Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

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They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

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We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

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The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 192 – we’re going to time this

The chicken yard has greenery taller than me (5’4″) because the chickens eat what they want and leave the rest to grow.  And boy, has it grown this year with all the rain!

The goats finished eating the yard around the farmhouse and we were discussing where to put them next – options were under the clothesline/in front of the garden, in the area between the garage and the hen coop, or in the chicken yard.  Seeing as it’s not raining, and the hay needs to be mowed/raked/baled, chicken yard it is – it’s already fenced in, and the only modification we needed to do was fence off the 2 little apple trees so they didn’t get eaten down to the trunk.  That got taken care of today, and about 7:30 this evening, we installed Minnie and the goats.  We’ll see if there are still 5 goats and 1 Pyr in there tomorrow morning.

Any guesses on how many days they’ll need to mow it down?

Day 189 – sound of silence

This is what quiet looks like around here:

This doesn’t happen very often, maybe twice a week – that’s how often we usually move the goats!  They let us know in very loud voices when they think their pen area has been eaten down too much – that usually means that they can stay in that spot for about 2 more days.  We don’t move them until they’ve eaten everything they possibly can, even if they don’t “like” it.  It’s pretty funny to get chewed out by a goat while they have a mouthful of gone-to-seed grass in their mouth.

We’ve had an abundance of chicory this year, and the goats love it.  This is an area directly across from where they are now, and you can see how much chicory is there.

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The chicken yard is also overrun with it, so that’s where they will go next, after we fence off the fruit trees that grow there.  We don’t let them eat everything, just most!

I’m sure by tomorrow, they will be complaining about the quality of the grass, and how they’re going to fall over any minute due to starvation.

And when we move them again, everything will be eaten down to the ground, there will be goat poo for the chickens to scratch around in, and the whole area will have received a free layer of fertilizer to grow the next round of goat feed.  Our cost?  The materials (panels, goat hut) and time.  Well worth not having to use a gas lawnmower – mowers don’t fertilize!

Day 184 – a dog and her goat

Our new goat Dilly, has been adjusting to her new home – complete with other goats to deal with.  Like all animals, they have a pecking order, and she’s currently at the bottom of that order.  Minnie quickly accepted Dilly as another member of “her herd” and now acts as her protector when the other goats get feisty with her.  Feisty usually means rearing up, head-butting and/or chasing her around the pen – posturing, really.  Loud, and kind of annoying for the humans (there is a lot of baa-ing that goes along with these actions), but no harm done to the goats.  Except when the horned goats get into it with each other and horns get broken (that’s why Molly only has 1/2 of one horn – she likes to get feisty).

Funny story – when Dilly first arrived, we were using the 4′ high Suncast building as their “goat hut”.  Dilly runs inside because she’s new, everything is scary and unfamiliar, and she can get her back against something.  Molly runs in the hut to exert her dominance over this newcomer, and rears up to head-butt Dilly.  Only problem is she is about 5′ high when she rears up!  After bonking her head on the roof of the hut a few times, she gets the idea that it would probably be better just to press her head into Dilly’s side as a show of dominance.  And Molly’s probably the brains of the herd!

 

Day 180 – kid-n-goats

180Our niece spent the weekend with us, and I’m pretty sure she spent more time with the goats than anything else.  They look well fed to me, but her main activity was pulling up grass/weeds to feed them, either through the panels or in the pen.  Of course, the goats were not going to turn down food that they didn’t have to bend down and get!

 

Day 166 – goat hut

166Behold Mobile Goat Hut, version 3!  Wood frame base with swivel castor wheels, PVC supports, flexible plastic “walls” and corrugated aluminum roofing.  The silver bits are tape used to seal the corners and overlaps – keep the wind from ripping anything apart!

We put cattle panel around the whole thing, both to provide some sturdiness to the flexible plastic walls (our goats like to push on things) and to enclose the other 8×8′ half of the goat mover.

They are on the first part of their yard mowing routine, and will probably be moved every few days, depending on how big of a section we enclose.  To the right you can see we’re using corral panel with cattle panel chained to the inside – if we don’t use the cattle panel, they will slip right under the corral panel and be off on adventures.

Minnie is staying with them – they are “her herd” to protect.  But since this is a smaller area, we’ll be taking her into the big pasture (after making sure the cows are out and the gate is shut) to run around and be silly.  She loves the enclosed area – she’s usually snoozing in there during the day.

This is why we don’t mow the grass – we have 5 goats who do it for us, plus they fertilize at the same time!

 

Day 164 – true story

WARNING: what you are about to read is a TRUE EVENT. This really happened, and although there are no pictures, those of you who know our goats will know that it’s true!!

The main player in this story, besides the goats and the Pyr, is this style of dog house (Suncast Deluxe Dog House, 29″x37″x31″ – made for large dogs, it says):

My morning animal routine is pretty much the same every day.  Get up, throw on the work clothes, open the hen house door and check in the hen house.  Go to the barn to check on cows and horses, feed the barn cats.  Walk out to the rooster yard, open the door, look them over.  Go through the test garden/pasture gate to check on the 5 goats and Minnie.

That’s where things got interesting.  All I could see was goats and Minnie huddled at the north end of their current pasture, near her dog house (you’ll only find her feed dish in there – she doesn’t like going in it).  Great – what’s going on now, because this is not normal goats-and-dog-in-the-morning behavior.

I want to cut through the alley that leads from the back pasture to the front pasture, forgetting that it rained the night before and everything is a soggy, hoof-printed mess.  Oh, did I mention it’s starting to rain as I’m doing this?  It is.  One soaked foot later, I get to the gate, get in the pasture and see the back end of a goat sticking out of the dog house.  Niiiice.  Is she hurt? Is she dead?  It’s Skittles, and she’s having a nap, which apparently concerns the rest of the herd.

She hears me and stands up, still in the dog house.  She’s taller than the dog house, by the way, so it starts to fail at the seams.  She can’t see, starts to panic.  Then Molly decides the best thing for her to do is – wait for it – get in the dog house with Skittles.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or both at this point in the circus.

By now, there’s no way either of them are going to be able to get out, so I do the only thing I can think of, standing in a goat pasture, just having woke up 20 minutes prior, no coffee, and getting wetter by the minute.  I pull the roof off the dog house.  Skittles tries to jump out, fails, does the “Kool-aid man” through the back of the dog house, and all the goats go running to the other side of the pasture and hide in their real goat hut (a proper goat sized Suncast building).  Except Minnie, who is looking for her food bowl in the wreckage.

I’m cold, wet, and trying to snap a deluxe dog house back together while the dog is searching for kibble.  I finally give up, prop the roof over the dog dish (yeah, I know that’s not going to stay up for very long!), make sure Minnie can get to it, check to see that all the goats are upright and grazing, and leave.

This last bit was obviously not the correct response, because when I went to check them this evening, the dog house was completely knocked down and strewn about the area.  But it wasn’t raining, which made proper repairs much easier to make.

I can’t make this stuff up – this is my real life.

Day 158 – cordelia

Welcome to the newest member at Innisfree on the Stillwater – Cordelia the goat, also known as Dilly.  She comes to us by way of some friends of ours at church (we also got Skittles and Ginny from them) and has been assimilating into her new routine over the last few days.  She’s still not quite sure what to think of Minnie (who is thrilled to have another goat to herd around), but, as animals do, they are all working it out.

Day 131 – greener pastures

After spending the winter in the rooster yard/test garden, it was time to move the 4 goats and 1 Pyr somewhere else.  That “somewhere else” is the bale yard, a fenced in area where we store our hay bales.

First, to put cattle panel around the remaining hay and straw bales to keep the goats off of them.  They would eat them, but would also try to scale them.  I’d like to wring their necks sometimes, but would not like to see them squished by a large bale that rolled on them.  That was our workout for the day.

Second, to move the goat hut – easy enough with the tractor.

Third, moving said goats and dog.  This has gone really well, and really bad, before.  Usually the goats get distracted by ALL THIS GRASS on the way to their new area, and it’s chaos.  But armed with a white bucket full of oats, and Denny and the dog behind the goats and me, we successfully transferred them to the bale yard.  Minnie made sure all 4 of them were present and accounted for, and the serious business of eating began.

I checked on them a bit ago, and it’s a good thing they have long legs, because their bellies would be dragging the ground otherwise!

Flower did not want her picture taken today.

Day 129 – escape artist

009 - CopyRocket (shown in this picture from last summer) managed to get out of the goat pasture today by pushing a piece of cattle panel out of place.  Of course, once out, she has no idea what to do, and just stood there looking at the goats on the correct side of the fence.

Bribery of animals with food gets the job done.  I rattle a bucket of oats (which is goat crack) while Denny holds the panel out for her to run back in.  All the goats are now back together, knocking each other (and the Pyr – yes, she eats oats) around to get the oats on the ground.  We then re-attach the panel to the gate and make sure everything is tightly wrapped and chained.

This is the same goat who got stuck between the cattle panel and the line fence.  It’s always the ginger.