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The great thing about
only having 2.5 goats is that it's possible to use our tiny herd to mow
the lawn in areas where more goats would cause more trouble. As you can
see, our grass is starting to green up in the sunniest part of the yard,
even though the pastures around our starplate coop are still nearly
entirely winter brown. Usually, Mark pulls out the power mower around
this time of year to cut back the newly growing grass, but I decided to
take another stab at tethering our goats to see how much mowing they
would do for us.
When I last tried tethered, Artemesia didn't really need to be tied since she
was more interested in clinging to Abigail's side than getting into
trouble. Now, both does require tethering, and I plan their lines so they can barely meet in the middle. This way Abigail doesn't
get terrified of having her herd-mate out of sight, but the two animals
also can't get tangled in each others' tether ropes. I still don't
leave our herd unsupervised since there's just too much
that could go wrong with tethering goats, but the ropes do mean that I
can walk over to the wringer washer and do a load of laundry while our
goats chow down.
Of course, Abigail has
other things on her mind --- like making milk! We're still only getting
about 1.25 cups of milk per day, despite shutting Lamb Chop away from his mother overnight. I'm pretty sure our doe holds back quite a bit of milk for her kid in the morning because she's got
to be feeding him a whole lot more than a cup of milk per day. After
all, Lamb Chop is still only nibbling at solid food, but he's managing
to put on nearly a pound a day in weight gain. I'll be very curious to
see what milk production is like once our kid is weaned to entirely
eating dry food.
The downside of Lamb Chop
growing so fast is that I can tell tethering is going to become
problematic in the near future. I tried to tie our buckling along with
his herdmates, but he bounces and runs so fast that I was afraid he
would break his little neck. Oh well --- even though it seems like
there's a huge amount of grass and rye to mow down at the edges of the
garden, at the rate Abigail is going, we'll have to move the herd out
beyond our core perimeter by the end of the week.
One thing I've noticed is
how very malleable our goats are, making them the easiest animals I've
ever had the pleasure of training. Abigail and Artemesia both know
they're not allowed to eat kale, strawberries, and other garden goodies.
Of course, knowing
that only means that when I walk our goats on a leash beside garden
plants, the does don't reach out and nab a snack. Turn my back, and
there wouldn't be any kale left, so I'm careful to tether where anything
I love is well out of reach. Abigail is right at the end of her rope in
the photo above.
Finally, I wanted to
mention Artemesia's newly scruffy fur, which I suspect is due to some
combination of shedding her winter underfur, having a huge buckling
crawl all over her back on a regular basis, and me running low on kelp. Since the supplier I ordered from took a few weeks to ship, I had to take away our free-choice kelp to ensure that our lactating doe could continue to get enough of the mineral supplement on her daily ration. Of course, there are
minerals of a non-biological nature available to our goats all the
time, but neither doe will touch the stuff. In fact, when I made the
mistake of trying to trick Abigail into eating some extra minerals by
pouring the powder on top of her morning ration, she tipped the whole
bowl over to get those minerals out! Good thing more kelp arrived in the
mail Monday so that Artemesia can get back to her usual shiny self.
Our mushroom tower IBC rain
barrel has two gutter sources converging on a tee.
When I was waiting for warmer weather before pruning this winter,
one of our readers suggested marking which limbs I wanted to cut to
save time later. The suggestion made me realize how far I've come in my
perennial-pruning education. Just five or six years ago, I would have
done precisely that, but now my eye chooses the next cut in the time it
takes for me to reach the wood with my pruning shears --- no more
agonizing over choice of direction or lost wood.
We used a scissor jack to
secure the front part of our new mushroom tower.
Winter came back with a
vengeance this past weekend. First, we had a light snow on Saturday
morning, then Sunday morning dropped down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Luckily, the cold was short-lived and I doubt the fruit trees saw any
I went ahead and moved all of the plants out of the cold frame
just to be on the safe side, and that was probably a wise move even
though the interior temperatures only barely dropped below freezing.
Unfortunately, when I put the plants back out on a sunny but frigid
Sunday morning, I didn't take into account the power of the sun. By 2
pm, most of the broccoli plants had baked with the lid closed even
though outdoor temperatures were still in the low to mid 40s. I guess
I'll be starting some more broccoli seeds and paying more attention to
the cold-frame cover next time. Even if the air feels cold, if the sun
is out, the lid should be open!
On the plus side, I
thought I'd messed up the cabbage seedlings, but they seem to have
weathered Dandelion Winter just fine. A week ago, the long-range
forecast only showed one low of 31 on the horizon, so I went ahead and
set out the cabbage into the garden...then instantly regretted it when
the weather report shifted dramatically. I covered the plants with
row-cover fabric, crossed my fingers, and was thrilled to see that they
seem to have come through the cold unscathed! So I guess we'll have
early cabbage this year, and late broccoli.
mushroom log experiment is showing signs of shitake growth.
Last fall, I sent out seeds of some of my tried-and-true
(along with a few experimental) cover crops to readers to see how the
species fared in other soils and climates. My favorite result is shown
above --- Aimee in Ohio planted oilseed radishes in beds that will be
used to grow strawberries this year. She reported: "[The oilseed
radishes] stayed crisp and green clear past Thanksgiving, which gave me a
ready supply of greens and radishes for the guinea pigs. I'll admit it,
I ate a few myself. Even though I am not a radish person, they weren't
bad." Oilseed radishes also got good reviews from Missouri, although
Charity in the Pacific Northwest preferred barley and white mustard in
What's coming up this
spring? I splurged on several new varieties, which I plan to try out
both within the garden and as cut-and-come-again mulch producers in the
newly bare aisle soils in areas where I recently mounded up earth to
create higher raised beds. I figured --- why let that bare ground turn
into weedy lawn if it can do double-duty by producing biomass for the
garden instead? (Of course, I may regret this choice when I have to wade
through tall grasses to get to my tomato plants.)
Want to join in the fun? I
have room for a few more experimenters since some of last fall's
gardeners dropped out. If you live in zones 3, 4, or 8, drop me an email
at email@example.com and we'll
chat. Folks chosen will receive free seeds as long as you promise to
share photos for my book and to report on your results!
We discovered today that a
half buried tire makes an awesome goat toy.
The different types of
sugars in birch sap compared to maple sap make birch syrup a little
trickier to boil down. It's imperative not to allow the developing syrup
to get above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with birch sap unless you want the
sugars to caramelize, darkening the color and impacting the flavor. In
addition, it's a bit trickier to know when birch syrup is done since it
doesn't get as thick as maple syrup, so you'll need to make your best
guess, then weigh the finished product to determine how close you are to
the optimal 11 pounds per gallon.
Lucy went on a trip today to
visit our nice vet in the big city.
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