was in her nineties, and had been a member of Zion all her life. Her photo is one of the older ones on there basement wall. My children and I knew her as a neat, friendly, well-dressed, and tiny lady who still drove herself to church. We pressed her small hands when we passed the peace. She had beautiful snow-white hair and a sweet smile. She had deep, deep ties in our area. She will be missed. Her memorial is Saturday.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from another of the OG's of Zion, M. She is above - or behind - or superior to me on Zion's official phone tree, and she was calling me to ask me to bring a dessert to H.'s memorial service.

Of course I was planning to attend the service. But it would not have occurred to me to bring anything if I had not been called. I suppose I would have thought, if I thought anything at all, that H's family would be bringing "refreshments." At the very few memorial services I have attended, the food was just there, as if my magic, and I was a consumer; not a provider. Even when my step-grandma died just a few years ago, I had nothing to do with putting on the service - I just showed up, signed the book, and ate the cheese and crackers. It was only when I answered the phone that I realized I had become, willy-nilly, a person to be called upon. To be counted on. A sister. A matron of the church.

"Yes, of course I'll bring a dessert," I said. "What time is the service?"

"Noon," M. answered me. "Just bring it by anytime before." And then she surprised me by asking what I was going to make.

"I'm not sure," I said, "probably something with rhubarb because I have an awful lot of it."

"Oh good," said M., "rhubarb is my favorite."


Coming of Age Rhubarb Custard Pie

eight cups (or so) chopped fresh rhubarb, from 10 to 12 stems

four store-bought rolled pie crusts, or a double recipe home made

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

8 eggs

1/2 cup milk (or more)

tsp salt

Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan. Preheat oven to 375. 

Unroll pastry, or prepare homemade crust and roll out thin. Lay pastry in baking dish, leaving plenty of overlap on the edges. If using store-bought pastry, cut to fit. 

In a large mixing bowl  measure out sugar, four, salt. In a second bowl, beat all 8 eggs together with milk.add wet ingredients to dry, and mix with a fork. If very thick, add a bit more milk until you have a very thick but pourable mixture. Pour over chopped rhubarb and turn to mix, gently. Scrape into the baking dish, spreading to edges. Crimp dough around filling. 

Bake at 375 for approximately 45 minutes until crust is golden and filling is well set. Let cool and top with whipped cream or drizzle with sweetened sour cream. Cut into squares to serve. 









Monday, June 19, 2017

Haku and the Highway

 


Practically the first thing that our neighbors said to us, when we first moved here in 2007, was "I see you have a dog, be careful. This road is hell on dogs." 

This road is a state highway, a two lane road connecting the freeway with the refinery, eight miles west. Tanker trucks ply the road day and night, delivering crude to the refinery and carrying away refined gas.  The speed limit is 50, but of course it isn't always respected. 

Add to that, we live right on top of the hill, and there's an extremely short sight distance from our driveway to the crest. So short, in fact, that the school district said our children couldn't be picked up at our driveway because it wasn't safe; they have to walk a couple hundred yards downhill and wait at a friend's driveway. 

In the ten years we've lived here, there have been three fatal accidents (that I know of) on our road, inside of a half-mile in either direction from our house. 

The dog we had when we moved here, the incomparable Ivory, was far too smart to go on the road. She learned the property's boundaries quickly and seldom strayed. Ivory lived to the ripe old age of fourteen. Haku, on the other hand....

Well, there are many stories on this blog about Haku. He's a difficult dog. A sheep killer. A roamer. A chaser of chickens. A jumper of fences. An eighty pound bundle of energy and mischief. But, this past year, as Haku approached three years of age, we had high hopes that he was settling down. Finally, he seemed to be learning the boundaries and staying close to me when I let the goats out to graze. I was starting to really trust him. 

Last Wednesday, I let the goats out to graze, and Haku stayed close to us for nearly an hour. Oh, he popped in and out of bushes and ran in circles around the back pasture, but he came
Back to check in every couple of minutes. After a while, I noticed he was roaming a little further and coming back to me more slowly when I whistled. I decided it was time to put the goats away and get him inside. 

I lost track of him as I was gathering the goats. I whistled the "come home" whistle constantly  as I drove the goats towards the back pasture. This took about five minutes and no answer. After I locked the goats in, I started back towards the house, still whistling. My girls, hearing me, came out of the house and starting whistling and calling too. 

Then there was a sickening thud and a loud yelp. I ran as fast as I could towards the road, but I was still far away. My daughter Hope screamed "Mom!" 

When I arrived on the front lawn, Haku was lying in the grass, with Hope, Shidezi, and my sister in law Temy gathered around him. Also a woman I didn't recognize. I asked her "are you the one who hit him?" She said "No! I'm
Your neighbor," and pointed towards her house. "I heard it happen." The person who hit him didn't stop.

It looked pretty bad, at first glance. There was a lot of blood and some bright white bones and Haku was crying. Temy (who is a doctor) ran in the house and found gauze and tape and covered the worst, most open wounds. Then she and I and the kind neighbor hoisted Haku
Into the truck and drive to the all-night emergency hospital where, by good luck, our good friend emergency veterinarian A.M. was  on call. 

A.M. Told us immediately she thought it was fifty-fifty Haku would lose that leg. So much skin was missing she didn't know if she'd be able to close the wound, which was heavily contaminated with road grit and oil and plant material. Haku stayed overnight and she did her best. 

In the morning, A.M. Told us she had been able to close the main wound. He was covered, however, with other wounds. He had stitches on all four limbs, and he had lost a lot
of skin off his tail where he had apparently been dragged. But X-rays showed he escaped any major fractures and any organ damage. Haku was one lucky-fucking dog, for a dog who had been hit by a car doing fifty MPH. 

In the days since, we have brought him to our vet twice for wound care. Both times the vet has said he is amazed and surprised at Haku's speedy recovery. He just unwrapped the leg, looked at it, said "wow," and wrapped it back up. Clearly, it will take some time to heal, but it looks like there is no danger of his losing the limb. 

In fact, the main problem we have now, six days out, is keeping him quiet. Haku has apparently decided he isn't hurt at all and there's no reason he shouldn't go tearing around as usual. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Goats are Pretty


Testing the new blogger app. I think I figured out how to upload photos 

   

Test

Test

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Canning Log and Canning Jars



Finally, we seem to have caught up to the calendar. We've had weather hot enough to go to the lake and go swimming, and the first crops are just beginning to show up in local markets - snap peas, asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, radishes. On the farm we've been enjoying our very limited produce: rhubarb, nasturtiums, and tender herbs like chives and lemon balm. I did plant peas, but the vines are only about five inches tall and have not yet begun to flower. Raspberry canes are in flower, though, and there are lots of little green strawberries in the strawberry bed. Today I saw the first blossoms on the blackberry bushes.

I decided I will try to keep a preservation log on the blog this year. Every year, I post what I'm doing in the kitchen when I think about it, but this year I'd like to be a little more methodical about it. I'm going to concentrate on canning, even though that only accounts for about a third of the preservation I do (the other thirds being freezing and smoking or dehydrating). Canning is an event - I usually devote an entire day at a time to it, which makes it easy to document. Of coursed, I've canned a little bit of salsa here and there already this year, but I'm going to start the log with last Sunday.

I'd been to the Gleaner's pantry on Saturday, and I brought back enough produce to mandate a canning session. I made three separate products in one day, which makes me feel especially productive.

- Four quarts of salsa ranchera
- four tall quilted jelly jars of pickled jalapeño peppers
- three pints of pickled beets, all from one enormous beet the size of a baby's head.

I'm not sure if I mentioned that a friend brought me several boxes full of canning jars as a gift. They were helping a friend clean out their mother's house after she moved to assisted living, and the lady had quite a collection. Many of the jars are beautiful, unusual varieties. There are some blue-tinted jars, and some lovely bell-shaped quilted quart sized jars, and some of those neat old square sided jars.

Unfortunately, some of them are old enough to be non-standard, which renders them totally useless for canning. There's very little more annoying than going to all the work of canning a batch of, say, pepper jelly, and sterilizing a bunch of jars only to find at the critical moment that the jar openings are just a little bit off standard.  Sooner or later, I'm going to have to sit down with a standard size lid, a wide-mouth lid, and a big glass of wine and separate the sheep from the goats (so to speak).

Then I'll have to decide what to do with all the pretty but non-functional antiques. I'm a sentimental type, so I can't just recycle them. Maybe I can trade them for something - like more stuff to can!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

State of the Farm, Late Spring 2017



Nettles in the weeds

The long, horrible, wet "spring" of 2017 is finally giving way to some warmer and drier weather. I read in the paper that this past wet season (the period of time between October 1st and May 1st) has broken the all-time record for precipitation in western Washington - a record set just last year. Even with my week long break to Arizona, back at the beginning of April, I was going slowly crazy from sun deprivation and from the constant rain. I hate the mud, and still dealing with it in May has been dispiriting. 

More important than my mood, however, is that fact we haven't been able to get much work done around the place. Anything that needs dry weather - setting new fence posts in cement, planting trees, tilling the garden - has had to wait. Then when the weather is good, we all feel a sudden urgency to do everything at once. Luckily, I have found a new farm hand. He comes recommended by a neighbor farmer, and he lives very nearby. Although only 17, he has proved a hard worker and can handle a shovel with the best of them. Hereinafter referred to as "Farmboy." Today he planted three trees and made a temporary pen for the cow. 

The other day I walked the pasture and was disappointed with the state of it. In a normal year, the grass ought to be well over knee high by now. But what with the cool weather, the lack of lumens, and the number of animals on it, the back pasture's grass is only ankle height. This is despite the fact that I kept the cow and the pony in the sacrifice area for much longer than usual. We went through twice the normal amount of hay last year, due to that and due to the multiple prolonged cold spells and feet of snow. I have been moving the animals around, trying to maximize use of all the grass growing areas one the property. I bring the goats out into the front yard to graze anytime I am home and it isn't raining, but that's only half an hour here and there, and I don't think it takes much pressure off the pasture. The pony and the cow have been in the orchard for a couple of weeks, which was great until I noticed that the cow is eating the smaller trees. I didn't want to put the cow back into the main pasture with the goats both because of the grass situation and because she has become a terrible bully since her horns grew and she has actually injured one of my goats. Have I mentioned that I hate cows? 

There is one area where the grass is doing well - a boggy area about 60 x 200 feet behind the blackberries and adjacent to the small pasture. We have never made use of this area because it is wet, and also because there is a lot of debris and metal and concrete pieces in the ground left over from when the previous owners demolished their dairy barn. The grass growing there is lush, bright green, and shoulder height - but it is Canary grass. Canary grass is a non-native species that flourishes in our cool, wet climate. It has mixed reputation - most people (and certainly the noxious weed board) consider it an invasive nuisance that crowds out better forage species. Canary grass hay is the lowest, cheapest variety of hay, and lots of people won't use its at all. Other people, however, especially people with low,wet pastures, actually plant Canary grass on purpose. In general, the literature tends to say that it is tolerable forage, although most other species of pasture grass are preferable, and most animals will ignore it if better forage is available. 

Myself, I wouldn't buy any hay that had much Canary grass in it, no matter how cheap. I will, however, try to encourage my animals to eat it when it is abundant and other forage is not. To that end, I had Farmboy use T-posts and cattle panels to make an enclosure 32x32 feet. That will keep the cow busy for a few days and when she runs out we can just pound two more posts and move the cattle panels to close in another, similarly sized area. This will keep the cow fed and away from my goats. For a little while. 

The trees that Farmboy planted today were two lovely little Asian pear trees that Homero gave me for mother's day, and last year's Christmas tree, which has been sitting in it's pot on the porch since New Year's. I am not very fond of Asian pears for eating, myself, but both Homero and the girls love them, and I like them because they can be pressed for cider like apples (and unlike European pears). 

Other new developments: we bought six turkey chicks from a neighbor farmer, and Haku immediately killed two of them so now we have four turkey chicks. We also bought six golden sex-link pullets from another local farmer who said she just got over-enthusiastic at the farm store and realized, after raising them for a few weeks, that she didn't actually need thirty of them. It's nice to find pullets instead of chicks, that doesn't happen too often. Now we need to make repairs to the chicken coop. 

I'm not putting in a garden this year, expect for a handful of snap peas. It was too cold and wet to plant anything until last week, anyway. 

Overall, things are fairly copacetic around here. The baby goats are growing like weeds. I have plenty of milk and cheese season is in full swing. It's a gorgeous sunny afternoon and I think I will grab a book and go let the goats out. 


















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Haku and the Baby Goats ("Shepherd" Indeed)

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Haku is in love with Bunny, the bottle baby. In this photo, he is clearly saying "mine." After several days of close supervision, we now trust him enough to leave him alone with the baby for, oh, up to five minutes at a time. He doesn't want to hurt her; he wants to lick her vigorously and unceasingly. That, however, is not pleasant for a baby goat. She quickly becomes wet and exhausted and needs to be rescued. 

As Bunny gets older and starts to jump and run more, Haku is becoming less trustworthy. I think his prey drive is engaged when the baby zips erratically around. So far, he has not tried to catch a baby with his teeth - only tried to pounce with his paws. But he has had to be scolded off often. I doubt very much if Haku will ever be entirely trustworthy with any livestock. 

Polly, the latest goat to give birth, certainly doesn't think so. Polly bucked the trend by giving birth easily and without drama to twin doelings. They were both large and energetic, standing up and nursing without help. I think my favorite is this pretty little brown and black girl. The girls have named her Ombre, after the way her colors fade into each other. 


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When I brought Haku into the mama barn to meet the new babies, he tried to lick them and kiss them the way he does with the house baby. Mama Polly was having none of it. She got between Haku and the babies, lowered her horns, and made menacing noises (well, what passes for menacing noises when made by a goat). When Haku persisted, Polly gave him her horns. Apparently deeply offended, Haku responded by growling and snapping at Polly - and I instantly hauled him away and scolded him. He needs to understand that the babies are to be safeguarded and that the mamas are absolutely sacrosanct. 

Maybe I am being a little bit unrealistic about Haku's vocabulary. I'd be happy if he just learned "gentle" and "no."