I was a little worried about
having the goats grazing on oats so close to our new apple trees, but
it seems like they're not interested in anything with bark yet.
So, my goats-in-the-woods experiment
lasted all of about two hours. I let the girls loose, settled down to
write...and soon heard Artemesia yelling at the top of her lungs.
Abigail had circled around to the part of our boundary that has the
lowest fence and had hopped right over, but our doeling's stubby little
legs didn't allow her to follow. I guess it's a good thing that
Artemesia is part Nubian since there was no missing her anguished yells
as she was left behind.
Or maybe our doeling was just telling on her big sister? Either way, I
pulled Abigail out of the garden before she could do any damage, then I
stuffed both goats back into the pasture with the honeysuckle trees shown above.
For experiment number
two, I decided to open the door on the far side of the starplate coop,
meaning that our goats would have to walk through some rough terrain to
circle around the fenced pastures and reach our core homestead. Sure
enough, when I came back from walking Lucy, I discovered that our goats
had decided to explore in the opposite direction. But Artemesia was
yelling again, and I got worried (even though our doeling sometimes just
likes to yell) and went to see what was up. No one was in trouble, but
both goats followed me right home, negating that experiment.
Next, I decided to try tethering Abigail
on the far side of the starplate coop. I figured that Artemesia would
stay close to her companion, and that everyone would be happy. So when I
heard non-Nubian yelling I guessed that our doe must have gotten her
chain hung up. Nope. Artemesia had decided to wander far afield in
search of honeysuckle, and her big sister was having a fit at being left
alone. So, once again, I stuffed the girls back into the pasture for
safe keeping. I guess they're stuck eating hay
now except when I take them out on monitored walks...unless I come up
with another supposedly bright technique for letting them run wild in
We transplanted some apple
trees this afternoon.
Honey Crisp will be in the
middle of Mr Winesap and Ms Red Delicious.
psychologically colder about nights that get down into the single
digits. Or maybe it's not completely psychological. Gates freeze shut,
my hands ache when I go out to do my morning chores, and the uncovered
winter crops begin to die back.
Last year at this time,
we enjoyed a similar cold spell, but the lowest low in November 2013 was
15. No wonder I ran through the firewood I had alloted for November
2014 by the middle of this month and have already started into
Everyone else on the farm
is glad that we're due to enjoy a bit more fall weather this coming
week as the current Arctic burst goes back where it belongs. But Lucy
loves the cold, so she might be sad to see it go. Don't worry, Lucy ---
there are many more frosty mornings ahead!
Of course the goats wanted to
be on top of the new manger.
The thin plywood lid was
collapsing when they stood on it, which could be a safety issue if they
fall the wrong way.
Adding some 2x4's for support
makes it more standable.
know that some weeks it seems like all I do is talk about goats and
books. So why not shake it up...and talk about goat books?!
When I first started researching goats, my first stop was Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats.
The Storey series is usually a safe bet for encyclopedia-style
information on livestock combined with beautiful pictures, and this book
was no different
(although a little less in-depth than some). If you've never met a goat
before and are only going to get one book, this is probably the one to
But once I finished that beginner guide...I still felt like a beginner. So I moved on to Raising Goats Naturally.
Deborah Niemann's book is also an introduction to goat care, but it's
written in a more chatty, first-person fashion (a lot like my own
books), which I suspect turns some people away. However, since I'm aware
that all one-author books inevitably share that person's biases and knowledge
gaps, I enjoyed the honesty of Niemann's book and definitely pulled out
some interesting tidbits that weren't covered in the Storey guide.
Specifically, I learned that you should always breed miniature or
partially miniature goats with bucks that are as small as the doe or
smaller so that you don't have to worry about extra-large kids causing
problems coming out. This and other factoids probably seem obvious to
many of you, but I sucked them up happily, glad to have someone else's
experiences to help me avoid beginner mistakes.
By the time I finished
Niemann's book, I was starting to feel more like an accomplished
goatkeeper...but I still didn't have goats. Since I couldn't move up our
goat-arrival date, I settled on getting another book instead, this time
Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. I'll admit up front that our two spoiled darlings arrived when I was only a quarter
of the way through Coleby's book and my attention quickly turned to
real, live goats, so I've still got a lot left to read, but I think that
this book makes a very good addition to the beginning goatkeeper's
knowledge-base...as long as you take the contents with a grain of salt.
Coleby veers a little too far toward the personal-experience/no-science
side for my tastes in a few spots, but most of her book walks a more
middle ground. And she presents intriguing suggestions about how the
prehistory of goats impacts their current needs, explaining that goats'
tendency to browse on tree leaves means that the animals can develop
mineral deficiencies when dining primarily on short-rooted grasses in
human-build pastures. In turn, Coleby asserts that those cravings are
what spur goats to break out of our pastures...which may be wishful
thinking, but is worth considering.
I'd be curious to hear
from our readers. Which other goat books do you feel help beginners turn
into permaculture goat herders? Did I miss an obvious introductory text
from my lineup?
Riding in our backseat lately
is a rough equivalent to an old fashion hay ride.
We enjoyed our first and possibly only roast brussels sprouts of the season Tuesday, the combination of a new variety and an extremely wet fall meaning that the plants blighted instead of thrived.
The experience made me think about how frequently home gardeners give
up on a crop because of a single failure, when what they really should
have gotten out of the experience was an impulse to figure out what made
their plants refuse to grow.
For example, I often hear
from folks who think carrots aren't worth growing, while for us the
tasty roots are an easy crop. Well, an easy crop as long as I pay
attention and make sure their seeds germinate during the summer heat.
And as long as I locate the root vegetables in loose, humus-rich soil. So, not really
an easy crop, but easy once you figure out what factors of your unique
site are standing in the way of getting a stellar carrot crop.
Now that the cold weather
has truly set in and most of you have nothing left to plant for the
year, why not spend a few hours thinking back over your garden past?
When you look at all of those luscious-looking pictures in the seed
catalogs this winter, try to ignore the pretty photos and tantalizing
descriptions. Instead, seek out the less sensational but more important
notes on which blights each variety is resistant to and how well they do
in other difficult situations that your garden will throw at them in
the year to come.
And, as a reward, next year your garden will grow twice as well!
Abigail discovered how to
escape from one of her pastures today.
We think she used an edge on
the other side of this stump to climb up and over.
Trimming the stump and adding
a few pieces of wood might be enough to keep her in.
Ever since we got goats, I've been building them a new "tractor"
every day out of cattle panels. At first, that effort seemed very
worthwhile, since I was moving the girls around to eat all of the
honeysuckle off our fencelines and barn. But once I ran out of easy
honeysuckle buffets, it seemed like twenty minutes of labor for half a
belly of so-so food might not be as efficient a use of my time.
afternoon, I decided to let the girls run out in the woods...and boy
did they love it! If I don't have to ensure that the honeysuckle is all
concentrated in one place, there's still quite a bit out there, maybe a
few weeks' worth within a stone's throw of the coop. The question is ---
will I regret letting our goats run wild outside our core homestead?
The worst-case scenario
is that a trespassing hunter will think Abigail is a deer, or that the
pack of wild dogs who roam through our woods will get past Lucy's
defenses and try to eat Artemesia up. More likely (but only slightly
less heart-wrenching) is the possibility that our girls will hop right
over the chicken-wire fences that surround our core homestead and start
chowing down on apple-tree twigs.
To be entirely honest,
our goats have gotten out and ended up free in the yard a few times
already. So far, they seem much more interested in oat leaves than in
apple trees, so I'm willing to risk a few nibbles as long as I'm right
here to catch them in the act. Chances are good that if Artemesia got
loose in the garden, she'd just end up on the porch, as she has before,
asking why we haven't come out to play, so I'll try letting them out
into the woods for longer today. Here's hoping our goats aren't too
capricious and that they behave!
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