"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Cleaning (At Last)

The last two days have been extremely gorgeous. After my months of complaining about the chilly, soggy weather, it amazes me how quickly my body and psyche respond to a few hours of warmth and light. I don't know exactly how warm it's gotten, but it feels like the high fifties. With a clear blue sky and an absence of wind, that is paradise.

It just makes so much difference - suddenly I want to get out and get dirty. My shoulders itch to heave some soil. An hour of shoveling seems like a pleasant way to move some of my stagnant Chi around, instead of a thankless muddy task. I want to clean up, throw open the windows, do some laundry, and generally get things together. The long winter is over, and it's time to get rid of its accumulated shit.

Other people must be feeling the same way: everywhere I go there are thin columns of smoke from burn piles. My neighbor is burning trash - she is eighty years old and doesn't bother separating out the plastic, so it's rather unpleasant, but oh well - it's a sign of life. In fact I am also going to do some burning this afternoon. I bought - for ten bucks - the inside canister of an old washing machine, and it makes an excellent burn barrel. All the paper feed bags from winter are going up in smoke tonight, along with a waist-high stack of flattened cardboard.

Today I was inspired to do several things: first, and probably most importantly, I took my children out to Birch Bay to walk on the beach. We took Ivory with us (New To Farm Life: Ivory (Dog O'My Heart)) and we all had a great time looking for crabs and pretty shells. It was low tide, and there were several families out clamming or oystering. I'm not sure I would trust Birch Bay's shellfish (too close to the refinery) but it looked like they were having fun. Certainly my children were, and my dog.

When we came home, I let the ponies out into the big pasture to graze, and the goats out into the front yard. I spent a pleasant couple of hours reading my new book (the world in 2050 - kind of a downer) and watching the animals. When I put the goats away, I decided it would be a good day to trim hooves.

I've gotten out of the habit of using this blog to record farm chores: that's a shame and I should start up again. I may begin a new label - chores - to help me remember when I have trimmed hooves, when goats were bred or kidded, when the farrier came, et cetera. I am sorry to admit that my goat's hooves looked terrible. Apparently, it's been quite some time since I last trimmed. I do hate to trim hooves in winter - the liquid mud makes it so unpleasant - but there is only so much hoof maintenance you can defer before your goats begin to suffer. If I kept better track of the last time I trimmed, I would know when it was time to just gird up my loins and get out there.

So I trimmed today. The hooves looked awful. I don't know the last time I trimmed, but obviously its was far too long. As I have mentioned in previous posts (Hoof Rot - see photos) there is no escaping a certain amount of rot in our climate, but it should never advance as far as mine did this winter. Four does equals sixteen feet, and I'd say half of those feet were fine, another quarter were pretty ugly, and the last quarter showed serious damage. Now - I'm not a vet, and in the past when I've had the vet out here I have said "Oh my God, their hooves are awful" only two have the vet say, "no really, they aren't that bad." So maybe I am overestimating the seriousness of the situation.

All I know for sure is that I had to remove a whole lot of hoof. I did it by myself today, and it's a pretty strenuous task. The does kick like hell and I have to work pretty hard to hold their feet in my left hand and trim with my right. Despite my best efforts I cut myself on the left forefinger pretty badly. I should probably wait until I have a man to hold their legs for me, but inspiration arrived today and I had to strike while the iron was hot. At least I didn't cut any of the does deeply enough to bleed. After all, I can disinfect my finger and put a band-aid on it, but the goats have to walk around out in the barnyard.

After I trimmed, I did a little gardening and planted a few rows of swiss chard. Now I have chard, radishes, snow peas, and arugula planted. Oh and some potatoes. It's past time to plant potatoes but the ground has been very wet so I only planted a few in the bathtub out back. I hope if the weather holds to till a nice patch and plant some serious spuds this week.

How about y'all? Especially those of you here in the coastal Pacific Northwest? What have you been doing this week?


Holly said...

I tested the PH in several areas of my garden and my husband shoveled a little earth here and there to test the humus levels in different areas so we know where we need to add manure. Can't wait to start gardening. I'm planning mine now.