"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, September 30, 2022

Everybody Gets a Share (Doggy Delight)



Mercy 




Haku 

My husband’s insistence on keeping the gristly bits of the cow sure paid off for the dogs. They’ve been chewing on these shinbones for a full week now. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Meat Math, Bovine Edition (GRAPHIC)



Not a very good picture, but that is a 40 quart stockpot, with  substantially less than half of a freshly butchered steer’s head submerged in it. 

This is what I came home to today. I knew, of course, that today was the day appointed for Pepe Toro, our Jersey steer, to meet his end. The men from Lynden meats were scheduled to arrive in their business-like panel van loaded with motorized equipment and on-board hot water, and do what butchers do. Half of Pepe Toro is already sold, and I have been making room in the freezer for the other half. The death of the cow, per se, was not a surprise. 

I did not know - though I should have suspected - that my husband was going to ask the men from Lynden meats to give him every scrap of the cow, from the horns to the hooves, that they would normally throw away or sell to a glue factory or something, and try to turn it into food. We’ve been through this before, and he ALWAYS does the same thing. 

We are just not prepared for cooking an entire cow’s head. In the past, even pig’s heads have proved to be difficult to manage. The head of a well-grown cow is a majorly large hunk of gristle and bone, and once the tongue has been removed, in my opinion it ought to be ignored. But Homero comes from a background that despises waste and finds a way to use EVERYTHING. This is, of course, admirable, but more so in the abstract than in real life. 



After I found the cow’s head sticking three-quarters of the way out of the pot, I convinced Homero to remove it, and to cut it into pieces with his sawzall, removing the horns and the disgusting patches of hair that clung to the skull around them. He has a plan for the horns - they are a gift to his friend Clacoyo, who wants to mount them on his motorcycle helmet. 

It took two sawzall blades, a cleaver, and a mallet to split the skull I to four pieces, but we got it done. Now the head is simmering over a wood fire - after two changes of water - along with a handful of allspice, cloves, star anise, fennel, and black pepper; three heads of garlic; several onions, and a bunch of guajillo chiles. It ought to be done sometime after moonrise. 

Now for the math. 

This animal was free. Homero has several clients who work on large dairy farms, and they are constantly giving away newborn males. I don’t know why they don’t just centrifuge the sperm they use - almost all cows are bred by AI - but either they don’t, or it has a high failure rate. This was the third free calf we’ve raised. 

The feed for a cow is almost all free too. We did have to bottle feed him for a short while but that was just one bag of milk replacer: about $30. Then of course there’s his winter hay, and a cow eats a lot of hay. I didn’t keep track of how much he ate versus the goats - that would be impossible - but we bought an extra 25 bales last winter and I’ll say that was all cow food. So that’s $100. Other than that, all he’s eaten is pasture grass and free veggies and bread from gleaners. Oh - and the same friend who provided him to us also have us the occasional pickup-load of free silage. 

We did take him to the vet to be castrated because we waited too long to band him. Won’t make that mistake again. I think that was about $100 as well. No medicine or other vet visits were needed over the course of his short lifetime. 

Total cost: approximately $230

Expected revenue: 

Last week I taped Pepe Toro to get an estimated live weight. He measured 78 inches around his heart-girth, which is very well grown. According to the internet charts, that means he has a live weight of approximately 1,112 pounds. The hanging weight of a cow is usually about 60% of live weight, so in our case approximately 668 lbs. 

I sold half of him for $3/lb, which would be $1,002. If I can find a buyer for another quarter I will sell that too, so that would be an extra $501 for a total of $1,503. Plus of course our own meat. 

That sounds like a hefty profit, but it isn’t as much as it sounds because Pepe Toro was wantonly destructive. He destroyed the calf hutch, which will cost $200 to replace, and he got I got he mama barn and put his feet right through the floor in a half dozen places. That will take a sheet of three quarter in inch plywood to fix, and now I have to go look up what that costs ($75) 

Total cost $505
Total expected revenue $1503
Total expected profit $998 

Not bad 




 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Farm Stand Photos



I thought it would be nice to post some photos of local farm stands and what I appreciate about each of them. They are so varied. 



Small, new farm stand on Blaine road north of Grandview (I think?). A small tow-headed boy came out to greet us, very excited to tell us about his lemon cucumbers. 


My favorite local stand. Kickerville road between Bay and Birch Bay-Lynden road. They run all season, with veggie starts and live plants in early spring, through to gourds in late fall. They sell seeds as well. There’s a small fridge where the greens stay nice and fresh. Prices are amazing - and in fact they often have free veggies as well. Also sell an assortment of books, baskets, and what-not. I’ve even bought chickens from them in the past. 



Free cucumbers in the Kickerville stand. 



The Kickerville stand from the outside. Looking fairly empty on this particular day. 



Sweet corn somewhere in the vast, confusing Bermuda Triangle between Enterprise road and the Guide, south of Birch Bay-Lynden road. Forgot to note the address. There are lots of sweet corn stands at the moment, of course, and they tend to be single-produce operations, appearing in mid-august and shuttered by early September. 


New stand (as of last year) on the Birch Bay -Lynden road just east of the freeway. This young lady grows TONS of tomatoes, many different varieties. Good prices and great tomatoes. 



This stand is a real unique one. The owner is a beekeeper and he sells his honey, plain or compounded with herbs and spices and medicines. The lavender honey is especially nice. Overall the best, thickest honey I’ve found. He also sells gorgeous beeswax candles and copies of his self-published novels. 

There are many more farm stands that are worth a mention, but which I haven’t got any pictures of. Just across Kickerville from my favorite farm stand is Tiff’s Dahlias. 
A huge garden with all varieties of dahlias, sold for either $0.50 or $1 a stem, slightly older ones for $0.25. 

Smits family farm in Northwest has a huge and beautiful farm stand worthy of its own post. Mr. Smit has ten acres and grows hundreds of varieties of vegetables, including many not so common ones around here like asparagus. In fact if you are a regular, you can tell Mr. Smit what you would like and he will grow it for you. 

There’s a large stand with two big glass front refrigerators on E. Wiser lake road that sells Guernsey Milk, yogurt, and cream as well as fresh produce. There are also often homemade chocolate chips cookies. 

I never get tired of perusing farm stands, and it always makes me happy when I discover a new one, even if all they sell is zucchini.  

Friday, August 19, 2022

Farm Stand Fun




One of the things I love about where I live is that, recent development notwithstanding, it is still rural enough that there are dozens of small, seasonal farm stands close to me. 

Many of my neighbors put out farm produce of one sort or another, or of various kinds, throughout the agricultural year.  It begins with eggs in the earliest spring (we have sold eggs ourselves) and progresses through vegetable starts, spring flower bouquets, early greens, right up to August, where we are now, with an absolute abundance of garden produce of all sorts. This particular moment is sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and of course, zucchini. Further along there will be apples and pears, pumpkins and gourds and dahlias. 

Some stands are no more than a hand lettered sign and a cooler. Most are some sort of cabinet or old wardrobe, with the goods portioned out into Tupperware or ziplocs, and a cash box of varying degrees of impregnability ranging from a child’s piggy bank to miniature bank vaults. These days, many farm stands accept Venmo or PayPal. The more professional stands will have a refrigerator and possibly an entire greenhouse. In addition to edible goods, some stands sell locally made soaps and lotions, or bric-a-brac, or second hand books. I have a bias towards the small, the ramshackle, the eccentric, and the obviously run by children. 

There’s a circuit I do when I want to see what’s up in my local farm stands. A couple of circuits, really - a small one that is a square about two miles on a side and includes five farm stands, and a longer route I do if I have more time or want to hit up some of the bigger stands. A little bit further will take me to a special stand I like that has dairy products - Jersey milk, yogurt, and cheese. It’s a really relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two - driving down my well-known country roads with the windows open and the smell of curing hay blowing in the window, discovering what my neighbors have been planting, what did well this year and what failed, maybe having a chat with a farmer if you happen to catch one replenishing the ziplocs. 

Yesterday’s haul was all from my small local circuit. Twenty dollars total got me everything you see above - new potatoes, Italian frying peppers, carrots, beets, fennel, cucumbers, plums, onions and purslane. Those three bunches of beets made six pints of pickled beets with enough left over for a beautiful roasted beet and goat cheese salad for dinner. 

There are only three of us at home these days, and it often happens that my eyes are bigger than all of our stomachs. 




Friday, July 29, 2022

Balking a Buck (Apron Antics)



Breeding season is here.  It seems awfully early, being still high summer, but the days are getting shorter and that is the signal that sends the does ovaries into overdrive. It doesn’t seem to matter that they all gave birth fairly late this year and are all still nursing young kids. 

Since we have our own buck this year, I have to take precautions to prevent him from impregnating everyone right now. Not only would it be hard I the does to get pregnant again so soon, but if they get pregnant in July they’ll give birth in December or January and that is not good. 

We do have one goat named Christmas, who was obviously born Christmas Day, and she’s a fine healthy goat, but that is an anomaly. Some breeders like to have kids born in winter, presumable because they’ll be grown enough to breed come fall, but those farmers must have barns with electricity and heat. Probably heated electrified barns that are not situated a few hundred yards away from the house so they have to trudge through a howling blizzard to get to them. Or maybe they live in places that seldom experience cold weather, even i the depths of winter.  We have a primitive barn and a cold wet climate, and we like our babies born in May. 

That means we have to control the buck. Not an easy thing to do. Until today he was separated from the herd in the sacrifice area along with the cow, but they ran out of grass. So I bought the  contraption you see in the photo: a buck apron. 

A buck apron is designed to provide a barrier between the buck’s business and any does. Reports of its effectiveness vary, and I’ve never tried one before. I guess we’ll find out. 
It wasn’t a ton of fun putting it on him - he stinks to high heaven - and it was expensive, so I hope it works. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Pantry Project (Ice Cream Edition)



Ran across an ice cream maker at Goodwill the other day, and it reminded me that ice cream is a wonderful way of preserving the products of the season - goat milk, eggs, and fresh fruit. Also it’s been pretty hot lately and that’s just the excuse I needed. I bought the ice cream maker. 


This delicious pink concoction, my first foray, is not technically ice cream, because it doesn’t have any eggs in it (or cream for that matter) but rather frozen yogurt. Sorta. I’m calling it “raspberry cheesecake” and it’s based on a batch of chévre that didn’t quite firm up enough to be called cheese. I could have used it like sour cream, but I already had sour cream in the fridge. It occurred to me to sweeten it instead, mix it with a bunch of raspberries, some yogurt, and run it through the machine. It’s delicious and right now I’m enjoying it as a bedtime snack. 

From the farm: 

Goat milk
Chèvre 
Raspberries 

From the grocery store:

Sugar
Yogurt 

Nothing from the gleaners pantry in this batch of ice cream, but maybe next I’ll try peach - there are always peaches at gleaner’s right now. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

They’re BAAAAAAACK (Prey Animal Strategy)




Right before bed, I decided to go out and check on the goats one more time, on the off-chance that mama Clio had found her babies. I was fairly certain coyotes had dragged them off, since two hours of me and Clio both searching for them this afternoon, Clio yelling her head off the whole time,  had yielded nothing. But there they were, like nothing ever happened. Just two sassy little baby goats without a care in the world. 




Im so relieved. I had been so sad, so angry at myself for putting them back in the big pasture, and so disappointed. I scooped them both up and took a selfie to send to Paloma, who was just as sad as I was about it. Then I dragged them all back into the backyard, where they will stay with the chickens until the babies are big enough to run fast. 

Baby goats hide while their mothers go off and eat. Just like baby deer do, and probably lots of other baby prey animals. And they are really, really good at hiding. It’s their only chance at survival - they have no other defense. Of course know that baby goats are good hiders, and for two hours today I assumed that’s what they were doing. But when their own mother was running around panicked, yelling and searching, I got worried. I thought they would answer her if they were there. But I guess as long as they don’t feel safe, they will stay quiet and immobile. And in four acres of chest high grass, there was no way we were going to find them if they didn’t make a noise. 

Phew. I’m wrung out. I’m gonna take a bath. 


The End, I Think

I’m done. Lost TWO more baby goats today, presumably to coyotes. I came home from work and Clio’s twins are gone. They were born just a week ago, and Clio, a first freshener,  was a great mama goat. She’s been yelling and yelling for them for the last hour, following me around as I walked the pasture. 


Coyotes have gotten four out of six babies born this year. This is the first year they’ve ever bothered the goats, been here fifteen years and never had an issue before. Must be a new pack with different hunting habits. But I’m just totally demoralized. I don’t want to have goats anymore.

Between worms, coccidia, and coyotes, I just can’t. My heart can’t take it anymore. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Project Pantry (Meatballs and Morels)



Today’s dinner - kinda sorta Swedish meatballs but not really. I had a pound of ground venison from the gleaner’s  pantry that I wanted to use, but I’ve never cooked with it before. As I was perusing google on the subject of ground venison, Swedish meatball recipes kept popping up and they looked great. I’ve never made Swedish meatballs before either, but I have eaten them. I belong to a Lutheran church full of elderly people of Scandinavian heritage. 

After I decided to make Swedish meatballs, I realized that I was short several ingredients, but the benefit of having a deep pantry is that one can always adapt. I don’t have any beef broth, but I have dried morels, so I made more mushroom stock. I consider that an upgrade. I do wish I had fresh dill or parsley, all I have is chives and celery leaves. But who cares, I tasted the sauce and it’s fabulously delicious. 

I can’t remember what Swedish meatballs are traditionally serviced with (which starch, I mean. I know they are served with lingonberry jam but we will make do with blackberry). I’m thinking wild rice would be a good choice to go with the mushroom sauce. 

“Swedish” venison meatballs 

This is how I made them today, substitutions and all. Not how they are “supposed” to be. 

1 pound ground venison 
1/2 pound ground pork 
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs 
1 teaspoon sugar 
Garlic powder to taste 
Dash cinnamon (go very easy on this, a pinch is plenty) 
Fresh ground black pepper 

Mix all ingredients with hands and shape into meatballs. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or tinfoil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. 

While meatballs are baking, get out a cast iron skillet and make sauce 

2 tablespoons butter 
Two yellow onions, sliced fairly thin ribbons 
Two tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon maggi chicken bouillon 
1 cup give or take dried morels, some broken into small pieces 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups goats milk
Black pepper 
Minced fresh herbs 

Melt butter and sauté onions over medium-low  heat until softened, about ten minutes. Increase heat to medium. Sprinkle over flour and mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and onions are coated. Sprinkle maggi and keep stirring. Add mustard and about 1/2 to 3/5 cup water. Add the morels. Stir until sauce smooths out and begins to thicken. Add more water if needed. Then add goat’s milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer but not a boil. Add meatballs. Turn meatballs in sauce and let simmer until sauce is slightly reduced. Just before serving shower with herbs and fresh ground pepper. 

Breakdown: 

From the gleaners pantry: 

Venison 
Pork
Bread (for crumbs)
Maggi chicken bouillon 
Flour 

From the farm or trade network:

Egg 
Herbs 
Goat’s milk 
Morels 

From the grocery store:

Butter
Onions 
Mustard
Pepper 




Sunday, June 19, 2022

Meet the Herd



Clio (pregnant first freshener) with her mom Bitsy. 





Buck of many names. In keeping with our tradition of using weather or atmospheric or space related names for our bucks, we named him Jupiter. But the the girls started calling him Juniper instead. And then, just recently, I talked to one of his former owners and they said his name was Hunter. Homero likes that name and so now we all call him something different. He cares not a whit. 



Christmas (pregnant) is my oldest goat at about 7 or 8. She’s also my biggest goat except for the buck and a great milker. 
Behind her is this years only surviving baby (coyotes got the others), Luna. 



Sweetpea, Luna’s mom. Great little goat and very friendly because she was a bottle baby. 



Closeup of Luna. I love her unusual coloring, but experienced goat people tell me the brown will fade to white or cream. 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Cajeta (The Best Thing You Can Do With Goat’s Milk)



This time of year, I am usually drowning in milk. 2022 is a bit of an anomaly, because the only two goats in milk are the two young first fresheners, and they don’t give a ton of milk. Also, we let one of them dry off when Homero and I went on vacation last week. Now it’s just Sweetpea to milk, and she has a baby on her so there just won’t be much milk from now on this year. Unless Christmas gives birth - I am still uncertain if she’s even pregnant or not. 

Knowing that this milk season would likely be short, I made the most of the milk I had before we left and milked every day. Even two undersized first fresheners can collectively produce about three quarters of a gallon a day. By comparison, a single good milk goat in her second or third kidding season will produce a gallon all by herself. 

Three quarters of a gallon of milk a day is still a lot. We store the milk in half gallon sized mason jars, and by day three there are nine of these big jars in the fridge, hogging all the space. I absolutely have to do something with all the milk at least every third day. 

The simplest thing to do with milk is make chevre. That’s just involves adding culture to the still-warm milk and leaving it in a warm place for 24 hours, and then draining through a jelly-bag and salting. 

The next simplest thing to do is make what I call “easy Cheese.” That’s a paneer-type fresh cheese made by heating the milk to 180 degrees, adding vinegar, draining the curds and pressing. It takes about twenty minutes and makes a nice, fresh tasting cheese suitable for quesadillas. It’s a bit bland but it’s easy (hence the name). 

When I have more time I may make cheddar for long term storage, which is a multi-step process that requires active involvement and attention at various intervals over a several hour time frame. If I have lots of time but not the inclination for meticulous processes, I make cajeta. 

Cajeta, for the uninitiated, is Mexican caramel sauce made with goat’s milk. It’s unearthly delicious. Just crazy good. Try it on sliced bananas, or fresh peaches. My husband likes it on toast for breakfast. Everyone likes it on vanilla ice cream. Cajeta can be water-bath canned, and so I often give it as Christmas gifts. Nobody ever complains about getting a jar of cajeta. 

CAJETA 

1 gallon goats milk (must be very fresh) 
6 cups granulated sugar 
Teaspoon vanilla extract 
Half teaspoon baking soda 
Pinch salt 

In a very large stockpot, combine milk, sugar, and vanilla. Put over medium-high heat. When milk is hot but not yet boiling, add the baking soda. Careful, it may foam up quite a bit, but it will subside. Add salt. 

Bring milk to a  boil, then turn down to a fast simmer. Be careful - when the milk boils it will rapidly - instantly - I greatly increase in volume. That’s why the stockpot needs to be really big. But when it goes down to a simmer it will subside. Keep the simmer as fast as possible though, almost a true boil. 

Leave it for about an hour. Every once in a while, check on it and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Keep it simmering until it thickens, and coats a spoon thickly.  It may take up to three hours, but it can be pretty much unsupervised except for the last bit. At the end, it will begin to boil quickly at the same heat. That’s okay, just stir it and don’t let it scorch. It should get medium-light brown (the cajeta in the picture above is a little bit pale), and be thick like caramel. It will thicken more as it cools. 

Put hot cajeta into sterilized jam jars and top with sterilized lids. Process in a water bath for fifteen minutes. If any jars don’t seal, don’t worry, they will keep in the fridge for a month, anyway. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Project Pantry (Poor Man’s Soufflé)




Episode two of Project Pantry, my occasional feature where I describe a recent home cooked meal and detail which ingredients came from where. Tonight’s dinner was a broccoli strata, and it was delicious. 

Strata, as far as I can tell, is a relatively new term made up to seem fancier than “savory bread pudding.” It sounds vaguely Italian, which this dish probably isn’t. This dish, in fact, screams “Ladies Home Journal Brunch Contest 1996.” 
That’s not an insult - as a veteran of a few recipe contests myself, I appreciate the ingenuity, ease, and frugality evident in a dish like this. But I like to call it a Poor Man’s Soufflé, because it really is almost as puffy and delicate. 

Ingredients: 

2-3 cups cooked broccoli, chopped into small pieces 

4 large eggs 

1 1/2 cups milk (I used goat milk since that’s what I got) 

5 pieces sandwich bread. You can use whole wheat but it has to be soft, squishy bread. Nothing too crusty. 

3 oz chevre or other semi-soft, crumbly cheese 

1 cup extra sharp grated cheddar 

Fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350
Tear up the bread and scatter in a casserole dish. Beat eggs with milk and pour over bread. Add chopped broccoli and chevre. Several grinds of pepper. Turn with a large spoon several times to coat. Leave bread to soak for at least fifteen minutes. Then add cheddar on top, and bake for 30 minutes, until puffed up and barely jiggly in the middle. Broil for one minute to brown cheese topping. 

Serve with a green salad, or as I did, with fresh asparagus from a local farm stand. 

Ingredient breakdown: 

From the store: cheddar cheese, broccoli, pepper

From the gleaner’s pantry: bread 

From our farm: eggs, milk, and chevre

From a local neighbor’s farm: asparagus 


Monday, May 30, 2022

Herb Harvest 2022


Mint is one of my favorite herbs, not only for its zingy flavor and medicinal qualities, but because it’s a hardy perennial that’s damn near impossible to kill, even for a notorious plant murderer like me. 

I have spearmint in the front yard and peppermint in the back yard. The spearmint is buried in amongst a hedge of tall weeds and I have to forage for it. This used to be the case for the backyard peppermint as well, but ever since we moved the chickens, the mint is the only green thing left. The rest of the yard has been scratched bare. 




Spearmint is a lovely herbal addition to lots of dishes and we eat a fair amount of it fresh. I add it by the handful to tabouli, for example, and to fresh fruit salads, especially melons. I added some to the melange of herbs I chopped finely and added to my chevre. It even goes well into a pot of Mexican chicken soup, if you can believe that.

Peppermint is a different proposition altogether. It’s much too strong for use as a vegetable or salad green. Mine is so strong that if you chew on a fresh leaf it actually burns your mouth. It’s pretty strictly for tea. A few years ago I made some peppermint vodka, but that’s out of my realm these days. 

Last year I cut a couple bunches and hung them up to dry in the playroom. Then I forgot about them for an entire year. You don’t generally want to leave your herbs to dry for a whole year - most books will tell you dried herbs last a few months, maximum. However, today when I took the bunches down and rubbed the leaves off them, the scent of peppermint that wafted up was still vibrant. So I crushed them in my hands - they were crispy dry and crumbled nicely into bits - and put them into an airtight storage jar. Later on tonight I’ll make some tea and see how it tastes. 



Then I went and cut five more big bunches of peppermint and hung them up to dry. Since they are in the chicken yard, 
I gave them a good rinse first. This time I will try to remember to strip the leaves and jar them up before another year goes by. I should probably order some desiccant packs from the restaurant supply store, too. That will eliminate any chance of mold. And I’ll want them in a few months when it’s mushroom drying season. 



Now, I should probably get to work and harvest the lemon balm! Lemon balm makes delicious lemony tea and it’s very calming and good for nerves and insomnia. And I have an absolutely ridiculous amount of it. It’s in the mint family as well, and it gets out of control fairly quickly. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Another One for the Coyotes (Attempts at Fence-Fixing)

Ever since the coyotes took Cosmos from the main barn during the night, we’ve been locking up the two remaining babies in the smaller, secure mama barn at night. We have to lock them up fairly late, unless we want to get up at the crack of dawn to milk the mamas. We go out after sundown but before full dark, which this time of year is about 8:30-8:45. 


Two nights ago When Paloma went out to get them, Gingersnap was missing. They coyotes got her while it was still light out. They are incredibly bold. I thought they babies would be safe during the daylight hours, but I guess I thought wrong. I really am just about out of ideas. Almost everybody I talk to agrees there is really no long term solution for coyotes - if you shoot them, they just have a bigger litter next year. Total eradication of a pack - if that’s even possible - will only create a temporary vacuum for a new pack to move  into. They are smart animals, tough and persistent. 

The hole under the fence has been patched, with an ad-hoc and frankly rather embarrassing mishmash of materials that Homero cobbled  together. We had a large number of wooden stakes, which he used to tack down the field fencing by stapling the lower wire to the stakes and then pounding them into the ground. The big hole was blocked with some concrete cylinders that have been lying along the back acre since we bought the place. It will do for now. 



In this picture you can see how much acreage our neighbors to the west have. It’s about 300, give or take, and it has fields and forest and streams. It’s absolutely teeming with coyotes. When I complained about the problem on Facebook a few hunters contacted me and offered to help me out, so I may ask the neighbor’s  permission to let a couple hunters try and pick off the boldest ones. It may discourage them for a while. Especially if, as has been suggested, we leave a carcass hanging to rot on the fence where they normally come in. 



As I was walking the pasture that evening looking for signs of Gingersnap, I could hear the coyotes howling and  yippi-ki-yaying back in the woods. It sounded like a pretty fair number. “They’re fucking celebrating over my poor Gingersnap,”  I thought, filled with thirst for revenge. 

But the next day at church, we read psalm 148, which reads in part “praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all you deeps; fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous winds, doing God’s will; mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; wild beasts and all cattle….sing praise.” And I remembered the coyote song and thought to myself  “I may be upset, I may be sad, but the coyotes are praising the Lord.” 



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Coyote Blues (Adios Cosmos)




I thought we were going to have a great year for baby goats. Last year was just terrible, we lost three out of four babies. But this year, so far, was shaping up to be great. Two out of three mamas have given birth, without issues, to a healthy single doeling and to a pair of healthy twins, a buck and a doe. 

The buckling is -was - this beautiful fellow here. As adorable as he was, for some reason his mama took a dislike to him and rejected him. But he took to a bottle with no trouble at all and was thriving. Like all bottle babies, he became very friendly and would run up to us as soon as we appeared. After a week or so, his mama (Bitsy) decided he wasn’t so bad after all and let him nurse again. He was just entering maximum cuteness phase, that’s probably why :) 

Because of his flashy coloring, there was a lot of interest in him and I actually managed to sell him for the very decent price of $200. A neighbor wanted him for her new herd sire. He would have made a very handsome buck, for sure. He was going to look just like his papa, Jupiter. We named him Cosmos. All our bucks have weather or atmospheric or space related names. 




But alas, it was not to be. Day before yesterday when we went out to do morning chores he was just missing. The other babies were there but Cosmos wasn’t. We searched the whole pasture but he was totally gone. We didn’t find any signs of him - not hide nor hair nor bloody patch of grass. What we did find were fresh tracks in the muddy area under the fence on the western side of the pasture where the coyotes come in. 

Damn coyotes. They have eaten well from our farm over the years. Never before have we lost a goat, though, only poultry. But we lose at least half our flock every damn winter. This winter we were down to a single chicken when we decided to just move the poor thing into a shelter inside  the fenced backyard; the coyotes wouldn’t dare come right up to the house like that. So we built a new coop and got a few more hens to be her companions and we haven’t lost a chicken since. 

If I had put any thought into it, it might have occurred to me that without any chickens to eat, the coyotes might not just shrug their metaphorical shoulders and move on. That they might, in fact, decide hey, we’re here anyway, might as well try out baby goat. 

For now, we are just locking up the babies at night. Hopefully before long they will be too big for the coyotes. I’m not sure what to do about it long term. We can patch one spot in the fence - though it would not be easy to get enough gravel or cement through the pasture to the site - but the coyotes could and would just dig a new hole. Considering that there’s 1000 linear feet of fence line it doesn’t seem likely that we are going to successfully fence them out. 

Opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of shooting them (we don’t have a rifle anyways). Most sources suggest that’s it’s a very temporary solution at best. There just doesn’t seem to be a great solution. Keeping the goats locked up at night is probably as good as we are going to get. And that’s problematic as well because it increases the chores exponentially. It decreases the time they can spend on pasture, thereby necessitating more hay,  and it drastically increases the amount of poop in the barn. 

Losing this baby hurt. He was gorgeous and sweet. I thought they were all going to live this year. It’s a gut punch. And, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t any fun to give back that $200, either.